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sne_mod ([personal profile] sne_mod) wrote in [community profile] sn_exchange2010-03-13 05:42 pm

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For: [profile] senyum
Title: The Absolute
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha had two different views on how the world should be run, and in what way those on it were to be damned. In a battle that has no absolute solution to, how can one find common ground?
Warnings: Slight gore, sex, swearing
A/N: I wanted to play on three things. First, I wondered what Naruto would be like older and more mature. Second, if Naruto were the traitor, not Sasuke. Thirdly… ZOMBIES AHHHH! I felt a bit crunched with this. So many things to write about, only so many hours I had to write it. I know it seems a bit rushed, more like photographs than a video reel, but nevertheless I hope you like it!

The Absolute


PPA PUTS PROTOTYPE VACCINE FOR 2.3 VIRUS UP FOR VOTE AT BOMA, SET FOR DEC. 23

By Sakura Haruno, Circulation Editor

On Friday, Nov. 12, senior adviser of Plague Prevention Associates (PPA) Kakashi Hatake announced at a public press conference that the Bureau of Medical Allegiances (BOMA) has agreed to hold a hearing over the newly proposed bill for a mandatory vaccine, labeled Vaccine Delta. If the bill were to pass, all legal citizens of Konoha will be required to receive a set of four vaccinations over a two-months period, all expenses covered by the new Tax Act set as of past January 2, 2122.

“It’s been a long haul,“ said Orochimaru Sannin, Head of Human Resources and Development. “But we believe, one hundred percent, that we have what the nation needs.”

When asked to comment on the Rebellion 2.3, Sannin responded, “The NFA has always worked in the best interests of the people, and that includes the group who refers to themselves as the Rebellion 2.3.”

Sannin gave no further comment when asked to elaborate on potential new security measures to protect PPA staff after the most recent bombing.

“The new strand of the virus is only the twenty-third of a constantly-changing, epidemic plague,” said Neji Hyuuga, head of the medical branch for PPA. “Every day, dozens are exposed to the airborne toxic contamination the creatures excrete, and for every dozen there is one who will begin to show symptoms within the first four to sixth months. By the time it is detectable, it will have grown unstoppable. The new vaccine will cause these symptoms to become hypersensitive, and will therefore show earlier on, making it easier to treat. The vaccine is by no means a cure, and never has the PPA claimed it to be one. It is merely a new way of diagnosing the patient and preventing this deadly contraction.”

President of PPA Sasuke Uchiha was unavailable for comment on his latest victory, but Vice President… (contnd. on page 8A)

Naruto didn’t bother to turn to page 8A. Instead, he calmly folded the paper into a neat square, smoothing down the crinkles in the page. A black and white image of Sasuke’s face smirked faintly under his palm. His fist clenched, and the newsprint was suddenly a jumble of words in his useless, useless fist. Shaking, he threw it across the room, over the wire gate and into the fire that flickered with false cheer in the hearth. The only thing heating the broken down apartment building he and his team lived in.

Shikamaru, having read over Naruto’s shoulder, pulled a pack of cigarettes he told his wife he wouldn’t buy from the pocket of the ripper and stained pants he‘d promised to throw out. He lit it, put it in his mouth, and took a deep drag before asking of his leader, “Now what?”

“Now,” Naruto echoed. “You need to call your wife.”

“Ch,” Shikamaru snorted. “She’s gonna divorce me if you keep this up. Ino may be his secretary, but eventually she’s going to run out of strings to pull.”

“I don’t care,” Naruto growled, staring into the blazing fire. A small hole of fire bloomed over one of Sasuke’s eyes and Naruto felt a tremor race up his spine. “I need to see him.”

Resigned, Shikamaru withdrew the phone from his pocket and made the call.

--

Naruto pressed the up button that Ino had directed him towards. The hallway in which he stood was empty, and so was the elevator he stepped into. He hit ‘30’, watched the doors shut, and waited out the ride.

Naruto Uzumaki, leader of Rebellion 2.3, had been public enemies with Sasuke Uchiha from the day the man had founded the PPA. Sasuke seemed to be there shutting down every rally and every protest personally. Likewise, Naruto crashed whatever public hearing the man held in his expansive office building with an upwards of fifty of his team. Their outlook on life, and the plague, ran polar opposites of each other. Naruto defended the weak and the dying, while Sasuke defended the healthy from becoming the weak and the dying. Nothing much was said of the constant feud between the two. It was more of an untold story, a known fact. Like the sun sunk at night, like taxes came at the end of every year, Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha hated each other.

The ride seemed to take longer than usual. Naruto had these private meetings with Sasuke at least once a month. Usually twice. Because as much of their ideas and arguments were executed publicly, there were some aspects of it that they preferred to keep under wraps.

Naruto knocked on the door, and heard a muttered, “Come in.” His heart began to race, determination set deep in his eyes. He turned the doorknob and entered into the room.

Sasuke was sitting behind his desk when Naruto walked into the room. He didn’t even look up as Naruto closed the door behind him.

“I’m busy,” Sasuke said distantly. He was scribbling something on a stack of papers with a pen that looked like it cost as much as Naruto’s apartment building. “I’m sure a bit more of a compromise could have been made on your part concerning our meeting time.”

“You can make time,” Naruto snapped irritably, moving to the great desk. It was glass, completely glass except for the thin black wire that framed and connected the pieces. Naruto could see Sasuke’s long legs beneath it.

“Excuse me?” Sasuke said distractedly, carding through the papers with a narrowed look in his sharp eyes.

A task that was made considerably more difficult when Naruto promptly snapped the papers out of his hands.

“What?” Sasuke snapped, a sharp gleam in his eyes as he glared up at the man now standing over his shoulder. “What is it you could possibly want this time?”

Naruto kicked Sasuke chair back by half a foot before sweeping the rest of the papers from Sasuke’s desk onto the floor, scattering them like snow. And the pen and pencil holder, undoubtedly important documents, ink pads, stamps… and replaced them all with himself. With his hands he eased himself so he sat in the center, legs spreading to accommodate Sasuke’s legs.

Naruto smirked. “You,” he answered in a low hiss, reaching his hands forward to Sasuke by his tie, yanking on it like a leash until they slammed into each other, lips-first.

Sasuke growled into Naruto’s mouth, his tongue trying to push its way in only to met with a strong resistance. From his angle Naruto had the advantage, and he used it to tilt Sasuke’s head backwards, exploring his mouth with messy and bold strokes of his tongue.

“Fuck,” Sasuke moaned. “Naruto.”

“Missed you,” Naruto panted, arms jerkily wrapping around Sasuke’s shoulders as his lover stood, Naruto firmly attached.

“Hn,” Sasuke panted, making his way to the door ten feet from his large glass desk. “I bet you did.”

“Asshole,” Naruto said. In retaliation he attached his lips to Sasuke’s neck, biting more than kissing. Sasuke hissed at the pain of it, and somehow managed to key a six-digit code into the panel by the door, simultaneously locking the door to the office and unlocking the one in front of him. Sasuke stumbled through, using his free hands to support Naruto by cupping his ass, hands squeezing the cheeks through the thin pants Naruto wore. Naruto purred, fucking purred Sasuke thought, his fingers digging into his crack and making the blond arch into him.

They fell onto the bed together. Naruto furiously scooting backwards while trying to pull Sasuke with him. But Sasuke stayed up, straddling Naruto’s waist and pinning his hands to the headboard and undressing him with the other.

“What took you so long, dead last,” Sasuke demanded. Sasuke made quick work of his shirt, easily unbuttoning with one hand. He let go of Naruto’s wrists just as abruptly at he’d captured them and began pulling at Naruto’s hips with it. Naruto wrapped his legs around him, pulling them together tighter. Sasuke ground down furiously against him, loving the half-pained moans from Naruto’s mouth, his ears drinking in the sound with a lustful fervor. He painted a river of fire with his tongue down the column of Naruto’s throat, biting at the area covering his collarbone when he found he. He was working his way down towards Naruto’s nipple when the young man tangled his hair in his hands and pulled up. Sasuke’s hands were working at Naruto’s belt, never stopping pulling at them even as he hissed, “What?”

“We can do that stuff later,” Naruto insisted, wriggling his hips and shimmying from his pants. He unwrapped himself from Sasuke to quicken the progress. “Later,” he repeated. “I want you now.”

“Fuck,” Sasuke groaned, yanking free the tie Naruto had tugged at like a leash earlier. He shed both it and his suit jacket, throwing them away and hearing something break from where it landed. His hands worked at his belt, Naruto’s feet pushing at his own to get the loafers off. Cool toes ran up his calves and Sasuke plunged his mouth downwards, tongue slipping into Naruto’s parted mouth before their lips even met.

Fuck me,” Naruto groaned into Sasuke’s mouth, repeating it over and over as their tongues slid hotly together. “Fuck me, fuck me.” Sasuke couldn’t tell if it was a demand or a simple meaningless exclamation of shock, but damned if he cared because hw would take it as the former. He grabbed either side of Sasuke’s shirt and pulled, the buttons popping from their strings and then Sasuke’s pants were down, his cock hot beneath his palm as he stroked and thumbed the wet slit of it.

Tearing their mouths apart a minute later, Naruto turned so that his stomach pressed into the mattress while Sasuke began to dig through the bedside cabinet. He put his hands down, ready to push himself to his knees when two strong hands gripped his waist and turned him back over. “Sasuke? What--nngh!” Naruto’s eyes slammed shut, his breathy coming out in one long guttural breath. Sasuke has slid his hand between his thighs and quickly inserted a finger, wriggling and thrusting it inwards in long, deep strokes.

“I want to see your face,” Sasuke panted as explanation. Grunting, he reached a hand between them and aligned Naruto’s erection with his, pulling and pumping and Naruto groaned, how was Sasuke always so damned hot against him. The pale body holding nothing but white, hot heat. He groaned in pain as a second finger slid in, stretching too quick and too rough and fuck he’d missed this so much.

Sasuke’s pants were still around his thighs. Naruto struggled to pull them down further. Sasuke began to yank at the back of Naruto’s shirt with the hand that wasn’t buried tightly into him. Neither made far progress. Cursing Sasuke removed his two fingers. In half a minute flat they were naked, pressing every square inch of skin to each other. Naruto pressed open-mouthed kisses to Sasuke’s jaw, mouthing praises over and over against the skin and praying Sasuke could understand them because he couldn’t ever say them out loud. His respect for him, his god damned everything, his loyalty, his passion. Sasuke slid three fingers into him and Naruto bit down on his shoulder.

“Naruto,” Sasuke groaned, eyes glazed over like frosted glass. “Loosen your arms, I can’t move like this.”

Naruto didn’t retract his arms from around Sasuke’s back. He just spread his legs open further and hooked them about Sasuke’s sides. He lifted his hips from the mattress, his sex sliding wetly across Sasuke’s abdomen. Naruto dragged one calloused hand roughly down Sasuke’s back, making the leader arch and hiss in discomfort, until the hand glided across pale buttocks, reaching between his thighs and helping to guide Sasuke’s erection. He knew the exact position to be in now, had memorized countless techniques to help ease his muscles at the first push. It was a familiar dance, one that would never grow old.

“Haa…” Sasuke sighed out, then inhaling sharply when Naruto squeezed about him. He jabbed sharply with his hips in retaliation, gaining another inch. Naruto’s thighs shook around him and he was always warm, always hot, always Naruto.

“Goo--d,” Naruto said after a minute in which Sasuke remained still, making gentle grinding motions with his hips, “Move… Fuck, Sasuke, move.”

Sasuke didn’t need to be told twice. A solid month of wanting, of holding out and waiting for this one damned moment when he’d finally have Naruto all to himself. To be able to touch like he wanted. Feel warm skin, be close to a heart that was still beating. His. Naruto was all his.

For now.

Fifteen minutes later they lay comfortably close under the blanket Naruto had pulled from beneath them. It was warm, and everything smelled like them. It was a scent Naruto had long since memorized but could never recall exactly right. There were too many elements to completely rebuild in his memory.

It had been this way for the past five years. During that period of time there were long breaks. Tense communication shared nearly daily, but never much beyond that. They never planned a time to get together.

“Stay the night,” Sasuke whispered, slowly stroking down Naruto’s cheek. He pressed his face to Naruto’s head, then threaded a hand through his hair. Inhaled deeply. Naruto smelled good, like sandalwood. The other hand went to Naruto’s neck and stroked his Adam’s apple, feeling the blood pulse beneath his fingertips. That precious, precious blood.

“I can’t,” Naruto said, but made no move to get up. He ran a hand over Sasuke’s chest and scowled at how perfect it looked. Naruto’s own body was littered with bruises, burns, his hands rough and calloused, his frame slender from too little food. “I need to get home tonight.”

“Don’t call that hell hole your home,” Sasuke demanded tiredly. Naruto scooted further up the bed so that they were now nearly eye level. Careless in the pleasant afterglow of sex, he said, “And there’s no need to go home tonight. I know you’re planning to bomb Warehouse sector 14 tomorrow at 6. The place is heavily guarded. Neither you nor your men will be getting in.”

Naruto froze in Sasuke’s arms. Eyes bulging. Spy, Naruto thought. Who…

“And Sai, before you ask.”

“That bastard,” Naruto hissed, fists curling against Sasuke’s chest. Then he looked up and caught a glimpse of black eyes. No, wait, mad at the wrong person. “You bastard!”

Sasuke rolled his eyes. “Perhaps this will teach you not to trust everyone who says they think your cause is a good one.”

“You fucking asshole!” Naruto scathed, obscenities flowing like a river from his mouth. He thrashed, but only in one place. More out of anger than to get away. It wasn’t fair for Sasuke to make him mad like this when he still wanted to spend another two hours in bed with the man. Talking, eating, fucking, for the love of God just sleeping next to each other and finally feeling safe. Inside this room they were still best friends. Lovers. Outside, they were enemies. Naruto didn’t like it when the two clashed.

“Don’t be such a child,” Sasuke snapped, holding Naruto tighter to him. “And stop acting so surprised whenever I outsmart you.”

“And don’t you underestimate me, Sasuke,“ hissed Naruto. “I can outsmart you, too! Just last week I….”

“Last week was a freebee.” Naruto stopped thrashing. Sasuke paused, as if he was regretting the words that has just come out of his mouth. Deciding he might as well finish what he started, Sasuke grudgingly carried on.

“You were getting sloppy,” Sasuke explained. “Rash, out of place. You would have done your organization more bad than good. Rushing in like you did last week was reckless. You didn’t even bother to disable the most general of security cameras. I had to do that part for you. I knew that if you weren’t going to get in then, you’d only act more brash. And…” Sasuke sighed, loosening his grip on Naruto. There would be no keeping him here after what he said next. “Kabuto was in the building at the time.”

“Kabuto…?”

“He was a researcher. I have spies that work on both sides of the fence, Naruto. I even spy on my own people. Kabuto was secretly working to undermine the newest formula for the vaccine we’re launching next month. He was going to blow the entire thing. I had to--”

“And he had every right to!” Naruto shouted at him, propping himself up on his elbows. “That vaccine isn’t doing what you and your damn PPA say it will!”

“Shut up, you think I don’t know that?” Sasuke snarled. He reached a hand up and once again put it to Naruto’s throat. Feeling the pulse, and that blood. The precious, precious blood that only so few had. “The rumors, the superstitions that have been aroused from this blood type. But I’ve found a way…”

“No, Sasuke. You haven’t,” Naruto croaked. Selfishly he wished for another hour, one that could have occurred before this. They could talk about the weather, the games they played as kids, the times before they broke apart and went down separate paths. “You can’t change a blood type.”

Sasuke groaned and began to reiterate the information he told Naruto every time they had this argument.

“There are only .45 percent of the worldwide population with AB- blood,” he said tiredly. Sasuke tried to wrap an arm over Naruto, but the blond just snapped the appendage away, glaring. “So far, they are the only portion of the world that had remained untouched by the plague. I don’t know what it is about our blood that us immune, but whatever it is, it works. No matter how far the plague mutates, we remain untouched. Unaffected. If we can find a way to mutate the blood of the other types…”

“And that’s another thing!” Naruto interrupted. “The only thing that mutates about this disease is the process. The result is the same. If you found a cure for that…”

“Then people would still be getting sick. Find a way to provide immunity, the source dies out.”

“’Dies out’!? Sasuke, those are people.”

The conversation was toeing dangerous ground. Sasuke found an easy route out, an age-old argument. “Naruto, I have to put a stop to this,” Sasuke sighed, pushing Naruto away from him slightly to better look into his eyes. “Every day I worry about those ridiculous riots you so commonly host. I worry that the police will miss a shot. I worry about your home being to close to the Ravine. Every morning I wake up wondering if border control took a shot at you. Every night I don’t get contact from you I don’t sleep. I’ve given orders to assure your safety, and whilst PR assumes it to be a clever political stunt the guards consider it to be a weak obstacle to get out of the way.”

“Weak,” Naruto repeated. Finally shaken from his silence at the heavy word.

Instantly Sasuke was on damage control. “That was a bad choice of words,” he corrected. “What I mean is… Naruto, don’t be stupid…”

Naruto was already off the bed, and it amazed Sasuke how fast he was able to gather his clothes. He was wrestling with the buttons to his shirt by the time Sasuke unfolded himself from the blankets.

“Naruto, don’t be a child about this,” he snapped. “Don’t go…”

“And that still doesn’t explain the fact that you used me to kill someone,” Naruto said, ignoring Sasuke’s plea. “Do I look like a fucking tool to you, huh!?”

“Like you don’t use me, too!” Sasuke reiterated angrily. “You think I don’t know you sneak through my files while I’m sleeping, on your way out the goddamned door!? You think I don’t notice that you move them? You’re as subtle as those fucking monsters crawling out the city! The monsters which you’re hell-bent against letting me destroy!”

“It’s not those monsters you’re destroying, but the whole population of Konoha!” Naruto yelled, far past caring who might hear him. He had finished dressing and strode out the door, Sasuke hot on his heels. “Even if your stupid vaccine does manage to change their blood type, do you realize the long term side affects? Did you know that a transplanted organ in another body has a lifespan of only a few years? Does it occur to you, even a little bit, that the human body might actually reject foreign blood!? You haven’t run nearly enough experiments on this…”

“Because we are running out of time!”

“And what about those people…” Naruto said slowly, making Sasuke wince. He knew this question so well, and every time he was forced to give the same answer. “What about those people already infected? The ones exiled to the other side of the Ravine?”

Sasuke kept his gaze steady. He was naked, but the natural feeling of insecurity that came with that was nothing compared to the desperate scrutiny Naruto was giving him. He loved Naruto, and knew that through everything Naruto loved him now, too. But he was afraid that if he kept giving this answer, even they wouldn’t survive it.

Quietly he forced out the words like they were chunks of hot coal on his tongue. “Their loss will never be forgotten.”

The door slammed shut behind Naruto’s back. Lovers in, enemies out.

--

Naruto was thirteen when his mother killed his father. Sasuke had slept over that night, and they were both thirteen when Sasuke pulled him by his wrist, dragging him away and shouting for his useless legs to run before he gave up and carried him from the house. Thirteen when Naruto moved into a room in the Uchiha mansion, and sixteen when he ran away, never to be seen again for two tears.

And when Naruto did come back, with a group of people and the security that came with his precious blood type, Sasuke had done more damage than Naruto could ever fix.

He was pulled from his thoughts when footprints set his heart rate off like a bomb. Heart pounding, he whipped his head around. But it was only Shikamaru, looking bored and slightly scolding. “Catch you off guard?”

“Yeah,” Naruto panted. “Shit, don’t scare me like that.”

Shikamaru didn’t apologize. “Stay alert,” he reprimanded, “and that won’t happen again.”

“Sorry,” Naruto muttered, turning his gaze back to the street. This time he paid attention. His hand fumbled for his water bottle beside him, knocking down the power rifle as he did so.

“Here,” Shikamaru said, handing Naruto the bottle. “I was refilling it for you,”

“Thanks,” Naruto grunted, taking a drink. It was easy to carry extra water with them when they went on these trips. Out of the Rebellion, only five of them had AB- blood, the only type that granted them immunity from the plague. Shikamaru and Naruto were always on the same team. Hinata, Kiba and Shino made up the other.

Thirst quenched, Naruto’s eyes were drawn to a small cluster of the creatures a block away from their spot atop an abandoned hotel building. There were three of them, and between them golden brown fur. Probably a stray dog. Their hands, mottled and branded with scabs covering nearly inch, tore and clawed at it. Their shovel-like hands scooped raw meat into their mouths. Their jaws were perpetually unhinged and hanging open loosely, teeth like gray and black tombstones in infected gums. Saliva and blood ran down their chins and naked chests. One was a female, Naruto could see. Her breasts were like water balloons that has sprung a horrible leak, pubic hair trailing greasily down her thighs. Her body, once probably slender, had a bulging gut that was the result of gluttonous feeding. The other two were male. One was missing most of his hair, his fat hanging so loosely his body seemed to quiver like water. His penis was like a limp piece of string, swaying beneath him. The other male was missing his.

Every one of the creatures were blind, all other senses seeming to have stayed in tact. They never seemed to care if food was alive or dead when they found it, only that it was edible. Some strung together in groups. It was the most effective way of traveling, as stragglers were usually eaten.

The mutation process, Naruto knew, was a painful one. The first symptom was blurred vision when waking up. Eventually it persisted to all hours of the day, followed by complete blindness. At that point they developed a horrible, itching rash that created blisters and boils, even on their scalp. After going nearly mad from the insatiable itch of them, they began to lose calcium in their teeth and nails, both turning yellow, and then black. Their appetites increased tenfold, and they lost all control of their bladders. The boils and blisters began to pop, which was a worrying sign that put them into solitary confinement. This was when they were most contagious. When the boils popped, they left bleeding gashes and like cotton, the rest of the skin began to fray. Putrid puss formed over the gashes, stopping them from bleeding out. But the degraded humans were kept, all with sometimes the barest semblance of sanity. The last stage was the most pitiful of them all, total deterioration of mental process. Doctors knew they had reached this stage when both of their pinky toes shriveled and fell off, causing the legs to buckle and them to walk awkwardly, sometimes on their hands and feet, as their center of balance was completely thrown.

It was at this point that the ‘creatures’, no longer labeled humans, were transported by helicopter over the Ravine and to the other side where they were confined by an electric fence, a ten-yard thick cement wall that reached up ten stories, and another human-dug trench that plunged fifty feet. By law, the creatures were human, even if they weren’t referred to by that term. Committing no crime except for existing, and to keep the people of Konoha from suffering the guilt of a genocide, the creatures were confined like rabid animals. The area was now a dumping site for all non-recyclable items, the creatures eating up the soils of the city they were once citizens of.

It was disgusting.

Naruto’s nose scrunched up against his face. There were two more coming down the street now, one on all fours and one limping along. The female turned and hissed at the newcomers.

“Think those three are related?” Naruto asked, motioning at them with his pen.

“Could be,” Shikamaru allowed. “Make a note of it.”

Naruto scribbled a quick few lines, checked his watch and wrote the time next to it in the margin.

“You know, I’ve been wondering something,” Shikamaru said after another ten minutes of quiet observation. All five beasts had departed, leaving the street deserted.

“What?” Naruto asked, twirling the pen in his hand as his eyes surveyed the streets. There were no more that he could see. Perhaps they should move? Shikamaru was silent for so long that he was about to suggest they head to the apartment building a few streets up when his quiet friend finally spoke.

“Does Sasuke know you come out here to study these things?”

Naruto froze. Not a single person in the world knew of the real relationship between the leader of the Rebellion 2.3 and the president of PPA. Those who knew them when they were friends assumed the stark difference between their opinions lead them down paths that would never, ever cross again. Their meetings were secret, uninterrupted, in a sound proof room. No one should know.

But then again, this was Shikamaru.

“On a first-name basis now, are we,” Naruto said airily, praying that his friend would allow him to play it off. But no such luck. The fact that Shikamaru was pressing this so hard told Naruto how long this had been on his friend’s mind.

“I’ve known you for eight years, Naruto. Don’t mistake me for an idiot.”

Naruto’s eyes narrowed on the road before him. The creatures were quiet when they arrived, quiet when the left, like leeches crawling up a leg struck into a lake. “What do you mean.”

“I mean,” Shikamaru embellished, “does your boyfriend know you’re risking your neck out here two, three times a month.”

Naruto debated briefly whether or not continue to deny it. But he was tired. His argument with Sasuke last night left his nerves sizzling and his morale a hundred feet below sea level. He missed him, like an organ he’d forgotten on the bedside table that morning in a rush to leave. Being out here was the most dangerous thing known to this century’s mankind, and his memories were in movement in his conscious. Like his life was constantly flashing before his eyes.

Finally, Naruto muttered a bit petulantly, “He’s not my boyfriend.”

Shikamaru snorted. He came up to sit beside Naruto on the ledge and folded his arms across his bent knees. “You meet once or twice, sometimes more, a month to fuck.”

“We don’t just have sex!” Naruto defended automatically. “We do other stuff too!”

“So you fuck and you spend time together. I’d call that boyfriends.”

Sensing that there was no way to win this one, Naruto rolled his eyes and said, “Call it whatever you want. How long ago did you find out?”

“It’s not like I just stumbled upon it one day,” Shikamaru said. “I just knew. From the moment you said his name to me, I knew you hated him. For every reason that you should. But… I also knew there was something else.”

Naruto didn’t say anything to deepen the subject. Shikamaru and Ino were some of the first few to join him in his cause, followed by several other core members. They branched out from there. Naruto could remember each of their faces. Photographic memory allowed him to recall every detail he’d ever learned of their lives. As well as…

“You think I don’t know you sneak through my files while I’m sleeping, on your way out the goddamned door!?”

Guilt surge through his veins at the memory, as well as an insatiable desire to abandon his post, run back to the bastard and apologize. Anything to rid the betrayal from his eyes.

But he used me, too, Naruto remembered. To kill someone. He knows I avoid that at all costs. He used me to get rid of the traitor trash in his staff and as a means to label the Rebellion as murderers. He’d never apologize. Ever. So why should I?

Because I always said from the beginning that I’m the bigger man in this. Naruto’s shoulders hunched this. This isn’t just a game.

“So what happened between you two?” Shikamaru asked him. “You both have pretty similar personalities, so how did you end up where you are now?”

Naruto had told this story countless times, and he went through the very basic motions of it on autopilot. “When we turned fifteen, we found out that his brother Itachi was leaving the company. His father was dying, and his medical research company needed someone to run it. Sasuke was next in line, and he’d take over when he turned sixteen. I thought that the first thing he’d do was try and find a cure for all those millions of people in the world infected. To join the fight to heal. Obviously, he chose not to.” Naruto’s fists clenched, and the bottle of water in his hand buckled slightly inwards at the pressure. “Instead he made some lunatic plans for pansy ass vaccinations. He didn’t even stop to think about healing those people. He just wants to cut losses.” Naruto’s glance drew to Shikamaru’s solemn brown eyes, which looked more tired and serious than Naruto had ever seen them. “Sasuke doesn’t realize that cutting the stem off a weed will only keep it at bay for so long. Without digging out the roots, it will only come back stronger. If he doesn’t work on a cure… Eventually he’ll need new vaccines to keep up with the mutating plague. And all that could be prevented if he…” Naruto cut himself off, burying his face in his hands, breathing deeply. “And now he’s lying to everyone, to all of Konoha. Saying this vaccine will protect them. But it won’t, Shikamaru. He’s trying to mutate blood. He’s trying to change a person’s blood type, and planning to launch it in the next year. Without the proper longitude research to show what’ll happen to these people in five years, ten years, twenty…” Naruto trailed off again, looking away and back to the vacant street.

Shikamaru was quiet after his little speech. Then, he said, “I’ve heard all this before, Naruto. Dozens of times. But what I want to know is what happened in the past few years. If you hate him so much, why do you go back to him?”

“I don’t hate Sasuke. Just the things he wants. Sasuke is still Sasuke. I’ve known him all my life. And when I see him…” Naruto laced his fingers together and examined his clasped hands. “I forget about this plague. About the dead, the alive, and the dying. I forget that my mother might be out there running around.” He swallowed against the dryness in his throat. “I forget everything, and I’m so stupid but so is he. At the time. We’re both stupid, just ignorant idiots, and it’s the only time I’m happy.

“I left home at sixteen, to try and find people to support my cause. I left Konoha for two years, gathered as much research from neighboring countries as I could, and allies. But by the time I came home, the whole nation was in Sasuke’s hands. He had the finances, the support, the name, the genius, the power… everything that I didn’t. No one in Konoha would support me, and before I could get my say in, I was the rebel. The leader of the Rebellion. Unwelcome here.

“I demanded to see Sasuke. I didn’t know what I wanted to do to him. To kill him, to beg him, to join him… heh, he would’ve loved that. I was surprised when they let me see him without guards. I figured it was a trap. I was the face of the Rebellion. I was a traitor. I’d left him two years ago and come back only to try and destroy what he was trying to build. When I got to his office, and shut the door behind me, he was there. Standing right there. And everything I was mad at, everything he stood for… it was like there was two Sasuke’s. The one I hated, and this one. Genuine. The real deal. And he grabbed me and I just… Couldn’t stop it.”

There was quiet for a bit. Shikamaru watched him for a bit, then looked out onto the street. Everything was quiet. The sun was beginning to set. The Ravine, a mile deep fissure that ran eight miles either way from Konoha, was difficult to navigate across in the dark. They used a system of ropes and pullies to cross from one side of the other, and they couldn’t chance shining lights.

“We should be heading back,” Naruto said after a while, sighing. “We’ll head to a new site in a few days. This place seems abandoned.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Shikamaru said calmly. “Move slowly.” Naruto looked at him in confusion. In each fist, the brunet held a heavy Desert Eagle. Slowly, Naruto pivoted his head. Behind him were the five they’d been studying on the street. Three of them had faces crusted in what looked like red dirt, although Naruto knew it to be blood.

Slowly, Naruto’s hand found the slim handle of his gun. He was regretting this before he even started. But every time he blinked, the monsters seemed closer. He could hear their rattling breaths like rusted tin cans over the street. Their milky, blind eyes. Even the clear blue of them had been robbed of their beauty by the yellow puss that leaked from beneath their eyelids. They looked in so much pain…

“Let’s go,” Shikamaru said, and like a spell, all Hell broke loose. And Naruto remembered something of the mutation process. That beneath the rotted nails, the peeling skin, the scabs, were muscles with the strength of steel. Nothing said that more than the way the launched at them then, at a documented speed of thirty-five miles per hour.

“Fuck,” Naruto snarled, and then he was flying backwards.

--

“Yes, Mr. Uchiha?”

“Ino,” Sasuke said, stroking the breast of the white pigeon perched upon his knee. “Call down to the kitchens and order up dinner for three. I‘m having a private dine-in with Hyuuga and Hatake.”

“Anything in particular, sir?”

“No. I’d like it in the next fifteen minutes. Also, a kettle of tea and a bottle of sake. Bring it a burner.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sasuke hung up and returned his attention to the bird. Its intelligent, bright orange eyes searched out the room. This was one of the only two ways Naruto and he communicated outside this room. The first, and most common, was that Ino would be called with a request for a private meeting with Sasuke. Sasuke met with Ino twice a day to go through such requests. Naruto always used a name they’d decided on during their previous encounter. Once given a time slot, Ino would call the number back and relay the information, leaving Naruto the rest of the afternoon to sneak through the door underground that started two full streets away, and make his way up Sasuke’s own personal elevator with a keycard Naruto had given him.

The pigeon was the last resort. When Naruto sent one of the trained birds up to his room, Sasuke would let it in. When the coast was clear, Sasuke would set it free, and wait.

In ten minutes flat there was a knock on the door, With Sasuke’s mumbled approval the head chef of the building’s own personal restaurant wheeled in a stainless steel cart. Knowing Sasuke’s routine well enough by now, the man bowed and backed out, shutting the door behind him. Without bothering to look at what the kitchens had made, he went to the window, opened it, and gently tossed the bird out the window.

It would take Naruto another half hour to get here, Sasuke estimated. He went to the food cart and peeled over the cover. There was a copper pot of tea with three cups, then three smaller ones, and a bottle of finely aged sake sitting next to a black iron burner. Using the small matchbox beside it he lit the oil heater and placed the sake bottle on top to warm. He just straightened when Naruto walked in through the door, shutting and locking it himself. Then Naruto was in his arms, kissing him. Sasuke responded in kind, letting Naruto take control of it for the time being. He smelled good. Running his hands smoothly over the planes of his body, Sasuke finally felt at ease. Although he did feel in vague shock at the quick arrival. He could feel Naruto’s heart thundering in his chest from the exertion.

They broke apart a short minute later, staring at each other. Neither of them were apologizing, and neither planned to. But their unspoken rule to leave their problems for public seemed back in affect, which was fine by Sasuke.

Sasuke slid the aluminum door aside on the bottom section of the cart and Naruto nearly groaned at the site. A pot roast with roasted potato chunks, a bowl of buttered peas and carrots, a wicker basket of crescent rolls, a plate of thick slices of Yorkshire pudding. Sasuke chuckled and handed Naruto a plate. Kneeling down (elbowing Sasuke in the shin along the way) Naruto helped himself. He didn’t question the third set of dishware. Sasuke always ordered enough for three so that Naruto had something to take home with him. Sasuke moved to pour them both a cup of tea, thinking to save the alcohol for later. But Naruto shook his head, stopping him. “Sake,” he said. Sasuke frowned, but set the mugs down and reached for the smaller china cups to pour them generous amounts of liquid fire.

Naruto waited until Sasuke fixed his own plate before diving in with a gusto that suggested he hadn’t eaten in a month. Sasuke’s mood was slowly declining from the elation he’d felt when Naruto first showed up. Whenever they had a fight like they did the last time, and Naruto showed up a few days later, it was always either to fish for an apology or give one in his own off-handed way. But since Naruto was doing neither, Sasuke was left to ponder the alternative.

Naruto was hurt.

It didn’t happen often. Usually the riots caused by the Rebellion, lead by Naruto, were diffused peacefully by Sasuke’s heavy hand on the government-issued troops and a full wallet for bribes. But beside the act of arson from over a week ago, there had been no more upsets.

Naruto seemed to carry about him the aura of Superman. Indestructible, immortal. And whenever he got hurt, his morale took the brunt of it and he was brought just a tiny bit closer to death. The realization of that got to Naruto more than anything, and he’d go to Sasuke.

Sasuke gave Naruto’s body a quick once-over, his fork hovering above his plate. Naruto didn’t notice. He was moving to the cart again, helping himself to more of the roast. When he sat back down, Sasuke asked of him, “Where did it happen?”

“Where did what happen?”

Sasuke rolled his eyes. Here it goes. “Where and when did you got hurt.”

Naruto snorted into his food. “I’m not hurt anywhere. I just came here to talk to you about a few things.”

Sasuke resisted the urge to roll his eyes. This was also another dead give away to an injury. No matter where it was on his body, Naruto would do his damnedest to keep it hidden. Once, when all the fingers on his left hand had been broken when an officer had forcibly torn the gun from Naruto’s hand, the blond had worn gloves to Sasuke’s office. In the middle of the summer. And then he’d try to keep away from the bed, claiming he wanted to discuss ‘a few things’ like this really was a business feeling. Anything to keep from getting naked, to not let Sasuke see.

Selfishly, Sasuke denied him this.

“What is you want to talk to me about?” Sasuke asked, setting his half-finished plate aside. He lost all appetite the moment he realized why Naruto was here.

“The court date, what else,” Naruto snorted. “I have a friend in Sand. Gaara, remember?” He tore a bite from a roll with his teeth. “He leads his own medical team, kinda like yours but without all the scum-sucking brown nosers. They’ve been compiling a lot of research data from the DNA of the creatures,” Sasuke noted that Naruto had brought with him no folder that could contain data of any such research, “and they think they’ve found a way to slow down the mutation.”

“Really.” It wasn’t Naruto’s face or hands. Not his legs or feet, he’d walked in here limp free. That left the arms and torso. He seemed to be favoring his right arm, but then again, he was right-handed.

“So I was thinking you might consider pushing the date back, maybe to February.” Sasuke hated this professional tone Naruto was using. He didn’t want to hear this while they were alone together. Naruto was just filling in the space with useless words that would get him nowhere. “I think they’ve really got something.”

“Huh,” Sasuke said blankly. Naruto had set down his silverware and was pouring himself another serving of sake. Still not meeting Sasuke’s eye. “So, what. They’d progress from the third stage of mutation to the final stage in four days instead of three? Quite a break through. I can see the point of your visit now.”

“If you’re not going to listen--” Naruto was snapping, testy, his voice shaking, how badly is he hurt? Sasuke pushed the plate from Naruto’s lap. It broke somewhere on the floor. “What, you bastard--” Sasuke slipped his hands under Naruto’s backside, squeezing and causing Naruto to simultaneously yelp and blush. He pulled Naruto onto his lap, one thigh on either side of his hips, and those long, tan legs wrapped around his waist as Sasuke stood up. Naruto was all legs, as he’d always been, and God was Sasuke grateful.

“Oi!” Naruto yelled as Sasuke made his way to the adjoined bedroom. “I didn’t come here to have sex! Let me go!” But the fists hammering with lack-luster strength against his back were pale in comparison to the hardening erection Sasuke could feel against his abdomen. His fingers traveled along Naruto’s rear, pressing in where he knew his entrance was, and Naruto bucked against him just as they went toppling sideways to the bed. Naruto grunted as he was pressed into the bed, searching hands roaming freely over his chest, Sasuke’s cool fingertips searching for the warmest and most sensitive parts of him, and more importantly for the injury Naruto was trying to hide from him. Thumbs and forefingers found his nipples and pinched. Naruto arched into the touch, panting and tugging at his own shirt.

“I’m doing that,” Sasuke growled, slapping Naruto’s hands away.

“You’re too rough,” Naruto complained. “I’m not rich. I can’t replace my wardrobe every time you feel like destroying it.” Barely lifting himself from the mattress, Naruto tugged the shirt over his head. Sasuke was already working on his own, and when they were both discarded on the floor, Naruto wrapped his arms around his shoulders and pulled, chests pressing together and mouths moving fervently over each other. Their tongues stroked quietly, movements turning slow, and finally, they began to relax. Sasuke’s hands roamed over his chest, his arms, his shoulders. No sore spots.

Maybe I was wrong, Sasuke thought, but any intentions of furthering that thought were shot down when Naruto grabbed his hand and forced it to cup his erection, grinding against it and making that high, breathy keening noise that Sasuke would forever fall victim too.

Twenty minutes later, Sasuke was in heaven. Everything in the room grew surreal, like an old movie reel. Their cheeks were pressed firmly together, Naruto’s tongue licking at the shell of his ear. “Harder,” he was groaning, “right there,” and Sasuke obliged, feeling so fucking close he could already taste the white hot heat that tongued his insides every time he came. His hands left Naruto’s hips and wrapped around the small of his back, fingertips digging in and forcing Naruto’s body at a different angle. Naruto always liked this, the heightened sense of enjoyment of being this open, thrust into just like that. Naruto clenched tightly on him, a groan pouring from his lips. He tensed tight enough that it actually hurt.

“Not that tight,” Sasuke grunted, because it really did hurt.

“Sorry,” Naruto said, and he immediately loosened. “Sorry, keep going, please don’t stop…”

Another minute later Naruto’s hand finally fell from himself, his stomach slick with his own semen while Sasuke’s hips pounded relentlessly between his legs, chafing the skin. Sasuke bit into Naruto’s shoulder as he came, a wordless cry as the world died and was reborn right around his very skin, Naruto still so very hot and slick around him, I’d be happy dying like this. Sasuke collapsed, breathing deeply, smelling their sweat and essence and wanting the smell to stay forever.

Naruto’s muscles twitched sporadically about his penis and he growled, pulling out with a loud wet sound. They would have a second round, but not now. He still wanted to ask Naruto about his reasons for coming here so unexpectedly. But the blond pulled him to his chest instead, hands in his hair before he could ask what it was Naruto was doing. Sasuke didn’t complain, eyes lolling shut as nimble fingers scratched at his scalp, undoing the tangles in his hair, palms smoothing the bangs away from his sweaty forehead. Sasuke sighed, turning his head to plant a chain of chaste kisses that wrapped across his chest.

“So why the sudden visit?” Sasuke asked huskily, no longer really caring for the answer. Naruto never appeared on such short notice without reason, but who was Sasuke to complain? The two hardly saw each other, and with the added stress of the upcoming court date Sasuke thoroughly enjoyed this outlet.

“No reason,” Naruto assured him. Sasuke drew back and Naruto seemed reluctant to let his head go. His hands draped themselves lightly over the back of his neck. “Just wanted to see you.”

Sasuke smirked. “Really?” He draped one leg over Naruto’s, straddling his waist. “No covert plans to get anything out of me?”

Naruto snorted. “What would I want from someone like you?”

Sasuke grinned. “Oh, I can think of a new things.” He punctuated the word ‘few’ with a slow roll of his hips against Naruto’s, causing the man underneath him to wince. He bent down to Naruto’s neck, licking at the slope of it. His hands ran smoothly over Naruto’s sides, mouth traveling over his shoulder….

Then Naruto grabbed his head painfully and dragged him up, initiating an open-mouthed kiss. Sasuke kissed back, but broke away when Naruto wrapped his legs around him once again in a demanding manner. Sasuke could feel Naruto beneath him and he felt nowhere near ready for another round.

“I don’t want to rush,” Sasuke snapped.

“Who said we’re rushing? I thought you liked when I did that!”

“Since when did you go out of your way to do such things?” Batting Naruto’s hands from his hair, he attempted to wedge his hands under Naruto’s back to pull it up. Despite how much Naruto complained about Sasuke’s pushy nature, Sasuke didn’t like seeing Naruto willingly on his back too long. It went against the very nature of Naruto’s character. But to his great surprise, and even greater suspicion, Naruto refused to budge.

“Naruto,” Sasuke grunted. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Unbidden, the two reason’s behind spontaneous visits arose in his mind. When Naruto wanted to apologize, and when he was hurt--

Sasuke froze, hands still on Naruto’s hips. Naruto had his hands around Sasuke’s elbows, attempting to push him off. But he, too, stilled. He grew apprehensive as understanding lit his gaze.

“Naruto, get up.” Naruto bristled. He hated that tone of voice. It was the authoritative one, the belittling one, the one he used whenever Naruto arrived for public hearings and press conferences. “Show me your back.”

Naruto stiffened. “Make me.”

“I will,” Sasuke said, his voice sending chills up Naruto’s body. He was nervous now, a bit. Slowly, Naruto lifted himself up onto his elbows and began to scoot away, slowly. As if Sasuke wouldn’t react unless Naruto made too sudden a movement.

He was to be sorely disappointed.

Before Naruto could realize what was happening, the world was spinning. The bastard had gripped his upper arm in a cruel grip and jerked him up, twisting until Naruto turned completely. Now all Naruto could see was the deep sea blue of Sasuke’s bed sheets. His heart hammered in his chest and he wished reverently to be anywhere, anywhere else.

Silence befell them with the weight of the entire building. Suddenly the room had too little oxygen. He could feel Sasuke’s eyes on the back, deep and penetrating, and Naruto could only guess at the look on Sasuke’s face. Shock? Anger? Sadness? Several cool, light fingers pressed into his shoulder blade, running up until they hit one of the five pads of gauze. Swallowing, Naruto muttered, “They had to drain it,” by ways of explanation. No need for Sasuke to think he got cut, too.

“Naruto…” Starting from mid-shoulder, stretching down and ending below the small of his back, was nothing but dark, dark blue, an inch or so of purplish green at the edges. The bruise was mottled, becoming the darkest in the middle. There it was nearly black. It pounded and ached far worse than when Naruto had gotten here, but up until now it had been worth it. He needed to see Sasuke. Even for just a few minutes, he needed to see him. To take in his face, and to remind himself of what he was fighting so hard for.

“Who?” Sasuke growled from above him. He wasn’t so much mad that Naruto had gotten hurt, although the fact did add oil to the fire. It was that every officer in this city had strict orders to leave Naruto untouched. Diplomatic security, he called it, and PR ate it up. Besides Sasuke’s own reasons, it helped their cause if they treated the leader of the Rebellion 2.3 with respect and kept him unharmed. Any injury Naruto had, Sasuke had a file on it. He even had one on a sprained wrist from one riot.

But this injury had to be one of the worst of them. Not only did Sasuke not know its origin, but he had no idea what could have caused it, or why Naruto wouldn’t let him know about it. If anything, he’d be rubbing it in Sasuke’s face. And the length of it, the strength it must have taken to throw Naruto so hard into something his entire back turned black. No human possessed that sort of strength…

Naruto could feel Sasuke tense above him as the second shoe dropped. Naruto sighed, his whole body shaking. This was always meant to remain a secret. Just this one, little secret. Naruto shared everything with Sasuke, even the location of their base if Sasuke ever needed to find him in an emergency. The research they were contracting from Sand. Everything. But not this…

Sasuke lifted himself from Naruto’s body and for a few moments, the blond remained there. Too tired, too worried, too miserable to bother. This sucks, Naruto thought. No word in the human language could describe this. This really fucking sucks.

When Sasuke found his voice a long minute ago, he asked Naruto, “How long?” His tone rang deep with suppressed emotion. Not anger, because today very obviously wasn’t Naruto’s day. An angry Sasuke Naruto could deal with. But Sasuke sounded betrayed now. Disappointed. And Naruto didn’t like to disappoint.

Playing stupid would be an insult, and feeling that he’d already insulted his lover enough, Naruto said, “Ever since I came home.” He paused, looking up to meet Sasuke’s gaze only to find Sasuke’s eyes were no longer on him. He was staring out the window with a blank expression on his face. “You have to understand… if I told you…” His sentence went unfinished, and Sasuke didn’t press him to complete it. Still looking away from Naruto, like he was too disgusting to look at. “That research I told you about, from Sand.” Naruto’s voice grew stronger with every word, conviction battling out guilt and starting to win. If he could make Sasuke understand, if he could just get through that thick skull of his. To really make him see. “They’re trying to classify the mutation process into stages, and they think it’s neurological. I’ve been sending them my observation reports, comparing it to the amount of visible decomposition. The receptors in their brains shutting down area by area. It’s causing their bodies to degenerate. If we could group these crea--people into stages, we can try and save those with the least amount of neurological damage. We can reverse it, Sasuke, with minimal brain damage. Think about it! If more research went into--”

“Your mother is dead.”

The words were like the clean swipe of a blade, and Naruto’s mouth was left hanging open like it had been cut at the hinges. Sasuke hadn’t looked at him when he’d said it, but when he looked back at Naruto, he said, “I killed her.”

Naruto swallowed. “Whatever you’re trying to do,” he said, “won’t work. This isn’t about my mom. This is about all those people who--”

“I killed her,” Sasuke repeated, and once more Naruto was spellbound into stupefied silence. “The night she slaughtered your father. You wouldn’t move. I had to move you. She’d already lost all sane thought, tracking us like animals while I tried to run with you over my back. I hid you. You can’t remember this, but do you recall the tree house you, Kiba and I used to use as a clubhouse? I hid you in there, in the corner, put a blanket over you and waited for morning. The city was in chaos. There was a no-exception curfew in affect. We had to wait it out, so I cut the rope ladder. And then, your mother began to climb up the tree.”

Naruto didn’t realize he was shaking his head until Sasuke reached out a hand to steady it. Sasuke angled his body in Naruto’s direction. His back felt heavy, so damn painful, like his skin was starting to peel off. He’d had a nightmare of that once, nails scratching and scouring away his own skin in thick, gunky ribbons until he could see his own naked skull.

“I threw things down at her. Whatever I could to stop her, but she didn’t relent. Eventually she got up, and just crouched there. Staring at me, with those lifeless, blind eyes. Breathing. I had a hammer in my hand, that I was going to drop on her. But she just stood there, and for a moment I thought she was back to normal.

“And then, her eyes left mine and went to you under the blanket in the corner. And I did what I needed to do.”

Sasuke’s palm fell from his face, only to have a finger trail below his eye. “I protected you,” Sasuke said, “in a way in which you’ll never forgive me for. And I accept that. Even now, I’m doing my best to do the same thing. To protect you.”

Naruto didn’t know what to say first. That it wasn’t Sasuke’s job to save him, that this wasn’t about his mother, that how dare Sasuke get mad at him for keeping a secret when he’d kept this bottled up all along. Because even though Naruto knew statistics pointed to his mother’s death, that the longevity of these creature’s lives wasn’t more than four or five years, that her elevated condition would have rotted her too far for science to ever fix her…

He could still, still smell her hair, see her eyes. Remember every word of every story she’d ever read to him at bed time. The exact way she’d brushed his hair, starting behind his ears. The wild red of her own, the bright blue eyes that matched his, and Naruto had never given up. Ever.

“This isn’t about her,” Naruto managed to force out the words, even though it was now entirely about her. Dead. She’d been dead, killed by his own best friend, his lover, for years. And years. “This is about saving those who most have already given up hope on.”

“No,” Sasuke said quietly, handing falling to find Naruto’s. Naruto didn’t give it to him. “This is about preventing those who are healthy, sane, from contracting it. Soon, not even AB- types will survive with the way it’s mutating. I won’t be safe. You won’t be safe.”

“I don’t care if I’m safe,” Naruto said, and now realized why Sasuke had been running his fingers beneath his eyes. He hadn’t done this in years, cried, and now he wished for the tears to run down his back and soothe the ache. “I’ll fight,” Naruto said. “I’ll fight everyone. I’ll fight you. I won’t give up on them.”

Sasuke’s gaze left his and returned to the window. He was silent for a long, long time, thinking before murmuring slowly, “That, I can respect.”

Naruto knew it was time to go, He eyed his clothes. When he left this place mad, it was always with the thought that he might not come back. But this was it. This was finally the end. Naruto would not be coming back to Sasuke without a gun and his people. “No more.”

Sasuke nodded. “No more,” he agreed. “You and I are enemies.”

“We are,” Naruto affirmed. That had always been a fact, but a fact that existed out there, in the real world. Their dreamt-up reality was no more. The peace of it shattered into unrecognizable pieces.

“I’ve hurt your back,” Sasuke said. “I’ll get some ice, and some balm, and when I come back you can leave.” It didn’t sound either condescending or desperate, but Naruto nodded.

“Thanks.” He watched Sasuke slowly stand and dress. Everything was in slow motion. His eyes drank in every inch of skin he could see, for what he knew would be the last time.

When Sasuke left, Naruto slowly put everything on except for his shirt. Every inch of his body was on fire. He wondered what they’d be doing if Naruto hadn’t gotten lifted and thrown into that building. If they’d be talking in bed, if they’d be going at each other like starved men, if they’d drifted in and out of sleep like a dream that would inevitably end--

Naruto shook his head, trying to dispel the thoughts. Tried so hard. He collapsed back on the bed, face in his hands, trying to breathe normally. When that failed him, he got up and went to the window to open it for some fresh air. It was locked, and he sighed, pressing his forehead into the window pane. He wondered where Sasuke was. There was a bucket of ice in the cart, and usually basic medical supplies in the bathroom. Deciding, he went to look for him.

The living room was empty, the cart untouched. He poked his head into the bathroom. The lights were off, the room empty. Naruto sighed, going to the door and pressing his ear against it. He heard nothing. But then again, the room was completely sound proof. Sasuke had designed it that way when they started having their secret meetings. He opened the door to peek his head out--

Only the door would not budge.

A memory arose in Naruto’s mind, of their first time seven months after Naruto had returned. He’d straddled Sasuke’s waist, Sasuke’s firm hand on his hip helping him keep steady. Naruto had been shaking and so had Sasuke. But Sasuke was the one to lean forward and whisper into his ear, “You’re safe, you’re safe with me.” Naruto had been glad, finally glad, to come home. As Sasuke helped lower him down, and unfamiliar pain shot up his spine, as a sense of being so full he could hardly keep himself together, and a strong voice, “I will keep you safe.”

The door would not budge, and Naruto began to scream. He couldn’t understand the words spewing out of his mouth, but he was sure that Sasuke’s name slipped in there once every five words, along with every curse in every language that he knew. The doorknob fell off with the first hit Naruto took at it with an iron lamp, although it did no good. It was more to make him feel better. The doorknob was just for show. A twist of it sent a signal to the metal bars that ran through the thick, heavy oak into the door. Everything in this room was old fashioned in design, but modern in its technology. Naruto had always been glad for that. The locks that kept outsiders out, the soundproofing.

Now, it was his enemy.

“You and I are enemies.”

“I will keep you safe.”

No matter what,
Naruto plugged in. To every extent in the universe. Naruto retracted from the door, his shaking legs letting him sink into the universe. He gasped as his back hit the buttery leather and he flinched forward. Sasuke might just have gotten distracted. Someone could have gotten his attention and drawn him away. Never mind that it was night, that they were probably the only ones in this building except for the guards.

Tired, Naruto sank into the couch, muscles seeming to detach themselves from his bones and leaving his whole body limp. The moment his head hit a pillow Naruto knew he wouldn’t be getting up. Tired, that’s what he was. So tired.

Every noise in the room sounded like footsteps, like Sasuke opening the door with ice in his hands and a question in his eyes. Every smell was fresh air. Before he knew it, Naruto was asleep.

--

When Naruto awoke the next morning and opened his eyes, he was alert instantly. The dinner cart was gone, replaced by another one. The warm smell of cinnamon was in the air. Naruto listened carefully to his surroundings, but heard nothing. His back didn’t hurt him as much last night. He scratched at his arm, trying to rid himself of a tingling feeling it seemed to be retaining, before doing a once over around the apartment. Sasuke was nowhere to be found.

Naruto went back to the cart and opened the doors, looking inside. There was a tray of ice on the bottom with cold cuts, presumably for making sandwiches in the afternoon. On the second shelf was a basket of an assortment of rolls. Jars of different jellies, some sort of pastry. Breakfast things. Were he a few years younger, the cart would have been toppled over in adolescent outrage and childish anger. A temper tantrum.

Now, it was thrown across the floor in blind rage, in a betrayal that undoubtedly beat out Sasuke’s. Naruto didn’t care how immature it was. It was better than doing nothing.

He considered pounding on the door, but it was useless. Sasuke didn’t scare him. At one point, he’d get over himself and let Naruto out. It was only a matter of time.

Naruto stood and went to the bathroom, undoing the button to his pants, wanting a hot bath and to use lots and lots of bubbles because he had a lot of thinking to do. Thinking he couldn’t do unless he saw his face reflected in countless, colorful bubbles, looking so lost.

--

According to the clock on the wall, Sasuke came back at 8:07 that night. His hands were empty, his jacket off, and bags beneath his eyes suggesting he hadn’t slept that night. Naruto felt no pity.

“What, no ice?” Sasuke’s expression was as distant and emotionless as it had been whilst he looked out the window. Naruto had redressed himself in his clothes, even his shoes. The meat without the ice had been sitting all day, and was beginning to smell.

Without a word, Sasuke moved from the door, leaving it open. Naruto stood and walked past him, because if Sasuke could get away with this betrayal without saying anything, than so could he.

But when Naruto was out in the hallway, when the door was nearly shut behind his back, he heard Sasuke say, “I’ll see you tonight,” and then the click of the wooden and steel framework.

Naruto paused, debated going back there to murder him or forgive him, and then remembered his resolve. To not forgive. To not go back. Enemies out.

Naruto left.

--

The city was closed off and quiet this time of night. The curfew started at seven. Without the UV rays from the sun, the germs from over the Ravine bred like wild fire, slinking across the streets and licking at the windows of the people. The monsters cawed and roared, a desperate noise like they’d cried for so long they could no longer use their vocal cords properly.

It broke Naruto’s heart. Help. They needed help. The children, the men, the women, the teenagers, perhaps with a conscious trapped in a body they could no longer control. He fell pray to something akin to Stockholm’s syndrome. Being around them for so long made him like them more than the humans. The humans that hid and cowered and would never lift a finger to help, not even their own family who were transported across the Ravine when they reached Stage 3.

It made Naruto sick.

But that didn’t excuse his ignorance that night. He should have known something was wrong as he walked along the outskirts of the city, towards his base. When the noise level only increased instead of getting quieter. There was the sound of sirens.

Somehow, Naruto knew what had happened before he even got there. He could see the lights already. But somehow, his brain couldn’t quite accept Sasuke’s betrayal. One like this was too catastrophic.

What would I do if we changed places? Normally Naruto liked going through that scenario. It helped calm him down after all the ridiculous things Sasuke would do to ensure his safety. But he didn’t like the answers it wielded this time around.

I would to this, too, Naruto thought, approaching what used to be his home. The exact same way, by the same means.

There were many trucks along the side of the road. Most of them were filled with very familiar boxes. Documents. Research. Lap equipment. Movers still hauled the stuff in. There were a few ambulances. His people hadn’t embarrassed themselves. Sasuke refused to think that it was some of them in there.

Guards crawled over it like cockroaches over a fallen taffy. There was Kakashi there, he could see, and Neji who was shaking his head at what he saw in one of the boxes as he handed it over to someone else. The buildings was in worse shape then when Naruto had left it. Every window was broken. Smoke drifted lazily from the top floor. And, of course, the police vans were absent. They’d probably already transported everyone to the correctional facility. And with no lawyers, with such a bad reputation Naruto had only recently found out was orchestrated, they stood no chance. Naruto needed aid. He needed a gun with endless bullets. He needed…

Finally understanding Sasuke’s parting words, Naruto began to walk away, listening to the cry of the creatures like coyotes in the night. He needed aid. Sasuke expected Naruto to come back, and he was sure that after twenty-four hours or so Sasuke would put out a search for him. Naruto didn’t plan on staying. He’d leave, head to Sand. Get reinforcements to fight Konoha for his people. He had neither the manpower nor the technology to free them on his own.

But first… Naruto had something to wait for.

--

“Everyone in this world, in this city, in this courtroom, is the center of their own universe.”

Naruto sat near the back in a suit he’d stolen from a man’s closet on Broad, hair brown from a dye he’d stolen from the man’s wife’s closet. His skin looked more sallow, his body thinner from lack of food. His back was healed now. His body felt frozen on the pew.

“And in that universe are people. Important pinnacles in that universe. Not money, not cars or other material possessions. But the ones we love.”

Sasuke, Naruto noted, needed to microphone in the massive court room that held upwards of six hundred people. He paced in front of them, and the jury of the twelve elders. Everyone was listening.

“I’ve heard, and I’m sure you have as well, that when you find someone you love so deeply, so much that you can’t cut them out without sacrificing parts of yourself, that they become the center of your universe. But that is untrue. It will always be you saving them. It would always be them saving you. Even when you love them more than you love yourself, you will always be at the center of it all.”

His voice was crisp and quiet, loud and clear, like chapel bells. It was daylight outside, and the light shown through the windows like through a church’s windows. Naruto felt like praying, and for a few seconds he did. But when he was done, he could no longer remember what he’d prayed for.

“I’m not here to speak for the ones you have undoubtedly lost,” Sasuke said. “I am here because you can no longer control your own universe. The pivotal point of it has been knocked askew, and like a ship without an anchor, it is slowly drifting off course. You need help. I need help. We all do, and ironically, none of us like to admit to this. But I stand before you today, ready to do just that. I want your help so that I can help you.

“The bill I brought before you today will not cure those we’ve lost. It will not save the wretched souls who’ve lost themselves mentally, and lose themselves more physically each and every day. I am here to help you, and every person in your own personal universe. I’m here to give you a way out.”

From his position in the back, with his disguise painstakingly built, Naruto felt nothing but shock as Sasuke’s eyes scanned the crowd and finally locked onto his.

“I am here,” Sasuke said to him, “to save the lives loved by everyone in this room. I am here to protect them. I’m not here to save them, as this will eliminate all need for that. I’m here for you, the ones you love… and the one I love.”

Sasuke’s eyes narrowed into his, and Naruto knew then that it was time to go. He shifted restlessly, Sasuke’s eyes keeping him pinned, as he said, “I am here for you.”

The applause broke Sasuke’s concentration, and when their eyes broke from each other Naruto took the moment to flee, running with the lost quiet of the room and eyes on his back. Still hurting. Always hurting.

--

Sasuke tugged his tie off as he entered the room. He took off his shoes, placed them on the rack, and without turning said, “Your hair looks ridiculous.” He knew Naruto was there. Had no clue how he’d gotten in. But Naruto had been up to who-knows-what for the past month. Who knew what kind of allies he’d gained.

Naruto sat on the couch, thinner and older in his stolen suit and stolen hair. But his eyes were that icy blue, the only part of his physical appearance Sasuke had ever really cherished. They were the first thing he remembered seeing as they shared a playpen. The bright blue nurses always thought would dull over time, but never had.

“I thought it might match your speech,” Naruto said dryly. “What was all the ‘center of the universe’ crap, anyway. How far up your ass did you go to dig that out?”

Sasuke didn’t rise to the bait. Handing his suit jacket on the coat rack, he walked over to Naruto and promptly straddled his lap, one leg on either side of him, hands in his hair and they were kissing like they still obeyed that unspoken law. Leave the problems out, leave them in. Lovers in, enemies out. Neither of them tried to deepen the intimacy, which suited both of them just find. Their wild tangle of tongues slowed to a pleasing rhythm. Then it was just warm, wet lips, giving pressure and relenting. A slow dance.

“What are you doing here, Naruto?” Sasuke breathed into Naruto’s open lips, letting every word fill Naruto’s mouth with his breath.

Naruto hummed. With his hands he massaged Sasuke’s back, feeling his lover arch into him. “I’m here,” he explained slowly, “because this time, I know you’ll let me leave.”

“You couldn’t know that,” Sasuke disagreed lightly. “I could lock you away. Knock you out, tie you to my desk. It would be easy.”

“It would,” Naruto said, “but you won’t.”

“Mmh.” Naruto was kissing his neck lightly. “I know.” Their eyes met, gently smiling, before kissing again. Sasuke lay down and Naruto crawled on top of him and they both couldn’t help but think that they’d gone insane. No, they’d earned that title long ago. Sasuke hugged Naruto tightly to him, relishing in what Naruto thought was their last good-bye. But it couldn’t be, never would be, Sasuke wouldn’t let it.

“You’ve nowhere to go,” Sasuke said. “Stay.”

“I do too. Just who do you think I am?” Naruto lay his head against Sasuke’s chest, enjoying the gentle rise and fall. “My ride is picking me up at seven.” Sasuke didn’t bother saying that that was half an hour ago. He had a feeling Naruto already knew. Sasuke also was aware that no matter how much he asked, or begged, Naruto wouldn’t tell him where he was going. Naruto didn’t trust Sasuke like that anymore.

Somehow, this was fine by him.

“Hey, bastard,” Naruto whispered.

Sasuke guessed at the reason for the quiet tone, that it was to keep from speaking too loud and letting his voice crack. Sasuke held him tighter for that. “Dead last,” he murmured back.

“Are we enemies?”

Sasuke smelled his hair. Brown, but still with the same scent. So humanly, unbelievable Naruto. “No. We never were.”

Naruto kissed him again.

Half an hour later Naruto began to lift himself up. For a second or two Sasuke’s arms just tightened as he realized what it was he was letting go. Everything he’d ever worked for, everything he’d ever wanted, the only person he loved…

Sasuke stood up after Naruto, following him to the door. Naruto opened it and turned. Sasuke couldn’t tell what it was he expected. He wouldn’t get a good-bye, or a threat. There was nothing he could say that wouldn’t be totally meaningless.

So Sasuke settled for bending forwards and pressing Naruto’s lips into one more kiss. Its length immeasurable, the heat sweltering and comforting, familiar as breathing.

“I love you.”

--

SURPRISING NEW EVIDENCE LEAVES NATION IN TURMOIL

By Sakura Haruno, Circulation Editor

In a move that left the nation stunned, the Royal Justice System ruled against the new bill mandating the Vaccine Delta set by Plague Prevention Associates (PPA) due to new evidence submitted to the court by an anonymous source. The decision was revealed to the public on Feb. 2 at a public hearing.

The evidence submitted through electronic transfer has been scrutinized by a specially contracted team of the jury’s choice, and the new findings have been declared legitimate.

“What the PPA failed to mentioned,” her Judge Tsunade Sannin commented, “was that this vaccine has serious affects on the blood of certain individuals. Primarily the blood of all who aren’t AB-. That is, over 99 percent of the population.”

Naruto Uzumaki, former leader of the recently abolished Rebellion 2.3 and current ambassador for Sand, was available for comment. “It’s not that we’re trying to debunk the PPA,” Uzumaki said. “But we’re taking this new evidence into consideration. We’re just trying to clear up a few misconceptions that they’ve failed to mention, and to do what we’ve always wanted to do. Secure a safe, happy life for both the sick and the unsick. To protect the ones that we love.” (contnd. on page 5A)

Sasuke folded the newspaper into a neat square and slid it onto the desk. From the page, black and white eyes he could almost see the color of smiled at him.

There were no witnesses in the room to see Sasuke smile back.



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