AN: This story was written as a series of short stories and one shots. I'm posting it as one long story. The title of each chapter will have the name of the story or oneshot that it is named. I've been on the fence about posting this here for various reasons. I really feel that this story deserves love. It has a pretty dedicated following on other sites. There will be adult content, angst, drama, fluff, sap, homosexual and heterosexual pairings. This was also written out of order originally, but I did my best to make everything sync together. I'll post a chapter every couple of days. The first story that was written in this series was The Gift which will be the 11th chapter, but I'm posting this in chronological order rather than the order I wrote it in. I hope you all enjoy.
Naruto Uzumaki's eyes stared up at the tall building comprised mostly of doctor's offices. Most people probably dreaded stepping into anywhere near one of these buildings with signs telling of the variety of doctors housed inside. After a lifetime spent in various doctor's offices and hospitals, he was immune to the fear brought on by such places. His grandpa, Jiraiya, had always said he couldn't tell if Naruto was brave or just stupid.
"Damn, I miss that old pervert." Naruto sighed heavily. The old man had taken him in when his parents were killed in a car accident. There was no telling what a shithole his life would be if not for Jiraiya.
Until age five, Naruto had been a normal toddler and child. He had started kindergarten and been a normal, rambunctious boy until contracting a virus that caused the muscle of his heart to become inflamed. The result had left him with a severely weakened heart. He didn't remember much of those days other than long stints spent in the hospital and being forced to drink terrible tasting medication.
Jiraiya had stuck by him even during those days when the hospital bills piled up. Until six months ago, the two of them had been nearly inseparable. It was bitter irony that his grandfather should die of a sudden heart attack while he had lived with a damaged heart for nearly twenty years.
Shaking his head, he spread a broad smile on his face and moved through the doors. It was time to move onto a new doctor. His previous cardiologist was an idiot. It was a wonder the man had passed medical school, much less the licensing exam. The only thing going for him was that he was cheap. With the state his heart was in and no education higher than high school, it became difficult to find a job that would take on a sickly employee. There were days he could barely get out of bed. If he became stressed, his heart would go into palpitations, requiring him to sit down and rest for an undetermined amount of time.
To fill the void, he volunteered at the suicide help line. It was a sit down job and allowed him to feel as if he was doing something for the community, even if he was not paid for it. Everyone he worked with said he was a miracle worker, using humor to bring callers out of the danger zone.
Now, with the little bit of insurance money left over and selling the small house he was raised in, he figured he might be able to afford someone who would actually help him out. Jiraiya had not been rich, but the royalties from his books, even after his death, still provided enough for Naruto to reside in a small apartment and buy groceries. He wasn't eating prime rib every night, but he got by just fine.
As he walked slowly across the lobby, he sent a longing look toward the doorway leading to the stairs. It was not that he particularly wanted to climb stairs; he simply wanted to have that option open to him. Living life going at a walk while his soul wanted to be at a run was a painful experience. There were times he wondered how Jiraiya did it, keeping him calm for so many years. He had not been the most passive of children.
As he walked into the office labeled Itachi Uchiha, MD. The interior was more posh than anything he had ever seen. A handful of plush chairs were tastefully arranged. The art on the walls was real and not cheap prints bought in Pier One. It was the most upscale doctor's office he had ever seen.
All his internet research pointed overwhelmingly to Itachi Uchiha being the best in his field. He was considered a master at diagnosing and treating heart related illnesses. When Naruto saw his name come up time and again, he knew that was the man he wanted for his doctor.
"May I help you?" asked a woman with an elegant updo seated behind a desk. She spoke with a slightly nasal tone, as if trying to appear a higher class than she was.
Naruto could practically see her gauging his clothes. He might not have been the most stylish, but the baggy jeans and loose tee-shirt were comfortable. "I'm here to make an appointment with Dr. Uchiha. I would have called, but I wanted to check out the place first."
She arched a perfectly manicured brow. "I think you are in the wrong office."
"Nope. I have the directions I printed off on Google." He made a point of pulled the wrinkled paper from his back pocket and shoving it in her face. "Dr. Uchiha is the best cardiologist in the U.S. I want him as my doctor."
"I'm sorry, but Dr. Uchiha does not take walk-ins."
Naruto fought the urge to roll his eyes. "I know that. I'm here to make an appointment."
Her eyes narrowed and perfectly manicured nails tapped loudly on the keyboard at her desk. "I can fit you in three years from the twenty-first."
"Bullshit." Naruto slapped his palm down on the desk. "This is a doctor's office and I want an appointment. I may not look it, but I can pay him whatever exorbitant amount he wants to charge me."
The woman immediately reached for the phone and pressed a few numbers. "Security, we have a problem in Dr. Uchiha's office."
"Tell me you did not call security on me." Naruto took a few slow, deep breaths. "So what if I'm not dressed in Gucci suits. I'm not worth any less than anyone else."
He had no sooner uttered the words when two firm grips latched onto his arms. "What the hell? Damn, you guys are fast."
"Escort him from the building," said the receptionist with a sniff.
Naruto gave a weak struggle before allowing the two buff security guards to escort him outside. They gave a small shove once they reached the large glass doors leading from the building, causing Naruto to stumble over his feet and hit the pavement with a jarring thud. "Ouch, damn it."
"Don't bother coming back. You're banned from these offices," growled one of the security guards.
"I didn't know you threw paying patients to the curb," shouted Naruto in return. "Assholes!"
Had he been any other person on the street, he would have picked himself up and went about his merry way. Naruto was different. His heart was pounding so loudly in his chest, he was afraid it might give out at any moment. A hand lifted to press to his chest as he worked hard to calm himself enough to lower his heart rate. Damn, he hated this.
"Only an idiot sits in the middle of the sidewalk."
Naruto's gaze shot up to stare at a young man shadowing out the glare of the sun. "And here I was getting ready to take a nap. It's oh so comfortable down here on the pavement. You should join me. We'll start a new fad...sidewalk sleeping."
The stranger gave a huff and offered Naruto his hand. "What did you do to warrant getting tossed out on your ass?"
"Tried to make a doctor's appointment," chuckled Naruto wryly. "Thanks for the hand up. I didn't think they actually tossed you when you got thrown out of a building. Boy was I sure as hell wrong. I'm Naruto, by the way."
Naruto walked towards a bench where he sat with a huff and proceeded to pull up the leg of his jeans to check on the bleeding scrap. He barely noticed his rescuer taking a seat beside him. "Damn assholes."
"Here, I have a clean handkerchief. Let me clean it up for you." Sasuke pulled a bottle of water from his bag and poured it over the white cloth.
"Ouch, damn it." Naruto tried to jerk his leg away from him. "That hurts."
Sasuke gave a small huff. "Stop being a baby."
"Then stop touching it."
Sasuke glanced up at him with an arched brow. "Oh really? And what exactly am I touching?"
Naruto froze, realizing how it sounded and looked with Sasuke leaning over his lap. He glanced up to see several people giving them strange looks and lifted a hand to his face to hide the red flush staining them. "I think I'm going to go find a hole to crawl in now."
"I was going to see my brother, but I think you're much more interesting." Sasuke sent Naruto a smirking smile that likely earned him plenty of dates. "How about you and I go grab some lunch?"
"What makes you think I'd want to have lunch with you?" snapped Naruto as he pulled his leg from Sasuke's grip.
"You're still here," said Sasuke. "Is that reason enough?"
Naruto froze, his eyes going wide. "Maybe I'm just hungry?"
"Either way, we both get something we want. I get more time with you and you get food. Win-win."
"Does that line work often?"
There was little arguing with the reasoning. Naruto folded his arms across his chest and pouted for a moment, considering his options. He didn't want to let on that at least on a physical level, Sasuke was attractive—a bit of a pushy bastard, but still attractive. "You don't even know me. What if I have some incurable disease?"
"Then, I suppose we should hurry up before you expire." Sasuke stood and offered his hand again. "Come on, it's just lunch."
Naruto thought silently for several seconds. He was hungry and only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches waited for him at home. Every spare dime had gone into a special bank account to pay for this great new doctor that he couldn't even get an appointment to see. There was the fact that Sasuke was a stranger, but Naruto reasoned as long as lunch was in some sort of public place, he would be safe. It wasn't like he was going back to the guy's house or anything.
"Fine, but you're buying."
A look of victory spread across Sasuke's face. "I know the perfect place."
The two walked causally towards a parking garage where Sasuke pulled out a set of keys and used a remote to unlock the doors to a sleek red sports car. Warning bells went off in Naruto's head. It was one thing to go to lunch with a stranger; it was another all together to get in his car.
"Just tell me where we're going and I'll take the bus."
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to murder you. There are much more deserving people to murder than some scrawny blond who spends his days getting tossed out of doctors' offices. Just get in."
"Alright, but if you kill me, I'm going to haunt you." Naruto slid into the soft leather seat and almost sighed in pleasure. It was like a taste of the good life. "Damn this is a nice car."
"Glad you like it." Sasuke turned over the engine and the vehicle purred to life, sending pleasant shivers up Naruto's spine. He had dreamed of riding in cars like this all his life and now he was sitting in one. God, he was almost turned on by the car alone.
Sadly for Naruto, the ride was short as Sasuke pulled into the parking area of a pleasant looking restaurant. "This is generally where my brother and I go for lunch."
They were seated immediately and the waitress took their orders before leaving them alone in the quaint atmosphere. "What sort of name is Sasuke, anyway?"
"It's Japanese. My parents emigrated from Japan in their twenties. Both my brother and I were late life children. What sort of name is Naruto? It sounds Japanese, but you don't really look it."
"My grandfather wrote about a character named Naruto. My dad liked the name, so he decided to name me after it." Naruto scratched the back of his head. "There is no telling where the old man got the name from, but my dad must have liked it a lot."
Sasuke smiled and nodded. "It suits you."
"That's what my grandfather would tell me. I'm not really sure if I should have taken it as a compliment or an insult, considering the grin on his face when he would say it." Naruto sat back as the waitress returned with their meals. "But, he raised me and I loved the old pervert."
"What happened to him," asked Sasuke.
"He died, a few months ago." Naruto gave a little sniff, jolting when he felt a hand on his arm. He glanced up to see Sasuke staring at him with a sympathetic look on his face. It sent a shot of warmth into him. Just that one look helped ease some of the pain ever-present when he thought of Jiraiya.
"He died the way he lived—with porno playing on the television and a dirty magazine in his hand." Naruto snickered at the look on Sasuke's face. "What's wrong with dying with a smile on your face?"
"I'm not sure how I would feel knowing someone found me in that particular situation."
Naruto shot a grin towards Sasuke. He would not tell Sasuke, but he was just glad he hadn't found Jiraiya dead on top of a prostitute. It was not often, but on occasion the old man would splurge on a night in the arms of an escort. Those were the night when the headphones went on his head and blared jazz to drown out the sounds of sex. It was a wonder he wasn't scarred from those times.
"So, tell me, Sasuke, what are you hoping to get out of treating me to a meal?"
Sasuke arched a brow at Naruto's flirtatious tone. "What makes you think I want anything but your company?"
"Come on, everyone wants something." Naruto's grin widened. "Is it my sexy good looks? Has the rumor of how good I am in bed reached your ears; because let me tell you, I am the king of the horizontal mambo."
"You intrigue me. Most of my relationships end quickly because I become bored. From the minute you opened your mouth, I knew you would keep me on my toes." Sasuke shrugged. "I had hoped to woo you enough with this meal to convince you to go out with me again."
"And what makes you think I swing that way?" Naruto propped his chin on his fist and stared at Sasuke. "I could be as straight as the rod up that receptionist's ass today."
"I already have plans in my head at how to woo a straight man."
Naruto's eyes widened before he doubled over with laughter. This man, a mixture of both serious and flirtatious, planned to seduce him even should he prove to be hetero. It was just too funny.
"I didn't think it was that funny," groused Sasuke, a small frown taking root between his brows.
"You know, Sasuke, if I let myself, I could really fall for you."
It felt so easy with Sasuke. For a while, he had forgotten about his heart. He forgot about being thrown out of a doctor's office and about everything but this moment. Sasuke had given him a little moment of peace that he did not want to end. "By the way, what's your brother's name? Is it as neat sounded as Sasuke?"
Sasuke shrugged a shoulder. "Itachi."
"Itachi?" Naruto froze mid bite. "Itachi Uchiha?"
"Yeah, that's him." Sasuke rolled his eyes. "I'm not surprised you've heard of him. The asshole is famous in the medical field. He was our father's pride and joy before the accident. It's a wonder I don't hate him for being so goddamned perfect."
This guy, his rescuer, was the brother of the bastard who kicked him out on his ass? It figured. Naruto's luck had always drifted towards bad in general. He had a fucked up heart. He didn't have much money. The one guy he had met in what seemed like forever that halfway interested him was the brother of the doctor who kicked him when he was down. Granted, it was not Itachi Uchiha himself that had kicked Naruto out of the office, but his receptionist spoke for him, so it might as well have been him.
Naruto slapped a hand to his face and began laughing. "Oh, the irony of it."
Sasuke frowned. "What is it?"
"I was just laughing at the irony that the man who threw me out of the building is the brother of the man that helped me."
The frown on Sasuke's face deepened. "You went to Itachi's office? Why?"
A sick feeling pooled in Naruto's stomach. He had not thought anything would come from his small enjoyable lunch with Sasuke. If anything, it was his way of living out a fantasy. Having Sasuke know about his situation caused the burning rise reality to flow like bile in the back of his throat.
Relationships were hard even when both members were healthy. Having one be sick from the beginning was a quite a bit more challenging as Naruto had experienced first-hand. His handful of relationships had been almost a farce. They had all started out understanding and willing until they realized just how limited their lives would be with an invalid for a partner.
They did not realize that sex would be boring and not as often, that he could not travel or go far from his primary care physician. There were times he would be in the hospital for tests or even illness. He had good days and bad days, but the bad days would eventually begin to happen more and more often. It was his principle to make sure any man he began to become serious with understood what being with him meant. The last one had lasted the longest, but even he, after six months, did not want to deal with the reality of Naruto's illness when he had to be hospitalized for developing an arrhythmia.
"Does it matter?" asked Naruto blandly, taking a spoonful of his potatoes and shoving it in his mouth. "This isn't a date."
"Stop being an idiot." Sasuke reached out and latched onto Naruto's arm. "Tell me."
"I had the wonderful luck of getting sick when I was a kid and now I have a bum ticker. The thing could blow at any time. I generally have to be under the care of a cardiologist to monitor it. I've had this shitty one for several years, but when Grandpa Jiraiya died, I decided to sell everything and find a good one. Too bad he turned out to be an asshole." Naruto leaned back and met Sasuke's gaze, though it proved more difficult a task than he would have thought. "I bet you didn't realize I wasn't joking when I said I had an incurable illness."
"How sick are you?"
Naruto shrugged and tapped a hand to his chest. "I could drop dead today, tomorrow, in five years. Who knows when this thing is going to finally give out? I guess you're pretty glad you found out now and all it cost you was lunch."
"Don't joke about it." Sasuke's scowl darkened. "You being sick wouldn't stop me from seeing you."
"You say that now, but how would you feel when you have to wait on me hand and foot. Would you want to take off time from work to sit with me in the hospital or possibly hold my hand when I eventually lay dying from heart failure?" Naruto knew he was being harsh, but in reality, his words weren't far off from the truth. His illness would be hard on any relationship he developed. He had come to the conclusion that he would die alone in some hospital with maybe a kind nurse with him when he was ushered into the afterlife.
"I would think you are trying to scare me off." Sasuke cocked his head, not breaking their gazes. "You'll have to do better than that."
Naruto arched a brow. "How would you like to give up sex as you know it?"
"You can't have sex?"
"I can, but...why am I even bothering to explain this to you. We don't have a relationship. After today, we won't see each other again." Why did it hurt so much to say those words? It wasn't like he felt anything but attraction for the man.
Sasuke's face took on a more serious expression. "I wasn't lying when I said I found you interesting. Do you realize how hard it is to find someone who I'm not bored of in ten minutes? I would not mind seeing how far things could go with us."
"How far things will go?" Naruto gave a growl and leaned close enough that his nose nearly brushed Sasuke's. "I'll tell you how far it goes. In a few days, months, years, my heart will get tired of all the shit it has to do and start going into failure. It will get weaker and weaker until it just decides to stop. Then I will die and leave whatever is left of my money to charity because there is nothing else in my life. That is how far things will go."
"Are you finished?" said Sasuke without blinking.
Naruto folded his arms over his chest. "What do you want from me?"
"How about a second date?" Sasuke smirked at Naruto. "Is that too much to ask?"
Naruto shook his head in exasperation. Most guys would have left after they found out about his condition. He knew it had shocked Sasuke. Instead of the usual look of pity on his face, there was one of added interest. "Oh, you're one of those."
"And what is that?"
"You're one of those perverts that get off on giving pity fucks." Naruto shoved a finger in Sasuke's chest. "Well I don't do pity fucks."
"That's good, because neither do I." Sasuke wrapped a hand around Naruto's wrist. "I don't scare off from something I want. If you really don't want to see me again, say it. Say it right now, right here, and I will leave and never see you again."
The pain was back in Naruto's chest and he fought the urge to rub the area over his heart. Those words tore at him because they were something he had wanted to hear for a long time. Why wasn't this man turning tail and running? They were barely more than strangers who met by chance. "Why are you doing this?"
"Say it, Naruto." Sasuke's hand tightened faintly on the wrist held in his grasp. "It's up to you."
Sasuke apparently knew where to hit the hardest. He didn't want to say it, because he didn't want him to go away. There was no doubt in his mind that Sasuke would leave as the others before him. If he steeled his heart to it, maybe he could have a little bit of a life before he got too sick.
"Fine. I'll go out with you again." Naruto tugged his hand from Sasuke's grip. "But there are rules. Nothing physical. I can handle a stroll, but anything fast paced and I'm out. No theme parks or rollerblading or sky-diving. God, you don't know how bad I want to go on a roller-coaster."
"A movie at my apartment tomorrow night? Is that tame enough for you?"
Naruto nibbled on his lip. He wasn't worried about Sasuke raping or killing him. Being a good judge of character always made up for his weakness in constitution. Even all the guys that had left him were good men in general; they just hadn't had the stomach for being in a relationship with him. "Fine, but you better have some good food."
Naruto shifted as Sasuke tossed a few bills on the table to cover the cost of the meal. "So, you going to take me home or do I need to ride the bus?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes and dangled his keys. "I should make you ride the bus for being so annoying."
"Wouldn't be the first time," said Naruto with a grin. Even if he knew nothing would come of this, he was happy for a chance to enjoy himself on a date before the eventuality of his illness's progress.
Naruto was not sure what to expect when he stepped inside the spacious apartment. He could tell Sasuke had money, his car was indication enough of that. This was definitely not what he was expecting.
The apartment was nice, but sparsely furnished. The walls were nearly bare and the only piece of furniture was a large black leather sofa arranged across from a large television. There weren't even any throw pillows on the sofa to give it some color. For all of Sasuke's arrogance and personality, this place certainly did not reflect it. He obviously took the Asian trait of minimalistic literally.
"Have you lived here long?" asked Naruto with an arched brow.
"A few years," said Sasuke. "Would you like to eat before the movie?"
"I've got an even better idea. Let's eat watching the movie. Your couch looks brand new. Let's break it in." Naruto stopped mid-step when Sasuke chuckled and slapped his head with his hand. "Idiot. I didn't mean it like that."
Sasuke smiled and led Naruto into the kitchen where several pots were steaming on the stovetop. It smelled good...really good. "Did you cook this?"
"I like good food, but I don't want to eat out all the time." Sasuke began dishing up pasta onto their plates.
The herbs used in the sauce tickled Naruto's nose pleasantly. He could cook enough to get by, but nothing like the meal before him. It was deceptively simple, but the flavors told another story. As he settled on the sofa and began eating, he began to think he had died and gone to heaven. "I want to marry you right now."
"That was easy," said Sasuke. "I thought getting you in my grip would be harder."
"If you cooked like this for me every day, I would be your slave."
A gleam entered Sasuke's eyes. "Is that a promise?"
Naruto chose to ignore the comment and dug in wholeheartedly into the food—enjoying both the company and the movie. Soon, Naruto was curled up on the sofa beside Sasuke, his attention completely on the action playing on the television. He did not notice the way Sasuke's attention was riveted on him.
After a particular set of humorous dialogue, Naruto turned with a grin to Sasuke, only to be startled by the intense look on his face. "What?"
"I was just watching you."
A flush crept up tanned cheeks. "Why?"
"Because I wanted to." Sasuke lifted a hand, only to stop and lower it once more to his lap. "Like I've said before, you interest me."
"What about me is so interesting?"
There was a pause, Sasuke frowning and cocking his head. "I couldn't really name one thing. I suppose it's because you're so different from me."
"And here I thought it was my good looks that ensnared you into my trap," said Naruto jokingly.
"They helped," chuckled Sasuke.
Again Sasuke lifted a hand, only this time he did not stop. His fingers trailed down one of Naruto's cheeks. Never once did his gaze leave Naruto's eyes as he followed the line of Naruto's jaw down to where his pulse thrummed rapidly beneath the skin.
Naruto was nearly breathless. His heart was going much too fast, causing him to feel lightheaded. None of his previous boyfriends had ever come close to making him feel like this. He was suddenly afraid his heart was going to explode in his chest with its uneven pounding.
Sasuke leaned forward and brushed their lips together. It was a simple kiss that lasted no longer than a few seconds before he pulled away. Naruto wanted to scream at the short duration. "Why did you stop?"
"You said you needed slow."
"Yeah, but I didn't say I needed it to be on the level of a schoolyard kiss." Naruto inched a little closer. He was willing to throw caution into the wind and forget about his heart for a while.
The loud pounding in his ears and the sense of vertigo was ignored as he latched onto Sasuke's lips. His tongue darted out to tease the full lower lip just before his teeth latched onto the upper. The gasp from Sasuke was more satisfying than anything he had ever experienced. With this kiss alone, he found himself becoming greedy. He wanted more like this—kisses that said more than words ever could.
Naruto was always good with words, but today, he just wanted to kiss. He wanted to feel as if he had a lifetime to learn the recesses of the mouth now opened for him. Even knowing he would not be allowed that, he continued to kiss Sasuke as if this was his last kiss on earth.
Tongues slid slickly over each other. Naruto could taste the wine from the meal on Sasuke's tongue and it was delicious. When he pulled back, his breath panted and his chest hurt from the pounding of his heart. And he had never been happier.
"Are you alright?" murmured Sasuke.
Naruto leaned his head against his shoulder and took several long , slow breathes. "Just give me a second."
He could feel the hard press of an arousal from where he was half laying on Sasuke's lap. He grinned to himself and glanced at the screen where the credits were beginning to roll. "I guess this means our date is over."
"I can find another movie," said Sasuke, the smile obvious in his deep voice.
Naruto started laughing and gave a final nuzzle to the smooth pale jaw before pulling back reluctantly. "I think I should go."
"Will I see you again?" asked Sasuke.
There was no way Naruto could turn him down, even if it was the best thing for both of them. He wanted to keep feeling this. It wouldn't last, but he didn't care. He would continue to take as much as Sasuke was willing to give him. "You bet your ass you'll see me again."
This relationship was going to hurt him far more than any in the past. He knew without even giving it much thought that he was going to fall hard and fast for Sasuke because he already had. But, it did not matter. He would take what he could get for as long as he could.