Disclaimer: Character does not belong to me. I own the plot though.

Chapter 19:


"I damn well refuse and there's no way you're going to make me! How could you possibly suggest such incredulous idea Sasuke?! Not now when the Hyuuga House was almost destroyed, not when Gaara was out there combing the world to find Hinata, not when the Empires army was not as strong as it should be!"

Said reaction was expected already by the dark haired Emperor that he barely gave a glance around the small group of High Lords, empire advisors and ministers who were still in the room and gave the thundered rejection a look of curiosity and mild fascination. Instead he just stared calmly at the livid face of his fiancée and waited for Naruto to rein his temper, because at the moment Sasuke have more pressing matters to think about than to argue back and waste some precious time over trivial things – although it doesn't mean that his fiancée was inconsequential, in fact, it's far from it.

He understands though where Naruto's frustration was coming from, but it's the best approach they could do at the moment – for the sake of Konoha and the whole empire. Yes, it would be an enormous impairment on their part but Sasuke needs to think and act as an emperor and therefore he needs to decide the best resolution for their current situation. If the condition was any different, Sasuke himself prefers to have Naruto by his side the whole time, especially when life and death appears to be contesting once again with him. At any rate that death won, he would be with the person he cherished the most and he could go peacefully without regret. Unfortunately it won't be as easy as that and he knew Naruto felt the same way as him.

There had been loads of unexpected events that took place after the two of them became an official couple – in heart, soul and body – that impede the Knotting of the Tie. And this time, Sasuke was afraid, although he would never admit it, that it might never happen seeing as the war that approaches them was nothing close to being 'normal'. He was woeful knowing that he may not perhaps be able to give the one thing Naruto wanted the most, and it breaks his heart. He too wanted to spend a longer or if possible infinite time with his future consort since it's not too long ago the both of them, more so of him, acknowledged what he really felt for the lively Namikaze prince. But he was thankful for that at least, during the dreary time of incoming war, there were few memorable times with Naruto that he could look back to and yes that includes their nightly, passionate love making.

The both of them were standing in one corner of the room whilst the rest was discussing plans in regards with the current situation the Empire was experiencing. Sasuke already discussed said matter to his closest counselors – Kyuubi, Itachi, Kakashi, and other important dignitaries – and all of them agreed unreservedly to his decision. Now, it up to him to convinced Naruto to abide by that resolution and to stick to it knowing how the youngest Namikaze prince, more often than not, follows his emotion first before thinking properly. And to do that, he needs to be as unsympathetic to Naruto's refusal and made, said young prince, to follow his ruling with definite determination as an emperor of East and not as Naruto's betrothed, lover, or even a friend.

"Leave us," Sasuke commanded calmly, but his voice had a tang of authority that neither Kyuubi nor Itachi could ignore. He kept his blank gaze towards Naruto, who's both hands were fisted on his side and his sparkling blue eyes more alight with his unhidden fury.

Kakashi gave him a small smile before completely leaving the two of them inside the unusually large cabinet. When the door closed and he could no longer hear the fading footsteps of his advisors, Sasuke shut his eyes and took a deep calming breath. He was very tired at the moment. Stressed to a point that he would have probably willingly give up his seat to Itachi if his brother would even slightly hint of taking the throne back from him. His mind has been hay wired upon reading the letter, and even until now he could still barely think properly with how everyone appears to be relying solely on him with everything, even the simplest ones. Without his excellent self-control, he would have shouted and plainly gone wild and cried like a child. The heavy burden of protecting the whole empire was now being carried solely on his shoulder – and the least he could expect for Naruto was to understand him and give him a little peace of mind and not to battle wits against him in front of his subordinate about his decision.

When Sasuke open his eyes, Naruto's anger expression was gone. Instead it was replaced by a tender look and a tad of sadness and guilt as though he too was torn with what he should feel at the moment.

"Sasuke," Naruto murmured as he took a step towards Sasuke. His finger gently traces the emperors' still impassive face until it reaches its lips where Naruto places a soft kiss. When he pulled back, a bitter smile lingers on his lips as he stared indulgently to the raven haired emperor.

"I apologize for acting like an imp in front of everyone," he added solemnly. His eyes shifted outside the window, watching the well-ordered commotion while everyone prepared for warfare. He was already worried over Hinata, Gaara and Neji, and he could not carry another burden of thinking Sasuke's welfare when he's away from him. "I know I shouldn't have reacted like that earlier, I should have been more understanding, I should have been someone you could trust to help you carry the burden of protecting and overseeing the empire and its people. But, you must realize as well how… how upset I am with the decision you made. How could you possibly think of leaving me here while you and everyone else risk their life out there? I've fought every war with you and I never been a burden, how could you possibly choose to have us separated especially in times like this?"

Sasuke's gaze soften as he tilted Naruto's chin upward, forcing the younger man to look at him, "Naruto, I trusted you with my life and with that I have faith in you to keep the city of Konoha safe while we are away. So long that Konoha stand, everyone will fight till death. This city is the heart and soul of the empire and I entrust you with the responsibility to keep it away from any assault that might get passed our defenses. If everything else failed, the least I'll worry about is this city, knowing you're here to preserve it and that alone would give me a peace of mind even after life."

Naruto's eye flashes as he slaps Sasuke's hand away from his face, "Don't say something as blasphemous as that Sasuke! For someone who's trying to convince me to stay here, you sure as hell know how to make me more worried than I am already!"

The emperor gave his future consort a timid smile, "You have to be prepared with everything Naruto, and that includes having you or any of your love one's life taken."

"Sasuke," Naruto growled, "I don't like to hear anything about that coming from you!"

Sasuke scoffed, "It's inevitable. The Hyuuga House was almost destroyed to the ground and we yet to find out what happened. And as much as we wanted to help them, we need to focus more with what's to come. "

"I said stop it already! I know what you mean but I don't need to hear it from you."

"As you wish," Sasuke answered in a clipped yet nonchalant tone, deciding that the small talk should end as it was. He turned his back away from Naruto and took a step toward the door, but then he took a slight paused and said, "Do not worry about Priestess Shion and your future child as well Naruto, I promise you I would do everything in my power to make them safe. Everything."

Naruto's brow furrowed while he stared at Sasuke's retreating back as he contemplates what the Emperor just said. And when understanding dawn upon him, his heart skip to his throat as he realizes what Sasuke meant. He had almost forgotten about Shion, the sole High Priestess that could seal back the ripped in between world. The woman who currently carries his unborn daughter, the one he cherishes and cares for as he would a true sister.

If the situation have been different, he would have done almost everything within his power to protect her and the baby, but if he's given a choice between their life and Sasuke, Naruto knew deep within his heart who he would prefer to live – without a second thought, without a doubt – and that decision would probably took a piece of his humanity and soul to their grave, and yet he knew it would be the right thing to do not only for him, but for the whole empire as well.

But Sasuke. What Sasuke just had said brought deep trepidation within him. He knew his emperor too well, and Sasuke doesn't take any of his promises lightly. A promise Naruto never even asks of him.

When Naruto has done gathering his thought, Sasuke was already out of the room. He would have sought his presence to clear things with him, but he knew Sasuke's probably doing something more important – like convening once again with the empires advisors about the war.

It could wait tonight, Naruto thought. Maybe before the night fell, he has more firm decision on how he could be with Sasuke even if he's not with him.

- Then, Now and Forever 19 -

It was late afternoon when Naruto's young hunter of a friend approached him while he was walking toward his own private meeting chamber where he would be meeting some of his closest comrades - Kiba has a resolute look on his face, an expression that Naruto barely saw on him.

"Your Highness," Kiba greeted him.

Naruto stop from his track and frown, "Seriously Kiba, when did you start calling me that formally? You never once did that, even with continuous scolding from Itachi, what change?"

A smile broke on the others face as he replied, scratching the back of his head, "Well, just today actually, after Sasuke… I mean His Majesty just gave me a thorough tongue lashing for acting rude when addressing you..."

Naruto groan and shook his head, "Sasuke's probably strained, you know how big of a responsibility having another war on his shoulder. I yet to even saw him since this morn. Forgive him."

"I know. I mean, I understand perfectly where he's coming from. Not that I've been an emperor or anything you know. But he's quite terrifying when he's in that mood, and believe me when I say that no one dares to object with whatever he was saying when he could probably combust any of us with his mere glare the whole meeting." Kiba explained – an exaggerated description at that for that matter.

Naruto gave a deep sigh, "Well, what decision has been made with your assembly by the way?"

"I'm not really sure if I could remember everything. After all, I tuned almost everything out after I was assigned to post as the head of the army that will outskirt outside Konoha." Kiba replied. "Shouldn't you've been there even just to listen to the plan?"

"Not really. I have my own preparation to do since I was forced to stay here and protect the Urbis if worst come into worst. A thing I dare wish would not happen," Naruto replied bitterly. "So if you're posting as the captain for Konoha's defense, does it mean…?"

"Yes…" Kiba answered with a grin, "… in fact I actually volunteered. I mean it's better that I'm around; at least you have someone you could fully trust if…. Well, as you have eloquently put it 'worst comes to worst'.

Naruto's eyes narrowed, "Volunteered? Or did Sasuke volunteer you to watch me?"

"Honestly Naruto… I mean Your Highness…"

"Shut it Kiba!"

"Okay, Naruto then…" Kiba quickly corrected, though he appears to be more pleased addressing his friend using his first name. "No, His Majesty did not offer me for said position. I believe he really trust you to protect Konoha without someone watching or aiding you. I was the one who… well, worries more knowing that it would be hard to handle everything when you could barely trust the frontrunner of your army. Even Shikamaru offered to stay, but his skill is badly needed out there and Lord Kyuubi insisted that you'll prefer him to help out than stay here with you anyway."

"Big brother is correct. I would have him out there helping everyone than babysit Konoha with me. He's flare would be a huge benefit against the enemies we're going to face. You too as well, you should be out there 'cause this war needs every able body to win." The blonde monarch replies seriously. "Nevertheless, since you'll be the head officer guarding Konoha, you need to come with me."

"Huh? Why? Where?" Kiba asks although he's already trailing behind his friend whose solemn expression hasn't change since he approached him.

Naruto did not answer him, but lead him inside the room where Temari and Temujin were already waiting.

Kiba raised his eyebrows to the two while he settled himself in front of them. Naruto took the head-chair of the long rectangular conference table. "So… why are they're here? As far as I know the both of them are going with Sas… His Majesty."

"That's correct Lord Inuzuka," Temari replied, her eyes landing to him.

"I thought we're supposed have a discussion with officials staying here?" Kiba asked, darting his gaze toward the quiet blonde man.

"Well, those officers consists of me and you Kiba." Naruto answered, a small smile lifting the corner of his lips although it never actually reaches his eyes.

"Errr… really? Just… you and me?"

"Yes. And since you offered to stay here with me, then you also need to watch the ladies and children of the court as part of our responsibility. We both need to make sure they're safe and protected and that includes…. Well, specifically Her Grace Haruno and the unborn empire heir. Now, aren't you glad you volunteered?" Naruto explained, half jesting half disdainful with their tasks.

Kiba's shoulders slump and his face morphed into displeasure. "Well," he said after sighing, deciding immediately that he could not change anything anymore. "At least we are to act the knights in shining armour while we bravely protect the beautiful ladies of the land, right?"

"How positive you are Lord Inuzuka," Temujin said sincerely. "I guess you could look at it like that. Nevertheless, you have to remember that whatever may happen, you and Naruto is the empire's last hope. Thus, your job is graver than us who would be in frontline."

"It won't happen." Naruto interjected confidently. "The enemies won't reach Konoha because I know you would succeed."

"Your faith on us is a heavy burden Naruto," Temari replied softly.

Naruto gave the Lady knight an apologetic look, "I'm sorry Temari, but since I could not be there I – "

"You worry too much," Temujin said softly, cutting him off as though he already knew what his young Lord wanted to say. "I will protect Konoha and more so His Majesty with everything I have Naruto, even with my life. I promise you that he will come back home to you, alive."

"Even though my loyalty lies elsewhere, I know that Emperor Uchiha's lost would devastate you and thus would greatly upset my little brother and the whole empire. For that alone, I too promise you I would stick to his side just to make sure he'll stay alive until he's with you." Temari added in.

Naruto stared at both of his comrade with aching heart. He fisted his hand and clenched his jaw with how helpless he feels at the moment. Moving his gaze at the table, Naruto shook his head. "No, I'm not asking you to do that. I… I prefer if all of you would come back to me in one piece, breathing and unharmed. I know it's too much to ask seeing with how grave our situation is, but this is my wish. I… I don't want you to sacrifice your life for anyone just for my sake. Losing any one of you would wreck me as well.

"But not as much as His Majesty's lost. You'll die if he perishes. A thing that would bring the whole empire to self-destruction even if we are to win this war. Everyone is aware of that, even the lowest of the servant." Temujin concluded. Naruto gave him a hurtful look, although everyone in the room knew that what the harnesser of Gelel Stone said was true.

"Sasuke's life is for me to protect. My life to be sacrificed not anyone of yours. And yet, and yet… why the hell am to be left here?!" Naruto argued as he half yelled to no one in particular. He was mad, upset knowing he could not do anything but to trust his friends to come back to him, and yet he also fervently hope deep inside him that they would shelter his beloved from Death himself. How rotten he could be? How selfish?

"Naruto," Temari softly replied. She covers one of Naruto's fisted hands with her own as she stares directly at the expressive eyes of her little brothers special person. "When we signed and take our oath as an ally of the empire, we knew that our life belongs to it. If we are to give our life protecting the Emperor then we did our duty to our land and we could die honorably by doing that. Yes, I and the whole Sand Kingdom might have offer our entire allegiance to your family, but your family already belongs to the emperors family, more so of you being the future consort. And surrendering our life for the Namikaze's glory would be something I would gladly do. So do not torment yourself over this matter, but I promise you though, if there's even a miniscule way we could return here breathing and unharmed as you desire, then we would do it. But if not, then kindly honor us as your friend, as your loyal servant. "

"I agree with Lady Sabaku. Although I assure you that I won't go down unless the victory is on us." Temujin added, giving Naruto a confident smile.

With a heavy heart, Naruto nodded in defeat. He pursed his lips and stared back to his three most loyal friends. "Okay, I trust you to keep your words. But whatever may happen, please remember that I'll always be proud of you. You have done so much for me and my family, as well as for the empire, and those things alone are something worth to be honored for already and nothing, whatever future holds for any of you, can't change that."

-Then, Now and Forever 19 -

When eventide fell, Sasuke's mood was already as its foulest. He was very tense, deadbeat and troubled over everything and anything that concerns the empire. He was also fretful about leaving Naruto this time not knowing if it will be the last time he could be with his beloved or not. And then there's the pressing issue of protecting Sakura and the future heir – a thing he could only entrust Naruto and no one else.

Breathing out deeply, the young emperor stride purposely toward Lady Sakura's chamber while he pressed the bridge of his nose as he tried to alleviate his throbbing headache. There are things he needed to counsel Sakura about before the morning comes, and that includes to put her ardent discomfort with Naruto since said young Namikaze prince will act as Emperor Regent while he's away. He was not sure of Sakura's way of thinking anymore since he acknowledged his deep affection toward his best-friend, and he's afraid that she might spark a fire within the castle during his absence. It's not as if he doesn't trust Sakura's heart, but he knew how wounded Sakura had been during his confession and an injured ardor could do anything even if it's against once temperament.

It might be prejudicial of him to think something as atrocious as that to his First Mistress - the woman he once loved -and cared deeply. But then again, he could not put even a slight repulsive thought against Naruto since he has already proven himself that he's incapable of reprisal even against the person who hurts him the most. Naruto might have run and hide that time, but he never lift a finger to harm him or Sakura that even though he has the right and competence to do so. It might be easily saying that he do trust Naruto's compassion and understanding more than anyone else's and that, yes, include his First Mistress.

Upon reaching the chamber door of Lady Haruno, he was quickly announced before he stride inside without even acknowledging the line of servant – entourage – lining and waiting patiently outside for the First Mistress needs. It was amongst the many privileges he had given Sakura since she stepped on a Higher Position. It was a bit odd though, with how many servants she needed to wait for her even though she has her own loyal maidservant at her side - even the esteemed Lady Hinata Hyuuga had less. He himself and Naruto did not require their servant to always trail and follow them whenever they were, nor they did demand them to wait outside their chamber until they have some silly instruction for them to follow. Then again, both he and Naruto had been very independent that sometimes during their younger years, both their parents have a hard time controlling their adventures and misadventures.

He was welcomed at the sight of Lady Haruno dress in a long sleeping garment, half lying on her bed, long hair cascading at her shoulder while she softly caresses her protruding stomach and smiling at him. She still looks lovely even during her pregnancy, a face that could still launch a thousand ships if he might add. The rest of her maid servant exited the room – backing away slowly while bended as a sign of total respect and subservient to the empires emperor.

"I'm glad you visited Sasuke, even though I know you're very busy at the moment and... well, prefer to be at someone else's company than me," Sakura greeted him sincerely, a soft honest smile reflected at her face. Her summer green eyes shimmers under the bright light orb summoned, lighting the room as though beguiling him with its innocent shine.

"I worry about you and the baby as well Sakura, how could I not visit you before I leave and not knowing when I return? I still care very much about you; I thought I had made that clear before?"

Sakura hummed her answer, lowering her eyes at her belly as she tries to make her position more comfortable. When Sasuke reached her, he sat at her side, covers her hands atop her stomach and squeezed it.

"Before the sun rises tomorrow, I would be long gone and I might not say my goodbye properly to you and our…" he started.

Sakura stared at him supportively and nodded, "I know."

"I'm leaving Naruto to care for the castle - and the empire if must be, in case things might not favor our side – "

"You will win this war Sasuke, I know it, you will! Do not say something as horrible as that, please. I beg of you. This war might be something… something we never thought could happen, but then again, you are our emperor, and that alone would surely favor us when it comes to any war, yes?" Sakura said, cutting him off with what he was saying. The calmness she had earlier vanished replaced by apprehension and fear. Her voice quiver and her hand tighten on his even though the word she spoke was of great confidence on Sasuke's ability. A confidence, the young emperor could not believe anymore.

"Shh," Sasuke answered. He softly placed one of his finger atop Sakura's soft pink lips, his usual stony demeanor gone replaced by empathy and a plead of understanding. "You worry too much for my well-being my First Mistress, you should concern yourself more of the babe inside you. It would lessen my worry if I know you would be taking great care of our child, the empires future emperor and thus the last hope of our people."

Sakura took Sasuke's hand, placed it on her cheek and look fretfully to him. "I will cherish our child as much as I love you Sasuke, you should not trouble yourself over us. But please, take care. I want you to come back alive and well. Promise me you'll return back to me… us, Sasuke. Promise me."

Sasuke took his hand away from Sakura's face and stared at her for a moment, "I can't promise you that Sakura." He then replied after a while.


"I can't promise something I know I might not able to keep. I… I can't even promise that to Naruto if ever he'll ask me Sakura. And you know I'll do anything for him."

Sakura furrowed her brow, bit her lower lips and trailed her eyes down. She feels hurt, insecure and afraid for her beloved safety at the same time, yet she could not do anything about it.

"Please abide by Naruto's decision while I'm gone. I know it would be hard for you, but I know as well that he would take good care of you. He would protect you at all cost, I'm very sure of it. Do it for me if there are some decisions he would come up with that you think does not favor you - just tolerate him while I'm gone. He has much thing to be concern about when we're all gone, help him if needed be."

Sakura simply nodded and once again hummed her answer, but she refuses to meet Sasuke's gaze anymore. She kept her head low as though caressing her stomach is the most interesting thing to do in the world.

The young emperor sigh, placed a chaste kiss atop Sakura's forehead and left. It pains him to leave those people he cares for, but he could not promise a thing that would hurt them as well.

-Then, Now and Forever 19-

It was already pass his usual bedtime when Sasuke reached the palace meeting room to once again convene with the few remaining advisors that yet to leave the palace. They are the few most loyal ones he wanted to travel with when daybreak comes. Half of them were probably at his father's and Lord Namikaze's aide already and the quarter more accompanying the troop as they marches toward their destination.

The castle was abuzz even during that time; marching, arguing, shouting, running and then of course there were soft cries, whimpers and worried hush voices that agonizes Sasuke more than the screeches of his generals' command.

Inside the private and quieter room, Sasuke was greeted only by his brother whom he never actually expected to be there. Itachi merely smiled at him as he gulp – not sip – his nectar as though it was the last time he could drink it.

"Where's everyone?" Sasuke asked. He made his way at his seat and waited for his brother to reply.

"Frolicking…" Itachi merely answered as he poured himself once again a generous helping of wine.

"What do you mean frolicking?" Sasuke asked half growling, his eyes narrowed into a dangerous slit.

"Calm down little brother, it's not the end of the world."

"If what you said is true, then damn all of us. We might as well hasten the ending of it."

Itachi snickered, took a new clean glass beside the wine table and empty the rest of the expensive wine bottle into it. He walks calmly toward his already seething young brother and handed it to him. "Here take this."

"Do I look like I have a time to be drinking at this moment?" Sasuke snarled.

Again Itachi merely smiles at Sasuke, and pushes the glass closer, "Relaxed Sasuke, you need this. Just indulged me this time, it might be the last time you know?"

Sasuke frown at that and sigh. He took the offered cup and stared at it.

"It's not going to bite you."

"I know," Sasuke replied and sip some. His thoughts went to one of his worries, the Hyuuga House and its missing heiress. "While I'm here drinking this, Lady Hinata was out there, probably lost, tired and frightened. She's a good friend you know, and she's always too gentle to face the cruelty of real world. Even though Naruto was not speaking about it, I know he was very worried about her. She will always hold a special place in Naruto's heart, a place not even I could replace. I should be jealous about that, but… Lady Hinata's never been an ordinary woman; I could not even hold a grudge against her even if I wanted too."

"She did took a great deal of risk for your affiance before. It's not something that could be easily replaced little brother. While everyone, even you for that matter didn't believe him, Lady Hinata did even though her name and position was at stake." Itachi answered thoughtfully.

"Do not worry too much though, have some faith with her ladyship. She's a Hyuuga for a reason. We might not have seen her fight because she had been heavily protected since a child, but I heard she had been under Lady Knight Kurenai's mentorship since young and that she could hold her own when needed be. Besides Lord Sabaku would find her I'm sure of this." Itachi continued, trying to pacify some of his brothers' worry. "For the meantime I send your officers to their love ones if you must know. I think they deserve to have, even just this night to be with them. Things might get really ugly when we get there and we could not vouch for their safe return to their family. You should be spending this night with the people close to you as well."

Sasuke stared at his brother, his face devoid of any emotion. "I'm here, you're here. What more do you want?"

Itachi laughs for a while then smile. He lean beside the wide open window and watched the tumult below. He then shifted his gaze back at Sasuke, gulp the remaining nectar at his glass and responded, "That's really touching little brother, but we both know I'm not the one you wanted to be. Besides, I honestly think you need some rest. It might be the last proper sleep you might have until this forthcoming war finishes."

Sasuke scoff and finishes his own drink with one gulp as well. "I'm done saying my goodbye to Sakura, and I don't need to rest. I'm the emperor of this realm, and I don't think my people will appreciate it that while they're doing their best to prepare for this war; the emperor and his officials are taking their sweet time frolicking, as you eloquently stated earlier, the night away."

"But do you think they will appreciate it if you lose consciousness because of fatigue even before the war starts?"

"Itachi, I'm not a woman. I'm not going to faint by exhausting this or a couple more night time with planning. I'm not weak!"

"I'm not saying you are."

"You're implying it!"

"Naruto needs you tonight." Itachi levelly answered.

Sasuke fall silent for a good minute or so, "Naruto is a soldier first before anything else, he understood the situation perfectly."

"It's not about knowing what is happening Sasuke. We both know he would never do anything to prevent you from doing your job, he probably even do it himself if he's allowed - after all the two of you are both idiots when it comes to your relationship. Just when you needed each other the most, both of you started to act as though your heart has frozen and doesn't need each other's comfort even for the last time."

Sasuke shook his head, "This is how we deal with it."

"Enlighten me little brother."

"Quit calling me that will you." Sasuke snap, "To be with each other the night before, to be intimate, and to bask with each other's presence only weakens us."

"How so?"

Sasuke's jaw harden, "You would not understand it Itachi until you found someone you care for the most that you'll give up everything just to keep that person safe. If I were to spend time with Naruto tonight… I might… I might not be able to bear our separation tomorrow knowing that it might be the last. I might do irrational things without thinking. Don't you understand it Itachi, he is my greatest strength but also my ultimate weakness."

Itachi nods his head, "I do understand it at some point. But still, we believe it's for the best."


"Father and mother. Kyuubi. The Namikaze's. Some of the advisors. Kakashi.

"Father and mother?"

"They sent a message earlier…"

"And what do you mean it's for the best?"

"Sasuke you need to rest."


"Don't be stubborn little brother, you need it."

"No, I'm still the emperor and no one not even father and mother could dictate me to do something I have no consent with!"

"You work too hard. You need it."

Sasuke stand up and slam the table with his fist. His head throb and his vision slightly blurs as he speak. His voice was loud and strong, yet it doesn't come out as he intended it to be – powerful and commanding. "Stop arguing with me Itachi, you might be my brother but I'm still your sovereign ruler. Your emperor!"

Itachi straighten up, and walk towards Sasuke, "I will, but not now."

"Itachi, what did you…" Before Sasuke could finish whatever he was going to say, he was out cold into his brother's arm.

"I'm sorry little brother, but believe me, you need this."

-Then, Now and Forever 19-

When Naruto reached their chamber door, he was surprised to found no one guarding the door. There was never a time since he could remember that the emperor's room had been deserted like that – even during the Great Vincendo or time of conquering. The emperor and his partner's entourage could be excused seeing both he and Sasuke normally don't want people following them around like they have a human tails, but for the Patronus (Protector) of the Grand Chamber door not being around was alarming.

Naruto carefully unlocked the door and slowly opens it with confused expression etched on his face. He was greeted though with Itachi and Kyuubi talking or rather arguing in a hush voice while Sasuke appears to be comatose atop their bed.

"May I know what you are doing here?" he asked. His confusion more evident now since no one enters the Emperor's chamber without his or Sasuke's consent, even if they're family members or high lords of the court.

The two men stop their conversation and blankly stared at Naruto as though his question was something that shouldn't be asked about.

"What?" He asks again, this time more demanding as he approached them. "And stop staring at me like that, it's unwelcome."

"I'll be leaving now," Kyuubi says before he went out of the door without explaining anything or even looking back. Naruto followed his brothers retreating figure, more mystified this time than when he entered the room. He returned his gaze back to Itachi who merely gave him a half smile. If they weren't Itachi and Kyuubi, Naruto would be more than alarm but since he trusted the two older elementals with his and Sasuke's life more than anyone besides themselves, he was perplexed to the point that he could not even think properly.

"Really Itachi, what's going on here?" he asked again. His gazed landed at Sasuke's form atop the bed - breathing heavily but quietly, an indication he was in a deep slumber – garbed still with his everyday clothes, including his boots. "And why in the name of Great Maker is Sasuke still wearing those clothes while sleeping? He did not pass out, did he?"

"Well…" Itachi started.

"No, don't. I won't believe you if you say he actually did. Because Sasuke Uchiha never once fainted out of exhaustion or anything his whole life. You might be his brother but I prefer to think I know Sasuke better than you, and I don't mean to be callous about that Itachi, you know what I mean. And unless somebody hit him on the head which is actually doubtful again, cause Sasuke would never be caught off guard even around with people he trusted, something is definitely wrong here, and I am very positive you have something to do with it." Naruto tirade, cutting the older Uchiha off altogether while glaring at him.

"Calm down Naruto, no need to bare your fangs at me. We have hoards of enemy out there, it is preferable if you direct your rage to them," Itachi calmly answers. "But whether you believe it or not, technically, Sasuke did blackout, and aye I'm afraid am culprit for that and I'm not denying it. Kyuubi appears to disapprove of my method, but it did the trick though."

"You're sounding and acting more and more like Kakashi it's worrisome, dare I say he actually influences you into doing something as humorless as this to your brother even during this troubling time? Care to explain everything to me? Why do you need to knock off Sasuke when everyone knows that while he sleeps like this, hundreds if not thousands of people are dying out there because of those hellish soldiers from hell." Naruto replied seriously. He went around the bed and started undressing the sleeping emperor, unbuckling Sasuke's balteus first. His sword was still attached to it that made Naruto frown deeper and glance disapprovingly to Itachi, who by then found a time to look around the huge chamber as though it was the first time he has been there.

"Will it change anything Naruto? If Sasuke is awake that is? Would it stop the killing?"

Naruto sigh exasperatedly, took a seat at the end of the bed and started unlacing Sasuke's boots. "You know what I mean…"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're implying at Naruto. Whether Sasuke sleeps or not tonight, the carnage will continue. Isn't it much better that he gets to rest, than mauling himself over something he could not change? Tonight might be the last night for a long time before he could have a good breather again, and knowing you and Sasuke's stubbornness when it concerns the empire, we decided to do it ourselves because tomorrow the reality of him being the emperor starts." Itachi simply answered, while he leans contentedly at the bed post, while watching the young Namikaze leisurely as he does his task.

Naruto's face softens. He gently placed the shoes down and stared fretfully to Sasuke's peaceful face. "I understand why you did this, I honestly do, but I'm not sure he will though, when he wake up."

"That's something I have thought about and prepared for, don't you worry." The older Uchiha answered.

"I'm not bothered about your well-being Itachi, it would be a great fun to watch when Sasuke chase you with his fork for revenge." Naruto jokingly replied. "What did you do to put him into such calm slumber? Knowing Sasuke, he always worries even when he sleeps."

Half of Itachi's lip curved up, as he too stared at his brother with concern, "I gave him a calming sedo potion, it would make him sleep in complete tranquility, making both his mind and body rest until morn. Now, I'll be leaving him to your care."

"Of course," Naruto acquiesced at once, though his eyes still lingers to his fiancée even when Itachi started his way towards the door. "And Itachi?"

"Yes?" Itachi answered, just when he was about to close the door.

"Where's the Grand Chambers sentries?"

"We need all able bodies at the moment and I have them dispatched together with the troop. There are few guards on the main hallway, but I'm perfectly sure you're more than capable of protecting Sasuke than anyone right now Naruto."

"Of course." Naruto answered again then nodded with a grim look on his face, "Thank you Itachi, and have a good night to you as well."

Naruto waited for the door to close before he turns his gaze back to his sleeping fiancée. There were so many things that he could not help Sasuke with and it pains him. He knew why he was needed to stay at the palace, he knew that whatever Sasuke's plans were, it's for the good of the empire, and yet it breaks Naruto. He wanted to be with Sasuke whether it would be their last breath or not, but it's impossible. He wanted to be selfish and run away with Sasuke and leave everything and everyone behind, but Naruto knew the guilt would kill them both at the end. Their love for Konoha and its people was great and he knew Sasuke would never abandon it, the same way he would not – unless if it surely cost him the person he loves the most.

With a deep sigh, Naruto shook his head. He knew what to do. He knew how to keep Sasuke safe even if he's not with him. It would be precarious, yes. More so he had never done it before. But he would take the risk. He would take all that damn risk for Konoha's safety and for the one who hold his heart.

-Then, Now and Forever 19 -

Making love with Sasuke has always been special with Naruto. They've done it multiple times now, and yet every time the Emperor touches him, it was as though it was the first time he did. It's never been always about lust, it's more of wanting to be one – to ingrained oneself to one another as though physically being close was not enough to express their desire, their feelings, and their passion.

Naruto watches Sasuke quietly, his eyes soften with a tinge of sadness, longing and fear. He has no idea what would happen – no one knows, only the Great Maker Himself. And because of that he was very afraid, not for him, not for the empire but for Sasuke. He loves Sasuke so much that he wasn't sure what would he do if Sasuke would just leave him – forever. Just thinking about it brought a great anguish inside him that tears started to gather around his eyes already.

He shook his head, blinks and wipes the tears with the back of his hand. He took a deep breath trying to calm himself. What he's going to do require great concentration, and he need to put aside those worry and do what he needs to done.

Naruto stands up and walks towards the wide window. The air was still bitter cold even though spring was almost around, the wintry moon so big that it engulfs the whole Konoha with its silvery radiance. Naruto quietly watches the quiet tranquil Urbis, and he could not imagine what would happen if the war would start knocking at the Konoha's door.

With a deep breath, Naruto murmured something under his breath. The air becomes thick and the time ceased to move. He could see how the tiny particles in the air seems to suspend from its continues stirring, hanging everywhere and giving off a little shine of their own as light touches them. And there it was the glorious aetherian being that he summoned. It was not as grand as the others he had managed to meet, but this one possessed a light so bright Naruto need to squint his eyes just to look.

It was smaller than others, with six glorious white wings, a faceless face, a hairless head. It was as though its whole being was made of pure light. It alighted itself on the ground, its wings folded behind it – completely vanishing by sheer will. It barely reaches his waist when it approaches him. Its head tilted on the side as he neared, as though it was curious, as though it wonders who he was.

'You summon me young one.'

It speaks using its mind. No sound can be heard, but Naruto could understand it clearly.


'You've specifically chosen me. You're aware of what I do.'


'I do not demand explanation as to why such request was being ask, but be warn of the consequences it might do, even for an exceptional elemental like you.'

'I'm aware of everything, more so of the possible effects after. I've thought about this for quite a while, and I know this is the only thing I could do to make sure… to make sure Sasuke would come back home safe."

'Very well. We are to start when you're ready.'

Naruto nodded. He steadily went back to Sasuke, quietly undressing the emperor with his garments. After which, Naruto strips his own clothing until he was wearing his own birthday clothes. His face serene, his bright blue eyes peaceful as it travels the emperors' faultless physique. He had seen it many times, but he never gets tired admiring his beloveds form as though it was molded by the Great Makers hands when He carved a body of alesser gods.

Taking a deep breath, Naruto straddle the sleeping Emperor. Sasuke's face was still tranquil, sleeping dreamlessly the night away. Naruto gently caresses Sasuke's face, the cold puff of air leaving a thicker wisp around him, as it won't move, as it lay suspended like its unmoving brethren.

Naruto trailed his finger to Sasuke's chest and then he leaned down, gently capturing Sasuke's lips with his own. If it was before, Naruto would not even dare touch Sasuke as intimately as now. He would not even dream of doing it, lest he wanted Sasuke's hatred at the end. As luck would have it, things were different, and he was free to do this, not because he wanted to satiate his need, but he needs to in order to protect Sasuke.

The kiss was soft at first, and then it deepens. His tongue strokes the unresponsive lips, sucking and nipping it with all the passion he could give. The touches became more intimate, daring and skillful. The once impassive body became hot and the telltale sign of its response was now the hard attentive flesh that rivals Naruto's own.

Naruto was glad he could make Sasuke respond though he was asleep, even if he could not return all the caresses Naruto gave him. Sasuke's breath was hard, uneven and sweat pours out from his body. His mouth was slightly open, and his face has a rosy tint on it as soft moans leaves his lips.

Naruto grind his hips, their stiff flesh slides with each other. He jaw became slack as pleasured moans escape his lips. It was always electrifying whenever he touches Sasuke, so good that even from that simple act he could have cum already. But he didn't. There's more to be done, they need to become one.

His darken eyes filled with lust and desire, opens. He leans once again and gave Sasuke a deeper kiss. Tongue moving, coaxing the others to respond even if it couldn't. A quick preparation. One digit, then two. And then he impales himself to that stiff hot rod that filled him. There was a pain, but only so little, Naruto gave no mind.

He moves, up and down, up and down. Slow and fast, up and down.

The pleasure was so strong, that Naruto wanted nothing else but for Sasuke to take over and ravage him. But the emperor couldn't. So Naruto has to see it through until finish.

A gasp. A moan.

That sweet sweet bundle of nerve inside him kept on getting hit; Naruto was already in the edge.

When he knew he could not hold his cumming any longer, Naruto pulls Sasuke up into a sitting position, he encircled his arm around his lover, supporting his back to lock him to himself, and just when it was at the brink of release, the aetherian surrounds the both of them and then Naruto bit Sasuke hard, in between his shoulder and neck drawing blood in the process. The aetherian entered his being, and through their complete connection it transferred Naruto's essence to the one he holds. A great part of him was being siphoned out towards Sasuke, but Naruto doesn't care. This was what he wants, this should be as commanded.

Then a great blinding pleasure followed. He reached his climax and so was Sasuke.

Within a blink of an eye, the halted time continues. He found himself atop his beloved; drain, tired, pale. His heart was so slow to beat, his vision blurry, his breathing soft but uneven. Still, with the last ounce of his strength Naruto pulled back and look at Sasuke's shoulder. What he found their made him smile. He did it; he managed to make the seal. It was dark at first, then reddish for a second, and then it vanishes altogether.

He just gave half of his life essence to Sasuke, half of which included some of his most powerful magikos for defense. If something were to happen to Sasuke that would kill him, it would activate. It will aid him, heal him, protect him at all cost, until all threat was eliminated, until he could return back home. It was a big risk, so big it could hurt him in the end, but Naruto would have whatever those consequences were, so long Sasuke was safe. So long he would come back to him.