Please note that there have been changes made to the story.

Title: Morning Trends

Author: jin

Summary: One ghastly morning leads to another...and another--the days when Naruto doesn't want to get up. SasuNaru, YAOI, formerly known as "Violate my Junketsu, Why Don't You?"

Rating: High R (due to boyxboy romance, sexual themes and adult language)

Disclaimer: Naruto, the series, was created, is illustrated and written by Masashi Kishimoto. The anime and manga rights belong to some other people. Naruto doesn't belong to me. This is merely a work of fanfiction.

Spoilers: Up to manga chp 231, dialogue and events from chp 218, 229 and 231


Chapter 3: Are You Drama Or Are You Comedy?

Naruto loved Konohagakure. Of course, he was born there, which could account for that love, but he did not really have the best childhood at the village, which could easily have caused him to hate it as well. Yet, despite the memories of being scorned and ostracized at such a young age, he continued loving the whole village. On the other hand, maybe that was the wrong way of looking at it. There were people in the village that he loved. So much so that he would gladly give his life for all those people and that sentiment extended to the rest of the village.

In recent years that number of treasured individuals that he held dear consistently increased. He imagined and hoped that it was because he had proven himself worthy of their respect and adoration. Though it was true enough that Naruto was undeniably one of the strongest ninjas of Konoha and many would add 'just not the smartest,' it was not mainly because of his skills that made the children smile at him and say 'hello' or the younger teens to ask about his adventures outside the village.

Many had sensed Iruka's love for the boy and quite a lot of Iruka's students, recent and past, chose to adopt the same affection for Naruto. Their teacher treated the blond like a son so why should they not treat Naruto like their teacher's son? They would see Naruto often when the blond jounin would visit Iruka and they would laugh at the jokes and pranks that Naruto would do to annoy the teacher. Naruto, to them, was a fun guy. Laughter was present whenever he was around.

So when little Shouta saw his Naruto-niichan walking that day with a friend, he ran to him and yelled happily, "Naruto-niichan!!! You're back!! You're back from a mission!!"

Naruto saw the little boy scamper towards him and smiled widely. He remembered Shouta. He was the type of boy who was extremely shy but, once befriended, was very outgoing. Naruto opened his arms to hug the boy but the brotherly reunion never took place as an angry-looking woman pulled Shouta's arm away.

"Shouta, what do you think you're doing?"

"But, Mama! It's Naruto-niichan!" the boy whined pathetically. He knew his Mama did not like him talking to strangers but Naruto-niichan wasn't a stranger. Naruto-niichan did say a lot of 'bad words' but his Mama didn't really know that.

"Come with me. Don't talk to him," Shouta's mother commanded, dragging the frowning boy and not bothering to lower her volume. Nor did she bother to disguise her disgust of the blond teen.

Shouta gave his Naruto-niichan an apologetic look. He didn't know why his Mama was so mad but it was too bad that he didn't get a hug from his big brother. Naruto-niichan always gave the best hugs.

Naruto could only give Shouta a sad smile in return. Yes, there were more people he loved in Konoha but there were also people who still could not really see his worth.

"Nasty-looking woman there," Shikamaru muttered. "Hope that boy doesn't grow up to look like her. I'd feel sorry for the kid."

Naruto looked at Shikamaru and his sad eyes warmed considerably.

Naruto thought it was still okay. Konoha was still a great place to live. After all, those he cared for in Konoha were loyal and wonderful friends.

"Yeah. Not to worry though. Shouta takes after his father." They both sniggered at that.

Thus, Naruto would continue to look after Konoha with his life. As long as there was an Iruka or a Shouta or a Shikamaru that lived there.

"Come on, Naruto. Let's go get that ramen you've been blubbering about," Shikamaru said with a small grin. "You wanted some, right?"

"Yeah! Shikamaru's buying me ramen! Shikamaru's buying me ramen!" was Naruto's singsong reply, kicking his legs together from side to side.

"Don't you ever get tired, Naruto?" Shikamaru was feeling worn-out just by looking at the energetic teen jumping around. Didn't Naruto have a hangover that morning? He was always amazed at how little time Naruto needed to recover from wounds, injuries and, this time around, intoxication.

"No one gets tired as much as you, you bum," Naruto countered playfully.

"You'd think you'd be tired after last night," Shikamaru muttered low, retorting more out of habit then speaking to Naruto. Alas, the blond heard the barely decipherable grumble.

"Aaaah!! Shut up! Shut up!" Naruto shrieked, running towards the other boy and trying to cover Shikamaru's mouth lest something foul come out of it…like 'Sasuke' and 'sex' together in one sentence. "I thought you weren't going to tell anyone about that. You bastard…. You promised."

Shikamaru tore Naruto's hand away from his mouth and glared at the irritating blond. "I was talking about getting drunk!" Naruto had the decency to smile contritely at Shikamaru. "Jeez, talking to you makes me tired."

"Yeah, yeah. It's so tiresome. I know. You keep telling me," Naruto said, rolling his eyes mockingly. "In fact, I bet just walking is already tiring for you. You go see Ino; it makes you tired. The hag summons you; you get tired. Even walking to bed makes you tired, Shikamaru."

"Jeez, you're so loud," Shikamaru grumbled, frowning at the other boy but not complaining about the blond's assessment of his personality. Naruto was right after all. All those things he mentioned made him tired. It was especially tiresome to walk to bed when you were already so sleepy.

"Arrggh! Don't you ever want to do anything?" Naruto yelled in frustration. Shikamaru opened his mouth to say something in reply but Naruto was not about to let Shikamaru wit his way out of his lecture. "And I mean besides watching clouds."

Shikamaru huffed and opened his mouth to speak once more but Naruto interrupted again, loving the sound of his own voice a little too much. "I mean, you could use that time for other things."

Tired, Shikamaru gave in and played Naruto's game of 'let's tell Shikamaru a thing or two about living.' "Like what, Naruto?"

"Like…. Like…." Naruto was lost in thought for a second, trying hard to think of something he thought Shikamaru would enjoy. His eyes lighted in triumph when a bright idea came to him and he confidently said to the lazy jounin, "Like training!"

To tell Naruto that his idea was as dumb as he looked would prove hopeless so Shikamaru merely stared at Naruto and hoped the lesson would be over soon.

"Boring for you, huh? Right. Right." Naruto nodded with an air of wisdom though misinterpreting Shikamaru's expression. "You're a genius at strategies. You don't need to train. You just let your teammates do all the work while you plan."

Shikamaru made a derisive snort. If only that last part were true.

"Know what? Thinking for you makes me tired." The blond slumped against Shikamaru, showing that he, indeed, was tired.

"It beats having to think for you," Shikamaru muttered, nudging Naruto's head away from his shoulder. "Oi, Naruto! Don't use me as your pillow."

Naruto made snoring sounds and pretended not to hear.

"Oh, so you're tired now, huh? Why don't we just skip the ramen today then?"

At that, Naruto stood up straight and cried insistently to Shikamaru, "Ramen, Shikamaru! RA-ME-N! I wore the itchy turtleneck just for it."

The raven-haired jounin rolled his eyes. Naruto was just too predictable. "Okay. I get it already. Ramen. Ramen. You keep saying the same things. Jeez, and you complain about me saying the same things."

"Yeah! Ramen!"

Shikamaru reconciled himself to his fate. With Naruto so bouncy there was no way he could escape. Shouldn't have gone to see him today. Damn my conscience for caring about this idiot.

"I want some sweets today too. You're going to buy me some, right, Shikamaru? Right? Right?"

"Damn, Naruto, you're so loud." came the sudden comment from behind the two boys.

Shikamaru gave the blond boy a knowing look. "I told you."

"Shut up," Naruto grumbled but he happily turned, knowing whom the voice had come from. "Sakura-chan!!!" was Naruto's immediate exclamation upon seeing Sakura, who was accompanied by Ino and a bouquet of flowers. "How are you?!"

"I'm fine, Naruto, but that doesn't matter right now," Sakura said, sounding like she had something urgent in her mind. Naruto became serious and listened attentively. After all, it was his duty as Sakura's future husband to take care of all Sakura's needs. The pink-haired chuunin was obviously distressed by something horrible and had come to him for help. "We're looking for Sasuke-kun. Do you know where he is?"

If Naruto had been sitting down, he would have fallen off his chair. Instead, he opted for the common response. "What?!?!"

Naruto was indignant. It was rude to ask him about that…that…urgh…thing. He growled softly and frowned. Shikamaru, though, smirked. The hilarity of the moment was not lost on him.

"Why are you looking for that jerk anyway?" Naruto asked.

"Don't call him a jerk!" both girls angrily said and both boys rolled their eyes. Since the time they were capable of liking someone, the girls had fawned over Sasuke. In all that time, Sasuke gave none of them the time of day. When would the female population ever learn?

"He's just…he's the silent type," Sakura said, voice daring Naruto to argue. Ino sighed dreamily, thinking of how mysterious and tall and handsome Sasuke was, unlike some spiky-haired pests. Naruto made a gagging gesture, complete with sound effects, and Shikamaru readily agreed with the other boy. Sakura chose to ignore them and continued, "Anyway, we went to visit him early this morning because we knew he'd have a hangover but he wasn't at his house."

Shikamaru felt tempted to say that he knew exactly where Sasuke was that morning. Exactly where and he probably could guess what position too.

For Naruto, there were more pressing matters than the whereabouts of Sasuke. For example, "I had a hangover this morning. How come you didn't visit me?"

Naruto was more than just a little putout. He was downright surly about it. If his lower lip jutted out anymore, he would be a fish.

"Shikamaru came to see you," Ino said as if that should be reason enough.

"Oh, I get it," Naruto said, managing to pout and glare at the girls at the same time. "Sasuke gets you lovely ladies and I get stupid Shikamaru."

"Thanks, Naruto," Shikamaru said sarcastically.

"Well, it's your fault you got drunk," Sakura told him.

"And it wasn't Sasuke's fault that he did?!" Naruto asked in disbelief.

"No!" Sakura insisted. "He only did it because you were showing-off. You know he likes to compete with you. Why do you have to go do stupid things when you know that?"

"Wha---? Tha---?" was all that would come out of Naruto's throat. Were they certain that Sakura was the brainy one or did they mean she was the brainless one? Naruto could not believe it. What kind of reasoning was that? "You---."

Shikamaru intervened for the sake of his own sanity. It would take at least tomorrow for Naruto to finish a sentence and, frankly, he was not willing to wait that long.

"What Naruto is trying to say is that you're logic seems to be a lot skewed, Sakura," Shikamaru supplied for Naruto and the blond nodded vigorously.

"I have to say, Sakura. Shikamaru's right," Ino said, looking slightly apologetic that she couldn't help the other girl when it came to defending their prince. "Why can't you just say it's because Sasuke-kun is handsome and Naruto isn't?"

"Hey! I resent that!" Naruto complained. And rightfully so. At eighteen, Naruto was a sight to behold. Practically the splitting image of the Fourth Hokage, especially with that spiky blond hair, Naruto was handsome. Well, handsome was not quite the right adjective. While he certainly had the notable features of the Fourth Hokage with the hair and the blue eyes, Naruto was not quite built the same way. He had always been shorter than everyone else his age, even the girls. Also, Naruto, while having Tsunade's mind-boggling strength, had a build that was closer to thin than normal.

It was much to the consternation of Naruto that he could not even claim to be bigger than Hinata, a fact that got him much teasing from Kiba. Naruto thought though that Kiba's teasing stemmed more from the fact that Kiba really liked Hinata and, for some reason that Naruto could never figure out, Hinata had always been extra nice to him.

It was not just Kiba, however. The rest of his friends were not much help either. Shikamaru said he didn't really care. Chouji kept saying that Naruto needed to eat more meat. Sakura and Ino both thought of him like a little brother so they did not see any use for Naruto growing any taller. Lee would tell him to work hard because effort can win over nature anytime. Neji told him that he was fated to that height so why struggle. Tenten always agreed with Neji. Shino did not speak so Naruto had, instead, asked what Shino did to make his bugs grow healthy. The other boy told him he let them feed on his body. Naruto realized he was not that desperate.

As for the older generation, Gai told him to wear the green suit because it would make him taller. Kakashi still treated him like a kid and that was not helping his 'midget' state of mind. Tsunade would just pat his head fondly and say, "At least you grew out of the baby fat, brat." Jiraiya kept telling him that the Fourth Hokage had never been as short as Naruto even at fifteen.

If there was one thing, though, that Naruto hated--absolutely hated--it was being called "cute" in the context that he was SMALL even if it also meant he was adorable. There was really only one person who ever called him cute.

"I think Naruto is cute."

That person was Iruka.

The alleged 'cute' boy turned around to face Iruka, who had suddenly turned-up, and the blond gave his father-figure a look that undoubtedly said, "You're not helping and I am NOT cute."

Iruka was unapologetic about the comment. In fact, he meant to annoy the kid. He looked at Naruto and smiled. Naruto cringed. Being Iruka's unofficial son taught the blond a few things about the teacher. One, the brunet was a very loving and caring person. Two, Iruka liked to worry himself to death. Three, when Iruka smiled but had a nerve pulsating like crazy on his temple, you had better run or you're dead. Unfortunately for Naruto, it was too late to run. Worse, Naruto could see the telltale nerve that was throbbing at Iruka's temple and it looked like a blood vessel was about to explode. If the teen were to guess, Iruka was angry about something and he was about to direct a lot of rage at poor Naruto.

"But, Naruto," Iruka said, murderous intent lacing his words…and still smiling. "What's this I hear about you getting drunk last night?"

Kakashi, who had accompanied Iruka, tilted his head in what Naruto assumed was his apologetic pose. It seemed Kakashi had been the snitch. Why does Kakashi-sensei always take Iruka-sensei's side?

Ino, Sakura and Shikamaru edged away from the blond, afraid of getting caught in the crossfire. Iruka was scary when he was mad. Nice friends I have, Naruto thought dismally. He raised his arms in defense, knowing that Iruka's fist would come down on his head at any moment. The move did save him from the wrath pf Iruka but onthe other hand….

"Naruto, what happened to your wrists?" Iruka grabbed Naruto by the forearms, intent on examining the injured wrists up close. He turned them this way and that, not realizing that Naruto was wincing with every jerk of his hand. "They're bruised."

And you're making it worse, Naruto wanted to say. Sometimes Naruto wondered if Iruka was his father or his mother. Iruka would gladly smack him every time he goofed but was also so dramatic when Naruto got injured.

"It almost seems like they've been squeezed or gripped really hard. See the marks?" Kakashi noted, raising his visible eyebrow. "Have you been held down recently?"

Shikamaru started choking on his own breath. The image of Sasuke holding Naruto down to the bed had suddenly appeared in his mind. "Damn it. I didn't need to know that too," he muttered to himself, or so he thought before all eyes turned to him.

"Shikamaru, do you know something about this?" Iruka asked in his best teacher voice. Back when Shikamaru was a kid, it hadn't been so scary yet but Iruka was a dedicated teacher. He had mastered scaring kids through his voice by the time Shikamaru had turned fifteen. "Well?"

Across from Shikamaru, Naruto was shaking his head so hard it was about to fly off his neck.

Idiot, Shikamaru thought. He's making it all the more obvious that I know something. Well, he could always tell the truth. "I don't really know, Iruka-sensei. I hadn't even noticed the bruises before." Which was true, of course. Naruto gave Shikamaru two thumbs up in appreciation and a wide grin.

Argh. Stupid Naruto. He better not blame me if he's found out.

None of them looked convinced. Iruka's eyes narrowed in deep suspicion. "Naruto, does this have anything to do with Sasuke?"

Naruto's eyes widened. "Wh--why…why would you think that?"

"Because you two are always fighting," Iruka replied, getting more suspicious by the way Naruto was acting. "What did he do to you last night?"

Shikamaru started coughing loudly.

"Is that it? Did he do something? Or did you start the whole thing?" Iruka was just full of questions. It seemed innocent enough to him but Naruto was starting to turn a very deep shade of red. His lips were twisted into a snarl and he looked much like the nerve that had previously been throbbing on Iruka's temple. Kakashi thought Naruto might very well go 'boom.'

Sakura was quick to defend Sasuke to Iruka. "Iruka-sensei, I bet Naruto just went crazy with Sasuke-kun. I bet Sasuke-kun had to restrain him just to make him stop."

That did it.

"Aaaaaaa!" Naruto finally screamed. "That bastard has nothing to do with it! I wish he'd just die! He's stupid and he's a pervert! I'm going to kill him!"

Shikamaru looked away from Naruto. I am not involved. I don't know anything. I hope Iruka-sensei doesn't check the rest of Naruto's body for other bruises.

Everyone else looked at Naruto in disbelief. Why was he screaming? What was with the 'pervert' comment?

It really was not Naruto's day that day because, in addition to the events that morning and Iruka's interrogation, someone else decided to turn up behind him, someone he would really rather not see at that moment…or ever again.

"Sasuke-kun!" was Sakura's blissful cry as she brushed past Naruto to get to Sasuke.

Naruto cursed his dead ancestors. Then, he realized he didn't know who they were so he cursed them some more. He closed his eyes and tried breathing evenly.

Breathe in.

"Sasuke-kun, did you hear what that idiot Naruto said?"

Breathe out.

"Don't listen to him, Sasuke-kun."

Breathe in.

"Sasuke, do you know why Naruto's wrists are bruised."

Breathe in---no, idiot! Breathe out! Breathe out!!

"His wrists? That idiot probably hit something in his sleep."

Breathe in-breathe out-breathe in-breathe out-breathe in-breathe out---

"But accidents don't produce marks like those."

breathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathe---

"Um…Naruto, you sound like you're drowning. You okay?"

"I'm…fine," Naruto panted out as he turned around to face the group who had surrounded Sasuke while Naruto was doing his breathing exercises. "I was…um…practicing how to breathe right."

"Idiot," Sasuke muttered.

All at once, Naruto forgot about his calming exercises and growled at his dark-haired adversary. He was so angry that he was starting to see red. He really wanted to hit Sasuke. He ground his teeth and prepared to retort to the other boy. A challenge returned for a challenge issued, so to speak. What should I call the bastard? Pervert? Jerk? Um…pretty boy?

However, even as Naruto was thinking of a really good insult, Sasuke would not look at the blond. The Uchiha teen was staring stubbornly to his left and at nothing in particular. It wasn't Naruto's imagination either but he really could see red. There were just touches of barely-perceptible red on both of Sasuke's cheeks. Sasuke is…blushing?

To Naruto's surprise, he started blushing too. He quickly looked away. Damn that Sasuke! Why is he blushing?! Those red cheeks unnerved Naruto far more than Sasuke's presence. He had not thought that Sasuke could get embarrassed. The Uchiha boy was embarrassed, wasn't he? Or was that faint blush for something else? Whatever it meant, Naruto no longer wanted to see it. It only made him blush in response. Stupid Sasuke.

"I…I'm going! Don't follow me." Naruto determinedly walked away, not sparing a glance at Sasuke or anyone else. He kept his gaze straight ahead even as he called, "Shikamaru, come on. Ramen is waiting."

"Ch. Don't call me like I'm your dog," Shikamaru grumbled.

"But you promised!" Naruto whined, latching on Shikamaru's arm and tugging insistently. He had forgotten about Sasuke at the thought of losing his precious meal. He had not had his breakfast after all.

"I know. I know," Shikamaru said, annoyed already. "Let go of me, idiot."

"I love you, Shikamaru!"

With Naruto oblivious as well as jumping around, Shikamaru had been the one to feel it. He turned around and saw Sasuke glaring hatefully in their direction. No, he realized a second later. He's only glaring at me.


To people outside the group, they looked like a bunch of teenage kids bound for trouble. Two of them were so boisterous that it aggrieved the senses of the passers-by. In general, the kids in the group were laughing and idling around, seemingly useless. Who would have ever thought that they were a collection of the strongest ninjas in the village?

Chouji had joined Shikamaru and Naruto at the ramen stand. With Naruto and Chouji's appetite, Shikamaru became penniless after an hour. Once the money had gone, they readily agreed with Shikamaru to go look at clouds at some grassy field. A restless Naruto could not sit still though. Then, Kiba, Shino and Hinata found them. It started getting loud with Kiba and Naruto screaming at each other. Soon after, Neji, Tenten and Lee joined the group.

Kiba and Naruto were still screaming at each other.

It might as well have been a party. Well, since, Chouji brought food, it was indeed a party and, in the middle of it all, was a bouncing blond ball of energy. The others did not really mind. They rarely had a chance to be together since work always kept them apart and, although they would not admit to it, watching Naruto bounce around was home to them.

Kiba was not appreciating it as much that day. He had woken up with a headache that killed all headaches. He had vomited all over his bed. He had only few memories about the night before. His last one was of Sasuke downing a cup of sake. Everything after that was vague or lost. He had been ecstatic though that Hinata had come to visit him. That was the one good thing about getting drunk.

"So what should we do tonight?" Lee decided to ask the group. He was sure that, by tomorrow, most of them would have missions to complete and that night might very well be the last night they could all get together for a long time to come.

"Let's have another drinking contest!" Chouji suggested enthusiastically. Everyone else groaned. Arguably, it was not that bad in the beginning. It had been funny…the first few drunken minutes. However, it did creep them out to see Sasuke smiling a lot after those first few minutes. Also, Naruto had a very bad voice. Kiba tended to say the weirdest things while drunk and Neji constantly found himself telling the other boy that he was not Hinata. Only Chouji seemed to find the whole thing hilarious.

"I don't want to drink ever again," Naruto muttered.

"Me too," Kiba added. It was nice to have Hinata visit him but it was not very romantic when he smelled like vomit. Akamaru didn't even want to be near him that day. Worst of all, Neji kept giving him weird looks. It reminded him of that time his father kept looking at a wild dog they had captured, afraid that it would suddenly pounce. Kiba was sure that those looks had something to do with his night of drunken. If only he could remember what he did or said. No one would tell him. Hinata would just blush and everyone else would snicker. He wasn't even going to attempt asking Neji about last night.

"Why can't we just have a normal dinner out?" Tenten asked.

"That definitely sounds better than getting drunk," Lee said.

"Barbeque!!"

Amid the laughter that resulted from Chouji's suggestion, another group of three joined the cheerful company. It was to the obvious delight of Lee and the secret delight of Shikamaru that Sakura and Ino appeared.

Naruto just started cursing anyone and everyone in his head. Sasuke had come with the girls.

"You guys seem really lively today. What's going on?" Ino asked as she sat down on the grass next to Shikamaru. Beside her, Sasuke and Sakura followed.

"Just…plans for tonight," Shikamaru murmured. Ino seemed a little too close for his comfort. He scooted away a bit but Ino, thinking he was providing more space for her to enter the circle, only inched closer.

"What plans?" Sakura asked excitedly. "Are we invited?"

"Of course you are, Sakura-chan!" was Lee's ready answer. Sakura smiled kindly at him, which only made Lee turn red.

Naruto, who was sitting beside the older jounin, gazed thoughtfully at Lee. "Hey, Geji-mayu."

"What is it, Naruto-kun?"

Naruto lowered his voice, not wanting anyone else to hear. He was thankful that the rest were arguing about where to eat that night and no one was paying them any mind. Naruto, though, should have noticed the dark eyes that would glance occasionally to his direction.

"Are you still hoping that you and Sakura-chan…?" Naruto trailed off. That was not a very polite question and he knew that but the blond did not know how else to phrase it. He found himself very curious all of a sudden.

"But, of course," Lee said with some confidence. "She will eventually fall for my charms." Naruto looked doubtful and Lee sighed like he was crushed. "Actually, I hope to wear her down eventually."

Naruto looked at Sakura for a second. She was talking to Tenten but the pink-haired girl was making sure her body was facing Sasuke just in case the boy wanted to talk to her. Sakura was always thinking about Sasuke. "Sakura-chan is really crazy about Sasuke, don't you think?"

"I think she's also hoping to wear him down." Lee felt that his answer was honest, even if it would be painful. He hoped Sakura had not heard.

"Do you think he'll be worn down sooner or later?"

Lee thought about the question for a minute. Certainly Naruto asking such questions was odd and he was curious what prompted them but these inquiries were well-worth thinking about it. "Sometimes I think that they'll end up together and have perfect babies but I always remember that Sakura could not stop Sasuke from leaving Konoha. It was you who brought him back."

Naruto remembered a lot about six years ago, starting with Sasuke's face, screwed up in malice, as he challenged Naruto to a fight. He recalled giving as good on the insults as he got. He remembered the fight and how foolish they had both been. However, he also recalled Kakashi asking Sasuke if he was trying to kill Naruto. He remembered Sakura…crying a lot. He remembered the feelings--anger, sorrow, and sympathy--after what he'd learned about Sasuke that day.

Then the next day, he had found out Sasuke left. He had been so shocked initially. Why? Why would Sasuke do that? Strength could be gained even if he stayed in Konoha. Also, wasn't he harming the village by going to Orochimaru?

They had chased after Sasuke. Chouji had nearly killed himself and Neji came close to dying. Even Lee came to the rescue. Sasuke, however, did not care.

"My childish games with you Leafs are over. Go home."

"Chouji... Neji... Kiba... Shikamaru... Geji-mayu... They all risked their lives to follow you here."

"Good for them."

The way that Sasuke had so callously regarded their comrades lives had infuriated Naruto. He had remembered Shikamaru's words.

Honest. "Sasuke's not my close buddy. Nor do I particularly like him."

Loyal. "He's our comrade."

Brave. "We're going to risk our lives to save him."

And Sasuke had just said, "Good for them."

He had hoped that Sasuke would just wake up. He had hoped that it was only the curse. He tried to talk Sasuke out of whatever insanity occupied the other boy's brain. He told Sasuke that his friendship was one of the first bonds he had. He had hoped that Sasuke would remember.

Sasuke eventually did control the curse. He even tied his head protector on. For a second more, Naruto hoped.

"I will break that bond!"

That hope was quickly dashed to pieces.

Was he so easy to throw away? Was he so insignificant? It had felt exceedingly painful to think that. It remains exceedingly painful to know it.

As promised, Sasuke did break their bonds of friendship but, just as Naruto promised Sakura, he brought Sasuke back anyway. Naruto decided that since he could not grant Sasuke's desire for his death than he would give him at least the broken bonds.

Naruto never did tell anyone about the words that came out of Sasuke's mouth. He would save the pain for himself, one of the last things Sasuke had given him. So he said this to Lee instead, "I beat the crap out of him to make him come back."

"Well, yes," Lee agreed with an amused smile, only to turn serious once more. "There were plenty of times, however, when he could have deserted Konoha again. The war was chaotic, remember?"

Naruto nodded. How could he forget?

"He could have left. Certainly not in the easiest fashion. But he could have left. Why didn't he leave?"

Naruto gave Lee a cheeky grin. "He's scared of me."

The taijutsu master chuckled and Naruto made a mock-offended face. "What? You don't think I could scare him?"

"Naruto-kun, how come he does not seem so scared of you anymore?" Lee asked, playing along.

"Well, I am a very nice guy after all," Naruto reasoned, winking jokingly at his friend.

"Could it be possible, Naruto-kun, that you are no longer as threatening when you are many inches shorter than Sasuke-kun?"

"Hey! Stop attacking my height. I'm going to grow…tomorrow."

The other teen continued to laugh. It was always fun to talk with Naruto. He was just about to apologize for making disparaging remarks on Naruto's physical stature when the sweet voice of his angel called to him. "Lee-san, come over here!"

The older jounin eagerly stood up and walked to Sakura. Naruto followed, curious as to why the pink-haired girl and most of the group had gathered at a specific spot away from him. However, Sakura stopped him. "No, Naruto, you stay. We have a surprise for you and you can't go see it yet."

"Really?!" he excitedly exclaimed. To be suspicious of their motives was beyond Naruto, it seemed. A surprise? Wow! A surprise! For me!

Ino nodded. The rest looked very uncertain. "We'll call you when it's ready. You stay here until then and we'll also have someone stay and make sure you don't go sneaking around to ruin your surprise." Naruto nodded. How cool. They had prepared so much for him. Maybe he would give whoever was left behind a bit of a hard time just to make it a bit more fun.

"Sasuke-kun, you stay," was the quickly-worded command. Then, Naruto's friends were gone.

Not turning around to face what he was sure was a very shocked Sasuke, Naruto thought wryly, I think I've been duped.


"Hey. Are you sure we should be doing this?" Shikamaru asked, looking very aggravated, as if he was being asked to train everyday. "Don't you think they'll just fight?"

"No," Sakura said with utmost certainty in herself. "Sasuke-kun seems different today. He keeps looking at Naruto as if he has something to say. I think he wants to repair their friendship. Plus, this morning, Naruto didn't even yell at Sasuke-kun for calling him an idiot."

"Maybe Naruto has finally realized that he truly is an idiot after all and he shouldn't go around yelling at people for saying the truth," Kiba suggested. Hinata giggled. Everyone else, though, turned to him and grimaced. Kiba kept on grinning. After all, Hinata did find it funny.

"I really think we should go back," Shikamaru insisted. The possibilities of bloodshed were high and, considering the way Sasuke had glared at him that morning and what he already knew about the night before, the possibilities of last night's repeat were not negligible either.

"If you're so worried that they'll hurt each other, we could just spy on them to make sure nothing bad happens," Ino suggested.

"Shit no."

All heads turned to Shikamaru. The raven-haired boy was uncannily wound up. He seemed worried and annoyed all at once.

"Hey, what's wrong, Shikamaru?" Chouji asked his best friend.

Jeez. This is so annoying. "They're going to sense us if we get any closer. Let's just…go." Naruto would thank him later for not letting the others spy on him. Yes, Shikamaru was certain of it. Considering things might get...um, weird between Sasuke and Naruto, the blond would definitely not want anyone spying on him. So Shikamaru started walking towards the village, hoping that Naruto would be okay by the end of the day or, at least, just slightly insane.

"We're still going out to eat, right?" Chouji asked everyone.


The sky had transformed into a myriad of red hues and fading blue but no one had returned to get Naruto. The waiting was only made worse by both boys insistence on not speaking to each other. Well, that was not exactly right. Sasuke spoke. Once, Naruto had tried walking back to the village; Sasuke had suddenly said, "Stay put."

Naruto seethed. He just knew there was no surprise and he knew that Sasuke knew that there was no surprise. That bastard. However, Sasuke insisted on following Sakura's orders. Stupid Sakura. Plotting against me. Stupid Shikamaru for letting her. Stupid Ino because I bet she forced Shikamaru. Stupid...everyone! Naruto knew, too, that Sasuke would keep him there just to spite him.

That morning Naruto had wanted to yell, punch, kick and…just hurt the dark-haired boy. Now, he just wanted to get away from Sasuke. It was odd but, it seemed, he was far more uncomfortable than angry when Sasuke was around. He found himself avoiding having to look at Sasuke's face, suddenly awkward and speechless whenever he did glance up at the other boy.

Naruto, though, was never made for waiting patiently. He was an active and loud person by nature. The imposed confinement was making him edgy. He had started humming a half hour ago. It was not helping. One of his feet started tapping. It was annoying even to him.

Explosion was inevitable.

"I can't take it anymore!" Naruto started to turn around, planning to tell the Sasuke that he could just go to hell. Naruto was not going to stay another minute. When he faced Sasuke, he found the dark-haired boy leaning against a tree, watching the sun slowly dip in the horizon.

Naruto suddenly felt hesitant to approach. Sasuke looked peaceful. Wait a minute! What did he care if Sasuke looked peaceful? "Hey! I'm leaving and there's nothing you can do about it."

Sasuke turned to face him, an annoyed expression on his face. "Can't you wait? They said they'd be back, idiot."

ARRGGH! Naruto hated Sasuke. He just hated him so much. "Don't call me an idiot. You…you…pervert!"

"Pervert?" Sasuke said mockingly. "As far as I can remember, you were more than willing last night!"

"I was dru---" Naruto was suddenly brought to a halt. "You…remember?"

Naruto was struck speechless when Sasuke suddenly blushed and looked away. Sasuke is blushing again. What the hell?

"I remember some," the Uchiha teen mumbled.

Naruto felt like he needed his calming exercises again. Sasuke remembered some? What did some mean? Did some mean Naruto making a slut of himself in front of Sasuke? Did it mean Naruto humping a bunny? What the hell did some mean? After a second of morbid curiosity, Naruto discovered that he did not really want to know after all. In fact, he did not want to be near Sasuke at the moment. "I'm going."

Naruto was about to start running away but Sasuke seized him by the arm. "Hold on, Naruto!"

Naruto wrenched his arm away and glared at Sasuke. "What now?!"

"We need to talk," Sasuke murmured but his eyes told Naruto that he was anything but timid about the request.

Naruto did not like that commanding look Sasuke had. I'm not one of his fangirls. He thinks I'll swoon?! "There's nothing to talk about, asshole."

"Don't play dumb, idiot. You're already dumb enough."

A clenching of fists, a war cry, and a blur of movements later, Naruto had Sasuke pinned against a tree, the dark-haired boy's shirt crumpled in his fists. "You! You are such a selfish bastard! I hate you! Don't call me an idiot! I'm not the one who ran after a stupid snake!"

"Shut up," Sasuke hissed. In one swift move, he rolled Naruto sideways, clutching the blond's hips roughly. Naruto unexpectedly found himself trapped between Sasuke and the tree.

"What---?"

"Shut up," Sasuke growled, slamming Naruto against the tree a second time. Naruto winced. Sasuke took hold of Naruto's face and forced it to gaze up at him. "You listen to me."

Naruto glared mutinously at the dark-haired teen but he stopped struggling. It seemed fruitless when Sasuke had pressed himself so tightly against Naruto, the taller boy's whole body willing Naruto to submission.

"I didn't want any of this," Sasuke said angrily. Naruto's huge baby-blue eyes kept flashing angrily. The shorter ninja honestly did not care if the dark-haired jounin had wanted last night to happen or not. The blond was angry that it did happen and with Sasuke of all people. Sasuke of all people. He turned his head away from Sasuke's painful grip, refusing to look at Sasuke any more. "Do you think last night did not affect me?"

"Let me go," Naruto told him.

"The problem with you, Naruto, is that you're too involved with yourself to notice anything else."

"Let me go or I'll rearrange that pretty face of yours," Naruto threatened in a low voice, his head down and his fists clenching.

"I'd like to see you try, dobe."

Naruto froze. That word.... It was unfair of Sasuke to use that word. "Don't call me that, you bastard."

"What did you say?"

The blond looked up, lips twisted in a humorless grin, half pain and part dark amusement coloring the fake smile. "Think I can't do it, Uchiha? Think I can't beat you? Remember the last time you thought I couldn't scratch your head protector?"

Sasuke's jaws clenched. Amazingly enough, it was no longer anger that bubbled beneath his calm exterior. His impatience had gone. What remained was a deep pain at the memory that Naruto awoke. He did not want to talk about this.

Fury abated from his eyes.

His hold on Naruto loosened.

His hands lowered to his side.

"Not so tough now, are you?" Naruto taunted. "What was that you said again? 'I am more special than you.'"

Naruto shoved him and Sasuke did not resist.

"I know that, Uchiha!" Naruto had started screaming. "I know that! Because when you came back, everyone was so relieved! I, however, was still a problem! I was the demon but you were cursed!"

Sasuke turned his head away. Rapid cascades of tears were falling down Naruto's cheeks and he could not stand to look.

"When you came back, Sakura felt alive again. She gave you love and attention. You know what I got?"

Sasuke did not answer.

"She said, 'Thanks, Naruto. Thanks for bringing him back.' And that was that. I tried not to be angry but she didn't even know that you didn't care! Remember what you said? You said that all we were--Sakura, Shikamaru, Neji--all we ever did.... They were just childish games!"

Naruto looked at the boy before him. He remembered Sasuke after their return. Colder, more quiet, he seemed to have less of a soul. Naruto had wanted to sympathize. His last hope trusted in Sasuke. The words he expected from Sasuke never came, however, not in the months that he patiently waited, not in the year that he clung to. So he just gave up. Yet, he felt compelled to ask, "Were you even sorry, Sasuke?"

"Naruto.... I...." Sasuke faltered. It was not easy to do. How was he to begin? Where was he to begin? His halting words, however, were misinterpreted.

Naruto gave no warning and just launched himself on Sasuke, wanting to hurt him, trying to punch him. But Sasuke saw it coming. He easily evaded the blow. Naruto was too emotional to land a proper hit. He grabbed Naruto and held him close, trying to limit the blond from thrashing and inadvertently hurting himself.

The contact made Naruto sag against his former rival, frustrated and ready to sob into someone's arms. Murmurs of 'I waited for you to say it' could be heard from his lips. Sasuke was unable to speak. He and Naruto never did talk about their fight after their return to Konoha. Sasuke had not wanted to. He thought that neither did Naruto. That fight held too many bad memories. He knew that he had sins not so easily forgiven and thought that fighting for the village might absolve him. Was that not the reason he stayed after all? Why was it that Naruto could make him feel so wrong?

"Naruto...."

The moment that Sasuke spoke Naruto was once more on the offensive. He pushed against Sasuke's embrace and glared, cheeks still tear-stained but tears no longer falling. "Don't talk to me anymore. Like I said, I'm leaving." Resolutely, the blond started walking away.

"Wait!" Sasuke did not want to just leave it at that. He followed the shorter shinobi. Naruto, though, did not want to be followed. The blond jumped to a branch and bolted. Sasuke was determined to go after him. Like a game of tag, he chased Naruto. He winced when he remembered why Naruto remained small and skinny. The blond jounin was much faster that way. Much, much faster.

Hours seemed to pass as Sasuke could barely track the smaller teen. He was lucky that Naruto was affected by his presence. Because Naruto got distracted yelling at Sasuke to 'fuck off,' he landed wrong on a branch and fell.

Naruto groaned painfully. His pursuer was quickly by his side. Naruto thought that, at the very least, Sasuke was trying to help him up. He then realized he was once more trapped between a tree and Sasuke's body.

"Naruto, I won't let you go until we finish talking."

The blond looked up at the face of his captor, mustering up all his anger as he squirmed to get away. Meanwhile, Sasuke had plans of his own. It really had been to talk with Naruto. He truly wanted to settle the animosity, wanted to gain entry back into the blond's life. He had not really intended, though, to grab Naruto's wrists and hold them above the blond's head to restrain him, an act entirely too familiar.

It was not his plan either to place a knee between Naruto's legs. That was pure luck while the blond struggled.

Naruto gasped.

The sight of wide eyes and parted lips was sorely tempting Sasuke. This, after all, was just a few hours after he had jerked off to the same image.

He had not intended to remember that as well.

Sasuke descended on Naruto's lips full-force. Prying Naruto's teeth open was a hard task to accomplish but Sasuke's tongue was persistent. His heart soared when Naruto started kissing him back. There was no sweetness to be found, however, as Naruto's kisses were stained with anger and the need to just release the fury back at Sasuke. It was harsh and violent, meaning to hurt.

This, Sasuke did not want. The kiss was too much like a fight. Thus, he slowed his kiss. He pulled back a bit, breathing in deeply the freshness that only Naruto and bright mornings could bring.

"Bastard," Naruto murmured against his lips.

Sasuke shook his head and kissed Naruto's neck, a brush upon the skin like a caress. He was trying to soothe the angry blond. He was rewarded by a strained noise, emanating from the back of Naruto's throat. He kissed up to the blond's chin. Then the right cheek. Sasuke slowly lowered Naruto's wrists, his hands trailing their way up to grasp Naruto's hands.

"No," Naruto protested weakly. This pace was unwanted.

Sasuke held their hands together, their palms kissing and their fingers in an embrace.

"No," Naruto pleaded. This was too intimate. This was not fair.

Sasuke placed a kiss on one set of fitted knuckles and Naruto's knees buckled. The blond exhaled deeply as if unable to breathe. It was then that Sasuke captured those pink lips once more. Naruto felt like crying. Sasuke was being gentle. How was he supposed to fight this? A kiss on his upper lip, a kiss on the lower one, a tongue slowly caressing the break between and Naruto felt he was coming undone.

He leaned forward, asking for more, and holding tightly to Sasuke's hands. There was awe at the feeling of desperation that tied itself to the slow movement of their mouths. It was strange and, all at once, beautiful. He had never been kissed like this before. It did not make him dizzy nor did it turn his head to mush. It made his heart ache and his eyes tear up. Perhaps somewhere in his mind he wondered why that was. And wondered why, despite that, he wanted it so much.

The painful bliss was all too fleeting, however.

He heard muffled voices as if calling a name. His friends were on their way.

Naruto and Sasuke let go, hands unhurriedly unclasping and mouths slowly separating. Naruto walked away, holding on to a tree as his knees failed him. He coughed. He wanted to vomit.

"Naruto," Sasuke started to say.

He was cut short by the sound of Sakura's voice. "Hey, Sasuke-kun! We were looking for you."

Naruto flinched and forced his weak knees to let him flee.

To be continued….


Changes on this chapter: A lot. The recollection to six years back, the confrontation at sunset...they've all been altered to fit the manga.

Notes:

Geji-mayu and dobe--I used the Japanese terms because Thick Brows sounded odd to me and the translation of dobe is pretty much 'idiot' and that would not really mean much in the story. There are many ways to say 'idiot' or 'stupid.' Baka, ahou.... Dobe is special to Naruto. That is why I kept the Japanese term.

The translation I used when I refer to the manga come from Inane's translation. If you have a problem with that.... Well, I can't help you.