Chapter Seventeen: -Sore Kara no Boku-ra wa: ~So From Then on, We Were...~-

* * * * *

Sasuke stared at Shu's sharingan. Everything was a mess, and he was confused out of his mind. What in the world was Naruto's kid doing with a sharingan? Never mind the fact that such a small baby even had a sharingan; the demon chakra probably aided in expressing the imperfect sharingan so early. But wasn't it only given to people who was an Uchiha by blood? Did Naruto get sharingan from having sex with him and then passed it to his child? That was absurd; there would be a lot more people with sharingan if it was that easy to get. Did he have a female relative he didn't know about whom Naruto had made this child with? But that was even more absurd, because Itachi did a very thorough job of killing off all the Uchiha and the only person he knew for sure who had sex with Naruto nine months ago was himself.

Nine months. At that time, Sasuke had just married Naruto and they have been screwing like bunnies. There was no way that Naruto could have made this child without him knowing. Come to think of it, there was no way that this child was Hinata's, because the only one who had had any kind of sexual interaction with Naruto at that time...

"But he's a boy," Sasuke muttered to himself. He held the bawling baby close to his chest, feeling Shu clutching his shirt tightly. "Naruto's a boy. There is no way that Shuichiro can be mine. Naruto is most definitely a boy."

Shu sobbed and complained for reasons only known to himself, his frail little legs kicking at Sasuke's stomach. Sasuke's eyes widened. The little nudges on the stomach, the warm, small hand overlapping his own hand. His husband's excited voice.

"Our baby, Sasuke. We're going to be parents!"

But that was a dream.

"It's kicking! You can feel it, too, can't you?"

Sasuke's expression stiffened. His door had been left open after he woke up from that dream. And then here was a baby in his arms few months after that, with bluish black hair and a sharingan. Sasuke stared more closely at the child's face. Now that he was entertaining the possibility that the child was his, he saw the resemblance between himself and the child. Narrowed eyes with long eyelashes, high cheekbones, thin lips. Sasuke shook his head and placed Shu back on the bed, wrapping the blanket around the baby's body tightly. He leaned down to kiss Shu's forehead.

"...I'm going to go talk to your Dad, okay? Hush, don't cry so. I'll be right back."

Sasuke looked up at Gaara, who was silently staring at Shu, his arms crossed over his chest and his back against the wall. "Gaara, I'm sorry, but can you ask your sister..."

"Don't worry about the brat and go talk to Naruto." Gaara eyed Shu, who was going into a hysterical tantrum, his little arms and legs furiously kicking the blanket off. Even though he was worried about Naruto, he was silently rejoicing in the fact that he would get Shu all to himself. "Something horrible is happening to Naruto. Both the brat and I are upset by this. Naruto's chakra is so weak that I can't even sense it anymore. Go."

"Na... Naruto's not dead, is he?" Sasuke asked, his eyes widened, fear creeping to his voice. Gaara closed his eyes and did not reply. Sasuke bit down on his lower lip until his canines pierced the lip and he started to bleed. He ignored the blood and splintered out of the room.

* * * * *

"Where the hell is that idiot?!" Shikamaru snarled. His eyes held pure murder. He was going to tie Naruto up and lock him in his room as soon as he found him. He was going to drug Naruto with paralyzing potions, tie him up with chains, and lock him up in a chakra-shielded room. Neji sighed, dispelling the byakugan. He couldn't find Naruto.

"Any luck, Kakashi-sensei?"

Kakashi shook his head. "My nin-dogs can not find Naruto. He must be up on a tree or under water, where the earth does not touch him."

"Akamaru's not having any luck, either," Kiba said, gathering the dog into his arms. "Let's split up and look for him physically. High places and lakes are our best bet right now."

"He couldn't have gone too far," Shikamaru said, his eyes sharpening immediately. "His body is too weak, and he had been missing for only an hour. The furthest distance he could have gone without using chakra... ten kilometers?"

"Is Naruto here?"

All eyes turned to look at Sasuke. Before Shikamaru leapt at his throat and ripped it out, Neji quickly stepped forward and pulled Sasuke aside, wrapping his arm around Sasuke's shoulder and quickly whispering the situation to Sasuke. "Naruto's been missing for a hour. We're all going to search for him ten kilometer radius from this house. You should come, too." And then Neji dug into his jacket, retrieving Sasuke's diary. "Naruto's been keeping this; read his entries while Shikamaru plans out the search team. Unfortunately, he gives no clue as to his possible whereabouts."

"Naruto's been keeping my journal?" Sasuke repeated. "...he wrote on it?"

Neji nodded and pulled his arm away from Sasuke when he was reassured that Shikamaru was too busy planning out the search party to kill Sasuke. Sasuke rapidly flipped through his own writings and came upon Naruto's messy entries and doodles. Sasuke's eyes widened progressively as he skimmed through nine month's worth of entries, and he slammed the book shut when he finished reading the last entry.

"That dimwit."

With that comment, Sasuke turned and ran, not bothering to wait until Shikamaru placed him in a search team.

* * * * *

Naruto hummed a little song he made up as he picked up a rock from the ground. He dusted it off and placed it in his jacket's pocket. Theoretically, filling his pockets with rocks should keep his body down in the water. He hoped so, because it would be really nasty if he floated up after he drowned and he became all bloated and rotten. That was definitely not the last image of him he wanted to leave to his friends. Naruto straightened and patted his bulging jacket and pant pockets. He shrugged and decided it was enough. He started to walk into deeper part of the lake, clutching Sasuke the Bear tightly against his chest. The teddy bear that resembled Sasuke was looking even more annoyed than usual, and Naruto didn't blame him. Wet teddy bear was probably an unhappy teddy bear.

"Naruto."

Naruto turned to look at the speaker. His blank expression did not change. His voice was hallow, but cheerful. "Hey, Ino."

Ino's hair was loose, framing her oval face. Her eyes were wild, insane, and she looked so desperate and lost that Naruto stopped walking and stared at her. Ino hurriedly made her way to him-- how she found him, he had no idea-- and tripped over a rock, sending splashes of water everywhere. Naruto watched her, not stepping closer to her, but not backing away, either. She picked herself up and treaded her way to him. She clutched his wrists so tightly that it hurt, but Naruto did not move to push her away.

"I don't hate you. I don't hate your baby. Please believe that," Ino begged. "Please..."

"I don't hate you, either," Naruto said, staring evenly into her empty eyes. "You weren't wrong. I would have hurt Sasuke if I stayed with him. I would have hurt the baby if I had kept it. It's all my fault."

"No. None of it was your fault; I was wrong. I'm sorry," Ino hoarsely whispered. "I love him so much. He's everything to me. But he didn't love me back. The baby. I wanted it to be mine. I'm so sorry. Stop hating me. Please stop hating me. It hurts. Dark. Blood. I can't breath."

Naruto sighed lightly. He pulled his hands away from Ino's clutch and gently but firmly pulled her into his chest with his free hand. He closed his eyes as Ino sobbed against his shoulder. "Love isn't about possession. True love is that you can be happy when the person you love is happy. That was Sasuke's love for me, and that is my love for him. You were wrong about how you felt about love, but it wasn't your fault that you fell in love and got hurt. It isn't any of our fault. I forgive you."

"You're wrong..." Ino softly said. "That is true love, yes, but it's only one-sided love. Two-sided love is when you're willing to get hurt for the one you love by opening yourself up all the way. That is the love that Sasuke-kun had shown to you. That is the love that you should show Sasuke-kun. And now..."

She pulled away from Naruto. Her eyes were back to normal, soft and calm, and she had a sweet smile upon her face. This was Ino that Naruto knew, Ino whom he had grown up with. She touched his cheeks. "Don't you ever forgive me for this, Naruto... Thank you for everything, and I'm sorry for everything..."

Naruto watched, confused, as he watched Ino making seals. He never saw this arrangement of seals before. But she whispered out the name of the forbidden jutsu as she completed the hand movement, and Naruto cried out as he tried to stop her, but it was too late. Ino glowed as all the chakra in her body concentrated on one area, and she smiled an angelic smile, a contented smile, and then she exploded in a blinding burst of light.

* * * * *

Sasuke was following a trail. There were footsteps, and smaller footsteps overlapped it. It seemed that the person with smaller feet was stalking the other one, because the former often hid behind trees and bushes. There were occasional arrows etched into the tree trunks, showing the way that the two had walked. He had no idea who had left the arrows, but he was sure the one being stalked was Naruto. Because he felt his heart fluttering heavily at the mere sight of the footsteps. Because the trail had to be Naruto's trail.

Sasuke paused in following the trail when he caught sight of something light brown between the shrubs. He was about to bypass it, thinking it was a rabbit or some other small forest creature, but he stopped and stared at the entity. He kneeled down and picked it up. Naruto the teddy bear. The smiling, tan-colored teddy bear he thought he had lost. But apparently he had merely dropped it in this forest while Gaara carried him to the Hidden Sand. Even though it was muddy, the teddy bear was still there, hope was still there, and Sasuke hastened his steps to follow the trail.

The trail lead deeper and deeper into the forest. Then the forest suddenly started to thin out, and Sasuke was starting to see glittering lake through gaps between colorful tree leaves. Sudden explosion of chakra shook the area, filling the sky with bright yellow light and sending surges of power flying into the air. Strange. If someone used the forbidden jutsu, you would expect them to use the chakra on the opponent, not release it into the air and waste it. This looked like a simple suicide for the sake of... dying.

"Naruto," Sasuke muttered, his eyes widened, feeling his heart freeze. "Oh, God, please... No..."

Sasuke stumbled through the last of the trees, tripping over a rock and falling into the lake, the splash of water sending spray of water into the air. Sasuke picked himself up and froze. Naruto was standing in the lake, not even two meters away from him, covered in blood. Drenched in it. He turned his head to look at Sasuke, and Sasuke could have cried with relief. He was not dead. He was not the one who had exploded. He was still alive.

Naruto numbly watched Sasuke as he hurried towards him, then he weakly cried out and started to walk further into the lake, trying to drown himself. Sasuke wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled him against his chest, and Naruto stumbled and fell. The two went down because Naruto's jacket was filled with rocks, because Naruto wanted to die, and Sasuke struggled with Naruto's weight because he would rather drown with Naruto than to let go of him. Sasuke clutched at Naruto's jacket and tugged it, the wet thing wouldn't come off, and he felt his head getting light as his body lost more and more oxygen. Death. He didn't want to die and leave his son alone in this world. But he will die with Naruto. Together, his beloved in his arms, and...

But he felt himself being pulled up, and his head broke the surface of the water and he threw up water, coughing violently, tasting copper in his mouth. White flashes danced behind his eyelids, and his throat felt raw. Sasuke panted and clutched Naruto to his chest, and Naruto was crying, and Sasuke was sure the warm water in his cheeks were not lake water, either. Naruto had shrugged off his jacket, and he snuggled into Sasuke's chest, crying hysterically, only wearing a thin T-shirt. "Don't die, Sasuke," Naruto hoarsely begged. "Please don't die. Please live and be happy. I like you so much. You can't die."

"You... can't die, either," Sasuke murmured. "I don't care if I'm being selfish anymore. I'm not letting you go. You're mine, Naruto... You can't leave me; I don't want to be alone anymore..."

"Sasuke," Naruto sobbed. "Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke... I don't want to be alone... I'm scared, I want you, I want to stay by your side, even if I hurt you, even if I get hurt..."

"Hurt me," Sasuke whispered. "Hurt me, let me hurt you... Just stay by my side, just be with me... We're humans, it's okay if we live on hurting each other..."

Naruto clung to Sasuke's warmth. His eyes slightly widened when he noticed the very wet Sasuke the Bear floating next to Naruto the Bear. A questioning look to Sasuke, a nod, then Naruto curled up more tightly against Sasuke, looking at the teddy bears wonderingly. He reached out to tentatively touch the pair of teddy bears, then buried his head in Sasuke's shoulder again. "I want to live on with you. I don't want to let you go anymore. I want to share my happiness with you."

Sasuke lifted Naruto's head up to look into his eyes. His finger gently rubbed the soft skin on Naruto's chin. "Then let's live on."

Naruto gave Sasuke a watery smile.

"Okay."

* * * * *

"Grab that pencil!"

"No, grab that toy kunai! Go on, take it, Shu-chan!"

Shu gave a weary look to the adults who were nearly fainting with excitement, reached out, and picked up the money. There were collective cheers and groans.

"He's a money-grubber!" Naruto complained. "Sasuke-chan! Look how practical he is! He takes after you; this is horrible!"

Sasuke, who was grinning with pride, ignored his husband. "Let's cut the cake."

"Don't you like money, too, Naruto?" Iruka teased. Naruto pouted.

"No, not really. I was hoping he'd pick up the kunai. Well, at least he didn't pick up the pencil."

"I picked up the pencil when I was doing the picking," Sasuke offered, pausing in middle of giving a slice of cake to Hinata. Naruto rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, I would have guessed. Why did I marry a nerd like you anyway?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's because I make you scream so loudly in bed."

Naruto stared at Sasuke, horrified, while their friends gave catcalls and disgusted sounds. "Uchiha Sasuke! What are you saying in front of Shu-chan?!"

Sasuke glanced at the direction of his son, who was being passed back and forth between Gaara and Shikamaru. Shikamaru was managing to hold onto Shu, but Gaara snatched him away again and glared at Shikamaru. Chouji and Rock were trying their best to stop the two, but to no avail. Shu was giving a dirty look to the adults who were fighting over him. "The secrets of his birth."

"I am way too old for this. I'm out of here," Tsunade muttered. She grabbed Jiraiya's ear and dragged the interested perverted man off, Shizune meekly following the two after offering last congratulatory words. Kakashi, meanwhile, seemed to get quite different ideas, because he clutched Iruka's wrist and wordlessly marched away with a strange glint in his eyes. Apparently this signaled the end of the party(the picking was done after all the food minus the cake was eaten anyway), because one by one Sasuke and Naruto's friends left after bestowing their child with pats, kisses, and gifts. Gaara reluctantly returned Shu to his parents at last, giving the baby a longing look. Shu merely yawned, then snuggled into his father's arms. Shikamaru and Gaara were the last to leave. Sasuke turned to look at Naruto, cradling sleepy Shu in his arms.

"Naruto."

Naruto looked up from stacking up the gifts. "What?"

Sasuke kneeled down and gave a kiss to Naruto's nose. "Shuichiro is exhausted."

"So? Go tuck him in."

Sasuke moved his lips to Naruto's lips, softly kissing his lips. His voice dropped down an octave, and he tried not to, but he smirked. "Let's work on making Shu's baby sister after he goes to sleep."

Naruto blushed a pretty red color. "Uchiha Sasuke! Stop acting like a perverted old guy! Man, you're starting to act like the perverted hermit!"

Sasuke gave a flurry of kisses on Naruto's cheek. "I can't help it that you're so cute. And we had that mission, so I didn't get to show you how much I love you for the past week..."

"You don't have to show me. I already know," Naruto grumbled. But he turned his head to kiss Sasuke back, giving him little kisses on lips and cheek. "No babies until Shu-chan is at least three, Sasuke-chan. You have that anbu examination to study for, and I want to be a hokage... Nn..." Naruto paused when Sasuke's tongue made its way into his mouth. He gently pushed the intruding tongue away and finished his sentence. "We're not making love if we don't have protection."

Sasuke gave Naruto a triumphant grin, much like a cat who had charmed a saucer of cream out of her owners, and turned to place sleeping Shu in his room. "Oh, that's nice. I just bought a tube of spermicidal lubricant and wanted to try it out. We never tried the kiwi-flavored one, right?"

"Pervert," Naruto repeated. But he grinned back at Sasuke as he started to open some of the gifts. "Hurry back."

Sasuke started to leave, but he paused when he noticed one of the gifts given to Shu. It was a little teddy bear, fuzzy and caramel-colored. It was shyly smiling. Sasuke's eyes drifted to look at Sasuke the Bear and Naruto the Bear sitting companionably together at the corner of the room, then he looked at the baby teddy bear again. He looked down at his son. "Naruto?"

"Yeah?"

"When we conceived Shuichiro... We were pretty dumb back then, right? We were so afraid of having this happiness because we thought it would hurt too much when the happiness was taken away. And... we hurt each other even more when we tried not to hurt each other."

Naruto nodded. "Definitely dumb."

"So..." Sasuke touched Shu's cheek. "From now on, let's never do something like that. Because you're worth any pain you may ever inflict on me on my life, Naruto. When we have the next baby, I want to be by your side and share everything with you. Because... You know. You're the person I like the most in this world."

Naruto looked taken back. His eyes softened. "Sasuke-chan."

"Yes?"

"The lubricant. Don't bring the kiwi one. Bring the strawberry one."

Sasuke stopped stroking Shu's cheek. "...that one's not spermicidal."

Naruto blushed. "I know."

Sasuke paused and stared at Naruto before breaking into another 'cat-with-cream' grin and hurrying away with their first child. Naruto smiled after him, then gave a little kiss on the caramel-colored teddy bear's nose. He stood up and placed the baby bear in front of other two bears, completing the bear family.

Back then, they had suffered a lot because of misunderstandings, because they were too afraid of getting hurt and hurting each other. But they learned that running away never solves anything, because lying to one's own feelings just made them hate themselves more. So from now on, Sasuke and Naruto would trust each other. They would hurt each other and get hurt in return, because they're humans. Because humans can't help but hurting others. But they will also love each other, and that love will soothe over the pains and scars, and the passage of time will sparkle brilliantly because they would believe in each other.

And the two will believe in that sparkle.

* * * * *

Hi, this is Shu. I am five. Mr. Sun is sparkly today. Mommy calls Daddy pervert. Daddy won't tell Shu what pervert means. I play with my friends. Daddy is an anbu member and he has lots of kunai. Shu is a big boy and Daddy says he'll give me a kunai if I'm good. Shu will be good. Shu will become a hokage like Mommy when Shu grows up, so Shu needs to practice with kunai. Bye bye, Diary.

* * * * *

The End

Thank you for reading this story. You are surely a sparkle, too. And even though I was weak and pitiful in the past, I will stand up straight and walk on from now on, because I will also believe in the sparkle of future that lights up the passage of time.

-Shiroi Hane, 3/18/2004-