Naruto and all it's slashy characters don't belong to me.  Sad, isn't it? I could make them do all sorts of things….eh…Um. Anyhoo.  Third chapter!  Rated for some kissing and some angst—mebbe too much angst, but oh well! 

Enjoy!  Rinse, Lather, Review!

Out from Inside

( ch. three)

When Sasuke finally dragged himself out of his room and into the kitchen, a painful headache and stiff bruised limbs, Sakura nearly dropped the plate of sweet buns she held.

"Sasuke! What happened to your face?" she exclaimed, fumbling to keep the food from spilling.

"I'm fine," Sasuke muttered, sinking into a chair.

"Did you get into a fight last night too?" she persisted, setting the plate down.  "You look awful!"

"I know," Sasuke dropped his head onto the cool surface of the table and sighed.  "Sakura—"

The woman re-appeared at his side with a cold wet cloth and laid it on the back of his neck.  Her fingers squeezed his shoulder, and he heard the chair next to him scrape as it was pulled out.

"Tell me what happened," Sakura commanded.  "You come in drunk last night, show up bruised and god knows what else—"

"Naruto's back," Sasuke mumbled to the table.  "And he kicked me in the face."  A pause.  "Several times."  He reached up behind his neck and pulled the washcloth from his neck, raised his head enough to wipe at his face.

"Are you serious?" Sakura whispered.  "When—how—"

"Yesterday he came to see the Hokage…and I don't even know why, but he ran away from me.  He was the one I was chasing yesterday.  He fights very…well."  Sasuke stated.

Fast, his mind offered.

"Oh," Sakura smiled shakily.  "Is…is he going to visit, then?"

"I don't know."  Sasuke dropped his head to the table again and sighed. "I just…don't know…"



It had been nearly two days since Naruto had willingly sought her out.  Tsunade looked up from the multitude of seal scrolls and medical scrolls to see Naruto standing in the doorway to her office.  The sight of him was strange, melancholic and sharp.  She wondered how Jiraiya had coped with Naruto during the past five years, with his attitude and moods and issues.  "Yeah?"

"Uh…" He fidgeted in the doorway with the black mesh along his stomach.  "When did Sasuke become Anbu?"

"Oh," she said, sliding scrolls aside.  A Sasuke question! Big surprise!  "About two years ago.  Why do you ask?"

"No reason…I guess I always knew he'd get to be one…"

"Why are you asking me then?" Tsunade frowned at a scroll and held it at arms length.  "Uchiha can answer his own questions."

"Yeah," Naruto rolled his eyes, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets.  "As if he would ever let me."

"You'd be surprised," Tsunade murmured.  She turned the scroll in her hands upside down and hummed under her breath.  "Naruto—do you experience hallucinations or strange smells, get followed by strange animals or something?"

"Just the little blue deer," Naruto deadpanned, then grinned.

"Hah.  Funny."  Tsunade pushed the next five scrolls off to the side of the desk with a "That rules them out."

"So…" Naruto bounced on his toes.  "Is Sasuke here?"

"Nope.  He requested a few days off." The strictest control kept her face from cracking into a smile.


Tsunade sighed.  "He usually takes a few days off to gain some training," she said.  "So don't think that he's avoiding you.  You have full access to the village, and you can visit anyone whenever you want."

"I can leave?"

"Just within village limits, unless you're accompanied by Anbu while to training grounds or the forest," she shrugged.  "You're not a prisoner, stupid."

"Well, aren't we happy little bunnies today," Naruto muttered.

She didn't respond.  A few moments later she heard the quiet 'click' of the door shutting, and grinned.  Aren't you the one with a fixation…


Can't believe I'm doing this, Naruto thought.  Stupid hag.  Stupid Sasuke.  He perched carefully on the small windowsill and stared out over the village.  The sun was falling towards the earth; the decision to finally venture back into the streets of his past, perhaps even meet up with a few old friends, had taken him most of the day.

I'm going insane in here. I've got to get out of here.

Naruto jammed his hat down tight, pulled the flaps of his collar up and tried hard to quell the shivering of doubt he felt.  It can't be that bad if I don't show my face, right?


He took the risk with a steadying breath, and toppled into space.


It was less than an hour later when Naruto found himself edging carefully down the street in the lower, expensive housing areas of the Konoha.  A scribbled note was clutched in his hand; an address that some lady was kind enough to give him when he had asked where the 'Anbu Uchiha' lived.  The entire street, however, ranged up and down with apartments, and Naruto had to double-check his paper to make sure he was reading the right name.  The place looked big and expensive and quiet. 

Naruto scowled, scuffling, and trotted across the street. He avoided the curious looks of several children playing down near the alley, and headed for the stairs.

At least he doesn't live in some craphole, he thought, standing outside a plain door with the number 3-8 scribed on the surface.

Naruto raised a fist and rapped on the door before he lost the nerve.

Come on, Sasuke, be home so I can get this over with!

He heard footsteps, his heart jumping, and steeled himself for getting the door slammed in his face—

I wonder what he looks like without that mask, now…

—and felt a horrible mocking confusion when the door did open—


He had a brief impression of the young woman through his shock.  Long pink hair pulled back, a pretty red shirt and black shin-length trousers—her face had matured; she was beautiful—

It can't be here—it is—she's fat! a breathless voice sounded in his head.

"Oh…Oh—Naruto!" she almost screamed.  She darted forward and hugged him.

Shouldn't she be squishy? the blond thought absurdly when her protruding stomach bumped into him. He endured a moment of almost painful pressure around his neck, confused and unsure where exactly to put his hands.

Idiot! a part of him quickly adapted to the surprise and muttered.  Stupid!—she's not fat—she's pregnant! Baby!

"Oh, where have you been!?" she exclaimed, pulling back to arms length.  "And your clothes—you're so tall!  Idiot!" she suddenly smacked him on the head.  "Do you know how worried we were!"

"…ow," Naruto mumbled, effectively knocked away from his shock.  "Don't hit me."  He paused to frown at her.  "What are you doing at Sasuke's place? Where is Sasuke?"  Why are you pregnant!? he wanted to ask.  Why!

"He's at the training grounds.  And I live here, silly!"

…say what? he felt his stomach jump; the actual thought hurt.  Sasuke—and a very pregnant Sakura?  How come he hadn't known?  When—he scowled, raking hands through his hair and looked at Sakura who didn't seem to notice his confusion.

"Don't just stand there—come in!" she laughed, leaning back to let him through. "I was hoping you'd visit.  It's too bad Lee isn't here yet or else he'd be happy to see you!"

Naruto stepped inside, blinking. "Lee?  You mean he live here too?  I thought—isn't Sasuke—"

"All three of us live here," She turned as neatly as a pregnant woman could and led the way to a small and tidy living room.  "For a place like this it's difficult to afford with only one or two people.  Having Sasuke as a roommate isn't so bad.  Very quiet and clean."  Sakura lowered herself to a chair.  "Now sit! she ordered.  "Tell me what you were doing the last few years!"

But…does that mean Lee is the…father?

Naruto unfastened several clasps to his cloak on one side and slipped out of it.  "So, let me get this straight," he answered instead, sitting on the floor.  "You live here with Sasuke and Lee?  And—" his eyes dropped to her belly, and a softness whispered in. "A baby? Are you—are you all together?"

Sakura choked, giggling.  "The three of us? Together? No, no—I'm married to Lee, Naruto! Almost two years now—and yes, a baby.  I want a child to enjoy.  I know the shinobi way is hard, so I wanted to bear a child while I could.  Life is good, Naruto…"

"I'm…so confused…" Naruto scratched the back of his head and offered a hesitant smile. "I'm glad.  Very glad…"

Sasuke's not the dad! Sasuke's not with Sakura!

"Great! So stop avoiding my questions, then!" the woman smiled innocently, but the look in her eyes was serious.  "When you left…"

"It doesn't matter," Naruto drawled.  "I don't want to talk about it, ok?" Even if you do know about the kyuubi now, I don't want to talk…

Sakura regarded him for a long moment before she smiled sadly.  "It's good to have you home, Naruto.  A lot of people have missed you.  Sasuke and myself included."

He wondered, at her words, if she even knew that was true; no one would have missed him…He smiled in return, though, and didn't hide the bitterness.  God, I want a smoke…


Missed me.  I wouldn't bet that a lot of people did…maybe Iruka for sure…but no one else...the thought flashed through his mind before he glanced up. "Hmm?"

"Would you like to stay for supper?"


Needless to say, when Rock Lee came home half an hour later, he walked in to find his wife giggling on the small couch, with an energetic and strangely dressed Naruto telling what appeared to be an extensive joke, all black fabric and tanned skin and yellow hair.

"—and then the big guy says 'Hey! Hands off your—" Naruto blinked and whirled in place, a strange bandage over his left eye.  "Oh—um.  Hey, Lee!" he grinned. "How—how's it going?"

Lee dropped his bag to the floor and looked at the smiling face of his wife. "Sakura—what—" When did he get back and what is he doing here? he wanted to ask, but feared it might be rude.

Her smile turned into a secretive special smile, loving and singular.  "Naruto got back a few days ago.  I invited him for dinner.  Did you find Sasuke?"

Distracted, Lee ran a hand through his shorter hair and frowned. "Yes, I did.  He's at a stand, and half-way through a second bottle…I didn't know he was…again…"

"Was…What?" Naruto asked, suddenly uncomfortable and out of place.

Lee dropped a kiss onto Sakura's forehead before he looked at Naruto, who sat down as naturally as possible.  "There are things you don't know, Naruto." the young man smiled warmly despite his words. "Although I'm glad to see you well, you…you have caused a lot of pain…to Sasuke, in particular."

"Lee—" Sakura chided softly.

To Sasuke—that again?

"What do you mean," Naruto said easily even as his posture changed to tense and wary, his visible eye narrowing.  Great.  First thing I get is a lecture—"To Sasuke?"

"I don't know the nature of your fight and I don't want to know.  It is your business—but Sasuke took your absence the hardest of us all.  I assume you know he's Anbu, right?" Lee slid around to sit on the narrow couch next to Sakura, entwining his hands with hers, his eyes relentless on Naruto.

At his question, Naruto raised a brow and nodded. "Anbu? Oh, I know.  He chased me down and knocked me out wearing that freaky mask.  What does it have to do with me?"

"Do you know that for the last year, Sasuke hasn't touched an ounce of sake or wine?"


Sakura tightened her fingers on Lee's wrists, looking at Naruto with sad eyes.  "Sasuke started…drinking after he made Anbu.  That was three years ago.  He didn't stop until less than a year ago…and until two nights ago, he hadn't touched anything stronger than water."

Naruto leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head.  "Sasuke was…was a drunk?  Are you trying to pin that on me?  I'm not the one who made him pick up a bottle—"

"Not like—not like that, no," Sakura interrupted, smiling reassuringly.  "He was…running and hiding, Naruto.  He was never good at coping with things…"

"You know he lives with us?" Lee said quietly.

Naruto nodded slowly.  Lee's gotten so much older…he's acting like a dad!

"It's because we were needed to keep him…here. Alive.  To help him." Lee paused.  "Whether we did or not is hard to say.  Sasuke isn't…the expressive type."

Naruto shook his head and sat forward, arms dropping to his lap.  "You realize this is all sounding like bullshit, right?  This is Sasuke we're talking about.  Sasuke!  He wouldn't—"

But the look in their faces told him that Sasuke had—and the guilt twisted with needling spines into his gut.  "Dammit," he muttered to himself. "Dammit.  I need a smoke.  I so need to leave.  Fuck."

"Naruto—" Lee's voice sounded and Naruto looked up into his dark eyes.  "I would have you know that I have missed you as well…even if I seem harsh and unwelcome.  I am glad to see you again."

Naruto couldn't find an answer other than a soft, twisted smile to match his feelings.


Less than fifteen minutes after Lee's arrival, Naruto found himself outside in the alley, Sakura's dinner postponed until tomorrow.  Instead, Sakura had asked him if it was possible to find Sasuke and ask him to come home.He didn't want to deal with everything that had gotten dumped on him tonight, the changes and guilt and mind-bending confusion.

Sasuke drinks…or did drink…Naruto scowled and pulled his cloak tight with one arm, cigarette in his mouth.  Because of me.

Well, too fucking bad, a part of him growled. He's not the only one with problems.

Naruto stubbed out the cigarette on the wall and flicked it off into space.  With a sigh of disgust at the situation, at himself—a part of him muttered that he would be better off just leaving and not coming back ever again, seal be damned—but he ignored it and darted off.  His senses picked up the faint traces of Sasuke's chakra; he angled in that direction, skipping easily over the rooftops and alleys.

He had to admit that he was curious about the entire deal—Sasuke, drinking? It seemed impossible.  I wonder if he gets all funny and laughs a lot like Jiraiya—

"I'm supposed to tell him to get back to the apartment, remember?" Naruto told himself as he landed in the shadows across from a clean-looking stand that stretched for twelve stools.  He could see five people grouped in the middle just beyond the curtain, and one sitting off near the end by himself.

Has to be Sasuke, he thought, despite the fact that he could only see the black-clad legs, and walked forward.  He ducked under the curtain, and paused.  Sasuke sat with his back to the world, one leg curled beneath him.  Three small flasks of sake were lined up neatly before him, and as Naruto watched, Sasuke lifted the shallow cup and tossed back a mouthful of the sharp-tasting liquid.  The Anbu mask—a simple white oval—lay flat and accusing, like a half-grown face in the wood.

Naruto shivered, then pulled out the stool and sat next to Sasuke.  "So, are we sharing tonight?" he asked, trying not to look at Sasuke's profile, trying not to feel nervous even though he was.

The dark-haired one didn't move other than to place the porcelain vessel onto the counter with careful movements.  "Mine.  Buy your own," he said without looking.

Naruto was relieved to hear that Sasuke talked slowly and clearly.  "You're a cheap bastard, Sasuke" he muttered. He waved off the man behind the counter to signal he wasn't going to buy anything.  "Are you almost done?"

Sasuke turned, blinking, to frown at him through the black strands of his hair.

So that's what he looks like without the mask, now, Naruto thought.

Sasuke's face was smooth, young looking, with his dark-smudged eyes peering at him in confusion.  Delicate cheekbones and a stubborn chin, narrow nose and slanted eyes. Even drunk, Sasuke had grown up into a flawless sort of beauty, cold and impassive.  But he's not cold, Naruto thought then, mind flashing to the few days ago when Sasuke had kicked him across a clearing and yelled at him.  He's got a temper.

"N-Naruto?" Sasuke peered.  "When did you get here?"

Naruto smiled slowly.  "Just now," he said.  "You should take that mask off more often."

Sasuke flushed pink, and the blond grinned wolfishly. Instead of responding, Sasuke tipped more liquid into the bowl and sipped at it.  "How'd you know I was out here?" Sasuke asked suspiciously. 

"Sakura," Naruto replied blandly and spun side to side on his stool.  "She wants to make sure you get home in one piece.  Are you done yet?"

Sasuke snorted, an almost-laugh, and tossed down the rest of the liquid.  "Bah.  It's early." He peered at his bowl and tilted it, toying with it.  "Naruto…" Sasuke slid a glance at him sideways. 

"Yeah?" the blond said absently, tapping his fingers and keeping his face turned away from the suddenly-interested group of men several seats away.

Sasuke arranged the empty sake bottles into a triangle, tilted his head and nodded slowly.  He pivoted on his stool to face the blond.  "Are you going anywhere?"

Okay, so a drunk Sasuke is somewhat interesting and definitely insane. Naruto raised a brow and waited.  "Not really, no."

Leaning towards him with one arm flat on the counter, Sasuke peered intently at the blond.  Despite the lack of the cold exterior Naruto was more familiar with, he wasn't able to tell the emotion glinting at him.  A tiny frown etched on Sasuke's forehead. 

"Do you want to go train?" the black-haired Anbu said slowly, quietly. 

"Huh?" Naruto said. Where the hell did that come from? "What happened to the 'I hate you' theme?  How much sake did you have?!"

Surprisingly, Sasuke stuck out his tongue and made a face.  "Stupid dobe.  Let's go; I want to train."  He stood without swaying, hands on his hips, and waited with a stubborn frown.

"You're trashed," Naruto pointed.  "I can kick your ass on a good day.  You really want to train?"

Smirking, Sasuke poked him in the forehead and drawled, "Are you scared, dobe?"

Naruto swatted at the hand, swallowed against the flip in his stomach—Smirking is illegal, smirking is illegal—and stood up.  He pressed a coin down on the counter, baring his teeth briefly, and ducked under the curtain.  "Come on, asshole."

He stumbled when Sasuke flashed him a grin, swiping the mask and hiding it in a pouch. This can't be good, Naruto thought.  He's really smashed and I'm in no mood to pick his ass off the ground—

But Sasuke seemed to have no trouble walking, he noticed, and reluctantly followed.

Let's not try to think of how pretty he is when he really smiles.  Or how nice his legs are—

Naruto winced and muttered a curse. And how about not thinking like that at all.  Yeah.  Definitely not happening. He put the thought from his mind with ease—it had gotten so much easier over the years to put unwanted thoughts aside—and followed Sasuke off behind the shadows of an alley and into a path guarded by tall trees.

He might actually be able to train like this, Naruto thought. Trust an Uchiha to train while three sheets to the wind.

It wasn't long before Sasuke paused, the paleness of his skin nearly glowing in the night, and turned off the path.  Naruto followed without question, curious and apprehensive all mixed in his belly.  He ducked under a low sweeping branch, and came into a clearing.

Impressive, was the first thought he had.  He stopped in the edge of the clearing.  Half of the place seemed devoted to traps and wires and some sort of obstacle course, the other furnished with logs and targets.  It had a well-worn look, and Naruto knew without asking that Sasuke made it a regular practice to come here.

He's serious, was the next thought, when his eyes found the other young man.  Sasuke had managed to unfasten the white chest-plate armor and was setting it neatly on a bare patch of earth.  Naruto watched him pull off his various pouches until he had the single holster on his left hip, then slip out of his sandals until he stood barefoot.

That's just…Naruto smirked before he pushed the thought away.  Walking up to where Sasuke stood, he yanked the cloak over his head, slipped out of his own assortment of bags and pouches, and folded the cloak around them.  He set his hat on top of it all, then straightened.

"Well?" Naruto asked when he stood barefoot as well. "What kind of training?"

"Sparring," Sasuke murmured.  "Let's go."

"Do you mind if I take this off?" Naruto asked, motioning to the bandage he kept over his stained eye.  "It'll be in the way."

"Sure," Sasuke drawled.  "I want you to be able to do your best."

"Hah, so funny tonight!" Naruto slid the bandage off and ran a hand through his hair. You can do this.  Just sparring, despite those little looks he keeps giving you.  No matter if he's barefoot…and it's been five years since you really knew his style and two days since you kinda kicked him in the face…Just some sparring.

Naruto rolled his neck, eyes narrow on Sasuke's form, and slowly smiled.  He had to admit that he was looking forward to it. 

Sasuke dropped into a crouch, a smile on his face and a flush over his cheeks, oblivious to his appearance.  Naruto swung his arms out, and darted forward.  He tested Sasuke's reflexes with a careful swipe at his face; the Anbu ducked and blocked, his own fist speeding towards Naruto's vulnerable midsection.  Twisting, Naruto switched his direction and kicked at the chest.

-grab the wrist-pull and turn-kick high-low-inhale-sidestep and back-

He's—Naruto rolled over a sweep—either not as drunk as I think or he's really good. He increased his speed and was relieved to notice Sasuke match his pace, blocking and ducking and attacking.

-block-duck-kick out and hope to connect-spring up-right fist-low palm-

Naruto found everything slipping away as he fell into the dance of adjusting and counter-attack and breathing. 

-block-and duck-twist-spin-kick-punch—ouch, too close--grab and pull-throw-left fist-

Naruto scored a grazing strike low on Sasuke's belly—the force of it sent him stumbling as Naruto caught his balance and his breath.  They eyed each other for a moment, and with a hidden cue, danced back into the practice.

Time passed into a good hours worth of fighting, aches and bruises from the occasional strike making themselves known.  It was a surprise to find that neither was stronger.  Sasuke had the edge in style and strength, and his sharingan—even though he wasn't using it—more than compensated for Naruto's speed and stamina. 

Thunder sounded by chance as Sasuke feinted and grazed his chin with a knee—Naruto found himself with his right hand wrapped around Sasuke's wrist, the other boy swaying gently into him—and all of a sudden his world snapped back into reality.  Rain trickled from the sky, the kind of spattering that preludes a downpour.

Sasuke was grinning in the dark, the rain glistening on his skin.

"Sasuke?" Naruto fought to catch his breath.  The other didn't seem hear him, lifting his face to the rain that was falling steadily faster.  Forgot that he was drunk, Naruto thought slowly.  He's so good, even drunk, that I'm barely able to outmatch him.  "Hey, Sasuke—"

Fingers tightened over his arm; Naruto didn't even realize the other had been holding him.  Sasuke dropped his face down.  The expression was something Naruto couldn't place, but before he could pull away—his mind was reeling from the closeness—Sasuke spoke.

"I'm sorry," Sasuke whispered with rain on his lips.  "I'm sorry I made you go away."

Naruto forgot to function; he could only stare. "Sasuke—what did you say?" It's raining, his mind offered.  I'm getting wet.  Sasuke said he's sorry.

Holy shit.

"Look," Naruto muttered.  "You don't—you don't have to say that.  Really."

"I said those stupid things and you went away," Sasuke repeated.  "The Hokage wouldn't let me go and look for you.  She thought I was…was being irrational, or something."

Naruto pulled away as carefully as possible.  "Come on, we're getting soaked.  We'll get sick," he said and pulled Sasuke to the somewhat drier areas under the trees.

…he wanted to look for me, he thought between breaths.  He wanted to find me

"Sit down already," Naruto muttered, finding his own niche among the tree roots and leaned against the rough bark.  Sasuke obligingly sat beside him, elbows on his knees and watched the rain pour down.

I didn't want to do this, he thought.  Fuck.  Naruto dug through a pocket and pulled out his crumpled pack of cigarettes.  He lit one with a slightly soggy match, and inhaled deeply. 

"Look," he said when he had taken a second drag.  Sasuke turned his head slightly in his direction.  "It wasn't you.  I mean—you know how much of a pain it was to live with everyone's hatred and all that shit—I didn't leave because of you!" Naruto repeated forcefully, scowling at the ground.  "You…You were just the icing on the cake."

"Icing?" Sasuke said disbelievingly.  "What do you mean, icing?"

"I mean…" Naruto sighed.  "Everything was bad, and I thought we were friends, and I thought…I thought you were being what everyone else was and I couldn't take that.  I didn't want that, so I left." He tried to keep his fingers from shaking, to keep his emotions calm.


He doesn't believe me.  Did he spend the last five years thinking it was his entire fault?  The oblique horror of it pricked at him; Naruto couldn't understand it. So all of his problems, all of his attitude and shit is because of me—because of him—

"Was it fun?" Sasuke asked wistfully.  "Going away, I mean.  Forgetting everything and just living…Was it fun?"

"Fuck yeah," Naruto breathed. 

"I've wanted to leave so many times.  To forget about Itachi and about my family and just leave.  I wanted to find a small place somewhere and be someone else…" Sasuke whispered.  "But I'm Anbu, and assigned to the Hokage." His voice went bitter at the edges.  "So I stayed, because Sakura needed me, and the village needed me."

Naruto rasped out a laugh and waved the cigarette in the general vicinity of the village. "I…I wanted to come back so many times," he confided.  "But I couldn't.  Too scared.  I'm not the same and everything else is different.  Does that make me a coward?"

"Yes," Sasuke replied dryly.  Then he smiled, and looked pointedly towards the cigarette in Naruto's mouth.  "Do I make you nervous?"

"Goddamn Jiraiya," Naruto muttered.  "I can't believe he said that."

Sasuke leaned back against the tree, shoulders brushing, and turned his head until his hair was caught in the bark, and he was watching Naruto in the gloom.  He didn't speak.

The blond endured about five seconds of the staring before he turned with a frown and asked, "What? What do you want?"

The look on Sasuke's face had gone somewhat pensive and a soft unfelt fear.  "I…" Sasuke hesitated.

"What?" Naruto groaned. "Stop staring at me and tell me."

Sasuke inhaled slowly, and replied in a voice as quiet as the rain. "I want to taste you."

For the second time Naruto forgot to breath, choked on the lungful of smoke and started coughing.  "What?!" he sputtered.  "You want to what!?"

Oh, his mind breathed.  Oh this is good.  This is very good.

Naruto ran through a checklist of exactly why he shouldn't consider something as rash and impossible as Sasuke attracted to him, why it would be a bad thing—they were teammates, they were somewhat friends and rivals—he hadn't gotten laid in months—Sasuke was drunk quickly replaced the first reason why he should get up and run back to the Hokage's tower—

And Sasuke's eyes caught his and the expression was so strange on his face, so—so unknown that Naruto found himself wishing he had drank a bottle of sake himself.

"Fuck," Naruto whispered to himself.  "You," he said.  "You want to taste me?"

Sasuke nodded, hair sliding across his face.  The blond could see a blush edging down his cheeks in the darkness, could sense the heat radiating from his body and smell the rain-water and spice on his skin.

"Do you know what you're asking?" Naruto said, uncertainly. "I mean—are you serious?"

Again, Sasuke nodded, a tiny smile flitting on his face.  "You're scared," he teased.

"Fuck, no," Naruto muttered, expecting to be kissed, expecting to be laughed at or something— "Go ahead.  Taste me."

Sasuke closed the short distance, the faint taste of sake on the breath he exhaled, and pressed his mouth to Naruto's neck.  His tongue was warmer than anything Naruto had ever felt when it moved against his skin and licked away the rainwater.

Naruto closed his eyes against the sudden rush of arousal, against a whimper, and tilted his head to the side.  Sasuke's hand made its way near his hip, braced on the ground, as the other found the opposite side. 

Shit, Naruto had time to think. Shit, not him—I can't—with Sasuke—oh god—

Sasuke made some sort of sound when his lips reached the pulse just below his jaw, his tongue soothing a heated path.  He rested his cheek to Naruto's and paused to breathe in the musky scent of the blond, his hair plastered to their skin.

"Naruto," Sasuke mumbled, not knowing what he was going to say.

The other turned his face, his voice sad. "You don't—" Naruto began, heart thumping and his stomach shredded into tiny bouncing pieces.  He shivered at the sensation of the sliding droplets on his skin, at Sasuke's warmth and scent and nearness and tried to think.

Moving with a speed Naruto hadn't expected, Sasuke dipped his head forward and pressed his mouth to the lips in front of him, kissing him with as much experience he could muster.

Naruto heard himself give a peculiar sound and opened his mouth to really kiss the dark-haired Anbu.  His hands slid up wrist and elbow and cupped the face as Sasuke accepted his tongue and met it with his own.  The skin of his face was feverish under the coolness of the rain, a strange duality that Naruto was beginning to accept as simply Sasuke.

But he could taste the sake on Sasuke's tongue, the suddenness of Sasuke's eagerness throwing him off.  Naruto pulled back with a wrench of his control, holding Sasuke's face—flushed and warm and parted mouth—in his palms.  "Sasuke—" he began.

"Don't—I want—" Sasuke whispered, pulling at Naruto's hands.  "Please."

Naruto pulled him forward and tucked his head into the crook of Sasuke's neck, his arms around Sasuke's torso to keep him still. "Fuck," he whispered. "I can't.  I really want to, but I can't—you're drunk and you're emotional and—I'm sorry I can't—"

"But—" Sasuke replied to Naruto's hair. 

He pushed him back to arms length and forced the dark-haired boy to look at him. "If you can ask me when you're sober, I'll think about it.  This…this isn't something you'd want from me," he warned desperately.  "I mean it, Sasuke!"

It hurt to say it and to watch Sasuke gather the shards of his mask and slip them into place. 

"Alright," Sasuke whispered after a moment.  "We should get back or Sakura's going to be angry."

You're missing out, a voice filled in.  You could have pushed him to the ground and screwed him six feet under.

Naruto watched Sasuke pull away, moving too carefully to be normal, too stiffly, and told the voice to fuck off.

…ask me when you're sober…

They left the clearing in the rain, soaked to the skin and two feet apart at all times.  No one spoke, no one looked towards the other.  When Sakura opened the door for a drenched Naruto and Sasuke, she smiled in relief and let them inside before going to fetch a pair of towels.

Naruto watched Sasuke vanish down the hallway with what appeared to be practiced movements, accepted the towel Sakura offered, and asked "Do you mind if I sleep on your couch?" while something screamed Run! Get out!  Go away!

She hugged him impulsively. "No, of course not," she said and moved carefully to find him a blanket. 

Naruto sank onto the couch with a twisted sense of dismay and relief, and wondered for the umpteenth time what the hell he was doing.


a/n ~ Well—whatcha think so far?  Is it angsty enough? Is it slashy enough?  Next chapter should be amusing, no?  basically, sex talks and some more characters (mind you, it's only the second day Naruto's been back so he hasn't gotten the nerve to visit everyone yet)  I hope it wasn't too cliché, either…_ 

I can't do Lee for shit, either…so if he comes off all weird, I'm sorry.  I just figure that he and Naruto weren't that close…^_~;;;