"This Changes Everything" - by Ichigo-chan

Chapter One: The Way of Things

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Ichigo (that's me!): Man! Bout time I posted this!

Sakura-kun (my good friend and beta reader): YEAH! The world HAD to read it! HEHEH!

Ichigo: **ehhh** I don't know bout that -

Sakura-kun: NAH! Since I get to write this part myself I'm going to shamelessly endorse this story! Not just cuz I'm its beta reader (ok, one of them X_X) but cuz it's AWESOME!!!!! XD

Ichigo: **hits Sakura on the head with her keyboard** CUT THAT OUT! Let them decide for themSELVES!

Sakura-kun: **squeeeee** you're so mean Ichigo! T_T

Ichigo: suck it up. XP Anyways! Seriously now, I've just been typing out chapter after chapter of this fic for over a year now I think. It's been revisited, revised, and edited, SO many times! But it's gotten to the point where I just think, I've got to stop worrying, and just post the damn thing! Your guys' feed back is what's really going to make the difference! If you guys like it, I'll be readily posting the rest almost regularly! ^_^ So, your comments - even the bad ones - are welcome!

Plot Summery - The relationship between Sasuke and Naruto has changed a lot over the years, especially now that they both seem to have come to the same realizations. However, Sasuke finds himself unable too runaway from links to his past - especially those in the form of a strange, tragic, second generation, missing-nin. To find out more about himself, his brother, and to save a life, Sasuke has to decide just how far he's willing to go - as well as what, and who, he is willing to leave behind.

Now, about this first chapter - for those of you fan-girls eager to dive right into the shounen-ai I'm sorry to have to disappoint you but you'll have to wait till chapter two! But not to worry! This story's full of cute, lovey, serious, "angsty-squee" (as Sakura-kun says) but not the really fluffy kind cuz this is a serious story after all (but not THAT serious!). So, I hope you can bare with me for just one chapter while I set the stage for events to come! Thanx so much!

Look forward to hearing from you all!

Chapter Summery - it's Sasuke's seventeenth birthday and he's less then impressed about it. However, things do seem to have a way of sorting themselves out and perhaps, even getting better then expected?

Warnings - none this chapter (sasunaru-shounen ai in fallowing chapters, as well as violence, language, and the like ^^)

(Oh yeah, and this is my disclaimer: "not mine" o_o)

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Have you ever noticed the way, that when, you wake up on your birthday you always expect to feel different - but you never do? Well that was exactly the way it was that morning when he sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. To him, it just felt - muggy.

July had been a horrible month for heat, and yet a horrible month for rain, and today was no exception. Slipping out of bed and walking solemnly over to the window, he looked out into the cloud filled sky and sighed as he pulled at the fabric of the sweat soaked shirt. The ugliness of the weather outside seemed foreboding, almost as if it were a message - warning him to stay inside.

Everything about his body was feeling heavy as he wondered into the bathroom. Staring at himself in the mirror he felt as if he wasn't even looking at his own reflection. Dark eyes - devoid of light - and a muted expression, showing little, or nothing, of the small amount of energy he may have been hiding. A long moment passed before he pushed aside his long, midnight black, bangs from in front of his eyes and tucked them behind his ears, to begin his daily routine.

******

Cleaned, dressed, and as physically ready for the day as he could be, he sat down at the breakfast table - half wishing that food could just magically prepare itself.

Instead of doing anything he just laid his head down on the cold, hard, surface of the table and sighed, his inner self far less ready for the day then his outer.

He knew what was in store for him, as it never failed. He'd leave his house and immediately be swamped with cheerful smiles and well-wishes, gifts, and requests to be aloud to lay a single, oh-so-much-desired, "birthday" kiss on his cheek. Letting them do so, was like his gift to them - and he despised it - as he had no desire to. But after so many years, one does tend to give up on such trivial things.

Seventeen. Seventeen? He didn't feel seventeen. He felt seventy. His body wasn't listening to him it just wanted to lie down on the floor and die rather than face the day ahead of him. So, in a sense, perhaps it was.

He closed his eyes, and enjoyed for a moment, the feeling of the cold wood against his face. He tapped his knee with his finger - listening to a song inside his head - and attempted to distract himself from his feelings of dread.

However, his little bit of bliss was short lived, as there was a knock at the door only a few minutes later. Sitting up, he bit his lip and shook his head, wishing to himself over and over again that something tragic would befall him and he have to stay at home in bed.

Hesitantly he turned the door knob and slowly opened the door. But much to his surprise there wasn't anyone there. There was, however, a neatly wrapped package on his doorstep which he picked up and quickly took inside.

"To Uchiha, Sasuke." he read the tag aloud. Sitting down at the table again, he sat for a moment, examining the plain looking blue box, with a single white ribbon tied around it. Picking up the tag again he flipped it over, and found about half a dozen, unfamiliar, names scrawled on the back.

Carefully undoing the bow and removing the tape he unwrapped the package and opened the plain white cardboard box inside. Underneath the tissue paper was a second box, this time wooden, and beautifully engraved with his family crest. Undoing the latch and flicking it open, inside he found a pair of gold plated shuriken their star-shaped edges filed razor sharp and his first name engraved on one and his last name on the other.

"Why?" he asked himself aloud. Sighing deeply he closed the lid and placed the second box back inside the first.

It was going to be a long day.

******

Rather than try to avoid the inevitable, Sasuke left his house around noon and headed towards the academy to see if good-fortune had granted him a new mission. His solitude, however, wasn't even able to last two blocks -

"SASUKE-KUN!" he cringed horribly at the sound of an all-too-familiar voice coming up from behind him as he walked along the roadway. Turning around, he tried to look as un-vexed as possible.

Ino came running up to him, her short, blond, hair bobbing at her chin - framing the huge smile on her face. Morosely fallowing at her heels, like a disgruntled dog, was her all to unconcerned boyfriend of two and a half years, Shikamaru.

"Happy birthday!" she shouted, throwing her arms around his neck, and causing him to have to stagger to keep upright.

"Thanks." Sasuke nodded, trying his best to keep from sounding completely resentful.

"Kiss?" she smiled questioningly, knowing full well that he wouldn't deny her. Sasuke just nodded and she leaned over and kissed him quickly on the cheek.

"Hi there." Shikamaru held his hand up in a half-hearted attempt at a wave, when he'd finally caught up.

"Hey." Sasuke nodded back at him - thinking to himself that it was nice to see at least someone didn't care.

"I got you something!" Ino continued to rave as she took Shikamaru by the hand and began to swing his arm back and forth in her enthusiasm.

"Really?" Sasuke said, continued to play along.

"Uh huh!" She grinned, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small black box. Handing it to him, Sasuke opened it, and found a pair of sterling silver studs inside.

"I'm tiered of you wearing gold," Ino explained, with an irritated pout on her face "so I got you these instead!" she smiled brightly, motioning to his ears. Sasuke had long since had them pierced, up in the top back corners of his cartilage where they'd be less susceptible to being pulled out in a fight.

"Thanks." he smiled weakly, actually more grateful for them then he was letting on.

"Well, we've got to be going." Ino nodded briskly, "So much to do you know!"

"Bye." Shikamaru nodded with a sigh as he was dragged off.

"Bye." Sasuke shook his head, half laughing to himself at how funny they were together, as he watched them walk off.

"How the hell does he put up with that?"

Leaning back against a nearby fence Sasuke change his earrings and enjoyed for a moment, the feeling of new, cold, metal inside his ears - before heading off again.

******

He was stopped nearly a dozen more times before he reached the academy, receiving all manner of gifts, flowers, and kisses.

Iruka and Godime were discussing some manner of issue when Sasuke waked in, laden with gifts, and a most bitter and unamused expression on his face.

"Sasuke!" Iruka smiled at him brightly, "Guess there's no need to wish you a happy birthday is there?"

"Dear god, please no." he sighed, dropping his armload of things on the nearest table.

"Looks as if you've been busy." Tsunade smiled at him as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Please, just tell me you have a mission for me." Sasuke said, with a hint of desperation in his voice, "Something that will involve me leaving." he sighed bitterly, crossing his arms across his chest.

"No Sasuke, sorry." Iruka shook his head. "Nothing like that."

"Why not just take the day off and go enjoy yourself a while?" Tsunade suggested, sounding a little mocking.

"Would YOU enjoy this?" Sasuke inquired skeptically, his disdain showing plainly in his expression.

"Well, no matter." she shrugged; an amused little smirk on her lips as she shook her head, "If something comes up I'll be sure to tell you."

"Fine, thank you then." Sasuke groaned, bowing to them as he left.

******

Sitting alone on the roof top of the academy Sasuke sighed and thought to himself about the trivialness of all this. He hated having his birthday. He hated all of the attention. He hated having to deal with a hundred shy, skittish girls - and even the bold ones like Ino. They all drove him insane.

The girls of Konoha were all like that though; to at least some degree almost every single girl his age was consumed with him. He laid down on his back and starred up into the gloomy sky, which was now begging to seems as though it were a reflection of what he was feeling inside.

Why DID they like him anyway? What was it about him that made them all adore him? It wasn't as if he was going out of his way to make them do it. He held up his hand above his face and studied the back of his hand, as if it would reveal to him some great secret of his inherent attraction.

5' 8": shorter than most boys his age. Bitter and reclusive: hardly attractive qualities. Skill, power, talent: hardly what made someone attractive. At least in his mind. He just couldn't figure it out. What was so desirable about Sasuke seemed to be very obvious, to everyone but him.

Then again, a little part of himself was always very smug about the whole thing. He knew he had a superiority complex it wasn't like he hid it very well and it was doubtful that all the attention didn't go to his head, at least a little.

But it was funny to see girls like Ino - with their caring and devoted boyfriends who would do anything for them - still swoon and get giddy when ever he was around. Yet the whole situation was dissatisfying. That was just it - all those girls with their caring and devoted boyfriends. He was no such thing to anyone. Not that he was wanting to be. But still -

Rolling over on his side he began to feel bitterly sorry for himself. An entire day in which he was especially glorified and yet he was still feeling horribly alone.

He'd much rather have been off on a mission somewhere, fighting, spying, gathering information, getting hurt, ANYTHING. Now he just had the rest of a long and miserable day to pass feeling sorry for himself.

"Sasuke-kun?" he heard a tentative voice call out his name. Sitting up he looked down over the edge to see Sakura's familiar, sickly-sweet, face looking up at him from the ground bellow.

"What?" he called back to her monotonously.

"Nothing," she shook her head quickly, "Hokage-sama just told me she saw you come up here, and I wanted to invite you out."

"I don't know." Sasuke sighed - the idea not making him feel particularly enthused. He'd long since grown used to Sakura's attention, and thought of her more of a sister than he did a potential lover.

"You don't have to if you don't want to." she shook her head, with her usual warm, understanding, smile, "I'll be at Ichiraku with Naruto if you want to join us." she smiled, and with that - left him to his musing.

"Naruto." he repeated aloud - with what felt like, very old, memories flashing in his brain.

Truthfully, he hadn't seen his over exuberant, ex-teammate, in a long time. Everybody worked on separate missions most of the time nowadays, especially since more then a handful of his old classmates were already chunnin's; himself, Sakura, and Naruto included.

He didn't want to admit it really, but he'd been missing Naruto a lot the last couple of months. Sure they saw each other occasionally, but, it wasn't the same as being on the same team and working and training together like they did when they were kids. Naruto was really the only person Sasuke thought of as a true friend and probably the only person he'd really ever felt anything for. And sometimes, he wondered, maybe. Stopping himself from thinking any further, Sasuke jumped up and headed over to Ichiruka by way of the rooftops - avoiding anymore potential encounters.

******

"Sasuke!" Naruto shouted ecstatically, when he saw him come walking over. He jumped up from his seat and ran over to him. "Long time no see!" he grinned widely.

"Hi Naruto." Sasuke nodded, a hint of a smile on his face. These days Sasuke found himself having to look up, ever so slightly, to look Naruto in the eyes. But really, in his mind, Naruto had never seemed to change at all from day to day or year to year; he was still as happy, vibrant, and determined, as ever.

However, if you were to look at them then, and had known them as children, you'd say that nothing about them was the still the same.

Both boys were now far more then just boys - taller, leaner, scared from fights, and strong from their endeavors. But unlike Sasuke, who looked his age, and almost as dark and foreboding as his brother had looked then, Naruto still had his childs face, and his bright, unshakable, eyes.

"What have you been up to lately?" Naruto asked, as they both sat back down on either side of Sakura, who tapped away contently on the edge of her bowl with her chopsticks - happy to see the uplifting effect Naruto had on Sasuke.

"Just missions mostly." he shrugged, "Plus I'm finally going to join the Anbu sometime soon." Sasuke nodded.

"Thought you might do that." Naruto smiled, "I was almost wondering why you hadn't already."

"I guess." Sasuke shrugged again, as he'd never even know himself why he hadn't done it sooner.

"I heard you saved a young girl on your last trip out." Sakura complimented Sasuke as she twirled her ramen around her chopsticks.

"Oh, yeah, but it wasn't a big deal." Sasuke shook his head modestly.

"How is saving somebody not a big deal!?" Naruto shouted emphatically, "You always were the heroic one weren't you!" He said, reaching around Sakura to poke Sasuke in the shoulder with his chopsticks.

"Not really." he shrugged.

"All the same, I'm glad I get to see you again!" Naruto said excitedly.

"Me too." Sasuke smiled, nodding and thinking to himself how welcome a personality like Naruto's was when he was feeling the way he'd been all day.

"Oh yeah!" Sakura jumped, "I almost forgot, I got you a present Sasuke-kun."

"You didn't have to you know." Sasuke sighed, as Sakura began to rummage through her bag.

"I know. But I always do anyway don't I?" she smiled at him.

That was true, she always did. She was always good to him, always there for him. He couldn't even really understand why some times. He was never very nice to her, not as much as he should have been.

Sakura was the genuine article when it came to people who really and truly did love him and he knew it. Which was what made him feel the worst.

"Here you go Sasuke-kun." she blushed, handing him a plain white envelope.

"Should I open it now?"

"You can if you want to." she nodded, looking down at her hands with a sheepish grin. Ripping open the top edge he pulled out a plain white card with no picture on the front, and opening it up he found that there was no writing inside either.

"Sakura?"

"It's because, I know you don't want anything, and that you hate your birthday so much." she smiled, "I know I never get you the right thing anyway, so this time I got you nothing - but still something - so that you would atleast know I was thinking of you anyway."

He sat their for a moment, staring at the blank card in his hand, and then smiled. She was right, but not completely, she really DID know what he wanted.

"Thank you Sakura-chan. Really." he nodded, and leaning over, he kissed her on the cheek.

"Um, thank you. " she blushed profusely, clutching at her pant legs, "Well, you two," she laughed a little as she got to her feet and gathered her things, "I've really got to be going!"

"See you later then Sakura-chan." Naruto smiled and waved at her.

"Bye." Sasuke nodded to her, and they watch for a moment a she disappeared into the steady stream of people walking down the street.

"I thought you said you weren't going to encourage her." Naruto snickered.

"What? I didn't!" Sasuke grumbled, moving over into her seat.

"Oh you SO did." Naruto grinned, and poked him in the shoulder with his chopsticks again.

"Whatever." Sasuke sighed, leaning his elbows on the counter.

"Hey Sasuke," he heard Naruto question him, and turned to look up at him.

"What?"

"I was always meaning to ask you. Do you like Sakura-chan yet?"

"What? No, of course not." he retorted sharply, "She still just a close friend is all. It's not like I have many, so I could see how maybe you'd think that. But no, totally not." Sasuke explained overwordedly, sounding a little put off.

"Whoa," Naruto smiled again, holding up his hand defensively, "I didn't mean to make you mad."

"I'm not mad. I'm just sick of everyone thinking I need somebody!" Sasuke snapped at him.

"Hey, I didn't say that." Naruto pointed out.

"Whatever." Sasuke huffed. They were quiet a moment before Naruto started again.

"Hey, Sasuke, why don't you come over to my place tonight?" Naruto asked, "We could hang out again like we used to, you know?" he smiled at Sasuke.

"Um, sure, I guess so." Sasuke shrugged.

"Great! Well, I've got to be going now," Naruto beemed, hopping up from his seat, " but I'll see you again tonight ok?"

"Sure thing." Sasuke nodded.

***

To be continued -

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Ichigo: DAH HA! First chapter - FINISHED!

Sakura-kun: Yay! ^^

Ichigo: now we wait -

Sakura-kun: yes - waaaiiiitttt - **taps finger on her head**

Well! That's just the beginning, so I know it was as RIVETING as all that, but it's just setting the stage for every thing that happens later. You know how it is. I hope you all like my style and that my grammar and spelling weren't THAT bad. Sakura-kun and I try our best!

Now we ALL know what to expect for the next chapter don't we! (( Sakura-kun: **fan-girl squeel**)) But that's DEFINITELY not all there is to this story - there's still - THINGS to happen **evil grin**.

What to expect in later chapters - SASUNARU just for starts! ^^ Plus, the old team gets back together for a rather UNUSUAL mission. Sasuke receives a rather unsettling birthday gift, that changes the tone of his situation completely especially when the gifts sender is finally relieved. As well, a complicated new factor is throw into the mix, that changes the dynamic of Sasuke and Naruto's relationship forever.