Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto…I'm just borrowing.
Author's notes: This is AU, all right? Naruto and Sasuke are about 23. Yeah, another fic…XD
Pairings: SasuNaru, a little of NejiNaru, a bit of NaruHina, SakuLee, GaaraNaru, KakaIru…and Itachi's here too.
Warnings: Yaoi. Future LEMONS and violence. But of course, that will not be archived here. XD
Summary: A.U. A former member of a vigilante group, Naruto is now a hard-hitting journalist for Tsunade's newspaper. He enjoyed a normal life until Sasuke came back. Sasuke, who had betrayed their vigilante group for power. Sasuke, who now wants Naruto back at all costs.
This one is for the TDs.
Bygones and Bylines
Chapter I: Timeliness
"Oi, Uzumaki! Phone call for you!" Inuzuka Kiba shouted, barging into the small cubicle. He held out a cell phone in one hand.
Uzumaki Naruto didn't look up from his laptop, his hands continuing to dance across the keyboard. His blue eyes narrowed in concentration. He had heard the loud-mouthed dog-boy, but he was too preoccupied with writing out his story to respond.
"Can't you see I'm busy now? This story's due in an hour and my old hag of an editor-in-chief will KILL me if I didn't–"
"Uzumaki!" Kiba sounded more insistent. "It is the editor on the–"
Leaping out of his seat, Naruto grabbed the cell phone from a startled Kiba. "Old hag. What the hell–"
"Drop everything. In my office, NOW!" Naruto winced as the phone on the other end was slammed down. "Dammit," he muttered. He knew why Tsunade was calling. He knew this would come the moment he saw the newspapers for today. He was only a little surprised the call hadn't come earlier, along with the rest of the calls he received late last night and early this morning. He had purposefully left his cell phone at home and plugged out his line so he wouldn't get any calls. He should have known better to underestimate Tsunade.
"Well?" Kiba asked, looking curiously at Naruto, whose eyes had darkened to midnight blue.
Naruto handed the cell phone to him. "She wants me in her office, now." He picked up his denim jacket and put in on. Pointing at his laptop, he said, "Finish up the story. It's half done, anyway. Take care of my laptop, okay?" Before Kiba could protest, Naruto was out of the cubicle.
Naruto waved at the cops as he stepped out of the police station that was his beat. He hailed a cab. One stopped immediately in front of him. Sliding in the back seat, he told the driver to head for the Konohagakure Times building. Then he laid his head back on his seat and closed his eyes. It was going to be a long day.
"The answer is no, Tsunade-old hag," Naruto said in a firm voice as soon as he stepped into the cluttered editor-in-chief's office. He quietly shut the door behind him.
Tsunade, editor-in-chief of the Konohagakure Times and Naruto's boss, glanced up from her computer and looked warily at the young man. "You've seen the newspapers."
"Yeah." Naruto felt sick the moment he saw the headlines just this morning. He had immediately tossed the newspapers into the trash. He had lost his appetite, too.
Tsunade's lips tightened into a grim line. "The publisher just called a few minutes ago." Naruto winced at the mention of the word 'publisher'. "He asked why we were the only newspaper among all the other newspapers who didn't print that Uchiha Sasuke, heir to the multi-billion Uchiha Group of Companies and Hebi Corporation, had arrived late last night from Europe after a five-year absence. He asked me why we didn't run what probably was the biggest headline this year. He asked me if I mind looking for a new job this week." Tsunade slammed her palm on the desk, scattering the mountain of papers on her desk and glared at Naruto.
Naruto inwardly flinched. One of the greatest mistakes a newspaper or a journalist could make was being outscooped by the competition. The object of newspapers and journalists were to deliver the news as objectively, as ethically, as accurately, and as quickly as possible. If they failed, they might as well be looking for another job. There was no room for tardiness in journalism.
It also didn't help that there was an ongoing battle between the newspapers for the highest circulation. Higher circulation meant more advertisers, and more advertisers meant more money for the owners of the paper. Sad to say, the newspaper was part of the media industry, and therefore should earn money.
"Hey, why are you angry at me? I'm not assigned–"
"Brat, you know why." Tsunade's quiet words cut through Naruto's babble like a knife. "Tell me the truth, Naruto, did you or didn't you know that the Uchiha would be arriving yesterday?"
"No." The word tasted bitter to Naruto. He shrugged. "I mean, how the hell would I know? I haven't spoken to the bastard in five fuckin' years, and I have no intention of speaking to him again." His eyes narrowed into tiny slits.
Tsunade smiled. "You're a journalist now, Naruto. You're supposed to be objective."
"I can be objective with a lot of things, Tsunade-old-hag, but not with him," he said in a quiet voice.
Tsunade stared at the young man in front of her, not for the first time noticing how different Naruto was from the small, smiling, hyperactive teenager she had met seven years ago. Naruto was taller now, almost taller than she was, and though he still smiled, his genuine smiles were as rare and as fleeting as summer rain. He was still very hyperactive, though he now put his hyperactivity to good use. With his boundless stamina, he would doggedly pursue a story, able to wear down even the most reluctant source or subject…and not a few fellow (and rival) journalists.
She cleared her throat. "Nevertheless, I am assigning you to write an article about Uchiha Sasuke."
"No. No. NO." Naruto shook his head vigorously. "I am NOT about to deliberately volunteer to torture myself. I am not a masochist. Send someone else, like Neji." Then he remembered the animosity between the Hyuuga and Sasuke. "Okay, not Neji. They'd kill each other. What about–"
"Naruto," Tsunade tried to sound gentle, but her voice came out sounding exasperated. "They won't be able to interview the Uchiha. They don't have the capability, the personality, or the connection. You do."
"No. And what makes you think he'd speak to me, anyway? He didn't when I tried years ago." Naruto looked away, not wanting Tsunade to see the pain in his eyes.
Tsunade saw the pain. It pained her to do this to Naruto, but she had little choice. The publisher made sure of that. "Give me a story on the Uchiha, or you and your current staff will be fired," the bastard had said.
The newspaper had been the only thing Tsunade had left of her family's legacy. However, when the newspaper fell on hard times, she had no choice but to sell it to some greedy businessman, but damn it, she wasn't about to give it up to some money-hungry shareholders that didn't give a shit about respectable journalism. "Look, brat," Tsunade began, sounding very tired. "I wouldn't be asking you this if this wasn't important. Think about it, okay? If you decide to do it, that's good, but if you don't, I will not force you."
Naruto gazed at Tsunade. "But what about the publisher–"
Tsunade grinned. "I'll handle him."
Naruto took a deep breath. "I'll think about it." He smiled at Tsunade with that fleeting smile of his. "Thanks, old hag."
"Keh." Tsunade waved him away. "Now go. I still have things to do. And stop calling me old hag!"
"Whatever, old hag." Then he ran from the office laughing as Tsunade threw a book at him, not to mention a few curses.
That night, Naruto lay on his bed, a piece of paper clenched in one hand. On the paper was the number of Sasuke's office. He had been a little suspicious on how easily he had obtained the number. Just a few phone calls and boom, he had Sasuke's number.
If getting Sasuke's number had been easy, summoning the courage to call the Uchiha was another matter. Naruto had been holding on to the number for an hour or so, debating whether to call the Uchiha or not. And as he debated with himself, memories he had locked deep in his mind came peeking out, unsettling him further.
Memories of Sasuke's black eyes, looking intently at him as they sparred, observing Naruto's movements, matching them and eventually learning enough of Naruto's to beat him into a bloody pulp.
Memories of the same intense dark eyes, watching Naruto's face as his pale hands touched Naruto, caressing his heated flesh and eventually drawing out needy moans of pleasure from the blond beneath him.
Memories of those jet black eyes now tinted with red, glaring at Naruto as they fought to the death, breaking bones as they battled on, and eventually leaving behind shattered dreams and bonds.
"ARGH!" Naruto sprang up and slammed a fist on the mattress. His eyes and cheeks were burning. "Just call him, Uzumaki! How bad could it be?" He plugged back his phone and started dialing Sasuke's number. Holding his breath, he listened while his heart pounded into his chest as he waited. First ring, second ring, third ring, fourth ring, nothing yet, oh well, maybe no one's there. It's not like I'm going to interview him anyway. I just wanted to check if this was his number and–
"Uchiha Sasuke's office. May I know who's calling?" The cheerful voice made Naruto jump. For a moment, he could not speak, thoughts running wild in his head. Oh, shit, shit, shit–
"Hello? Is anyone there?" The girl's voice jolted him back to reality. Naruto calmed himself. At least it hadn't been Sasuke who had answered.
"Uh…this is the Konohagakure Times–"
The girl immediately cut him off. "I'm sorry, but Uchiha-sama doesn't accept interviews and–"
Naruto opened his mouth to try to persuade the girl but froze when he heard Sasuke speaking in the background. "Who the hell is on the phone?"
Naruto jerked his head away from the headset as if burned. Sasuke's smooth voice seemed to sound the same, all fire and ice with just a hint of obsession and a touch of seduction, but somehow it had changed. More confident, more decisive, more…unsettling.
He was so lot in his thoughts that he didn't hear Sasuke speaking until the Uchiha said, "…moron–"
"I'm not a moron!" The peevish retort burst from Naruto's lips before he could stop it. Naruto inwardly cursed at the silence that followed his outburst.
Finally, with a smirk on his voice, Sasuke said, "Naruto. It's been a while, moron."
Fuck! Naruto knew he should put the phone down, unplug it again, turn tail, and leave town, moving as far away from where Sasuke was as humanly possible.
Sasuke was speaking again. "This was unexpected, Naruto. I didn't think you'd call me or care I was back."
He should have slammed the phone down then. Instead, he spat back, "Fuck you, bastard. I don't care if you're back. You can rot in hell for all I care."
"Why are you calling?" Quick, vicious, direct to the point, no emotion in his voice. Definitely Sasuke.
"I need to interview you for the Konohagakure Times." Damn. What made him say that? he hadn't even decided if he would interview Sasuke or not. Stupid, stupid.
"I see." Sasuke sounded amused, and it annoyed Naruto to think that Sasuke thought Naruto was unsuited to be journalist. Hah. He'd show that bastard. "There's a party tomorrow. We can talk about the interview then," Sasuke said.
"What? I do not want to go to that party of yours. Why can't we talk about it now?"
"I'm busy. I'll send an invitation to your office tomorrow. It's a black tie affair, wear something appropriate."
Too easy. Everything was a little too easy. Naruto took a deep breath, thinking things over. He shouldn't have really called Sasuke's office at all, but he couldn't abandon the old hag. Tsunade had been the mother he'd never known, and she had helped him out when times had been tough. It was only fair that he should help Tsunade in her time of need. Besides, it was just a party. What harm could Sasuke do when there are hordes of people in a room?
A lot, actually.
But he needed to interview Sasuke so Tsunade and his friends could keep their jobs.
He was doing this for Tsunade. Really, he was.
Gripping the handset tightly, he whispered, "Fine, you bastard. I'll attend that stupid party of yours, but I swear, if you try anything–"
Naruto could almost hear the triumphant smirk on Sasuke's lips when he replied coolly, "Would I really do anything, moron?" Before Naruto could form a reply, Sasuke slammed the phone down.
"Shit," Naruto spat, staring at the headset. A moment later, he was hitting himself on the head with the headset.
Author's notes: So, how was it? Did it suck? Do tell! This was partly inspired by Weiss Kreuz and You're my Loveprize in Viewfinder by Ayano Yamane. Why journalism? I don't know. I kinda see Naruto as a crusading journalist out to expose the wrongs and corruption of bad people. XD The vigilante part of his past will appear next chapter, I promise! By the way, hebi means snake in Japanese. XD
Naruto as a journalist: Really, I think he's suited to this. He might be a tad dense, but he is perceptive in his own ways…and he has lots of stamina to pursue stories and run after reluctant sources…ehehehe…
Next chapter: Naruto and Sasuke finally meet after five years and things get a little hot and heavy. Other characters make their appearance. Lime (light lime for