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WARNING: (Specifically for Chapter Four - Following Leads) : Contains supernaturally stimulated sadomasochism and auto-erotic asphyxiation. No kidding. Consider yourself warned. Now venture forth brave souls. If I survived writing it, I imagine it should be easier on you to read it... but only marginally so.
"Jinsei Iroiro" 'there are many destinies'
Banner outside Jounin Lounge - Naruto Chapter 43, Volume 5
"It's not a matter of luck.
It's just a matter of time."
- 30 Seconds to Mars, The Edge of the Earth
Chapter Four: Following Leads
These are the fifteen minutes between when the temple fell and when the forest caught fire.
Sasuke would explain it to himself in a way that sounded right. It was enough to make sense for the moment and he expected little else from life.
"Konoha is a mechanism." Perched on a large bit of stone left over from a toppled pillar, he let the words sink in. He twirled a Kunai carelessly in his right hand, while the left flexed; the fabric wraps were barely singed but it felt liberated without the customary guard.
"Distributors of death and dysfunction," Sasuke continued, almost wistfully, to the rubble that housed Naruto's semiconscious body. "Their idealism is a drug too, which I am a product of."
After a long pause, the gravelly voice of Naruto crawled through the air, "D-don't you think it's just... a BIT selfish… to blame a nation for -your- fuck-ups...asshole?" A bloodied hand lifted the heavy tree that pinned him and launched it away.
Sasuke appreciated that, while it physically pained him to do so, Naruto still took the time to call him names.
"I'm glad you've decided to join the conversation," Sasuke said finally, having patiently waited for him to come to. When Naruto fell back against a tree it cracked against his weight. Not enough to shatter or break apart, but enough to show that monstrous Chakra of his was working its magic. The former friend was otherwise impassive and Sasuke clutched the Kunai a bit more firmly.
"But, no" he continued frankly, "it isn't selfish in the least. The greatest warriors Leaf had grew beyond their menial boundaries of duty to home and country and defected... and for what? There is no place for true Masters" Sasuke explained, coming to his feet, knowing because of Naruto's more even breath he was playing possum. Of all things. "There is only death and legend."
"Konoha isn't made up of fuck-ups and murderers. It's made up of Heroes!" Naruto spat, head still downcast, sounding nearly convincing even though he hadn't yet managed to stand. "Good-People," he said, shaking his head like a crazed person arguing with themselves, "who're just... human. They are all heroes."
Swiftly, but not swiftly enough, Naruto darted forward, hands working into seals. Panic paralyzed him as he reached Sasuke, and he was repulsed to discover Sasuke contorting himself, long and snake-like, to wrap around his arms and torso. Sasuke dragged the weapon in his hand across Naruto's body, leaving rivulets of scarlet in its wake. It felt like a boa constrictor was pressed in on Naruto from all angles, except it was Sasuke, dark, powerful and fully enjoying seeping new poison into open wounds.
His dark head rested against Naruto's, chin pressed into the junction of his left shoulder, glancing down over the display of fiery Chakra chasing in and out of slivers cut along his chest up to his throat. "That's rich coming from you," he said in a low calm voice. "Didn't like you much, did they?"
A shudder ran through the blond and in a poof of smoke Sasuke found himself tangled around a piece of tree. -Kawarimi no Jutsu-, effective replacement technique.
Indolently, Sasuke stretched himself out, returning to his normal form, and lounged against a fallen beam. He licked the lingering liquid on his blade tip while he smirked upwards at a tree limb, not a great distance away but very high up. Naruto expression of revulsion mixed with confusion was more satisfying than it would have been had he actually managed to poison the brat. He flung the weapon, in warning, knowing Naruto would dodge it easily enough.
From a branch higher and further Naruto could plainly see a black decay spreading from the blade's tip where it struck the tree trunk. Within seconds the tree started to change, began to look as it had been burnt from the inside out. Limbs, high and leafy, turned black before his eyes. He watched thoughtfully, as usual processing actions quicker than words. The doubt in him multiplied. Before, he'd thought perhaps he couldn't bring himself to kill Sasuke. But if Dark Poison and powerful Jutsus hardly phased him--
Despite having dodged the poisoned weapon, despite having jumped away and dropped to a lowered branch on a different tree, it seemed the blackness followed. He looked around for a visible trail, for any sort of connection but only discovered the accelerant proved to be him. Black hand prints were left on every tree limb he touched, in every boot print trailing down to the ground. Naruto panicked, looking down at his person, searching. It was everywhere, all over. The blackness, swallowing him whole, burning him from the inside out. He opened his mouth to scream but blackness filled it. He realized, almost too late, the Sasuke's GenJutsus was just a smoke screen meant to unhinge him.
Sasuke had long disappeared into the trees before Naruto pulled himself together. The sense of him was still strong; the sound of his humorless laughter rang through the wood.
Naruto calculated. Giving chase seemed to be all he did when it came to Sasuke. And what good had that ever got him? He wouldn't do it again this time. He'd make sure of it.
-Naruto closed himself off and reached within--
A wave flashed, like before when there was still a shrine. A divine white light pulsed forth, burning away all blackness. Carnal, powerful and misdirected. Its effects slashed at the forest causing the wildlife to teem, scatter or simply fall away dead.
--but the Kyubi seemed to scream rather than answer the call to arms.-
Spent. Naruto collapsed.
From between winding branches and swaying leaves he watched in the same cold manner that came easily to him, analyzing the tone, agility, strength, emotion, scent, sound and other minuscule tells.
In the Shrine he had been lucky maybe, no, destined to survive. The Justus he was performing put him in a sort of trance, pulling him out of one realm into another, making him half-spirit half-man. This time, he had anticipated it. The same option was not available, but he had sacrificed lives before and for less. He summoned up a Snake, one of Manda's brew, large enough to encase him, stupid enough to die without too much of a fuss. After it dissipated in a hiss of char and smoke Sasuke was left to his thoughts and yet again a temporarily unconscious Naruto. Should have evaluated the lack of necessity of this confrontation. Should have tried to set a trap. Should have tried to ascertain how to use Naruto's monstrous strength to ensure his own demise. Only his thoughts weren't what they should be. His only possessing thought was that it offended him, that he offended Naruto. Not in a regretful sort of way, but in a purely physical way. It made his hair stand on end.
Being outdoors and not confined to the stone shrine, the forest began to burn. Sasuke paid it no mind. Instead he pinned Naruto to a tree with Naruto's own Kunai. Since his own was poisoned, using it would mean this game of torture and humiliation would end far too quickly.
Tactical things were what first come to mind. He considered the skin on the underside of Naruto's bicep, baby-soft and particularly sensitive. Using one of Naruto's shred-tip Kunai under each arm, pushing it to tear through skin and muscle, he pinned Naruto to a still burning tree. He wouldn't die from a wound like this; it was meant to hurt him, severely. The groans he made in protest were a testament to his success. Naruto's position and weight made it hard for him to breathe, let alone move without tearing nerves. Sasuke had dislocated his arms when he started to show signs of waking. The shoulder blades were left bruised purple and misaligned, making them poke out from under the skin. Lacerations coated him in uneven intervals, leaving bright red slivers across his face and neck and what could be seen of his arms. Scorch marks turned his right side shades darker than his left and little fissures of angry orange Chakra danced across the surface, healing, repairing, but not quite fast enough.
"You...made me do this to you."
Sasuke eased back, putting a few scant feet between them, and visibly warred with himself. His tone sounded incredulous, but his expression was murderous. Naruto jerked in reflex to it, which caused his arms to rip further. He growled around a whimper as he fell back hard against the tree. New blood seeped down his sides, pooling under his feet.
For a few seconds Naruto blacked out, but sheer stubbornness brought him back. With a feral glare he tried to pick out Sasuke's position, too far away to hit but too near for comfort, in the landscape of blurry highlights and foggy shadows.
Divided, aggravated, unsure, Sasuke paced; it wasn't expressed with his words so much as it was in the fast and rigid way his hands pulled each cord's clasp individually plucked apart, and then he shrugged off his robe with a warrior's grace. He placed it in a neat pile several feet away, his white, blood and tattoo stained hand running briefly over the fan pattern before he shoved it out of sight. Suddenly and noiselessly, Sasuke appeared hovering beside the tree. Naruto spat and laughed bitterly when he hit Sasuke on the side of his face.
--Take that you, fucking bast--
The liquid that hit the alabaster that formed Sasuke's skin was solid, moist and brown-ish red looking, and not a good sign at all. He didn't wipe it away but allowed it to slide down his face, watching Naruto stare at it with a perfectly mortal realization of fear. Sasuke smiled, licking his lips reflectively while catching a bit of the taste and trail of Naruto's life on his tongue.
It was fear and not hope talking when Naruto said, "You won't kill me."
Sasuke's grin abruptly faded; his lips pressed into a frown, his mass of hair and shadowed lids made his eyes unreadable even as they radiated in the dark. His tone though, his tone gave everything away.
"What makes you say that?"
"You didn't... before?" Naruto snorted, his breath hissing as the effort so obviously pained him. He leaned his head back slightly, his breath was harsh but his voice was hushed. He didn't talk about that day, not to anyone, no one knew. No one had the right to.
Sasuke nodded, understanding. It was hardly his proudest moment but then it was one of his greatest.
What had been the shrine was now a clearing saturated in their Ki, their blood, their weapons, their techniques and their monstrous Chakra. It was as if someone had turned a switch off and the land now held no natural magic or mystery, just a playing stage and a captive audience. Half looking away, Sasuke drew in a breath, his face grew thoughtful and distant, and his stance grew tense. His fist eased, his fire-singed fingers straightened and his eyes glowed.
Naruto felt he would pass out again; he tried to focus, but it felt like watching fractured images slide over one another, pieces of Sasuke. The friend and brother-in-arms, and then there was the avenger, the betrayer, the murderer. Had any individual impression been more dominant Naruto would not closed his eyes to fight back tears, and certainly would not have tried once more to stand up and--
"It's been a long while, Naruto," Sasuke's voice dripped dark with amusement. His eyes moved skimming features and details too closely. Sasuke leaned up against him, and pressed the back of his forearm into Naruto's chest, driving him further upright against the onslaught of pain. Nearness and pain, things one and the same to their friendship.
Naruto once more willed himself not to black out, not to cringe, not to snap back or growl out some half-thought retort. It took longer for Naruto to open his eyes and this time when he did they shimmered in a color akin to hate. Sasuke's absurd nearness brought him well within range of Naruto's glaring hurt. The strength his stare held was nearly physical, but not quite, like nearing an open flame. The heat of it washed over Sasuke causing him to break out in cold sweat. Fixing eyes with Naruto was like staring into an abyss... and Sasuke had no intention of looking away.
Sasuke may have immobilized Naruto but it was becoming very clear he was no longer in control. Funnily enough, that near, as his fearsome mind was evidently becoming fractured, he wasn't scary. Not in control. Not scary. In such close proximity he was just -'That Bastard'- and it reminded of last time-- causing Naruto's heart rate to increase, his mind to cloud and the memories to come forth.
The last time. They'd been like this -close, angry, teeming, trying, searching, fighting- like this. Within arm's length. Within battle. The sense of it came rushing back on them both. Along with a sense of regret, out weighed by the sense of a challenge. If they had to do it all over again--?
"Maybe I thought of something better, just for you." Sasuke said so quietly, as if it took effort to stay in the present, to not get lost in the past.
-If they had it all to do over again, that place, that fight--if something, anything had been different, which one would end up dead? Would it be both?
"Fuck. You." Naruto replied, his voice equally low but in no way small. It carried that same sense of melting of promise, of reckoning, waves of something bright burning and flesh searing.
-If it had happened any differently would that have decided things finally? What it was to win? What it meant to lose?
If the earlier blow to Naruto's spine that had wrenched his arms from their sockets hadn't got his full attention, the firm exploratory hand on his chest certainly had. The gesture mocked and reminded of when Sasuke's -chidori- had run him through.
"I intend to," said Sasuke derisively, dragging his hand steadily lower, a slow focus of electricity following in its wake, searing the top-most layers of skin. Agonizing Naruto without much effort. Like an animal fighting his leash, Naruto threw his head back. His throat clenched, face reddened, and he writhed away from Sasuke's voltage grip. Sasuke closed the remaining gap between them, his left elbow crushing Naruto's jugular, imprinting that hideous stone necklace into his collar, his knees pinning Naruto at the hip and groin.
The forest fire created teeming walls of smoke overhead, closer by the second but somehow miles away. The savage intensity that Naruto reeked of swallowed them both and cut off the world. On their little patch of earth, saturated in blood, the electricity that Sasuke emitted made the air turn thin. Power condensed, compiled, expanded, stimulated.
Naruto struggled within. While he usually blamed the demon-fox for the hard-on he always got during brawls, what really ensnared him were chemical red eyes bearing down at him, scrutinizing, antagonizing, challenging him, like before, the same, but different.
Sasuke was making a play for power, it always was and Naruto didn't delude himself to think this was tender or right or predictable even. Kyubi whispered random and heady things at his mind that kept him aware, painfully aware, and kept him from convincing himself he had gone insane when Sasuke didn't obscure his triumphant little smirk when Naruto's arousal jabbed against his thigh. It was an obvious rush for Sasuke to shape his reactions to this extreme. Sasuke liked watching the struggle, humiliation, and panic in him. Sasuke tore the electrical connection off without warning and covered Naruto's mouth and nose, before a whimper could escape. Even smothered, the pleading echo of it rang through Sasuke's perfect ears, gratifying him for the time being. It wasn't torture exactly, it certainly wasn't a killing technique. It was a challenge to bring the monster to the surface, and Sasuke could see in Naruto's expression, in facial marks, bruising around the eyes and still expanding canines, that his method had worked.
Sasuke pulled slightly just to watch the monstrous power course through the shuddering vessel. A boy, who happened to be Naruto, who happened to mean too much to him, who happened to be grinding upward against him, grimacing fiercely, -Jinchuuriki-, who happened to be a vessel of a demon pure, power unattainable. It was gratifying, it was the biggest turn on in his whole miserable life. It was special, and not 'you kill me or I will kill you' type of special it had been before.
Like in the shrine, like in the forest, the savage white fever burst from Naruto's skin. It felt red without needing eyes to see it, it felt alive. And there was no dodging it this time. It would consume Sasuke, if the Kyubi hadn't intended on him to live, for now anyway. And while Kyubi articulated it, shaped it, the sentiment was purely Naruto when he spat out -"You-Fucking-Cocktease"- seconds before tearing himself off of the tree he had been pinned to.
Had his arms been realigned Naruto's movement might have been a bit easier to read. No matter, it was chakra-born, wraithlike nails that clutched Sasuke and flung him skidding across the woodland floor. The consuming heat pressed down on him, causing his breath to quicken like a trapped animal skittering against the walls of his cage. Friction, fists, claws and sudden dampness smothered him. Sasuke would never be so undignified as to black-out but he cursed himself inwardly for having let his guard down even slightly and for not fighting the weak-willed impulse to wipe the dirt from his eyes. He needed to see this.
Somewhere far off the sound of thunder tore through the air, wiping clouds away. Water fell through sky in a rush overhead.
Naruto moved over him, urgently yanking at Sasuke's clothes. The discomfort of bunching fabrics was forgotten to the quick displacement of air and skin when Naruto's body crushed down on him. Sasuke sucked in an aggravated breath and tried again to wipe his eyes clean. Naruto backhanded him, probably harder than he intended to but with his lame arms, still bleeding slightly and only beginning to mend, it was difficult to judge how hard was too hard. The same logic accounted for the threat, idle but true, claiming he was going to split Sasuke, "in two". Small mercy being the blow cleared up his vision some, even if it felt like his jaw had been shattered.
Every attempt Sasuke made to adjust Naruto forced it back, either by weight or sheer presence. Finally Naruto's wounded, furious and clumsy movements managed to flip Sasuke onto his stomach. It was all something of a powerful blur, no one gesture Sasuke could commit to memory but somehow everything he could recall as Naruto. Sasuke could remember clearly that closeness would be lethal, but he had grown immune to the fear and drew his legs further apart, using his calves and knees to pull Naruto closer and closer and closer.
A slew of unintelligible curses spilled raged above him as Naruto aligned himself over Sasuke. While his Sharingan might have warned him of the movement nothing could prepare him for the sensation, skin breaking, bone shaking, penetration-- it should have hurt more, it should have hurt more--
The snap of Naruto's limbs realigning was lost over a growl, of passion, of pain, of things very different but the same.
Sasuke raised himself to believe that closeness was akin to weakness. Naruto, breathing steam and fury, reminded him of that. But when it came to close range combat different rules applied all together, and it was deemed strategically sound to give a little ground it if gave your enemy a false sense of security. Especially easy to manipulate because he was Naruto. Naruto, the hero, the idiot. Naruto who was both friend and foe. Moving with little precision, moving within him, under the skin, where maybe he had always been but never so damn close as when they were fucking or fighting, which was the same thing, inevitably.
Sasuke choked back what was part grunt, part obscenity and dug his fingers into Naruto's biceps, tearing new wounds into old scars. Friction, course and steady, carried Sasuke beyond what was left of control. Sex, or fucking, however fulfilling, was never so gratifying as the reckoning, terminal and great, of a greater demon eat away the edges of perception. While climaxing may be the most inviting way to meet a mortal end it was also the least likely. It wasn't part of the plan. Instead Sasuke summoned up something significantly darker, colder, abominably more powerful and tainted than hatred. Cursed seals could be contraceptives by way of happenstance.
Naruto, himself in mind much more than body, retracted in immediate recognition, as Sasuke's skin became tainted sickly gray, cursed leaden and corrupting, and limbs like wings extended and encircled Naruto, wrapping around the last of his resistance and strangling his resolve.
It was soul defining and corrupting, this fight, always the same but somehow different. Every time one rose, in power, in presence, the other had to fall away. Meeting head-on meant a challenge, meant something worthwhile and always only one breath from losing yourself in the climax. Disgust and intrigue were simultaneous, Naruto shoved away from Sasuke, putting several wary feet between them. In the Valley of the End it was monstrous and terrible, corrupting, this transformation, redefining where their limits lay, where their friendship was laid out, what power meant to each of them. In the dirt floor of the forest, far away from civilization, it was merely a new level to an age-old game.
"That," Sasuke began, panting and grinning simultaneously, which obscured the words somewhat, not that Naruto needed to hear them to know. He'd heard them often enough in his nightmares, "That," went on Sasuke, "didn't hurt, Naruto."
"Shut up," Naruto lashed out lamely, dragging himself to his feet, staggering to a stance, ready to strike.
Sasuke took longer to raise himself, but his poise was liquid and perfect, always absolutely perfect. Around him, the forest floor was scorched with vibrant, tainted Chakra, that danced and laced its tendrils and was the only show of the Uchiha's impatience. The falling rain could do nothing to wash its filth away.
Sasuke laughed abruptly with false light, "I'm not ready to lose."
Naruto's darkened determined eyes became demented, they glared promise of new violence at him as he sprang from a standstill into the air. His gnarled and bestial hands fell into seals familiar and techniques hidden. Sasuke knew Naruto couldn't have been more engaging had he challenged outright. Maybe he really did want to die. Hell knew, if the curse seal didn't do it Naruto might just. If there was ever a fact more deceptive in its comfort, it was that time and the differences would never alter that for them.
The same, but different.
While Naruto summoned up a thousand different memories, a hundred thousand different lessons learned, a million reasons why committing this crime should be wrong, none of it kept him from acting. That is until the air caved in and the ground rose up to meet his face.
What could be perceived as luck or an act of god was actually a skillfully executed NînJutsu, that had three components; the nearby lake, a precise topographic target and a mighty force to boost it, and one goal; misdirection. Putting out the fire in the forest was just a plus.
Suddenly the air carried a dubious sort of stillness, molecular and carnal simultaneously. Rain falling through the air seemed heavier, smelled headier, felt more solid for all its liquid state. The atmosphere surrounding felt too real to be real, an illusion, so clear and perfect you could nearly make out the particles of water, individual molecules of hydrogen and oxygen colliding in mid-air, binding, circulating. The impact of each drop stimulated the next, the dirt, the air, the world and it was nearly more than a trained Shinobi mind could understand.
When the aggressor approached he searched his brain for a solution to this ambush; he'd witnessed a similar trap before at age twelve in Wave-Country. The Sharingan would be useless, it'd be a waste Chakra to even try. In the reassessment of recollection he knew 'team work' had been the only resource last-time. The likelihood of trusting someone at his back was as irrational as assuming his adversary wasn't just any other countless pursuers of late.
As if responding to his thoughts shadows formed on the surface of the forest ground, creating the shapes of enemies emerging. By function and design it was obvious they were Bunshins, solid or shadow made no difference under the circumstances. Five at the very least, distributed in equal and strategic placements between Naruto and him. Some carried scrolls and exerted masked techniques and focus into the earth and air, two held station beside each man holding firm the genjutsu of swirling wind and leaves that ensnared them. One figure, more assertive than the surrounding ones, drew nearer, a Senbon cradled firmly in its gloved hands. Later, when he would question why he hadn't countered the ambush, instead he would find himself remembering the details with clarity, asinine and numerous as they were. He'd blame them for clouding his mind and keeping thought and logic from being proper bed-fellows. He'd never admit it was neither hesitation nor paralysis, but the third implausible option of not wanting to fight back.
While a mask and cloak kept the identity of the newcomer shrouded, determined over-bright eyes caused an ominous sense of familiarity to run through him. Held captive, nearing demise, he observed swaying weight under the billowing cloak, the cut of the tattered uniform, the womanly placement of hitae-ate strapped securely to a curved waist, the expert movement of the smooth limbs, the bitten fingernails on the exposed fore and middle fingers of each hand, the turn of the weapon and lack of hesitation while delivering a crippling blow. With pitch-dark wide calculating eyes, he sensed no fear, not from Naruto, himself or their assailant. There was a misplaced contentment manifest even as blood carved from his throat poured out, albeit short-lived when in an instant the landscape twisted and evaporated into nothingness.
Bits of dialogue is Sasuke mostly quoting himself, in Naruto Volume 26, Chapter 231, Inane Translation