Warning : shounen-ai, mild yaoi, weird fluff,mild violence, mild language, Guh—OOCness (or maybe not), slight suggestive themes, mild spoilers, alterations with the latest and possibly future timeline – M rating for safety. Things inside the (parentheses) are not authoress' notes. I'm not very knowledgeable about the geography of the Naruto-world, so… yep, I'm making things up :D This fanfiction is rather sweet, considering that this in a post-time-skip setting. I'm not sure if this is cliché, since after all, there has been an onslaught of post-time-skip fanfics XD Oh, and a make-out scene at the last segment XD

Disclaimer : I don't own anything.

Sasuke's Birthday Present

-- Sasuke x Naruto --

bound by an Endless Chain

He opened his spitefully-heavy eyes, but immense darkness still greeted him, letting him feel as though there was no substantial difference between his opened eyes and his state when his blue eyes were still lethargically closed. The air surrounding him felt painfully cold against the skin exposed by his marred clothing. The chilly environment caused another shiver to run up and down his spine. The entire setting felt like a heavy blanket portentously draped over his wounded and weakened body, as though he was trapped, at the enemies' utter mercy.

He tried moving his head, if only to observe his unfamiliar surroundings better, but he found out that something weighty and cold was wrapped securely around his neck, easily ceasing his efforts to move around. A couple of half-hearted shakes on his hands and feet told him that they were also under the same condition.

It's dark, I'm lost, I'm cold and I'm hungry, He mentally complained, grunting when he tried swinging his legs around, only to feel a strike of pain on his thighs. The pointed object dug more on his thighs—it feel like a pointed rock, actually. He closed his eyes briefly, willing himself to not shout out loud at the more-than-unpleasant feeling.

It continued for a couple more hours (in reality, he really wasn't sure because he couldn't exactly tell the time from his presence here in this darkened fortress). Somewhere around his nineteenth (or maybe even forty-eighth) attempt to regain more data about his surroundings, he heard a rustling sound from somewhere in front of him.

The sound became louder with each second that passed—he recognized it to be the sound of firm footsteps and the jingling of metal keys inside one's pockets.

He frantically schooled his expression into a neutral one, wanting to assess his captor's personality and identity first before moving on to thoughts of him becoming free. After all, with the way the wars have been raging on for four years already, everybody's an enemy.

He was with Neji, Shikamaru, Sakura-chan and Kakashi-sensei for a mission to retrieve an important scroll from their spies on the Rock Country. The silver-haired jounin didn't tell him anything about the scroll, but he heard from Sakura-chan's hushed conversations with Kakashi-sensei that the Rock Country was sneakily helping out with Sound's plans of domination over the whole continent. They successfully retrieved the scroll, but it seemed that the former ally of Konoha, the Rock, sensed that the Konoha has finally caught on their betrayal. They were ambushed on their way back to their village.

He lost sight of his teammates as he fought off a couple of skilled ANBU members—he couldn't even remember much—heck, he couldn't even remember fighting. However, it's blatantly obvious that he was captured—by whom exactly, he has no clue.

He was jolted out of his glum thoughts when he heard the footsteps stop and the keys' jingling became intensified. He could hear a couple of shushed mutterings; he didn't strain his head to hear the words since his whole neck and lower jaw became freakishly numb when he last moved his head. The keys' chiming sounds never returned; instead, the footfalls resumed—this time though, it seemed that the person was walking calmly over a wet floor, if the mild splashing noises were any indication.

There was a slight hissing sound and he saw a spark of flame dance around the person's opened palm. He still couldn't see the person's face; his eyes were more than taken-aback from the sudden presence of bright light. Despite the couple of moments of acclimatization to the light, he still couldn't see the person's face. A huge dark-colored cloak (…with a few dark-hued designs scattered rather randomly) was covering the person's body. After another couple of moments, his mind caught up with the fact that the person produced (…and was still currently holding out) the flame on his palm.

"You look more stupid than usual, gawking like that, Naruto," The person commented blandly, but despite the apparent disinterest on those mundane words, it still caused the blond's heartbeat to pound crazily. Blue eyes widened in recognition, because really, he couldn't forget that voice, even if he wanted to.

Screw the neutral expression.

"Sasuke," He spat the name with as much hatred he could muster, feeling oddly exposed and helpless. The palm holding out the flame lifted up, letting the captive see the all-too familiar face of his rival, of his ex-teammate, of his best friend, of his enemy, of his captor, of his most important person. The cold look inside those hauntingly-empty crimson eyes stung even more than Itachi's merciless Tsukiyomi—it stung even more than the harsh coldness of the shackles that held his limbs immobile.

The raised hand also illuminated Sasuke's outfit—something that elicited a strangled-sounding gasp from the younger one's mouth. Black coat designed by red-colored clouds—it's unmistakably the uniform for the fearsome organization called the Akatsuki. For a fleeting moment, Naruto thought that it might be Itachi that's standing in front of him. The thought was banished quickly, since the voice was purely Sasuke and Sasuke alone.

Sasuke, on the other hand, looked contented with his unhidden scrutinizing stare, directed solely at his blond rival, seemingly oblivious to the growing fidgetiness and embarrassment on his ex-teammate. Scarlet eyes unashamedly traveled around Naruto's body, sprawled helplessly, almost invitingly, in front of him, the blond unable to do anything about his unwavering stare.

He didn't want to admit it but Sasuke's stare made him feel so weak and so friggin' bare with his bloodied and slashed clothes (thanks to his battle with the Rock ninjas before). After a few more seconds, the younger Uchiha smirked sadistically at him, and turned around facetiously, making his way back to the opening of his 'cellar'.

The footsteps against watery floor stopped—and—

"It's nice seeing you again," Sasuke mumbled lowly, too softly to be heard, but Naruto heard the words nevertheless.

Naruto hated it, but he couldn't help but admit that he didn't really mind being captured that much, if it meant seeing his much-missed best friend once more.

By turning our backs to the kindness of others, we try to change even solitude into our strength.

If there are as many farewells as encounters, let us believe in the day when we will meet once more.

One by one, I want to find the concealed meanings of everything.

Then, we will understand each other's reasons for that awkward goodbye.

We are going to change, though we've started to sense dreams and hearts.

No matter how much time flows by, there are some feelings that will never change.

A couple of hours (or… whatever, he's not sure, since he couldn't tell the time, right?) after Sasuke's visit, a guard nervously shuffled inside his prison. He opened the door silently and hauled in a normal-sized table. Then, he moved to light up some candles, bringing in some brightness to the dim cave-like prison. Lastly, he laid down a couple of great-smelling food on the wooden table.

He nervously looked up at Naruto, who gazed questioningly back at him. Then, the guard took out one bowl of rice with some meat toppings and scooped a spoon in it, before shoving the said spoon to Naruto's closed mouth.

"E-Eat this, please," The guard pleaded shakily, as though afraid that somebody would appear and suddenly kill him. The blond prisoner opened his mouth warily, and chewed the food offered. It's nice, Naruto thought hazily, though it might be because he hasn't eaten in a long time. After a couple of amazing spoonfuls though, curiosity won out and the blond asked the still-shaky guard. "Why are you feeding me? Aren't you supposed to let me rot here and die?" The blond asked dryly, feeling some semblance of strength pulse through his body, though it's still not enough to regain the chakra lost from his previous mission.

"Sasuke-sama will kill me too if I don't feed you," The guard nervously answered, fidgeting on his position, one hand trembling on his side, one hand still holding the spoon wedged inside the bowl.

Naruto raised a curious eyebrow, expression darkening and looking a bit perplexed. "…Too?"

The guard took a deep breath, closed his eyes and re-opened them, as though still shaken from the scene he witnessed. "…He killed the guard before me. Said something about starving you—"

The words were lost as Naruto was swept away by some unknown—or not really unknown—emotion. After so many years, Sasuke still made him feel this way…

After some time passed, he heard the very familiar sound of keys rattling noisily against each other, against the heavy metallic door opening towards his prison. The cold from his shackles became rather normal by now, but then, it still made him feel chilly. He opened his eyes groggily, only to see a pale hand (…which he could see, strangely, even amid the cloak of darkness) form a quick sequence of hand-seals. Light flooded the room, and the chains soon disappeared, which ultimately led to Naruto falling towards the wet ground ungracefully.

"Ugh," He groaned loudly, the murky-looking water splashing his battered clothes wet. The pain on his backside and on his knees (when he fell) wasn't pleasant either. He felt his orange-and-black jacket slipping from his shoulders; he felt his clothes becoming wetter with each passing second.

"Get up, moron," The younger Uchiha said evenly, tone only betraying a little of the distaste that Naruto knew enfolded Sasuke's thoughts regarding him. He got up warily, though his mind was angrily screaming at him for being so obedient.

Really, he was very, very tired of all this. He wanted to just lie down and—and—he just wanted things to be—

He stood up with his back straight, posture oddly similar to the one Sasuke sported at the moment, minus the blatant arrogance and permanently acidic demeanor. He lifted up jaded cerulean eyes to stare right into those enchanting and equally terrifying scarlet orbs, unsurprised to see nothing but the swirling mass of emptiness. Naruto knew those eyes—those were the same eyes he saw on the mirror every time he cared to look.

He admired—he wanted to bring back—he wanted Sasuke so much that he has become more and more like the other teen.

"Any more orders, Your Highness?" Naruto asked slowly, sarcastically. The tone caused one elegant eyebrow to rise in faint interest, before it settled down again. Sasuke's face curled into a displeased frown, but it also faded away, drowned by the blazing fire on his palm, drowned by the darkness that burned from deep within him, leaving an empty, cynical person in front of the person who wanted him most.

"Follow me," Sasuke said curtly, showing his back to the blond, like he did to Naruto, abandoning the only person he has let inside himself, so many, many times before.

This time though, Naruto shuffled quietly behind him, and followed Sasuke's lead towards a path un-lit by any form of light.

He was shown into a normal-looking room, though the dark blue colors instantly told Naruto that his rival was the one who arranged the color-scheme. A few more moments of staring at the room told the blond captive that the room looked so much like Sasuke's bedroom back then—he saw it during one mission where he borrowed something belonging to the moody Uchiha. It was a little over seven years since it happened, but to Naruto, it was something he'd never forget.

He'd never, ever, forget Sasuke, no matter what.

Even though Sasuke was the one who pompously declared that he cut off ties with his past—Sasuke was the one person who lived, no, continued to live inside his dark, ominous past. Naruto, despite his defiant reaction to forgetting his teammate, was the one who lived for his future.

Sasuke continued to walk towards the other end of the room, the side with a couple of bookshelves aligned neatly. The room is almost as dark as Naruto's previous prison, but the presence of the younger Uchiha gave some odd sort of warmth to the blond following the older one's footsteps. As they walked over the highly-polished mahogany floor, Naruto's eyes saw the trademark (if not ridiculous-looking) straw hat perched silently above the Prussian blue blankets.

Sasuke didn't glance back at Naruto, even when he led the blond out his prison, unaccompanied by any guards, even as he placed his palm on one of the thick books, as though he was sure that the blond would follow him, as though he was more than sure that Naruto wouldn't try to stab him while he wasn't looking. Overflowing confidence or blind trust, Naruto wouldn't know—knowing the arrogant bastard, however, reassured Naruto that Sasuke was still as heartless and as conceited as ever. It's more heartbreaking to accept—but it's also a lot easier than thinking that Sasuke trusted him that much, despite all their rivalry, despite all the blood shed between them, despite all the hopes shattered deep inside them.

The pressure of Sasuke's palm pushed the book away, and the bookshelf quietly moved, only to reveal a smaller, secret passage.

Cool, Naruto thought with a lot less enthusiasm than he possessed when he was twelve and screaming that he would be Hokage, no matter what. The two walked in not-so-uncomfortable silence, until they arrived at a sort-of dead-end. It was a much smaller room, but it was filled by different scrolls and weapons.

"Wait for me here—do not make any sound and do not come with anyone else but me," Sasuke said fiercely, almost possessively, with a lot more coldness and apathy than he possessed when he declared that he didn't kill Naruto at their heartrending battle at the Valley of the End on a mere whim.

Naruto nodded mutely. If his uncanny subordination surprised the Akatsuki member, he didn't show it. Sasuke left the blond (who sat against one wall, shifting a bit to get a comfortable position) inside the room without another word, locking the heavy metallic door and placing additional genjutsu to prevent anybody else from entering the room.

To the blond, Sasuke's words were like something painfully obvious. After all, he has always been waiting for Sasuke, ever since they first met.

Far away, far away, our feelings are ceaseless

If we could only go back to those days of when we laughed innocently together…

If, if it's allowed, I'll willingly sacrificed everything

For your smiling face once more...

He waited patiently inside the room, feeling a bit apprehensive when he continued hearing crashing sounds, bloodcurdling screams and the over-all sounds of destroyed objects. He wondered, not for the first time, about Sasuke's unexpected affiliation with the Akatsuki. It was rather matching, though; Sasuke is probably strong enough to be considered one of the S-Rank criminals, and he is a missing-nin—things that were like pre-requisites to join Akatsuki. The Uchiha, however, didn't have the huge rings that Akatsuki members seemed to be very fond of.

He didn't know what it meant.

He continued to wait amid the darkness that settled comfortably over the quiet room, feeling his butt grow stiff from sitting for too long. He glanced around the room furtively; a few specks of light letting him recognize some weapons. He wanted to snoop around his rival's stuff, but he restrained himself.

It's true though—he didn't want to do anything that could make Sasuke displeased with him. It's not a matter of submitting to the demonic Uchiha; it's more of because he changed ever since Sasuke left him, under that shower of cold rain, left him without any proper goodbye, left him without any chances of coming back. He has changed, no matter what they said—and it was all because of Sasuke. Like he thought of before, his admiration, his want, his wanting to bring back his friend all morphed his identity—he became more and more like his rival.

He doesn't have the slightest idea if that's a good thing or not.

His waiting ceased when the door burst open, and a stream of pale-yellow light came rushing inside the room. It wasn't Sasuke that entered the room though; it was somebody that looked so much like his younger brother. Scarlet eyes lifelessly glowed from beneath the shadow of the straw-hat balanced precariously atop the person's head; the pale-yellow light made the grayish-black bangs glimmer dully.

"Come with me, Naruto-kun," Uchiha Itachi said slowly, probably in attempt to sound coaxing, but only succeeding to sound condescending. One hand stretched out, a large red-colored ring glinting strangely under the intrusive light.

"Stay away, Itachi," A more familiar voice spat from behind the older Uchiha, and another shadow stretched towards Naruto. Itachi whipped his head around, his bangs lifting slightly against the sudden wind, the straw-hat finally falling towards the stone floor. True enough, Sasuke was standing beside Itachi, a kunai on one hand, straw-hat nowhere to be found. The avenger's voice sounded scarily controlled; his crimson eyes radiated the hatred absent on his tone but always present on his murderous thoughts.

"I've long known you'd betray the organization, little brother," Itachi said blandly, suddenly appearing a few steps beside Naruto, who's currently seated on the stone floor. Itachi's sudden closeness to the prisoner sparked another burst of anger inside those blood-colored irises.

"…Stay away, Itachi," Sasuke repeated sullenly, appearing in a split-second with the kunai positioned smoothly over Itachi's neck, ready to create a nasty cut when provoked. The blond blinked, a bit disbelievingly, a bit awed, at the display of speed. He was always stronger, stamina-wise, but Sasuke has always been more stealthy and quicker than him. It was a bit… nice to know that some things never changed.

"Not surrendering the captive—the Kyuubi's vessel—to our boss is a serious offense, foolish little brother," Itachi said monotonously, a bit urgently, as though he was reminding his younger brother of a grave consequence of his actions. Sasuke looked unimpressed at his older brother's unwelcome display of sudden mild concern.

And so the two Uchihas disappeared within another split-second, leaving Naruto alone again inside the room. He still waited though, since, after all, he's confident that Sasuke would come back to him.

Sasuke… he would come back… he would come back to me.

He was plainly aware that he trusted Sasuke too much to the point it's almost insane, to the point it was too blind. It was just too normal for him; he couldn't stop blindly trusting Sasuke even if his life depended on it. He waited for a long, long time for Sasuke's return, calmly ignoring the little voice inside his head that whispered pitifully that his rival was most probably already dead—since Itachi has always been stronger than his younger brother.

He was also painfully aware that because he was hidden away because of Sasuke's orders, it would be undoubtedly perceived by the Akatsuki that Sasuke was keeping him—and therefore, his powers—for himself.

Before he could further torture himself with thoughts of Sasuke getting in some serious trouble because of hiding him away—and ironically, and in a strange, twisted way, protecting him—the door opened once more, letting in the same pale-yellow light. Sasuke stumbled inside, looking breathless, the huge, thick cloak sliced up in some gruesome angles. The younger Uchiha was clutching at his arm, and from the dim lighting, Naruto could see that the arm was wounded.

"Let's go," Sasuke rasped out, eyes slightly wide, but still as unfeeling as always. His sweat from the previous exertions caused the long bluish-black bangs to stick uncomfortably to the finely-chiseled face. Naruto stared at his former teammate with an unreadable flicker on his eyes—he only snapped out of his dazed stupor when Sasuke kicked him unkindly on his knees.

"Let's go, dobe," Sasuke repeated with a hint of annoyed urgency creeping on his tone. Naruto nodded somberly, casting the wounded arm another concerned glance, before standing up hurriedly and following Sasuke without any protests. The blond is still aware that this might be part of a complicated plan to lure him in deeper into Akatsuki's hold, but for the moment, he didn't care.

He vowed to take Sasuke back, and the use of the hated nickname was one step closer—closer to something Naruto isn't sure about. When in the past, Sasuke always left him—left all of them—alone without a second's glance, trudging along the eerie wispy shadows without anybody following after him—

I'll follow him now.

He couldn't exactly say he was surprised to see Sasuke lead him to a cave far away from the Akatsuki's hideout. The clouds looked resentful and angry; the bitter smell of rain wafted around the surroundings. He hugged his destroyed clothing closer to himself, trying to seek every bit of warmth he could, in protection against the chilly winds that entered the small cave perched on one side of a mountain. Sasuke disappeared as soon as he settled Naruto inside the cave; the blond guessed the other searched for food.

His guess was proven correct when the dark-haired male stepped inside the cave's entrance; his presence introduced a dull-edged shadow against the grayish-black backdrop of the rain clouds. On Sasuke's hands was a pair of dead rabbits tied securely on a couple of twigs pulled together. Blood stained the grayish fur of the animals—and Naruto noticed that Sasuke's porcelain face was streaked with some dried blood.

"…Are you all right?" Naruto asked tentatively, almost meekly, ashamed for only noticing Sasuke's more-than-tired state. The Uchiha snorted as a reply and went further inside the cave. He started with setting up a fireplace near the mouth of the cave to avoid suffocation from the smoke. Soon enough, the rabbits were being happily roasted away by the fire. They sat in silence, as they waited for their meal to cook.

Naruto sighed deeply as he munched on the rabbit's meat, feeling a sort-of pity towards the poor animal. They finished eating and Sasuke hurriedly put out the fire, explaining that it might give their location away, using that no-nonsense tone.

Night soon came, along with the heavy rains and the freezing winds. Naruto's tattered and sliced-up clothing weren't doing any good to conserve body heat, but he had to make do with them. He wasn't any more enlightened with his situation now than he was when he first saw Sasuke, but—

Being near the other teen, no matter what the circumstances are, always invoked a feeling of surging warmth and acceptance inside him—attracting him closer, pulling him much closer to the avenger.

"Scoot closer," Sasuke's voice rang out on the silent cave, overcoming the stormy winds' daunting howls and the icy raindrops' ceaseless beats. Naruto whipped his head to the side, away from being nestled on his drawn-up knees, only to see Sasuke seated a couple of centimeters away from him. Sasuke didn't look particularly cold, but he averted his head to the side. Naruto saw a tinge of pink on the other's pale cheeks, but the blond chalked it up to his already-sleepy eyes.

He obeyed Sasuke's gruffly-stated command, letting out a small sigh as his body collided with a warm one. He scooted closer, invading the other's personal space, trying hard to not remember when the last time he was this close with the other was. The awkward and decidedly lethal hug between the two of them when they first saw each other after two-and-a-half years didn't count, because by then, Sasuke was already tainted by thoughts reeking of death and revenge, while Naruto was already wiped out of his enthusiastic dedication to be the Hokage, already tired from always seeking, chasing after the one he valued most.

This time, even though uncertainty, anxiousness and betrayal still hung ominously over the two of them, Naruto snuggled closer to his rival, allowing himself to let a portion of his relentless dreams come true. He slung his hands over the other's form, minding the other's injuries, and practically clung to Sasuke. The Akatsuki (…or was it ex-Akatsuki?) member stiffened under his hold, but relaxed after a minute. The Uchiha leaned towards Naruto, letting his spiky-head rest almost innocently over Naruto's.

It wasn't any declaration of returned sentiments, or promises of being together forever, or apologies for leaving, but Naruto smiled, despite all of the troubles and tears and blood and broken hearts that separated them, only too grateful for this possibly last chance to hold Sasuke—his most important person—close.

I love you so much, you bastard.

He wasn't expecting anything romantic or friendly with waking up—but he certainly wasn't expecting this. He opened his azure eyes and he was greeted by the sight of clear blue skies, with the appearance of occasional clouds. He blinked, as though to check whether he's merely imagining things, but the sunny sky didn't disappear from his view.

He left me, Naruto thought with a bitter smile playing on his lips. He sat up slowly, and was more than justifiably surprised to see Sasuke's Akatsuki uniform sprawled over the ground as a makeshift blanket. The smile twisted into something more morose. He trudged along the not-so-thick forest, and was again, surprised to see Konoha's East Gate looming in front of him after twenty minutes of sluggish walking.

He left me within Konoha's territory, The blond realized though he immediately shook off any other thoughts that might corrupt his mind. He gazed down at his appearance, satisfied that he didn't see any more open wounds or anything drastic. All of his injuries were bandaged by navy-blue bandages—were those from Sasuke's clothes!

He closed his eyes to erase all those traitorous thoughts. Even if Sasuke had a sudden lapse from his I'm-perfect-and-I-don't-care-even-if-you-bleed-all-over-and-drop-dead mode, it didn't mean anything.

Did it?

It didn't—even if he apparently disobeyed Akatsuki's order to capture him.

"Uzumaki Naruto," He blithely (or at least, as blithely as he could) told one of the Chuunin guards of the gate. They ushered him inside, telling him that the Hokage was very worried when he disappeared for two weeks already. As they led him towards the Hokage's headquarters, the bitter light inside Naruto's eyes didn't fade away. Even if he was already safe here at his home village, even a tiny bit of happiness wouldn't seep inside his façade.

He left me… again.

Seeing Kakashi-sensei, Sakura-chan, Iruka-sensei and the Pervert Hermit along with the Old Hag wasn't really something he was prepared for, if the surprise etched clearly on his face was any indication. He smiled sheepishly, though he could feel that it lacked brightness, patting the back of his neck out of habit, feeling slightly embarrassed at their stern glances. He waved off their concern with a huge grin, telling them (…lying to them) that he was merely kidnapped by some of the Rock ninja and he was whisked away to some unknown place (here, he defensively told them that geography wasn't his best subject) and so it took him quite a long while to arrive back.

After his strung-up tale, he was still smiling cheerfully, forcedly, and he heard Tsunade heave a deep sigh.

"Neji reported seeing Uchiha Sasuke, using his Byakugan, rescue you from the Rock ninjas, Naruto," Kakashi-sensei said kindly, the visible eye curved happily. Sakura-chan's eyes were firmly latched to the wooden floor, as though it was the most handsome thing in the entire world. Iruka-sensei looked cross between amusement, understanding and mortification. The frog hermit looked disapproving, while the old hag looked faintly disappointed.

"…Hehe, right…" Naruto murmured distractedly, his deceivingly-cheerful smile growing unsteadily-strained.

"…Uchiha Sasuke was also sighted near the East Gate by one of the patrol groups early this morning," Tsunade informed him, arms crossed over her ample chest, coffee-brown gaze filled with concern and curiosity.

"…Uh…" Naruto couldn't say anything past that, since it was rather obvious that they knew the main gist of what happened anyway.

"How was he, Naruto?" Sakura-chan asked him, hope bravely shining within her emerald irises, though there's that unmistakable glint of hopelessness and sadness lurking inside. Were they always so lonely without that bastard!

Almost unthinkingly, instinctively, Naruto pulled out the carefully-folded black-and-red cloak out from his jacket's cover. He handed it over wordlessly to the Hokage, lowering his eyes unhappily as he heard the room's occupants' shocked gasps.

Was I always this miserable without you?

Countless battles passed, along with the endless time. A year after Akatsuki's abduction saw Naruto's twentieth birthday, celebrated by teammates, co-ninjas, friends and other close associations. It was lucky that his birthday fell on a relatively peaceful month, since Konoha has just succeeded in subduing Hidden Rock's plans to assist in destroying Konoha. Gaara and his siblings already visited two days before the soon-to-be Hokage's birthday, with Sand siblings' gift being three alarm clocks, in response to Naruto's increasing tardiness to various meetings.

It's a really nice party, even though Kakashi and Jiraiya were sulky as Tsunade and Iruka threatened to cause unwanted and definitely unattractive physical damage if they ever thought of bringing scantily-clad women and any alcoholic beverage to the blond's birthday.

"Great party, huh, Naruto," Chouji commented, munching on another batch of potato chips that he brought along. The birthday celebrant nodded in what he hoped was an exuberant manner. The Akimichi male was about to comment some more, but Shikamaru leaned down and whispered something to his plump friend. Chouji nodded in solemn understanding, and let the lazy-ass genius haul him away from Naruto and towards the food supply.

"You don't seem to be enjoying the party, Naruto," Neji commented coolly, white eyes disdainfully narrowing as he saw Kiba try his best to coax the heavily-blushing Hinata to dance and party away. The blond raised an eyebrow, putting his slightly-trembling hands inside his orange pants' pockets.

"I don't want to hear that from you," Naruto lightly stated, knowing that the Hyuuga don't do fun. He tried to pin his gaze towards Kiba and Hinata, forcing himself to smile goofily at the dog-boy's efforts. His gaze kept straying to the door, as though waiting for an unexpected, uninvited visitor. Then, his gaze would sometimes shift to an often-teammate, Sai, which reminded him so much of—

"…You're waiting for Uchiha," Neji said plainly, his tone unwavering, his gaze firmly planted to glare at Kiba's hands which were comfortably resting on Hinata's waist, as he finally succeeded on persuading the girl to dance with him.

"…I'm not." Naruto said nonchalantly, hoping that his white-eyed friend would drop the subject. Neji complied with his unspoken wish, and nodded, before making his way to watch his cousin more closely.

I'm still waiting, Sasuke.

He didn't know why he was here.

He shook his head. He did know his reasons, but they felt too idealistic, too optimistic, too unreal, too pure.

The others crashed at his place, but he didn't mind. It's rare to find that many people on his apartment, after all. He just wished he had a good time like they all wanted him to.

He tugged his orange-and-black jacket closer to his body, shivering slightly against the gust of cool night's wind. His footsteps instinctively led him to this place, his mind wanted to protest, but he was so, so tired with trying to fight off this horrible need to be with—

They celebrated a rare time-off from Tsunade, so they crashed at Naruto's place. He only shrugged and grinned cheerfully at them, since he knew that he was the only one without parents who would scold their children from partying all-night-long. It had been fun, even on some superficial level.

In the end, he left his crammed apartment, and walked under the moon's guiding silver light, walked towards the other end of the village, walked towards the more affluent and more ancient and more powerful side of the village. The all-too-familiar designed of a red-and-white fan greeted his sight as he finally arrived on the gate to the Uchiha Estate.

He wanted to claim that he didn't know why he was here.

"Happy birthday, Sasuke," He breathed into the late night's wind, into the looming mansions that belonged to the most illustrious (and on his personal opinion, most demented) Clan in the history of Konoha. He began singing the cheesy birthday song to the silent night, knowing that nobody was near enough to hear his heartbroken and desolate singing.

"Happy birthday, dear Sasuke, happy birthday to—"

"Next time you want to sing, dobe, don't." That came from behind him, spoken with the extremely-familiar voice, delivered in the very-familiar manner. Naruto whipped around, one hand already inside his weapons' holster. The sound of footsteps stepping over the solid ground resounded over the abandoned area—and Naruto suddenly remembered that it's very unlikely for the ninjas to make rounds near this area.

"Sasuke," He said as casually as he could, not wanting to let the sadistic bastard identify the tone of I-miss-you-Sasuke on his voice. He even narrowed his eyes arrogantly, held his chin high in a snotty manner, and folded his arms over his chest for good measure, not caring if he looked like a miniature, blond version of the Uchiha standing before him.

Sasuke stared at him for a moment, letting the moonlight wash over their appearances. The Akatsuki uniform wasn't present, along with the ridiculous-looking straw-hat. Instead, Sasuke appeared in the outfit that was the same as the one he last wore when he was still Uchiha Sasuke, conceited, jealous rival of Uzumaki Naruto, both twelve-year old boys who didn't have the slightest idea about their unmistakable attraction, without any idea that the strong bond would be the same thing that would drive them insane for years.

"…Why are you here?" Naruto asked at last, still unable to keep up a cool façade, still unable to imitate Sasuke enough to be unable to miss the smug bastard. Wariness and sadness mingled together to create a pitiful and resigned aura that hung over the still-shorter blond, and Sasuke took a small step forward, almost hesitant, almost hoping that the one step of closeness would be enough to overcome the blond's grief, almost wishing that it would lessen the inexorable pull he felt towards his eternal rival.

"…You missed me." Sasuke stated evenly, lifting obsidian eyes to look at his rival, who's currently the very picture of embarrassment in denial. Naruto sputtered, unable to deny the truer-than-true statement, and also unable to stop the welling longing inside of him at the sight of the much-missed purely-black eyes, without the hint of Itachi seeping in, without the traces of bloodlust, without the vicious dreams of deaths.

"…That's not a reason, you bastard," Naruto muttered into the air between them, and Sasuke took another step forward. The invincible pull towards the blond didn't let up, as though their distance still wasn't enough to make up for the pieces of broken emotions that lay tangled in-between them.

"…I've finished my goals." Sasuke told him solidly, eyes not melting into that hauntingly-lifeless crimson spell. Naruto wanted to cry—and he wanted to laugh, to scream, to hug his best friend, to punch his rival, to kiss his most important person.

"I see," Naruto said as emotionlessly as he could manage, without all the things he wanted to do. He merely regarded his ex-teammate as the black-eyed male took another step forward.

"…What's my punishment, Hokage-sama?" Sasuke asked almost teasingly, and Naruto wanted to fall forward to the person in front of him, because they both knew that Sasuke would always, always catch him, no matter what happened. Even when they were on different sides, even when they were already poised to kill each other, even when they broke each other's heart, even when they were together—they would always be connected to each other.

"…I'm not yet the Hokage," Naruto protested meekly, idly noticing that the moonlight made Sasuke paler than he would usually be. It also made Sasuke's hair look more blue than black, as though permanently erasing any other glimpses of Itachi that the blond might see on his ex-teammate who returned to Konoha, even after all the blood shed in between them.

Sasuke's black eyes never looked so enthralling—and Naruto would know that, since he was always staring at the now-only-remaining Uchiha, much longer than Sakura-chan stalked the other male. Sasuke took another step forward, and the soon-to-be-Rokudaime noticed that with only one more step, they'd be already touching.

"…I'm home, Naruto." Sasuke said softly, the movement of his lips shimmering under the moon's silver light, the night wind playing gently with his long bluish bangs. Tears welled up inside Naruto's eyes at those simple words, since he has waited for too damn long to hear them, to hear Sasuke's promise of staying here in Konoha, of staying with him.

In the end, they both took the final step, crossed the small distance that separated them, finally submitting to the bind of the strong chains that held the two of them close.

Hands grasped at each other, bodies melted into one, as they finally allowed each other to know their long-hidden thoughts. Their hands clutched at each other tightly, exploring and memorizing, as though they were making up for the eight years of being officially at opposite sides of the battle field. They kissed each other, chastely at first, then growing deeper and deeper as they progressed, as though they're trying to mend their bodies closer than humanely possible.

"Welcome back, jerk," Naruto mumbled hotly in-between their kisses, words slurred from the mixture of lips and tongue, but Sasuke understood, heard and felt the sentiment all the same. Sasuke pushed the smaller blond towards the direction of his house eight years ago, towards the place where they'd start all over again—no, to the place where they'd continue where they left off.

Really, Naruto couldn't deny his reason for being here now.

He was here for Sasuke's return.

"…So…" Sasuke muttered to his sweaty neck, as Naruto's hazy eyesight told him that they managed to stumble inside one of the Uchiha mansions' living room. The wooden floor was a bit dusty from years of abandonment, but it doesn't really matter when an over-enthusiastic Sasuke was marking him thoroughly, as though afraid that they'd be wedged apart once more after this night is over. "…What's my birthday present?"

Naruto groaned loudly, since he missed Sasuke too damn much, and the jerk was being a tease—despite their frantic pawing and kissing. "I don't have a present for you, asshole," He muttered, though he rested one clammy, tanned hand over the spiky mop of black hair, pushing Sasuke's pale face towards his skin more insistently, tangling his fingers easily, almost wistfully over the strands of silky hair.

"…That's not nice to hear," Sasuke commented, panting unsteadily over his wet skin, both of them a bit bewildered at where their tops went, seeing as they were already topless, with the Uchiha pushing his younger lover towards the mildly dusty floor. Suddenly, as though struck by an incredible idea that wouldn't mean good news to the soon-to-be Rokudaime, Sasuke pushed his face closer towards Naruto's equally panting one, smirk evident on the pristine features.

One pale hand traveled downwards craftily, the ever-present smirk widening at Naruto's expression.

"…This is my present…"

Our love for each other has always been the endless, rose-colored chain.


Huhuhuh, it's long –pouts- but I do hope my descriptions, my wordings and my injections of their various feelings were okay though c",) I can't believe I turned a potential-angst-death-tragedy-action fanfic into a mushy-romantic one O.o;; Hehe, make-out scene on a dusty floor –cough-

Credits: Excerpt used in the middle was from Bokutachi no Yukue (Our Destination) by Hitomi Takahashi (for Gundam Seed Destiny Third OP). Excerpt used next was from UNDO by COOL JOKE (for Full Metal Alchemist Third OP). I don't usually add song lyrics, but the songs really fit with this fanfiction :)

Re: Tsukiyomi – Itachi's genjutsu attack with his Mangekyou Sharingan (it means Goddess of the Moon, if I'm not mistaken); Re: Itachi's ring – I think it's the red stone on his ring finger, the one with the word Red (uh-huh, I'm not sure); Re: 'submissive' Naruto – I wouldn't really say he was OOC… he was more resigned (taking off from the most recent manga chapters) at this fanfiction and I think he'd be tired enough of the running-after-Sasuke and the wars; Re: Ages – they're officially 19 at start, and Sasuke was 21 at the end of this fanfic.

Actually, the idea of Sasuke joining with the Akatsuki isn't too… far-fetched (to me, at least) XD As much as it pains both me and Naruto to admit, he's the type who'd hungrily chase after more power to kill his uber-sexy brother, even if it meant joining forces with his brother's alliances :P Or, I dunno. Haha, this is merely one example of my speculations of what could happen in the future of the manga :P

Fufufu, happy birthday, Sasuke :)

Reviews (i.e. constructive criticism, comments, suggestions, requests, challenges, ideas, etc) are welcome—very much so. Thank you for the people who continue to read and review my works! You guys are the best XD