Author: Ms. Trick

Note: Reviews make my life. No seriously.

Chapter 19

In its descent, the sun cast Konoha in perfect gold. Shadows became warm chocolate silk. Rooftops looked like polished trumpets. The pebbles in the emptying streets glittered like jewels.

Sasuke's skin seemed to illuminate in the light. Naruto glowed like a god, his blue eyes like cool water. Neji and Hinata's long dark locks caught the sun like black satin.

However, they made a strange parade.

Neji and Sasuke had arrived at the Inuzuka household shortly after Naruto. Presently, after leaving an embarrassed Haekoe behind them, they all moved in a troop back to the hospital. Hinata had an arm over her cousin's shoulders and Neji tenderly helped her along the shimmering road. Tsunade was on the girl's other side, keeping an eye on the loosening bandages.

Traveling slowly several feet behind them were Sasuke and Naruto, both of them still in sweatpants and heavy gauze, both of them without shoes. Naruto took a step not unlike the rest of his steps and, without warning, found the white bandages around his middle sliding off him like a coiled snake.

"Dobe," Sasuke muttered when they came to a stop. Because of the throbbing in his thigh though, he was secretly grateful for the break.

Naruto bunched up the escaping strip and tried to pull it into a messy knot. But as soon as he released it, his handiwork melted and the gauzy bandages resumed sliding over his hips and down his legs.


Sasuke sighed and reached for them, his hands gentle on his husband's waist as he wove the bandages neatly over the wound that was still shiny and fragile and slightly blood encrusted. He tightened it until Naruto's toned waist was snugly wrapped. When he took a step back to admire his handiwork, a nasty barb of pain clutched at his thigh.

Naruto noticed the wince and moved to try and manoeuvre Sasuke's arm over him, but he met with highly resistance.

"I refuse to be led through the streets like an invalid," Sasuke said stonily, pulling his arm out of Naruto's reach and taking a few steps forward to demonstrate his point.

Naruto rolled his eyes and took a few steps after him before reaching for Sasuke's hand and quietly placing it on his own shoulder. Seeing as Sasuke didn't wrench away as though scalded, Naruto assumed that his proud lover accepted this compromise.

They hadn't continued more than eleven steps when Sasuke noticed Naruto was grinning. And this wasn't the grin of the prankster, or the malicious grin of the fox, or the overly optimistic smile displayed in order to hide hurt or nervousness. This was a grin of pure joy.

"What are you smiling at?" Sasuke asked, curious at the unadulterated glee on Naruto's face.

"Things are just really good, that's all."

Sasuke raised his eyebrows, before illustrating: "We're still wounded. Hinata has a long road of mental recovery to travel. Orochimaru is still alive and very much a threat. Sakura was crying earlier for god knows what reason. Akatsuki is likely to turn its attentions to Konohagakure soon seeing as two of its targets are here, which means another confrontation with my brother. And Gaara and Lee haven't returned from their mission yet and we have no idea what happened to them."

Naruto's smile didn't flicker, didn't even lose a single watt.

"But right now, right now, right this second is really good and we're okay," he said.

"Right this second?" Sasuke repeated, looking around him at the radiant city in sunset and the even more radiant man he was subtly using as a crutch.

"Yeah..." he relented, much to Naruto's joy. "I guess this second's okay."

"No matter what happens in an hour or tomorrow or in twenty years, we'll always have right now and we'll remember that things were okay," the blond continued eagerly. "Even if you return to Orochimaru and I get killed by Akatsuki."

"So you're saying this is the end of everything, this one moment?"

"No, stupid," Naruto scoffed. "Life's not like a book. It's doesn't end unless you die. And we didn't die, so there. But when things get really sucky, we can remember this."

"So stop talking then."

"Aww, why?" Naruto groused.

"If this moment is going to be the nostalgic rock of our sanity, you can't ruin it by babbling endlessly. Kiss me."

Naruto did.


Author's Note:

I've finally tied up this loose end. It might be not be exactly what people were hoping for but I needed some closure and I think I've done it. Endless appreciation to those who reviewed over the last few years! I hope this ending isn't a massive disappointment.

love Ms Trick