So, just wanted to say sorry for the lateness. But it's really long! I've been having a few problems lately. And most of them aren't even my problems, but my friend's. So, I've just been really busy for the last few weeks. And my Uncle's girlfriend got into a car accident early in the morning, so I was worried and stressed all day. The doctors wouldn't tell us anything because we're not family, and her family lives in New Jersey. So, we were at the hospital for hours until they finally told us that she would be okay. It was ridiculous and stressful. She still has more surgery and a lot of recovering to do. So… as you can see, I've been a little out of it.

Anyway, I've been noticing how much feedback I get for this story. I'm not trying to sound ungrateful or stingy, but the numbers are kind of pathetic. They just don't match with what a few people tell me and the number of favorites and alerts that people put on the story. I got nine reviews for the last chapter, out of 400 people that read it. It was worse in earlier chapters, where I'd get over a 1000 hits and like five reviews. I know I don't update very often, but I've already told everyone that I will not discontinue this story. I have a life and I'm a slow writer, so I can't update every week or even every month. I wish I could, but I can't. But seriously, the lack of response that I'm getting is not helping me. I take a lot of time on this story, and I want to hear more than 'just update soon' or 'I liked it.' I like hearing the personal stories that people tell me, even if its longer than a page. And I really want to know what people think of my story, or the characters, etc. I know I could improve in some areas, but I don't really know how. I think I could do better if people pointed some things out to me. So, I'm asking for some feedback. It doesn't even have to be in a review. It can be in a PM or an e-mail, whatever. Just some kind of response would be nice, and it would motivate me more.

I'm not going to stop writing this or posting it just because I don't get a certain number of reviews or anything like that, but I would appreciate something from you guys. Most of you are writers on here. I'm pretty sure some of you can see where I'm coming from. So, I'm done rambling now. Enjoy the chapter and tell me what you liked or hated about it. I'm open to all comments.

Love,

Robin

"I feel most ministers who claim they've heard God's voice are eating too much pizza before they go to bed at night, and it's really an intestinal disorder, not a revelation."

~Rev. Jerry Falwell

Chapter Eleven

Dream a Dream of Elysium

Zabuza raised the glass to his lips and nervously took a sip of the bubbly, amber liquid. The champagne left a tingling sensation on his tongue as he checked his watch for a third time in the last five minutes. Rolling the stem of the glass in between his fingers, he searched the room again. A few waiters passed by, carrying trays and drinks, while patrons entered the restaurant and were ushered to their tables. He set the glass down on the cream colored table cloth as a familiar figure strolled through the doors. Zabuza tried to swallow the lump that formed in his throat as a tall woman made her way over to his table, her heels clacking against the floor of the foyer before being silenced by the oriental carpet that his table rested on.

When she was close enough for him to see her face clearly, he stood up to greet her. Coming up only an inch or so below his chin, she took his hand in a business-like manner before sitting down in the chair opposite him. Zabuza gazed at his wife, taking in her long, ebony hair that reached her waist, and the way she rearranged the utensils and glasses on the table in front of her to her liking.

He smiled briefly as he said, "You haven't changed a bit."

She glanced up at him, her eyes dark and calculating as she brushed some of her hair behind her ear.

"And you still look like you haven't had a decent night's sleep. Your job still keeping you busy," she asked, her voice low and monotone.

"Yeah," he answered, looking down at his hands that rested on the table. She really hadn't changed. Still the same old boring, matter-a-fact woman he grew up with and married after college. He grasped his champagne glass and took a small drink.

The woman in front of him reached into the black leather case she carried in and pulled out a manila envelope. She opened the envelope and recovered the papers stapled together from it.

"Here's the paperwork. I need you to read over it and sign the dotted lines that ask for your signature," she began with that same professional and detached tone of voice, as a waiter came towards them to get their order. She ordered a glass of wine, but no dinner.

Zabuza barely glanced at the papers she handed him as the waiter walked off, ignoring the places where she pointed out to him, and instead focusing on one question that he wanted to ask her before they continued.

"Sachi?" He questioned quietly, noticing how her hand paused in the air above the packet of papers as she shifted her eyes up to meet his. She didn't answer him; just let him know that she was listening.

"What brought this," he held the packet of divorce papers up for emphasis, "up all of a sudden? Why do you want a divorce now so badly?"

Sachi's eyes drifted down to the table cloth as her hand retreated, and she placed it into her lap. Zabuza stared at her, noticing the slight, almost undetectable change in her demeanor. Her shoulders were no longer stiff, but slightly relaxed as she leaned on the back of her chair. After a moment of silence, she lifted her eyes up meet his own.

"I've met someone," she told him, her voice slightly lighter.

He knew by the small twitch of her lips that she wanted to smile, but something held her back. Something that had to do with a promise they made a couple of years back when they had separated. Zabuza felt slightly guilty now for asking her to promise him something like that.

"Do you love him?" He found himself asking. He wasn't jealous, knowing that she had loved him at one time. However, it hadn't been enough. Knowing that he was gay, he had married her anyway, hoping that she would be able to change him. The love he felt for her grew, but it was not the kind of love that fueled a marriage.

"Yes, I do. We… want to get married next year," Sachi said, her eyes gazing down at the forgotten papers in Zabuza's grasp.

Zabuza could see how badly she wanted this divorce, but also how foolish that had been when they were younger. Neither one of them had wanted to get a divorce, thinking about their families and their vows. Their families had known each other since Zabuza was nearly seven years old, when her family had moved to America. Being two of the few Japanese families in that part of Ohio, their parents had quickly become friends. They did almost everything together, so it was no surprise when they converted to the Mormon Church. As children, the two of them had been friends, but had drifted away when high school came around. However, with their families so close together, they still saw each other frequently.

It wasn't until college that they really started talking to each other more. After being friends for about a year, they started dating, and continued to date throughout college. When they graduated, Zabuza thought that the next step would be to marry her. He knew he loved her, that his parents already thought of her as a daughter, and that she loved him back. What he didn't think about was the fact that his attraction to men had not died down in the slightest since puberty, thinking that that had been the cause. Knowing that homosexuality was wrong in the eyes of God and his church, he ignored his feelings and married Sachi.

"I'm sorry," he whispered quietly, taking a pen from his pocket.

"What?"

Her glass of wine arrived, both of them waiting for the young man to leave so that they could continue talking in private.

He looked up at her, wishing that things had gone differently for them both. Wishing that he had not been so scared of his feelings back then, wishing that he had not married her for the sake of their families and his beliefs, wishing that she had found someone else before they had started to date, wishing…

"I'm sorry… about all of this. We should have gotten a divorce two years ago when we separated; instead of promising to hide it from our families like this."

"Zabuza, you and I both know that it would not have gone over well with any of them. And… I don't think you would have been ready to face them then." She told him, once again shifting so that she was now leaning on the table top with her elbows.

Her husband glanced up at her, not knowing exactly what she meant by him being "ready." So, when Sachi placed her soft and cool hand over his own, he was confused even more.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You seem… different now. Maybe you haven't realized it just yet, but… I think you've grown to acknowledge who you are. You may not completely accept yourself, but you aren't as upset by this as much as I thought you would have been."

She paused, her eyes wandering down to their hands. Her hand was the only one initiating the contact. His own hand just lay there, neither accepting nor rejecting the touch, while his eyes strayed to the street littered with lit lampposts outside of the restaurant.

"I know that you never loved me in a romantic sort of way, but you did love me. You were comfortable with me… enough to tell me everything," Sachi said with a gentle squeeze of her hand. Her eyes softened in that moment and Zabuza caught a glimpse at that soft and understanding side of her that he had loved, or thought he loved. It had been times like this when he thought he could bear being in a relationship with her, even though he wasn't in love with her. Every time she showed him that side of her, he felt special, knowing how rare those moments were.

Closing his eyes briefly, he let out a soft sigh. Thinking back to that day when he had broken down in front of her, literally telling her everything. About his attraction to men, how he had prayed to God to help him overcome his feelings, how he had never trusted anyone enough to tell them—afraid that his family would somehow find out and disown him, and how he knew that he wasn't in love with her—though he desperately wished that he was.

She had been quiet the whole time he talked, not asking him any questions or making any comments. It wasn't until he had finished talking that she had quietly told him that she knew he had been in pain, but didn't know how to help him. All the while her hand had gently squeezed his own—like she was doing now, two years later. Zabuza flipped his hand over, his palm facing up to meet hers' as he grasped her hand in return.

"If we had told our families then, I don't think you could have handled it. You were afraid of losing them. But… you had me. I was like your security blanket. You were so confused about who and what you were… and still are that you couldn't even accept yourself. I thought that you needed time to come to terms with yourself. It has taken a couple of years, but something inside of you has changed. Something in your life has made you see yourself in a different light."

As soon as the words left her mouth, an image of a smiling face, long dark hair, and warm brown eyes entered his thoughts. The young man's name was on his tongue, trying to break past his lips, and be heard by his disbelieving ears. He swallowed thickly, trying to dislodge the uncomfortable realization that had just dawned on him. The fact that his wife, someone who hadn't seen him or really talked to him in over a year, could see this as clearly as if he had written it on his forehead disturbed him slightly.

"I'm right, aren't I?" She asked, her lips curving upwards slightly.

"Maybe," he conceded, not sure if he should tell her everything or not. Even though she seemed to be more understanding of his situation now, he knew that he had hurt her deeply when they separated. It was the main reason why they had fallen out of touch over the couple of years. She had needed the time to herself, just as much as he had. He was just happy that she had found someone and moved on.

Removing her hand from his, she took a sip of the dark, red wine, while Zabuza set pen to paper. With each letter that flowed from the pen's tip, the more his soon to be ex-wife drank from her glass. By the time he was done signing their divorce papers, her glass was empty.

Zabuza placed the papers back into the envelope and handed it to her, grabbing his own drink. While taking a swig, Sachi called the waiter over to order some food and another glass of wine. Smiling into his glass, he watched her order for the both of them.

"So… is he cute," she asked in an offhanded manner, her cheeks taking on a slightly rosy tint.

The man sitting across from her almost choked on his champagne at her question. He heard her laugh quietly, hiding her mouth behind her well-manicured hand.

"Sachi!" He said in disbelief, noticing that the blush on her cheeks was darkening.

XXXXX

"So, I can really go? He said yes?" Naruto asked his mother.

Nadine put a finger up to her mouth, hushing him as she looked back towards her and Kazuma's room. Noting that the door had not opened at her son's outburst, she turned back towards him.

"Not exactly," she told him, glancing down at the floor, and stalling for the right words. Twisting her wedding band with her thumb and fore finger, she glanced up at her son's confused expression. "W-we're going to a dinner party tonight at 7:00 for one of his co-workers, so we won't be home. Just so long as you can get up for church tomorrow morning, I can cover for you if you get in late… just be quiet. And try to get back before 1:00," she almost whispered, closing her eyes, and hoping that her heartbeat would quiet down. The thought of her husband overhearing her "betrayal", because that is how he would see it, unnerved her… but it also excited her. Knowing, yet another, secret of Naruto's made her feel like she had some sort of control in the household.

His blue eyes lit up and he hugged her quickly, taking her by surprise.

"Thanks," he whispered as he ran back into his room and grabbed his cell phone. Pressing the numbers into the keypad, he listened to the ringing as he looked around on the floor for a hoodie. After two rings, Sasuke answered the phone.

"Yes?"

"Hey, I can go out tonight," he said excitedly, picking up one of his hoodies and sniffing it. When the other person on the line said nothing he added, "If… you still want to, that is?"

"Hn. Yeah."

Throwing the smelly piece of clothing aside, he said, "Okay, good. Do you wanna grab something to eat on the way there?"

"Sure. Uh, do I need to… pick you up? Or meet you somewhere?"

Naruto paused in his search as he laughed lightly, scratching the back of his head. This whole situation sounded a little awkward… since he was sure that fuck buddies did not go out on dates. Though, when Sasuke had asked him out for a movie and a bite to eat for his birthday, he had not said that it would be a date. So, he thought it would just be the two of them hanging out. Just like friends. Sasuke picking him up though sounded like they were on a date…and he was playing the role of the girl. Not happening.

"Ah, I can meet you at the Cookout down the street, and we can just drive from there. Sound good to you?"

"Yeah. What time?"

"Um… meet me there at around 7:00. I'll be the sexy one wearing an orange hoodie… when I find it." He mumbled the last bit to himself as he turned over a basket of unfolded clothes.

Sasuke snorted on the other line, "Right. Better hope no one mistakes you for a traffic cone and throws you in the back of their car."

"What'd ya say—," he began right as the line went dead.

"Bastard," he grumbled.

After finding his obnoxiously bright orange hoodie, he cleaned up the mess he made and waited for his parents to leave. While lounging on his bed he grinned to himself as he thought of a way to make Sasuke eat his words.

XXXXX

The Cookout was a small fast food joint that had just a kitchen and two drive throughs, the seats either being the person's car or the couple of picnic tables outside. It didn't look like much, but the public obviously enjoyed their food, seeing as both lines were crowded with cars.

After arriving a few minutes ahead of schedule, Sasuke went ahead and ordered his food. Sitting at one of the picnic tables, he waited patiently for his friend. Fifteen minutes later—he looked up in irritation, wondering where Naruto was. What he saw made him nearly choke on a French fry. At the front of the line of cars was Naruto, wearing the brightest orange hoodie he had ever seen, with a pair of dark blue jeans and sneakers. He snickered quietly to himself as he watched the other teenager walk through the drive through, paying the puzzled cashier and grabbing his food. Naruto walked over to him, raising an eyebrow at the amusement on his face.

"What's so funny?" He asked as he settled down on the seat and pulled out his two cheeseburgers and fries.

Shaking his head slightly, Sasuke responded, "Nothing. So, what movie are we seeing?"

Taking a large bite out his burger, he chewed it before answering, knowing that it would disgust his friend. Besides, he did have some manners when it came to eating, might as well put them to good use.

"Uh… I don't really know what's playing now. You know of anything good?"

Sasuke made his usual "hn" noise as he unwrapped his own burger and then took a bite. Carefully chewing his food as he watched the guy in front of him inhale his first burger, and then move onto the next one.

"So, is that my birthday present? A movie?" The blond asked slyly as he took a break from eating, sipping on his soda while Sasuke narrowed his eyes at him.

"Were you expecting a gift?"

"Of course," he answered, acting as if he were offended at the thought of not getting anything.

Glancing down at the scratched and marked table top, Sasuke thought to himself. He hadn't bought him anything yet, unsure of what he would like or if he even wanted him to buy him a gift. Tearing his eyes away from the graffiti on the table, he looked up to see the mischievous grin on the blond's face. Raising his eyebrow slightly in question, he decided to play along by answering, "No, it's not."

"Then what is it?" He asked as he leaned in over the table, looking into Sasuke's face expectantly.

Before the other boy could even think of something, Naruto crawled onto the wooden table top. He made sure not to kneel in his food or Sasuke's as he placed his face in front of his friend. Leaning back, Sasuke glanced up at Naruto's cheerful face, wondering what he was up to.

"Will you get me what I want if I ask you?"

Sasuke didn't have time to respond as he soon found himself with a lap full of a 160 something pound blond, who placed his arms around his neck. Naruto chuckled into his ear at the tense look on Sasuke's face.

"Will you," he questioned again as he bit down lightly on the other boy's earlobe, earning a slight hiss in response. Sasuke was starting to rethink his idea to 'play along' with the other boy's plan.

Even though it was dark, and Sasuke didn't know many people in the city, he still wasn't comfortable with displaying his "affections" in public. And he definitely didn't like having the idiot drawing so much attention to them, seeing as some people in the drive through line were honking their horns at them and yelling out. Whether they were cheering them on or calling them a bunch of fags, he didn't know. He was too distracted by the tongue that was caressing his neck.

A shiver ran down his spine that had nothing to do with the cold as he bit down on Naruto's clothed shoulder in retaliation. The blond just laughed in response as he leaned in closer to Sasuke's face to stare him in the eyes.

"Do I have to ask again?"

"What do you want," he questioned, hoping that his voice didn't sound husky.

Shaking his head in response, Naruto said, "You have to agree to get me whatever I ask for before I tell you."

Sasuke glared at him, wishing he could just shove him off his lap. But the table top was right behind him, forcing Naruto to press up against his chest so he wouldn't place an elbow in his unfinished burger. Images of Naruto with his face planted into the greasy fast food entered his mind, but fled quickly when he felt him shift on his lap. The warmth between them was already making him uncomfortable, and now the dope had to go and rub against his crotch.

"What… are you doing?"

"Getting comfortable," he said innocently, pressing himself more firmly against Sasuke's heated body.

Glancing at his watch to check the time, he noted that they should leave soon if they wanted to catch a movie before eight o'clock. However, when he felt Naruto rub himself against him again, he grabbed his hips in desperation.

"What the hell?"

Hearing the frustration in his voice, Naruto leaned down to his ear and said, "Just say that you'll get me what I want and I'll stop."

He let out a low growl in response, but nodded his head in agreement before something embarrassing happened. He didn't think they had enough napkins to clean themselves completely off. And he didn't plan on walking up to the drive through window with a telling stain on his pants to get more. Regardless of the fact that he would make Naruto the one to walk up there, he still didn't want to have to go home and change his clothes.

"If it costs a fortune—"

"Don't worry, it's nothing like that. It won't cost you a thing," he said mischievously, winking at the annoyed Uchiha before getting up and finishing his meal.

XXXXXX

After watching an hour and a half of bad acting, impossible action stunts, and tasteless sex scenes that left his dick softer than before he went into the theater, Sasuke was thankful that he and Naruto were leaving. Although he hated the movie, and thought it wasn't worth the seven dollars he paid for a ticket, he wasn't surprised that Naruto enjoyed it. He quietly watched the hyperactive teen talk about one of the car explosions, as he enthusiastically waved his arms around in his description.

"Wasn't that awesome?"

Sasuke had been nodding his head to these kinds of questions for the last two minutes while they walked out of the theater. It was much easier than arguing with him, and gave him less of a headache.

"You're not even paying attention, are you?"

Lifting his head up, he saw Naruto standing just a few inches in front of him. His breath caught in his throat at the close proximity of his friend as he stared into those bottomless blue eyes. They stared at each other for a few seconds before the two of them heard a familiar voice calling out their names.

When Naruto turned to see who it was, Sasuke noticed that his hand was slightly outstretched in the direction of where Naruto's hands had been seconds before. Shaking his head slightly to clear his thoughts, he turned his head in the direction of the loud voice he had grown accustomed to hearing. Standing next to the tanned young man was two of their classmates, Neji and Gaara.

After less than a minute of listening to Neji discuss the horror movie he and Gaara had just watched, Naruto turned his head around to glimpse at where Sasuke was standing. Catching the darker haired teen's eyes, he let a warm smile slowly stretch across his face before spinning back to face Neji. Quickly making an excuse to leave, Naruto said goodbye to the couple, surprising both teens since he had barely said anything to them.

"You ready to get my gift?" He asked as he walked up to Sasuke, slinging an arm over his shoulders comfortably in what appeared to be a friendly manner. But the two classmates that watched them head out to the parking lot knew it was more than just a friendly touch.

"Hm, do you think the Uchiha can handle someone like Naruto?" Neji inquired, placing an arm around his own boyfriend's waist.

Gaara smirked, knowing how loud and obtrusive Naruto could be before replying with, "We'll see."

XXXXX

"You're joking, right?" Sasuke asked, hoping beyond hope that his friend was just messing with him.

"Nope. And you have to do it too. You promised."

"I did not promise you anything," he stated coldly as he drove down the nearly empty streets of downtown.

"You're not going to go back on your word, are you? I didn't think you were a pussy," Naruto said, his face scrunched up in a look of disapproval.

Sasuke ground his teeth as his hold on the wheel tightened. He was not a coward or a "pussy," as Naruto liked to put it. He just didn't want to do it because it was stupid.

"I'm not a… pussy. It's just stupid. What the hell are you going to do with it," he questioned, turning his dark eyes on the teen in the seat next to him.

"I'm not going to do anything with it, since I can't sneak it into my house without waking up half the building. Not to mention my parents would kill me if they knew that I stole city property."

Lifting an eyebrow in response, he said, "Then what's the point?"

"For saying that I look like a traffic cone on the phone! Plus, it will be fun. Think of it as a souvenir," he tried to placate him, smiling brilliantly at the unsure look on the driver's face.

"I implied that you would look like a traffic cone, not that you did look like one."

Naruto was too busy glancing up and down the quiet road to reply, making Sasuke sigh to himself and mutter, "This is ridiculous."

"Slow down and grab that one. Come on; hurry up before someone drives down the street."

Knowing that his excuses would fall on deaf ears, the Uchiha decided to keep his word.

"How can I slow down and hurry up at the same time? You're contradicting yourself, idiot," he told the bouncing blond, even though he did slow down and reach out of the window to grab the cone. It was heavier than it looked though, so he had to use both hands to pull it through the window. With Naruto's help, they stashed it in the back seat.

While his passenger laughed all the way down the street, he couldn't see the humor behind stealing a traffic cone. Stopping at the stop light, even though there was no traffic, he peeked over at Naruto. The slightly younger man had stopped laughing, but was still smiling as he faced Sasuke.

"Don't give me that sour face. You know you had fun. Come on! Just admit it and you'll be a happier person."

Sasuke turned to look back at the traffic light, glaring at the bright red bulb as he ignored him. Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, he was taken by surprise by the blond for a second time that night. Only this time, he didn't have a lap full of Naruto, but a hand climbing up his thigh. A voice whispered in his ear, though he didn't catch what was said as the sound of his pant's zipper being lowered filled his ears.

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Sasuke slumped against the back of the seat as a cool hand wrapped around his half-hard cock. He could feel feather light kisses along the side of his neck as Naruto's other hand came up to tilt his neck back. The kisses became harder and sharper as he gained more access, allowing him to bite and suck along the expanse of his pale throat.

Sasuke moaned quietly as that hand stroked him with the barest of touches. It was driving him crazy. Switching in between hard, quick strokes and then light, long, drawn out strokes that had Sasuke's body shaking in no time at all. Just when he thought he couldn't take it anymore, he felt the pressure on his neck disappear. Cracking open his eyes, he barely had time to register that there was a head of fair hair in his lap. When he felt that warm, wet appendage slide along his member, he loosened one of his hands from the steering wheel and placed it in the thick strands of Naruto's hair.

Panting slightly as Naruto's tongue and mouth worked up and down his member, he felt his other hand cramp in its white-knuckled embrace with the steering wheel. Unclenching his hand, he let his head fall in between his shoulders, so that his gaze was directed at the back of Naruto's bobbing head. Bringing his head back up, Naruto curled his tongue around the swollen and red head of Sasuke's cock. Flattening his tongue along the tip, he swiped it across the slit, gathering the pearly drops of pre-cum in his mouth. After dragging his tongue up and down the underside of his cock a few times, he felt the slight pressure of Sasuke's hips thrusting up to meet his tongue and lips. Grinning to himself, he placed a light kiss to the swollen head, hearing a breathy groan of frustration fall from his companion's parted lips.

Sasuke was about to open his eyes to see why the idiot had stopped, when he heard a light chuckle. Of course, the second he decided that he was going to yell at Naruto to finish him off, his friend followed his unsaid orders and swallowed him to the hilt, causing Sasuke to make an embarrassing noise that was in between a squeak and a moan. Feeling a pleasant vibration around his cock, which was probably the idiot laughing again, he felt himself nearing his release. Unable to hold back any longer, he bucked his hips a few times before releasing himself in his friend's mouth. Letting Sasuke ride out his orgasm with a couple of jerky hip thrusts, Naruto swallowed, licking his lips before sitting up.

He had barely opened his eyes to see the faint green light reflecting off the hood of his car before a horn cut through his foggy thoughts. Naruto glanced back at the car behind them, giving the guy the middle finger as the person drove around them, all the while yelling obscenities.

"Asshole," the teen muttered before glancing back at the spent driver.

"You okay?" He asked playfully, sliding his hand down the side of Sasuke's neck.

Slapping his hand away with as much strength as he could muster, which wasn't much; Sasuke sat up and tucked himself back into his pants. Glimpsing at the time on the dashboard, he cleared his throat before asking, "What time do you have to be home?"

"Around one. Why?"

"Hn," was his answer as he turned down a one-way street headed towards the park. They still had two hours left, and he planned on spending each of them wisely.

XXXXX

It was nearly three a. the time Sakura walked through her front door. She was hoping that her dad would be sleeping by now, so she closed and locked the door as quietly as possible. As she crept down the hallway, she noticed that all the lights were off, and that the volume on the T.V. was down low. Thinking that her dad had actually fallen asleep, she relaxed her tense shoulders. However, her foot paused in mid-step as she noticed her bedroom door was cracked open; a thin shard of light escaping through the ajar door.

Something crashed against the door, nearly closing it as it banged against the frame before swinging back open. Peeking through the now larger crack, Sakura saw her bed sheets and pillows hanging off her bed. Most of her books were scattered along her floor, opened at random pages, while an old jewelry box was overturned—the broken ballerina on a curled piece of wire lying next to it and a few bracelets on the floor.

A shadow fell over her face as a man stepped in front of the cracked door, his back turned to her. Placing a hand over her mouth, she took a step back as he stumbled to her dresser. Pulling open the drawers, he threw some of her clothes on the floor before going over to the closet. Getting a glance at his face, she narrowed her eyes in confusion.

What the hell is he doing, she thought to herself as she heard something fall from her closet shelf. She had seen her dad drunk before, but never had he been so wasted that he went into her room.

He moved back towards her bed, falling down on his knees with a sickening thud. Crawling under the bed, he pulled out boxes of shoes and miscellaneous things. Tossing some of them to the side, he cursed under his breath. He was obviously searching for something, but Sakura didn't know what he could possible want from her room. Thinking that he would soon give up, she waited silently by the door, watching him throw a box of shoes at the wall.

The box burst open, and out fell a couple of pictures and a red ribbon. Quickly standing up, her father moved towards the objects on the floor. Noticing the pleased expression on his face sour, she realized what he had been looking for. And knowing how upset he got every time he saw a picture of her mother, she heedlessly ran into the room. Grabbing her most precious items off the floor, she pressed the face down pictures to her chest. Sakura closed her eyes, afraid of what would happen now.

She tried to picture her mother's face in the photos, hoping she could memorize them in case something happened to them. Her laughing as she held Sakura in her arms in a kitchen from another apartment. A small, pudgy hand covered in pink icing touching her cheek as Sakura chewed on a small piece of cake, yellow crumbs and pink frosting all over her face. Another photo of her mother standing outside at a park, her arm resting comfortably around another woman's waist. A friend, most likely, who held her back in the same manner. Both of the women smiled shyly, but warmly at the camera. There was a third picture, but its contents vanished from her thoughts as a hand grabbed onto her shoulder and violently turned her around.

Sakura placed her knees against her chest as she fell against the wall, her father's hand still firmly attached to her shoulder. His lips thinned in annoyance at the sight of her, losing his focus momentarily as he slowly remembered why he went into her room in the first place. It had been growing late, and she still had not come home.

"Where the hell you been?!" He yelled, his voice thick and laced with alcohol.

Hearing the slightly slurred words, Sakura shakily answered him, "O-out with Hinata. We were just watching movies at her house." And it was the truth too. She had spent most of the evening with her, watching movies and eating pizza. She would have stayed the night, but since she had stayed the previous night after their "date," she didn't want impose again.

Instead of being placated, he grew more enraged. Grabbing her by both shoulders, he stood up, dragging her up the wall. He nearly fell over, but kept his balance by leaning his weight on her shoulders as he pressed them harder into the wall. Staring at her straight in the face he told her,

"Don't you be like her! Don't you be like that bitch!"

Shaking her head from side to side, Sakura bit her trembling lip in confusion. Her dad only pushed her up against the wall again, saying the same thing over and over again. In the few tense minutes that passed, his words grew quieter and almost broken as his head fell in between his shoulder blades. Something dripped onto the floor, and Sakura stared in disbelief at the tears he was shedding. She couldn't believe he was crying, but the visible drops on her floor were proof enough.

"Dad?" She whispered, her own voice breaking as she felt her eyes water up. The pain in her shoulders had shifted to her back, and was now trickling down her spine.

His bloodshot eyes glanced up at her, widening momentarily at the look on her face. His expression softened slightly, and he relaxed his hold on her shoulders. Lifting a hand up to her cheek, he murmured something under his breath. Sakura didn't hear what he said, but it sounded like a name.

"Dad," she asked again, her voice shaking now.

The hand dropped from her face, and his jaw clenched shut, tension forming visibly at the pressure. His other hand tightened over her left shoulder, making Sakura hiss. Releasing one of her arms, she tried to remove his hand, but one of the pictures fell to the floor. The floating photo caught his attention, making him loosen his hold on her completely to pick it up.

Wincing at the ache in her shoulder, her breath caught when she saw what he held in his hand as he crouched down on the floor. He held the picture with shaking hands—the one with her mother and friend at the park. Noticing how his hands started to twist around the edges and crinkle the photo, Sakura tried to snatch it away.

A piece of the photo ripped, part of the background, as Sakura grabbed it. Not knowing what else to do, she tried to run past him, but he grabbed her leg. Falling forward, the other items from the shoebox were concealed under her chest, but the ripped photo lay out in the open in between her fingers. Seizing it from her, he proceeded to tear it into tiny pieces, yelling words that Sakura didn't catch.

Everything slowed down for her in that moment as she watched him rip apart one of the only pieces she had of her mother. She knew she was screaming at him, since that was all her ears could hear, but he wouldn't stop. Not until there was nothing left but useless pieces that couldn't be taped back together. Curling her hand around some of them, she yelled senseless words at him as she cried. A stabbing pain shot through one of her fingers as he stomped on her hand, trying to keep her away from the pieces.

Shouting at her, he swept the torn shreds of the picture into his hand. She didn't catch all of his words, but knew he told her to never see her again. That she couldn't be like that damn woman or else…

He left her room, slamming the door behind him, which didn't close all the way. Looking at her hand, she saw that one of her fingers had swelled up and had turned a bright red as it sat at a crooked angle. Sakura just cried, not caring if she was quiet or not, and wishing that her mother was still with her.

XXXXX

The sound of the T.V. in the other room woke up the girl on the wooden floor. Hearing some kind of infomercial, Sakura opened her aching eyes. Figuring that she had fallen asleep at some point, she tried to sit up on her knees. The throbbing pain she met caused her to gasp. Looking at the swollen digit on her left hand, she used her right hand to help herself up. Noticing the pictures, birthday card, and ribbon on the floor where she had just been laying, she quickly scooped them up and put them in her book bag.

Cradling her hand against her chest, she walked to her door to shut and lock it. She placed a chair under the handle for good measure, but didn't hear any movement from outside anyway. Turning off her light, she crawled into the disheveled bed. Pulling the blanket and a pillow off the floor, she tried to go back to sleep. But some of her father's words from earlier came to mind, and she couldn't stop thinking about them.

"You can't see her even again! Never! Don't be like that damn woman. You can't be like her too… you can't… or else I'll… I'll…" he had told her before he stormed out of the room.

Who was she never to see again? The only person she had mentioned the whole time was Hinata, and he had never even met her. So, why would he ban her from seeing her? It made no sense. And not be like that woman? Guessing that he was talking about her mother, she felt her eyebrows furrow in confusion. She knew that he loved her mom. She could see it on his face when he was asleep sometimes, especially when he would whisper her name.

Sakura knew that he was upset by her death, but he made it sound like it was her fault. It wasn't like she planned on dying. And the one thing that Sakura had secretly craved when she was younger was to grow up and be like her mother. She had always been curious about her mother when she was younger, wondering if she drank tea or coffee, if she crossed her legs when she sat down, or if she liked to read or preferred to watch movies. No one would ever tell her anything though. Her dad wouldn't talk about her. Even her grandparents wouldn't talk about her. They acted like she didn't even exist sometimes, or would just say that it was too painful to talk about.

Turning over on to her side, Sakura flinched at the throbbing pain in her finger. Thinking that it was probably broken, she placed her hand on the pillow beside her head. The pain only reminded her of the torn and lost picture of her mother. She could feel her eyes tear up again, but was too busy picturing her mother's face in the picture. The small smile, her bright eyes, and the pale blue shirt she wore with a pair of jeans. The other woman's face was lost to her now.

She tried to imagine her mother in a long white nightgown, with her long pink hair falling down her back and shoulders in curls. She used to envision her mother like this all the time when she was younger. Sakura even imagined that she would sing her to sleep with some wordless lullaby. Picturing the same scene now, she lightly hummed to herself a song that had no words. Turning onto her back, she closed her eyes and ran her good hand through her hair, imagining that it belonged to her mother. The hand would occasionally brush her cheek or place loose strands of hair behind her ear.

Sakura eventually fell asleep, dreaming that her mother had sat beside her during her sleep, humming a tune that needed no name.

XXXXX

The telling beads of sweat and the slightly open mouth that let out a quiet, painful gasp were signs of a nightmare. One that Sasuke thought that he could never escape now.

Sasuke opened his eyes, expecting to see the charred flesh of his body, but there were no flames. His skin was not black or burned, but pale and covered in goose bumps. He no longer felt like his body was on fire. He couldn't even feel the burning pain in his ribs and wasn't bleeding. Feeling nothing but the cold air against his skin, he shivered and looked around. His mother was gone, the door to his parent's room was closed, and there was light all around him. Glancing up, he saw an uncovered light bulb hanging over his head. It was perfectly still and buzzed faintly. It was the only noise he could hear throughout the whole house. He waited for a noise, but when none came, he reached out with his hand and opened his parent's door. He stared, and stared. But the image did not change. There was no blood anywhere in sight, his father's body wasn't on the floor, and there was no gun smoking by the door. The room was bright with morning light that filtered in through the windows. Trees outside swayed gently in the wind, casting flickering patterns of light on the carpeted floor. Sasuke took a step towards the room, but stopped when he saw a figure walk out of the bathroom. His father sat on the bed and untied his shoes, placing them neatly off to the side. Then he took off his suit jacket, laying it on the bed, and undid his tie. Sasuke whispered his name, but the older man didn't hear him. He spoke louder, expecting his father to turn around and give him a brief smile. He didn't even look in his youngest son's direction. A flash of movement to Sasuke's left had him gazing at his mother as she walked straight into him. She floated through his body and entered the room. Glancing back into the room, a shiver ran down his spine as the hallway grew colder. There was no sunshine outside. The sky was dark, and the lamp by the bedside gave off the only light in the room. His mother's lips were moving, but he couldn't hear her speaking. It was obvious that she was yelling, that both his parents were screaming, but he couldn't hear anything over the buzzing of the light bulb that suddenly grew louder. Sasuke could only stand in silence as he watched his father turn his back on his hysterical mother, who was crying, but mumbling something to herself repeatedly. It wasn't until he saw his mother open the drawer, the one he and his brother had discovered a revolver in when they were younger, did he start screaming. He could hear the gunshot, almost deafening to his ears, as he watched his father's body stagger back and fall to the floor. The man tried to pick himself up, grabbing on to any surface of the bed, but only managing to pull his jacket onto the floor where he lied in a forming pool of his blood. He saw his mother unfold part of her apron, producing the kitchen knife before she threw the apron to the floor. Sasuke's voice was hoarse now from all the screaming, the only sound coming forth was heavy sobs. His father tried to drag himself towards the door, towards Sasuke. His wife kneeled beside him, her face now a calm mask, as she stabbed him in the back. Over and over again, the noise pulsing through Sasuke's ears like blood. She stabbed her husband again, his eyes on the doorway, and Sasuke thought he was staring right at him before his head sunk onto the floor…

Sitting up with a start, the youngest of the Uchiha family quickly wiped his forehead and cheeks with the back of his hand. Sniffing slightly, he moved the heavy and hot covers off his body. Sitting for a few seconds and staring at nothing, he let his heartbeat slow down. When he felt like he wasn't going to have a heart attack, he glanced over at the clock. It was only three in the morning. Only two hours after he dropped Naruto off at a place close to his apartment. The blond had said he would call him when he got inside, safe and sound, though Sasuke didn't really need the reassurance. But he hadn't heard anything from Naruto since then. Thinking that he either got caught or had just fallen asleep, he hadn't risked calling and having his father answer the phone.

Thinking back to the nightmare though, he didn't care if he did get Naruto in trouble. He just didn't want to go back to sleep, and knew that he didn't have any homework or anything to work on to keep him occupied. Grabbing his cell phone before he could think more clearly about it, he pressed the call button after finding the number.

He listened to it ring a few times, wondering what he could possible say to his friend without making it seem like something was wrong. Knowing the dope, though, he probably wouldn't even pick it up. And if he did, he'd probably just tell him to fuck off and go back to sleep.

"H-hullo?" A voice mumbled into the phone, a yawn accompanying his greeting.

"Moron."

There was a few seconds of silence and another yawn.

"Sasuke?" He slurred in a tired voice.

"Hn. You didn't call when you got in." He said, as if that explained why he was calling at three o'clock in the morning, when normal people were asleep in bed.

"Uh… forgot to."

"Hn."

"Why ya calling," there was silence for a few seconds and the sound of a bed creaking, in which Sasuke presumed he was looking at his clock, "at frickin' three in the morning?" Naruto asked.

"You didn't call." He said, with lack of anything else to say. He listened to the other person sigh through the line.

"So? I was tired."

Sasuke scoffed into the phone as he shifted on his bed, resting his back against the wall with his knees under his chin.

"Did I tire you out that much?"

Spluttering, the other teen said, "N-no, you didn't… that's not what I said, asshole."

"Sounds like it to me."

"Sasuke…"

The dark haired boy waited, wondering what his friend was going to tell him. His name on his lips sounded slightly frustrated, but something else at the same time. Like he was trying to ask a question, but didn't know how to ask it.

"Sasuke, I doubt that you would call me at three in the morning… just to see how tired I am after our little 'play' in the park. Even you're not that conceited."

When Sasuke didn't answer him, he asked, "Why are you calling me?" His voice had softened significantly, and had lost its tired edge.

The other boy on the line said nothing. He was not about to go into detail with Naruto about how his family died, and how he relived it almost every night.

"Couldn't sleep? Get in a fight with your Aunt or something?"

Hearing the emphasis on the something part, Sasuke decided that he needed to end this soon. If he stayed on the phone much longer, he might get a headache from all the questions... or grow so sleepy that he answered them unknowingly. He wouldn't put it past Naruto to ask him something when he was half asleep and as vulnerable as an Uchiha could get without actually being asleep.

"D-did you have a… nightmare?" He heard him ask, his voice uncharacteristically serious.

"Hn. Go to sleep."

The phone line went dead and Naruto sighed to himself before closing his phone and staring at it. A few numbers flashed on the screen before disappearing and leaving the time of morning in its place. They had only been on for around four minutes, but in that time, Naruto learned one thing about Sasuke that he doubted anyone else knew.

Sasuke had been scared.

Since the first day he met him, Naruto wondered if he had nightmares. He didn't know the details about his friend's parents' deaths, and he wasn't going to go behind his back and find out either. He would wait until Sasuke was ready to tell him, if he ever wanted to. But knowing that Sasuke's family had been murdered—only a little over a month ago—and supposedly by his older brother—sent chills down his spine. And he hadn't even been there. He hadn't been a part of that family, grown up with them, loved them, taken vacation trips with them, eaten dinner with them… anything. He couldn't imagine how Sasuke felt, but he knew that if had lost his parents like that… there was no telling how he would react. But he was pretty sure that he would at least be haunted by their deaths, especially at night.

So, it didn't shock him that Sasuke was scared to sleep. What did surprise Naruto was the fact that Sasuke had called him of all people. He didn't even know what to say or how to approach the situation with tact. His failed attempt minutes before was proof of that. So, why would Sasuke call him after something like that?

Not knowing exactly what to do, but not being able to just leave things the way they were now, Naruto opened his phone and wrote a quick message.

XXXXX

Sasuke flipped his phone open, and read the text message that the moron had sent him.

Night, asshole. U better be treatin that cone nice. Don't forget to water it so it can grow up strong and tall.

Rereading the message in disbelief, he snorted under his breath. What was the idiot up to now? Replying back to the idiotic message, Sasuke's eyes glanced over to the orange traffic cone in the corner of his room. He felt his eyes roll at his previous action of stealing the damn thing, wondering to himself why he even brought it up to his room.

Naruto's phone vibrated, and he opened it quickly, not expecting a message back.

If you're talking about yourself, then it's too late. You're not going to grow anymore. Night, dumbass.

Smiling to himself, Naruto placed the phone on his nightstand and lied back down, muttering to himself, "Jerk."

XXXXX

And end for now… so, what do you think? Awesome? Sucked? Could use a beta? I know, but I'm too lazy and have too many sporadic updates to get and keep one. But anyway, I want to know what you guys thought. Please? I love reviews, they really do motivate me. Guess that's why I don't update so often. I only get about seven or eight for each chapter.  The few people that do review always say how great it was, and think that it deserves more reviews. Well, you guys can help out with that!

I'm a poor college student. I eat feedback, so feed me please?!

Go back and read the note at the beginning too. It's kinda important.

I haven't even started on the next chapter and will confess that I'm almost completely lost on what to do, so, any suggestions or things that you think need to be addressed would be helpful.

Love you all,

Robin