This year he was all alone.

As far back as he could remember, no one had bothered to celebrate his birthdays with him. At times Naruto even forgot himself that his birthday had passed by, and then he would quietly cry himself to sleep. The dirty glances and whispers behind him scratched deeper and deeper wound into his soul, and Naruto frantically withdrew into his own world while outwardly he tried his best to be brash and loud and annoying. It's okay, it's okay, he kept telling himself. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't matter. I am strong, I am happy, I don't need anyone else. So just like this, all alone, I'm okay.
The first time he wasn't alone on the day of his birthday was when Iruka told Naruto to remain in class after school. Naruto wondered if Iruka discovered the profanities he had scribbled on the boys' bathroom stalls and waited with dread for the end of his classes. He thought he would be forced to scrub and clean the disgusting bathroom all afternoon, but instead Iruka had smiled at him and said, "Today's your birthday, isn't it, Naruto? I'll treat you to Ichiraku ramen, if that's okay with you."

Naruto cried that day, the already salty miso ramen salted more with his own tears.

On his next birthday Naruto was part of Team 7. In the morning when he went to their meeting place for the mission, Naruto found a surprise party for him instead. There wasn't a mission that day. Instead, under the clear October morning sky, Naruto had laughed like he had never laughed before. Under a great oak tree they had a picnic together, and Sakura proudly showed them the lunch boxes she had packed with her mother. Of course Naruto's feelings were hurt when Sasuke's lunch box was obviously very carefully worked upon (after all, it was his birthday) and had extra side dishes, but Sasuke wordlessly offered Naruto his lunch boxes, and they shared their food together. After they ate Kakashi produced a gloriously sticky chocolate cake, and they all had fun trying to get Sasuke to eat some of the cake. In the end Sasuke grew so annoyed with Naruto and Kakashi teasing him that he climbed up the tree and stayed there until they demolished the last of the cake.

After eating Kakashi took the children to the movies, and Naruto got to sit between Sakura and Sasuke. The movie was very funny and Naruto laughed until his stomach hurt and tears came out of his eyes, but really, it wasn't only because of the movie. He was so happy. He truly felt for the first time, 'It's a good thing I am alive.' He had people who cared about him. He felt as if he was enveloped in warmth and light for the very first time. Iruka was the first sliver of light for him, but everyone at Team 7 finally broke down his walls and filled his world with sunshine for the first time.

On the way home everyone gave Naruto presents. Kakashi gave him the complete collection of the Icha Icha series ("That's illegal. He's still a minor," Sasuke had dryly pointed out in the same tone he used few months ago when Kakashi gave him the same set), Sakura had bought him a warm, light orange sweater ("It'll get cold soon, so stop wearing only that jump suit and dress warmly," she had said) and Sasuke had given him a new set of kunai. Surrounded by warm, happy feeling, Naruto had gone home smiling, and that night his pillow wasn't soaked with tears.

After that Naruto was never alone on his birthdays. Even though he wasn't with Team 7 any longer, Jiraiya never forgot Naruto's birthday and would always take him out to eat ramen and bought him new clothes or shoes; whatever Naruto needed at the time. He also stayed with Naruto all day because Naruto tended to get depressed during his birthdays, remembering the one he spent with Team 7. The thoughts of Sasuke almost made him insane with grief and want and longing. His best friend, his rival, his teammate, his idol, his most envied person. No longer would Sasuke frown when Naruto tried to get him to get a bite of chocolate cake. No longer would Sasuke hand him a neatly wrapped present and mutter gruffly, "Return it to the store if you don't need it; I've included receipt with it." No longer would Sasuke suddenly narrow his eyes and curve his lips in a mock-smile when their eyes met before he messed up Naruto's hair and made Naruto protest and yell loudly.

If only Sasuke were here...

Naruto would have forgotten that it was his birthday today, except Sakura had said before she left with others this morning, "Happy birthday, Naruto. Why don't you take a day off from missions today?"

"Today is Naruto's birthday?" Sai had asked, grinning. "How about you celebrate it by getting laid, Naruto? How old are you again?"

"He's only seventeen!" Sakura had hissed back, immediately stepping in front of Naruto protectively. Naruto smiled. They both knew that Sakura was much weaker than Naruto, but he appreciated her thoughts anyway. Sakura looked back and said, "So you're going to rest today, right? We'll bring a cake or something on our way back. Oh! I left your present on your drawer, you know, where you keep your shirts. Open it after we leave!"

"Thank you Sakura," Naruto gratefully said, smiling. Sakura smiled back and everyone left. Silence fell in the camp. Naruto appreciated her thoughts, but he really wished she hadn't done that. He'd much rather work today. He didn't want to be alone, and... If he had mission to concentrate upon, he wouldn't think so much about...

Naruto suddenly stood up and walked towards his drawer, opening it almost violently. A prettily wrapped package was sitting on top of his shirts. The shiny light-pink box was imprinted with cherry blossom petal-pattern and was wrapped with long red ribbon, and Naruto couldn't help but softly laugh. It was just like Sakura to use something like this, even for a boy's present. He carefully opened the present and found a brand-new set of stainless steel kunai; the new sleek design promised more accurate and fast travel towards the targets. Naruto had wanted this new set; he was thinking of buying it and he was thankful that Sakura had bought it for him. And yet...

"Sa... suke."

At that time Naruto did not have the money to get the new set of kunai. For several days he had been eying the newest series of slim, platinum-tipped kunai displayed in front of stores. Most children his age received such kunai upon their birthdays or Christmas, but Naruto had no such hopes. One day he ran into Sasuke who came to buy some poisoned needles, and Sasuke condescendingly said, "Why are you looking at that all day? If you want it, just buy it."

"Well, I'm sorry that I'm not rolling in dough like you!" Naruto had yelled back. Normally he would rather die than cry in front of Sasuke, but tears stung his eyes. "Not everyone can just get what they want, you know!"

And on his birthday Sasuke had bought that obscenely expensive kunai for him; ones that were so expensive and wonderful that it was only reserved for parents' gifts to their children on Christmases and birthdays. And Naruto was only able to mutter a embarrassed "thanks," but he had fingered the beautiful new knives throughout the first night he had them.

Tears quickly gathered in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. Jiraiya knew that Naruto often thought about Sasuke and usually didn't leave him alone, especially on his birthdays when he thought about Sasuke most often. But today he was all alone. Sasuke would never celebrate his birthday again with him. Sasuke...

"S...tupid Sasuke," Naruto said, grinding his teeth in an attempt to stop crying. "If you were just plain asshole I could have hated you... I wouldn't suffer such heart-break over you... But I know how nice you are inside; how much you care about all of us... I know you're crying inside. Why do you make it so that I can never give you up?! I hate you! I... I..."

Naruto covered his face and burst into loud sobs. He couldn't be strong any longer. He had learned how to depend on someone else. He had learned that he didn't have to be all alone. He had tasted the sunlight and he could never return to darkness again. He wanted Sasuke to mess up his hair again, smile at him in that maddening way, feel that muscular, warm arm securely wrapped around his shoulder as Sasuke sometimes walked him home when the training sessions were difficult and Naruto couldn't walk well by himself. (Sakura never idiotically pushed herself so hard, and Sasuke pushed himself hard but he had the stamina to handle the harsh trainings.) Sasuke would usually say something in that sneering way of his and Naruto would yell back and they would argue back and forth, but laughter was always dancing in their eyes during such arguments. They both knew they shared something special; that their friendship was something that could never be broken. The bond between them grew stronger by day and even though Sasuke may say mean things, there were no thorns behind his words. Sometimes Sasuke's black, black eyes would be filled with so much tenderness and gentleness that Naruto would blush, his heart speeding up, as Sasuke's normally cold-looking face would soften into small smile...

"Sasuke! Sasuke, come back to me, why did you leave me?! You said you'll never leave me! You said you'll always protect me, that I'm so stupid I'll probably trip over my own feet so you could never leave my side, that... that you always have to come and save my ass! So why... Why..."

Naruto's hoarse, almost animalistic screams gave away to throaty whispers. Naruto buried his head between his arms, curling himself up into fetal position. He felt his hands tightening around the kunai set until he felt the blades digging into his hands. His hands trembled violently.

"I need you, Sasuke..."

When Naruto suddenly startled awake, he was surprised that he had fallen asleep at all. Not only that, but he had been undressed and tucked into bed. There was something wonderfully soft and warm covering his body and Naruto wondered what it was, snuggling into the warmth. He was awake, but he didn't want to open his eyes yet. He felt so protected and secure...

Naruto's eyes suddenly snapped open. He felt heart-beat. Surprised he blinked his eyes owlishly and his eyes slowly moved upwards until his sleepy blue eyes met the familiar, beady black eyes. Naruto blinked, then blinked again. The apparition did not disappear.

"...It's been a long time since I had this dream," Naruto mumbled to himself, resting his forehead against the warm bare-chested male. "I thought I grew out of this."

Sasuke didn't reply. Sasuke never replied in these dreams. Naruto wasn't even sure if these were dreams or reality. He had been having such dreams ever since he was thirteen. The first time he was so shocked that he had screamed and Sasuke had covered his mouth up in an very inappropriate way, which made Naruto squirm nervously the next day when he saw Sasuke and wonder if something was dreadfully wrong with him. But after that Sasuke had came into his room every night, sleeping by his side, providing Naruto with warmth and security so that he didn't have to cry and sleep alone. No matter how securely Naruto locked the doors and windows, Sasuke always came, and in truth Naruto didn't want to find out if this Sasuke was a dream or reality. Naruto couldn't mention such dreams to Sasuke, especially because sometimes Sasuke did very strange and embarrassing things to him.

That dream suddenly stopped when Sasuke left him. And here he was again. The dream Sasuke never spoke, but he kindly smiled and listened patiently to whatever Naruto had to say. He would sweetly kiss Naruto and hold him warmly in his arms. Naruto wondered if this Sasuke—somehow Sasuke was a lot bigger and muscular than his old dreams—was also the same? He reached up and tentatively pressed his lips against Sasuke's.

Sasuke gently kissed him back and soothed back his hair, smiling at Naruto. Naruto felt so relieved that he felt tears stinging his eyes again. The dream Sasuke hadn't changed. At least, this dream Sasuke would always be sweet to him; never say harsh things to him and push him away, saying he didn't need him any longer...

"Don't cry."

Naruto froze. Dream Sasuke wasn't supposed to speak! He wasn't supposed to, yet... The dream Sasuke kissed Naruto's wet eyelids and repeated, "Don't cry, dead-last."

"...Who are you calling dead-last?!!! I'm probably a better shinobi than you are by now!"

Sasuke only narrowed his eyes in laughter, then gathered Naruto into his arms and buried his face against Naruto's neck. Naruto felt the hot, gentle breathings against his skin and shivered.

"Happy birthday."

"Sasuke..."

"Happy birthday, Naruto."

Then Naruto cried and clung to Sasuke and sobbed out all his worries and pains and wants to Sasuke, and Sasuke drowned him in his kisses and caresses, and then they rushed at each other and clothes were haphazardly discarded and sweaty bodies were pressed together. Sasuke did things to Naruto that he didn't think were ever possible, their bodies melted into one and Naruto made sounds he never knew he could make, little soft whimpering, mewing sounds that keened as Sasuke almost broke him in two, tearing apart his flower petals and wetting him with honey and breathless kisses were exchanged as they awkwardly danced the ancient mating dance for the first time.

"Sasuke, Sasuke," Naruto had cried out, breathless and tears clinging to his long eyelashes as Sasuke grunted above him, his pale face reddened with exertion and blood pooling into his beautiful porcelain-like cheeks, his black eyes wild and crazed with possessiveness.

"Naruto," Sasuke had growled back, reassuring Naruto that he was here, right by Naruto's side, right now. And that was all Naruto needed.

"Naruto? Naruto," a soft voice called, gently shaking him awake. Naruto groggily opened his eyes.

"I'm sorry to wake you up when you're sleeping so well, but I thought you'd like to eat your cake before your birthday's over," Sakura apologetically said, helping Naruto up. Naruto smiled in thanks and tried to gather his jumbled thoughts. Sasuke was here. Sasuke was lying with him on the bed, keeping him safe and warm, and then Naruto had cried, and then...

He had a wet dream about his friend.

Feeling like some kind of pervert, Naruto made a face and crawled out of the bed. He had stood up on the floor to pull of his pajamas and get dressed when he felt something sticky dripping out of him and running down between his legs.

"What's wrong, Naruto?"

"...Bathroom. Sorry."

Naruto rushed to the bathroom with his clothes. Before, even when Sasuke did naughty things to him, he never left anything on him. There were no kiss marks, no teeth marks... He was always clean when he woke up, both his clothes and sheets bearing no evidence to what he did in his dreams. But now...

Naruto pulled down his underwear and stared in confusion at the mess. His panties were soaked with blood, and thick white liquid ran down his thighs. Naruto grabbed some tissues and tried to clean himself as best as he could, but more blood and nasty, sticky white stuff came out from him when he moved. There was also a dull, throbbing pain in his waist and buttocks that did not feel familiar to him. Then Sasuke... Sasuke really... All these years, it was...?

Naruto sat on the toilet seat and cried, flushing the toilet so that no one could hear him. When he was done and blood and white stuff didn't come out from him that much any longer, he washed his face and came out. Sakura excitedly gestured to Naruto to come to the table to eat the cake, then paused.

"Ah, Naruto, your headband..."

"Headband?" Naruto asked, feeling his forehead. What was wrong with his headband?

"Not that one, the one you always wear around your neck. Your old one," Sakura said, gesturing to Naruto's bed. "I don't know how you got the leaf symbol crossed out, though! You should throw that old thing out."

Naruto only smiled and limped towards his bed to retrieve Sasuke's headband. It was the only thing belonging to Sasuke he had, so he couldn't give it up, even though it looked like he was a missing nin or something like that. Naruto picked it up and started to wrap it around his throat, but paused and frowned when he noticed a scratch on the edge of the metal.

Naruto pulled the headband off and started to rub the edge of the metal, hoping that it was a smudge and he could wipe it away, but he realized that someone had deliberately cut the edge. Getting almost angry now Naruto stared at the scratch.

待て. (Wait for me)

This time Naruto didn't care even if he cried in front of everyone.

- END -
I can almost hear Naruto squealing behind me "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THIS IS NOT BIRTHDAY PRESENT!!! You only tortured me and made me cry and even made me lose my virginity!!!" Um, well, right now all I can think about is sad stories for SasuNaru, because the current situation for SasuNaru is like this... TvT;;;;; I somehow can't bring myself to write something fluffy and happy. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT SASUKE YOU RUINED NARUTO'S BIRTHDAY. You better make it up to him by being good husband to him for the rest of your life! A'