Unconditional: The Day Before

8th October

Na-chan,

I'll be waiting for you at the usual place tomorrow evening at 8.

Love,
'suke.

Naruto sat back on his well-worn sofa and let out a soft sigh while he fiddled with the scrap of paper between his forefinger and his thumb. He didn't know if he should feel flattered or disgusted, but he knew one thing for sure.

And that was that this had gone on for long enough, and he sure as hell wasn't going to let it continue anymore.


Past

Sasuke had returned from Sound about 6 years ago, after destroying Orochimaru with the knowledge that the Sannin had imparted to him. It was a long and hard battle, as the then chuunin chose to turn on his master on an epiphany just days before the soul transfer was supposed to take place. This epiphany had been a result of Kabuto's drinking, as each time he drank, he would get horrendously drunk and start to sing songs, obscene and not, from Konoha. When Sasuke went drinking with him for the first time to take his mind off the soul transfer which was to take place in a week's time, Kabuto had sung a rather somber song about the Yondaime and the Kyuubi, triggering an onslaught of emotions in him as he saw Naruto's blue eyes in his Sapphire Martini.

Two days later, he had made his decision to forget about the transfer and return to Konoha.

Both sides had used jutsus that nearly flattened three quarters of the village, but Sasuke had emerged victorious and he left the village bruised and broken, but not without standing at the village gates and looking back at the village he spent 3 years in to say his final goodbyes to it.

"I'm going home," he said.

And with that, he turned his back on Sound and had never once looked back.

Journeying to Konoha was difficult with the injuries that he had sustained in his battle with Orochimaru, but returning to Konoha made it seem like a walk in the park. He was arrested by the Anbu as soon as he was within a mile of Konoha, and it had taken a 3 month long trial before he was officially allowed to remain in the village. The old rookie 9 remained mostly distrustful of him, but things gradually got easier a little while later.

Because that was when Naruto returned.

Sasuke's trial had taken place in absence of Naruto, who had been on a 6 month long undercover mission in Mist. Naruto took Sasuke back as his best friend, his rival, unconditionally, sat with him and cheered him up when he threw tantrums of being disallowed any mission higher than B rank or when he simply grew melancholic about the past when he was allowed to move freely in and out of the village. He even offered himself up as a punching bag when Sasuke showed signs of needing to vent his anger on something. The two grew close, closer than friends, and then one night, they found themselves making out and the rest was pretty much history.

It was during this period of time when Sasuke learnt the concept of "unconditional", and vowed to give Naruto as much as he had been given.

The relationship was kept under wraps though, because the Kyuubi vessel was still disliked by the villagers and the traitor was, well, he was a traitor that cost Konoha many of its best ninjas. But the rookie 9 knew of it, and that was when Sasuke was finally accepted back into their fold. Because they knew Naruto, protected him, and loved him unconditionally; and if that meant getting to know the Uchiha all over again, they would do so for Naruto's sake.

But as the Fates would have it, good things in life never lasted for long.


8th October

It had been the same thing for the past 3 years. Two days before any couple would deem as an important date in a year, he would receive a note slipped under his apartment door. It was the same thing for New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, White Day and Christmas.

And of course, Naruto's birthday.


Past

Three years after Sasuke's return, and nearly as long after they became a couple, Sasuke turned 20. Sasuke, together with Naruto, had approached Tsunade for her blessings to become a bonded pair, to be recognized as the equivalent of a married couple, but she refused to do so and had simply shaken her head sadly as she passed a scroll to the young Uchiha.

"Sasuke, this was found in the storage room of the Hokage tower just a day ago when we were cleaning it out. I meant to pass it to you sooner but didn't know how to do so…"

"Just…just read it, will you?"

Sasuke looked at Tsunade with a blank stare. What could possibly interfere with his bonding with Naruto? It was then when Naruto noticed the seal on the scroll and paled drastically.

It was a seal that only appeared on documents that were concerned with marriage.

He trembled as he reached for Sasuke's hand. Sasuke turned to look at his boyfriend, and then realized what Naruto was staring at. He tightened his hold for a moment on that tanned hand, and whispered softly.

"It'll be alright. It has to be…"

The scroll was opened, and each word was like a signature on the death warrant of their relationship.

Approved and affirmed by Uchiha Fugaku and Hyuuga Hiashi

I, Uchiha Fugaku, approve and affirm my son, Uchiha Sasuke's, marriage to Hyuuga Hinata when he becomes of age

and

I, Hyuuga Hiashi, approve and affirm my daughter, Hyuuga Hinata's, marriage to Uchiha Sasuke when he becomes of age.

This marriage contract waswitnessed and affirmed by Sarutobi (Sandaime).

It was simple, it was short, and it was to the point. It didn't provide a reason for the union, nor explain its purpose. But it was more than enough. Naruto just crumpled into a heap on the floor, unsure of how to deal with the blow of having the only person ever to tell him that he loved him taken away from him. Sasuke stood like a statue of ice, gripping the scroll so tightly in his hand that the wooden ends broke. Tsunade could only look on helplessly, unable to do anything to change what the situation had come down to.

An hour later, Hyuuga Hiashi turned up at the Hokage tower with a teary-eyed Hinata in tow, who later knelt in front of Naruto and begged for his forgiveness for having taken his lover away from him without even knowing. Naruto was standing upright by then, but his face had taken the hard edge of someone who had seen too much and simply given up on the world and hope itself. He was deaf to Hinata's sobs, and simply stood stock-still as Sasuke was taken aside by Hiashi to be told that he could marry Hinata or further disgrace the Uchiha line.

It was decided that the marriage would take place a week later.


8th October

Their usual place was the training ground of their old team when Team 7 had still existed. But in all the recent times that Naruto had been there with Sasuke, it had never looked anything like the ravaged training grounds of their childhood. Last Christmas, it was a little clearing with a log cabin in the middle of it; for New Year's Eve, they had their very own little display of fireworks in that small patch of the forest.

But that did not take away the fact that the occasions were all celebrated a day before. Valentine's Day for Naruto and Sasuke was 13th February, while Christmas Eve was 23rd December and so on. What this meant, was that though Naruto did have a special celebration for each day, he was left alone on the actual occasion, given that he had no other family to celebrate the days with. True enough, his friends tried to make him feel less lonely on those days, but the bottom line was that such occasions were meant to be spent with your spouses and kin, not your friends.


Past

On the night before the wedding, Sasuke appeared at Naruto's window sill in an almost Kakashi-esqe manner and woke Naruto up in a manner which was much gentler than was to be expected of him.

"Na-chan. Wake up please. We need to talk."

But even with his gentleness, Naruto woke up with his eyes wild, looking like a man possessed. The mixture of sadness and angst in his unfocused gazed quickly gave way to a chilly indifference.

"Uchiha-san. You will be married tomorrow. It is improper for you to be found in…"

Here, Naruto's words faltered. What was he? A mere fuck that could be thrown aside for the approval of a dead clan? Or a lover that was pushed aside so a man could fulfill his honor and destiny?

"…the company of someone else besides your fiancé. Please leave."

The hurt was evident in Sasuke's stoic face, but he had to say his piece before he was thrown out of Naruto's life.

"Na-chan…"

"Please refrain from calling me that again. You will be mar…"

"I know! Fuck. I know I'm getting married tomorrow. That's why I'm here! If I weren't getting married, I wouldn't HAVE to be here. Please, Na-chan, just listen."

Naruto had spent enough time with Sasuke to read his emotions. What he saw now, was that Sasuke would be too stubborn to leave, and that he had something which he really thought was important to be said. And truth to be told, he wanted, no, needed to hear what Sasuke had to say.

"Alright. Just…make it painless, please," his voice coming out in a hoarse whisper.

"We don't have to end, Na-chan. You see it? Hinata knows about us, you saw how she pleaded with you that day in the Hokage tower. She will allow us to be together, even after she and I are married, even after we have kids!"

The desperation in Sasuke's eyes was clear, and was made even more obvious with his rambling tone. He had never adopted such a tone, and his tantrums were more in a sulky-I-will-destroy-everything-in-the-house manner. But Naruto couldn't help himself. He found his blood boiling at the thought of Sasuke even entertaining the idea of two-timing him, even if they were force into the situation. He couldn't bring himself to share Sasuke, much less think of him having children with Hinata.

"You bastard," Naruto ground out. "You made your decision. Uchiha honor over your 'Na-chan'. Now live with it!"

With that, he threw a hard punch at Sasuke, one which the Uchiha did not bother to dodge. At the same time, Naruto's verbal assault continued, increasing in strength and anger. He knew that he deserved everything that Naruto threw at him, and he knew that the barrage of punches and kicks from the blond ninja, if things did not go the way that he wanted, could possibly be the last physical contact that he'd have of him. So he stood there and took it, until Naruto's fists simply became light brushes against his skin, and tears started to fall from his blue eyes as his voice dropped to no more than a whimper.

"Stupid, stupid bastard. I can't. I can't do what you said…"

Sasuke wrapped his arms around his distraught lover. If only he wasn't an Uchiha, but nothing could be changed now. But that didn't mean that he would give up. No, he would make Naruto see that he would love him no less as Hinata's husband than simply as Naruto's lover. Planting a small, chaste kiss of the blond's lips, he made up his mind.

The next day, whispers and rumors ran rampant in town when Uchiha Sasuke turned up at his wedding bruised and beaten up.


8th October

Tomorrow's meeting would definitely be a celebration for his birthday. While the 10th of October used to be a day of sorrow and angst for him because of the Kyuubi and the villagers that would torture him more on that day, it was now the celebration for the defeat of the Kyuubi that made his life miserable.

On the 10th of October, the village's most prestigious clans and members would attend a dinner held at the Hokage tower with their spouses, and that was where Sasuke had to be on the night of his birthday. Thus the celebration for his birthday would have to be brought forward, and he would spend the actual day of his birthday hiding from the world.

When they had first gotten together, Naruto had very much looked forward to the day when he could head out with Sasuke on his birthday to the Kyuubi Festival, dressed regally in their yukatas and turning heads with their affection for each other.

Needless to say, it never did happen.


Past

Naruto took on an inordinate amount of missions after Sasuke's marriage. He would return from a mission, rest for a day in his apartment before leaving on the next one. However, each time he returned from his mission, Sasuke would be there, waiting for his return and to open the door for him. Naruto threw a fit the first time, and had promptly kicked Sasuke out of the house. It was only after Sasuke's departure that Naruto realized that a hot meal had been waiting for him in the kitchen, and the bath was run and his sheets changed, waiting for him to settle in.

While he might not be the brightest crayon in the box, Naruto recognized effort when he saw it. And he knew that Sasuke would just angst himself to death if he couldn't do anything for Naruto at all, so he decided on the spot that he would allow Sasuke this little peace of mind.

So the next time Sasuke opened the door, he wordlessly passed him his pack while he headed for the bathroom for a hot bath.

The change was incremental. Each time he got back, Sasuke would stay a little longer. At first he would be gone by the time Naruto came out of the bath, then it became that he would stay until Naruto came out of the bath. The next time, he stayed and watched the blond eat, and soon after, when Naruto placed a set of utensils in front of him, joined him for the meal. Soon after, he was sleeping on Naruto's couch for the night.

It wasn't long before they were sharing the same bed again. Sasuke would hold Naruto close to his chest, feeling Naruto's breaths even out as he gradually drifted off into deep sleep. Some nights he'd have to wake Naruto up from his nightmares, while other nights he'd just settle in and watch Naruto sleep.

But never once did Sasuke fall asleep in Naruto's company. It was almost as though the Uchiha was determined to have his eyes on Naruto for every moment that they were together.

The night that they rekindled their relationship to the bright spark it once was before the Hyuuga marriage fiasco, was when Naruto had returned from a mission, feverish from the poison in his bloodstream. Naruto had been struck by a senbon on the mission during an ambush attack, but with the Kyuubi's help, the effects of the poison had been reduced to a simple, but high fever. He hadn't gone to the Hokage tower for help, for it had been late when he reached the village. But more importantly, Naruto knew that Sasuke was at his apartment, and he didn't want to keep him waiting. So he stumbled home, crashing into Sasuke's arms when the door opened to his unsteady footsteps.

"Na-chan! Oh god. What happened!"

The only reply from "Na-chan" had been a slurred 'I've missed you' before he blacked out.

Sasuke spent the night taking care of Naruto. Undeniably, it had taken some time before he could calm down enough to do anything, but by 3a.m. in the morning, Naruto's fever was on the decline, and he was sleeping properly, not the fevered, restless sleep of the sick. Sasuke pulled up a chair and watched over him as he slept, his mind filled with the horrors of what would have happened if Naruto didn't have the Kyuubi to keep him alive, or if Naruto had been struck with something stronger than the standard senbon poison, or what if Naruto had…

When Naruto woke up the next day, it was well past noon. Sasuke was still watching over him, his eyes bloodshot from exhaustion. When he saw Naruto's eyes open, he couldn't control himself and the tears came.

"You idiot! What would I have done if you had…" he trailed off as the hiccupping sobs took over.

Naruto stared at this stoic ex-boyfriend in wonder. He didn't know what to make of the situation, but reached up with his hand and gently wiped away the tears that streamed down the pale face.

"You're crying…don't cry 'suke. I'm okay…shush…"

Sasuke then gave up all the self discipline that he had built up from the moment that he started taking care of Naruto. He gripped Naruto's wrist tightly, but not hard enough to bruise, and pressed it to his heart while he bent over and pressed his lips against his Na-chan's. Several months' worth of pent-up frustration and love came out in a flood, as Sasuke's lips worked fervently to coax a reply from the man that he loved. He had waited so long for this, and he had needed to know what Naruto thought about them so damn much.

Naruto didn't disappoint.

When the familiarity of Sasuke flooded his senses, he instinctively kissed back with as much enthusiasm as he could muster up in his newly recovered state, running his tongue over Sasuke's teeth, palate and tongue, memorizing the familiar, remembering the foreign. Sasuke released Naruto's hand and shifted himself off the chair onto the bed, supporting himself with his elbows such that he was just gently resting on Naruto's body, while Naruto started to run his hands up and down Sasuke's sides. But what hit Naruto the hardest was the feeling of Sasuke's tears running down his face.

And suddenly, it was Naruto's turn to understand "unconditional".

He loved Sasuke unconditionally, and if that meant allowing him to reclaim the pride of the Uchihas by marrying into another influential family, he would give him his blessings to do so. He would love all there was about Sasuke. He would love him for two-timing his wife, he would love the children that Sasuke had with the Hyuuga heiress, and he would love him for waiting for him after each mission.

But most of all, he would love Sasuke for risking his family's honor for continuing their forbidden relationship.

Naruto tilted his head a little to the left, deepening the kiss and eliciting a moan from Sasuke. It had been too long since Naruto had been with someone, while Sasuke was simply trembling from the nervousness and worry about finally being with his beloved again. They fumbled to strip each other, and when they were finally naked, Sasuke drew back and looked at Naruto, and the two smiled at each other almost shyly. Then they had fell into each other with a hunger that neither had ever felt before, kissing and touching and loving like there was no tomorrow.

And it had gone on from there.

Sasuke assured Naruto that Hinata never said a word about their relationship, though she knew of his infidelity. In fact, she would smile softly at him each time he left to take care of Naruto, and would let him sleep off whatever tiredness he acquired at Naruto's place when he returned.

And that was how the last three years were passed.


8th October

It used to be enough, but it wasn't anymore. Naruto was used to taking what he could get, with what little he was used to having in his childhood, but as he grew up, "what he could get" simply wasn't enough anymore. When he was young, he knew of hate, so he wanted tolerance. When he found tolerance, he wanted acceptance. After that he wanted friendship, and when he knew of friendship…

He wanted love.

And now that he had love, he wanted a life with the one he loved. He wanted the sun on them as they walked through the town, fingers laced together; he wanted his friends referring to them as "Naruto and Sasuke". He wanted to be the one wearing a shirt with the Uchiha crest, and he wanted Sasuke to have the Uzumaki spiral proudly tattooed on his wrist, so that each time he shook hands with someone new, they'd know that Sasuke was Naruto's.

But it was apparent that it was not going to happen any time soon. Hinata was heavy with their first child, and the entire Hyuuga clan was joyous with their anticipation of the birth. He knew he should not be feeling this way, for Sasuke was still there each time he returned from a mission, ready to please him in everyway possible, from a sweet cuddle to hot, angry sex. And the thing was, he knew the source of this emptiness that he felt. It was because Sasuke would talk to him about his soon-to-be born child, with a light shining in his eyes and a smile on his face. Naruto could tell that his lover was looking forward to being a father, and not wanting to dampen his spirits, he had plastered on a smile on his face and asked if he could be the godfather.

Sasuke had grinned almost heartbreakingly wide and nodded his head in agreement, then pulled Naruto close for a kiss.

Knowing the source for his unhappiness just made Naruto think that he was all the more shallow and lousy as a human being. But he couldn't help it. It came as a package. Kyuubi vessel, Konoha elite jounin, Sasuke's Na-chan, and HUMAN.

And so the human made a decision.


9th October

Sasuke blew out the candles and buried his face in his hands. It was well past midnight, and he was more than certain that Naruto would not be turning up that night.

Where did he go wrong?

(TBC)