The Curse of the Red Vine Lovers

Chapter six: Scars.

The-probably-belated-anniversary-author's-note-of-cold-rationality:

SOOOO! It's been a year and there is a startling amount of what, six chapters to this story? –dies- But that's okay—I've catalogued over like 120 something pages so whatev…kiss iT!>?!KN!NUE!

Anyway, college. I know many of you could give a flying flip about my personal affairs and would much rather be reading sasunaru smut then playing real-life dilemmas….so here's a smutty interlude you can read over and over again while I type out my adventures for the entire world (, same thing) to ogle.

(Sasuke gave Naruto a boner…then took care of it…sexily. Then, Sasuke and Naruto did it doggie style and of course! Our little blonde friend was the catcher, narusasu is unnatural…please don't make me spew my long intestines everywhere in disgust. And then there was some momentary angst when Naruto accidentally called out the wrong name while writhing passionately beneath the touches of his dark haired lover…but all's well because they just had more sex until Naruto forgot that name and in fact, forgot all other names entirely. Naruto was confined to a bed for the next week and a half, plagued with an aching butt, something that Sasuke gloated about around the water cooler at work with the boys.)

GAH!

So, facebook and cellphones are going to be the reason I fail out of college. And COLLEGE! Sooo, I went to the University that I sort of just picked because I was out of time and didn't want to have to think anymore…And it was terrible. There was puke EVERYWHERE. And even though I went with two of my best friends, I despised it so greatly that in two weeks time, I was like 'suck deez nutz'. So, the ritzy, expensive-oh-my-god-I'm-going-to-be-in-debt-for-the-rest-of-my-freaking-life private school in my hometown (that I didn't want to go to in the first place because it is in my town of origin erg) hadn't started yet, so I decided that's probably where I should be…where people actually employ their minds to do mindly things. And I LURVE IT!

I've met for the first time in real life--another yaoi addict! It was so strange, a face to face confession of liking boys doing it. It was soo strange and yet soooo beautiful. And! I even wrote some gay boy smut with another girl…Basically, my geekiness is finally being watered and I love it--it shall grow into a lovely flower and kind of be like the loco weed when animals eat it. And people actually like anime there! I can finally—actually open my mouth about it. AND! I live in a castle and people are outnumbered to deer 8:1. And we have cows. I lurve it. Don't be afraid of college, kiddies! It's a stupendous joy!

Oh, and here's the sort of link to the ephemeral HarryxRon smut I wrote (feverishly typed) on her computer. Go read her stories if you adore Harry Potter boys shagging. They're the shit.

www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/3879445/1/LauraJanesHarryPotterSmut

DAMN YOU ENGLISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

(college is fucking difficult.)


Excerpt from The World is Far More Complicated than I Understand by Imus Thames. Chapter 16, pg 586.

"…I watched the tribe interact harshly with the poor foreign boy. They spat on his small hut while he was out, tripped him while he carried his gourd of water back to his home, ridiculed him to his face…and all the while, I could see the fierce, powerful hate growing within him. Not only was he unaware of the viridis that licked his fingers and begged to be utilized, but he was also ignorant to the bubbling rotting viridis inside him. I knew action had to be taken when I saw it flicker red behind his eyes one day. It was no where near the level of damage that had to occur to manufacture another catastrophe…but it could mount and lead to one in the future.

So, I informed the village head of my findings and I expressed my concern at the needless hate the villager's doused him with on a daily basis. He was terribly frightened when I told him of the products of extreme hate and rage that had been produced in Germany earlier that year. The unspeakable event that shattered all rational, hidden village thought. He agreed hastily he would speak to his people.

The next morning, the boy was found dead, his throat slit."


"Your parents are dead." The administrators of the group home had stated resolutely.

"They are never coming back. You two are only allowed one photo of them—if that."

The frail-looking boy next to him had quivered with tears as he held a folder with the corners of photographs poking out of the sides. Naruto had peered wistfully at the two crumpled pictures in his own hands, focusing on each miniscule detail of the fading pigments. A baby swaddled in a blanket, tucked inside the cusps of masculine arms was etched in one; the other a wedding photo of one bright, cheery man and the most miserable looking woman Naruto had ever seen. He had guessed that these were his parents…but there was no way to know for sure. The man had his wide, toothy smile and the woman his small nose and heart-shaped face. It had been taken in a black and white film, which he guessed now was to add a rustic look to their wedding--the woman's dress was clearly not modern (probably a hand me down). Did these two people know that their possible son would stand six years later wondering what hair color was veiled behind that light gray pigment? Wondering why the woman with the thick glasses looked as though she were ready to sob?

"It is not as if we want to keep you from remembering your loved ones," the faceless man in his memories had said from behind his tall desk. "But you must live on and try to find a new family. If you are always focused on what you used to have, then you will never know happiness in the present."

The language at the time had been so callous and rough, like the palms of a foreigner rubbing along his throat. Ideas were being flung into his head, but he hadn't exactly matched them alongside their harsh vocal counterparts. He remembered now how difficult Japanese was at first—how every annunciation seemed to shun him, as if banning him from the language altogether. Japan was a homogonous world of obedient black-haired children and Naruto had always been a talkative, hyperactive blonde haired demon.

It was so easy to forget these times…Looking back now, they felt like another person's life entirely. But when these fleeting mental images swarmed in his brain, he felt comforted--they were far from this happy present he had struggled for. He could see them clearly now, gazing though an objective lens.

And they came in pieces…sometimes so random and out of place, they made his head ache. Nothing was linear.

He didn't speak Japanese in his earliest memory—his mouth emitted liquid words that sounded in the vocal chords as if they were trapped bobbing at sea. His voice was masked in this different language as he spoke childishly to a dog on a foreign street.

How could he have forgotten this?

No, he didn't forget it. He just didn't drudge up the memories. They were surely there, beneath his skin always, but he never took the time to set them apart and dig through them.

It was a betrayal to Iruka to think of these times because these were the minutes and seconds his guardian didn't occupy. And before that, it was a fruitless labor, remembering a place that only made him more befuddled and angry then before. These were the far, cold reaches of a time that no one but himself had access to. It was his own personal world of independence and Naruto needed people. He absolutely needed them.

Here was this cobbled street again. He remembered the sun was so bright that it reflected off a store front window that displayed misshapen characters that he couldn't read. The shorts he had been wearing were itchy and thick, and his socks kept scrunching down to his ankles, refusing to stay set beneath his knee. His hand was above him, clasped inside someone else's. He couldn't remember whose hand, but that this was an ordinary, standard action…it didn't feel strange at all.

And there was this dog—a brown and white one with wrinkles in its joules. And it was staring at the world with a lazy tedium. Naruto yearned to excite it because he knew what it was like to be constantly bored. So, he called out to it.

"Halllo hündchen! Haallloooo!"

Had the dog turned his way?—moved any at all?

That's where that piece of his memory fell to a jagged edge and only a voice remained faceless above him, muttering:

"Nien, nien Elijah—nien nien."

And here there were others--

He was sprawled on his belly on thick carpet that was so incredibly soft, it made his elbows melt straight into the floor beneath it. There was a fat ginger cat weaving around his body and rubbing slyly on his legs that were up in the air. His hands were fiddling with a red toy dust cropper on the floor, making it take off and land as he growled out artificial engine noises.

And there were several others…slips and wisps of moments that did not have context or a time line, they just existed. There was a red Fogarty dress draped over a chair next to a quilted bed. There was a brick wall with a brown-eyed boy peeking through a hole in the middle. There was a cobbled street with people clad in bizarre, old-fashioned clothing frolicking about. There was….

…This was not a dream he was immersed inside. He comprehended that he was asleep, or at least his eyelids were closed and that his head was resting on Shikamaru's knee. But, these were not dreams swirling around in his head. These were bits of his lost self he was squeezing through his brain—he had never been this far before--abruptly, the pictures darkened.

…There were thin lips, glossed red and hands on either side of his face. A beige pearl necklace was aligned around a thin, white neck and it glinted in a red light. Then, the hands pulled and pointed fingernails sliced through his cheeks. A fierce burning erupted. A soft, strangled chanting assaulted his ears as a thick liquid dripped from his face to his shoulders.

"Sein Gesicht….Sein Gesicht…"

The image abruptly halted, but the distraught voice lingered, increasing in volume. Now, it sounded as if two voices were tearfully murmuring the same inconceivable words, clinging to them as if a lifeline to each other.

"Sein Gesicht…Sein Gesicht…"

His eyes snapped open when he realized it was his own voice. The knee beneath his head shifted and he looked up into Shikamaru's blurry, but clearly pensive face. He felt uncomfortable locked in this all too somber gaze. Rubbing his own eyes, Naruto sat up and retreated to the other end of the couch. He was feeling distinctly un-masculine.

"What time is it?" He groggily asked, lounging into the soft corner of the tattered couch.

"Around 12." Shikamaru answered. His eyes remained grave. "You slept for a couple of hours."

Swallowing a biting sense of betrayal, Naruto questioned about Iruka.

"He's at work." Shikamaru's rigid shoulders did not flinch as they passed along the information, but they seemed as if they secretly wanted to. "I told him you got sick during the night. He offered to stay home, but I said I'd stay."

Naruto's lips honestly wanted to say 'good', but his vocal chords wouldn't wiggle out the words.

They sat in a waiting silence for a while. The sun's cheery beams slipped through the large window in front of the television, throwing its gleaming strands onto the bookcase and the family pictures stacked in frames there—all the people and moments Iruka cared for were purposefully captured. His dead parents, the first class he taught, Naruto and Iruka waving peace signs, Iruka's best friend. They glittered brightly, even under a film of dust. Naruto closed his eyes and drew his knees to his chest.

Shielding his eyes, Shikamaru got up, closed the curtains slightly, and returned to his spot. Naruto lifted his head.

"Have you ever heard me talk in my sleep?"

Shikamaru turned to stare at him. "Yes—you do all the time."

It was true. In the group homes, no one wanted to room with him because he was said to mummer incoherent babble all night. When there was no noise outside to clog his ears, he even trashed violently. But, he thought that had abruptly ended when Iruka had taken him in.

"Is it always nonsense like that?" He asked, idly popping his neck. Shikamaru's gaze was thoughtful, as if it were pulling his face off in layers, wondering what motions the brain was taking.

"That wasn't nonsense." His friend replied slowly. "That was German."

He felt so troubled, like he was walking on a rickety board teetering in the air. German? Was that the language he had been born into?

As if sensing his wonderings, Shikamaru asserted, "You know that article didn't necessarily pertain to you. Uzumaki is not that rare of a name. Neither is Naruto."

A rush of anger fueled Naruto's mouth . "Then explain how it's dated at the same year my parents supposedly died in a car crash. I woke up in a hospital in 1995 for christ's sake! Don't you remember me telling you that they said I had been asleep for a long time and that my memories would probably be jumbled? Don't you remember when I told you that I couldn't speak for the first couple of months afterwards and could hardly recognize my own name? What the hell is this?! It's like a fucking conspiracy!"

Shikamaru's meditative silence persisted. It only shoved Naruto's already frayed nerves further.

"And unless I'm a biological anomaly, I can't be the child of an average Japanese couple-- I'm even speaking German in my sleep."

Naruto fell quiet and simply watched Shikamaru, whose eyes had retreated to his cupped hands in his lap. He always appeared to be so regal with his straight spine and loose gestures. It was as though he owned the very air.

"You'd think that if I was that foreign, I'd be a little taller ne?" Naruto remarked lightly, and then feeling abruptly queasy, his gaze found the top of his kneecaps. "Is Naruto even really my name?"

"Naruto," Shikamaru declared determinedly. Looking up, he found a strong resolve glinting in his typical lethargic stare. "Have you even stopped to think that maybe you were adopted by the Uzumaki's at a young age?"

Naruto shook his head. "I didn't even recognize those people."

His friend's eyes widened slightly as his stiff spine became impossibly straighter. "You remember your parents?"

Naruto's thoughts trailed back to his earlier delirium, to the thin, red lips that were stretched into the same miserable line that the woman in the wedding photo had worn.

"Somewhat." He then added. "Plus, they're not the same couple in the wedding photo of my parents."

Shikamaru appeared unexpectedly alarmed, sitting completely up and out from the back of the couch. He had forgotten he had never told him about the ragged picture—it had just been too personal.

"What picture?!"

"An old man gave me two in the hospital."

Shikamaru seemed sincerely angry. "How come you never told me about this?"

Naruto scowled. "I don't have to tell you everything."

A mute horror glittered in his beady eyes.

"What?" he interrogated, shifting from his lounging position to a more alert stance. He sensed he might be over-looking something incredibly crucial.

"What's wrong with having a picture of my parents?"

Very much unlike himself, Shikamaru covered his distressed face with his hand and leaned his head back on the couch. He never, in all his five years of presence in Naruto's life, had openly portrayed his exasperation in such a manner. He was always so fluid-like and easy, never had he appeared so restless. A nervous chill churned in his stomach.

"I can't believe how incredibly complicated this has become." His steady voice was muffled by his palm. "So many years of sacrifice and toil, straight down the toilet."

Naruto was mystified, feeling as though he was so submerged in a foggy pool and there was no amount of help that could yank him out again. As his hand crept away from his face, the blonde was suddenly in-captured by the most focused stare he had ever seen emitted from those brown eyes. The breath in his lungs felt trapped for a moment between his ribcage, as he simply gaped at this un-veiled, raw being before him. This was Shikamaru, not the lazy-eyed comrade that had walked beside him all these years.

"What do you mean…"Naruto trailed off, his tongue no longer pliable enough to construct sentences. He scooted back into the arms of the couch, bringing his knees to his chin as a sort of wall of protection between him and this foreigner.

"There are many things," Shikamaru recited slowly, "Sasuke Uchiha is known for, but at the top of the list, he is the only living carrier of the exceptionally rare Curse of the Red Vine Lovers."

Naruto swallowed the spit pooling in his mouth.

"There may be several reasons he's attached to you out of all the sleepers in this town, but the theory I have been regretfully supporting as of late, is that the legendary curse has finally found its intended mate."

Naruto's stare shifted guiltily to his toes.

"Damn it," Shikamaru swore under his breath, making him jump. He never cursed; he always seemed too dignified to spout any vulgar.

They both simply sat alongside each other for a while, wordless. The sun's rays that had snuck through the small space of the curtains were receding from the room, making it seem parched and thirsty. Naruto couldn't help but feel repulsive.

"How do you know Sasuke?"

Shikamaru cut across him fiercely. "Before you start pestering me with a limitless amount of questions, know two things: One: I will only answer so many before I have to leave you and two: you need to understand something important."

Naruto blinked.

"I will not tell you more than what you honestly need to know." He sighed. "You're in so far --your mind will probably be rearranged anyway."

"What do you mean—"

"And before I answer anything, I need a question answered myself." He paused. "What happened the day you met Iruka?"

Feeling as though his brain had twitched and missed a monologue or two, Naruto asked, "What? Why?"

Shikamaru's eyes narrowed. "Just tell me."

"But I already told you—like three or four times!"

The stern, foreign man shook his head. "No, you told me that you ran away. And when I asked you why, you always told me something incredibly stupid and off the wall." He snorted humorlessly, his direct, shrewd gaze softening back into the perturbed stare Naruto was accustomed to. It made him feel more at ease. "You came up with some of the dumbest, most immature crap I've ever heard of. A three-headed mule was attacking your roommate? A fire-breathing Gecko was crawling under your bed? Why would you even make that crap up?"

Naruto's shoulders became tense, his stare shifty and uncertain like an admonished child.

"You'd know if I lied anyway. You always do. And I didn't want to tell you."

"Why?"

"Because it's not something I want to tell anybody." He murmured quietly. "It's scary."

Knowing that this was his one shot at releasing some questions from his friends guarded mouth, he exhaled. It was time to negotiate his own past secrets for the revelation of other ones.

"I—" How did he begin this? He had escaped from the group homes plenty of times. Who hadn't in those dingy, dimly-lit houses been tempted to see just how far they could run until they were hungry and cold? Most of the time he came back to a firm scolding hours later, but there were only three times he went missing for days—the last for good.

Naruto wasn't a delinquent; he always bared his fangs when provoked, but mostly that just ended in him sporting black and blue lumps. However, he had the uncanny ability to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This had earned him two strikes on his juvenile record. It was after he was carted back to his room with having only hours before explaining to an uncaring officer his predicament--that he stuffed an extra shirt into his hoodie and stepped out into the streets.

"It was really really weird that day," Naruto licked his lips nervously and maneuvered himself to sit on top of his legs. "Because finally a couple was going to adopt me, which was weird in itself because no one had ever even shown interest. It's like there's this--this barrier between me and other people."

Shikamaru regarded him wordlessly.

"And I was thinking, finally I'm getting out of here! but um, it was weird because they'd never even met me. I'd never even had a conversation with them! They just sort of…picked me. So, I was supposed to be in my room packing for our 'trial weekend together', but I knew they were in the kitchen and I needed to know whether I should bail or not, so I went downstairs and snuck a peek through the doorway."

Naruto's eyebrows knitted together as the formless voices performed their conversation again in his head.

"It's not as if his crimes are that violent. This is completely ridiculous."

"He punched a kid for calling him a runt, Kurenai--just for calling him a runt! You don't think that seems to spell out an underlying tendency towards violence?"

"So? He's twelve, Asuma—he shouldn't be expected to act like a responsible adult. And in case you haven't noticed, he is horribly short. What normal kid wouldn't feel just a bit agitated when someone calls him a runt?"

"The kid has a black eye, a broken nose, and he lost a tooth. You know just as well as I do that he is only awake by extreme grace. He's really pushing his privilege a bit too far if you ask me. Something should've been done at the first transgression."

A sigh.

"So, to solve all his problems, they're going to put him to sleep?"

His stomach churned disturbingly. A tingling crept up his windpipe and his arms almost shook.

"They said they were going to put me to sleep and—and I didn't know what to do, Shikamaru! So, I wanted to open the door on them, catch them in this huge plot then turn them in—but, the lady that was standing there rooting me on was really pretty but, her eyes….They were, well, red."

Naruto stole a relaxed breath. "After that, I just sort of ran."

Shikamaru lingered in his wordless contemplation, his stare calculating his fingers. It was moments before the information seemed to settle at the base of his brain. "And then you ran into Iruka?"

Warmly smiling, Naruto recounted the memory in his own head. The moment the world discovered the necessary cogs to set his life on the correct tracks—the life he was supposed to have lived from the very beginning.

"It's the only way I know there's a god. That day, of all days, of all times, I ducked into that stinky-ass alley, and there he was coming out the side door of his apartment building. I scared the living shit out of him, yelling 'they're going to kill me!' over and over again…But you know Shikamaru?"

"I know it sounds weird, but, he was the first guy I ever thought I could actually trust. I liked people until then, but he was the first guy I'd ever really—clicked with. Is that the right word? I dunno. And then you…You I clicked with."

Shikamaru's stare would not lift from his fingers. The tanned proteins inside his eyes looked like turbulent mud puddles. "Have you clicked with anyone else?" He questioned softly.

Naruto replied in an equally quiet voice.

"Sasuke."

Could the loitering quiet that reigned in the room be considered an actual silence? Naruto couldn't tell—it was more like a pause and shift in directions, like a train had hit the turning tracks that sent it chugging the other way.

"How do you know him?" His voice was almost breathless.

Shikamaru lounged back into the sofa, clearly agitated that it was his turn to be interrogated.

"As you've probably already figured, I'm from the hidden villages."

Naruto waited for more and clenched his jaw irritably when it didn't come.

"And?" He seethed, feeling reminiscent of his conversations with Sasuke.

"Sasuke's a pretty famous character among the currents of Viridis," He stated indolently, ogling the ceiling in an uninterested daze. His words seemed too rehearsed and he appeared to be like an actor reading dispassionately from a script.

"He also comes from a talented clan of Viridis wielders—very excellent spell authors…Also world renowned hypnotists. They're probably one of the most well respected clans inside the hidden villages." He grunted, "nothing more than doll-makers really."

"Doll-makers?!"

"Yes," He said casually, "his brother is famous as well, however definitely not for the same reasons."

"He has a brother?" Naruto gaped. "He never told me!"

A furtive thought snaked through his head, it's not like he told you anything about himself in the first place.

"Why is his brother famous?"

"That's not something that you need to know." Shikamaru's face was too emotionless, too aligned. No muscle even twitched to emit the words; the skin simply remained smooth and wrinkleless and his eyes tried too hard to retain their previous, lethargic glance. Before Naruto could hurl out another question, Shikamaru glanced pointedly at his wrist watch.

"I have to go," he announced. "Iruka's going to be hella mad when he sees that I didn't stay with you. Will you please tell him I had somewhere I had to be? He was really worried."

Naruto glared. "So what, you're just going to leave me so confused like this—completely alone after I just learned that something's really fucked up with my heritage and the facts I'm getting from people?"

He hadn't meant to let it slip, but it barreled angrily from his lips. His eye twitched and he felt dizzy with the implication.

"Are you even really my friend?"

Shikamaru remained un-affected by the question that terrified him. His composure lingered as he stood up and collected his jacket off the side table.

"Don't be daft, Naruto. Of course I am." He said, turning from him to hunt for something in the recliner. His hand retreated from the cushions a moment later with his keys. The air suddenly felt heavy as Shikamaru simply stood there, his arms straight to his sides, his back hacked with stiff muscles.

"Why else would I be hanging around you if I wasn't your friend?"

It was a test, or rather, a trap--that's how it seemed to Naruto. It seemed inquisitive, the very words quizzical, subtly begging to know what theories his stray-way imagination had concocted. And after he had laid his trap, he would wait like a hunter for his ideas to poke their innocent little heads out, and then bash their skull in.

Naruto knew the proper way to counter a trap was with another.

"Why are you here in this small dumb town? Why here?"

"Business," Shikamaru replied, turning around and crossing his arms. The trap had sprung with no animal inside. "Beneath the library, is another library-- this one restricted access only. You must be a member of or have strong, personal ties to the hidden villages to gain admission into it."

"Why?"

Shikamaru appeared agitated. "Because, you idiot, the books are mostly all on the subject matter of magic and viridis—most are worded so scientifically and consist of such complex theorems, not even the brainiest of modern sleeper scientists could figure them out. Plus, we don't want the secrets of our world spilled."

Naruto could hardly believe that all those agonizing hours he had spent laboring in the library, that beneath him people from the hidden villages were frolicking about and learning from their cryptic, unintelligible science books.

"What do you do there?"

Shikamaru's skin gathered too tightly again. His lips seemed to recede at the corners.

"They're threats against it everyday. People want it burned to the ground." His eyes were too focused, too directed; his voice un-characteristically even. "I help guard it."

"Bullshit."

Shikamaru's eyes narrowed.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean bullshit!" Naruto yelled. "You're lying!"

Shikamaru snorted. "I don't know what you think you know, but I can assure you that's what I do here."

"Maybe, but you're lying about something."

His friend's face contorted into an unusually cruel expression. "Just what do you think you know?"

Naruto's eyes traveled to the ceiling, contemplating the plastered star patterns. Licking his lips, he returned his gaze to Shikamaru. He could feel the intensity crackling on the sides of his eyes.

"I know that you the first time you met me, you hated me."

Shikamaru's face slackened in disbelief.

"What?"

"I know that you hated me for a long time afterwards too. You always hung out with me like you had to--like you were dared into doing it. At first I thought someone had, and I got real pissed but I didn't want to loose my cool and have everyone make fun of me. So I tried to act really detached and—and really, really cold. It only seemed to make you hate me more…And I didn't know what do. You just dragged behind me, day in and day out."

The smile that appeared on Naruto's face was subdued; almost as if it was battling with the teeth for free reign.

"But then you pulled me out of the way of that bus and I saw the look in your eyes. You were scared! It was one of the best days of my life."

Shikamaru turned around abruptly, slinging his jacket on as he marched towards the door.

"Wait!" Naruto cried, leaping out from the couch. "Where are you going?"

"I have somewhere to be." He replied resolutely.

"You're really going to leave me alone? After all this crap?"

"I'm not leaving you alone." There was a pulsing current of some sort of irritation present in Shikamaru's voice, but it wasn't his standard lazy agitation. It seemed deeper; almost conflicted with sadness.

"I'm leaving you to Sasuke."

Naruto's eyes widened.

"He's been outside the apartment door all morning." He explained, striding lazily towards the door. A panic cropped up inside of Naruto all of a sudden, watching his only source of information unlatch the lock on the door. His frenzied mind gargled out the question he had been mulling over as they chatted.

"You know something about my family, right? I know you do!"

Shikamaru sighed, his hand halting on the brass knob. "Later, Naruto."

"No, please!" He cried out frantically, feeling his vocal chords twitch as a knot of pain latched unto them. His eyes desperately wanted to emit at least one tear to ease the pressure brewing behind them. "You're the only person I've got!"

A sharp silence flooded their communication. It was obvious that Shikamaru could not effortlessly lie himself out of displaying his vital secrets. Naruto was just too good at detecting them.

"My mother," Naruto licked his lips nervously, "was she—did she…um…"

"Did she what?" Shikamaru's voice was so quiet the clanking heater in the corner almost sucked away his words.

"Was she the one who gave me these scars on my face?"

"Yes."

Silence.

"I'll see you later."

Shikamaru opened the door, revealing Sasuke leaning against the wall facing it. His stare remained on the floor as Shikamaru stepped out and passed him. What was so frightening, Naruto noted, was that the two effortlessly bypassed each other without so much as glance or even a twitch. There was no pulsating tension stringed between the two, just a clean detachment. It almost made him sick regarding it, or maybe that was just the nausea that had been bubbling in his belly all morning.

After Shikamaru had safely descended the stairs and was thusly out of site, Sasuke looked up sharply and immediately locked eyes with Naruto. His gaze clearly spelled agitation. He stalked inside, shut the door, and stood, glaring, before Naruto perched on the couch.

"So?" He prompted in a dull voice.

"So…?"

"Are you going to tell me what was so devastating that I woke up at 5:30 in a tizzy?"

Naruto's eyebrows furrowed at the aggravated tone. "Who the hell uses the word 'tizzy' anymore?

"You're so dumb," he murmured. Sasuke crossed the room in his artful, smooth stride and sat next to Naruto on the couch. He could see from this closeness the elegant, though subtle concern lolling in Sasuke's eyes.

"What happened?" He asked softly.

"I—I don't really think I could explain." Naruto replied, beginning to gnaw on his thumb nail.

In one fluid movement, Sasuke moved Naruto's hand away from his mouth and placed it gently on the cushion beneath them. There was no blinding heat to muddle the logical workings of his brain.

"I've had two and half hours of sleep." Sasuke stated crossly. However, the soft, cinnamon petals in his eyes reflected a veiled worry. "You're going to try."

And he tried. He attempted to enlighten Sasuke with all the plentiful, suspicious crap that had transpired through his life, beginning with his inability to properly remember his parents and his childhood before kindergarten and then later concluding with his and Shikamaru's queer conversation. Sasuke hardly said anything; his eyes simply remained glazed with that calculating, deducing stare that was known only to him. The deep coal hue seemed to gobble and process the words the moment they tipped off his lips. Sasuke only interjected at the very end of Naruto's explanation, somewhat amused.

"Doll makers?" He snickered. "He really called us that? How positively prejudice."

Naruto's eyes danced frantically in his head. "You're missing the bigger picture here. He knows that we're cursed. Isn't that really bad?"

Sasuke folded his arms and leaned back into the couch. "I guess. Who knows really until we see the final outcome. I think it's fantastic nobody in the hidden villages knows you're name—it makes things all the more easier."

"But that's the thing, Sasuke…" Naruto picked nervously at his fingernails. The implication of his next statement felt like a weight in his lungs, making it slightly difficult to breathe. "Shikamaru sort of implied that I'm—or maybe my parents….somehow I'm connected with the hidden villages."

Sasuke snorted. "Well, that's obvious."

Naruto felt like a balloon popped at its rubbery climax. "What?"

"Have you ever looked at yourself?" Sasuke questioned, stretching like a young cat and standing up. Naruto glanced at him just as his shirt slid up a couple of innocent inches and displayed a momentary glimpse at faultless, stone-like white skin. His skin tone and really everything about him appeared so unnatural and inhuman, but something about the contrasting dark and light hues of the boy made his eyes instantly seek it.

"What do you mean?" His eyes wandered back to Sasuke's face. "Of course I have. What kind of a dumb question is that?"

"Stand up." The dark-haired boy commanded his face smooth with expressionless lines. Naruto did as he was told.

"Now look into the mirror."

He peered into the wide, ornately framed mirror plastered on the wall beside them. It had been one of the only relics to be safely rescued from Iruka's parent's burning home. He saw only himself inspecting his face dumbly. He noticed also his t-shirt was unbearably wrinkled and his hair had toppled from their spikes to rest tiredly in his face. He looked absolutely exhausted.

"Um…What am I supposed to be looking for?"

Abruptly, the measured distance between his and Sasuke's bodies was closed. The dark haired boy's warm breath softly swept his tousled locks. His head appeared towering over Naruto's shoulder, his black stare incredibly straight and directed. It seemed to attach to his own widened gaze and almost hypnotize him. His chest was mere inches from his spine and electricity seemed to flitter in between the small length. Sasuke's hand emerged on his face and he gently traced his nose with one finger. Naruto's arms erupted in goose bumps.

"Your nose is too straight." The finger slowly trailed to his chin. "Your skin too smooth. You've never had to shave once have you?"

Naruto would've become grossly cross at that statement had his mind not have been completely engrossed in Sasuke's inspection. Shaving was a touchy subject with Naruto. Everyone used to boast in junior high about shaving their growing beards, but never once had a hair sprouted on his face other than on the top of his head and eyebrows. It made him feel horribly un-manly.

"Your lips, too perfect." He tapped them lightly. "But most importantly, these."

His finger slowly trailed one of the long thin lines he had only an hour earlier learned were scars left by his own mother's nails.

"They're just scars." Naruto claimed dizzily. "I told you Shikamaru said my mom gave them to me."

"Yes," Sasuke's voice seemed so far disconnected from the small, shabby apartment. He thought it would sound more natural echoing in space somewhere. His stare appeared to miss Naruto's form entirely and peer into another mystical realm of existence; a world with all the answers. "but how?"

"I told you, with her fingernails."

Sasuke's other hand came into view and both appendages traced the lines, as if creating the marks for the first time. Naruto could not feel the skin there. "Yes, but can fingernails cause the skin to turn black like this? I don't think so."

Why was it so difficult to speak?

"T-then what did it?"

"A high concentrate of something." The hands retreated from his face and there was a distinct cold longing in his cheeks afterwards. "But who really knows?"

The air in the room was too heavy a burden on Naruto's shoulder's. His arms began to tremble and his legs yearned to collapse. All the muddy thoughts and grimy half-bits of information seemed to howl rancorously through his skull.

He kept hearing Shikamaru's dull, bored voice declare, "Don't be daft Naruto. Of course I'm your friend."

He kept seeing his neat ponytail sway back and forth as it descended the steps out of sight. His stomach bubbled with nausea. All he wanted to do was collapse to the ground and sleep until all the pieces of his mind waded back into their respective slots.

"I'm so tired of this." Naruto seethed in a strangled tone. At any next moment, he thought he might cry with frustration. He was no longer concerned with appearing strong and masculine. He simply wanted to release the backing well that was mounting inside his chest. "I'm so fucking sick of all this."

As if sensing his imminent fall, two sturdy arms wrapped around his torso. Sasuke carefully led him to lie back on the couch and then followed, his arms re-latching securely around his belly. His head was positioned behind Naruto's own; his hot breath swirled and stroked the back of his neck.

"Sasuke?" He questioned hesitantly, wary of possible perverted motives. Although there was a blatant tenderness in the weight of Sasuke's arms, as if they were trying to be as downy and soothing as possible without disrupting the breath in his ribcage.

"Hm?" His humid breath skimmed along his neck in a short spurt. "Uncomfortable?"

"No, I just…"

Naruto was sure as hell not going to convey how relaxed he was lying inside his arms. Maybe it was wrong to feel this way after only knowing this boy for a mere month or so, but the tangled heaps inside his mind prayed for a savior—and the only person around was Sasuke. The image of Shikamaru's retreating ponytail disappearing down the steps haunted him again. Was Sasuke his only friend?

He needed to be cared for. His veins ached and crooned for it. His mental stamina was renowned among Shikamaru and Iruka. He could trudge through mental adversities and keep his shoulders tall without drooping for days. He could take care of himself….But right now, the leaflets in his mind were so dispersed that he wasn't even certain that he could breathe alone. Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Maybe the child he had erected himself to become in his brain was entirely formulated off lies. Maybe his entire being was just another slip of a lie plastered on a tall, dithering mound of lies. He had never been able to validate his own existence by himself. He needed other people. And at the moment, by coincidence or maybe fate, only Sasuke remained.

Only Sasuke.

A thought suddenly occurred to Naruto, gladly shaking him from his tomblike introspection.

"What happened to that dizzy hot feeling we get when we touch? Is it gone?"

"Lets hope so, ne?" Sasuke shifted slightly. "Maybe our bodies have finally become accustomed to the curse."

The warmth around him didn't feel artificial or all-encompassing, it was just simple body heat being emitted from the boy's chest pressed against his back. It made his cheeks unbelievably warm. He almost felt like he had a fever.

Naruto moved a bit because his neck had begun to ache. His eyelids were heavy, but hurt when closed. He contented himself for a couple of minutes by tracing the tattered, sewn patterns on the couch with his finger. The apartment was too quiet, even with the heater clanking petulantly in the corner. "You know when you said it was obvious I was somehow connected to the hidden villages?"

"Mhhm," Sasuke's voice was dripping with sleepiness. His breath on Naruto's neck was even and calm.

"Is it just my appearance that gives it away? "

"Nope," He stated groggily. "Haven't you ever noticed how sleepers don't congregate near you? They're naturally repulsed."

"Repulsed?" Naruto repeated, feeling a bubble of nausea float up his throat.

"There's this innate barrier between you and other people," Sasuke tiredly explained. "It's nothing bad. People just involuntarily avoid you. And, when they do come into contact with you, things get rough. On the other hand, people from the hidden villages are naturally attracted to you. That's one other reason I infiltrated your school…I needed to see for certain how others interacted with you."

"Is that…normal for you people?"

Sasuke made a soft, deep sound in the back of his throat, almost as if he was tasting a thought before he molded it into a word.

"Not really." He concluded. Naruto felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. There were many times Naruto had wished he was grossly abnormal so that he could finally have a true, blatant reason for being shunned and disliked his entire life. But now, he only desired to be completely and utterly normal…he had never yearned for it in the past because he knew that it was a longing that could never be satisfied. Yet he still craved it, wishing that he had a spot somewhere in the world that connected and fit like a jigsaw piece with others.

"What about Shikamaru?"

"God," Sasuke groaned. "Can't we just sleep?"

"Shut up and answer me!" Naruto snapped. "I need answers, asshead."

"How about when we're both in our right minds then, hm? I've been sitting outside in a grungy hallway for six hours and you've just learned your entire life is a lie. Let's just, you know, ignore it for right now. Also, I've got one helluva backache and I think you're ready to sob your eyes out like a little girl."

Naruto bristled. "I was not! I'm not a pussy…I don't cry."

"Whatever," Sasuke yawned. "Just go to sleep, okay?"

Naruto yawned as well and shifted to fit more comfortably in Sasuke's arm. Strangely, his mind was churning slower. A mind-sweeping heat glossed his brain over.

"Everything's fine for right now."

He slowly closed his eyes.


The delectable scent of maple syrup and the muggy heat emanating off the stove composed a stuffy, but relaxing atmosphere in the apartment. The frying pan emitted delicious crackling noises as Iruka tenderly tossed the pancake sizzling inside into the air and caught it again. Naruto sat, sulking, on one side of the dinner table, drumming his fingers angrily as he listened to his guardian's current speech on love, which really just consisted of all the fluffy things he had read inside of greeting cards sent to him.

"Love really does have no boundaries, you see. And love conquers all, even gender and um, society's skewed view of sexuality. So you see, it's really alright to love anyone you please."

"For the last time Iruka, I'm not gay!" Naruto cried fiercely.

"Oh don't be that way, Naruto, dear."

Naruto's eyes snapped to Sasuke, who was currently sitting in front of him. He had remained mostly silent up until now, responding with courteous remarks and polite gestures. His lips flaunted the most teasing, arrogant, asshole-ish smirk he had ever seen depicted on that face.

"If Iruka accepts our love," Sasuke put his chin in his palm; his black eyes crinkled in amusement. "Then why must we hide it any longer?"

Naruto had woken up half and hour ago to Iruka, perched over him and Sasuke as they slept, wrapped desperately around each other on the couch. Even though Naruto had fruitlessly defended his sexuality, Iruka had claimed gravely he was in horrible denial and had been relentless with the speeches on love.

"Sasuke…"He seethed in a dangerous, growling low voice. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Oh don't be mad at me my dear Naruto," Sasuke's voice was swelling with artificiality. "I don't think I can hide our love any longer."

Iruka turned away from the sizzling pancake to adoringly watch the dark-haired boy's confession, a faint blush on his cheeks. Naruto had been stunned into a revolted silence.

"I always had such a crush on you—I'd watch you everyday as you walked out of class so frustrated, and I'd wish to hold you and make you feel better. I'd see you walk down the street alone, and curse my terrible shyness that I could not trot beside you and hold your hand. No girl in the entire school could rival your beauty."

Naruto had begun growling steadily through Sasuke's monologue. He had a ghastly insult prepared on his tongue but was unfortunately interrupted by Iruka.

"Oh that's right," He declared absently. "That girl Sakura who's your friend, she's not the diplomat's daughter is she?"

"Yeah," Naruto responded, feeling slightly put off by the abrupt conversation change. He felt a growing trepidation as he observed the solemn gleam that had appeared in Iruka's eyes.

"Oh dear, her mother came into the flower shop today. She's a beautiful woman, by the way" he added offhandedly. "She ordered a huge bouquet. Said they were get well flowers for her daughter. Apparently, she's in the hospital."

"Sakura's in the hospital?" Naruto's stomach sank. "What's wrong with her?"

Iruka's distressed gaze trailed to the linoleum floor.

"They don't really know." His voice was soft and sad. Naruto had often talked about Sakura to him, blabbing on about her kindness and good heart. He understood his words bared a dark weight. "She just won't wake up."

The pancake in his stomach gurgled threateningly as he looked from Iruka's slumped shoulders to his own thin, interlocked fingers. His brain no longer felt employable towards productive tasks. It was as though it was bulging with too much information, too much change that had occurred in his once-mundane-predictable life. An ache brewed beneath his right eyebrow.

And suddenly, it was as though his eyes were pulled up by an outside force to rest on Sasuke, whose own eyes seemed to have been heaved up as well. There was an intense thought bulging in his eyes; a message that could not be communicated orally. The black ice was as meticulous as ever, looking as though it were dissecting thoughts and theories in mere milliseconds. However, they seemed impatient to translate an un-inked word boiling inside his brain. They were finally revealing—they no longer glistened with secrets.

this has something to do with us.


SPPPOOOKKYYYSHIIITTTTT.

Laura-Jane's-incredibly-unneeded-unloved-author's-note-of-absolute-peril:

FUCKYEAH!

Finally, after three months of typing/labor this chapter is finished! I hope I didn't use words wrongly…I may have, sorry, I kind of took a long break that I didn't need to take and theeeeeeen lost all ability to remember words evaa.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I have to be quick…I'm due at a party in ten minutes to forgive the mistakes and grammar at the mommmmenta.a..a.a.a.

PLEAAAAASSSSSSSSE HEEEEEELPPPPP ME!! (Bold spells importance! And the absolute love I have for eveverryrryone of you). I HAVE DECIDED to write another story along with this one. My problem with getting this story out so late mostly had everything to do with homework….but also! I got kind of bored with this story and began another…and then another…and then ANOTHER. But I don't know which one to do! I have the crappy little summaries, and I was hoping to see which one ya'll would be more interested in reading. It'll make this story go faster because then I'll be able to exchange and write some here and there whenever I feel the thought….which somehow makes it faster, I SWEAR IT.

Sooo, I hope they don't all sound like crap. Also, the writing in the summaries themselves are crap. But here they areeeee:

Title: Afterlife

Naruto has only ever known Sasuke—the center of his entire world. He is somehow 17 years old, but can only remember his past two years living his life with the current Head-Of-State for the Land of Fire, Sasuke Uchiha. He has never been outside the palace walls, even though he has attempted many failed escapes. And even though he desperately adores the Uchiha, he still senses that he is hiding something incredibly vital about his life before his captivity. Sasuke only insists that they were lovers…and he saved Naruto from himself.

THE PERKS: Naruto talks realllllllllllly cutely. Since he woke up two years before, he doesn't have such a great grasp on the English language so he misuses words allll the time. Also, you get a chance to see a very selfish but caring/paradoxal Sauske that would be uber fun to write. He's stern, but everything he does is for Naruto. Also, lots of adorable moments because Naruto is scared to sleep unless Sasuke's around…afraid he'll wakeup without all his memories again. Also, I love the theme it gives. I REALLLY DO. Giving in to your original humanity and admitting your selfish existence/ how people interact with those that are different and the process of 'othering'.

BADSHIT: A horrrrrrrrribly complicated plot. It's all political. And it's going to be very complicated. Also, it just might make you feel bad about humanity in general, even though it has a happy ending.

NOW for numba B. wait.

TITLE: Seahorse.

The world has descended into utter chaos. Dates are no longer recorded—there are no new trends, inventions, nothing. Wars ravage the world, eliminating cities and nations. All people now have a air of death about them, as though they are simply waiting to die. However, there is Naruto, a self-proclaimed optimist that believes there is a way to retrieve the world from its despair, he just doesn't know what. He lives waiting for the chance to save the world….

Enter Sasuke, a foreign, strange, HIGHLY attractive man who insists on having lots of sex with him. He boldly declares he is one of many demons that have watched over the planet for centuries and the only person who can save it, is his and Naruto's first born child. But how exactly does that happen?

YAYNESS: lots of sex XD and cute wonderful moments. Just all around awesomeness. Also, it's a story about hope. Who doesn't love hope?

ICKNESS: Rape (I am sooo scared to write a rape scene. It's one of my greatest fears).

So…..A or B? I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER IF YOU TELL ME!

I lurve lurve lurve ya'll. If you leave me a lengthy, thick review…I will love you even more, if that's possible. ALSO, I will reply…but that could be a con I guess. CRAP I'm 30 minutes late.

I luuurrgeveve youuuuU!!

-Laura-Jane-

Ps. Lurve.