Warning: Lime, Angst, Language
Genre: Drama, Romance
Notes: This was a story written a year or two ago. Set in the near future, even before the current manga storyline, this is a what-would-have-happened-otherwise type story. Enjoy!
The Right Sacrifices:
The man in black watched him…always…
"Eeeeh?! Only 400 today?! That's hardly fair!"
"Look, Naruto! I'm already on a tight budget as it is! I can't afford to give every ninja that goes on a mission more than that…"
"But Shikamaru got almost 700!"
"In case you've forgotten, he's a rank higher than you are, idiot!"
"But that mission was dangerous. Dangerous! I could have died out there!"
"And you'll soon get your wish if you don't leave me alone at the count of three! One…two…"
With a snort of frustration and disgust, the blond spun on his heels and stormed out of the room. He tucked the money into his pocket and gave a heavy sigh knowing full well that he really had no right to complain about his earnings. It was true that the rescue mission had been a risky one, but it wasn't as bad as say the one Shikamaru and several other jounin had been on last month. Why, the dark-haired and notoriously 'lazy' ninja had come home unconscious and had to be personally treated by the Fifth Hokage.
Speaking of which, he would have to go and pay that good-for-nothing another visit as soon as possible. If he was lucky, he could get Shikamaru to lend him some money.
Although that was about as likely as the sky falling on their heads anytime soon.
As he stepped into the streets of Konoha, his foul mood was lifted quickly as the sights and smells of his beloved village assailed his senses. He hummed softly to himself, waving and smiling warmly at the greetings that came his way. How different things were now that everyone had finally begun to acknowledge him for his strength and courage. So he wasn't any closer to becoming Hokage, but that didn't stop him from dreaming about it at any opportunity he got.
Tall and lanky at seventeen, his once childish looks had been transformed into one of youthful attractiveness. The scars on his cheeks had become more prominent but instead of causing him to look ugly, they highlighted his strong cheekbones and his breathtaking blue eyes. His hair fell across his forehead – only held back by his forehead protector. It was about shoulder length now and he liked the way it felt at the nape of his neck especially when a soothing breeze would blow.
"Naruto!" came the familiar hail from Ichiraku-san. He was the owner of the most popular ramen shop in the village and since Naruto had been a very loyal and frequent customer for over a decade, it was only fair that he be treated specially.
"Aren't you stopping by today for a quick snack?" he cajoled with a warm smile. "House special soba just for you."
Naruto licked his lips and closed his eyes allowing the heady scent of freshly cooked noodles in warm soup to fill his nostrils. His stomach rumbled with hunger, but remembering that he had only 400 yen for expenses until his next big mission, Naruto felt his heart sink heavily.
"Maybe later," he muttered with an apologetic smile. "I've got to go get some things done."
He spun on his heels and walked a little faster, hoping that the smell would fade away quickly. Deciding that he was far enough, he slowed his steps and sunk his hands into the pockets of his pants. What was he going to do now?
Oh yeah, visit that lazy ass.
With that firm thought and decision in mind, Naruto walked down the narrow streets until he found himself standing before the familiar stone walls of Konoha's finest hospital. He was just about to step in, when a pretty blond girl almost bumped into him.
"Ow! Watch where you're going…Naruto!" She finished quickly as she realized just who she had collided with. Her frown deepened as she brushed off her simple purple gown gently.
"Sorry, Ino," he apologized with a small smile and a sheepish laugh. "Did you come to see Shikamaru?"
For a moment, Naruto was sure he could see a stain of color on the girl's cheeks, but it was quickly erased as she glared at him. "Why would I want to see that stupid lazy moron?! Hmph! He got what came to him!"
And with no further need for discussion, she walked away from him with her head held high. Deciding that it was none of his business and that girls would always be a mystery to him, Naruto made his way into the building and was soon ushered into his friend's room.
It was simple as always. A bed, a small bedside table, a single chair for visitors and not much else. Sitting upon the table, however, was a rather large vase of white roses. Its fragrance permeated the astringent hospital air and the occupant of the bedroom was staring at it as if wishing it would leap out of the window by itself.
"Oi, Shikamaru," Naruto greeted carelessly as he closed the door behind him with a foot. "You look like shit as usual."
"Thanks, porcupine face," the other boy greeted as he held up a bandaged hand in recognition. His face was heavy laden with bandages as well and within the half-opened hospital gown, Naruto could make out even more of the white cloth around his friend's torso. "What brings you here?"
The blond sat down upon the chair and rocked it back and forth slowly. "I came to borrow some money from you."
Shikamaru groaned and rolled his eyes. "If I wasn't stuck in this position, I'd happily kick your ass. Don't you feel sorry for me?"
"Any reason why I should?"
"I love you too, man. So…are you going to give me the money or what?"
"You haven't paid me back for the last one," the jounin stated flatly. "That's…" He did a mental count. "Two hundred and fifteen…"
"Hey, I paid back the fifteen during the festival!"
"I don't remember, so that doesn't count."
"What?!" The door to the room opened and a nurse stuck her head in with a frown of disapproval.
"Please keep your voice down. There are other patients in the hospital."
The boys mumbled quick apologies and waited for her to leave again, before Naruto leaned forward to glare at his friend's unrepentant dark eyes.
"But that's not fair, Shikamaru," he whispered harshly. "I did pay you back and you can't keep adding…"
"What do you want the money for anyway?"
The blond leaned back in the chair and replied vaguely. "Something."
"So why don't you ask Sakura or Neji…or hell even Konohamaru. The guy's loaded thanks to his grandpa."
Naruto groaned and shook his head before getting to his feet with a soft sigh. "It's okay. I'll have to figure out a way to get by with this. I'll pay you back the one I owe you someday. I promise."
Shikamaru watched the slump of his friend's shoulders and shook his head slowly in disbelief at what he was about to say. "Stop. I'll give it to you…"
"REALLY?! I LOVE YOU, MAN!"
"Oww! Oww! Watch where you're touching, Naruto! Ah, fuck! You broke my fucking ribs again!"
And this time, when the nurse did come around, Naruto was more than willing to allow her to kick him out of the room.
The man in black protected him…always…
Naruto counted the money in his pockets again just to be sure. He now had the grand sum of 765 and he had a feeling that it would be enough for now.
Quickening his steps, he walked towards the quieter section of the village. He could feel the moisture gather within his palms as the eerie stillness in this area seeped into his senses. It never failed to make him feel nervous and worried, but he knew he'd have to swallow his fears if he hoped to achieve anything.
He stopped before the gates that had been locked and sealed from the public for over three years now. His fingertips traced the familiar emblem; his heart pounding a million beats a second as he struggled against the overwhelming feeling of loss and sorrow. He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against it, imagining – feeling – 'seeing' the boy that had once walked within these gates. His lips parted to whisper his name and he almost jumped out of his skin as the raspy voice filled his ears.
"About time you got here, kid. Do you have it?"
Naruto opened his eyes and nodded softly as he reached into his pockets to pull out all the money he had. He placed them into the outstretched hands, blue eyes narrowing with disgust and yet reluctant respect as the older man counted the coins carefully.
"Hmm…only 765 today."
"I know I have…"
"At this rate, you're gonna keep paying me for a lifetime, boy. I'm losing my patience."
"I'll get you the money, please!" Naruto pleaded fervently. "You promised to give me two more months, remember?"
The man rubbed his chin and snorted. "Two more months and I could be making thousands off this property. The Hokage wants it down, kid and I'm gonna take it down if you don't cough up the dough."
Naruto's eyes darkened with determination. "I'll get the money. Don't you worry, sir. I'll get you the money if it's the last thing I do."
The man in black listened…always…
At first, he had refused to believe the news. But after speaking to Iruka-sensei, Kakashi and even some of his peers, his worst fears had been confirmed.
Kohei-san had been the one put in charge of the demolition and Naruto could still remember how fast he had run down the streets on that fateful day to meet up with him. At first, Naruto's desperate pleas had fallen on deaf ears but after shelling out every last penny he had before the surprised shinobi, Kohei had been left with no choice but to do the professional thing.
Money was being offered and he would have been a fool not to accept it.
As for Naruto, he knew that he had a tough road ahead and had made it a point of duty to seek for any and all possible missions to be sent to. Tsunade had gotten a bit agitated at the teen's eagerness for such jobs, but she had kept her thoughts to herself and had done her best to help him out in anyway possible.
She really did wish there was another way the young man could go about in getting money, but there simply wasn't. She realized that he felt he had an obligation to keep and she had no right to tell him how to run his personal life.
She eyed him in faint concern as he limped into the room looking bruised and rather battered. She said nothing as she pushed the envelope towards him. But as he turned around to leave, she said quietly.
"I hope you know what you are doing, Naruto."
He said nothing for a long time, but finally turned around to flash his brightest smile yet. "I know exactly what I'm doing, Tsunade-sama."
But now, within the safety and confines of his home, Naruto did wonder if he really was doing the right thing. He winced as he flexed his arm gently. He could feel and hear the broken bones grating against each other and he blanched in response. He wondered if he would be able to heal quickly enough from this latest mission. He had only 698 to go and then that place would be his. Maybe two more missions would be good enough to make up for the remaining amount.
He reached for his list of creditors and he sighed in misery. He wasn't sure of when or how he was going to pay each and every single person and didn't even want to think of it to be honest. He couldn't remember the last time he had a really good meal. Eating little snacks here and there hardly qualified as healthy nutrition. He groaned and placed his pounding head upon the table. He felt faint and was still in pain but he was sure that by tomorrow, he'd be well enough for another job.
He'd just had to keep trying and never give up.
The man in black wept silently…always…
"I'm sorry, Naruto," Tsunade said firmly. "I've already sent out the teams for today and there's really nothing else going on…unless you wish to start a war with another village for no reason."
"I wouldn't mind that," he muttered.
"Argh! Look at you!" she finally exploded. "You look like hell! You have lost a lot of weight. You look as if you haven't slept in weeks and even your kyuubi powers aren't helping your wounds heal any faster! You're going to get yourself killed if you keep up with this!"
Naruto remained silent as he stared stubbornly at the floor. His jaw worked for a moment but he still said nothing.
"Why?" Tsunade asked almost desperately. "Why are you doing this, Naruto? Why risk your life for something that isn't really worth it…?"
Her words were cut short at the cold and almost murderous look that had come into the young man's eyes. She sucked in a harsh gasp and gripped her hands upon the table, fully aware that this boy was capable of hurting her if he became too reckless or too upset. She managed to compose herself quickly to match his cold look with one of hers.
"So, you'll do this no matter what?"
"If I have to die in the process, then so be it," he replied with a shrug. "Perhaps it means nothing to you, but that place belonged to…" He took a deep breath and turned away. "I have only a few more to go and then I'll get it back. You have no right to destroy it and I won't let you or anyone else do the same."
He spun on his heels and walked away, leaving the threat hovering with uncertainty in the tension filled air.
Kohei wasn't a sadist by nature, but he was a ruthless businessman and always looked out for his welfare first and everyone else's second. He glanced at his watch and smirked in silent victory. It was only twenty minutes before the midnight hour. There was no way that the boy was going to make up the remaining amount in such a short time. His team of shinobi had already begun painting the seals for the destruction of the buildings and about time too.
Kohei hadn't been particularly fond of the Uchiha clan. They had always thought of themselves above everyone else and their smug attitudes towards the other villagers hadn't gained them his respect. So imagine his pleasure and thrill to learn that he was going to be responsible for destroying this section of the village that had been empty for years now. Since the last Uchiha boy had disappeared from Konoha, the entire area had been sealed from public viewing.
But then that crazy Uzumaki kid just had to show up with his crazy idea.
Hmph! Well, he wasn't going to wait anymore. In less than fifteen minutes, the Uchiha clan and everything related to it would cease to exist completely!
He eyed his men, all kneeling around the large circle that had been painted on the ground, and smiled in excitement. This was it! This was the big moment he had been waiting for and no one would be able to stop him now…
He was bleeding rather profusely and with each painful step he took, huge globs of blood fell to the ground. Clenched between his teeth, was the blood-stained envelope that contained the final payment for his purchase.
He held his hands over his injured ribcage, wincing as his fingers made contact with something rather slippery and even warmer than his blood. His vision became blurred for a minute, but he shook his head quickly to get rid of his dizzy spell. He was almost there. He could already see faint bluish hue of chakra being formed and he cursed softly beneath his breath.
Give me the strength, you damn fox! Give me the strength, I beg you!
He had had an inkling that Kohei-san would be too impatient to wait for him. Despite all the months of sacrificing his body for the bastard, this was all Kohei could do to repay him. He stumbled again and this time, fell flat on his face. His eyes brimmed with tears of frustration, anger and immense disappointment as he felt his only opportunity slipping away.
I'm so sorry, Sasuke. I tried…damn it…I tried so hard for you…
However, slow and steady footsteps had him opening his eyes weakly. He tried hard to focus his gaze through the tears and was more than surprised to find his good friend, Shikamaru, smiling down at him.
"Allow me," the other boy said quietly but firmly with no room for arguments, as he reached for the envelope. He disappeared from sight and as Naruto closed his eyes in gratitude, he allowed himself to relish in the raised voices that filled the night air. Kohei-san was definitely not happy about something and Shikamaru didn't really give a damn about his feelings.
We…we did it, Sasuke, he thought in pure satisfaction even as he felt himself begin to drift into dark oblivion. He would probably die out here, but it didn't matter to him anyone. He had finally accomplished what he had set out to do and that was all that really mattered.
The man in black is patient for the one he loves awaits…
"Idiot," Shikamaru teased lightly as he peeled the orange. "Why didn't you just say you wanted to buy back the place? I could have given you a whole lot more…and of course you'd still have to pay me back with interest."
Naruto gave a light snort and tried to lift his head off the pillow. He felt weighed down by all the bandages around his body, but he was hungry and the basket of fruit Sakura had dropped off looked very appetizing.
"At least I got it all paid up in time…"
"Good news is that everyone else seems to have left you off the hook…"
"Besides you…you stingy asshole."
"See if I ever lend you money again."
"Like I'd want your rotten money!"
"Shut the hell up."
"Not if you don't…"
And their playful jibes had continued for a while. It felt good to laugh again, and Naruto had welcomed the company as well as the other well-wishers who had dropped by to see him. Even Tsunade had put aside her differences long enough to call him a fool for being so pig-headed but brave. All in all, it had been a rather exciting but tiring day and Naruto was more than grateful when the last visitor walked out the door and he was left alone.
Night fell swiftly but he remained awake in the narrow bed, his breath held in anticipation. He was stupid he knew – always stupid to hold so much hope that he would see him again even if it was just for a single moment. He knew that in his dreams at least, he had seen the dark-haired boy approach him. In his dreams, Uchiha Sasuke would always watch him from the window as if he were a guardian from the depths of hell.
He was always shrouded in a black cape that much he knew but he could never, never see the face he had once known when he was much younger.
And so he waited, refusing to fall asleep for fear that he would miss Sasuke again. He could feel his eyes growing heavier, but he shook his head quickly and forced himself to stay awake. Time drifted by slowly and his heart grew heavy-laden with disappointment. Perhaps, it really had just been all a dream after all. His innermost and deepest wishes and thoughts had only been manifested into reality.
"Sasuke…" he whispered achingly as he closed his eyes. "Please…come to me…"
The moonlight that had once streamed from the window was suddenly blacked out and his lashes flew open in surprise. His gasp was lost between a choked sob and a happy cry as his gaze fell upon the still figure within the window. He was dressed in black as usual but there was no denying the blood-red eyes that peered at him through the shadows. It was him. It had to be him!
The young man let himself in so silently that Naruto had the feeling that he had floated into the room. He stood beside the bed for a long moment, never saying a word. If he smiled or frowned, Naruto never knew. He licked his lips and smiled warmly, lifting up a hand that was quickly grasped within the cool ones of his dark visitor.
"It took me much longer than I would have thought," he began softly. "But I did it, Sasuke. I bought your house for you again."
The eyes seemed to flash for a moment and Naruto believed it to be in gratitude. He wrapped his arms around the visitor's neck and rested his forehead against the cool one before him.
"You will come back…won't you, Sasuke?" he asked in a pained whisper. "I've waited…and waited for you for so long. Please…give me your answer now. I forgive you…do you hear me? I forgive you…for…for everything."
His only response was the feel of Sasuke's strong hands upon his waist. They were gentle, almost tender and loving. Blue met red and the red slowly faded into black.
He whispered his reply and Naruto felt his heart skip a beat. "Really?
The man lifted his head a little higher as he spoke – softly whispered words of despair, hopelessness and suffering that blended into soothing tones of gratitude and appreciation. Naruto closed his eyes and inhaled Sasuke's scent – a heady blend of rich earth and dark musk. He understood what the other meant. He would be patient for as long as it took. He only had to give Sasuke some more time.
His lips traced tender patterns upon the other's pale countenance until they brushed against the speaking ones before him. He cupped a strong cheek within his palm and smiled softly at the look in Sasuke's eyes.
"Yes, Sasuke. I'll wait for you," he muttered thickly into Sasuke's warm mouth as he allowed himself to be pushed back to the bed gently.