AN: Here I am, bringing you another chapter. This one should be longer; it has more things going on in it. And for those who are wondering, this story should be about 20 chapters long, unless something extraordinary happens and continues it further than that mark. Got it? Good.
And if that dog named Rover won't bark, Mama's gonna buy you a horse and cart…
Chapter 11: And Walk
Naruto spent five minutes alone with Sasuke the next morning. Five minutes. And only those minutes because Sasuke had woken up early, before Naruto, meaning before Obito as well. But he didn't do this on purpose; simply because he couldn't sleep that night. So he woke at four, long before the sun would rise, and sat beside Naruto, looking at him as a puppeteer would his creation. Naruto was not his creation, but he felt, in a way, that he had molded the boy into something- something that he wasn't before.
And he wasn't sure if he had molded him in a good way, either. Lately he seemed more persistent, more reluctant, whereas when he first arrived he was quiet and timid; he usually kept to himself. His attitude wasn't that great anymore, either, Sasuke thought with a sigh. "He's your brother." What a bratty thing to say.
It was true though. Obito was his brother, and he couldn't tell him to leave. He didn't want him to leave either, really. He couldn't help but notice though how the boy caused a rift in he and Naruto's relationship. The blond seemed very happy lately- happier than Sasuke had seen him since coming back home. It made his heart sink. His brother, whom Naruto had never met before, was making his son happier than he could. What kind of parent did that make him?
Sasuke didn't feel like a parent. Not anymore. He'd excepted it a while back, but nothing like this. Now he felt like the strange friend- the third wheel to Naruto and Obito's relationship. 'Relationship?' he thought, and shook his head. 'No. Obito is my brother. He's too goofy to get into something like that anyways. And god, I don't even know his sexual preference.' He laughed quietly. 'But if it runs in the family, I wouldn't be surprised.'
Naruto talked with him for five minutes. He rolled over around five o' clock or so and blinked his eyes open. He yawned and saw Sasuke there, sitting up with his hands folded neatly across his chest. He looked deep in thought. "Sasuke…" the boy asked, voice scratchy and rough. He cleared his throat and sat halfway up, body propped against his elbow. "Sasuke, why are you up so early?"
Sasuke didn't look at him. He didn't move, either. And really, Naruto didn't think he had heard him at all. "Sasuke," he repeated, "what's wrong?"
"Everything," said Sasuke then in a remorseful voice. He closed his eyes but didn't look at Naruto. Instead, he gazed outside a curtained window. Fall was approaching rapidly. The air was becoming chilled, and the sky, turned as it always did, from the bright, baby blue to a pale color. "Everything," Sasuke said again, hesitantly, "but nothing. Nothing is wrong."
Naruto raised an eyebrow and sat up. "You're confusing me," he said then, quite bluntly. How can everything be wrong, and nothing be wrong at the same time? Everything and nothing? It didn't make sense, he thought. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You wouldn't understand," Sasuke said. He looked at Naruto, head turning at an angle to face the blond. He saw confusion, first, and then a flash of worry run through the blue eyes.
"Why do you always say that?" Naruto whispered. "You always think I won't understand. I'm not a kid anymore- I'm sixteen, Sasuke. I can understand if you explain to me!"
Sasuke shook his head. "No you wouldn't. If that were true, you would know exactly what's wrong with me."
Naruto thought to himself for a moment. It was almost time for him to wake Obito- oh, but it could wait, couldn't it? "I don't understand why you cut yourself when I left," he said suddenly, rustling the quiet of he morning. "And I don't understand why you went through so much trouble to get me back. I'm not your son," he added, and wouldn't look at Sasuke, "and I'm not attached to you in any way. You're just the guy that applied for the job and just so happened to take me home. That's all."
Outside, the first birds could be heard.
"…After all that's happened? That's all? I'm just 'that guy', then?"
Naruto rolled his eyes with a scowl. "You don't get it!" he said impatiently. Then, Sasuke began chuckling. Naruto stared at him awkwardly. "What? What's so funny?"
"It's just," Sasuke began, hushing his laughter, "now I'm the one that doesn't understand? Well, sir, I think now you know exactly how I feel."
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked.
"It's nothing," Sasuke said. He stood and stretched for a moment before turning back to the boy. "I'm gonna find something to eat. Isn't it time for you to get Obito up?"
Naruto didn't say anything for some time. Then, he nodded slowly, wordlessly. With a nod, Sasuke had left the room, and Naruto looked after him, as though he were still standing there. "It's nothing…" he said gently. "But it's everything…right?"
"We have company!"
Naruto ran into the living room upon hearing Obito's call. Obviously something had happened; the brunette was already awake. But when he entered the room, he didn't expect to see Shikamaru there. He was though, talking with Sasuke, and Naruto couldn't help but remember the first time he and the man had met. He was only thirteen then. And he was shy. He laughed in spite of himself.
Shikamaru looked at him and smiled. "Ah, I remember you," he said. "You were shorter then." He gestured to his chest, telling about how high Naruto was then. "And you didn't dare leave you dad's side, eh?"
Naruto bit his lip, but nodded regardless. "Uh…yeah, that's right. I remember you too. You fixed our door. And about then…I'm independent now," he said. "I don't need Sa-…my father for everything, you know."
It was the sad fact that Shikamaru Nara, this man, hadn't seen Naruto and Sasuke since the time they were broken apart. Thus, he didn't have the slightest clue as to what was going on lately. In his mind, for the right reasons, Naruto was still the kid who clung to his father like a newborn kitten, afraid to talk to strangers and highly dependant. Naruto could only sigh and look at Obito. "Wanna go do something," he suggested, "instead of staying here?"
Obito held out a finger. "Hang on a second," he said. Then he looked at Shikamaru. "So you've know Sasuke and Naruto for a while then, huh?"
"Well, yes," Shikamaru replied, "but not closely. As Naruto said, I fixed their door after…and incident."
"Oh, that makes sense," Obito said. He hung over the back of the couch and kicked his feet giddily.
Sasuke was smiling too. He nodded to himself a few times. Naruto couldn't understand. He was the only one who wasn't smiling. Why was everyone so happy? Sure, an old friend came to visit- Actually, Shikamaru wasn't even considered a "friend" in his books. They had only met once! And Obito seemed to be taking to him quite well…but it didn't matter. He headed for the door. "I'm leaving, then," he said.
It didn't surprise him when no one cared to say anything in return before he walked out.
It was random. Very, Naruto thought. Since when did people just show up like that anymore? They didn't. That's why it baffled him so. But as he walked through the town's park by himself, hands tucked into his pockets, he found himself lonely. He hadn't felt lonely since Obito came along. Now that boy seemed more interested in a guy he didn't even knew. Did Obito even like him? Had he gotten his hopes up after all?
Not that he wished for him to become anything more than a friend, of course. He never thought about Obito that way. Well, not until recently, anyways. He liked Obito's smile, and the way he always had an optimistic outlook on everyone and everything. Nothing ever seemed bad to him. There was never gray or black in his life, it seemed, despite all he had been through. But then Naruto thought, what if he was just faking it? What if he was truly hurting inside, and his smile was just to conceal it all?
'It's better than being too open about it.' Like Sasuke. Sasuke was never afraid to saw how he felt. He did it all the time, and without caring what Naruto thought, it seemed. Was he trying to make the blond upset? When he said 'I love you' or 'I care about you', was it just to make him believe it so he could turn around and tell him it was all a lie?
But that didn't seem like Sasuke. Sasuke seemed genuine; seemed like he meant every word he said as though his very life depended on it. And maybe it did. Naruto wasn't really sure.
He halted as he neared a small lake- There was a bridge extending over the water. In the breeze, leaves rustled. He lifted his head and closed his eyes, exhaling for a long moment before reopening his eyes. 'I'm so confused…' he thought, eyes narrowing. He approached the water's edge. 'I don't even know what's going on anymore. What is Sasuke to me?' And in the water, his reflection seemed skew and unlike anything he had ever seen before.
It was himself, he thought, but someone he didn't know. Someone different. But taking a second glance, he was reassured. It was his reflection. Today, it just seemed uglier than before.
He fell on his side into the grass, fingertips grazing the water's surface. 'What am I supposed to do?' A short breeze made him shudder. People walked across the bridge. Couples, too. He sighed and watched them almost longingly. 'Why can't everything be that easy?' he thought, and failed to realize the doze he soon fell into.
Obito fell on the sofa beside Sasuke. He tapped on his thighs and hummed. Shikamaru had left about ten minutes ago, and the two were left to themselves. Alone. Without Naruto. And oddly enough, Sasuke didn't feel like chasing after the boy. He'd come back when it got too late, surely. "You think he'll be back soon?" Obito tossed. "It's getting dark."
Sasuke nodded and leaned his head against the back of the sofa. "Of course he will. He's not stupid, Obito- and don't think of a snide remark for that either."
Obito giggled and rubbed the back of his head.
"But still," Sasuke continued, "I can't help but be worried. He's only sixteen. There's a lot of bad things that can happen to someone at that age."
"Ah yes," Obito said. "He could easily be kidnapped. Or assaulted. Or raped."
Sasuke's eyes widened, and his body went rigged. "Come on," he then said, "let's go find him before someone else does."
It really did worry Sasuke. Naruto was…the type of kid to get into those kinds of things. He was rather attractive, and still at an innocent age. He was susceptible to many things- far too many things to be wandering by himself on the streets after nightfall. However, it wasn't a rapist or assailant that found him resting lazily at the lakeside.
Naruto groaned and turned. Then, he found himself unable to breathe. Immediately his eyes opened, and they burned as he choked, gasping for unattainable air. It was wet- He was in water? He flailed, reached for something- anything. Luckily, two strong hands grasped his arm at the shoulder and jerked him forward. A swift, rough movement, and he was brought to the cool earth.
"Jesus, Naruto! What were you doing, sleeping so close to the lake like that?"
Naruto spluttered and coughed until he could breathe again. He panted and shivered violently. He then noticed, soaked to the bone and shivering beside him, Kiba. His wet hair dropped over his eyes. "K-Kiba?" he managed, words coming out in shaky parts. The brunette next to him gave a quick nod and gathered to himself, smiling. "Oh god, Kiba. What would I do without you?"
"Be drowning," Kiba said matter-of-factly. He shook the excess water from his clothing. "Now, what are you doing here?"
"I-I came here t-to think, and I f-fell as-sleep," Naruto said, teeth chattering.
Kiba sighed and stood. He held out his hand, which Naruto took. The boy was pulled to his feet. He staggered a bit, but Kiba caught him and made him steady. "Come on," he said with a grunt. "You can come to my house for a change of clothes before you go home. I don't think Sasuke would be very happy if he found you like this."
"No," Naruto said with a small laugh, "I don't think so either."
"Here, you can wear this."
Kiba's mom had not paid much mind when the two boys came in, drenched. She merely looked at them, inspected a bit, shook her head and then went back to tending to Kiba's sister's wound, which she had acquired after falling down a stair or two.
Naruto quickly made his way to Kiba's room with the dog boy on his heels. Kiba offered a pair of pants and a loose t-shirt to Naruto, who accepted the clothing without question. "They're kind of big," he said after dressing himself, "but that's okay. Anything's better than being in those wet things." He laughed and pointed to the pile of his wet clothing.
Kiba chuckled and nodded, and picked something for himself to wear. "Yeah," he said, and began undressing himself.
Then, Naruto paled. His eyes roamed over the other's boy's bare body as he continued to discard his clothes- shirt, then pants, and…. He swallowed a rough gulp and dared rip his eyes away, but alas, he could not. He failed to notice the growing blush on his face, which spread from his nose straight across his cheeks. He felt hot, flustered then, as Kiba hummed quietly to himself and began pulling on a dry pair of pants.
The dark eyes turned to Naruto. "What is it?" Kiba asked. He buttoned the pants and paused for a moment. "Is something wrong?"
With a small gasp, Naruto turned his head and shook it- vigorously, and waved his hands. He laughed idiotically. "No, no! Nothing's wrong!"
Kiba gazed at him for a long while. Then, he shrugged. "If you say so," he said, and pulled a baggy, tan shirt over his head.
Naruto continued to look away. Never before had he paid attention to another body like that before. Kiba had…a nice body, he had to admit. He had fine muscles, bigger than Naruto could say about his own, and tanned skin that was dark and rich either from his heritage or the time spent outside. And to his demise, he found his mind beginning to wander other places as well.
Did…Sasuke have nice muscles like that? Naruto knew he wasn't an athlete, but the Uchiha was attractive…
"When you wanna go home?" Kiba said, stirring Naruto from his thoughts.
The blond quickly looked up at the brunette. "Huh? Oh, we can go now if you don't mind."
Kiba laughed a bit. "Well you sound hurried," he said jokingly. "Come on," he gestured outside his bedroom, "let's go, before Sasuke gets too angry."
Naruto growled and cursed under his breath. "Fuck," he muttered. "No one's here! Where the hell are they?" He tapped his foot and paced around. When he and Kiba arrived at his house, he found, ironically, an empty, locked building. Where had Obito and Sasuke gone? Or did they lock him out? He frowned.
Kiba cocked his head to the side. He rubbed his chin. "Hmm," he said. "I got nothin'."
"Of course," Naruto said, and his frown grew still. He slumped on the ground beside the front door and folded his arms. "It's fucking freezing out here. I wish they'd at least left the door unlocked."
"Yeah, well," Kiba started with a snort, "you never know. They could be-"
"Naruto! Hey, Sasuke, look! Naruto's back."
At the call, Naruto's head whipped around. And then he saw them- Obito and Sasuke, some ways along the street. His heart stopped as he stared, wordless, unable to think clearly. Sasuke caught sight of him beside the door, despite the darkness of the night, and his eyes slanted the slightest bit. He stopped, looked to Obito, and sighed. Sighed, as though he were disappointed? Or annoyed.
Naruto hung his head.
"Where have you been?" said Sasuke, after he and Obito approached the house. "We've been out for almost an hour looking for you! God knows what you could have gotten yourself into!" He inspected the blond. "Actually, forget that. What have you been into? And who's clothes are you wearing?"
Naruto winced at the intensity in his voice. And in his mind somewhere, he knew Sasuke had the wrong idea about the whole solution. He stole a glance at Kiba, who remained silent beside him. Did Sasuke think…? "Sasuke, look, I wasn't doing anything I wasn't supposed to! These clothes?" He pulled the too big shirt away from his body a bit and looked at it. "These are Kiba's. He let me borrow them because mine were wet!"
Obito giggled deviously. "Oh Naruto, why were your clothes wet? Have a little too much fun with Kiba?"
Kiba bared his teeth and glared. "What did you say? You fucking brat, I'll strangle you!"
"Let me tell you what happened!" Naruto shouted. "Before you start yelling at me or making stupid jokes that aren't even funny!"
Obito crossed his arms. "I am so funny," he mumbled. Sasuke nudged him.
Naruto took in a deep breath. "Okay," he said, "here's what happened: I left to go take a walk. I ended up in the park, and I fell asleep in the grass beside the lake. I fell in because Kiba woke me up and startled me, he pulled me out, and we had to go to his house for some clean clothes. There. Happy now?"
Sasuke looked at him, and looked away. Then, he looked back. "Whatever," were his words. "Just get inside. Kiba, go home."
Kiba rolled his eyes. "Fine. See you later, Naruto." Naruto said nothing, but gave him a small glance before walking inside behind Sasuke and Obito (the boy pouting quietly to himself and murmuring things at Naruto). "Or not," the brunette said, and began walking home.
"Maybe we should drive him," Naruto suggested. "It's dark outside, and something could happen."
Sasuke shook his head, facing away from Naruto. "No. He'll be fine." Obito had slunk away to the sofa, he noticed, where he then, quite indignantly, turned on the television and continued to grumble to himself. Sasuke turned around and looked at Naruto, who didn't respond in any fashion. He simply stood there, fingertips twitching at his side, casting a look in no particular direction.
"I worried about you," he said quietly.
Naruto scoffed. "Don't," he replied in a deadly voice, "don't worry about me anymore. I don't need you, and I don't need you worrying about me." He walked away, out of Sasuke's sight.
The man stood there until Obito spoke up. "Hey, wanna come watch some TV?" he asked.
Sasuke shook his head, emptiness slowly leaking into him. "No," he said, "I think I'm going out for a while. If Naruto asks, I'm not here, and I'll be back soon." He left then, keys jingling in his pocket, without another word to spare. But Naruto's words were there. I don't need you.
And maybe…maybe he was right.
Outside, he paused for a moment. Then, he walked.
AN: Where is Sasuke going:o Naruto, he really needs to watch his words more often- They just might kill someone someday. -wink-