A.N. Okay so a few people are still confused by Sasuke's "Dream/mind" Sequences, so here's how it goes: When Itachi slayed the clan Sasuke's mental mind shattered. His sub-consciousness (The part where most of his powers for the Sharingan lie, and the abilities to "enter" other's minds) was locked away. That is the "Child-Sasuke", whereas the consciousness that grew up with Sasuke was the "Teen-Sasuke" who was 'killed' by "child-Sasuke" when he woke up. The "Light/voice/Child-Naruto" in Sasuke's mind is the ideal he was clinging to, it isn't actually Naruto but the way Sasuke sees Naruto in his mind. Because he was clinging so desperately to that image he wasn't really healing but hiding away with that ideal. Hiding behind it. When Itachi broke into his mind Sasuke locked the image he had of Naruto away from him, and he locked it away in the memories he had of when Naruto "saved" him when they were children. That's why his mental plain "expanded" to include the village, and Naruto's apartment. He'd was Technically walking half inside a memory. They were fragments of his memory that he forced himself to forget. When he "found" Naruto again, he came to terms with himself, what he's done, and what he wants to protect. Now he is mentally healing. Naruto really is not in there with him at all, that "child" in his mind is his memories of Naruto, the way he sees the blonde, etc. I placed the scenes to match the sequence of events on the outside to be sorta poetic… guess that failed. Hope this clears it up a bit more.

Kyuubi the Bitch


Chapter 12: Understanding, Admitting, and Living

"It will only hurt for a second."

The words echoed through the deeper chasms of his mind, clanging off of the pipes and corroded metal fixtures. The water rushed ever deeper, super heated and screaming with sensations. Naruto could barely focus beyond the perpetual screams to notice the cerise colored bubbles that trickled up around him.

"Restrain him!"

"Damn it! It's just a beast!"


"The Samehada! ... oh dear god how can one being house so much power!"

The words were hardly a whisper in the chaos of; fire, pain, agony, vengeance, the sweet copper tang of fresh blood bursting upon his tongue, the crunch of bone, the tearing of flesh, the sweet, sweet screams for mercy that will never be wrought. Naruto spun dizzyingly within the chaos, the chaos that was not him, the thoughts and utter joy of finally being free to show those pathetic humans what they were dealing with.

He knew it was Kyuubi, and he could vaguely recall the seal being shredded from the bars, but he couldn't recall being afraid. He'd been confused, but that was also lost in the blur of thought, sensation, movement, and noise. Itachi had left his mind just after that, Kyuubi had rammed thought the useless cage and escaped into his body. The rush of her chakra burned at his skin, ripped at his natural chakra points, and scraped at his mind. She wasn't going to allow him to regain control.

He was used to this kind of pain, expected it really, and yet, it was less painful than he could recall. Naruto was horrified by the fact that though his pain was great it wasn't the all-consuming, black-out sort of agony that had—as several people had informed him—skinned him alive, coupled with the fact that he was still somewhat aware of what was going on around him.

Flashes of sound, momentary images; a flower, a young girl, a boy with black studs across his skin and weird eyes, a man split between two colors, or was it two men who merged? The blue shark man and that god-awful sword, a being in a mask busy fighting with Itachi. Kyuubi steered clear of that tussle, focusing on the dangerous opponents that currently held her attention, and they were deadly. From what Naruto could see and sense, he knew that the only thing Kyuubi had over them was the sheer amount of power and control of that power. She took painful hits from Jutsus Naruto couldn't even begin to understand, and the studded man's eyes boggled him and kept him wondering just what that person was capable of, what those eyes were because it must be like the sharingan.

Apparently, the kid's technique wasn't the same as Sasuke's since Kyuubi faced him down and eventually won, but all the same, Naruto was aware that had he fought him, their battle would have been long and devastating. As it was now, it was actually rather pitiful.

He floated in and out of awareness, nauseated by the facts but unable to stop them because it wasn't safe yet, and how could he control the beast without the seal, and what if Itachi was waiting for him and…

…And it was suddenly silent.

Naruto had no idea how long the torture had lasted, but the overwhelming sense of contentment and satisfaction let him know that it was over, no matter the outcome. He shuddered deep below the rush of thoughts and water, choking on guilt and vomit, and fear, and tears, and oh dear god what had he done?

Sasuke! Sasuke… what will he think… I broke my promise to him and... and what will happen to us now? The small flicker of life that was his child pulsed within him and around him, a basic comfort that let him know that for the moment the child was alive. How long that would last with Kyuubi free and her chakra flowing like fire though his form Naruto didn't know, but at that moment the baby was alive within him. That was a comfort at least, and a beacon of strength to cling to.

For the child's sake, he had to regain control of Kyuubi. There was no other option.

"The Uchiha will not hear you, and he will not come for you." Kyuubi sneered and he really wasn't surprised to find her presence all around him, though she was no-where to be seen. Was this what she felt when they spoke outside of this room?

"You're useless mate left you to fend for yourself. He is unconcerned with the issues you face, so why bother hoping for his return? Why bother waiting for him at all?"

"Shut up!" Naruto screamed into the darkness and attempted to rise to his feet but he was buried under the weight of power that she had them cocooned in. His body was in tatters, it was strange to be aware of that fact and yet be impartial to it as well. "The hell did you do to us you flea-bag!"

"Only what you requested kit. I stopped them." The pride and satisfaction in that one statement made Naruto's stomach roll and his arms shook with the attempt to hold himself heavy against the sick that raced up his throat. "What's wrong? Can't handle the truth? You asked for this, and I saved us. Now shut up and be a good little human and sleep for a while."

She didn't say it, but her intention to work on healing them was clear. And why wouldn't she? If the body died she did as well. His head felt fuzzy again, distorted and lackluster, he was fading fast.

"No… no… I won't lose to you… I wont… I wont…"

"Its too late kit. It's far too late."

Kyuubi didn't sound pleased by that.


It was the slow carding of fingers through is hair that woke him next.

"Wh… what?" He was floating in water. It was still warm but no longer painful, in fact it was almost soothing in an alien sort of manner. The water-logged walls hadn't changed, the fox was still in control, and Naruto was having trouble remembering much of what had happened to him although he had the distinct impression that he was better off because of that.

"You awake now?" The distinctly male voice was startling and had Naruto spinning around to face the mental intruder. Whatever he was expecting it was not the kind blue eyes and shaggy blonde mop of hair that greeted him.

He blinked, wondering if maybe he was imagining the man above him, because there was no mistaking who this person was supposed to be, and both answers left him a little more than shaken up. "I can't deal with this right now…"

The man smiled, his hand pausing in its comforting motion through his hair, the movement caused the white robe to shift and the flames running along its hems made him distinctly dizzy.

"I really can't deal with this right now."

"Naruto, I'm sorry but at the moment you don't have a choice." He was stern, but kind and it tore at his heartstrings enough to make his eyes water. It wasn't fair, in any sense of the word, for this delusion, dream, or whatever to be happening when Kyuubi was free and everything was lost. He had failed this man in everyway possible and he was being taunted with that fact now.


He pushed the hand away from his head and sat up. It was easier to move now, and he wondered if that had more to do with Kyuubi having completed healing him than any strength on his part. He wobbled once on his feet but forced his limbs to support his weight when the older man leaned closer as thought to assist him. He couldn't handle his kindness on top of the stress and confusion.

A pregnant man could only handle so much!

"What the hell are you doing here?" It was supposed to come out stand-offish and somewhat petulant, instead it sounded wounded and pathetic. Again the blonde man reached out for him and Naruto jerked back with a glare. "Don't touch me!"

The other looked slightly stricken before understanding guilt replaced it. "I am sorry Naruto, but there was no other way—"

"Shut up! It's not what you think."

"Oh?" He sounded unconvinced; he couldn't blame the guy really. Considering how hurt and pissed off Naruto was and how he was not trying to hide that fact, it would seem as though he was angry at him for placing the kyuubi inside his body. But that wasn't the case and he wouldn't stand for the Fourth Hokage—even a fake delusion he himself created—suffer under that kind of misconception.

"Yeah, it isn't. I… I was proud to be chosen. It sucked growing up an orphan, it sucked being treated like the demon, and it really sucks having body parts that don't belong to me," Blue eyes widened in shocked confusion but Naruto wasn't explaining his 'problem' to his hero. "But, you chose me for a reason, or I chose to believe you did, and I was always proud to have been part of what saved Konoha.

"I'm just… pissed off that I failed you, and I really don't know how to fix this mess I'm in now, and I'm probably talking to a figment of my imagination right now, which really doesn't help matters…"

The Yondaime laughed then, a deep, warm sound that was very similar to his own laugh, so much so that Naruto could help but wince. He'd always noticed the resemblance, always thought that there was some deeper meaning to his being chose, but he never dared to breath it aloud. Never dared to hope. And now my dreams are mocking me…

"I'm not imaginary Naruto."

"Yeah, because you would so tell me otherwise…"

Another chuckle.

"I'm a safety precaution left behind when I sealed Kyuubi inside of you." The man's smile was warm, but for the first time Naruto noticed it was wan. Like a shadow or a clone.

"A shadow clone."

"Precisely. I knew there was a chance of the seal breaking or coming 'loose' over time. Your mother warned me of that possibility." His expression softened at the term and Naruto felt decidedly awkward.

"M… mother?"

"Yes. Kushina, she…" He paused and took a deep breath. "There is a lot I need to tell you Naruto, a lot that I was working on that… was never finished due to my sudden death. I left this clone behind, hidden inside the seal in case anything like this happened. It was a fail-safe to protect you from Kyuubi should she ever break free.

"I guess I simply never considered the affects a demon's chakra could have on an infant. I wasn't aware of just how far you two would merge under those circumstances." The Yondaime paused, looking around the cage and sewer they stood in. Whatever he saw must have told him about their symbiotic relationship, either that or the clone was leaching information off of his memories. "It didn't help that your mother was already genetically compatible."

"Okay, yeah, you just lost me." Naruto frowned a hand gripping his head, forcing the headache back. Well, now he knew a spirit could in fact get one.

"Sorry, perhaps it would be best to start from the beginning."

"No, first tell me how to put the furry bitch back in her cage."

Yondaime smiled at him and nodded his head. "Well, due to your special circumstances, you have merged with Kyuubi to such an extent that you two cannot be separated without both of your deaths being the result."

"Well, ain't that just special." Naruto griped internally, though he'd honestly accepted that fact years before. Didn't mean he had to be happy about it.

"Yes, but it seems to have produced a silver lining over all."

"Okay, I give, what silver lining?"

The older man made himself comfortable, leaning back against the bars of the giant cage that now seemed far too empty and crossed his arms. 'She can't kill you. It is physically impossible for her to do so."


"Where as before, her chakra was foreign and therefore it hurt you to use it, your continued exposure, aided by the progression of your merge, has built up a sort of tolerance to it. Her chakra is more or less an extension of your own at this point, that extends to her mind and will as well." He stopped for Naruto to process that, but he doubted he would ever full comprehend what was being revealed to him.

"So… what does that mean exactly? Can she be put back in her cage?"

"Of course, you are still the original spirit in this body, you are the alpha conscience, she has no choice but to succeed to you unless it means your death."

"Great! Then how do I do that?" Excitement was screaming through him now, maybe he hadn't screwed up too badly in his haste to save his newly achieved family. That hope was buoying him for the moment and he had to go with it or lose his mind.

"Well, you simply have to take command of your body back. I would suppose the same way you have managed before when she became too excitable."

That was so helpful.

"Uh… right. How do I do that? And what about the seal?"

The Hokage, father, here in his mind he could admit to it, his father straightened and reached out to grip his shoulder. The gesture was so comforting it was nearly painful, but this time he couldn't shrug the contact off if he'd wanted to.

"Naruto, as of right now, the seal is not necessary."

"What? How is it not necessary? What's to stop her from taking over whenever she feels like it and using my body to slaughter the village, or to kill off my new family?" He may have been yelling but he had a valid point as far as he was concerned.



"Naruto, the seal was set in place to keep Kyuubi from ripping your body apart and finishing what she had started. Now that she cannot escape from you, there is no need for a seal, you keep her trapped and you can control her. And you must." The man was very sincere and straight forward. Naruto could see why he was such a well-loved Hokage, and it pained him that he had never had the chance to know him in person.

If the clone was this alive, he could only imagine how vibrant the real man had been, but that was a thought without purpose, because the man was dead and gone, and all that remained was the lineage he'd left behind in him. "This is going to go a lot like Ero-sannin's training isn't it?"

The clone must have figured out who he meant as he beamed and chuckled. "I'm afraid so. You'll have to figure out how to suppress her yourself. But, it looks as though it might be easier than expected."

"Huh? How do you figure that?"

"She seems at a loss as to what to do trapped in a purely human body. She may have all the power she always has but for the first time in her long existence, she is mortal in the sense that we know it. That, must frighten her, otherwise she would have left and attacked Konoha by now."

Naruto want to mock that. Kyuubi afraid? Yeah, right, and Sasuke liked roses, long walks on a beach, and playing with fluffy little Disney animals that sang to him. Then again, he was aware, in that mind-boggling way, that his body was still where he had last left it, if a little more vertical than before.

But that could be explained away by a seal or something else that simply trapped her inside. The five point seal was made to trap the tailed-beasts and that or something like it had definitely fallen into place before everything turned into a mass of color and sensations. So, her stationary position could be from that. Actually, Naruto was certain it was because of that.

Kyuubi didn't act on her feelings.

All the same, he wasn't going to argue with the man. Who knew when the jutsu would expire and this shadow clone would fizzle out of existence like the seal had done and then he'd be stuck with creating his own way of sealing Kyuubi up.

"Right. You mentioned needing to tell me some stuff?" Naruto prompted and the other nodded gravely, his smile fading into a slight frown, and the young man transformed into the highly acclaimed Fourth Hokage before his very eyes. It was impressive, though he guessed he was probably biased. The man was his hero and his father.

"Naruto, there were several things, dark things, going on while I was alive, and I fear those things have only come to fruition with my death." He paused, shoulders slumped, the weight of his life visibly upon him. Several steadying breaths later, and he seemed ready to divulge his secrets.

"Orochimaru left Konoha shortly after I was elected the successor for Sarutobi."

"Good riddance."

"Well, that is what we all thought, though his succession lead to dire consequences as a result." At those words Naruto winced and the Shadow clone nodded sagely. "Yes, he left to join an organization that had yet to hold a name, and inevitably it led to my death."

"The Akatsuki."

"Yes. I was unaware of most of their actions, I am still mostly unaware of their plans, all I know for certain I gained from your mother shortly after your conception."

"Okay… really didn't need that detail… dad." The last bit was croaked out and he paused wondering if maybe he shouldn't have voiced it at all, but the warmth in the look, the bright, proud smile, made the chance completely worth it. For a moment there seriousness of the conversation was placed on hold and he was just another kid with his father, but time was short and information was needed, so it was cut short with a quick squeeze of a shoulder.

"Right, I apologize."

Naruto smiled and remained quiet.

"Anyway, I was still in training when the first incidents made themselves apparent. Corpses were found tortured and mutilated, orphans went missing, small Ninja villages would be decimated overnight, nothing remaining to tell of their existence aside from the skeletal remains. It wasn't shocking really, the wars were over officially, but skirmishes and battles were still prominent. It wasn't that unheard of for the smaller villages to be attacked, in fact most didn't even notice this at all, I might not have noticed, had it not been for Danzo and his sudden request for another branch of security." The man paused to smirk a bit, "He wasn't too impressed with the Uchiha Police force." He seemed amused by something but didn't explain that bit, pressing ahead with his narrative.

"Kushina showed up conveniently when I started snooping around for information on the disappearances. Danzo's sudden request for a separate Anbu faction only made my suspicions worse." The clone paused for a moment in his tale to drive a point home, "I was under the impression he wanted the new Anbu group to watch the Uchiha clan, paranoid old coot that he was, and he probably got his way after my death, seeing as the only reason Sarutobi denied him was because of my influence. He and the council have obtained far too much power over the years, and they know far too many secrets to be changed. They are rigid in their old ways and I fear their prejudice will cause greater problems than their worth."

"Right. Kinda figured he was bad news, the ass hole sent Sai out to kill Sasuke when he was on an undercover mission!" Naruto grumped, "… as for those two old jerks, I already know about them."

The clone's brows furrowed in thought. "Then perhaps…" He shook his head, pushing it to the side, apparently deciding it was not worth the time to say it.

"Uh, hate to interrupt, but why was Danzo paranoid about the Uchiha clan? I mean they were a prominent clan of Konoha?" Naruto was genuinely confused.

Yondaime's clone took a moment, his mouth pinching a bit at Naruto's use of the past tense in reference to the clan before he answered. "During the Great Ninja Wars, the Uchiha clan was our greatest advisory. It wasn't until we joined forces to create Konoha that they ceased to be a threat. But to those who lived through those first few years of peace, who could remember the fear of sharingan eyes, I imagine, it was impossible to trust them completely."

Naruto guessed he could understand that, didn't excuse the fact that those three were ass-holes, but he could comprehend their reasoning. But damn… just how old are they?

"History lesson aside," the clone gave him a soft semi-smile before returning them to his tale. "Kushina was the sole survivor of one of those villages, and we brought her into protective custody. She claimed she couldn't recall what had happened as she had been quite young when the attack took place, and that she had been taken someplace dark and underground. She couldn't recall much, and it was assumed that whatever her captors had wanted with her, they had found or given up on. It would be sometime later before she told me the truth.

"I became further interested when the current head of the Uchiha clan, Fugaku, came to me with news that his wife and unborn child had gone missing. Kushina had just realized her own impending motherhood, so I was emotionally invested in finding Mikoto and the baby that you know as Sasuke."

Naruto felt a chill run down his spine and a thick unease settle low in his gut. He had wondered, and heard hints from Kyuubi, but didn't want to believe it, he still didn't, but now he couldn't simply ignore everything either.

Sasuke was involved.

Far more so than either of them could guess.

"I'm still uncertain of what was done as Mikoto remembered very little, but it was hypothesized that someone using the forbidden Mangekyo Sharingan techniques could be involved. That lead to some research, during which Mikoto vanished four more times, each time returning unharmed with little to no memory of the events.

"Fugaku then came to me with a story that was as impossible as it was fantastical. Apparently, there was a battle for the position of the first Hokage after the creation of Konoha. Of course it's in our history and even memorialized in statues at the location of their duel, but details of this other contender have been lost with time. Or, more accurately, wiped out of existence." He paused to catch his breath.

"The leader of the Uchiha clan, Madara, was the one who had stood against the First Hokage and lost that battle. He was then thrown out of the village for his numerous attempts to break the village apart again, or so it is said. Fugaku explained that it was the Uchiha clan itself that threw him out for his disquiet, and it was said that he was the last to acquire the long sought after Mangekyou."

"Sasuke's dad thought it was Madara taking his wife." Naruto didn't need the confirming nod to know it was true. Kyuubi had already confirmed the man's unusually long life and his penchant for vengeance—hell, that was an Uchiha stipulation, it was practically a genetic flaw—and if his clan had thrown him out, then it would be his clan that he would get revenge on.

"He was most concerned because that particular level of Sharingan was rumored to give the ability to walk, control, and conform another's mind and soul."

Naruto was reminded of Itachi's, and before that Sasuke's, bizzar tour through his head and it made him feel a little ill. "Kyuubi mentioned something about that." Naruto crossed his arms, trying to recall exactly what it was she had said, but it was all pretty much a blur in his head. "Come to think of it, Sasuke took a walk through my mind once, put Kyuubi in her place really quickly too."

"Exactly!" The clone now sounded highly excited over the discussion, and he felt proud for reasons he couldn't explain. "Fugaku believed that Madara was after Sasuke for some reason. It was as he was trying to convince me of this idea that Kushina came clean.

"She wasn't certain who was in charge, but a man known as Leader of the Akatsuki had sent her to Konoha to keep me distracted. She confirmed Fugaku's fears that Madara was planning to use the connection between the Uchihas and Kyuubi to cause a rift within the village. She didn't know all of the details but he was planning to use this as a means to create a new, no, better world." He paused allowing Naruto to absorb the information overload. There was so much to retain and he just knew he wouldn't recall all of the details, still he needed to try.

"So… he used Kyuubi as the tool of vengeance on the clan?"

"Yes. If Kyuubi attacked the Uchiha's would know who had done it, but because they were so secretive about their history it would never be believed that Madara himself was still alive. Therefore the fault would fall upon those in the village."

"But, if they kept the secrets so close, how would anyone know that Kyuubi could be controlled by the Sharingan?" Naruto interrupted. It had certainly been a shock to him.

"The elder's, Danzo, and the older ninja's still remembered the War, and there were still stories. Most were spoken of in awe because the Uchiha clan had joined Konoha, but the fear of them was still present."

It was all starting to make a sick sort of sense to him. "That was why he had to go to you… and why Danzo was insisting on a separate Anbu to watch the Uchiha clan." His voice was a harsh whisper. The prejudice hadn't started with him or Kyuubi, and it had only grown since then, like a cancer.

Like a slotted piece of a puzzle, Naruto jerked his eyes up to look into matching blue and felt his stomach drop inside of him as his body went cold. "That's why Itachi did it."

The clone closed his eyes in pain and sighed. "So, I was right about that as well."

"You knew?" Naruto was suddenly furious. If the Yondaime had known why hadn't he set up precautions for that sort of thing? Why didn't he save the Uchiha clan, Itachi, and Sasuke?

"It was a hypothesis only. At the time I was busy trying to figure out what it was Madara saw in Sasuke. It wasn't until Kyuubi attacked and I was sealing her away inside of you that it hit me. Both what this could mean, as well as what Sasuke was supposed to be used for."

"You lost me again." Naruto held his head, temples pounding.

"I'm sorry, I'm jumping around again, hind-sight will do that to you." The clone took a deep breath and began again. "Your mother told me that the experiments performed on her were a test of sorts, to see if the human body could contain mass amounts of power, or chakra that was foreign without dying; in this case Kyuubi's."

"Wait, so mom held—"

"No. But she did hold the demon's chakra inside as a storage unit; it was later used to summon Kyuubi into Konoha." He grew quiet, eyes down cast and sad. "It was what eventually killed her."

Naruto swallowed the lump in his throat uncertain on how to react. Right now, all his mother was to him was a faceless name. He'd adjusted to the fact that his parents had died during the battle with Kyuubi, to hear this now was… odd. He wasn't torn apart by the news, but he wasn't completely unaffected either.

"Sorry, I'm off topic again."

Naruto shook his head. There was no need for an apology, and he had been morbidly curious as to how she'd died.

"My point was that Madara was setting things up so that I would have Sasuke in mind when choosing a container for Kyuubi. If I sealed the Kyuubi inside of Sasuke, then died, the council would take over and force Sarutobi back into the position as third. At which point he would have no way to fight against them and their paranoia and the Uchiha's would be persecuted, it would cause a rift that would accumulate in a secession and or massacre, that would ultimately send Sasuke to Madara and would then be the perfect weapon in his arsenal." He concluded with a chilling force. Naruto looked down horrified at what had become clear only in the moments of death. What kind of guilt would that leave behind? He bit his lip not wanting to confirm the man's doubts and fears, but he could not lie to him either.

Resigned, Naruto opened his mouth. "Yeah, that would make sense, and that's pretty much how it happened." Naruto paused to look at the open cage and then to himself before looking back at his father. "Well, mostly."

"I was afraid it might." The clone sighed. "I didn't even think of the after affects until I was sealing Kyuubi inside of your tiny body. My only thought was that if your mother could hold enough of the demon's chakra to allow it to summon from her body, then you could contain the Kyuubi entirely. I was right, but sadly, I hadn't bothered to discuss things with Sarutobi.

"He had been retired for a while; I hadn't thought it wise to unleash such bizarre and concerning hypotheses until after I had more proof. Apparently, that came too late."

"Yeah. You sealed her in me, and Danzo got his own Anbu, for whatever good it did him. Itachi was raised to be the perfect ninja to protect the clan, but it backfired when they used him to kill the clan off instead."

The clone closed his eyes, clearly pained. "Of course they would."

"Hn. The only way to kill an Uchiha…"

"Is with another Uchiha."

Naruto was feeling sick again.

"So, it is already far too late."

"Naw." Naruto interrupted, standing up straighter. "The way I see it, you messed things up for the assholes pretty badly when you chose me instead of Sasuke. It's certainly caused problems for them, and I'm not real clear on the details, but I'm pretty certain that most of the Akatsuki aren't going to be getting back up." His words brought another wan smile and a larger hand reached out to ruffle his hair.

"I suppose that's true."

"Yeah. Besides that, as long as I know about it, I can pass it along right? I mean, I am going to be Hokage someday. At least if I know this, I'll be aware of what to look out for."

That warm proud smile was back and it left him feeling a little giddy. "That was the reason for this discussion after all." The affectionate rub stilled and the other's eyes went a little distant. Naruto knew then that the jutsu was ending. He heart ached and his good mood plummeted a bit at the notion, which was irritating since he had expected as much from the beginning. All, the same, Naruto had the most infantile urge to reach out for a hug, but he was neither a child, nor a girl and he would to sacrifice his pride for that.

Turned out, he didn't have to.

In a move that startled Naruto, the other's gaze focused sharply on his and the hand on his head pulled him into a tight embrace. He was assaulted by the scent of his father, and he was surprised to find that the man smelled like the wind that raced through the center of Konoha in the early spring months. It was no smell that could really be labeled, but it reminded him of that, and he buried his nose in breathing deeper to capture and memorize it.

"I am, and always will be, proud of you Naruto. Remember that." The words were gruff with emotion and he found his throat constricted tight enough that he couldn't even breath. He hadn't even realized how much he'd wanted, no, needed to hear that until the words had been uttered to him, and now they were enough to leave him reeling; as though the information overload wasn't enough.

He clung to the clone, soaking up the residual affection his father had had for him, locking it away deep inside. He might never be able to tell anyone about this, and perhaps no one would believe him, but he would know, and that was all that really mattered.

He felt the other shift a kiss was placed to the crown of his head. "You were always loved, dearly, by both of us Naruto. Always."

The words echoed in the air even as the clone squeezed him one last time before he was dispersed with a cloud of smoke and a soft popping sound.

Naruto allowed himself a moment. A single, fragile break in time to be that small child that had desperately desired the love of a parent; the reassurance that he had been wanted and loved for at least a single moment in his life by someone, anyone, other than himself. The words held healing capabilities, and meant everything to that small child.

Then, the moment passed and he turned to face the open cell with determination.

"It's all up to me, huh?" He leaned his weight onto one leg, crossed his arms and tilted his head, regarding the massive cage that had once held the demon. Correction, that still held the demon, when she wasn't in possession of his body. He could still see her chakra floating beyond the bars, and wisps of her consciousness caused flickers of light to dance within its confines.

Well, it had been her home for nearly 17 years, it was probably the only familiar thing left to her, and seeing as she couldn't leave his body anymore, it would be logical for her to keep to areas she knew. That at least was a natural instinct. "But, how can I use that…?"

Naruto sighed and bit his lip contemplating his options. "Well, if I can do it, then I will!"

Four hours later Naruto still didn't have an answer and was getting impatient. "Damn it! How the hell am I supposed to put her back in here and lock her up without a fucking seal!" Kicking hard at the water of his memories and thoughts made him feel little better, but it was some form of action and that was better than his current inaction. "What am I supposed to do?"

His words echoed through the halls and reverberated back to him helplessly giving him no answers and he sunk into a crouch, his head hanging down between his knees. There is a way, he said there was, I'm just not seeing it… okay, treat this like another one of Jiraiya's crazy lessons. Naruto frowned. But I don't even know where to start… The irritation was back and he let out his breath in a harsh exhale.

"How am I supposed to pull this off if I don't even know where the starting point is?" as his words died away he became aware of the whisper of memory. Usually, he tried not to listen to it, seeing as it did him little good to reminisce here, especially when Kyuubi was still free. But, he'd felt the shield drop sometime ago, and though Kyuubi still had yet to move beyond wherever she was at, Naruto was worried that her complacency wouldn't last long. So, taking a leap of faith, Naruto looked down at the water.

Reflections, barely their and rippling with the movement of the lapping liquid, showed hazy images that he could recall with ease.

He was teaching Konohamaru how he'd invented the Sexy Jutsu.

Well, that was odd. Why was that memory so close to the surface of his thoughts all of a sudden? He had hoped his sub consciousness was attempting to give him a starting point, but apparently it was as stupid as everyone usually accused him of being. That was rather depressing on a whole.

Naruto returned to glaring at the cage.

A few minutes later and another memory poked at him for attention. He shook it off at first, but it was insistent, and since no miraculous ideas had struck him from staring blankly at the metal doors he glanced down once more. If this is another useless memory I swear to god…

It was his first few lessons with the Rasengan.

Well, at least that was slightly more helpful than the other one, still a little useless as it was more of his epic failure rather than his creating his own jutsu.

Naruto blinked as the hazed memory him smudged the ink on his palm to form the Konoha leaf as the two images suddenly made inexplicable sense. Either that or he was grasping at straws, but hey it was better than nothing.

Naruto looked up at the cage and then back to his palm a few times before daring to try and voice his thoughts aloud. "I made up my own jutsu. I did it by modeling my idea off of something that already existed… I was able to focus better when I had a symbol to place in mind that represented not only what the technique should do, but for what purpose I was learning it…" Glancing up at the metal cage, to the discolored spot where the seal had once rested, Naruto grinned. "This just might work."


The symbol had been easy to carve into the metal once he'd finally convinced himself that he could change whatever he wanted in this place, it was his mind after all, and he stepped back to regard his work. The Konoha leaf reflected back at him, a scar upon the sleek surface, a reminder of why he couldn't fail; the reason he had to succeed. He could already picture in his mind how the symbol, currently split between the cage doors, would seal with a flash of his chakra when the doors closed.

He created it with the thought that unless he willed his chakra to unseal it, the doors would remain locked. He'd left the imperfections where her chakra could leak over to heal him, as it was impossible to completely seal her away. She was a part of him now, as degrading as that was to him it was a fact he was best off accepting quickly and simply dealing with it. But with his chakra locking it in place, it guaranteed Kyuubi could not 'take over' unless expressly granted by him.

It wasn't the symbiotic relationship his father had tried to impress upon him, but it would work. Besides, Kyuubi wasn't house broken regardless of the impression the clone had had of her. It was better if she couldn't get out at all.

Now all he had to do was drag her back in.

A flicker of chakra drew his attention as suddenly Kyuubi was sending sensory input to him.

They weren't alone anymore.

"Shit. Couldn't wait four minutes?" Naruto whined and tried to will Kyuubi back into her place. Her amused chuckle echoed down to him and she didn't even have to speak to him to express her amusement at his attempt.

Naruto kept trying regardless, throwing himself at Kyuubi's control and will and trying with all his might to exert himself as the dominant personality. It did little but irritate her and leave him panting in the water of his mind. The only consolation was that she had not made a move to attack the others in their immediate vicinity. "This is bullshit! You have to listen to me you crazy bitch! Give me back my body!"

"And why would I do that?" She rumbled down to him. It was clearer than before and he could guess that she hadn't spoken aloud this time so much as sent the thought to him. "When your mate is here to entertain me."

Fear made him turn cold. "Leave him alone."

Her amusement was clear in the sudden vibrations that pulsed through the cage and caused the chakra with in to glow a brilliant red. "Or what? You cannot do anything to stop this, just as he can do nothing but complain himself."

Rage made his form shake and the water bubbled around his ankles, his own chakra rising. "Leave him alone." He would not say it again.

She didn't bother responding this time, but he was aware that she still had not attacked, and after a while of focusing and pushing his will against hers, the briefest crackle of sound impeded on him.

"Dead-last! I will not be made a fool of… get up… all you are?" It was fragmented, but clearly Sasuke's voice, and from the sounds of it, he was insulting him again. That surprisingly cheered him up.

"Fucking Uchiha." Naruto muttered affectionately. Sasuke was so very predictable, and it was grounding to know that. "I'm so kicking his ass for that." Shaking his head, Naruto focused on the small hand-hold he'd achieved in his consciousness and pulled.

Only one mind could be there at a time, and if he had to he'd bodily throw the bitch from control. He focused on his chakra, amazed to find he had any at all, but then again his first trimester was almost up regardless of the shit Sakura had spouted—or maybe he'd lost the baby—Naruto shivered and threw all thoughts of that aside—and pulled at Kyuubi.

She resisted as he'd expected, but she gave up rather quickly, and the force he'd exerted seemed excessive as it through him headlong into his body.

Everything ached, and his mouth tasted foul and musky. Naruto blinked slowly, his perceptions blurry and images distorted in his mind. He probably still had a concussion. He could recall Itachi, Kyuubi's hostile takeover, talking with his father's clone, and the seal—he was damned proud of that actually—and subsequent release, but details were fuzzy and probably would be for a while until he'd had time to assimilate everything from his sub conscious and consciousness.

"Dobe." Sasuke sounded infinitely relieved to see him, and Naruto couldn't help but force his head around in the general direction of his friend. The glow of the torch hurt his sensitive eyes and only made the actual blur worse, but he didn't turn away.

He couldn't.

"… I'm… not… a dead-last… bastard."

Sasuke just smirked at him.


He woke up in the hospital.

"This is really getting old." Naruto grumbled not impressed with the stale walls that were becoming more familiar than the ones of his bedroom. Well, Sasuke's bedroom, Naruto really hadn't stayed at his apartment much as of late. He really wasn't certain why he was keeping it actually, only that he felt embarrassed whenever he thought of terminating his lease. That was beside the point though, as he was too comfortable with waking up in this room. Is it the same one? I think I recognize that water stain…

"I'm pleased to hear we agree on that notion." The deep drawl didn't come from the space between him and the wall as he was becoming accustomed to, but it was beside him none-the-less. A little shocked—and alternately not so—Naruto turned his head to find Sasuke slouched in the chair beside him looking tired. His eyes had shadows under them, it was clear he'd been sleeping in the chair, or at least in those clothes, and his posture was very similar to a drowned cat, even his hair was even drooping. That was actually quite impressive, and Naruto blinked at him several times to give it the proper respect.

"What are you doing here?"

Sasuke scowled at him, dark eyes glaring in that usual pissy manner and it made Naruto grin in response.

"Baby elephant is back I see…"

"Hn." Sasuke's head tilted down a bit and his hand ran through the dark locks messing the limp strands into a tangled tizzy, that still couldn't get its normal lift. "How do you feel?"

Maybe it was the way he said it, the weight to the question and the weary way Sasuke was acting that made him answer, but Naruto was almost certain it was the oddly calm and rather neutral conversation they were having. Any minute now Sasuke would explain his reason for being at his bedside, why he wasn't already gone again and whatever the reason, Naruto didn't want to face it, nor the opposite which would be the inevitable goodbye that was becoming as routine as the wake-up-in-hospital ritual.

So, he stalled.

"Meh, hungry, confused, and really sick of white."

The head tilted back up, face framed by long pale fingers as dark eyes regarded him carefully. "No pain? Numbness? Strain?"

"When the hell did you become a medic ninja?" Naruto asked making a face then quickly lifted his hands to forestall an answer, "Wait, never mind, it probably involves Kabuto and I do not need to hear about that…"

Finally a lopsided smirk. "Dobe…"

"Hey, the guy is messed up! Seriously, he's got some issues. Whatever you learned from him," Naruto shuddered to make his point and received an unimpressed eye-roll in return.

"Answer the question, idiot."

"Questions, it was plural." The glare could have melted steal. "Right, No. No. And, no. So, how long I, been out this time?" He'd meant to keep the mood light but it sunk rather quickly with that question. Land mine… ouch…

Sasuke's expression turned blank, but not unreadable. It was the stony expression he took on when he was concerned and worried. It was nice to see it but also rather depressing as it meant the conversation was now taking the turn he'd hoped to avoid completely.

"A week."

"What? No shit? A whole week? Damn, please tell me you at least went home to bathe in that time."

He was stalling, and he was certain that Sasuke was aware of that and was allowing it only because Naruto had been out for an entire week. Sasuke was giving him a chance to assimilate what he remembered on his own so that informing him would be easier. Problem was, Naruto wasn't sure if he even wanted to get to that point.

A whole week? What the hell did that? His memories were mostly a blur of color and sound too much scrabbling for his attention and turned his focus back to Sasuke.

Naruto blinked, uncertain how to react to the outfit he was wearing. It seemed casual, as was different from anything else he'd worn previously, but the Uchiha crest was stitched into the shoulder of what otherwise looked like a dark turtle neck shirt. It looked a little like a jounin undershirt. It suited Sasuke, though Naruto had to wonder where he got his clothes. Maybe there's a store of them… or he raided Itachi's closet—Naruto broke off as the jumbled images returned in segments.

Itachi in his mind.

Itachi's memories.

A hand of chakra coming toward his belly.

A death threat to their baby.

Fire in his veins.




Itachi in a corner fighting someone else.

Naruto gasped, his hands flying to his stomach.

"The baby is fine, if a little underweight. Tsunade said you need to increase your food intake when you woke up." Sasuke said glibly from the side. No, not glibly, cautiously, as though making sure not to step on any emotional land mines. It was kind of him, but it was unnecessary as was his reassurance when Naruto felt the soft flicker of chakra that symbolized their baby. Naruto let out a large sigh and flopped back against the bedding.

"It was a close call a couple of times…" Naruto explained, and from Sasuke's stiff posture and silent pursing of lips, he had an idea of that but probably didn't need the details. "So, any idea why I was out so long?"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes, a sign of his impatience to know what all Naruto recalled, but answered anyway, his voice still calm and even. It was nice, though Naruto was gaining some amusement from making him try so hard. "Well, Tsunade has no real clue aside from the fact that your chakra stores were low and irregular. Far more-so than your current condition would explain."

Naruto was tempted to make Sasuke say the word; 'pregnant' but restrained himself.

Hell, he couldn't even say it, it would be a little cruel to make Sasuke do so, especially when he was being so nice. It would be like kicking him in the balls, and Naruto still wasn't female enough to do that yet. "Huh… so any hypothesis, or is it just another oddity doomed to never be explained?"

Sasuke glared at him, his hands gripping the fabric on his knees. He was wearing sweat-pants. Naruto took note of the soft look and how it reminded him of the casual clothes Sasuke usually wore around his house in the evenings. It was irritatingly nostalgic.

"How much do you remember Naruto?"

Naruto sighed and closed his eyes again doused with the blur of chaos. "I remember Itachi grabbing me. He did that weird thing you did to snap me out of Kyuubi's control… uh, we sorta fought… I woke in a room… on a table." His heart rate picked up again and Naruto scowled at his own weakness. "He threatened me… and the baby. I snapped…" Naruto trailed off as the sick closed his airways and made him gag.

"Naruto." Sasuke's voice was stern his grip on his shoulder just as harsh and it brought him away from the memories and out of the panic. "What happened after that?"

"I—I…" He swallowed hard and scrunched up his face. Damn it, he was stronger than this, and he had made that choice all on his own, it was time to face the consequences of those actions. Besides, he had far more to worry about than what had already happened. Of course this put him on the defensive and made him snappish, but it was better than freaking out. "I had no other choice, my chakra was gone and he was going to abort the baby, so I… I went to Kyuubi, but the fucker followed and I don't know how he did it, he tore the seal off and the she got out and… and, oh god, I can't even remember what I did." Naruto felt nauseous and his mouth was oddly dry, tongue thick from his confession.

He awaited the judgment from Sasuke, after all he'd promised not to allow Kyuubi to get control and here he'd just thrown that out the window. But what else was I supposed to do? He would have killed the baby and I promised to protect it and, and, damn these hormones! Naruto mentally snarled when his eyes started to burn. The last thing he needed to do now was cry.

"Well, I assume then that your chakra displacement is from that new seal you made on the cage doors. It would also explain your reaction when I first arrived to set you straight." Sasuke relaxed a little more into his seat and it was clear he was glad he didn't have to inform him of the massacre and Kyuubi's break-out. "Tsunade agrees though the official paperwork states that you suffered from the effects of the Samehada blade."

Tsunade was covering his ass again. Naruto smiled to himself. "Yeah, I guess I owe you all a thank you since I'm certain you all are taking the credit for the… uh, battle."

"Hn." Sasuke leaned back his hand moving from Naruto's shoulder when he crossed his arms, a clear sign of distancing himself and Naruto frowned missing the contact absurdly. He pondered the idea of reaching out for that hand but decided against it. He may have figured out his feelings for the Uchiha, but Sasuke hadn't made his intentions clear. Sure he'd been very clear on the trust, friendship, and needing an heir issues but romantic feelings were never brought up, so Naruto refrained. "As of right now, your condition, and the details of the rescue are being kept quiet, along with the investigation of the remains."

"Investigation? Why do they need that?"

"To figure out which missing Ninja were killed. It's been rather difficult on the whole I hear."

His stomach flopped. "Oh…" He swallowed as those dark eyes continued to stare at him, boring holes into his skull ruthlessly. "… uh… is Itachi… was he…" He trailed off uncertain of how to proceed. There was so much about the bastard, so many conflicting views and ideals that Naruto couldn't even think of them all, let alone tell Sasuke, and if the other was dead then it really wouldn't matter.

"No. Itachi's remains have not been found, I doubt they will." There was both relief and detest in the tone and Naruto wasn't sure what he felt because of that. Itachi was cruel, calculated, but he was also just trying to protect what was left of his family. He was trying to protect Konoha even now, at least that was what it seemed like, but Sasuke would never accept that right now, and Naruto didn't have the conviction, nor the energy to fight for the bastard. "It's more likely that he escaped."

More likely, or do you just hope he did Sasuke? Naruto breathed slowly, pushing that thought down and away. "Oh. So, you're going after him again?" Better to nip that in the bud right now; like pulling off a band-aid.

"No." Sasuke's response was surprisingly quick and Naruto looked up startled catching the slightly widened gaze of the Uchiha. A red flush stained his cheeks a bit and he coughed clearing his throat. "… no… it can wait."

He was stumped.

"What, Dobe?"

"Are… are you blushing?"

The red infusion grew worse as did the scowl. "Shove it up your ass, Dobe."

Holy shit, he really was blushing. Naruto couldn't stop the maniacal laugh he gave then, responding without much thought. "Oh no, I already have a baby in me, nothing else is getting up there!" He was joking of course, but the serious expression that fell over Sasuke's face then, the lack of humor made Naruto's mirth trail off into an awkward sort of chuckle that eventually just died. Silence settled in and it wasn't the nice comfortable kind. No, it was the kind that itched and irritated like some sort of skin rash.

He suddenly wished he was still unconscious.

"Uhm… look, sorry for cutting your mission short and… er, well, possibly taking your revenge away." Naruto refused to look up from his hands when he said this, not wanting to see Sasuke's reaction. It was a dick move, he knew, waiting for Sasuke to take the initiative and console him, but now he was worried he'd crossed some line or insulted the prick, not to mention he felt guilty for what he'd just apologized for. Even if Itachi had escaped, he'd just lost Sasuke his immediate vengeance by calling him back to Konoha and making it clear that he was incompetent to care of the child inside him. "I mean, if you want to go you can, I have my chakra back now so, this won't happen again… not to mention Kyuubi's seal is really complicated now and it won't tear, at least I don't think it can… it's a mental thing you know and—"


He snapped his mouth shut and turned his head to regard the other.

"It's fine, you did what I asked which is more than I could have expected from anyone else."

For some reason that hurt; it felt a little like rejection.

Naruto blinked up at his friend wondering what those words meant and what Sasuke was trying to imply. If he had more of an expression on his face Naruto would have been able to tell, but aside from the soft regard—which really could be a side-affect from their shared friendship and his relief at both his and the baby's wellbeing—the face was un readable. Maybe… maybe he really only asked me out of trust… and why should it bother me if that's true? Naruto knew the answer to his own question, he just really didn't want to deal with it.

He wanted to share his epiphany with Sasuke, that and he really just wanted to go home and sleep beside him again, but he wasn't certain if that would be well received or not. The last time they were in that bed together they had been… well preoccupied with not sleeping. Naruto blamed his hormones for the hurt and pushed all thoughts of it aside. It doesn't matter, I love him and that's enough. It doesn't have to get mushy, or weird, nothing has to change at all.

Except, a part of him really wanted it to.

"I'll go and get Tsunade, she said when you woke up you could leave, but I'd rather have her check you over first." His eyes darted down to Naruto's stomach a moment and the hurt turned to indignation.

"I can tell you that, the baby's just fine." Naruto snapped, perhaps more viciously then he'd intended to but he was at his wits end. Sasuke paused in his motion to stand giving him a confused look before completing his ascent and turning away from him.

"You'll excuse me if I'd like a medical opinion."

"No I won't. I'm telling you, its fine."

"Hn." Was the parting shot as he exited the room and Naruto cursed loudly throwing his pillow at the door.

"Fucking Uchiha… only concerned with my reproductive capabilities… Fucker… see if I care. Ass-hole." He continued to grumble until Tsunade arrived.

"Well, I am glad to see you among the living once more, Naruto." She said with a strained smile. "Though I would appreciate it if you kept these stunts down to a minimum."

"Hey I didn't ask Itachi to grab me!" Naruto snapped, holding his arms to the side as his belly was again molested by glowing hands. This he was getting disconcertingly accustomed to as well. "I was just enjoying the day and I was still in the damned village, so—"

Tsunade bopped him on the head, cutting him short. "I'm aware of the particulars brat."

"Then why are you lecturing me, hag?" And no that was not a whine. "I'm tired, emotionally messed up, hungry as hell, and I feel guilty to boot!" He really hadn't meant to say all that but it got him a compassionate look and a kiss to his forehead. That and the lecture ceased so, maybe it had been worth it.

"Fine, fine, you're off the hook for now." She conceded with a smile, "Though when you're feeling better we will need to discuss the details of this new seal on Kyuubi as well as what you can remember."

Sasuke piped up then, "I can give you that report."

"I understand your need to coddle him, Uchiha, but this needs to be done." Tsunade shot back and Sasuke tensed further.

"I have already told you of the events, and he has already discussed with me what he remembers I see no need to have him relive it—"

"Uh, Hello? I'm still awake here! Mind not talking about me like I'm not?" Naruto snapped. Both arguing parties turned to face him with matching looks of irritation. Geeze, the baby elephants are spawning in rectal cavities today aren't they?

"Naruto, you need to come back so that we can be certain that this new seal has no holes. Jiraiya is coming up to help with the examination."

Instant panic.

"No, he can't find out about the baby!" Oh, god he'd never live it down if the news didn't kill the old pervert on the spot.

"Do you think I'm stupid?" Tsunade asked, cuffing him lightly—very lightly for her—upside the head. "I would prefer to keep him among the living, as irritating as he is…"

Naruto chuckled. "Yeah… me too." His words were matched by her smile and for the first time in a long while, he felt warmed by his quazi mother figure. It was nice to feel comfortable in her presence again, and to feel lightened by her voice and words.

"So, since we are in agreement, I'll keep him from poking around, we'll get this settled and add it to the list." The woman gave him a large smile crossing her arms over her ample chest and Naruto shook his head sighing.

"So, you were making a list. Sai owes me lunch."

"List?" Sasuke, he'd forgotten the ass-hole in the moment of emotional reunion, asked in his usual clipped manner. Naruto frowned at him but answered anyway.

"Because my… condition… is due to Kyuubi, we need to monitor the baby's growth and record it so that the Council can't accuse the baby of being Kyuubi's escape plan and trying to either kill it, me, or lock us up for being possessed." Naruto shrugged lifting his arms up. "It's been a pain in the ass really, what with Sakura and the Hag poking at me everyday—" Tsunade's hand on his shoulder stopped his tirade and looking up he found her expression somber and not on him.

Huh… what is… Turning in the same direction Naruto nearly swallowed his tongue. Sasuke, always pale to begin with, was ashen his eyes wide and form tense. "…er… Sasuke?"




"Huh? Speak up, butt-head I can't understand you when you mumble!" Geeze was Sasuke taking lessons from Shion or what?

Black eyes snapped up in a glare before flickering to crimson. Naruto jumped and pushed back a bit, letting out a nervous chuckle. Fuck he's pissy! What the hell? "Eh-heh, no need for that…"

"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you warn me about this before…" Sasuke broke off on a snarl standing and stomping over to the far wall to punch it. "Damn it! Fucking Dobe!"

"Now wait just a damned minute!" He was not going to put up with this shit. "Baby elephants in rectums or not, I do not have to listen to this shit! I didn't tell you because it's none of your damned business!"

Tsunade didn't even try to stop him as he rose from the bed and stalked over to the raven haired man. He'd only just reached out to use the nearest shoulder to spin him around, when Sasuke did it for him, his grip painful on his wrist. "Not my business?"

It was hiss of sound, more like a snarled whisper, and the anger and hurt in those eyes were more than apparent. "You are carrying my progeny, and you think that its possible death is none of my business?" Sasuke's free hand snatched the front of his shirt and yanked him forward. It was clear that he was itching for a fight, and Naruto was more than ready to give him an ass kicking.

He confuses the hell out of him, runs away and lies to him, then knocks him up and leaves again, then yells at him, makes him fall in love with his cold, prickly self, and then has the nerve to be angry at him when he's not feeling good? So… it was only for the sake of his heir after all… but I already knew that… I already knew that!

It didn't stop the hurt.

Snarling back he fisted the Uchiha's shirt right back bringing their faces so close their breath mingled, sour and bitter from sleep. It would have been perfect for kissing, well the sour breath aside it would have been, except he really didn't feel like kissing the ass-hole right now.

"Damn straight it's none of your fucking business!" Naruto's statement caused those eyes to narrow further and the fist in his shirt front to shake. Good, he wanted to hurt him right now. Pissing him off would work just fine though. "Because you tasked me with making sure that wouldn't happen!"

Sasuke jerked a bit eyes widening and the shaking stopped. "… wh…"

That did nothing to calm him though and so, looking down, his eyes burning in humiliating wetness, Naruto shoved Sasuke hard, enjoying the painful sounding thump he made when he collided with the wall. "You said you trusted me to take care of your child while you were away! So why the fuck should I have told you anything? It was my problem to worry about not yours!"

The tears dried up with the anger and he lifted his head to glare into Sasuke's face, now looking rather shocked and continued to yell. God it felt good to do that again.

"Don't you remember, bastard, or were you just spouting shit to get me to agree with you?" It was a low blow, probably wrong of him, but the hurt inside, the anger at being accused of being weak and purposefully spiteful ate up the guilt, even as that face took on a stricken quality, one that was certain to morph into unhindered rage if he knew his teme, he felt nothing but satisfaction.

"Okay, that's enough." Tsunade stepped between them, blocking his view of the Uchiha completely. He jerked, suddenly feeling a little panicked at Sasuke being out of his sight, but that only made him more pissed. "Spats are healthy but when you start aiming for tender spots, then you're just being stupid."

"Hn." Naruto turned and flopped back on the bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. Inside he felt the flicker of the baby's chakra and pulled closer still. I still have this. It's fine if he never returns my feelings, I have the baby and that's all I need…

"Naruto." Tsunade sounded aggravated. Damn, and things were so nice moments before.

"Stupid Sasuke…"

She must have heard his mutter as she sighed and her fingers brushed his hair gently for a moment before letting the issue go. "You can go as soon as you eat something. Just rest up and no fighting, I mean it not even training, for a week."

"Bah! Kill-joy…"

"Brat." It was affectionate and it soothed some of the hurt, but then she was gone and all that remained was the awkward silence from before.

I'm really sick of this too…


The walk back home was, in a word, icy. Sasuke was still in a mood, his scowl not one he was using to express the need for a fight, or as an excuse to be anti-social. It was the look that gave Naruto bright neon warning signs to, 'shut the hell up.' He might be reckless but he was in no way suicidal, so he didn't attempt to break the frigid atmosphere. It didn't help that they were accosted by people Sasuke seemed to know but Naruto was clueless as to their identity.

"Boss!" A rather sharp voice cut through the air and startled the two currently freezing in arctic temperatures of moodiness. Sasuke froze and turned slowly glaring behind at the approaching figures. Sai was walking beside a blond with really sharp teeth, he appeared to be the one who spoke out as his hand was raised, behind him was a girl who looked like she had problems brushing out one side of her red hair, and the last was a really big guy. The group was tied up with another Anbu member.

The three were clearly Ninja from the way they carried themselves, even though they wore no defining symbol and were guarded by Anbu like criminals. Naruto wondered why they would require such heavy protection, or guards, when they seemed all right by him, but couldn't voice anything before the blonde had caught up with a chuckle and Sai had regarded him.

"Ah, good to see you awake tiny penis."

"Jealousy isn't healthy, Sai." Naruto smiled back. He would have missed the banter and probably would have enjoyed the verbal sparring had his mood not been so dower, but it was, so he was a bit curt.

"You want a small dick, man?" The blonde asked looking mildly disturbed.

"Naw, he just wants one, period." Naruto responded, his arms angled behind his head in a relaxed pose. "He pays so much attention to mine… I mean, why else would he comment on it?"

"So you're admitting that its tiny?" The blonde now seemed amused and Naruto scowled.

"What? Of course not, my dick is normal god-damn it!" Naruto bristled and shot his arm out to point at Sai before the other could cause more problems by speaking up. "Not a single word, Sai."

"Yes, but if you recall I have seen you naked…"

"Oh, for the—"

"Oh really, so he would know." The blonde began laughing, and Naruto focused on him, wondering how angry Tsunade would be if he tackled the fuck-head when the girl finally broke rank and ran up.

"Sasuke-sama, what's wrong?" She passed by him completely and latched onto Sasuke, or she was planning to, and Naruto bristled all over. Sasuke-what now? Turning in a dazed sort of shock, he watched as the red-head stopped just shy of touching the Uchiha—so, she wasn't as stupid as she looked, pity that—and stared up at him in loving concern.

It was like Sakura all over again.

Naruto's mood darkened further as her words and the blonde's earlier title came back to mind. This was his new team. It almost made him sick to his stomach. He had a Sakura wanna-be, a blonde, and a big silent guy. It was a physical chest pain that made him step back a bit, his lip curled in a detestable smile. "Woah, looks like you got a new fan-girl, Teme."

Sasuke jerked a bit at the tone, his eyes still spelling death to him, though he was still reacting to the bitter sneer that colored Naruto's words.

Jealous? Yes, he was and he could deal with that.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Sasuke asked slowly, obviously angered, it made the red-head step back a pace. It was too bad she was so smart, it would have been better if she was stupid and received Sasuke's wrath along with him.

"What do you think it means, bastard?" He returned on a snarl. Everything was just falling apart around them, and Naruto knew how to solve it, but Tsunade had forbidden him from fighting. Usually this would not have deterred him, but seeing as he already had to deal with her in regards to the seal, he really didn't feel up to testing her patience with stupid stunts. For example; beating the tar out of one stuck up bastard.

"I don't know dobe, maybe you can enlighten all of us since you seem so open and comfortable with everyone."

"What the fuck does that mean you prissy, shit-head?" His shoulders had hunched up and his hands had gone numb with how tightly he was clenching his fists. One hit, just one and I'll be Happy, Happy, Happy!

"What do you think it means, tiny penis?" Sasuke's voice was a poor mimicry of Sai and Naruto jerked back understanding all at once what Sasuke was implying, and not liking it one bit.

"Okay, No! Don't even go there you prickly, bastard! Sai walked in on me when I was taking a damned shower!"

"Sakura walked in actually, I was just standing behind her when she left the door open." Sai filled in helpfully.

"Oh. Sakura, huh?" Sasuke was sounding deadlier by the second. The Red-head had completely stepped aside and was now watching them with an expression of hesitant awe. Seemed, she'd never seen the Uchiha square off against an equal before. Damn, and Sasuke looked best when his feathers were all ruffled.

"Yes, Sakura! Who else would come barreling in to a closed bathroom to inform me that," here he paused to jump an octave in imitation of the girl, "Sasuke isn't a missing Ninja, he was on a mission the whole time!"

Sasuke blinked slowly, eyes unreadable and Naruto only became angrier for it. "Not that, that's any of your damned business Mr. I-have-a-different-girl-for-every-day-of-the-month-even-leap-year-february!"

"Naruto…" Sasuke was warning him, which of course he was going to ignore. If Sasuke struck him first, he'd be defending himself and would therefore not be blamed for the fighting. Of course, logically he knew Tsunade wouldn't be that understanding, but still it seemed rational in his mind. Besides they were both itching for it and until they had a chance to knock the snot from each other, he doubted they could move passed this.

Sadly, it seemed someone did not understand this simple fact of life, as the blonde with really pointy teeth stepped up between them, back to Sasuke—damn he was brave, or incredibly stupid—and got up into Naruto's personal space. "Hey, so you're the great Fishcake Whirlpool!"


That was random.

"Damn, well no wonder Karin was acting so uncharacteristically feminine. She wants to rape your boy there. Still thinks she can win when he's so totally gay it hurts."

"Hey! Speak for yourself you H2O retard!" The red-head, Karin was apparently her name, screeched. "Sasuke-sama is perfect just the way he is!"

"Yeah perfectly homo-sexual." Suigetsu laughed cruelly, hardly glancing at her from over his shoulder. In fact, it was like neither actually tried to make eye-contact at all. It was clear neither were particularly fond of the other. "I had a better chance with him than you did."

"Fuck you!"

"Sorry, I don't swing vapid bitch, thanks."


Naruto blinked, anger mostly forgotten as he watched the fight that had yet to get physical, like some demented form of tennis. One volley expertly returned in a never ending cycle. It was almost entertaining.

"They do this often?" He asked the Anbu beside him, and he could have sworn that fake grin was more strained than usual.

"Oh yes, all the time."

"Suigetsu." Sasuke said calmly, and the fighting broke off like a light switch. It was rather impressive and Naruto would have whistled had he not still been angry with the ass.

"Yeah, yeah, shut up, I know." Suigetsu waved a hand flippantly. The fact that this was a usual occurrence baffled him slightly. "But, how she can keep at this after watching you freak out over this guy's safety, and do those creepy inner grin things whenever you thought of him, is a little annoying. I mean, it's farely obvious that you're—"

"If you wish to keep your life you will shut up, Suigetsu." Sharingan impressed the threat a little more forcefully and Naruto blinked at the balls the blonde showed when he simply smiled a shark's grin at him.

"Well, mustn't keep you too. You know, the reunion and all, couldn't enjoy it too much in hospital right?"

Sasuke glared and turned from him with a noiseless huff, most of his previous anger gone as Karin continued to yell in his ear.

"Just what are you implying?"

"Sex, of course." Suigetsu responded picking at his ear—the one that was probably deaf from the girl's constant yelling into it.

"Why the hell would you even think that? Sasuke would never—"

"Exactly why we should let them be now. So they can both work out their obvious tensions on each other and be more pleasant company to be around." That shark's smile found him and those pale eyes locked with his as he finished. "Can't be healthy for either to start a fist fight in their condition, they just left the hospital after all."

Holy shit.

Naruto felt a little more than impressed when it became clear that Suigetsu had just played them all in an attempt to defuse the fight. He knew damned well who he was, and he knew not to say what he had, he'd done it on purpose. Damn, he is sly… Naruto made a mental note to track the guy down when he didn't have an elephant-in-rectum Sasuke with him.

Sasuke turned back and Suigetsu lifted his hands in a peaceful gesture. "Shutting up, see?" He then proceeded to pretend and zipper his lips closed.

"Hn." They were busy having a face off when the red-head turned to him, her mouth set in an assessing pout.

It was the first time since arriving that she really seemed to take any notice of him and Naruto really wasn't certain what, or rather how, he felt about the girl. She was obviously a rival that he could grasp, but how much of one truly? Sakura had tried much of the same tactics on the Uchiha before and had gotten nowhere. With that in mind, Naruto met her gaze head on, aware that she would probably start insulting him now.

Well I'm carrying his kid so she can just back off.

"You're rather plain. Nothing really special, he only chose you for convenience you know." Her words hit a nerve; a frayed insecurity that he hadn't completely laid to rest yet and it caused him to snap back with a little more venom than usual.

"And you look like the bride of Frankenstein." Naruto shrugged casually, hoping she couldn't see the hurt she had actually caused him. "Seems we both have problems."


"Enough!" Sasuke snapped pushing passed the irate female and grabbing Naruto's wrist harshly, those dark eyes shooting a glare Sai's way before tugging Naruto forward. "Tsunade said you need bed rest, so we're leaving."

"Oh. Right. Bed-rest… of course…" Suigetsu shot casually, and Naruto choked on the barbed comment he was just starting to form at Sasuke's treatment of him. He could damn well walk without being dragged and who was he to tell him what he could and couldn't do? But that horrid implication was enough to halt the words in his esophagus. "Well, don't let us keep you. Good luck Naruto, he's been sexually frustrated for weeks!"

Sasuke jerked him forward by the arm, nearly causing him to bite his own tongue off, and luckily that freed it from the roof of his mouth. "Hey, stop tugging on me, ass-wipe!"

"Then move your ass, Dobe."

Suigetsu snickered behind them as Karin turned her disappointment and anger on him, and Naruto caught Sai's comment just as Sasuke yanked them around the corner of the street. "Not too rough Uchiha, he is in a delicate condition!"

Sai was so going to get it for that.

Maybe I can get Sakura to help with that… He didn't care how much she denied it, he knew they were screwing, or at least thinking of doing so, and so she had ways of making him regret those words. Already plotting the emotionally challenged boy's demise, he glanced up at the other dark-haired, emotionally stunted male still attached to his arm.

"Hey, could you not dislocate…" Naruto cut himself short when he saw the dark tinge to the edge of Sasuke's ear and the back of his neck. "… uh… Sasuke, are you—"

"Shut up, Naruto." It was the anguished tone the words were spoken in, not the words themselves that made him comply. They continued to walk in uncomfortable silence and Naruto frowned down at his dusty toes. Now he was even more confused by Sasuke.

It didn't make any sense to him. Sure the comments about Sasuke being worried or thinking about him could easily be brushed aside as concern for his progeny and nothing more, since the bastard obviously didn't trust him as much as he'd claimed to, but his reaction to the teasing was odd. Sasuke didn't react to comments that were blatantly untrue or over-the-top. He would just give them a blank stare, snort a signature, 'hn' and that would be it.

That was so far from what had actually happened that Naruto was at a loss on how to react. Sasuke had gotten defensive and snappish, and had then blushed—rather severely—at Sai's comment on taking it easy. What the hell does that mean?

His irritation was at an all time high, had been since he'd woken up and had to deal with the prickly Uchiha who seemed in one of his Avenger moods. Sasuke was certainly an unpredictable being. Sure, Naruto had gotten rather adept at predicting the bastard's moods and actions, he could certainly tell when the other was spoiling for a fight, but then he'd pull one of these emotional one-eighty's for no reason Naruto could comprehend and leave him utterly lost. Maybe he needs to get laid…

The thought made him blush as both memory and the emasculating realization that he wasn't averse to helping with that, crashed through him. Damn it! The bastard hasn't been back a week, I've barely realized that I want him… that way… and I'm already thinking this? Well, to give himself a break, he was a healthy, albeit pregnant, male and really, that was normal. Besides which, if he was honest with himself the only thing that made his relationship with Sasuke different from the close friendship they shared before his epiphany, was the sex. Hell, he'd come to terms with the whole thing was because of the fact that, aside from the physical—which had really been nice he'd have to admit—nothing between them had or would change. That said, yeah, sex wasn't so abstract a thought.

Expected, really.

Besides, Naruto thought with a pout, he jumped me mere hours after returning last time. At least I had the grace to wait a week. He conveniently ignored the fact that he had been unconscious the whole time and really couldn't take credit for that.

"You coming in?" Avenger, the elephant-in-rectum-ninja, asked still as pissy as ever and Naruto froze in the process of removing his shoes to glare. 'That a 'no', Dobe?"

"Okay, seriously, who crawled up your ass and died?" Naruto snapped stepping back and crossing his arms over his chest. "Because the PMS-ing, princess gig is getting really old, and its starting to piss me off."

"You're the only one with those kinds of problems Uzumaki."

Naruto flinched, both from the low-blow and well as from the use of his last name. Sasuke was purposefully aiming to hurt him, he knew the other was doing it, not to be spiteful and cruel so much as he was just being defensive. He could understand it, but he couldn't get why. What had he done to deserve that? Nothing, that's what! I don't deserve this and he can just shove this whole situation up his prissy Uchiha-repressed ass!

Now, if he were a good man like his father, or a wise man like Iruka; hell, if he were a dispassionate man like Kakashi even, he would have taken the 'high-road. He would have met Sasuke's eyes calmly, forgiven him and walked on in leaving Sasuke to suffer his own callousness without inflicting any pain the idiot wasn't causing himself already. But, he was not Minato Namekaze, Iruka Umino, nor Kakashi Hatake. He was Naruto Uzumaki, and Naruto perpetually shot himself in the foot and made loud obnoxious statements and did everything with a flare that guaranteed that even if he was hated he would still be remembered.

He would never disappear.

That said, Naruto, 'cutting-his-nose-off-to-spite-his-face' as Iruka would say, slammed his foot back into his shoe and pulled back from the entryway to the place he was starting to know as and call 'home.'

"I can see when I'm unwanted. Sorry for bothering you." He pulled even further back glaring at Sasuke and trying to impress his hurt into him with that alone.

"Dobe…" Sasuke practically sneared as though Naruto was more effort than he was worth and it made him bristle further. Jumping onto the most irrational and hurtful thought he could, Naruto spun on him, and emotionally lashed out.

"Let me guess, you're pissy because you wanted to bring your slut—er, sorry," it was clear he was anything but, "I meant your 'fangirl' here." He delighted in the narrowing of dark eyes and pressed forward. "You want to bring her over? Am I in the way, Uchiha?" He spit each word out like it was an acidic poison, and they were. He knew better than that, knew that wasn't the case, but he was hurt, irritated and now Sasuke had opened the way for painful accusations and he never backed out of a fight, even one as self-destructive as this.

He would give Sauske a matching wound; a twin for his own, and maybe then the ass would remember why he shouldn't say certain things, and with that horrid idea in mind, Naruto thundered on, saying the things he knew would cut deep and ache for days.

"I get it, really! You could have just said so, not like I don't have a place of my own. I don't need anyone, I'm used to being alone, no big adjustment there." He thought he saw Sasuke flinch at that, and the nasty excitement he felt at that made him feel gratified and slightly ill and it only made his words even more bitter. "Though, someone should really warn her of your fucking, stuck-up temper, your abandonment issues, and that brother complex!"

Sasuke's fist was flying before the sentence had fully completed and Naruto expected it, even relished in it and didn't even try to avoid it. He let it land partially for the guilt he felt at saying it at all, but mostly it was because he wanted to be hit.

As messed up and masochistic as it sounded, this was what he considered normal for him. No, he didn't want to get hit for no reason at all, and he certainly didn't want to start some kinky, abuse session with Sasuke, but sparing had always been their thing, and when they argued nine times out of ten, they tussled/wrestled/fought to relieve the stress. More than sweet confessions and stolen kisses, he knew Sasuke's fists. Their straight forward and awkward sentiments were easily understood and accepted. Because of that, he was aware that the blow—though angry—had been slightly pulled. Probably on account of the baby… That didn't bother him so much anymore, not really. He had deserved the hit, and at least Sasuke cared about something in conjunction with Naruto.

"Shut your fucking mouth."

Yes, that low growl was definitely anger.

Spitting out the blood from his split lip, Naruto smirked at Sasuke, still in a rather self-destructive mood, and snidely mocked, "Sorry, I'm not like your little "replacement team", Sasuke-sama," the jibe caused Sasuke to twitch and his pupils to dilate. He wasn't certain but he thought that meant that the ass either liked that, a lot, or loathed it. Considering the egotistical and hubris nature all Uchiha's tended to have, he was betting it was the former. Probably gets a power high from that. Ignoring the reaction Naruto continued with his tirade. "So, you can just shove your insecurities up your diamond-making butt-hole!"

Naruto was leaning forward and was expecting to get hit or tackled, so the sudden impact with the ground was expected, but the lack of pain compounded by the fact that Sasuke hadn't moved never-mind stepped forward, was momentarily baffling. He blinked, a little startled until the usual tingle of numbness made itself known, and just like that the fight left him.

"Fuck you…" Naruto mumbled, no longer looking at Sasuke and "not-pouting" at the dirt. "… in the ass."

His words brought the brush of red fur, the nuzzling of a wet nose, lap of a warm tongue, and a contented coo. Naruto slumped in defeat flopping backward until he was staring up at the sky, wondering why he'd expected anything less. "I had hoped she'd eaten your confused little ass back in that cave…"

The fox just stepped up and onto his chest to nuzzle his face. If the canine could purr, Naruto was certain the fluffy-bastard would have been doing it. Sighing, Naruto gave up and sullenly muttered, "… guess I gave her too much credit…"

~Why should I do you any favors?~ Kyuubi's voice in his mind was slightly startling after the extended silence, but like with the fox, he really couldn't say he was surprised.

Maybe because it's not me he's after but the traces of you he can sense? It made perfect sense to him as he lay there, eyes closed as the animal bathed his face in obvious joy at seeing him again. That can't be gratifying to your ego…

~Can't fault it for good taste.~ Now she just sounded smug. ~Just stupidity, which matches your own well.~

I hate you.

~Back at you, Human.~ It was probably meant to be insulting but the lack of bite made it almost affectionate, making it obvious that she was still tired from the whole ordeal. Naruto almost wished he could recall what exactly had happened but knew that it would slowly come back to him—probably by way of nightmares, it had with the memories of attacking Orochimaru and Sakura after all—and he'd be trying to suppress them again.

Story of my life… Naruto was brought out of his musings by a sudden change in altitude. "Woah!" Blue eyes flew wide and his arms reached out to steady his balance and wound up wrapped around tensed shoulders. Unsurprisingly, he found himself in Sasuke's arms with the Uchiha glaring down at the fluffy-one in a manner that was reminiscent of that time after their mission to the Waterfall Village. The bizarre and honestly concerning rivalry they seemed to have was seriously starting to unnerve him as long moments seemed to pass while the beast and the crazy-Uchiha (that was probably a redundant description but whatever) glared each other down, apparently communicating without words. Needless to say, he was tired of being held like some civilian girl in the front yard of his…er… Sasuke's house, and so he made his sentiments known.


"Can we finish this pissing contest later?"

"Hn." Sasuke shifted, pulling him closer and the fox whined at them but stayed put when Sasuke gave it another look before maneuvering them inside. Holy hell, they were talking mentally…Naruto could do nothing but blink for several long seconds while Sasuke toed off his shoes and stepped up onto the floor of the house.

"Okay, how do you and Kyuubi do that?"

"Do what?" Sasuke snapped. It seemed he was insulted to be compaired to the bitch, but then again maybe it was left over pissy-ness from his mental battle with the fox.

"Make the fluffy-bastard listen?"

Silence reigned for a while, dark eyes contemplative as anger and tension slowly leeched away at the neutral topic of discussion. "… because," Sasuke began, "He knows when he's outmatched." And that was it.

Well, that was cryptic.

Naruto was going to complain because that was insanely unfair, if he knew of a way to get the fox to stop pissing on him then he had a right to know as the usual piss-victim, but was cut short as Sasuke changed the topic of discussion yet again. "Now I have to do laundry and you need to bathe."

With that, he walked into the house, unimpressed by the rearranged furniture which at least cleared up the question of whether the other had gone home at all over the last week, and into the bathroom.

Naruto remained silent for most of the trip, where he was placed on the toilet, and simply watched as that dark head looked about with a casual ease before picking up Naruto's spare clothes and towel. It was as though it was the most natural thing in the world for him to do, as if they always did this after returning home from a mission.

That was somehow extremely intimate. It made him feel awkward, insecure, and confused. One minute the bastard is being true to his title, the next he's being so kind it nearly hurts. Maybe it was the female hormones, or perhaps it was his baser instincts—his possessiveness coming to light or some shit—but whatever the reason Naruto found he wanted to lay some sort of claim on the other. Something more than the trust and friendship they shared; something that made their child more binding than a mere promise. Naruto shivered from the insane urge to mark him. To bite, bruise, and claim that pale flesh as his own. To leave hickies as Sakura had once spoken of years before, so that everyone would know with a single glance that Sasuke was taken; his.

Naruto shuddered, slightly frightened by his own urges and thoughts. He wanted to say that the notion was completely feminine, but he was certain that though it originated there, it was his very male pride that made it linger and he could not shake it from his mind, especially when Sasuke dropped the towels on the sink and inquired, "What are you waiting for? Strip so I can wash the clothes," Sasuke paused to give him a mocking smirk that made his insides twist and that basic desire to rise further. "Or do you need help?"

It was sneered and for some reason he recalled Sai and Sugetsu's suggestive statements. He'd assumed they were teasing and had paid it little mind not wanting to get his hopes up, but now, alone in that bathroom they had fought over in the mornings of their shared past, it didn't seem so abstract for them to be dropping hints. Without thinking, Naruto blurted out the question, the one that stripped the charade down to the main issue in moments.

"Do you like me?"

The question threw the Uchiha for a loop, as he froze mid-motion, face a complete blank. It would have been hilarious if the situation allowed it. "Ex.." Sasuke chocked off and then cleared his throat to retry, his expression morphing from shocked-blank to neutral-blank. "Excuse me?"

"Do. You. Like. Me?" Naruto enunciated clearly unimpressed and surprisingly calm now that the topic was open for discussion. "It isn't a hard question Sasuke." The retort should have been amused or even anxious given the reaction his initial question had garnered, but it was as numb as the rest of him. He had expected this, had expected it to hurt and to be nearly sick with worry. It was amusing that it was practically the opposite. He knew that by the time this conversation was over he would be hurting, but for now he was just glad there was nothing to show the other.

Dark eyes regarded him for a time before he let out a sigh. Watching, Naruto saw the mask, the tension, and the distance melt away until he was faced with the same egotistical boy he'd known his whole life. Seeing the Sasuke he remembered was a relief and the fact that the other was finally letting go of the façade they'd been tending to since his return made some of his defensive numbness ease. On the down side, that urge to own him became worse. Probably because Sasuke tended to 'disappear' randomly behind his masks leaving Naruto to deal with his fallout, and so it was an urge to capture the Sasuke he loved before he could scurry away into his prickly shell again. But, Sasuke had yet to answer him and so Naruto remained where he was and kept ahold of the numb thrumming through his veins for a little while longer.

Leaning against the wall beside him, Sasuke smirked and responded with an ease Naruto envied. "Of course I like you, Dobe." The words brought a sudden flush of warmth that was quickly stilted by the rest of his sentence, "If I hated you I wouldn't have asked you to help me with my lineage." A careless shrug that stung more sharply than his split lip, and Naruto slumped. Should have seen that coming… I did so why did I—

"You… you are my best friend, idiot, sort of hard not to like you when your—" The words had lost the flippant air and had become intimately truthful and Naruto was on his feet in moments before he could even think better of it, and then he was just as swiftly falling due to the fluffy-bastard's marking. This all caused Sasuke to break off his confession with a curse, catching him in his arms and pulling him close enough that Naruto could feel his heart beating. Sasuke was warm, solid, and smelled so reassuringly familiar. His whole body shivered at the contact, the comfort that simple thing caused was nearly enough to break him on the spot and he clutched at Sasuke's clothes and breathed in deep.

"Naruto?" The actual use of his name and the worry in the tone was startling and forced an awkward laugh from his lips. When did he become so damned cute to me? And how long has his stupid smell been the one thing that makes me feel 'home'? Naruto asked no one and was pleased when Kyuubi didn't make some snide retort to his emotions. He shook his head and cuddled closer drinking up the way those arms tightened about him in reflex.

He was delaying the inevitable, sure. All Sasuke had admitted to was friendship, but as he had discovered through Sakura and Iruka's meddling, his friendship with Sasuke was different than most. Deeper, and far more important to him. That, more than anything gave him hope. It also burned away the numbness and made him insanely brave.

"You smell like piss." Sasuke complained, obviously attempting to ignore the intensity of the moment. It was amusing in a way after all the running he'd done avoiding his own feelings, he'd now have to catch Sasuke and make him see his own. Seemed he'd always be chasing the Uchiha in one way or another.

Maybe that statement was Sasuke's way of giving them an out, a way to ignore the whole situation, and maybe that should have warned him to leave it alone, but Naruto doubted he'd have the will to state it again, and so, following his usual trade mark of leaping before looking, Naruto leaned back—using Sasuke's bracing arms and strength to keep upright—and stared into those dark eyes that meant more to him than was healthy.

"Naruto? What's wrong with you, you're acting stranger than usual?"

He let him have it.

"I love you."

The eyes widened and Naruto watched as the pupil dilated. "What?"

"Look, I know you probably don't want to hear this, and hell I know it takes a lot to come to grips with it, but it's true. I mean, what kind of friend lets another impregnate them just because they are friends? And really what is romantic love if not a friendship love with a sexual component to it, and thinking like that I couldn't very well deny that, yeah I liked it and, you know what, I'm just going to stop talking now…" Naruto broke off when the pole-axed look on Sasuke's face only became worse the longer he spoke. Shit… I'm going to get hit again aren't I?

Naruto almost tried to get away and out of reach of those fists when the arms shifted, one drawing him in tighter causing his lungs to expel his breath and produced a grunt, while the other shifted up to tangle in his hair. It wasn't painful—yet, the grip definitely warned him not to move—more restricting then anything and Naruto was suddenly staring into hard, narrowed eyes.

Oh yeah, this was going to hurt.

It would figure that even being turned down would result in a heated fist-fight with them.

"Sasuke, look—" A sharp tug to his hair cut him short and suddenly Sasuke was talking, breathing, on his lips.

"No. I don't care if you've changed your mind, and I don't care if you're certain or not." It was a hiss that made his stomach knot and his toes to curl and Naruto doubted he had enough blood in his head to reply to the demand clearly written on the Uchiha's face. "I'm not letting you take that back, Naruto." He leaned closer still until Naruto was cross-eyed attempting to stay focused, and the lips scraped against his with the next words and his body ignited. "You are mine."

Lips crashed down upon his own, still sloppy and lacking in any form of finesse but the heat, desire and persistence made it stimulating all the same, and Naruto was looping his arms around Sasuke, his own fingers gripping black strands, not willing to be the only one trapped and dominated, and shoved his tongue into Sasuke's mouth. No, you are mine Sasuke. Naruto thought with a grunt as Sasuke's legs pushed between his own for greater contact and Naruto cursed the literal numbness that kept his legs from wrapping around those driving hips, and pulled at Sasuke's hair until their lips separated only enough for most breath to bathe their skin and he returned the sentiment aloud.

"Mine." And if the word had a low undertone of an inhuman growl, Sasuke didn't complain.

A.N. Right so, this should have been out ages ago, but my life happened and.. yeah. My Beta reader also got swamped by life, so this is not fully edited. Sorry for everything and I will try and finish this monster before much longer. Thank you for waiting and please review if you all aren't too pissed at me.