-1Disclaimer: No own. Nada. Nothing. Wouldn't like to, either, because if I owned, it wouldn't be as good.

This is stand-alone, but it is a sequel to 'Antithesis'. Written for a Oneshot contest on AarinFantasy.

WARNINGS: Sexual content (lemonish, but non-graphic).


Theory vs. Reality


Naruto hated change.

"Sorry Sakura-chan, I'm real tired tonight…" Naruto floundered for an excuse to get out of the Konoha '12' get-together, which had become something of a tradition in the last year, despite the notable absence of one of their number. Once a month the eleven young shinobi held something of a party to be sure they kept up to date on one another's lives, and usually Naruto was eager to participate.

He wasn't this time.

"Are you sure, Naruto? I mean, everybody's going to be there, and it's almost Hinata-chan's birthday, so this is kind of like her party…you know how disappointed she'll be if you don't come," this was accompanied by a sly grin from the pinkette, obviously implying that there was something between Hinata and Naruto, or at least that there should be.

Naruto widened his plastered-on smile, "I'll try to make it if I can, Sakura-chan."

He hated lying. He despised it. But here he was, grinning at his pink-haired closest friend and lying through his teeth. He seemed to be doing it a lot lately.

"Do you want me to take a look at you? You haven't had a checkup in a few months…"

Naruto was on the verge of panic now, and quickly waved his hands in front of his face. He tramped down the urge to protectively cover his back from Sakura, hiding where his skin was still scored from nails dug into his skin and his raw back from being taken against a tree. Kyuubi refused to heal the aftereffects of his 'encounters' anymore, "Ha ha…no, I'm fine, Sakura-chan. All the training to bring Sasuke-teme back has just gotten me tired, that's all. Nothing at all is wrong-ttebayo!"

"Well…alright, Naruto. Feel better," Sakura didn't seem convinced, "I hope we see you tonight."

Naruto nodded emphatically, feeling his smile straining as she walked away. That had been close. Too close.

Naruto knew that lying to his friends was wrong. He had always hated secrets and lying…but lately he seemed to be doing it more than he told the truth…even to himself. He sighed as he managed to slip into his apartment without any more interruptions and fell against his closed door, sliding to the ground.

When had his life gotten so complicated?

When had he taken to lying to himself to save himself trouble?

He was Uzumaki Naruto, damnit! He was Konoha's Number One Most Surprising Ninja! He was supposed to be honest to the point of brutality, uncaring of what others thought of him so long as it followed his ninja way. He had never backed down from a fight, protected his precious people at all costs, and had never broken a promise willingly.

So when had he become such a coward?

Naruto scoffed internally, 'Probably about the time I started sleeping with Itachi.'

It had begun months ago, not long after the mission to rescue Gaara from the Akatsuki's hold. The loss of Sasuke had remained ringing in his ears even with the three years that had passed, the hole left in his chest by the abandonment of his best friend unfilled even by his return to Konoha. His happiness with seeing his old friends once more and returning to his home had been short-lived before the conspicuous absence of Sasuke had began to take its toll.

So he had begun taking long walks through the forest, the place where he felt most alive, letting the sounds of night surround him as he begged the higher powers for peace of mind. He had been so sick of the turmoil Sasuke's betrayal had left, sick of the self-doubt that he had never experienced before his failure to drag the youngest Uchiha home. It was totally unlike him to fail, and he had refused to accept it for the longest time…

But returning to Konoha to see the boy absent had drilled it home.

He had failed. Miserably.

What kind of a Hokage would he be, the boy who couldn't even save his own friend?

So the late night walks had been his way of bringing himself a measure of peace, just him and the forest and nothing to disturb him. It was only in the silence that tranquility could touch him, though it never fully settled into his soul. He didn't deserve real serenity anyway, he supposed. Not when Sasuke was out there somewhere, being used by the Snake Sannin in a pointless quest. Not when Sakura was at home, having nightmares of losing her friends because of his failure to bring Sasuke home the first time.

Then one night, Itachi had appeared. Cold Sharingan eyes had pinned Naruto to the spot. No words had been exchanged and Naruto would never, ever understand why he hadn't fought, run, screamed, something… but he hadn't. When the S-class missing-nin had approached him, he had stayed mesmerized by the empty red eyes, losing himself in the similarities he could see there.

They were both empty. While Naruto hid behind plastic smiles and half-faked enthusiasm, Itachi didn't bother.

But still, they were so alike in so many ways.

When Itachi had pressed him into a tree, still he hadn't fought. He had succumbed to the tempting heat of the other man, arched into the painful nips and rough strokes of his hands. That first night, and on many others after, he had pretended Itachi was Sasuke. It wasn't hard, after all, to see the similarities between the brothers. Under the light of the moon, Naruto had been able to pretend that he wasn't betraying everyone by yielding to a murderer's touch and letting the passion of the older man engulf him.

They had never kissed. Kissing was a sign of affection. They didn't have that.

After the first handful of meetings, Naruto had no longer seen Sasuke, though. He had stopped closing his eyes to the small but obvious differences between the two men. He had drowned the objections of his mind in the haze of obsession that had begun forming, in the cravings for Itachi. Soon, once every month or two wasn't enough, and somehow Itachi had known this, and had began coming once every couple of weeks. A few more months passed and Naruto's need for the brunet had grown deeper, and the meetings had become even more frequent. In this time, Naruto had begun making excuses to himself for why he felt such a strong need towards Itachi. He had rationalized that he needed the freedom of not having to hide what he was, who he was. He had used the release of sex as his only reasons for wanting the missing-nin around.

His denials had been shattered a few days before.

Neji… ever cool and collected Neji, of all people… had come on to him. Naruto had been shocked, understandably, since he had been sure the Jounin was dating Tenten. However, it hadn't been the fact that the aloof boy had cornered him that had sparked his epiphany.

It had been the overwhelming sense that he was betraying Itachi that had caused that.

He had been telling himself that his 'tryst' with Itachi didn't matter. It was sex and release and nothing else. It was a way to let the animalistic side spurred from housing Kyuubi out safely, with a person who was far from caring about his state as a container. It was simply sex.

But after his encounter with Neji, his carefully maintained illusions to himself had shattered along with his ability to deny the truth any longer. No one had ever claimed Naruto to be overly intelligent, but he was not a total dunce.

Somehow, he had developed…an attachment to Itachi. He refused to call them feelings.

He noticed the time then and cursed; the sun was going down. Tonight was the night of their now-weekly meetings, and Naruto wanted to get there as soon as possible instead of waiting until the middle of the night as he usually did. Part of him hated himself for giving in so easily to the realization of his attachment, for rushing to the side of the hated brother of his best friend. He was betraying Konoha, his friends, Sasuke…but he couldn't bring himself to care.

For once in his life Naruto had something for only himself, and for the very first time he was going to be selfish.

He very nearly got caught as he left the village, barely managing to hide himself from Shino and Kiba as the two made their way toward the gathering. But soon enough he was sprinting through the forest, letting the sudden coolness of evening seep into him as he made his way to the clearing that he and Itachi always met in.

He was shocked that the older man was already there.

There were no words as Itachi advanced on him, the blond breathless from his run and from the vision that the eldest Uchiha made in the sunset's last moments. The magenta and purple threw highlights across pale skin, illuminating him in an array of colors. Naruto had little time to admire the effect, however, as he quickly found himself quickly on his back on the mossy ground, misleadingly warm, pale hands moving up his sides.

Naruto was lost.

The sex was different this time, Naruto mused. It was still nearly volcanically intense and blinding…but it was somehow more. Naruto pushed himself up to meet every thrust, from the most gruelingly fast to the agonizingly slow. His body ached already in a blur of pain and pleasure, filled to the point of breaking in the soft twilight. Every move Itachi made Naruto countered, his hands twined around the older man, his slightly clawed nails sinking into the pale flesh.

He could feel his fangs elongate, a sure sign that the rough treatment had, as usual, brought out his more bestial side. He was getting so close he could practically taste the ecstasy, heaven inching closer with every moment. Abruptly Itachi slowed again, moving with a grace only Uchiha's seemed to possess, his body rolling against Naruto in languid strokes, moving slowly enough to be torturous.

Naruto snarled, "God damnit, go faster, Itachi!"

The man merely smirked infuriatingly but complied, driving into Naruto with renewed speed. It was then that Naruto realized what was so different about this particular time that hadn't been there in the others.

This time, Naruto had yet to take his eyes away from Itachi's face. Instead of seeking out everything around him in an attempt to quell the bits of guilt that remained, he stayed staring up into Itachi's eyes or tracing the features of his face visually.

Dual sets of crimson eyes held one another, alike in color but little else. Naruto arched his back as his climax approached, but he never broke the gaze that he had barely realized he had met in the first place. He watched as Itachi reached the brink of his seemingly endless control, face flushed pink and loose hairs sticking to his sweaty face. Naruto didn't bother to question the urge he got to yank the thin strip of leather from Itachi's hair, only acting and watching riveted as the hair tumbled around them.

He hardly had time to relish in the sight when suddenly the ecstasy was too intense, too powerful to ignore. He ran his hands up the pale back, letting clawed fingers rake into the newly freed hair and grip it hard as his peak rushed up on him.

Itachi's name echoed through the forest as Naruto came forcefully, quickly followed by the dark-haired man above him. They had been forcefully blinded by the power of their climaxes, and they laid panting for long minutes as the white receded from their vision. Naruto relished in their mingled scents that hovered around them.

But it didn't last. Itachi stood moments later and began collecting his clothing, pulling on his black pants and fishnet shirt, shaking out his Akatsuki cloak. Naruto wracked his mind for something to keep the man there if only for a little while longer…anything. He felt like a schoolgirl suddenly, as if he hadn't had sex dozens of times with the man a few feet away from him, as if he wasn't still nude from the same activity.

Itachi clasped his cloak just as Naruto managed to get to his feet, and was turning to leave the clearing when Naruto grasped him by the sleeve of the black uniform, "W-Wait, Itachi…"

Itachi turned, raising an eyebrow at the blond who looked torn between looking embarrassed for having stopped the older man or determined to follow through. He seemed to settle on both as blue eyes raised up and, red-faced, Naruto gripped Itachi suddenly by the collar and yanked him down…

…Into a kiss.

Naruto wasn't sure what had possessed him to do it, but nonetheless he followed through, pushing his lips up against the taller man's beseechingly. He had to try to convey that something had changed, something was different. He had to show Itachi that it was no longer escape for him, no longer his resemblance to Sasuke that kept him meeting with him more and more often. He had to show him that it was so much more now.

And then…Itachi kissed back.

Maybe… just maybe… change wasn't so bad after all.