Ugh, I'm tired.
But I'm here!
How long has it been since the last update of SA? Like... years?
Thank you, all who have waited for me to get back to this story and are still reading. Really, I truly appreciate it. I'm not sure this chapter is good enough to make up for the wait, but I can't make you wait any longer. The final chapter still isn't finished (barely started, sorry), but I will do my best to finish it in the next week. Once SA is complete, I will work on Storms.
So here it is at last, Chapter 25 of SA!
It was one of those moments, he realized, as he sat there staring into the dark, apathetic gaze staring back at him. He felt those shivers travel down his spine, heart racing, blood pulsing. It was a feeling almost comparable to those moments he and Sasuke were alone in the quiet dark stillness, when all of his senses were alert and ready for what was coming.
But unlike those moments, this one was one of near terror. This man sitting before him, casually taking slow, infrequent sips of blood red wine as the eons passed, this man whose gaze he held intently- terrified to look away, horrified to continue to hold that gaze, knowing if he let go that would be the end of him, knowing if he held on he could be laid bare before this fearsome man- was clearly in his element.
This man who held his life within his hand. This man who could destroy him effortlessly. This man knew it, knew he had Naruto in his complete control, knew that he had only to say the word, and Naruto would be ruined. This man held all of the power, and he reveled in that knowledge.
The blond swallowed thickly as he tensed again as Itachi slowly moved to take another sip of that wine held elegantly in his grasp, dark gaze never wavering from the blue eyes they fixated on. It lasted another life time, the slow raising of the clear glass to thin lips, the gradual movement of the red liquid thickly flowing from the cup onto the tongue. And those abyss-like eyes never left their mark.
The quiet in the room was stifling. As that gaze continued to hold, Naruto trembled in the reining silence. He had never liked quiet, and right now, it was agonizing. So much stillness, so much emptiness. Only the man, the demon before him moved in the silence, fluidly, elegantly dominating everything in the room.
And slowly, another eon passed as they stared.
A sigh finally invaded the echoing stillness, and a slight movement caught in the corner of his eyes. He didn't look away from the darkness, he couldn't, he knew it would destroy him to do so. So he only continued to watch out of the corner of his eyes, careful not to be too distracted.
After all, the man beside him moved just as fluidly as the one who held his gaze, just as elegantly, just as pridefully. They were brothers, so it was understandable. But at the same time, he knew he was even more helpless against Sasuke than the man seated beside him. Though the elder Uchiha held complete power over him, though he could destroy him with a single word, swiftly and painfully, Sasuke could destroy him far more thoroughly, swiftly yet agonizingly slowly.
More beautiful, more refined in his movements than his elder brother, Sasuke reached over for his own glass, and suddenly Naruto realized he wasn't holding the dark gaze of the elder brother, but had inadvertently locked gazes with the other obsidian gaze in the room, hotter and clearer, yet darker and much more fathomless. He didn't even realize his mouth had fallen open slightly as he watched the younger brother gracefully lift the clear crystal glass and take a slow sip. Just as slowly, just as refined in his movements, but somehow… completely different.
And it was all Naruto could do to remember to breath as he watched the slow, sensuous movement of glass to lips, those dark, heated eyes focusing on his own blue, feeling his cheeks heat at the gaze, at nearly seeing the things Sasuke was thinking of doing to him, those things he was fully capable of doing, if only they could be alone.
A throat cleared, and suddenly Naruto remembered where he was, what he was supposed to be doing, recalled that his fate and the fate of his relationship with Sasuke sat staring at him from his left. Naruto shivered and looked away, again feeling the heat in his cheeks at the realization this man, too, had sensed the sexual tension crossing between Naruto and Sasuke during that brief exchange.
What was he doing, allowing that to happen? How could he forget he had an obsessive, terrifying man to impress?
"Well, shall we being the introductions?" the man spoke, voice steady and cold, a hint of something in his eyes Naruto couldn't make out.
Naruto swallowed thickly and glanced again at Sasuke, who was smoothly returning glass to white linen clothed tabletop. For all his supposed concern about how this was going to go, all his hard work to ensure Naruto would be accepted, Sasuke seemed calmer than Naruto had ever seen him.
"Of course, Aniue(1)," Sasuke replied. Naruto stifled the frown at the tone, much more steely than he was used to from his lover. Sasuke of course could be cold and unfeeling, but not like this. It was downright chilling.
"This is Uzumaki Naruto, my lover." Sasuke indicated the blond sitting between the brothers, then moved to indicate his elder brother for Naruto's benefit. "This is my older brother, Uchiha Itachi, current head of the Uchiha conglomerate as well as the head of the family."
Naruto, remembering his manners from somewhere buried deep inside the recesses of his mind, manners instilled in him by Iruka, readjusted himself to give a proper- or, at least, as proper as possible while sitting in a western style chair- bow to this man, this demon, before him.
The man merely inclined his head slightly, clearly indicating who held the superior position here. Naruto swallowed thickly and tried to calm his racing heart. He didn't chance a drink of the red wine before him. He knew himself well enough to know he'd spill it all over his nice, albeit slightly crinkled, suit if he tried. And that was most definitely something he didn't need right now. This man held his destiny in the palm of his hand, and looking clumsy and undignified wouldn't help his case any.
He tried not to think about why it was crinkled. That wouldn't help his situation any either.
"Well, now that introductions have been made, shall we order an appetizer?" Sasuke drawled, his voice as deep and delicious as always, but showing none of the concern he had earlier expressed about this dinner, no worry or fear as to the outcome and what it would mean for them, only the usual confidence and indifference to the situation at hand.
Naruto envied him that confidence right now.
He was more nervous than he could ever remember being before. No job interview, test results, not even awaiting repercussions after the worst of his high school pranks, made him as nervous as he was right now, sitting at that table.
His life hung in the balance. If this devil of a man didn't like him, didn't approve, he might lose Sasuke.
After what had happened at that last party, the last few weeks of being all but ignored by his lover, he didn't think he could handle that. He couldn't lose Sasuke. Never.
It was kind of a scary thought, that he would be so attached to him, but Naruto knew it was true.
The elder Uchiha "Hmm'd", as though he was thinking it over, his dark eyes never leaving Naruto's face. The blond was trying not to fidget, trying not to sweat under that intense stare.
"Waiter," Sasuke called, looking up from the menu he had been perusing. He pointed out some of the restaurant specialties, then took a casual sip of wine. The waiter bowed respectfully and staggered off, happy to be leaving that tension filled room.
Naruto wished he could follow.
"I hope today isn't a bad day for you to be meeting us, Aniue," Sasuke drawled once more. He leaned back comfortably in his chair, crossing his leg nonchalantly as he continued to take leisurely sips of his wine.
At last, the stoic man turned his piercing gaze away from the anxious blond and smirked at his younger brother. "Not at all. I had a full, enjoyable day of subjugating my minions, and I have been looking forward to this evening, and getting to know your… lovely companion." The dark eyes turned back to Naruto, smirking over the rim of his wine glass.
Naruto swallowed thickly.
"After all, Otouto(2), this one seems to have your undivided attention. I can only wonder what makes it so different."
Naruto held back the frown. His heart was racing and his nerves were shot, but he didn't like being referred to as 'this one' and 'it'. Made him sound like an object, like a play toy. One of many others Sasuke might get tired of.
And they all knew there were no others.
Sasuke made no reply, just languidly readjusted his napkin on his lap. Blue eyes glanced at his lover to his right, then the devil-man to his left. Sasuke was acting so calm and cool, but even in that subtle action of readjusting his napkin, something so mundane, Naruto felt the temperature drop. He suddenly realized why as he noticed the two brothers' dark eyes were locked, and Naruto gulped at the intensity in Sasuke's gaze.
He hadn't liked that comment.
"Something you wouldn't understand, Aniue, not with all the playmates you've had," Sasuke scoffed. Naruto nearly choked on air.
A dark brow shot up, and, for a split second Naruto almost missed, the unfazeable man looked vaguely surprised. Sasuke was the subservient little brother, or Itachi perceived him to be so, doing what he was told whether he liked it or not. Sasuke was rebellious, yes, as he tried and struggled against the reins in his brother's hands. And more than once he had commented about his elder brother's 'exploits', but never had he been quite so underhanded about it.
"Are you implying something, Otouto?"
Sasuke said nothing, just raised his glass to his lips again, and in the sensual movement, Naruto once more got caught and forgot to breathe.
"Not at all, Aniue," Sasuke replied, dark eyes finally moving away from blue to look back at his brother. He seemed to be enjoying the fact he kept seducing the blond with looks alone, right in front of his 'Aniue'. "I would never deem to know about anything more than my most esteemed Aniue does." He took a languid sip of wine as the elder Uchiha's brow twitched, at the comment or the silent seduction going on before him, Naruto couldn't be sure.
"Of course. I have so much more life experience than my dear Otouto, after all."
The elder brother was clearly becoming annoyed. Every time those looks were exchanged, he was no longer the center of attention. He was here to make the lovely blond sweat, and his dear little brother kept interfering.
And then there was that 'Aniue'. It was supposed to be a title of respect, but somehow, the irascible Sasuke had turned it into a mocking insult. Though Itachi was clearly using 'Otouto' to similar effect.
"Of course," Sasuke agreed. "Though I'm not sure what kind of life experiences you've had I would deem worthy of my own time. But then, Aniue has always had more time and the freedom to use it. One could almost wonder how much of it was well spent. And how much was… more erroneously utilized."
Another twitch of a brow and Itachi placed his cup on the table. Naruto noticed a faint crack, and he vaguely wondered what was going on. Something he wasn't in the know about? After all, he really couldn't say he knew too much about their relationship, only that Uchiha Itachi held the position of power, and Sasuke resented him for it.
"Oh, I assure you, dear Otouto, I have spent my time well. Much more pleasurably than you have, I'm certain. But then, I am the one who gained the top position in the family."
"Only by right of birth order."
Itachi's eyes lowered. "You wouldn't be implying you'd be more capable than me, would you, Otouto?"
"Certainly not." Sasuke's smirk said 'hell yes'. "Results and actual accomplishments aside… Well, how we do in business doesn't carry so much in private matters. But then…" And Sasuke's dark eyes drifted back to the quiet, confused blond. "I think in that regard I would rather obviously be the clear victor."
"You would think so?" Itachi asked.
Sasuke's smirk grew, his eyes locked again with blue. "Without a doubt, Naruto is more beautiful and worthy a person than anything you've ever claimed. And I was the first and only to claim him."
Itachi stared fiercely at Sasuke. "You've become quite… confident in yourself, Otouto." Confident enough to talk back so smoothly without shame.
Sasuke shrugged. "When you have the love and devotion as one as desirable as Naruto, anyone would be." He said it with confidence, and as their eyes met, Itachi could see as well the truth of that statement.
No wonder he was so certain of himself tonight.
Just then the waiter reentered and nearly stumbled at the silent intensity in the room as the two brothers continued to glare intensely at each other across the table, having a silent war with looks alone, but fighting to claim or reclaim control of the evening. He seemed eager to drop off the food and scurry off, taking only a moment longer to refill the two nearly empty glasses of wine. Naruto's wine remained untouched. It seemed the two Uchiha males needed as much alcohol as possible to get through this night. Naruto wouldn't hinder.
"Naruto-kun, was it?" The elder male spoke at last, his voice dripping superiority. Sasuke was reacting too strongly, time to turn things back in the proper direction, with the proper one in control.
"Uh-Yes," Naruto replied, his head screaming 'don't stutter! He'll eat you alive!'
"And what do you do for a living? I assume you work. Or do you consider your activities with Sasuke as a sufficient source of income."
Naruto's jaw nearly dropped, and he couldn't help but feel indignant. He had never thought that, even for a moment, and he could see the irritated flash again in Sasuke's eyes. He cleared his throat and spoke before Sasuke could, trying to scale back the silent war going on in the room. "Uh-" (no stuttering! His mind reminded him again) "Not at all. I work for a magazine. I'm an editor, actually."
"An editor. Hmm." The older brother seemed to be pondering the new information, information the blond suspected the man already knew. But why he would be asking then, he had no idea. To see if he would lie?
"And why Sasuke?" the penetrating man continued.
Naruto opened his mouth, ready to say whatever to please this man, and as honestly as possible, to get the interrogation and the silent warring to stop, but paused.
Wait a minute.
He couldn't tell this man the truth, about how he had seduced Sasuke to keep the perverts from his office from molesting him. That they had met at Itachi's own birthday party, and that they had quickly found themselves a room and Naruto had soon lost his virginity. Well, Sasuke had essentially just admitted Naruto had- but that it was a quick, almost one night stand occurrence?
That wouldn't go well.
He glanced at Sasuke.
But then, did the elder Uchiha already know?
Sasuke was, as always, elegantly eating the appetizers brought to the table, trying to rein back the irritation still slightly showing. He had accomplished some good victories, he had to let Naruto handle things for a while. He didn't openly seem to really be paying any attention to the conversation anymore, but Naruto knew better. He was listening, and waiting. He would interfere with anything he didn't think was going in their favor. He wouldn't let Itachi take full control again.
He wanted his brother's approval, but only to stay out of their way. Whatever Itachi felt about them, Sasuke wasn't letting Naruto go. That was expected, an unavoidable truth. Sasuke had made his decision, Itachi wouldn't sway it. No matter what he tried.
Because as cold as he seemed, Sasuke loved Naruto.
The thought gave him strength, that strength that had deserted him the second they crossed the threshold into this private back room, the courage that had run and hid the second his eyes had met that man's.
Sasuke loved Naruto. No matter what. He knew that, could feel confident in that knowledge.
Because in the end, that was all that mattered.
And for the umpteenth time, their eyes met, and Naruto's heart swelled. There was no longer any more room for fear or nerves, it was too full of Sasuke.
He paused a second, just absorbed the feeling, then turned back to Itachi. "Because I love him."
Itachi must have felt the change too, his brow twitched and a noticeable frown came to his face. He had seen that for himself in the blond's eyes, but for him to be so blunt…
"Is that so," he drawled, looking from the blond to his younger brother. They were no longer afraid of him, and he could feel his power over them weakening. His control of the situation had slipped out of his grasp. Sasuke and Naruto had made their decision, and not even Uchiha Itachi himself could move them off of their chosen course. Itachi felt a faint swell of pride in his little brother. Sasuke had grown so much.
And then Naruto smiled at him, and another new feeling took hold.
"Because I really love him."
Sasuke looked happy. Noticeably so. He had made the claim it was true himself, not a mere few minutes ago, but still, to hear it admitted aloud, he was happy. He wasn't grinning, but the small smile on his younger brother's face spoke volumes. For someone who spent most of his time frowning or glaring, even the hint of a smile was something to take notice of, and this was a little more than a hint. Even his dark eyes were glowing.
Though the dark eyes of his younger brother weren't uncommon in Japan, and for all their glorious traits, the Uchiha family all bore that same dark hue, Sasuke's eyes had always been expressive. They magnified his rage tenfold, a glare from them could petrify nearly anyone. Even while facial expression impassive, those eyes gave away tumultuous emotions. And right now, those eyes told Itachi loud and clear- "I love him, too. He makes me incredibly happy, and I love him, too."
He looked again at the beautiful blond sitting between the two powerful brothers, bright blue eyes that sparkled with life and spirit, golden hair, smooth cheeks blemished only by mesmerizing whisker-like scars, fit, slim, well proportioned body, tantalizing backside, and that radiant smile. This boy was captivating like none of his own playmates had been. And of course he must be, to catch the unflappable Sasuke's attention, the one who had resisted so many others, to gain an Uchiha's love and devotion. The elder Uchiha knew from the start, anyone who could make Sasuke pay attention was someone incredible, someone truly worthy.
And this incredible beauty beside him had done that, had won Sasuke over with almost no effort it seemed. Won over the stubborn young Uchiha easily and gracefully, and to be honest- if only with himself- that had terrified Uchiha Itachi somewhat when he first learned of it.
He knew terror. He instilled it in those below him (which would be nearly everyone) daily, but had never truly felt it himself. But he felt it now, a twinge somewhere in the vicinity of what he speculated would be his heart- he was a little surprised he had one.
After all, despite the way Sasuke felt about him, despite the almost cold way he could treat his younger brother, to him, Sasuke was more precious than anything, and this boy, this blond named Uzumaki Naruto could destroy his dear little brother easily. Sasuke himself was almost radiating his love for the blond, and having gained enough confidencet to speak to Itachi as he had that very evening, this boy was clearly making great effect. He could encourage strength, or encourage weakness.
That's why he was so desperate (as desperate as an Uchiha could get) to meet this supposed lover of his beloved little brother.
But looking at him now, how they shared those looks, looks filled with love and affection and respect and happiness, Itachi could feel those fears fade away. He held back the pleased smile that fought its way onto his face, fought to hold the relief from showing on his otherwise impassive countenance.
Yes, this Uzumaki could destroy his dear little brother easily, but he wouldn't. Not only because Itachi would never allow him to. He just wouldn't.
Ho noted the waiter standing at the doorway and waved him in as he took another languid sip of wine.
Naruto glanced at Sasuke, trying not to be too obvious with the confusion he knew must be showing on his face at Itachi's sudden change in demeanor. Sasuke looked a little surprised as well, but waved it off with a subtle roll of his eyes.
The blond still didn't know what to order, nothing looked familiar. But Itachi was already ordering, and then it was his turn.
"Ah," Naruto began, caught off guard. He had forgotten to be terrified about stuttering in front of Itachi. "I'm not sure."
"Now, now, Otouto. You'll need to get Naruto-kun used to these sorts of places," Itachi murmured as he took another sip of wine.
Both froze at the familiarity Itachi was now using with the blond. Sasuke quickly ordered for both of them as he stared suspiciously at his brother.
"Aniue…" he began once the waiter was away.
"Naruto-kun," Itachi continued, ignoring the questioning look of his little brother, "I don't believe I've heard about your family?"
"Uh, right. Um… " Naruto frowned, and Itachi amused himself by watching the confusion cross the blond's face, the way his mouth formed, his brows scrunched, the way the blue of his eyes turned a shade darker. "Well, I'm an orphan. I was raised by Umino Iruka, who's always been a bit overprotective of me."
He glanced at Sasuke, and they shared an amused, knowing look. "Iruka is a teacher, elementary school," Naruto added. "Then there's Tsunade baa-chan and Ero- er, Jiraiya. They aren't related to me by blood, but they're like family to me. Tsunade is actually my boss at the magazine, and Jiraiya was an old teacher from college."
The elder Uchiha nodded, dark eyes still staring with an odd expression at the blond.
"So, uh, Sasuke's told me about you, of course, but nothing in detail. I'd like to know more about you?" The blond sounded a little hopeful, that he'd learn more or not have to do all of the talking, though he did like to talk, but he was still a bit nervous and didn't want to say something too stupid. And anyway, he couldn't seem to keep himself from stuttering. And if this man spoke about himself, maybe he'd be less inclined to resume the battle with Sasuke.
Again, Itachi nodded. "Of course. I don't imagine my dear Otouto speaks enough about me." He finally put down the wine cup and resituated himself, still in a comfortable position showing his dominance over the situation, though he knew it was not quite as before. But now he was closer to the table, more a part of the table's occupants rather than of an emperor looking over them.
He then delved into his numerous exploits and overwhelming victories, all that he had accomplished and all that those who were beholden to him. Naruto tried his best to look attentive, making sure to wear all of the appropriate expressions as Itachi continued on, looking surprised by unexpected achievements, awed at others, and so on and so forth. After the food had been delivered he continued to listen, but after a while, his face was starting to get tired.
He'd barely made it through half his plate when suddenly Itachi stopped speaking and stood. Sasuke and Naruto looked up at him.
"Well, as enjoyable as this has been, I have an early meeting to discuss the impending enjoyment of a particular company I wish to demolish, and I need to go over some documents later this evening. I must do a thorough job in obliterating them from the earth, after all."
"Naturally," Sasuke muttered under his breath.
Itachi nodded, having caught the comment with his devil-ears and as though what was said was very true. "I am sure it must sadden you both immensely, but I must take my leave. The meal is paid for. Eat, enjoy, find a nice hotel to stay the night. I look forward to a thorough report tomorrow, Otouto."
Sasuke's eyebrow twitched.
"Um, thank you," Naruto managed to mumbled. "F-For taking the time to have dinner with us today."
Itachi nodded briefly as he grabbed his suit jacket and began pulling it on. "Of course. It is a great honor to have dinner with me, after all. I am sure we will do this again soon."
Again confused, Naruto and Sasuke exchanged glances.
"Then," Itachi inclined his head briefly, and turned and left the room.
The two sat in silence a long moment.
"Uh, Sasuke…? What the hell was that?"
Sasuke stared for a long moment at the door. "I think… my brother approves of you." He didn't sound certain, but after another long moment, he smirked. "Well, there was no way I was going to allow him not to." And he went back to his meal.
Naruto sighed, the tension in the room gone with Itachi's departure.
So it was over? He glanced at Sasuke, and he vaguely wondered if they would be taking Itachi's advice as to how to end the evening. Again their eyes met, and Naruto smiled as he went back to his food.
(1) Aniue - Honorable Older Brother
(2) Younger brother