This time when Naruto's eyes widened and he woke up, he wasn't alone. No, on the contrary, he could feel the weight of someone's head on his chest and cold feet brushing against his own – it was heavy, somewhat annoying, but it also felt familiar.

Intimate, even. Scratch that, it felt very intimate.

A sense of recollections assailed Naruto and he remembered a series of strange events. Indeed, the past few days had been nothing but a chain of weird circumstances and idiotic incidents; not unlike some cheap plot devices taken from a trashy novel. He also felt that - in some way - the deux ex machina principle reigned in his life; too many weird and obscure happenings had come across his way as of late. All of this was just too weird, too convenient.

The fact that Itachi had also killed his parents – deliberately or not - was a painful pill to swallow; he couldn't refrain from shuddering and biting his underlip in a nervous manner. It was too nerve-wracking, too sudden and confusing. Therefore, Naruto banished the memory of that newly acquired intelligence from his brain as soon as it resurfaced: thinking too much was harmful for his braincells.

He preferred remembering that he had – once more – fallen asleep with Sasuke by his side. Strangely, this was becoming a sort of jolly tradition as well, along with meeting Itachi in the most random of places.

I can't believe it. It's Sasuke – it's Sasuke I'm waking up to. Like this, as if we were really together.

In some ways, it was mind-numbingly confusing. In other ways, Naruto felt smug – a grin was forming on his face and he had to restrain himself from falling into a fit of giggles (hereby, Naruto noted that his brain must have turned into mush at some point– giggling wasn't something grown- ups did). Or nudging Sasuke awake and confronting him with the fact that he had willingly spent the night with him, even though there had been no sex involved.

However, that wasn't important at all – the not having had sex part, of course. Not everything revolved around getting laid. Unlike what some studies suggested, Naruto didn't think about sex every twenty seconds.

Moreover, Naruto hadn't forgotten his thoughts from the evening before, or what he had finally acknowledged to himself. Naturally, the sex wasn't that important because Naruto knew that it had long since stopped being solely about bedding his partner. Not that it had ever been about sex in the first place.

I hated Sasuke at first. I really, really hated him. But now I'm here – fuck. Life really works in strange ways.

Yet, he wasn't going to shove the recent epiphany down Sasuke's throat. Yes, Naruto was – as much as the words chilled him – head over heels for Sasuke, but causing a ruckus about such epiphanies was for lovestruck idiots. He wasn't one of them.

Besides, he knew that Sasuke cared about him as well and that was enough, more than enough. Naruto wasn't going to take more from Sasuke than he could get; he wasn't that selfish. Sasuke had given him more than he would have given anyone else – and Naruto knew that Sasuke wasn't a man of words, but actions. The fact that Sasuke had come over last night, out of his own will, said more than a thousand seemingly heartfelt and often embellished with stinging lies confessions. Naruto wasn't an idiot: he had heard more than enough meaningless, void and deceitful confessions. Mankind is not a compassionate race and many a person will do anything – even lie under the sun – to achieve his or her goals.

Sasuke is nothing like that. He's not a double-dealing bastard. He's honest.

Naruto freed himself from Sasuke's semi-embrace and rose from the bed, wincing when one of his feet once again made contact with a broken pencil. A loud groan escaped his lips and, nearly hopping from his bedroom to the bathroom, Naruto thought of Sasuke's remarks about his apartment from the night before.

Maybe Sasuke has a point, this place is a mess. Damn, he's really got me wrapped around his finger.

Naruto smiled to himself and shook his head – he was already falling prey to Sasuke's moody and perfectionist habits. Sooner or later, he would become entirely eager to appease Sasuke in whatever way he could; Shikamaru had been right all along. Once you got involved with someone, you just couldn't do your own thing anymore.

But it also makes you less lonely and ... the place doesn't seem quite as empty anymore.


Naruto started to grab the pantry out of the cupboard: he wasn't necessarily an expert cook, but life had forced him to adopt a few skills here or there. Whilst he couldn't create a gourmet menu, Naruto was more than capable of boiling eggs. At least, he didn't have to rely on Sakura for making him lunch. In fact, he was a better cook than she was: Sakura-chan was a disaster in the kitchen.

The sound of the door creaking slightly and light footsteps diverted Naruto's attentions from his musings and the breakfast he was attempting to prepare; he smiled when he saw Sasuke, half asleep and with his hair all tousled. He looked more vulnerable and less pristinely orderly than at the office; it felt nice to know this side of Sasuke's personality because Naruto knew that not everyone got to see him like this. As such, it was an honour, a privilege and another bunch of quirky adjectives.

"Hey – I thought you'd sleep longer," Naruto said gently, for once not shouting in his usual "out from the rooftop" manner. Sasuke looked sleepy and befuddled; Naruto didn't want him to die from shock.

However, instead of going back to bed, Sasuke walked over to Naruto and, casting a suspicious into frying pan, sighed loudly. Following the sigh, he sat down on the rickety chair next to the kitchen table. All the while, Naruto could feel Sasuke's dark eyes observing his every move.

"What?" Naruto asked, feeling the irritation in him rise every passing second. Not even ten minutes had transpired and Sasuke was already complaining or on the verge of doing so.

"You woke me up, idiot," Sasuke nearly snarled, as if he'd been hit on the head with a broomstick; Naruto wasn't surprised though. He had grown to accept that Sasuke was as moody as they came. Also, he couldn't deny the fact that he had been rather loud in getting up. Perhaps, he shouldn't have cussed so much while he had hopped to the bathroom.

Still, he doesn't have be that bitchy about it.

"And you fell asleep on me last night. It really put a damper on things," Naruto argued, feeling that he should have been the one complaining, considering how his hopes had been disappointed.

Sasuke shook his head, as if to indicate that Naruto was a hopeless nut case and then his usual fervour returning, voiced his irritation: "It's not my fault that everyone and their mother was calling you last night."

Naruto shared Sasuke's sentiment; it hadn't been his fault, but he didn't like how spiteful Sasuke sounded. Having friends wasn't a bad thing. In fact, he really needed to teach that man some sociability – otherwise Sasuke would wind up killing all of his friends. Or vice versa.

"Sasuke, that's called having friends. Besides, get used to it – you'll be having lots of that if you hang out with me," Naruto replied in a warning tone. Kakashi had told him that honesty was one of the ingredients for a lasting and fruitful relationship. Aside from that, he had the fullest intention of presenting the bastard to his friends, once all of this was over and done with.

"I've never-" Sasuke started, but Naruto quickly interrupted him. He really didn't need to hear Sasuke's protests; he knew these off by heart and it was growing old to hear them repeated over and over again. As good as an old record might be, it is not beneficial to play it too often because then the sound becomes too jarring.

"You will meet my friends. Deal with it," Naruto insisted and dared Sasuke to come up with a counter-attack. Sasuke didn't neglect his opportunity.

"Who says so?" Sasuke asked, crossing his arms and fixing Naruto with an annoyed look; however, Naruto wasn't impressed at all.

His patent "death glare" doesn't scare me anymore.

"I do. Besides, Kakashi wants to see you," Naruto finally answered.

Sasuke's rose his eyebrows at that, looking more than a little bit surprised. He quickly hid his bafflement though and the surprise was soon replaced by scepticism. In a slightly hesitant tone, he cocked his head sideways and asked:


"He thinks you're interesting," Naruto answered flippantly and went to the sink; he wetted the dishes and let the cold water run through his hands. It felt nice; the cooling water was refreshing to his sticky fingers. Besides, washing the dishes was a good excuse to avoid looking at Sasuke's face. Anything was better than being confronted with saying the truth: Sasuke didn't have to know. Naruto didn't want to die yet -- life was too precious to him.

I hope he doesn't notice I'm lying.

Unfortunately, Fortuna wasn't on Naruto's side and he cursed under his breath when he head Sasuke sigh loudly -- this wasn't a good sign. Sasuke only sighed when he was annoyed or suspected Naruto of doing something stupid again.

"Naruto, why do I get the feeling that you're not telling me everything?"

Fuck. What am I supposed to do?

Naruto's forehead was sweating profusely and he let his still wet fingers run over it, hoping to calm himself with that action.

"Okay, I might have blurted out that we ... are, um, how to say... more than just friends."

There was a moment of silence while Sasuke processed Naruto's words; it was an uncomfortable and awful silence, like a calm before the storm or the dead, ominous quiescence before you're hung and quartered. Naruto gulped. The surroundings around him were in a conspiracy against him as well; the kitchen, with its oven and cupboards, seemed to close around him. During all this, Sasuke studied Naruto's face closely, analysing his facial features with the precision of an anthropologist.

"I can't believe it. I can't-" Sasuke started and hid his face between his elbows, but then his eyes met Naruto's again – fury and disbelief etched on his handsome face. And his rant wasn't done yet.

"You told him that we had sex? I can believe you – I can't fucking believe you!" Sasuke said through gritted teeth; his voice was icily cold and Naruto took this as a prompt to back away. He had learnt quite a while ago that Sasuke wasn't to be trifled with when he was infuriated; a furious Sasuke was downright lethal.

"Hey, calm down. He guessed it. It's not like I could lie to him. Besides, is it really that bad?," Naruto asked, a little hurt that Sasuke was overreacting like this. "It's not like he's going to tell anyone else. Kakashi is to be trusted."

Sasuke didn't bother to give a reply, but turned away. He was still fuming, but Naruto was also losing his patience; the childishness of his partner's behaviour was grating on his nerves.


"Shut up. Go away."

That did it; Naruto walked towards Sasuke and grabbed him by the sleeve of his shirt. Sasuke still didn't look up.

"You said you didn't regret what we did, but I don't know whether I can trust you about that," he nearly growled out and forced Sasuke to look at him.

"Naruto, don't – it's just that -" Sasuke started, but cut off. He was troubled and this incensed Naruto's frustrated anger even more. He thought that they had reached an understanding and now this!

"What do you want say? Spit it out."

"You aren't supposed to tell everyone about us."

"Why not? There's not wrong about us."

Apart from the fact that we're both too volatile and probably will end up driving each other insane one day. But then again, I'm the only one who understands you, Sasuke. I know I am.

"Naruto- forget it," Sasuke said wearily and he broke the eye contact with Naruto. He seemed intent to avoid meeting Naruto's intense-desperate gaze, as if it were something that could probe deep into his insides and read his thoughts.

"What are you trying to tell me? Hey ..." Naruto said. His anger was cooling down again and was being replaced by concern.

"Don't forget that Itachi is still running around. I can't pretend that everything is fine and dandy. I'm not you."

Abruptly and suddenly, Naruto let go off Sasuke and moved back to the sink; he wasn't angry, but the comment had hurt, had hit him like a ball thrown against his stomach. Naruto had trouble breathing and screwed his eyes shut for a couple of minutes, trying to cool himself down and avoid knocking something down.

So, he still doesn't understand. Bastard.

"I'm not pretending. But I'm also not letting it consume me, Sasuke. Or I'd have slit my wrists years ago."

Sasuke never replied – he was shell-shocked. Something in Naruto's tone – the long-restrained edgy bitterness and sadness – must have overwhelmed him. Naruto didn't refer to his past often because he heartily disliked talking about; it seemed so utterly useless and futile to him. Long before meeting Sasuke, he had figured out that what had happened couldn't be undone: the past was as stubborn and easy to move as a piece of rock.

Although Naruto had tried to take revenge on Orochimaru, he couldn't say that he wanted to kill or punish Itachi for what he had done. No, not at all.

He had no desire to make Itachi pay, even though the reason for that escaped him; he wasn't a psychologist and the subconscious nature of man was a foreign concept for him. To be truthful, Naruto didn't give a damn about Freud or psychology for that matter.

Indeed, if Naruto ever wanted to see Itachi shed blood, it was for having caused Sasuke so much pain, for having taken so much happiness from him. Therefore, he wasn't going to stop Sasuke from killing Itachi either.


Naruto decided to take Sasuke to Kakashi right after work; he was glad – which was unusual for him – that they had not been dealing with any severe cases as of late. Apart from Itachi, Naruto could nearly say that things had been running smoothly. Not that being a cop was a cup of a tea, but it wasn't as explosively eventful or fast-paced as films made it out to be. Yes, he had seen his share of blood, but to say that it was a constant feat of horror, bloodshed and mutilated bodies was an overstatement and non-reality compliant.

"I'll have to warn you, Sasuke. He's weird: Kakashi is weird. He's got some quizzical habits," Naruto said while they were a few steps away from the aforementioned's apartment.

Meanwhile, Sasuke just followed Naruto, without bothering to ask anything about Naruto's mentor, guardian and, in many ways idol: Naruto accepted it. He knew that Sasuke wasn't going to ask anything, even if he was interested.

I guess I'll just let him be – oh fuck, wait. Didn't Kakashi mention that Jirayia was here as well? Damn, just what I needed. Two insane perverts. If Jiraiya meets Sasuke, then I'm pretty certain this will be the end of it all.

Feeling the need to bash his head against some stonewall, Naruto slapped himself on the forehead and groaned audibly – at least loud enough for Sasuke to halt in his footsteps. He directed a slightly worried look in Naruto's direction.

"What's the matter?"

"Perhaps, we should go. I don't think it's such a good idea – eh. Let's..." Naruto attempted, but his words failed him – which was moronically stupid. Really, he had no idea what the hell was going on with him today.

It's so stupid. I was never that concerned about someone's opinion like Sasuke's. I hate it.

So, Naruto decided to simply walk back to the car when he felt someone pull him by the neckline of his shirt. It was Sasuke; he was being pulled back, like a damned kid and it angered him more than anything else could have done. Naruto immediately freed himself from the grasp and fixed Sasuke with an angry glare. He wasn't a marionette nor Sasuke's toy: no one had the right to just manhandle him like that.

"What the hell?" Naruto yelled when he noted that Sasuke was staring – obviously transfixed by his behaviour. This infuriated Naruto even more – he was starting to feel like a school kid being mocked by his principal.

"You dragged me all the way here and now you're shitting your pants. You're really a moron."

No, I'd be a moron if I dragged you into Kakashi's apartment right now.

"I'm not...look, it's not a good idea! You might hate me forever!" Naruto said – he hoped Sasuke would catch the drift. He wasn't going to beg him to understand.

Sasuke scowled and, then, shook his head. A smile of mild amusement came over his usually placid features. He seemed to be very, very entertained – too much for Naruto's tastes.

"I don't hate you. And nothing could worsen the opinion I have of you already."

"What's that supposed to mean again?" Naruto growled, not liking the implications at all. Was Sasuke implying that he was a good for nothing idiot? How dare he!

"Whatever, Naruto. Come on now."


"Come on! Stop wasting my time, moron!"

Naruto felt that they could have gone at it for days – arguing back and forth, trying to outsmart the other desperately. But they were – unfortunately – interrupted.

"Why, just like a married couple," someone commented disinterestedly.

Naruto was about to inquire who the fuck dared to interfere when he realised it was Kakashi himself. From the looks of it, he had been observing their little argument for a couple of minutes and the merriment was evident in his twinkling eye and the smile showing on his face. He looked like someone who had been exposed to the funniest farce ever – something like: "The nagging wife and her cowardly husband". Or better said, the nagging husband and his cowardly significant other. Sasuke was too ungraceful and violent to be anything like a woman.

Nonetheless, Naruto wasn't all too pleased.

How glad I'm such a source of pleasure and enjoyment to him. Idiot.

"You don't have to worry about Jiraiya, Naruto. He's gone back to grovel his wife for forgiveness," Kakashi said, not bothering to wait for Naruto's outburst and only pausing to acknowledge Sasuke's presence with a brief wave of his hand. "He's finally figured out that talking about other women's chest sizes isn't good for your matrimonial status."

"Matrimonial-what?" Naruto sputtered out, totally forgetting what he had been so angry about. He wasn't big on words and hated it when Kakashi showed off; not everyone was big on literature or dictionaries. Least of all, Naruto.

"He means marriage, idiot," Sasuke muttered and Naruto looked at him briefly; he had nearly forgotten the other's existence and felt his his indignation flare up even more. Really, this was starting to become more than aggravating: he was a sheep surrounded by a crazy, evil pack of wolves.

Why they're ganging up on me.

"Well, I see that – in comparison to what you've usually brought home, your friend here is, at least halfway intelligent," Kakashi remarked coolly and folded his arms. He no longer regarded Sasuke with contempt, but there was a a spark of something else there as well – amusement, curiosity and interest.

Naruto had the rising urge to shoot himself dead or to render himself invisible. It would have been nice if by using some magical words of incantation, he could have just disappeared and dissolved into mid-air – become one with the particles floating about in the universe. Because – seriously – anything was better than what was going to come next: Kakashi was going to skin him alive.

"This is really not the best time to refer to ... um, my former experiences."

It was too cruel; Naruto could feel Sasuke's eyes on his frame and he started to feel embarrassed. He didn't want Sasuke to know everything about him; he hadn't always done things that one could be proud of.

"Why, you should let Sasuke know that you're extremely well-versed in bedding idiots. Not everyone can pride themselves upon that."

"Well, at least I don't-"

Console my broken heart over Icha Icha Come or whatever it is you read.

Naruto couldn't finish the sentence, as much as his hurt pride encouraged – compelled – him do so: it would have been unjust and uncalled for. Kakashi had been in jest, even though his idea of a joke was cruelly obscene. Yet, he had always been like this and Naruto's wounded ego just had to deal with it – and there wasn't anything he could hide from Sasuke anyway; he had seen the best and worse of him already.

'Sides, Sasuke knows I'm serious about him.

Kakashi wasn't that willing to give up yet and scooting up closer to Naruto, asked in a curious tone:

"What is you wanted to say?"

Naruto gulped; he couldn't let his feathers be ruffled now or he would really spill out his thoughts. Damn, he thought, he hated how he let himself be influenced by Kakashi and his taunts.


"Come on in then. I can't have people standing like fools in front of my door all day."

Sasuke had remained quiet during the exchange and it was only when he stepped into Kakashi's apartment that he spoke – even if it was only to thank Kakashi for the invitation. Naruto, at least, felt relieved that he hadn't been rendered mute.

Kakashi's apartment was in many aspects just like Sasuke's – a vast space of nothing; it had always been like this. Even when Naruto had lived with him under the same roof. With the exception of his room, Kakashi had never bothered to fill his apartment with something like liveliness – it had remained bare.

If Sasuke was shocked about the state of the apartment, he didn't say anything. Then again, there wasn't anything that the bastard could say – he lived in the same empty, tomb-like shell of what was supposed to be a home.

Before Naruto could settle himself onto the coach, he was grabbed by Kakashi and could only observe Sasuke's nearly indiscernible look of surprise forming on his face. Naruto could only stammer dumbly.

"What-what's the meaning of this?" he asked furiously while Kakashi kept motioning him towards the door; this was unbelievable.

"Naruto, go buy ice cream."

"Why? I don't want no damned ice-cream."

Besides, Sasuke hates sweets.

"Just do it. I want to talk with Sasuke in private."

Understanding dawned upon Naruto, but he was still unwilling to simply leave – something told him that whatever Kakashi was planning couldn't be pleasant.

"I don't know. I don't trust you alone with him. You could traumatise him."

"Look, do it. Or I'll share more anecdotes about your youth. And you know how good my memory is."

Kakashi smiled sweetly and Naruto's hair would have turned grey, if spontaneous de-colouring out of shock would have been possible. He knew Kakashi well enough to understand that this sort of behaviour coming from him meant nothing good: it was the calm before the storm, so to speak. Although he wasn't quite as physically expressive as Sakura, Kakashi was dangerous in his own way – he could hurt people right there where it mattered the most.

"Kakashi – just don't ..."

"I know what I'm doing. And I know more than you think I do, Naruto. You're not the only cop here. I know things Like the fact," and here he whispered," that Sasuke's brother is quite an interesting person. For you too, that is."

Naruto shuddered; a silent fear of his was confirmed. Although the thought had been nagging him for a while, he couldn't believe it and was about to inquire further when he was pushed even further outside. Kakashi was restless to throw him out.

"Go and take as long as you want. It might take a while. And we'll talk about this some other time. But now – go."

"Kakashi wait-"

The door was slammed right in his face.

"Well, when it comes to being nice and sociable, he's a lot like Sasuke."


It was state of semi-blindness in which Naruto found himself walking through the streets, although he couldn't blame the scorching heat or an abysmal fog for this condition. The weather, unlike the day before, was nice and it was warm; the sky was a clear blue and the sun shone pleasantly, enhancing everything with its smile. In fact, the day couldn't have been any cheesier – it was like one of those picture perfect days shown in commercials and films.

Yet again, Naruto didn't pay any heed to the weather; he cared as little for that it as he cared about the Great Chain of Being. In short, he really didn't give a damn: he was too preoccupied to find out what the hell Kakashi was planning. And why he had kept silent.

He knows that Itachi killed my parents. And he must have known it for a while. Right. He was the one investigating my parents' death...

Naruto should have known from the start; he really was oblivious in some ways.

He didn't feel any betrayal though. Naruto was smart enough to realise why the other man had kept silent, why he hadn't shared his information with him. Considering how he had reacted to Orochimaru, Naruto doubted that he wouldn't have tried to kill Itachi back then – and Kakashi had known that as well. He hadn't wanted Naruto to get involved with people such as Itachi.

He wanted to protect me. He still does. Kakashi has only wanted to protect me all these years. I can't hate him for that.

When he stumbled against a body again – someone's shoulder – he was hardly surprised when a familiar face smiled down at him pleasantly.

"So we meet again, Naruto-kun."

Naruto didn't even matter to ask how, why or what Itachi was doing here – their meetings had become to much of a habit. Indeed, Naruto had even grown to like them because Itachi was amusing in himself. Unlike some people, he didn't brush Naruto off as hopeless or mock him relentlessly. Although it seemed wrong, Naruto even found himself looking forward to hearing Itachi speak; there was something charming about him, even sympathetic. As bizarre as it was, Naruto couldn't help himself liking the man just a little bit.

In another lifetime, perhaps, we might have been friends. Or at least, I'd have looked up to you.

"I'm wondering why do you actually stalk me, us...?" Naruto asked, although he already knew some of the truth. But he couldn't help wanting to know more.

"I watch some things like a hawk, if that's what you're saying. But I wouldn't call it stalking."

"You know that Sasuke wants to kill, regardless of anything?"

Itachi's gaze remained nonplussed: he wasn't hearing anything new. And it hadn't really been a question from Naruto's side, more like a statement. He had just wanted to see how Itachi reacted to that.

"Don't you want the same? To kill me?"

"No. Because it wouldn't change anything," Naruto said resolutely. He meant every word.

It only fosters hate and bitterness. You gain nothing. Nothing.

Itachi smiled again; the smile was slightly creepy because it didn't fit the picture of a murderer. It was gentle and nearly timid, but at the same time, it wasn't really a smile at all. His eyes were too sad and Naruto realised what he should have grasped a long time ago – Itachi's eyes had always been sad.

"I wish Sasuke would have realised the same years ago."

"Not everyone is the same."

Itachi nodded and the sad look appeared on his face again.

"I'll end all of this soon. I just wanted to warn you about this beforehand."

"Please don't talk in riddles again. Just come out with your intentions."

Not that Naruto needed it: he knew what Itachi was implying and it made him feel cold all of a sudden. The solemnity of Itachi's features and his willingness to talk about it were more than enough of a hint. He wanted to die -- plain and simple. He wanted to die by Sasuke's hands.

Naruto couldn't help trembling: he couldn't understand how Itachi's mind worked. His willingness to die was terrifying.

"If you really mean to free Sasuke from his pain, do you think this will help? He'll only be haunted by you, over and over again."

"That's what you're here for, aren't you? You'll be there to keep him from drowning in old memories."

Naruto shook his head; Itachi was confusing all right – even more so than Kakashi.

"How can you trust me that much?"

Itachi smiled again – a real smile this time. And even before Itachi spoke, Naruto understood why Itachi had been watching him; it was creepy, but at the same time it made sense.

He's the one who brought us together. He's ... how crazy. I'd call him a matchmaker, but that's ... just too freaky.

"Because you're the one who never goes back on his word, aren't you?"

"Well, yes. I won't let Sasuke, if that's what you mean."

"Good. That's exactly what I wanted to hear. Goodbye, Naruto-kun."

And with that Itachi slipped away like a shadow, leaving Naruto alone once again.


Sasuke was silent on the way home and it was starting to irritate Naruto; he had been through too much secrecy recently. First of all, Kakashi had had the audacity to reveal that he had known all along and now Sasuke was being mysterious as well – it was vexing. Then again, Sasuke had never revealed anything to Naruto.

Hadn't I met Itachi, hadn't he approached me, I'd have never known. And damn Kakashi for interfering in my and Sasuke's affairs. At least, we're home now.

In his anger, Naruto didn't even realise that he had referred to his own apartment as Sasuke's home as well. Indeed, he had grown so used to the other's presence that it had become natural -- not awkward, disturbing or anything of the sort. Sasuke had become fully integrated into Naruto's life and, in many ways, this was fine. Perfectly so.

I just wish he wouldn't keep pushing me away.

It had grown dark; the sickly green of the moonlight fell intently on his apartment and Sasuke's frame; the other man was already seated and motioned Naruto to do the same.

"What did he tell you Sasuke? I mean, come on: don't torture me any longer," Naruto begged, not caring whether he sounded pathetic. Sasuke wasn't someone he was going to hide his emotions from; they both knew each other too well by now.

"He didn't say much," Sasuke responded and regarded Naruto with a "don't ask any more pesky questions". Naruto sighed and clenched his fist: Sasuke was, yet again, making things complex.

Why, that's what I expected. Honestly. How stupid does the bastard think I am?

"I don't believe you-"

Sasuke silenced Naruto by placing a finger against his lips; his eyes were pleading and he looked more anxious than usual. He didn't want to talk – that was more than evident. And slowly, Naruto found his keen desire to know the truth fade. Perhaps, it wasn't that important, after all. It could just as well be that he was exaggerating. And, mayhap, it was something between Kakashi and Sasuke.

"He really cares about you, Naruto," Sasuke finally said, breaking the silence that had lasted for a couple of minutes.

"I know that. He might have a strange way of showing it, but I know he does."

"He's an interesting man."

He's changing the topic. Oh well.

"He used to be a student of my father's. He really looked up to my Dad. I sometimes think it was more than just admiration on his part, but whatever the case, when my parents died, Kakashi decided to take care of me."

Naruto smiled briefly, remembering how his life with Kakashi had been – and how the man still managed to maintain such a strong presence in his life.

"You know, I became a cop because of Kakashi, not my father. I wanted to be a cop like Kakashi."

Sasuke only nodded and observed Naruto's face – there was something akin lurking to compassion on his face. When he finally spoke, he sounded anxious.

"He knew that ... about Itachi, I mean, he knew-"

"Kakashi told me today. He probably didn't tell me because he wanted – well, you know how I am," Naruto said, interrupting Sasuke's hesitant confession.

No, he probably doesn't. Not entirely. And he shouldn't. Anger isn't something you should be proud of.


"I don't want to talk about this. I'm fine with what happened. I mean, even if he knew it doesn't mean a thing. "

Because he cared. I can't be angry because Kakashi meant it for my own good. And my parents are dead, gone. Hurting Orochimaru didn't bring them back and Itachi won't bring them back either.

Sasuke silenced Naruto with a kiss, only that this time it wasn't a soft one. Sasuke's lips were hungrily grazing over his own, his body was pressed flush against Naruto's and he thought he could nearly hear the other's heartbeat hammering in his chest. This was exciting, stimulating and Naruto was out of breath when Sasuke pulled away; he was breathing heavily as well.

Naruto had to smile: Sasuke's aggressiveness was more than intriguing – it was arousing. Naruto had to restrain himself from not tackling Sasuke and taking him right there, either on the sofa or the floor. However, he doubted that Sasuke would appreciate that, so he only found himself saying:

"You've become so good at doing this. I really should be proud-"

Sasuke lips were on his again, effectively silencing whatever comeback he had been planning; Naruto had to admit to himself that the Uchiha had found the perfect method to keep him from saying stupid things. It was much better than Sakura's punches, anyhow.

"Shut up, idiot," Sasuke said hoarsely after he had broken the kiss. "Come on – let's take this some place else."

"I told you not to call me that – and don't order me around."

However, even though he said that, Naruto still allowed Sasuke to lead him into the bedroom. In some way, being ordered around did have its perks.

"Then prove me otherwise. Show me that you're not an idiot."

That was a challenge – one that it was impossible to say "nay" to.

Naruto grinned and pulled Sasuke into another kiss, enjoying how he could make Sasuke moan into it. He really didn't mind the fact that Sasuke was pushing him against the bed now, nor that he had relatively little control over this. He had always pegged Sasuke for a non-submissive type. And he was glad to have his opinion affirmed. Sasuke was straddling him and he could feel the other man's erection against his own – it felt hot, but they were both still clothed.

There were way too many clothes, getting in the way of everything and Sasuke seemed impatient to do whatever he had in mind. Naruto was running high on desire and he wasn't going to let any stupid telephone calls get into his way now. He rose to capture Sasuke's lips into a kiss again, but a pair of strong hands pushed him down again. Naruto, looking up at Sasuke's serious face, couldn't refrain himself from smirking and shaking his head. He had always known that Sasuke was aggressive and bossy, but this was the very height of heights – and Naruto liked it.

"So, I guess you want to be on top, heh?"

"Just shut up; don't say anything or you'll ruin it."

Naruto didn't mind at all. Sex was sex: whatever position he did it in was about as important as the pair of socks he picked to wear in the morning. Not that he was into everything, mind you. Still, he wasn't the type to protest just because Sasuke was showing signs of being more assertive.

He just hadn't thought that Sasuke would be that kinky or willing to try out new things after only having been with him once.

Sasuke undressed and Naruto grasped the fact that he should do so too; however, he felt awkward. Sasuke was watching his every move and Naruto felt self-conscious all of a sudden. Why was Sasuke being that direct? It wasn't like him. Then again, in some ways, it was very much like him.

Naruto gave up: he was confused, so he just focused on undressing. But he cursed when he realised one thing.

"Sasuke, I don' t have any lube here either – I didn't think we'd – fuck."

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, I've thought of that."

He was more than surprised when he saw Sasuke pulling out lube from his discarded jeans' pockets. Obviously, he had organised everything in advance: Naruto wasn't sure whether he was supposed to be relieved or feel ashamed – and what shocked him more was that Sasuke prepared himself. He obviously didn't have the patience to wait for Naruto.

He's only done this once, but he already has more foresight than I do.

Sasuke didn't slide down his length effortlessly: his motions were cautious and, even all the preparation, didn't keep Sasuke from hissing out – he still wasn't used to doing this. Probably, in a way Sasuke would never be. For someone as repressed and introverted, even speaking more than a syllable was a huge thing.

He had also done this too quickly, been to hectic and Naruto regretted that he had allowed Sasuke to take control. He was still too inexperienced; Naruto hated the thought of this being uncomfortable to Sasuke. Besides, it was too tempting.

"Maybe we should stop. This is -"

"No," Sasuke said determinedly and it was the resolution in his voice that washed away Naruto's anxieties.

The initial discomfort was still there, but Naruto was glad that he didn't seem to be in any pain. However, he felt that, if Sasuke was in any pain, he would not admit to it out loud. Sasuke was that kind of a stubborn idiot. Yet, even though he was stubborn, peevish and other things, Naruto couldn't avoid marvelling how beautiful the other man was. Especially like this.

"You feel way-"

"Don't talk like that. I don't like it."

"But you – damn you do feel good," Naruto repeated again, not caring about the other man's opinion on the subject.

Sasuke didn't bother to say anything in response, but started to move slowly – up and down, down and up – until he built up a rhythm. He seemed to enjoy it – his own arousal was proof enough and he was pressing his lips tightly against each other. Then Sasuke's breath fastened and he start to pant; he would start moaning soon and Naruto knew that this would be enough to send him over the edge. He hadn't forgotten how sexy Sasuke's moans were – his low voice sounded incredibly seductive.

But Naruto was feeling frustrated: the slow pace was driving him mad and, each time he tried to thrust his own hips upwards, Sasuke held him back. For whatever reason, he wanted to prolong this needlessly, but Naruto couldn't take it anymore; he had been deprived of doing this for too long.

I'll have to take the matter into my own hands.

Before Sasuke could even register what was going on, he was flipped over; the bed creaked loudly at the sudden change in position.


Naruto silenced him with a kiss – he thrust his tongue into Sasuke's mouth – and was rewarded with an equally heated response. He entered Sasuke quickly and, this time, didn't stop until he was buried deep inside. Sasuke broke the kiss, gasped and arched upwards – his legs wrapped around Naruto's and his hands held on to tightly. His fingernails were digging deeply into Naruto's skin, which made him feel glad that Sasuke didn't have long fingernails. Otherwise, the sex might have been rendered to a quite uncomfortable feat.

"You -" he whispered a little angrily into Naruto's ear. Naruto had to restrain himself from chuckling; he had ruined Sasuke's little seduction number, but it wasn't like he didn't plan to make up for it.

"Shh, I'll make this worth it," he said and placed a gentle kiss on Sasuke's sweat-glistened forehead; the dark hair stuck to the skin and Naruto could see the flush on Sasuke's usually pale cheeks.

He's perfect – how unfair. But then again – good. Because he's mine.

Naruto started to move, thrusting rather roughly and frantically into Sasuke – who wasn't minding it all. His moans were definitely loud enough and his hips met Naruto's movements each and every time. Naruto enjoyed that – enjoyed that Sasuke wasn't just being a passive pushover, but urged him on. Naruto lost himself in the sounds of "more, harder deeper" and the feel of being inside, connected with the man he had disliked so much at first. Had someone told him that he would be with Sasuke like this back on the train, he would have laughed.

But now, he felt that this was right -- more than right.


"Damn, this was good," Naruto muttered contentedly, running his hand through Sasuke's hair – they were face to face and the only thing covering them was a blanket.

"You should have let me finish," Sasuke answered in a mockingly peevish tone; however, he looked content, sated, and definitely more peaceful than he had in the past few weeks. Naruto liked him like this; Sasuke looked infinitely better when he wasn't scowling.

"Oh come on, you know you liked it," Naruto replied jokingly and rubbed his nose against Sasuke's.

"Yes, idiot, I did. But you're – forget it."

"Unpredictable?" Naruto suggested.

"Something like that."

"You're that yourself, Sasuke. Very, very unpredictable."

Sasuke just furrowed his eyebrows; however, there was glint of playfulness in his eyes. Evidently, he liked being complimented and Naruto noticing that, felt compelled to tease him a little bit. He didn't want Sasuke to develop too big of an ego.

"Well, unless you're being that bastardly stupid. You're just no fun- apart from the sex and the fighting," Naruto said jokingly, forgetting that Sasuke had about as much sense of humour as a piece of rock. As a consequence, he was more than surprised when Sasuke turned away from him.

"Sasuke, I didn't mean- oh man."

He let his hands wander through Sasuke's exposed back, rubbing it awkwardly. He wanted Sasuke to just turn around again, which he eventually did – but the anger was still there.

Shit. I didn't say anything that bad, did I?

"Sasuke, I really didn't-"

"Naruto, do me a favour and just hold your tongue."

"I was only joking, Sasuke. You don't have to be that sensitive."

Naruto placed a quick and chaste kiss against Sasuke's lips and then, in a serious tone said:

"I like you the way you are, Sasuke. I really like-"

A finger silenced him. Sasuke looked imploring and desperate – nearly unhappy.

"I'll kill Itachi in the morning."

Naruto sat up; the shock grappling him was that intense. He had expected it, but not that soon.

"Sasuke-why are you telling me this?"

"Kakashi told me to be honest with you."

"And you don't think I'll try to stop you?" Naruto asked, feeling hurt – if it hadn't been for Kakashi, he would have known nothing of this. Even Itachi couldn't have prepared him for it.

He would have just left in the morning.

"You can't stop me," Sasuke said and, now sitting up as well, he leaned his head against Naruto's shoulders; the brush of his hair against Naruto's skin made the other shiver. "Please don't try to stop me."

"I already told you I wouldn't."

"No, but I don't want you interfering at all," Sasuke replied, his face still buried in the other's shoulder.

"You know I can't promise you that."

Sasuke now turned to face Naruto and there was indignation in his eyes – he opened his mouth to speak, but he never got the chance. Naruto was quicker.

"You can't expect me to sit back contentedly and not be worried about you, asshole. That's not the way this works!"

"And I don't want to lose you. Is that so hard for you to grasp, Naruto?"


Before he could finish, Sasuke was embracing him: his arms were around Naruto's neck and Sasuke felt warm, familiar. But the contact was quickly broken again.

"I shouldn't have let you that close, but I did. And I don't want to regret it. Don't make me re -"

Naruto silenced Sasuke by caressing his face, allowing his fingers to become entwined in Sasuke's thick strands of black hair.

"I won't -- I won't make you regret it. I promise I won't."


Naruto had tried his best not to fall asleep, but his body had been weaker than his determined will. In the aftermath of sex and post-coital bliss, Naruto found idle sleep encompassing and murmuring around him – it was like a fog, impenetrable, all consuming and impossible to escape. Consequently, before the clock struck midnight, Naruto was already dozing off; the numbness and meaningless confusion of a dreamless sleep sunk its proverbial claws into his brain. Naruto knew nothing, heard nothing and - most of all - could do nothing.

He was powerless against the odds.

Therefore, when Naruto woke up, Sasuke was already gone. There was nothing but an empty space beside him, and all his blinking and rubbing his eyes didn't change that fact. Sasuke was was really gone, had seemingly evaporated into mid-air.

Damn him, Naruto thought and fisted his fingers furiously into the bedsheets.

Sasuke had not been pulling his leg last night. Sasuke, being the bastardly and stubborn idiot he was, had kept his promise.

"Fuck this," Naruto yelled, cursing when his fist connected with the wall. He shouldn't have been this desperately angry, but he was – in every sense of the word. However, as much as Naruto wanted to crash, break or just rip something into pieces, he knew he couldn't waste time. This was an all or nothing situation.

He wouldn't go to work today.

Shikamaru could applaud himself on observing that Naruto was going to be – yet again -- late But he had an excuse. He hoped Tsunade would forgive him, but he felt that she wouldn't be too angry at him. She was probably too busy making Jiraiya's life hell (and Jiraiya was probably enjoying every minute of it).

He hoped that it wasn't too late – that he would find Sasuke before the inevitable happened. No, he had no intention of stopping him, but he would not leave Sasuke alone either. Heaven knew what would happen if Sasuke was left alone with Itachi; he just had to be there. Even if his desire to be so was grounded in selfishness, Naruto didn't want to lose Sasuke.


In some ways, the reason why he was here again – in this dim, shoddy and urine-smelling building – was pure providence or just some last-minute guessing. Like a fatal siren's call, he had rushed to this place as quickly as he could; Naruto had only relied on his gut instinct.

There wasn't anything else he could have done. Naruto had no other clue other than this; anything else just wouldn't have made sense.

Most of the things lately haven't made much sense. And in some ways, the Uchihas are rather predictable. Both of them, I must say.

His heart didn't skip a beat this time and he was oddly quiet. At least, he didn't tremble nor were his teeth clattering against one another – he wasn't making any unnecessary noise. Naruto was sweating profusely, however, and his throat felt dryer than usual. He was definitely tense.

Each step he took made his stomach churn; he also felt that the pain in his throat – the dryness – increased with every lowering of his foothold; he felt like slowly descending into a catacomb.

Naruto was resolved not to fall into panic until he figured out what was going on; rushing headlong into action wouldn't have been of help to anyone. In this aspect, he felt that he was slightly smarter than Sasuke had been.

At least, I'm not going to dash in before I know what's going on.

Naruto walking silently down the stairs, though his gut instinct prompted him to be faster; however, he didn't want to screw up things. He had to be careful. The old wooden stairs creaked under his weight; the smell of nicotine, coming from cigarette butts probably scattered in every little corner, pervaded like a cloud over the place. Naruto felt like retching – the smell was that bad.

Although the walking down the stairs to reaching the landing hadn't taken more than five minutes, it felt like ages to Naruto. When he was finally downstairs, he could no longer calm himself and felt how his heart pounded against his chest, like a machinery that was about to break, but still twisted and turned dramatically before collapsing – and burning out.

Naruto could hear voices – familiar voices – vibrating and being thrown from wall to wall; sounds were carried easily in this bleak house. It was ghastly; Naruto was reminded of old castles and things moving in accordance with thunder. He thought he heard screams echoing in the darkness and the sounds of shackles clanging against stone. It was utter rubbish, of course - nothing, but the product of an agitated brain.

That does it. I should have never read "The Fall of The House of Usher".

He moved slowly to the door, glad that it wasn't really dark. It wasn't dark at all in fact – there was a sickly greenish light everywhere. But Naruto didn't pause to think about the light too long: he was close to that room again, where Sasuke had failed to kill his brother the last time. And he was greeted with an awful spectacle.

Sasuke with hatred, obsessive determination and sheer recklessness showing on his features was facing Itachi in an eerily similar position again. They were face to face and Sasuke was pointing a gun at his brother, but he wasn't shaking this time. On the contrary, he was quiet, cool and had perfect control over his body. Nevertheless, Naruto knew it was a façade; it was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at hiding his desperation.

Besides, Sasuke's heavy breathing and the tenseness of his facial features revealed everything: he was scared, stiff scared.

All of a sudden, the sound of a gun resounded and a body fell. When it connected with the ground, there was a bone-crushing sound and Naruto winced. He knew exactly well who it was.

Naruto stepped into the doorway and Sasuke's head turned into his direction immediately; he was mortified when he realised it was Naruto.

"Why are you ...?"

"I couldn't leave you alone."

Sasuke didn't dare to move, but Naruto knelt down next to the bleeding body: Itachi wasn't dead yet, but life was slowly draining away from him. It would only be a matter of minutes, only a matter of a few moments until Itachi stopped breathing forever. He was breathing quickly and Naruto could see how Itachi's hands shook – the pain had to be unbearable. But he was taking it well, not a sound of protest spilled from Itachi's lips. He was as calm and quiet as a person close to biting the dust could be – in fact, Itachi conveyed a dignity that only few people possessed.

There was a flash of recognition in Itachi's eyes when he saw Naruto and that same sad smile appeared on his face – but there was something else there as well. Perhaps, it was gratefulness, deep-saddled regret and relief mixed in one – Naruto had no idea. He would never know.

He could see Itachi's lips trying to say something, but the effort was too much. So, Naruto did the only thing that crossed his mind and took hold of Itachi's hand, pressing it tightly. He wasn't inhumane – he wasn't going to reject Itachi this last source of comfort. Whatever he had done was insignificant at that moment and the last thing Naruto felt was happiness over Itachi's pain. So, he kept on holding until Itachi's grip grew loose.

He knew that Sasuke couldn't see what he was doing, had been doing; the younger Uchiha was too shocked, to immersed in his own overwhelming grief to have any idea what was going on. It was better this way.

"He's dead, Sasuke. He's dead," Naruto said quietly, not sure what he was feeling or thinking at the moment. He only knew with perfect clarity that some things had finally come to an end.

You're finally free.

Sasuke moved away from the wall and Naruto heard him drop to his knees; the sound of his knees falling to the ground was like a harsh slap. He was beside Naruto now and the sound of his hard, frantic breathing broke the other man from his own shock. Naruto's eyes turned to Sasuke's and he instantly regretted having done so. Sometimes it's better not to see raw pain etched onto someone's features.

Sasuke's eyes were wide, his face had paled to the point of making him look like a corpse and he was trembling; he was shuddering more than a leaf, it was unstoppable.

Naruto did the only thing he could do – there wasn't anything else he could have offered. He allowed Sasuke to lean against him and cry; the sobs racking through Sasuke's body were harsh and vindictively desperate. Not feminine, cute or beautiful: pain isn't beautiful and anyone fancying a contorted face blotted with tears heartbreakingly gorgeous is an idiot.

Sasuke had quite possibly not cried for years and to see him break down like that was awful. His body shook with the frenzy of his emotions, his throat was getting raw and soon the noise subsided, followed by loud, frantic breathing. But Sasuke was holding onto Naruto. He didn't let go for one instant, as if the other man was his only anchor – the only thing that kept him from slipping away into the darkness.


Naruto couldn't remember what had happened after that; there had been sirens, police cars droning and someone asking him question after question. Yet, in the aftermath of the catastrophe, there was only numbness and the noises around Naruto had faded in the background, become transient fluttering echoes of nothing – as quickly as they appeared, they went again. He could only remember Sasuke's livid face and how he hadn't been able to tear his eyes from Itachi's body.

And he still understood so little, knew so little about Itachi.

Naruto felt he would never understand what had really happened in that building or why Itachi had been the way he had been – Itachi had been an enigma to him. In some ways, he felt that Itachi would always remain exactly that to him.


"Are you going to leave now, Sasuke?" Naruto asked tentatively, trying to fight back the anxiety in his voice. It didn't work: he sounded hoarse and there was a tremor in his tone.

"I have go back to Kyoto in order to get some business done."

Sasuke's tone was hesitant and Naruto knew that it involved Itachi; Sasuke still hadn't coped with the fact that his brother was dead, gone and would never come back again. Naruto wasn't naïve or foolish enough to believe that by having Itachi dead, things were going to miraculously become better. In many ways, Sasuke would never be entirely "free" from the ghosts of his past.

The pain will never go. Whether he's dead or not.

"That's not what I was asking. You know that as well as I do."

"What do you want from me?" Sasuke asked bluntly, but there was no cruelty behind the question. He was just doing what he always did – he wanted Naruto to be honest and quit skipping around the bush.

"I want you to be my partner."

"I already am," Sasuke confirmed. The ease with which he said it rendered Naruto hopeful: it was a far cry from the protests Sasuke had originally voiced against him.

"No, I want you to be my partner forever."

Sasuke nodded and the wind breezed through his hair. He understood, better than Naruto could have ever hoped him to understand. He didn't reply though, but grabbed Naruto's hand – his hand was cold against Naruto's warm one.

"And I want you to come with me. To Kyoto, that is."

Naruto's eyes shot to Sasuke's face and he found himself digesting the words that pierced him like an arrow shooting through his heart. He knew this wasn't a confession of love, but he had never expected one. Not before and he wasn't sure whether he should ever expect one. Sasuke didn't operate like that and, as annoying as it was, he would just have to accept it. Not that there wasn't any hope - wasn't there this saying that patience is a virtue? Considering that, Naruto was willing to wait as long as he had to.

Besides, hearing Sasuke say something like this – to not have him trying to distance himself – was the best he could have hoped for at the moment. As cliché as it sounded, it was a beginning.

"Are you sure?"


That was enough, Naruto decided. More than enough. No, this wasn't going to be easy – it would never be easy. He would have been an unusually idiotic cretin to have believed that. Especially right now. Both him and Sasuke had a crapload of issues to work out and things wouldn't run smoothly. Again, Naruto wasn't a fool, he knew that. And yet, he wasn't going to bow down to the sadness looming over them either – he wasn't going to submit to depression. As far as he was concerned, destiny could screw itself – he wasn't going to be its victim.

He was going to work towards making both Sasuke and himself happy, whatever the cost.

"Naruto, don't think too much," Sasuke's voice interrupted him. Naruto turned to look at him and was shocked to see a small smile gracing his features. It wasn't a full-blown smile, but it wasn't the ghost of one either.

"What?" Naruto asked dumbly.

"You've been staring like an idiot down the flowing river for minutes. Come on, let's go. It's freezing."

Sasuke's hand was tugging at his jacket. Naruto wasn't sure whether he liked it: Sasuke was becoming too bossy for his tastes and Naruto had always considered himself to be independent. He wasn't entirely willing to change that yet.

"Don't order me around. I'm not the one who moans like a woman."

"Shut up, idiot," Sasuke replied; he was losing his patience already. The allusion of him being feminine didn't suit well with him. Naruto was surprised that he hadn't been kicked in the shins.

"But it's true!"

Sasuke didn't answer, but instead grabbed Naruto by the hand and pulled him away from the bridge, muttering something underneath his breath about stubborn idiots all the while. And Naruto just followed, thinking that - for once - he liked the feeling of being ordered around. Even if it was troublesome. However, it was still a step towards the right direction.