Title: Paper Walls

Written for: athelice in the 2005 naruto_wishlist on Livejournal.

Pairings: Neji/Sasuke, hinted Naruto/Sasuke

Warnings: Language and vague sexual implications

Genres: Dark humor, complete lack of fluff

Rating: PG-13

Word Length: 3,766

Summary: To outsiders, shinobi must have been strange; there was no question about that.


To outsiders, shinobi must have been strange; there was no question about that. The trials of their lives, both emotional and physical, often resulted in some…interesting psychological make ups, especially where arousal got into it. Kakashi had his books, but rarely a sentient partner; Anko got off on the sight of blood; Jiraiya…the less said about Jiraiya the better.

And then there was Sasuke who, at present, was limping back from a spar (translation: all out brawl) with Naruto, battered, bleeding and more turned on than he'd admit.

He could still taste the other's chakra licking at him – if it had a smell, it was certainly set deeply into his clothes and the subtle badge of possessiveness made the Uchiha cranky. It had always been a battle of power between the two of them and power…power was more stimulating than anything else. The coppery tang of blood, the knowledge that his fist crackled with energy that could hurt and tear and kill – life and death in his palm, that was the ultimate aphrodisiac for a shinobi, for an Avenger.

As usual, their excuses of 'training' and 'practice' had faded into the realms of never-were in favour of trying to rip each other to shreds, but never quite succeeding. Sasuke's hands itched to destroy something – his eyes still whirled red and a film of blood made him antsy – and his blood was singing with words that were made to be felt, not heard.

Blood, kill, hate, destroy, lust, tear, rip, despise, dominate, anger, him.

"Turn it off before you scare someone, Uchiha."

Hellish eyes, black and crimson whirlpools that did not bode well for anyone, snapped over to meet blank white ones. Fire and mist, Avenger and Protector. They narrowed, lashes barely obscuring the resentment boiling in those eyes. "Everyone's scared, Hyuuga. They always have been."

Neji gave a minute shrug. "You're not doing a good job of getting people to trust you again if you stalk around looking like you want to murder everyone."

Irises flashed with barely restrained menace and to Neji's refined senses, there was a wave of emotion-laden chakra running through the Uchiha's pathways that cut off abruptly as control was regained. "They don't have anything to worry about," he said gruffly, shoving his scratched hands into his pockets and resuming his stalk back to the apartment that wasn't and never would be home.

The Hyuuga kept up easily, a few steps behind the ink-headed teen. Like always. "I know that. They don't."

"Your trust isn't needed," Sasuke practically snarled. What went unspoken was that trust itself was indeed needed, maybe even craved, but that he didn't need it from Neji. There were more important people to him than a jumped up bloodline family member with a superiority complex.

He'd come back – hadn't that been enough? Power a-plenty, still with that burning desire to kill off the last of his family, but with no use for the one who had taught him and wanted his body in return, where else was he to go?

Naruto had been aggressively delighted to have him back, Sakura tentatively so. Kakashi had just looked at him and made some vaguely snide comment about some people being even later than himself. Quickly enough, he'd been integrated back into their strange circle of friendship that was more accepting than actively affectionate.

The rest of the village hadn't been that easy.

Sasuke was aware of all the nervous looks, the way that conversation would go quiet – hell, he may not have had a nose like Kiba's, but he could still smell the fear from the idiots. Part of him hated the attention…part of him drank up the terror and slavered for more.

Maybe that was why Sasuke had taken a liking to wrestling with Naruto until he was too tired to listen to either part of him. The voices hurt the silence growing in his mind, planted there through methods not mentioned, but also not regretted.

The worst part, and this was the one that had him hissier than…than…Manda, was that the big-breasted excuse for a Hokage had assigned him a babysitter.

And who was the logical guard for a possibly traitorous doujutsu user? Why, another doujutsu user, of course.

Neji seemed ambivalent about his assignment, Sasuke less so. To have those all-seeing eyes on him all the time made him edgy, restricted and, more importantly, pissed off as hell. Just what had merited a decision to assign him a shinobi to follow him everywhere and everywhere meaning everywhere? He wasn't even safe within his own place because walls were pretty useless in the face of the Byakugan and there were times in the night when a sixth sense alerted him to the brief wave of chakra that probed at him while he was sleeping, checking that he was still there.

When the fuck did the damned Hyuuga sleep?

So, all in all, Neji's role was not appreciated.

Neji looked unconcerned as always, shoulder lifting and falling in a minute shrug as the jounin flicked a stray strand of onyx back over his shoulder. "Hnn." When he stopped, Sasuke carried on, already irritated by the fact that his guard would be following him anyway, just out of sight and the distance between them didn't stop Neji's last comment from drifting over to him. "Either stop letting Uzumaki get to you, Uchiha, or start taking cold showers."

Sasuke growled a curse as the dark haired-nin flickered away, hunching ever so slightly forward.

Damn the Hyuuga and their habit of always being right.

Still, he was slightly surprised the next day when a pale figure with impossible white eyes waited for him in the spot that Naruto was normally found in, limbs shifting so easily into that familiar stance.

"Guard," was all Neji said. And Sasuke did, just because beating the crap out of his babysitter would make him feel a lot better.


He didn't always win – the Sharingan couldn't copy the Byakugan itself and since so many of Neji's techniques were dependent on it, it left them fairly equal. Sometimes Sasuke's chidori got through, sometimes Neji's gentle palms cut off the chakra flow to the Uchiha's eyes – sometimes they just reached the point where, staring at each other over an area in which all vegetation had been seared away, there was no point in continuing and they'd both just leave. Wordlessly.

Neji was no Naruto – there wasn't much of the danger that came from seeing blue bleeding with crimson that nearly matched his own odd eyes. White was just too centred, too basic, too safe. Sasuke didn't get that feeling of dancing on the edge with death on one side and being crippled on the other.

The only consolation was that Neji seemed to realise his inferiority and, when Sasuke looked at him and clearly wanted to see a blonde with eyes of sky and blood, the Hyuuga always tried that much, harder which was amusing enough to make Sasuke feel that much better about it all.

He still hated being saddled with the indignity of a glorified babysitter, no question about that, but knowing that he had been able to mark that pale skin with bruises and tears added some satisfaction to the matter.

One such 'training' session had ended incongruously with both of them too tired to do much else. While Neji freed sweaty hair, searching around for something to replace the tie that Sasuke had burnt off during the fight, Sasuke crouched at the edge of the clearing, trying to get his chest to stop heaving. Also to try and force down that wavering sensation of wanting to carry on because, while the feeling of danger was muted, it was still there and still vaguely arousing.

"You're holding back," was all Neji had to say on the subject. A line of scorched skin ran across his cheek, turning classic beauty into something much more feral and real.

Sasuke snorted, rubbing a patch of flesh just under his collarbone where one of those not-so-gentle hands had landed him a harsh blow. "No. I'm being held back. There's a difference." There wasn't much choice anyway – between Kakashi and that perverted mentor of Naruto's, they had Sasuke wrapped up in so many seals that he could barely think about letting loose power without them clamping down on him, limitations of chakra and ink.

Neji fixed him with a level look. "Surely you can take them off."

The tiniest of glares as Sasuke stood up, an arm gesturing almost rudely. "Would I tell you if I could?"

Neji quirked an eyebrow, but didn't say anything else, partly because he suddenly straightened up. His eyes looked all the blanker, which meant that he was actually seeing more than usual. Tense muscles relaxed quickly and the arctic eyes returned to focusing on Sasuke once more. "We have company."



True to Neji's word, the girl (though since she was taller than most females her age and nearly stood on a level with the guys, 'girl' might not have been the most suitable name for her) soon trotted into the clearing, the distrust evident in her eyes. Still retaining those unique buns that she wore from her childhood, Tenten hadn't changed much, but Sasuke did wonder why the large scroll on her back didn't hamper her movements.

"Neji, the Hokage is still waiting for your report," she said, pointedly ignoring the Uchiha for some reason.

Neji nodded, more focused on picking up the fuuma shuriken that Sasuke had slung at him. "Thank you." Two little words, but they showed vast improvement – thanking a team mate wouldn't have been considered if things hadn't changed, if Neji hadn't mellowed down in his own strange way.

The weapons mistress nodded curtly, sparing a covert glare for Sasuke (to which he just raised an eyebrow) before turning on her heel and jogging off back towards the village.

"Is she always that angry?" Sasuke said acidly, only asking because he knew that the report would be on him and he therefore felt the childish need to criticise Neji's team mate.

"She doesn't like you," Neji replied blandly, tossing the kunai one after the other to their owner who caught them automatically.

"I don't care," was the predictable response as Sasuke tucked the knives away wherever it was that he normally kept them. His eyes darkened slightly before he finally gave in. "Why?"

That damned smirk flicker briefly around Neji's features, the ghost of what might have been a smile. "She thinks it's your fault that I got hurt going after you. And she's pretty sure that you were also responsible for Lee leaving the hospital so soon."

Sasuke gave a disgusted snort, one aimed at women in general and their unintelligible thought processes. "I didn't force you to come after me."

Another of those looks that, hard as he tried, Sasuke couldn't decipher (which was probably Neji insisted on using them so often.) "Did you honestly think we wouldn't?"

The question was enough to send Sasuke spiralling down into a sullen silence and, satisfied that he wasn't going to get any more out of the younger ninja, Neji nodded. There was no goodbye, no mention of later – just a whisper of air as the ninja passed from sight, leaving Sasuke alone with his broodings. Again.


It wasn't the first time it had happened.

A prickling somewhere at the nape of his neck woke him, made darker than night eyes open onto an empty room.

Walls meant nothing to a Hyuuga.

The unwanted, but familiar feeling of his sight trickled around the contours of the room, like whispers of seawater. Sasuke refused to move, refused to give any sign that he knew Neji was checking up on him. Instead, he stayed flat on his back, the one hand wrapped around a kunai relaxed under his pillow and eyes of a different disease slipped closed again.

Only after his guard turned off the Byakugan did Sasuke admit to the stirring in his belly and by then it didn't matter if, outside his window, Neji heard low pants and a growl that might have been a name, might have been a curse or might have just been a broken promise.


Apparently, Hyuuga weren't as deadpan as they let on.

Four months. Four months of sparring and growling and working out how to push Neji's buttons and having his own buttons pushed in return. Emotions had become that much harder to control after his return – he refused to admit that Orochimaru had had such an effect on him, but instead blamed it on the number of seals littering porcelain skin. The Sasuke that had come back to Konoha was sharper, more focused, but with harsher edges tempered by rage and anger.

Irritation was common, frustration as well. Neji was infuriating and four months with a constant shadow had frayed away whatever grim tolerance the Uchiha might have had. Not to mention there was the added unease that came whenever the Hyuuga was too close and which Sasuke was steadfastly ignoring…

…except when it worked to his own advantage.

"Oi, Sasuke!"

Sasuke carefully sculpted a glower before he turned to look at the blonde. "What, moron?"

Naruto scowled in return, an action that had Sakura rolling her eyes and muttering something about testosterone and its detrimental effect on someone's brain. "You paying attention or not?"

The contrary part of Sasuke wanted to say 'not', but it was really too hot to fight. His shirt hung damply on his shoulders, sticking to the small of his back. "Nnn."

Naruto took that as positive and went back to rambling on whatever subject it was that he had been yelling about before, complete with gratuitous arm waving and punctuated by cheerful shouts. Sasuke closed off his ears and, as usual, brooded.

Their circle was a private one. These were three people who'd faced adversity head on, lost each other and loved each other in the years that they'd known each other and to just be there, sitting around in the sun in an unspoken comfortableness was more than any of them could have ever hoped.

Except for Naruto maybe, but his hopes had always been irrational. Hokage – please.

Inwardly, Sasuke scowled as a familiar prickle set his spine to twitching. Then Neji had come and ruined that privacy, the quiet and little-admitted camaraderie that came from Team Seven taking on the world and only coming out a bit battered.

If the white-eyed bastard wanted to watch, let him.

"Sasuke, you're not liiiistening!" Naruto's whine was petulant (what sixteen year old still whined anyway?) Eyes like a dusky summer sky looked darkly towards Sasuke who just, in a fit of pique, shifted and put on his most distant expression.

"You're not worth listening to."

Sakura knew what was coming next and, with a long-suffering sigh, prudently moved out of range. Boys were idiots sometimes and she'd long since given up on screeching at Naruto every time he attacked her precious Sasuke.

She was right in doing so because, predictably, Naruto growled and threw himself at the darker boy who willingly met him with fist and feet. Since this was more about confirming their bond, albeit through fighting, the two didn't bother resorting to advanced techniques and there was no hint of red in either of their eyes. Grappling sufficed and also served to ease the tension lurking beneath the surface.

The question that had always been asked was just why Naruto had been willing to tear down heaven to get Sasuke back?

The Uchiha growled and landed a solid kick to Naruto's stomach that had the blonde flying across the clearing, over the head of Sakura who ducked before calmly returning to her reading. Looking thoroughly messy and uncoordinated as always, Naruto returned swiftly in a set of flying and impossible squirrel leaps before Sasuke was hit (and very solidly so) by a warm, heavy body.

The smirk that flickered across his sanguine features had little to do with the head butt Naruto had given him, but more with the sudden absence of that sensation of being watched.

Hyuuga were capable of jealousy after all. Point to the Uchiha.


Sasuke decided that rousing the blood of a Hyuuga was very worthwhile.

There was nothing soft about the palm that nearly slammed into his throat and only by twisting at an angle that made his back scream did Sasuke manage to avoid it. He came back up, eyes flashing devilishly red in contrast to the clouded emotion shown in Neji's eyes.

They were both silent fighters, no taunts or goads since neither were the type to succumb to such petty stimulation. No, focusing on beating the crap out of each other was much more promising. Except…beating the crap out of each other only seemed to be secondary in importance. Hands meant to punch lingered too long, kunai trailed paths down thighs or sides and burning eyes never dropped their connection.

This was about more than training.

Sasuke's foot flashed out and Neji diverted it with the hard part of his arm, turning the curve to his advantage as a hand slipped around, seeking the hole in the Uchiha's defence. Sasuke countered with his own forearm, whipping it around hard enough to bruise before he sent a vicious strike towards Neji's face with the heel of his hand. How Neji bent that far backwards, Sasuke couldn't fathom, which was why the jounin's kick hit him square in the jaw with a nasty crack.

Tasting blood, the tomoe in Sasuke's eyes whirled all the faster at the smug smirk Neji sent him. Just for that, the Hyuuga got a whirlwind of shuriken sent at him. Coming from so many angles, he didn't have any option other than to resort to his signature defence and that was where the Sharingan's usefulness doubled.

Tapping into the heritage that bordered on precognition, Sasuke struck, short and swift exactly where he needed to just when that halo of dark hair slowed as the spin was nearly wrapped up and finished. Even being an all-seeing Hyuuga couldn't counter the speed of the Uchiha's attack and Neji grunted as the air was knocked from his lungs. Only an adroit, cat-like twist stopped him from landing flat on his back.

Now it was Sasuke's turn to look smug and war was on.

It went back and forth like this, blows and barrages, ducks and twists. Sharp objects soon littered the ground, making footing treacherous and their movements slowed down, grace abandoned for perseverance. Both their sets of clothes were dark with sweat and two narrow chests heaved with exertion, though neither had lost their competitive edge – their eyes confirmed this with their vigour.

It was more by luck than anything that Neji gained the upper hand. A minor miscalculation on Sasuke's half meant that a kick went deeper than he intended it to and Neji struck with ease and efficiency. A panting Sasuke found himself pinned, an arm twisted up behind him with the full weight of the taller, older ninja leaning on his back as Neji nearly shoved his face in the dirt. The grip he had on Sasuke's wrist was enough to make the bones pop slightly, but the dark eyed boy ignored the physical discomfort in favour of muttering some choice curses.

A raspy chuckle sounded somewhere close to his ear and Neji bore down that slightest bit harder before, deftly and precisely, flipping the younger boy over while still pinning him down. "Does Naruto beat you as often as I do?" he asked and Sasuke was vaguely surprised to receive such an emotional question from the usually dry Hyuuga – there was a taunt in that, a trace of possessiveness and defiance and jealousy that all served to hone the question down to its base meanings.

For an answer, Sasuke just raised a slight eyebrow. It was a look that told Neji that he wasn't impressed, that the jounin would never replace Naruto, that Naruto would always be the only one who he truly competed with. Neji, skilled as he was in the language of the human body, saw the meaning in the look instantly and his eyes went as dark as pupil-less eyes could possibly go.

Sasuke wasn't surprised when he was left alone, on his back, but he was disappointed. He'd have thought the Hyuuga would have tried harder.


For the first few days, it was amusing that Neji could be so stubborn.

Then it just got frustrating.

He was still around – orders meant he had to be, but the Hyuuga just didn't make himself known and on the rare occasion that he did, the distant look in his eyes spoke volumes on just how reserved he was now.

It pissed Sasuke off no end. How dare the white-eyed bastard make himself part of Sasuke's routine and then, with only a little provocation, remove himself from it? It was damn inconsiderate, that was what it was.

Even Naruto looked bemused by the Uchiha's bad temper, even by his normal standards. It was when Sasuke found himself snapping at shy, stuttering Hinata simply because her eyes and hair and scent reminded him too much of the jounin that had set out to mess his life up completely that he realised just how fucked up he was (as if he hadn't secretly known all along though.)

Damn Neji. All his fault.

So the next time Sasuke found himself awoken by familiar chakra and familiar sensations and familiar presence, he rolled out of bed with the agility and poise of a highly irritated cat. Abruptly, he slung his window open, looking up at the longhaired figure silhouetted against the window, a scowl creasing his forehead.

"Just come in," the Uchiha growled, gesturing grumpily towards the dim room. Silent, Neji tipped his head to one side, blank eyes narrow and untrusting. It made Sasuke want to scream; instead, he leaned out to grab a hand and just yanked him in. "It's not like I couldn't feel you looking at me while I showered."

The slight lift of the corners of Neji's mouth would have been a grin by anyone else's standards and it was the jounin who, with a lot more delicacy than his pissed of genin charge, closed the window behind him.

Tsunade's baby-sitting jobs had their benefits after all.

Shinobi really were strange.