Blinding Light

Sequel to "Wrapped in More than Kindness"

Warnings and Disclaimers: All Naruto names, places, and related indicia are copyright to Masashi Kishimoto. Only the plot, OCs, and writing style are mine. This story has been rated M for mature themes, languages, and graphic sexual scenes (for later chapters). It is also a shounen ai fic, meaning there is a boy x boy pairing inside (Naruto and Sasuke). If you are uncomfortable reading stories of this kind, please push the back button to spare your sanity.

If I owned Naruto, it would have smut scenes between Naruto and Sasuke every chance they get, and Madara would choke on a pocky. And Sasuke will loose most of his angsty –ness. Since none of these seem to be happening at all…meh.

Author's Notes: We owe this chapter to my so-called "miracle study-free week", the blissful five days of no review classes right after my mock licensure exams. If you haven't been visiting my profile or read my other stories, you might not know that I have announced a hiatus starting the end of January to the end of May, in preparation for the (hopefully) last exam I'll ever take before taking on a professional job. So yes, this update is unexpected. Aren't you happy my conscience has been successful in making me feel awful until I got this done?

Pardon the angst content. It is necessary for plot development. Not to worry though, it won't go over the top. Also some fluff present, along with a bit of humor (or at least, my attempt at humor).

Please (I beg you!) do not forget to review after reviewing. All questions are welcome, too!

NxS NxS NxS

Chapter 8

The kettle blew out a shrill, whistling noise as it boiled over the stove, but Naruto did not hear it. The cup of instant ramen was held lightly in his hands, the small packets of flavoring already open, but he did not see them. His mind was entirely on what had happened earlier that day during joint training with Team Gai.

More specifically, on what happened between him and Sasuke.

I can't believe it. I was actually molested by Sasuke-teme. Naruto blinked, looking down at the ramen cup in his hands with unseeing eyes. A strange, keening sound escaped his lips. Naruto shut his mouth when he realized he was actually on the verge of screaming.

I was—the cup of ramen started to shake in his hand—molested—Naruto let go of the cup and fisted his hand on the table—by Sasuke!

Naruto was overcome by a strong urge to bolt out of his apartment, through the village gates, and as far away from Konoha as was possible on an empty stomach. It was only then he realized that the shock of what had happened had worn off completely, and the truth slammed hard into his gut like one of Rock Lee's punches.

Now that there was no training to concentrate on, no sparring match to derail his attention somewhere else, Naruto's mind fixed itself into replaying the events of the day, trying to find out what went wrong, trying to understand why he had done nothing to stop it.

He remembered being surprised. Naruto's eyes narrowed on the table. Yes, he was surprised to find Sasuke in the clearing, asking to talk to him. What was more surprising was Neji's quick agreement to leave, without question. Maybe that should have alerted him that something wrong was going to happen.

When Sasuke began advancing on him, Naruto recalled becoming tense. Both of them knew it was dangerous for Sasuke to be near Naruto; the genjutsu's effects seemed to increase a hundred-fold with proximity. He remembered telling Sasuke that.

But the look on Sasuke's face told Naruto that the warning was useless. The genjutsu had full control, and Sasuke was powerless to stop whatever happened next.

Naruto let out a long, depressed sigh, standing up from his seat on the table and turning off the stove. The shrill whistling muted to a stop. He leaned heavily against the counter, like an old man who was too tired to stand.

Now that he knew it was the genjutsu's fault, Naruto could not find it in himself to hate Sasuke, or even be angry with him. Did he have a right to be angry? Very much. But at Sasuke?

Naruto paused. No, not at Sasuke. The blame could be put at the strange illusion's proverbial feet and…Naruto winced. Yeah, some of the blame could be pointed at him, too. The mental admittance twisted Naruto's gut painfully, his face curling into a grimace as he carried the kettle to the table, pouring hot water into the cup of instant ramen. He settled down on his chair with another heavy sigh, resting his chin against a propped palm.

Almost immediately his eyes glazed over, and images of the incident began replaying through his mind again. Hot. He remembered feeling hot, the sweat running down his back. Sparring with Neji was a challenge, one that Naruto felt he enjoyed very much. He remembered telling himself to ask Neji to train again sometime.

He shifted in his seat, and remembered Sasuke's voice, sharp and angry when Naruto had mentioned Neji. Even now, he cannot understand what about Neji made Sasuke so angry. Neji had never been rude to Sasuke, and Sasuke had never really talked to Neji. It was all very strange to him.

Naruto blinked, exhaling a breath. He remembered the ground was hard, dusty. Small bits of stone kept digging into his lower back where his jacket had run up, exposing skin protected only by a thin, black shirt. It was uncomfortable, and made more so by Sasuke's weight on top of him. He had struggled, asking Sasuke to stop, but he was too far gone, controlled by the genjutsu, to actually listen.

Naruto shuddered. He remembered Sasuke's panting breath fanning across his face, his slightly chapped lips crushing his own. He remembered Sasuke's taste, and the soft moans that escaped Sasuke's lips while he moved above Naruto. He remem—

Alright. That's enough. Naruto huffed a breath and rubbed at his face with his hands. He should be focused on trying to help Sasuke right now, not remembering how he got molested! Disgusted at how his mind was perversely set on running through the incident one more time, Naruto scowled, grabbing his chopsticks on the table and stabbing them viciously into the ramen cup, stirring the contents.

Looking at the bright side though, no one had suspected anything was amiss. At least, no one spoke about it. Naruto was pretty sure Kakashi-sensei knew there was something wrong, and he wouldn't put it past Neji's sharp observation skills, either. Sakura seemed blissfully unaware, while Gai-sensei and Lee were too hyped about the training itself to notice anything else. Tenten wasn't even anywhere near them that day, so Naruto really didn't bother worrying about her.

So…Kakashi-sensei and Neji. Neji I can handle I think, but Kakashi-sensei is something else. Naruto snorted into his noodles. What's more he's a pervert, just like Ero-sennin. Urgh. At least he's not doing anything yet. I've got to talk to Sasuke about this; if word gets out about the stinking genjutsu he'll skin me alive. He blanched. If Sakura finds out about this, she's going to castrate me!

Naruto sighed again, slurping the hot broth, warming his insides that had gone cold from thinking about Sasuke and the mess they were both in. One thing was for sure, though, Naruto thought decisively as he put down the ramen cup, he'd make goddamn sure the genjutsu was dispelled.

NxS NxS NxS

Sasuke believed Naruto would never show up later that night.

He sat scowling at a small garden in one of the main house's courtyard, leaning against a wooden post, utterly convinced that the dobe would never step inside the Uchiha compounds—or come within ten feet of him—ever again. Sasuke knew that if it happened to him, he would not even continue living in the same village. Heck, he would kill the person who dared touch him, then leave the village!

For a moment his façade of implacable stoicism crumbled. Anger twisted his face, his lips curling in a silent snarl, then morphing into a pained expression, his brow furrowing deeply. Guilt bubbled from his stomach like hot acid, burning him from inside. He should have been stronger. He should have been able to control the urges the genjutsu brought forth—he was an Uchiha, for crying out loud! The self-disgust and anger rose to the fore, swallowing the guilt, searing him. His fists were clenched so tightly he could feel his nails digging deep into his palms; any more and he would be bleeding.

But along with the guilt came his pride, staunchly refusing to be brought down. His brows furrowed into a scowl as that part of him roared with indignation, demanding that he face this dilemma with every intent to come out victorious no matter the cost. There was no room for more failure, for more moments of weakness. Even as he said this, an image of Naruto's face from this afternoon flashed in his mind, and the now-familiar deluge of volatile desire slammed against him so hard it took his breath away.

No…not this again! Sasuke closed his eyes and stiffened, vainly trying to regain composure and—most importantly—control. He could already feel his chakra senses expanding, searching for Naruto. With a mental wrench he pulled it back with a silent snarl, the effort enough to turn his breaths into soft pants. After several minutes he slumped against the wooden post, the desire slowly ebbing but not fading away. It was still there, like a monster content to lie in wait.

Ah, but he was so tired. Here, in the safety and security of his solitude, Sasuke could at least admit that. He raised one open palm up to his face, slowly flexing his fingers that shook slightly. The genjutsu was taking up more effort than his training in preparation for taking Itachi's life. More and more he would find himself wondering; was it really so bad to just let it take control? To let the need to touch Naruto turn into an unbearable ache that would turn into indescribable bliss the moment his fingers touched Naruto's skin?

Flashes of that day's incident rushed through his mind. The moment he kissed Naruto, it was as if his world had turned right again. Everything that had crumbled was made whole, the despair and hopelessness melting away. Naruto tasted like summer. He tasted like freedom. Sasuke moaned, remembering the feel of him.

The need for touch had been sated, but a deeper, heavier desire replaced it in the blink of an eye. It ran through Sasuke's blood like charged lightning, erasing all rational thought. It was all he could do not to pass out from its intensity.

And the next thing he knew, Naruto was underneath him, face as flushed as his, his eyes riddled with surprise, sadness, and hurt. The sight of it jolted Sasuke to his senses. With horrified realization he pushed himself away, unable to believe it. Everything collapsed back into nothingness. Whatever warmth he felt was drained away.

Sasuke curled in on himself, wrapping his arms around his knees, his head tucked in between. A soothing breeze made a wind charm overhead tinkle, but Sasuke was too numbed with pain to feel it.

NxS NxS NxS

Something told Naruto he shouldn't be yelling Sasuke's name, even though there was no one else in this ridiculously large house except the bastard himself.

He had knocked five times on the front door before deciding to let himself in, thinking that maybe Sasuke could not hear him. Maybe he was in the bathroom, or he was somewhere outside, training. Or maybe he had not returned yet, although the reason why was completely beyond him.

All these conjectures were shot out the window one by one as Naruto peeked inside doors and poked his nose around corners, searching for Sasuke. There was no sign of the teme in any of the two bathrooms, the kitchen, the guest rooms, the living room, and the library on the first floor. Naruto eyed the staircase leading to the upper floors, but decided not to even go near there. Sasuke was tetchy at best when it came to his possessions. If he ever heard that Naruto had gone upstairs, the least the blond would worry about was a Chidori up his ass.

Shrugging the disturbing picture aside, Naruto came upon a roofed walkway that seemed to go around the main house, stretching in the direction of one of the other buildings lying close. "Oh what the hell," he muttered to himself, "maybe he's over there."

Naruto walked slowly, careful not to step on a creaking floorboard…or worse, a trap. A silly idea to be sure, but this was Sasuke's house! Who knew what sort of nasty surprises that tight-assed bastard had set up? Naruto knew for a fact that Sasuke was just as (if not more than) paranoid as Kakashi-sensei. The thought sorely tempted him to create a shadow clone and let it go first, just to be sure, but decided against it. Sasuke wouldn't really activate traps when he knew that Naruto was coming…right?

Although he was focused on traversing the seemingly safe walkway, Naruto could not help admiring the landscaped gardens to his left and right. Most of the shrubs looked like they needed pruning, true, and the grass was patchy, but most of the gardens were still lovely to look at. There were even flower beds somewhere to Naruto's right. Now he knew where Sasuke got the flowers for his little alcove.

He turned a corner, and found himself in a little courtyard surrounded by the walkway. Buildings rose on three sides in a u-shape. The courtyard itself was actually a small garden that consisted of a tiny man-made pond, a few flowers and shrubs, and a bed of white river pebbles. Naruto could not help the small smile that stretched his lips. It was beautiful, quaint scenery. No wonder Sasuke didn't want to leave this place.

Speaking of Sasuke…

A bundle of blues and grays lay directly ahead of Naruto, near the edge of the walkway overlooking the courtyard. But what attracted his attention was the mop of black hair that stuck out at one end of it.

Naruto rolled his eyes as he approached it. "Hey teme, what's the big idea making me look everywhere for…eh?" He blinked several times, making sure he was not imagining things. He even pinched himself for good measure.

Nope, not an illusion. Sasuke was indeed there, curled up on the floor and sleeping. He was lying on his side in a loose fetal position. Naruto sat on his heels and leaned closer to look.

Sasuke was still wearing the clothes he had worn to training. Naruto's noise scrunched in distaste when he smelled the dried sweat and earth coming off of him. He frowned when he saw Sasuke's slightly curled hands. There were red crescent-moon marks in both his palms, a few of them already encrusted with dried blood. Had Sasuke been training himself to exhaustion?

What caught Naruto's attention the most though, was the lack of tension in Sasuke's face and body. He was not frowning—at all. Naruto blinked several times at that. Come to think of it, he had never seen Sasuke without his trademark scowl before. It was like seeing Kakashi-sensei without his mask. Unnerving.

A sudden, mischievous thought sparked inside Naruto's head, making him grin almost fox-like. But tempting as it was…Naruto sighed and shook his head. There was plenty of time enough to prank Sasuke later. Right now there was a genjutsu they had to study, and a promise he had to keep. Too bad he didn't have a camera with him—he'd make a fortune auctioning those pictures to Sasuke's rabid horde of fans. He stretched out a hand and poked Sasuke in the ribs, none too gently. "Hey, teme. Wake up."

Later on, Naruto would reflect on his actions and tell himself never, under any circumstances, to do what he did ever again.

Naruto suddenly found the world spinning nastily before him, turning into a blot of colors. There was a loud thud as his head made contact with the wooden floor. He opened his eyes to find a kunai an inch from his nose, Sasuke on top of him breathing heavily.

Shock was quickly replaced with indignant anger. "What the hell do you think you're doing, teme?!"

Naruto's angry yell seemed to turn a switch. Sasuke's scowl faltered slightly as his eyes focused on him, the sleepiness fading. "Naruto?"

"No shit," Naruto groused, glaring at him. "Who did you think? I was the tooth fairy? Now get that kunai off my face before you give me a third nostril. And get off me!"

Sasuke seemed to have trouble understanding. He looked oddly at the kunai in his hand. He stared at Naruto's face. Finally his face settled into a scowl. "What are you doing here?"

Naruto's angry glare grew slack for a moment, before returning full force. A tick appeared near his temple. "Are you still sleeping? Didn't we agree to meet up here at midnight to study about that genjutsu?" Naruto tried to wriggle free, only to find that Sasuke was pinning him down quite effectively, one arm locking his chest in place. He growled in angry irritation.

Sasuke did not seem to notice this, however, as he continued to scowl and look confused at the same time. "I thought you weren't coming."

Naruto stopped wriggling to stare at Sasuke in disbelief. "What?! Didn't you hear what I said during training?"

Sasuke's brow furrowed. "I did."

"Then why the hell are you wondering why I'm here?" Naruto snapped, his blue eyes glaring. He struggled again. "Damn it teme! Let me go!" He was careful not to move his head too much though. Sasuke's kunai was still aimed at his poor nose.

"But why?"

Naruto could feel his frayed patience reaching its limit. "What do you mean, why? Are you a fucking moron?" His dagger-like glare never wavered. "I'm your friend, teme. Obviously I'd come." He snorted and rolled his eyes.

Sasuke's grip on the kunai slackened, and Naruto was grateful to finally have the thing away from him. Sasuke though, still had not budged. "But this afternoon. I did—"

"That wasn't your fault," Naruto interrupted him gruffly, looking away with a frown. He was never really any good with things like this, because he never had a need to be good at it, before. "You weren't in control."

Because he was looking away, Naruto missed the expression that flashed briefly across Sasuke's face. "You are not angry." His words were soft, but Naruto did not miss the question in it.

He snorted again. "Keh. Why would I be?" He turned his eyes back to Sasuke with an angry glare. "Now get off me, teme!"

The superior smirk was back on Sasuke's face. "Hn. You should know by now not to prod a shinobi awake, dobe." In one swift movement he was on his feet, dusting himself off.

Naruto looked mutinous, but inside he was grinning. Sasuke was back to his arrogant, bastardly self. Finally. He put on a thoroughly pissed expression as he hauled himself back on his feet, brandishing a fist at Sasuke. "Fuck you, bastard! You should be thankful I was kind enough to wake you and not let you freeze to death out here."

"Like I'd get sick that easily."

"Tch. Teme."

"Usuratonkatchi."

Sasuke led the way back to the main house, exchanging insults with Naruto all the way. His smirk grew wider and wider as Naruto's face grew angrier, until finally he had had enough as they arrived in the living room.

"Alright, that's it!" Naruto pointed a finger at Sasuke. "We'll settle this with a spar! Outside, you arrogant bastard!"

Sasuke raised an eyebrow, his smirk unwavering. "It's midnight, you moron. Any ruckus you create will attract unwanted attention, plus it would waste time we could spend studying about that genjutsu." When Naruto had snapped his mouth shut with a growl he continued. "And don't forget we shouldn't be too close to each other." He looked pointedly at the small distance between them.

As if realizing it just then Naruto jumped, quickly walking over to the other side of the living room, where he proceeded to glare, crossing his arms. "Tch. If only you haven't been acting like a bastard I'd have remembered that," he muttered.

"Not my problem that you have poor memory, moron." Sasuke turned to one of the corridors. "I think it's better if we start looking at the scrolls in my family's archives first. Wait for me a bit."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm just going to change," Sasuke replied, walking off to where Naruto knew was the staircase leading to the second floor. Before he could take two steps though he stopped, turning to Naruto with an unreadable expression. "Did you go upstairs?"

Naruto shook his head, glad to have listened to his own advice. "No."

Sasuke nodded almost to himself, before leaving the living room.

NxS NxS NxS

Naruto thought that the room he had peeked into earlier had been the archives, but Sasuke later explained that it was only a sort of office and study room, where commonly-used jutsu scrolls were kept, along with inconsequential documents like bills. Naruto was shocked to learn that the Uchiha scroll archive was, in fact, an entirely different building altogether.

Sasuke led the way to said building using the same roofed wooden walkway that branched out of the main house, Naruto walking roughly fifteen paces away, strangely silent. Nobody was keen about pointing out the increased "safety distance" between them, or the fact that it meant the genjutsu was getting stronger by the day.

But Naruto, being who he was, could not maintain the silence for long, especially since it was heavy with tension. It was enough to drive him mad if this kept up! "Neh, neh Sasuke!" he called out to the Uchiha ahead of him, "What are these other buildings for?"

Sasuke turned slightly to see where Naruto was pointing to. "That is the dojo. The other is where secondary members of the main family used to stay." He turned to the other side. "Those are warehouses, the armory, and special training grounds."

"Special training grounds?"

"Sharingan training," Sasuke replied.

"Cool," Naruto breathed, taking it all in with child-like interest. He grinned. "So all of this belongs to you now, eh?"

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "Obviously, dobe."

Naruto glared at Sasuke's back, pulling his tongue at him. "Jerk," he mouthed silently, then sniggered.

Sasuke smirked, even though Naruto could not see. "Usuratonkatchi."

"N-Nani?!"

Sasuke turned his head and arched an eyebrow. "Don't think I didn't see what you did, dobe."

Naruto fumed all the way to the archives, Sasuke only smirking superiorly at him. Only when he stopped in front of a door did Naruto calm down, his eyes taking in the entire building.

It was relatively smaller than the other buildings, but what it lacked in width it made up in height. The Uchiha Archives had five floors, the walls whitewashed plaster, topped with black-shingled roof tiles. The Uchiha crest was engraved and painted onto the door in a black backdrop. The door itself was made of polished wood that gleamed in the semi-darkness, illuminated only by moonlight.

Naruto peered at the door, taking note of the symbol. "Your family's a bit obsessed about your symbol, you know that? You even have them on your clothes!"

"You're one to talk," Sasuke replied coolly. "Especially since I haven't laid eyes on a fashion disaster as worse as you."

"Hey! Orange happens to be a very cheerful color!" Naruto defended his ensemble with an angry sniff.

"You mean it's annoying."

Naruto growled against his throat, muttering about 'tight-assed bastards', as Sasuke fished out a key from his pocket, inserting it into the knob. There was a sharp click, and the door swung inwardly.

Naruto was not impressed. "Eh? That's it?"

Sasuke gave him a flat look. "You were expecting fireworks, usuratonkatchi?"

"But this is like, where you keep your important scrolls, right?" Naruto ignored the jibe in favor of sating his curiosity. "Shouldn't the security be a lot tighter? Anyone could get in with a lockpick."

Sasuke sighed. "Are you a shinobi, Naruto?"

Naruto looked insulted. "Of course I am!"

"Then you know that not everything is as it seems. The Archives is where we store jutsu scrolls, but the more dangerous and highly classified of them are not in here." He thrust a thumb to the door. "It's like the Hokage Tower. They have an Archive office there, too, but you won't find the Forbidden Scroll in there, will you?"

"Well, no," Naruto replied, looking thoughtful. "It was inside one of the stockrooms in the old man's house last time…"

Sasuke stared at him. "How did you know that?"

Naruto seemed to realize what he had just said, because he looked flustered. "N-nothing! It was—er—the old man let me see it one time! Yeah, that's it!" He laughed, weakly.

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. Come to think of it, the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu was one of the techniques written on the Forbidden Scroll, which contained highly powerful and/or advanced techniques unique to Konoha nins. "Naruto, did you read the Forbidden Scroll?"

"What? Don't be stupid! Nobody's allowed to read that friggin' scroll without the Hokage's permission," Naruto replied with a scoff. "Come on, teme. Do you think the old man would have let me even take a peek at it?"

Sasuke seemed to think for a moment, before shrugging. "You're right." He turned to walk inside. "So how did you get the scroll?"

"Ah, that was easy," Naruto sniggered, scratching the back of his head. "The old man was a pervert—all I had to do was use my Oro…AAAH!" He pointed a finger at Sasuke. "You tricked me!" he accused.

"Dobe." Sasuke inwardly rolled his eyes. "So the attempt at stealing the Scroll that time…it was you?"

Naruto crossed his arms and harrumphed, not talking as he marched inside the Archives after Sasuke, maintaining the distance between them.

Sasuke could feel annoyance stirring, his scowl returning. "You can't deny it now, moron. You just admitted that it was you who stole the scroll."

"I didn't steal it!" Naruto snarled vehemently. "That asshole Mizuki tricked me!"

"Mizuki? One of our teachers at the Academy?"

"How many Mizuki assholes do you know?"

Sasuke stared at him for a moment. "So what happened?"

Naruto glared at him. "I don't want to talk about it." He challenged Sasuke with a stare, but the Uchiha merely shrugged.

"Fine. It's not like the story's going to be interesting anyway. You're still here, that means the Hokage didn't believe you stole the scroll." He began to walk past a narrow corridor that opened into the first floor of the Archives, which was a wide, low-ceiling area where rows upon rows of scrolls were neatly stacked and labeled.

In the center of the room was a wide space where a long table and several wooden chairs were set up. Sasuke stopped at the far end while Naruto remained standing near the other end of the table. "We start with this floor, then steadily go up. I'll take care of this half of the room, while you work on the other side," Sasuke explained. He flicked the light switch mounted on a nearby wall, illuminating the room. "I don't know whether we have a record of the genjutsu scroll or not; it would have been easier if we know what it's called, but the copy at the Hokage Tower was so old the title's faded completely. The best thing to do is to look up all the genjutsu scrolls you come across."

To Sasuke's surprise, Naruto took all of this in with a nod. "Right. I'll just holler if I find anything. Oh yeah!" He brought a fist to one palm, a grin spreading on his face. Making a familiar symbol with his hands, he yelled, "Kage bunshin no jutsu!"

There was a sharp pop, an explosion of smoke, and five Naruto clones appeared beside the original. Naruto turned to them with a triumphant grin. "You guys know what to look for, right? Let's get to work!"

All five clones grinned back at him and gave identical thumbs-up signs before spreading among five rows of shelves, all on Naruto's side. Naruto himself looked at Sasuke and grinned. "Let's get cracking, teme."

"Aren't you going to create more clones? It would make our job faster."

"Nah, it'll cause us trouble," Naruto replied with a laugh. "If I make more than five, they're gonna make a big racket and end up trashing the place. Studying was never one of my good points."

Sasuke only smirked and walked over to his side of the room, not bothering to reply.

NxS NxS NxS

"Teme."

Sasuke looked up from the scroll he was reading. Naruto was standing not ifve paces away from him with arms crossed. Sasuke stepped back, alarmed. "Baka! Didn't we make it clear you shouldn't…" he stopped, frowning. Something was odd. The genjutsu was not stirring at all; there was no sudden rush of desire, no undercurrent of want. And his attenuation skill was telling him Naruto was still on the other end of the room… "You're a clone, aren't you?"

The Naruto clone grinned. "Yep. How'd you know?"

Sasuke only stared flatly at him. "The genjutsu's not reacting at all."

"Eh, really?" The clone scratched at the whisker-marks on his cheek, exactly the way Naruto did whenever he did some thinking, which was a rare case, in Sasuke's opinion. "Well, then I guess that mean's the boss guessed it right."

Sasuke was curious despite himself. "What do you mean?"

The clone turned a fox-like grin at him. "Ano sa…we were looking through all this boring stuff down the room when he began to think of sending you a few of us. You know, to help you out."

"How generous," Sasuke remarked dryly. "And?"

The clone frowned. "Keh. You really are a bastard, aren't ya?"

Sasuke scowled.

"Like I said, a bastard," the clone shrugged casually, ignoring the glare. Which, of course, only served to infuriate Sasuke further, whose hand began to itch towards his kunai holster. The clone continued. "Anyway, the boss wanted to send you a few of us, but he wasn't sure if you were going to be okay." He looked strangely at Sasuke then, as if confused by this. Sasuke vaguely wondered if Naruto's clones knew about the genjutsu in detail.

"Well, it's pretty obvious what the answer to that is, isn't it?"

The clone blinked several times at him before frowning. "You're an asshole."

"Am I supposed to be offended?" Sasuke did not think calling the clone 'dobe' was right. After all, it was just a copy. Naruto was the only one he would call a 'dobe' and feel justified in doing so.

The clone rolled its eyes. "Whatever. I better tell this to the boss then." He ran back the way he came. Sasuke went back to reading the scroll in his hands.

In a few moments another clone appeared from around the end of the row. "Oi Sasuke-teme," it greeted him with a wide grin. "Boss sent two of us to help. My buddy went over to the far end of the shelves. So where am I supposed to be looking?"

Sasuke returned the scroll and plucked a new one off the shelf. He turned to the scroll. "I'll rummage through this side, you look through these." He pointed to the row behind him.

"Alright." The clone hummed a nameless tune as he went on tiptoes and pulled a scroll from the top shelf, scanning through it.

Sasuke read through the first five lines of the scroll in his hand before rolling it close and pulling out another one. It was only a scroll about Konoha trade traffic, nothing more. He returned that, too, and picked another scroll, which looked a bit older than the rest. That one contained details on creating weapons. Still another one contained instructions on basic Academy jutsus. His eyebrow rose when he found a scroll on unique recipes found only in Konoha.

"I didn't know there were native dishes unique to the village," he muttered, as he rolled up the scroll.

The clone stirred behind him, turning its head. "Really? Can I see that?" he looked uniquely interested.

Sasuke wordlessly handed the scroll over to the clone, inwardly surprised. He watched as the clone opened the scroll and scanned through the recipes. "Hey look! There's a recipe for Konoha-style pork ramen! Cool!"

Sasuke could feel his lips twitch. Even Naruto's clones get excited over ramen.

"Hey, this looks easy to prepare! Oi Sasuke-teme, can boss borrow this?"

For the moment letting the insult slide, Sasuke regarded the clone with barely hidden astonishment. "Naruto can cook?"

The clone looked mildly insulted. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean? Boss has been living by himself since he was six. 'Course he can cook." The clone shrugged as he put the scroll down on the floor near where he was currently sitting cross-legged. "We like ramen the best, but that doesn't mean it's all he ever eats."

Sasuke snorted. "From what I've seen, it's all he ever wolfs down."

"Meh. Boss only cooks when he feels like it. It's a bother shopping for ingredients, too. So anyway, he can borrow this, right?" he pointed to the scroll beside him.

Sasuke shrugged. "Just make sure he returns it." He watched as the clone went back to scanning more scrolls, pondering on his new-found knowledge of Naruto.

When he thought of it, he knew next to nothing about the dobe. Sure they graduated from the Academy together, but aside from that, what did he know, really? Naruto's background had always been a curiosity for most of their classmates, but Sasuke had paid no more attention to it than he did to Sakura and Ino's blatant attempts to flirt with him. He glanced back at the clone, still poring over a scroll.

"Hey."

The clone looked up. "What?" he asked, nonplussed.

Sasuke debated over what he should ask first. "You said the dob—Naruto has been living alone since he was a kid. So where does he live?"

The clone blinked at him. "There are these apartments the Hokage donated to war veterans and homeless civilians in the Southern District. Boss lives there."

Too vague. "Where over there?" he asked dryly.

The clone frowned. "Why do you want to know anyway?"

Good question. "So I'd know where to look for him if I find something out about the genjutsu, on the chance that I find anything, that is, when I decide to search on my own."

The clone seemed a bit reluctant, frowning deeply. Sasuke raised an eyebrow nonchalantly. "Afraid the dobe'd get angry?"

The frown changed into a scowl. "Why should I be? I'm essentially him, you know. Boss can't be angry at himself." The clone rolled his eyes. "It's just that nobody's ever asked before. I suppose it's alright, though."

Nobody? At all? "Then what's his address?"

The clone told him. "Just don't go spreading that around, alright?"

Sasuke's response was to raise an eyebrow. The clone snorted. "Want the boss to tell all your fangirls exactly how to get inside your house?"

Hn. He has a point. "Fine," he relented, filing away Naruto's address for later. He had not been able to learn about Naruto's address that time he had bought a take-out bowl of ramen for Naruto's birthday; the proprietor's daughter—Ayame—had volunteered to deliver the ramen personally, and had not bothered to ask Sasuke where Naruto lived. It suited Sasuke just fine that time; less bother for him.

But now…that meant she knew exactly where Naruto's apartment was. The thought actually annoyed Sasuke for some reason, but he paid it no mind for the moment; he was already thinking of the next question to ask. "So Naruto was orphaned when he was six?"

"No," the clone shook its head. "Boss has been an orphan since he was born."

Now this was something Sasuke did not know. "He grew up in an orphanage?"

"He didn't stay in those places for very long. Nah, it was mostly the old man who took care of him."

Old man? "You mean the Sandaime?" Sasuke could not help the slight awe his voice contained at the question.

The clone shrugged. "That's what I said, didn't I?"

Now why would the Sandaime take such personal interest in Naruto's wellbeing? He was Hokage, but that didn't mean he took care of all the orphans in the village. He sat down cross legged on the floor, directly across from the clone, and took out a scroll on the bottom shelf, opening it in his lap and pretending to read. "So…how did Naruto end up an orphan, anyway?"

Sasuke looked up just in time to see the clone tense up, shaking its head. "You know what happened during that time…"

Sasuke quickly did the math. Ah. "During the Kyuubi attack?"

The clone tensed again. "Y-yeah."

Thinking that it was too personal a topic, Sasuke decided to steer the conversation away to other things. "By the way, how does Naruto know the Hyuuga?"

The clone looked confusingly at him. "Who? Neji or Hinata-chan?"

"He knows them both?"

"Sure," the clone replied. "Hinata-chan's pretty nice to the boss. She talks to him whenever they meet. They talk a lot."

Sasuke did not notice the frown on his face. "Since when?"

"When? Well…she'd been the boss's seatmate during a few classes at the Academy. Then after graduation he'd come across her and Kurenai-sensei's team at the training grounds."

Hn. "And Neji?"

"He was boss's opponent during the last round of the Chuunin exams," the clone answered with a grin. "Heh, we kicked his ass big-time. After that boss had been passing him often in the streets. They've eaten at Ichiraku's together once or twice, but not often, though. Usually they spar when you're not around. Oh yeah! There was this one time that he sparred with Neji and thickbrows-Lee…"

Sasuke let the clone talk, content only to listen. He was surprised to learn that Naruto was friends with virtually all of the rookies who had taken the Chuunin exams with them, including Hyuuga Neji's team. When the clone repeated that Naruto often spent time sparring with Neji whenever he was busy with his personal training, Sasuke made a mental note to spar with Naruto every chance he got.

When the clone proceeded to talk about Iruka, Sasuke interrupted him. "I know about Iruka-sensei. Naruto mentions him a lot."

The clone grinned, obviously very happy talking about Iruka-sensei. "He's really very nice! He visits boss a lot!"

Sasuke's eyes landed on the scroll near the clone. "Aside from cooking, does Naruto have any other skill he's been hiding?"

"What do you mean? Boss wasn't hiding about that."

"I've never heard about it."

"Have you ever asked him?"

Sasuke blinked. "No," he admitted.

"There's your problem, then." The clone shrugged, then continued reading the scroll in its hands. After a while he put it away and pulled out another one. "How many scrolls do we have to go through, anyway?" he grumbled.

Sasuke had to think about his words before he could understand. "We need to look at everything until we find the scroll we need."

"Hmph." The clone made an irritated face, then went back to reading. Sasuke did the same.

After some time, it was the clone who spoke up.

"Ano sa, ano sa…"

Sasuke looked up, his face mildly intrigued. The clone tilted its head at him from across the narrow passageway between the shelves. "Why did you ask all those things about boss?"

Great. Of all the clones that dobe sent, he sends the most inquisitive. Wait, do clones even have personalities? Outwardly he shrugged as casually as he could. "Nothing. I was curious."

The clone stared blankly at him for a long time. Finally, "You're lying."

Sasuke scowled instantly. "No I'm not."

"You are," the clone insisted. "You've never been curious about anything before."

"How would you know?"

"I share boss's memories."

Damn. "I was too busy with training and the Chuunin exams before. And Naruto was never more than a classmate before we ended up in the same team."

"Hmm…I think it was the same with boss," the clone replied, unexpectedly. He seemed thoughtful. "He was always annoyed about how much of a bastard you were before, but he'd never thought much about you, too." He missed the dangerous twitch of Sasuke's eyebrow. "But now's better I guess."

Sasuke's scowl faded a bit. "How so?"

"Well, boss has you and the others as his friends," the clone pointed out. "Then there's Kakashi-sensei. And then there's Ero-sennin, Tsunade-baa chan, and Iruka-sensei." The clone grinned. "You're all his precious people, you know."

Sasuke's eyes widened slightly. A foreign feeling seemed to expand in his chest, oddly making him feel…light.

"Hey. Sasuke-teme. You alright? You look funny."

Sasuke turned to the clone with a scowl on his face. "Call me 'teme' again and I won't hesitate to pincushion you with kunai." He paused. "And I don't look funny."

The clone pulled out his tongue at him. "You wouldn't dare. That'd be like murdering a teammate." The clone yelped when a kunai suddenly twanged resonantly as it embedded itself in the shelf a few inches from its left ear. Sasuke smirked.

"Lucky for you I missed."

The clone glared at him. "Asshole."

Sasuke's smirk only deepened.

NxS NxS NxS

End Chapter 8.