Sleep had washed away reality.
Mental and physical exhaustion reaped with the sweet fruit of momentary amnesia.
Unfortunately, Sasuke's alarm clock wasn't as forgetful.
When he did finally wrench his eyes open, it seemed like a physical impossibility to rise without puking.
So he lay listening to the incessant beeping-each bleep shooting through his ear and destroying any neuron which dared stand in its path. Time weighed down on him. An hour away, his body was being ripped apart by the stares of nearly one-hundred spectators anticipating his victory or downfall. Reality had finally kicked him in the teeth.
When he did manage to amble over to the bathroom, he contemplated what drove the ever-so-clever Uchiha to be so idiotic. Sasuke had agreed to participate in "Show-You're-Buff" to save face but he probably set himself up for a bigger fall.
Kiba's gloating expression swam to the forefront of his mind as he played out the scenario of his utter and complete defeat. He'd have to change gyms. Konoha wasn't the largest city in the world. He doubted that there were many more fitness places in the area.
His problems kept mounting.
Swimming classes were over. He supposed he could easily avoid Naruto if he really wanted to…except steering clear from the Uzumaki wasn't going to erase the fact that he had practically jumped the man. Did Naruto feel violated enough to press charges? He could already see the news headline: Sasuke Uchiha, forgotten heir to the Uchiha Firm:
Gay Sex Offender.
While staring at his reflection, foamed toothbrush hanging from the corner of his mouth, he wondered if he'd have cared about any allegations made against him a few weeks ago. The absurd idea that he didn't want Naruto's disapproval sent a jolt spiraling through his nervous system.
Could it be that he only cared what Naruto thought? Shaking the suggestion loose from where it was clinging onto his skull, the black-haired boy rinsed and wiped his mouth with a nearby face towel.
For a mind-numbingly dumb second, he mused upon taking a shower. But what was he looking presentable for...A ballroom dance-off? There was no reason for him to look good so he wasn't going to try. His efficiency was only valid in necessary matters, plus he was just going to look like a mess after the whole ordeal was over anyway.
Three hesitant knocks at his door startled him. With one arm through one of his t-shirt sleeves and the other still dangling out, he walked over and wrenched it open.
"Why do I always seem to find you in a state of undress, Uchiha?"
Shikamaru stood perched with one shoulder against his doorway, staring at him with a slight searching look on his face.
Why does everyone seem to find me in a state of undress? the black-haired boy wondered.
"And you're here because…?" Sasuke asked, putting his other arm through the remaining sleeve and backing up into the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal.
"I heard through some connections that you were going to be in the swimming competition today," Shikamaru said.
He strolled into Sasuke's apartment, visibly taking note of its pitiful size before settling on Sasuke's bed.
"Are you serious? Does this town have an underground hideout where everyone meets to discuss my life?"
Shikamaru granted him a small smile before his gaze shifted to out the window.
The strain of burden pressured Sasuke. It felt like he had been sentenced to capital punishment and Shikamaru was the last person to visit him. He had to make some profession, something to clear his mind before he took the plunge. Setting his bowl down on the counter, he tried to organize his thoughts.
"Earlier…," he began, clearing his throat before continuing, "Or rather a few days ago, you asked why I wasn't in charge of the Uchiha Firm."
The Nara didn't make any verbal response to indicate he was listening, but turned his head toward Sasuke.
"I guess I'd find it difficult to take over without confirming I'm the only one left." He left 'of my family' unsaid.
He could feel his weighty confession sinking into Shikamaru's abnormally large brain.
The Nara's eyes narrowed slightly as if he were in deep thought. Neither man seemed
emotionally capable enough to talk about the admittance, so Shikamaru just shifted his legs uncomfortably while giving a terse nod.
A few minutes of silence followed, which the Nara took as his cue to leave. As Shikamaru bid him farewell and slouched out of the door, Sasuke felt as if he'd been relieved of some his emotional load.
But that didn't mean that Shikamaru was going to turn into his personal peculiarly lazy therapist or anything.
Sighing deeply, black-haired boy stood up and stretched. There was no point in prolonging time any longer. He was going to have to man-up and do his best.
"Well, look who decided to finally show up…the fabulous Prince Snob."
Kiba stood at the entrance of the Konoha Fitness Center's grounds with a few of his friends and adoring (probably paid) girl followers. His red swim shorts were already fastened around his hips. His face seemed to be coated in a pale-white - probably from sunblock that hadn't been rubbed in properly.
Sasuke's retort was caught halfway in its process of release. He realized if he retaliated, he'd probably add some fuel to the Inuzuka's gloating tirade if he lost.
Unable to say anything in return, the Uchiha pushed past the small group of people toward the locker room. He almost got through the crowd until a large, rough hand grabbed his shoulder, "Hey, I'm talking to you, fathead."
"Is there any reason why you're touching me, Inuzuka?" Sasuke asked, not bothering to hide his anger.
"Well if someone acknowledges you, y'know," the brown-haired boy said, hooking his arm around the Uchiha's shoulders uncomfortably and tightly, "Especially someone calling you by your official title…You're supposed to have the decency to y'know…say something back," His newfound habit of saying 'y'know' and the fact that he was speaking a decibel too loud threatened to turn on Sasuke's violence mode.
"Kiba!" yelled a familiar voice about five meters behind where Sasuke and Kiba were standing in their faux man-hug, "Long time no see, bro!"
"Uzumaki, you sexy bastard! Where have you been?" shouted the brown-haired boy back happily, releasing Sasuke and swinging around to face the blond newcomer.
The Uchiha's brain was suddenly engulfed in torrent of panic. He floundered minutely, trying to find a place to escape. Taking advantage of Kiba's temporary distraction, he power-walked toward the locker rooms.
In the distance, he thought he heard, "Oi! Uchiha. I'm not done with you," but that didn't stop him from sprinting the last few feet into an empty stall.
Not bothering to catch his breath, Sasuke took out his anger by wrenching off his clothing and leap stepping into his new blue shorts. Why had Naruto showed up? His appearance had reconfirmed Sasuke's suspicion that the guy had no shame…absolutely no shame. If a person sexually harasses another person, why would the victim show up to support the harasser at a sport's event?
Leaning with one hand against the stall wall, the Uchiha realized he might've been flattering himself. After all, Naruto was Kiba's friend too. The Uzumaki could've been there solely to support the Inuzuka. Sasuke also noted the fact that most of his thinking seemed to happen inside changing room stalls.
An announcement stating that the competitors should begin to take their position behind the diving boards resonated throughout the empty bathroom. Sasuke could hear the dull buzz of a crowd just beyond the entrance.
How was everything happening this quickly? With one last tightening of his tassels, the
Uchiha spat dryly and half-jogged out of the building. Bright, near blinding sunlight invaded every inch of his peripheral vision. The dazzling scene surfaced in front of him: inflatable figures of bodybuilders dancing with the breeze; red, blue and yellow balloons surrounding the pool area in giant clumps.
In the distance, he spotted Naruto perched on top of the lifeguard tower rubbing sunscreen into his back with vigor. He had aviators sitting low on his nose with standard red lifesaver swim-shorts on. A bitter feeling settled somewhere in Sasuke's chest when he realized Naruto was there because he'd been asked to lifeguard the competition. He also berated himself for thinking the sunglasses suited the Uzumaki. Luckily, his thoughts were soon wrenched back to focusing on the competition as he reached his destination.
Two equally muscled competitors stood in front of the last and second to last diving board. Kiba stood at the third, stretching one arm over the other. Sasuke's nerves tingled as he stepped up to the board next to the Inuzuka. He could almost hear his stomach churning.
Trust Kiba to egg him on in the most predictable, clichéd way possible.
"I think I'd be more scared if I were you - this is probably the most contact with water you've had in weeks."
The brown-haired boy frowned deeply. His lower-lip curled to the point of pouting but his eyes focused on the pool ahead as the final warning was announced.
Two other swimmers stood on Sasuke's left, one doing some boxing punches and footwork to pump himself up and the other looking as nauseous as Sasuke felt.
"Alright, competitors," sounded a distant megaphone, "Step up to the diving boards. No one dives before the gun is shot. If you jump, it's instant disqualification."
The swimmers all exchanged glances, sizing each other up. No one looked overly confident. Even Kiba looked uneasy, as he stood perched on his diving board, arms hanging loose and ready for the dive.
"On your marks…get set…GO!" said the announcer followed by the bang of the gun.
Sasuke took a giant leap forward and dove into the water. His form hadn't been perfect; he could still feel the sting on his thighs. Kiba and the rest of the competitors had taken an early lead as Sasuke stroked freestyle. He didn't have the opportunity to feel discouraged as the wall was fast approaching.
With a front-roll, the Uchiha pushed off the pool wall, breathing out bubbles through his nose. He surfaced on his back and began the backstroke. Some of the competitors had fallen behind during the last few feet of the freestyle run.
"COME ON, SASUKE -YOU PASTY BASTARD! YOU GOT THIS!" came the bellowing yell from the lifeguard stand, "I DIDN'T SPEND ALL THOSE DAYS WITH YOUR PALE ASS JUST FOR YOU TO FAIL NOW."
Sasuke's backstroke became more erratic when he realized Naruto was cheering for him.
Could it even be considered cheering? It was like a mixture of cheer and insults hurled at him from the lifeguard stand. The Uchiha felt renewed as his fingertips touched the edge of the other side of the pool and he back flipped into breaststroke.
The fact that the Uzumaki hadn't branded him as a sex-offender was a lot more gratifying than he thought it would be. Sure, Naruto could just be exasperated that Sasuke was just doing mediocre after all their hard work, but the black-haired boy tried not to think of the situation that way. A view of Kiba's newly wrinkled feet at least two feet in front of him jolted Sasuke back into the present.
With another push of energy, Sasuke pushed forward and managed to pass Kiba. He came up for a breath of air before triggering his inner-frog. He had one more length after breaststroke and then victory was his. It didn't actually matter if he beat the other competitors, if he beat Kiba that would be enough.
Three quarters of the way through the length, a sudden paralyzing force knocked him sideways into the other competitor's lane. Torrents of water gushed up his nose. He surfaced, slightly dazed and hacking before he was pushed back into his lane by the other competitor. He could see Kiba swimming furiously and passing him at an alarming speed toward the other side. Unable to think of anything but winning, the Uchiha dove back into the water and rocketed through the last few feet.
By the time he'd front flipped off the wall, Kiba was just a foot in front of him. Sasuke kept getting water in his nose, so each time he came up for air was as useless as the last.
But he couldn't let Kiba win. Forgoing breathing entirely, he frantically did the butterfly stroke until his forehead bashed into the opposite wall.
He'd reached the finish line. The race was done. He was almost scared to find out what had happened. His vision spotted, Sasuke looked to the left. Kiba was staring furiously at him, forehead deeply furrowed. The Uchiha let his right fist fly up in cheer. He'd done it.
He'd beaten Kiba. He'd triumphed all and managed to win the ra—
"The competition has been canceled due to the circumstances. Thank you all for coming, anyway. Hopefully next year there will be more luck."
Sasuke's fist froze in the air. He looked back at Kiba to find that the brown-haired boy hadn't been glaring at him at all, but just past his shoulder. With a sense of dread, the Uchiha turned to his right.
It seemed like the last competitor on the left had become exhausted halfway through the competition and begun to drown. Naruto had jumped into the water, pushed Sasuke into the other lane and rescued the flailing man.
The Uchiha, being the only one not to realize what was going on, had been the sole competitor still struggling to finish the race ahead until the end. Sasuke's diaphragm felt completely deflated. All the lessons; all the training; all the lead-up had summed up to this moment.
Lifting himself out of the pool, he could feel the stinging sensation of rage pooling right behind his eyes.
"Nice job still swimming like a prick after that guy started drowning. I would have beaten you if this were a serious competition, y'know. I've seen better swimming in the kiddies' pool," came the snarky remark from the Uchiha's left.
Blinding anger infiltrated Sasuke's vision before he swung his right fist just past Kiba's jaw. He'd barely missed but he wasn't going to miss the second punch. Caught by surprise, the Inuzaka yelped stumbling back a bit before catching himself on the diving board railing.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Kiba yelled.
Sasuke didn't bother to respond as he gathered up strength. His left hand shot out with ferocious might, contacting the brown-haired boy's cheek. The Uchiha didn't have time to feel proud of himself as his back and head met with slippery tile. Kiba had dive tackled him onto the floor, and had proceeded to punch him in a way suspiciously similar to how Naruto had done the night before.
"Hey…Kiba! Get off him, c'mon," Naruto had jogged over and was laboriously wrenching Kiba off Sasuke.
"Yeah, keep your dog on a leash," Sasuke muttered loud enough for Kiba to hear him as he stood up.
The brown-haired boy looked like he was about to make another leaping dive for Sasuke but the Uchiha had already started walking away. He felt creeping humiliation settling on his skin. Not only had he been the only asshole to continue racing after the last competitor had started drowning, but he'd also allowed himself to feel good and cheer after "winning".
In a daze, the black-haired boy had somehow left the competition, drove his way back to his apartment and gotten in the bathroom. While stripping off his clothes, he noticed that his body had a new coat of bright pink that reached everywhere except where his shorts had been. Not only had the competition ended like crap, but Sasuke was now also covered from head to toe with sunburn.
He didn't want to risk showering, so he pulled his briefs back on and zombie lumbered to the bed. Not knowing what to do outside of laying spread-eagle with pain tingling in almost every spot imaginable, he opted for staring at the ceiling and wishing he'd never been born.
A few booming knocks interrupted his ceiling staring– he was suddenly incredibly glad he'd forgotten to lock the door. Sasuke managed a weak, "It's open."
Tufts of blond hair peeking out of the new door opening confirmed the Uchiha's suspicion that Naruto had come over to talk about the competition, "Hey, I wanted to see if you were alr…holy shit. You look like a beached lobster."
Once again, the black-haired boy questioned why he thought Naruto was a decent guy. The blond had edged closer to his bed and had begun gingerly prodding Sasuke's particularly red stomach, laughing.
"You know what every sunburned person loves? Being poked by a moron," Sasuke bit out sharply.
Naruto guffawed for a little while longer, but soon cocked his head to the side, "Want me to head down to the corner shop for some Aloe Vera lotion?"
The Uchiha thought about this for a while. It was going to hurt like hell to put it on, but in the long run it seemed like a good idea. Plus it would get Naruto out of his room for a little while.
After a minute of silence he said, "Okay. Go for it."
The Uzumaki disappeared behind the door again, so Sasuke turned back to the ceiling. He didn't know if it was such a good idea to have Naruto in his apartment while he was in his briefs and they still hadn't discussed the "incident".
The Uchiha found himself wildly hoping the blond-haired boy had developed some kind of memory loss problem when he'd knocked into Sasuke in the pool. In what seemed like a few minutes Naruto had returned, closing the door behind him, he entered with a rustling plastic bag – the Aloe Vera bottle weighing it down.
He settled the bottle on Sasuke's bedside table and sat down on the edge of the Uchiha's bed. Sasuke watched as various degrees of confusion flitted across Naruto's face. After a few minutes of playing with the navy blue bedcover, Naruto's thoughtful expression cleared slightly.
"Hey…don't feel too bad about the competition. I personally think you did pretty well for someone who just learned how to swim a few weeks ago," he finally said awkwardly
"You were sitting there looking perplexed for at least seven minutes and that's all you had to say?" Sasuke asked, exasperated.
"Well…yeah," Naruto replied, looking slightly taken aback, "What more did you want me to say?"
The Uchiha opened his mouth but promptly closed it again. What had he expected Naruto to say? He didn't want to talk about what had happened the night before. But at the same time, he couldn't help but wonder if it had meant anything to the Uzumaki at all.
"Do you want me to help you put on the Aloe Vera?" Naruto asked suddenly, causing Sasuke's thought process to shatter.
The Uchiha hoped that the pressure behind his eyeballs wasn't causing them to bulge out. The blond-haired boy wanted to help apply Aloe Vera on him. Sasuke could see about a billion problems with that situation.
"N-no. I think it's about time you left, actually. I'll do it myself," The Uchiha spluttered. He then tried to roll over only to be met with searing pain radiating through the right side of his body.
Sasuke had hoped that his discomfort hadn't shown on his face but Naruto wasn't fooled, evidently.
"Oh, come on. Don't be stupid. Just let me do it and then I'll go."
Sasuke wondered when Naruto had become the reasonable one since his stubbornness was refusing to allow the Uzumaki to come within ten inches of him.
The black-haired boy stupidly tried to bend his knee to get up. He could feel his conviction rattling as the feeling equivalent to a bulldog latching onto his limb penetrated his body.
"Okay. Fine. Just put it on," Sasuke spat finally.
Naruto grinned, getting up to fetch the bottle. He flipped the cap open and squeezed a generous amount on his hands. Pushing the lid back down with his thumb, the blond-haired boy put the Aloe back on the counter, then rubbed his hands together spreading the liquid.
In the time it took to do this, the Uchiha let the situation dawn on him. Was Sasuke really going to let a nearly qualified idiot touch him when his entire body was wracked with fiery pain?
"Wait, I'm not too sure about this…" Sasuke began, looking skeptically from Naruto to his white hands.
Naruto flashed him an exaggeratedly bored look before slowly lowering his hands down directly above each of the Uchiha's shoulders.
"Oh Lordy," Sasuke muttered, squeezing his eyes tight. To his surprise, the black-haired boy suddenly felt a soothing sensation enveloping his shoulders, which was in stark contrast with the rest of his body.
"See? Not so bad, right?" the Uzumaki cooed annoyingly, moving on to focus on Sasuke's right arm.
The Uchiha wasn't going to admit Naruto was right. Instead, he lay back with his eyes closed, enjoying the feeling of the cooling lotion on his skin.
The bed's weight shifted to the right, indicating that the blond-haired boy had sat down.. His hands left the Uchiha's body, returned with more lotion, and began a slow process rubbing down Sasuke's chest.
Naruto's fingers felt surprisingly gentle tracing down his sides. He could feel the liquid amassing at a point then smoothed down the remaining skin. It reached just above his pelvic bones and then back up again.
"Do you always make those noises when someone's touching you?" Naruto asked suddenly, breaking Sasuke out of his reverie.
Noises? The Uchiha's eyes flung open, "I wasn't making noises."
"Yeah, you were," Naruto insisted, looking way too amused.
"Look, if you're going to be an asshole then you can stop and go now," Sasuke muttered heatedly.
The blond just smirked, grabbing more lotion and squirting it into his hands. The Uchiha was wary of keeping his eyes closed this time around, though.
How did he manage to get into this situation anyway? The man he sexually attacked yesterday was lathering moisturizer on his body today. Sasuke refused to make any more supposed "noises" so he bit his inner cheek and watched as the Uzumaki's hands descended on him again.
It turned out keeping his eyes open was a bad idea. He watched as Naruto's slightly calloused hands slid familiarly over his left thigh down to his shin. The blond's fingertips lingered on his knee as he reached over to the tabletop for more of the Aloe. The Uzumaki moved on to the other leg, contributing just as much attention.
Sasuke made the mistake of glancing up at the blond-haired boy's face. Naruto had a look of mild concentration on his face as his hand massaged down the skin on the Uchiha's upper leg. Sasuke noticed the boy's cheeks tinge minutely pink as the hand slowly shifted its position from upper to inner thigh. Blue-eyes altered their position to look at Sasuke unsurely.
The Uchiha felt a rush of both horror and anticipation coursing through his chest. Was Naruto implying something with that look or was he going crazy? The black-haired boy didn't know whether to break eye contact or not. Something in his head was telling him not to take the situation too seriously, though. Yesterday he'd made a grave mistake
Sasuke's thoughts seem to go out the window when Naruto's thumb started making tiny circles on his skin. Soon the rest of the blond-haired boy's fingers were tracing a path way too close to Sasuke's crotch. He temporarily forgot the Uzumaki was looking at him as he unwittingly gave way to the feeling; he fought the temptation to bite his bottom lip.
The Uchiha realized with terror that his lack of clothing situation was going to become problematic if Naruto didn't stop doing whatever it was he was doing.
"Sasuke, are you in there? I came to give you this dumb jacket back….that I had to practically beg you for," came the unmistakable voice from behind the door.
The black-haired boy didn't know whether to feel relieved or upset. He shifted his vision back to Naruto who had suddenly pokerfaced. The Uchiha didn't know what the Uzumaki was doing. He wasn't entirely sure if Naruto knew what he was doing. He didn't know if Naruto was playing games with him or if he'd just imagined the whole situation in his head.
"You'd better go," Sasuke muttered, his throat feeling groggy all of a sudden, "Just throw the jacket in here before you go."
"Okay," Naruto replied, flashing a smile and walking over to the front door.
The Uchiha could hear a muffled yet happy 'Sakura!' through the door before a jacket was thrown in and closed with a click.
Sasuke closed his eyes, suddenly feeling a lot more unsure about life than he did three weeks ago.
Heh, it's been a long wait but here it is, finally.
Anyone want to tell me what their favourite chapter is so far?