A/N: Heyyy everyone! Sorry this update took so long. It's been sitting on MihaelKai's computer for aaages now. But no internet connection! T.T Fail much? Anyway... Here it is, finally! Enjoy!
CHAPTER 8: Lives Collide
Naruto's show went smoothly until the very end he looked out into the audience and saw pale skin, raven black hair. He froze for a moment. 'It can't be...' He almost missed his footing from shock, but caught himself at the last minute, staring at the boy. 'Sasuke... why are you here?'
The figure in the crowd smirked and disappeared back into the crowd. Almost as if it had been a dream. Almost.
Naruto shook it off, giving the audience one last smile before hopping down onto the net and running back behind the curtain.
Kakashi ushered in the next act before turning to Naruto. "That was great, but you almost lost it at the end. I thought we were past the falling-into-the-audience stage. It's not making a return is it?"
Naruto shook his head. "No, I just thought I saw someone I used to know. I'll be better tomorrow, Kakashi-sensei. Dattebayo!"
Kakashi patted him reassuringly on the back. "You were doing great tonight, Naruto. Keep it up!"
Temari came up, putting the finishing touches on her new costume. "Hey, you did great out there. You're leaving for tonight, right?"
Naruto nodded. "Um, yeah, why? I've got no reason to stay tonight..."
Temari smiled. "Hey, I was just wondering. I thought Gaara might show up to pick you up tonight. I'm glad you two are getting along so well. I've never seen Gaara...happy, you know? Perhaps content, but never happy."
"Thanks. He's really cool. But he won't let me see the paintings he put me in." Naruto smiled but then frowned. "He's on a business trip. He'll be back soon enough though..."
Naruto thought that he saw Temari's smile slip a little. "Oh, well then, I guess you'll see him later. Have a good night!" She smiled, trying to recover.
Naruto looked at her questioningly. "What's wrong? What aren't either of you telling me? I know he's hiding something."
Temari shook her head. "I just worry, that's all. The doctor told us it was best if he stayed in one area, that's all." She said, knowing that Gaara had told him about the doctor at least.
Naruto nodded, not fully believing the story. "Oh, okay then... Anyway, I should probably go."
She smiled. "See you later."
Naruto left and went out into the parking lot, cursing his habit of parking at the far end of the lot. He was to his motorcycle when he heard movement behind him. "Hello Naruto."
Naruto's blood ran cold and he spun around. "What do you want, Sasuke? Why are you here!?"
Sasuke stepped away from the car he was leaning on, arms out, as if he were saying 'I'm harmless'. "Hey, it's just me. I moved here a couple months ago, but I had no idea you would be here. When I saw your picture on one of the fliers for the circus, I decided to say hi. It's been a while."
"Riiight. Well, you've said 'hi'. Now leave me alone. You're not part of my life anymore." 'You've been replaced by something, no, someone so much better.' he thought.
Sasuke looked genuinely ashamed, and hurt. "I...I actually came here to apologize. I've been seeing a therapist for a while, and I just felt so guilty, it bothered me. We used to be friends, but it was my fault. I ruined that and I'm sorry." Sasuke kept his eyes down on the ground. He NEVER apologized for anything in his life, he was normally too arrogant. "I wanted to make it up to you somehow."
"You can make it up by leaving me alone. I don't need you anymore. Please, just leave me alone." Naruto really didn't need the reminders of his past. He was finally getting over it. He didn't need this. Not now.
Sasuke looked up at him, desperate, but maintaining his distance. "Please, let me at least buy you something to eat. Just to talk. Please. I know it won't make up for what I put you through, but please."
"Fine. Meet me at Ichiraku in half an hour." He didn't want to be anywhere alone with him. "And if you try anything... I pity his wrath on you."
"Who?" Sasuke asked.
"My... boyfriend." True, they weren't an official couple. But they were as good as, right?
"Oh? That's great! I'm glad you found someone." Sasuke rubbed his neck, visibly more relaxed. He seemed really happy for him. Maybe his therapist was working wonders after all. "What's his name?"
Naruto debated mentally whether to tell Sasuke or not. "Gaara. Sabaku no Gaara. He's an artist."
Sasuke's face fell flat, recovering before Naruto could see, giving him his best fake smile. It was working so far. "I've seen some of his work, at the museum! Are you serious? That's great! Well, I guess I'll see you at Ichiraku's."
"Um... yeah..." 'When did he get so... happy?' He got on his bike and drove off, not going home, instead settling for driving around the park for a bit. He didn't trust Sasuke to not follow him home.
Sasuke got into his car, a deadly anger fuming off of him in waves. 'Gaara...' He remembered that name. The crazy piece of shit that nearly killed him in one of the illegal matches almost a year ago. 'Naruto is dating that? Over me?' He was Jesus Christ compared to that devil. He thought back to that fight, the bloodlust in Gaara's eyes, the absolute lack of a soul. He only survived because one of the leaders stepped in, knowing the Uchiha name. Sasuke smirked, heading straight to the noodle restaurant he saw Naruto go to the most often. He had been tailing him for a week, watching his work habits, but he never in all his life guessed that the one he was spending so much time with was the Sabaku no Gaara. Now he knew where they both lived. 'I'll get revenge and Naruto,' he thought smugly.
Naruto arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early and headed in quickly, hoping they got a spot in the center of the restaurant and not wanting to be alone with Sasuke. He had been calm... too calm. It was more than slightly creepy.
Sasuke waved from a booth in the corner. "Hey, I was wondering when you would show up." He was drinking tea, obviously having ordered drinks already. "Do you want some tea?"
Naruto sighed walking over to him. "No thanks, I'm fine."
"I saved you a menu, I already ordered." His eyes looked peaceful, relieved. "I'm glad you came."
"I said I'd come. I don't break my word," 'Unlike you,' was implied. "So, how have you been lately?"
"Well, after you left, I decided that I needed to pull my shit together. I went to therapy, got sober." He showed Naruto his arms, free of any recent track marks. The only ones there were old and scarred. "See? No more drugs, I've been clean for almost two years." His voice dropped. "What about you? How have you been?"
"Better. Gaara's gotten my self image up a lot. And I don't think about... back then as much."
Sasuke looked away, ashamed. "You really didn't deserve any of that. From them or me."
"No, I didn't." His tone was cold. He would not pity Sasuke. Sasuke wasn't always ignorant, some of the times he knew what he was doing. What he was doing to Naruto.
Sasuke saw the look. The one that told him it would be much harder this time around. He scratched his head, looking around to make sure no one heard. "You know I'm no good at apologies, but I am sorry. I know that it wasn't just the drugs; that was the main reason I went into therapy. I knew it was fucked up, and more often than not, I knew what I was doing. I've changed though. It wasn't easy."
"People don't change, people's perceptions of people is all that changes, Sasuke-san. You'd do well to remember that lesson."
They ate in silence for a while, Sasuke remaining friendly, but quiet. After a moment, Sasuke set down his fork. "I want us to be friends again, the way it was before I...betrayed you. I know I did, and I'm sorry."
"You want to be friends with me? How do I know you won't just do it all again? How do I know you're really sorry? People say things all the time they don't mean!" He was practically yelling by the end of the statement. Sasuke had a lot of balls to just show up like this after all this time.
"I know, and you have a right to be angry. The only way you will know though, is to talk to me. Test me, whatever you want. I've just always been ashamed of what happened. I want to show you that's not me anymore."
He sounded honest. Naruto wanted to believe him. Sasuke was his childhood best friend. The first one to ever care. "Fine. I'll give you one chance. But try ANYTHING and you're out of my life. Permanently. I won't hesitate to get a restraining order, Sasuke, believe me."
Sasuke nodded. "I wouldn't expect you to do any less."
The waitress came and Naruto placed his order. "So, how'd you come to be here tonight anyway? Like... why'd you move here?"
Sasuke had this one down pat, glad that if Naruto checked it would all be true. "My brother wanted me to switch here and work for the new stockbroker business that was recently set up. He trained me after I got sober."
"Stockbroker!?" He snorted. "I can not see you in a business suit!"
"It's true. I have work tomorrow, but I get off around seven. Are you busy? I could show you what I look like in a suit." He smiled. "Maybe I could even meet your boyfriend."
"Um, we've got plans for tomorrow already," he lied. "Maybe some other day?"
"Aww, come on. We could go to the movies or something, I could bring a date. Or you can just tell him that you want to catch up with your friend."
Naruto bit his lip, caving in. "Just you and me. Dinner. Nothing more. It's not a date, just a meeting of friends. No movie. Just a meal."
"Okay, no problem. We could go to the bar and grill by my work, it's not too far. I'd say about fifteen minutes from here." Sasuke smiled. It took him the longest to perfect these damn happy looks, but it was worth it to see that Naruto was relaxing, even if only a little. If he was going to get him back, he had to take it slow.
"Um... sure... What time?" Sasuke smiling was slightly unnerving. But he figured he would give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Well, you could meet me outside my work building at seven fifteen and we could walk from there."
"Um... how about I just meet you there at like seven thirty? The one on tenth street, right?" He didn't want to be walking with him alone. In the dark.
"Yeah! Harrison's, right? Have you been there before?"
Naruto shrugged. "Seen it, never been in it. I've no reason to a place like that usually, I don't drink." Again the 'unlike you' was implied.
Sasuke looked surprised. "You don't drink anymore?"
"It's a nasty habit that serves no purpose other than to dull the senses, cloud the mind, and make even the nicest men turn cruel." 'And let you escape from the pain. Which I don't have to deal with anymore,' he added mentally.
Sasuke nodded his head. "I can understand that, I guess. The grill is the real gem anyway. They serve the best food."
"Like I said, I wouldn't know." The food finally came and Naruto ate, content to eat in silence.
Sasuke kept the silence as well, looking up from time to time until the bill came. He paid it and stood. "I'm glad to see you're doing well Naruto. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, bye." He left the restaurant, wondering to himself. 'What the hell just happened?' He drove in circles on his bike for a while, clearing his head, and shaking anyone tailing him, before going home.