A/N: Written for the May round of Naruto Flashfics. This fic is partially invalidated by the events of Chapter 402; however, I'd written this before that chapter came out.
It was almost a shame that Sasuke was returning to Konohagakure by night
It was almost a shame that Sasuke was returning to Konohagakure by night. He would have liked to see how much it had changed in the sixteen years he'd been gone. That had started as an idle thought, but now, as he slipped past the guards – not inattentive at their posts, simply no match for him and his stealth – it consumed him, and he began eyeing the village, trying to guess what it would look like by day – what was the same as when he had left all those years ago, what had changed.
The village was dark. Most people were in bed, asleep at this late hour; only a very few windows still bled light onto the streets. There was one set in particular he was heading for... The Hokage's offices.
Long experience having taught him to conserve chakra wherever possible, he let his Sharingan fade as he carefully stepped onto the roof, moving smoothly to prevent any telltale footsteps or creaking to reach the ear of anyone below. The night was warm – naturally, windows were opened to catch the cool breezes. He listened; no voices. The Hokage was alone. Moving stealthily, he moved to the eaves and carefully clung to the wall, focusing chakra into his climbs so he could cling to the wall beside the window. To someone outside, he'd be nothing more than a shadow.
The Hokage was visible from his position, head bent over paperwork. It had always bemused Sasuke that all of the ninja villages shared the tradition of taking their best warrior at any given time and sticking that person behind a desk. Surely there were better ways...? But this Hokage interested him; he stared at the line of back and shoulders, carefully keeping his chakra hidden so that he could contemplate in peace.
Here, at the end of all things... He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. If all went right... he'd prepared himself for the result. But there was a possibility that he might have miscalculated; the chance that his skill level was not what he thought it was, and that tonight's actions would bring about disastrous results. He'd sweated over the plan, knowing what the possible consequences would be. But he had to do this. It was the only option left... the only one that let him hold onto any sense of who he was.
"Y'know, if you go inside, you can look at my front too." The sharp tenor voice broke the dark silence, and Sasuke nearly jumped out of his skin, looking upward. Then he cursed to himself.
The Rokudaime Hokage crouched on the eaves, peering down at him with an expression seemingly compounded of equal parts amusement, curiosity, joy, and wariness. Sasuke sighed to himself. How could he have been stupid enough to forget such a basic? Konoha's Hokage was the Legion-nin, the one-man army. The ninja who created and supported shadow clones seemingly as easy as breathing. Why wouldn't he delegate tedious paperwork to one of those clones?
"Sasuke." Naruto was smiling. "I was hoping you would be back soon – I've been waiting for you for years!"
Sasuke couldn't respond – he was still stuck on seeing Naruto again. As Hokage – well, he'd laughed to himself when he'd heard that, thinking that he'd never in a million years have expected the idiot to actually make good on his childish boasting. Apparently there was more to him than it seemed.
"I really wanted you to come back sooner, after Itachi died," Naruto said, crossing his arms. "But then I heard about that other quest you wound up on… man, you really are a guy for that kind of thing, aren't you? But I knew you'd come home eventually." And the old familiar smile, bright as a beam of sunlight even now, in the darkness, split his features. Twelve or twenty-nine, that was something that never changed.
"I came back," Sasuke finally forced out, his voice a little strangled, "because I had nowhere else to go." And to be honest, he hadn't come back to Konoha. He'd come back to Naruto, hoping only for one last favor. A favor he knew Naruto would never grant willingly.
And as those blue eyes, still the same bright color but now dimmed and deepened by responsibility and the loss of innocence, studied Sasuke's face intently, he imagined that Naruto knew what that favor was.
"Come on," one hand reached out to pat Sasuke's shoulder. "Come off the wall, and let's get something to eat. It's been a long sixteen years since you were here... there are a few new places you might like to try."
"That's not what I'm here for," Sasuke said, pulling away from Naruto and tensing in preparation to attack.
The Naruto he remembered would have been confused. This new, older, harder Naruto simply nodded. "I know." The light in those eyes seemed to dim for a moment, but then his expression hardened again. "I don't care! You're here, and I'm going to take you out for dinner. Um, or breakfast. I think it might be more like breakfast by now?" When Sasuke didn't respond, Naruto snorted. "Sasuke. I'm not going to fight you. Not now, definitely not here, and as far as I'm concerned, not ever again. Now come on. Haven't you ever learned not to turn down free food? I'll even take you out for something that isn't ramen."
"Will wonders never cease?" Sasuke shot back sarcastically. "You can't just pretend like nothing ever happened, Naruto. I'm here to fight you."
"Maybe you're not listening, bastard." Naruto leaped close, clinging to the wall and glaring at Sasuke's face from bare inches away. "I. Won't. Fight. You. Not ever, and especially not in the middle of my village." There was genuine fierceness in his tone. Naruto's power was not easily contained, and was ill-suited for surgical strikes. If he and Sasuke fought here, in the middle of Konoha, many people would die.
Sasuke stared at him, thinking about just flat-out attacking. But as much as he knew his power had grown over the years, he knew Naruto's had as well; Hokage was not a title that got handed out idly, and even with the favoritism he'd noticed Tsunade showing before he left, more than a decade and a half ago, he knew Naruto had to earn and keep earning his title.
He sighed. "Drag me to Ichiraku's and I'll kill you, moron. Let's go." Itachi was dead. Madara was dead. He didn't have a mission now… and Naruto was right. Never turn down free food.