Just to tell you now, no, this chapter isn't as long as it says it is – it's just that I've written an extremely lengthy end note.
It's not often I recommend combining music and reading, if only because I can't do it myself, but if you're going to listen to anything while reading this chapter, it's got to be "Boku wa kimi ni koi wo suru" by Hirai Ken. You can find the music video here: [ youtube. com/ watch? v= 152CspoTGIo ] and the lyrics here: [ jpopasia. com/ lyrics/ 33916/ ken-hirai/ boku-wa-kimi-ni-koi-wo-suru. html ] (remove spaces). This was my biggest inspiration for the most important scene in this chapter, and I think it fits in both words and tone.
This is it. Enjoy the last chapter.
Surprisingly, Sasuke's still in bed when I get back to our room – I'd have expected him to start worrying if he'd realized I'd been gone so long. He rolls over to face me when I close the door behind me, though.
"Naru?" he murmurs.
"Did I wake you? Sorry," I say, climbing into bed with him.
He snuggles into me. "Your shirt's wet."
"Shiroi needed someone to lean on." I pull my shirt off and toss it on the floor somewhere. Sasuke's hand ghosts down my torso as I settle in.
"Is he alright?" Sasuke asks.
"He'll be fine. He's got Takeshi."
"Takeshi can be insensitive."
I nod. "But only because he never knew how Shiroi was feeling. They've talked now."
"That's good. Do you think Takeshi will be alright in England? I mean, when he's with Shiroi it's one thing, but halfway around the world might be a different matter."
"I'll make sure they talk it over before we leave," I say. Then I sigh, pressing my lips against Sasuke's temple. "I don't want to go. I don't want to leave you."
"And I don't want you to leave me, but you know there are bigger things than us," Sasuke replies quietly. "Listen, Naruto. When you're in England… I don't want to hold you back. Don't think that just because we'll in a long-distance relationship, you can't…" He pauses and swallows. His heartbeat is fast next to my chest. "If you want to have sex with someone else—"
"What?" I tear myself away from him to stare into his eyes, but he's dead serious. "Sasuke, I could never—"
"If you want to, you can," he says. "I won't stop you. It's a long time, and—" he cracks a smirk at this point "—I know how horny you get."
"If anyone's a perv it's you!" I retort. "But… Sasuke…"
"You don't have to, of course. But if you want to, don't let me stop you. Just be safe, alright?"
"Y-yeah," I say finally. "But of course it goes for you as well. I can't be the only one getting any if you want to sleep with someone too."
"Alright," he replies. "If it makes you feel better."
"Of course it doesn't. I don't want you to be with anyone else," I murmur. "But if you're going to let me, and I end up doing it, I couldn't possibly withhold that from you."
There's a sad smile in Sasuke's eyes when he says, "You make it sound like you don't trust yourself not to sleep with someone else."
"That's not—" I begin, but I don't know what I can say. Of course I'll try my hardest to remain faithful, but that's hindered by the fact that Sasuke is giving me the freedom not to. Possessive, clingy Sasuke, telling me he's perfectly fine with me cheating on him. I bite my lip, but he leans in to kiss me, relaxing my entire body. When we part, I press my forehead to his. "I couldn't possibly sleep with anyone else."
"Not even if I say it's okay?"
"Especially if you say it's okay." I trace his collarbone with my fingers. "You're amazing, Sasuke."
"I've always been so possessive of you," he whispers. "I want to overcome that."
"That doesn't mean it's okay for me to cheat on you."
"It's not cheating if I let you."
"You don't want to let me," I murmur. "I know that deep down you don't want to let me. And I won't, I absolutely won't. We'll meet over the holidays, right? We'll get our fill of each other then, and that's all I'll need. I promise."
Sasuke's eyes become contemplative. "This… may depend on how Takeshi and Takeshi feel," he begins slowly, "but… if you absolutely have to be with someone while you're away—"
"—Sasuke, I already told you I wouldn't—"
His finger presses against my lips, bringing an unexpected flush to my cheeks. How long has it been since Sasuke has made me blush? And now, suddenly, such a simple gesture has the heat rushing to my face, my heart aflutter as though it's day one all over again.
"Listen to me, Naruto. If you're going to be with anyone while I'm gone, I'm thinking it should be Takeshi."
"What? But you—" I fall silent, because his expression hasn't changed one bit. He's looking at me as seriously as ever. I frown. "Why?"
"I'd rather you were with Takeshi than someone who could potentially hurt you. I trust Takeshi to look after you, and I know he loves you." His thumb brushes against my scars. "We'll talk it over with them in the morning. It doesn't have to happen, but if either of you is going to stray anywhere, it'd best be towards each other."
"I… I guess so. But does that mean you'd be with Shiroi in a situation like that?"
Sasuke considers this. "Who knows? I don't think Shiroi and I have the same kind of relationship you and Takeshi do."
"You and Shiroi have your work cut out for you," I sigh, "with boyfriends like me and Takeshi."
"It's worth it," he smiles. "It's worth every second."
It takes a while, the following morning, to make sure everyone understands all the implications of Sasuke's proposition. It's to be a last resort situation only – especially after my separation from Sasuke as well as Shiroi's breakdown last night, we're all in the mindset to be as faithful as possible – but, should heartache and homesickness take over, we agree we can all look to each other for solace. I've never trusted anyone more in my life than I trust these three. And I know that, one way or another, we'll all pull through any bad times.
Sasuke and I see Takeshi and Takeshi off after lunch, watching with smiles on our faces as they head down the street as close together as we've ever seen them. Shiroi's mood had perked right up by the time we gathered for breakfast; although his eyes were still a little red, he looked happier than ever. He and Takeshi both seemed quite tired, yawning and rubbing their eyes, and Sasuke and I know why – as we drifted off to sleep for the second time that night, we heard some… commotion… coming from the living room. Sasuke tried to get me in the mood, but I told him he could wait until they left and then we wouldn't have to worry about privacy. So now that the name twins are gone and we've tidied up, Sasuke pulls me into the bedroom and we don't leave the futon for hours.
We keep to ourselves for the rest of the summer. Besides the one final time everyone gets together at the sushi bar before Sui, Araragi-san, and Shikamaru head back to Kyoto for university at the start of September, Sasuke and I don't see anyone. Sai goes off to live with Araragi-san for a year, as he's taking the year off to improve his art before applying to courses. Gaara can't make it to the gathering, as he's attending his father's funeral, then has to get right back to work. Neji's left Konoha early. Kiba manages to get the night off from helping his family with the multitude of dogs they've got running around now. Everyone's got their own business and schedules to attend to, so it isn't too hard to keep to ourselves. The name twins understand, and they get their own alone time too.
I cherish what time I have left with Sasuke. It's nothing short of wonderful to be together again and we don't have nearly enough time, but we want to try our hardest not to become too clingy. It'll hurt enough as it is, when we part. We keep each other laughing and smiling and loving, never mentioning the ever-looming day when I'll have to climb on the train and disappear. But it doesn't matter – we both know it and feel it creep into our hearts, and there's little more than desperate sorrow when we get ready to go to bed together for the last time.
Sasuke's sitting up on the futon when I finish brushing my teeth, his back to the door. I quietly close the door behind me kneel on the futon behind him. I don't need any physical signals to tell me how he's feeling. I touch his shoulder, feeling his soft, soft skin under my fingertips. I can feel the miniscule tremors in his body, and when he turns to me there are silent tears pouring down his face.
There are no words to be said. He just reaches out to me and pulls me in and kisses me deeply, gently, coaxing my own tears from my heart. I do my best to savour his taste, feel the way his lips move against mine. I lean back and pull him down with me, and my body racks with sobs as he holds me close. For the last time we consummate our love, fitting together perfectly, moving together, crying together, loving together. We hold out as long as we can, desperately wishing never to part, never to fall asleep, never to see the sun rise, but exhaustion pulls us under and before we know it the alarm's ringing and we're getting up again, dreading, dreading.
Our taxi arrives, and as we drive away I watch the town go by. It's too early for many people to be out, and everything is bathed in a pre-dawn glow, giving the feeling that it's just about to burst into life. We leave Sasuke's house behind. We pass subway entrances, the market, the school, the Stoneheads, the arcade, the place where Sasuke and I played laser tag. I see it all and think, I won't be looking at this again for another year at least.
"Don't worry," Sasuke says quietly. "You'll be far too excited in England to miss home. And it's not like it'll be the last time you ever see this."
I nod, but I'm still starting to feel lonely. Home. This is my home. Not just Sasuke, not just his house, not just the school – but the whole town. The market, where we bought our necklaces and I got the sculpture for Sasuke. Downtown, where we used to watch movies and eat sushi on Thursdays. All the roads and bus stops and subway stations, the veins that connect my experiences. Konoha is my home.
Kyuubi's voice startles me. I haven't heard from him since I got back with Sasuke. This isn't surprising, considering we were practically glued at the hip. It's only in this brief lapse of my fixation on Sasuke to contemplate missing my home that the demon fox is able to find a gap to contact me.
"I know you can't reply to me right now, but I know you're listening. I just – how do I say this?" He sounds frustrated for a moment, searching for the words. I think I already know what he's going to tell me. "Oh, fuck it. Look. I'm glad you're back to being with the Uchiha. The peace of mind you've had for the past few weeks has been a real breather for me down here. And I know I'm gonna get a shitload of torture in a couple of minutes when you guys say goodbye, but… you're better for it. You've grown a lot, y'know. Maybe soon I'll have to stop calling you kit." He chuckles. "Just kidding. You'll always be my kit."
I can't help but smile. Sasuke notices this and squeezes my hand, and I squeeze back. Kyuubi rolls his eyes and slinks back into the darkness, but I can sense the perky angle of his ears.
We meet Takeshi and Takeshi at the train station. They're as cheerful as ever. They try to console me and Sasuke and cheer us up, but I think that it just makes us feel worse – we're doing it again, becoming too clingy, but there's nothing we can do. I want to hold onto this as long as possible. So I just shake my head, and the name twins stay quiet after that. In the few minutes before we're due to leave, Sasuke leads me to a quiet corner of the train station.
"You know I'll miss you more than anything," he whispers, his thumb rubbing the middle of my palm.
"Of course," I reply, feeling my body begin to tremble, my heart fluttering like a hummingbird. "I'll miss you too."
There's an announcement over the loudspeaker as the train pulls in. Over Sasuke's shoulder I see Takeshi waving at us. I pull Sasuke into a tight hug. For the last time.
"I'll miss you," I whisper.
"I'm sorry," he says. "For everything. And I want to thank you for everything as well."
"I should be the one thanking you. You've given me more than I could ever hope for—"
"Naruto!" Takeshi calls.
"You should go," Sasuke murmurs, but his grip on me doesn't loosen.
"I don't want to."
He presses his lips to mine. For the last time, I feel his soft lips, the warmth of his body, the touch of his hands, the silky feel of his hair, all the curves and angles I've come to know. I feel wetness on my cheeks, and I know the tears aren't mine alone.
"Don't cry," he breathes. "Don't cry."
"H-hypocrite," I stutter, brushing my thumb under his eye, uselessly wiping away tears. "Sasuke…"
"I love you, Naruto, " he says. "Don't ever forget that. No matter what, I'll always love you."
"I love you too," I reply, though I can barely get the words out because my body's shaking so much. But I know he can understand me. "I love you, Sasuke, I love you…"
"Naruto, the train's gonna go!"
Sasuke presses his forehead against mine and closes his eyes. "Goodbye," he whispers.
Like I'm ripping my heart out, I tear myself away from Sasuke. Takeshi and Shiroi have already brought the luggage into the train. I hop on after Takeshi and the door closes behind me, then I turn around and press my nose to the window. I can't see Sasuke's face anymore because there are too many tears. But I can see him smiling at me, waving, crying. I run through the compartment as the train begins to move, pulling away from the station, but soon enough we're around the bend – and then he's gone.
The tears don't stop. I follow Takeshi obediently, wishing I could be numb, because my heart's exploding with pain. Takeshi finds our seats and lifts his luggage up to the rack. I'm about to follow suit when I realize the front pocket of my suitcase is unzipped, and there's a corner of an envelope sticking out of it. I pull it out. All it says on the front is To Naruto. After I store my luggage and sit down, I open the envelope and pull out the letter within.
It's folded exactly in three, and there's a little sticker of a sun on the back.
It's taken two and a half years, 600 pages, 111 chapters, 336 000 words, an infinite range of emotions and a ton of improvement in my writing skills to come to this point. I know I've done the whole thank-you speech quite a few times, but Two Face would never be what it is without so many amazing people. First of all, my betas and friends for all their help. Naturally, Masashi Kishimoto deserves a round of applause too. I also need to thank all the fanfiction writers out there who have inspired my versions of Naruto, Sasuke, and other canon characters, because although I couldn't tell you the authors' usernames nor, in many cases, the title of the work they wrote, I have undoubtedly and perhaps in some cases erroneously picked up traits that I always use when I write them. Style of prose is something I always pay close attention to, and when I find a writer with an amazing sense of poetic prose it's impossible for me not to emulate them, so a shout-out to them too. I've probably also been influenced by published authors as well, but not in such obvious ways. All in all, how can I even say Two Face is mine?
And, of course, enormous thanks to all my readers for your incredible support, and for taking the time and effort to give this story over two thousand reviews. When a chapter is newly-written and fresh in my mind, I update it expecting everyone to notice every little detail I've put in. Of course, no one does, and in a way that's kind of disappointing. But it's only through taking a step back and re-reading after some time that I start to realize the details are what makes the whole so rich. In the process of writing I truly can't see the forest for the trees.
Many of you have asked me questions, given me inspiration, and even challenged my ideas. It's impossible to get this much feedback without a couple of negative comments, but I've probably only received enough negative reviews to count on my fingers, including three absolutely blazing flames. Can't say the first one didn't hurt (the other two definitely didn't), but it was impossible to take it seriously because all it did was call me unpleasant names and make false accusations, and they're only specks compared to all the feedback I've gotten for Two Face. Either way, my drive to write won't falter from something like audience dissatisfaction – more than anything, writing is my own personal, selfish joy.
The experience – the journey – of writing Two Face has been nothing short of incredible. I've learned so much, about life, about love, about writing. I've improved more than I think I have. Because my prose and vocabulary style is what's most apparent to me, I've neglected to notice that my storytelling skills have gotten quite a bit better. At least now I have a better sense of what's realistic, but I think that partly comes with growing up too.
Two Face is very much a child of mine. There's no denying that I've conceived, grown and nurtured, taught, played with, fought with, spent an illogical amount of time with, and loved it unconditionally despite its abundant flaws. It's time to let it go, and I've already developed empty nest syndrome. This story has been with me for so long that it's become a part of my life, and not having it anymore means my life has changed. Without Two Face, I have no lengthy, constant writing project I can fall to whenever I feel the urge to write. I'm working on and off with several stories both short and long, both fan and original, but none of them really grabs me like Two Face.
Many people have asked about a sequel. The truth is that I don't know whether or not a sequel will happen. I already know how the characters' futures will go – I've developed this extensively and have even written a summary for a good deal of it – but if I do decide to write a sequel, it won't be for a while yet. For one thing, I want to give myself time to step away from Two Face and see if it really is worth it. For another, I'm thinking of writing an original story based on Two Face, and if that happens the sequel will definitely also be original. But I can't decide any of this now. We'll see how it goes.
This isn't to say I'm going to stop writing fanfiction altogether. I want to focus more on original stories, but I also want to write more canon-based fics, and I can't deny the odd PWP that strikes my fancy. To be honest, I'm getting tired of writing lemons – there's only so much you can do once you've got "Pole A in Slot B." I'd much rather focus on the meaning of sex within the context of the plot, rather than writing a purely gratuitous scene. So it's likely that the production of PWPs will slow down too. But I'm kind of having fun exploring all the clichés of smut, so we're not quite done yet!
If I ever do finish an original work, I might post a link in my author profile to a place online where you can read it. Now that my steady writing project is over, the future of my writing is uncertain. It'll take me a while to find something that will replace Two Face, I'm sure of that. But I'll keep working at it, and who knows? Maybe one day I'll find my name on a published novel.
Because I will no longer be consistently posting new chapters or stories, please look to my profile page for news about upcoming fanfictions. I'll try to update it more or less regularly, but chances are I'll forget. In the meantime, perhaps you'll consider pestering me on my forum? Haha. I'm also looking for betas for some canon-based fanfictions I'm working on now, as well as possibly the original fiction I'm brainstorming. See my forum for details.
But anyway. Once again, thank you so, so much for sticking with me all this time. It's time to say goodbye to Two Face. We can always come back and read it, of course. I may slowly fall away from that as I find more and more flaws, but perhaps at the same time it'll spur me onward to improve my writing even more.
Until next time,
The Raven and the Fox