Well, it's been a long time coming, but here it is. The final chapter. This has been an incredible journey, everyone - your loyalty and your kind comments have been most helpful. 58 Chapters and hundreds of thousands of words later, it's complete. I want to thank you all one last time for reading and reviewing, and without further ado, I give you the conclusion to "For Naruto, Whenever I May Find Him."
58. For Naruto, Whenever I May Find Him: Reprise
"Come on, Naruto! Tell us already!" Lee pleaded irritably.
"Yeah, you've kept us waiting half a year – we want to know!" Kiba added, throwing his arm over his roommate's shoulder.
Sasuke shook his head at the sight. They had just finished their final exams for the year and were heading out of the building. Naruto was leading the pack, with Kiba, Hinata, Shikamaru, Lee, Gaara, and Choji crowding around impatiently. As for Sasuke, he hung back a few paces, trying his best not to laugh.
The source of this chaos? Naruto's encounter with Kisame on that January night. As yet, the blond had not told anyone what had happened, claiming that it was too traumatic for him to discuss just yet. At first, the others were satisfied with this response, and so they gave him a bit of space. Sasuke never once bought this excuse, though: he knew Naruto all-too well. He wanted to build the anticipation, to make his story all the more memorable when he finally shared it with the rest of the world.
Now, though, as they were leaving school for the summer, it was time. Kiba would be heading back home to Mizu for the next few months, Shikamaru and Choji would be leaving as well, and the others would likely be scattered on vacations and the like. It was now or never.
Turning around dramatically, Naruto grinned. "All right, I guess I've kept you guys waiting long enough. Gather round, children, and I will tell you the tale of how the gutsy ninja Naruto slew the monster Kisame."
Following the blond to the school's front lawn, the group sat down in a circle, their eyes widening in expectation. Though Sasuke hated to admit it, he was also quite curious as to what had actually happened that night, and he found it hard to mask his enthusiasm as he plopped down on the freshly cut grass.
Watching his boyfriend carefully, Sasuke found the afternoon sun shining above Naruto's head, giving him an almost angelic quality. It was like a beacon, drawing the attention of all those around him.
Clearing his throat, Naruto began. "All right, so Sasuke and I had just returned from our double date. Kiba and Hinata had headed home to get their freak on…"
"Naruto!" Kiba snapped as the Hyuuga beside him turned a deep shade of crimson.
The blond shrugged. "Just calling it as I saw it. Anyway, Sasuke and I wanted to go and generate some heat of our own, so we stepped inside, only to find everything was pitch black. No lights, nothing. Then Itachi appears with this blue, sharky freak. Sasuke told me to run, but before I could even act, this… Kiss-me –"
"Kisame," Sasuke corrected.
"Whatever his name was, he grabs from behind."
Lee leaned forward, his body stiffening with anxiety. "What'd you do?"
"I'm pretty sure he lived, Lee," Gaara replied, placing a hand on the mop-topped teen's shoulder. "Go on, Naruto."
"Well, I tried to escape – I bit his hand and started kicking, but Sasuke told me to stop. He had a plan, I guess. So this Kisame… he drags me upstairs and hauls me into Sasuke's room. At this point he has me at gunpoint, and I could tell he wasn't afraid to shoot me if things got serious," Naruto continued before leaning in, speaking in a hushed tone. "I knew I had to escape, though, since Sasuke was in danger. That's when I remembered the katana hanging on the wall."
Shikamaru smiled, rubbing his chin. "I remember that old thing… good thing it didn't get left behind in the move."
"Yeah, then you would've been screwed," Choji chimed in, tossing a handful of chips into his gaping maw.
"You don't know how right you are," Naruto added with a sigh. "Apparently, Kisame had plans besides killing me. He threw me onto the bed and started fiddling with my pants…"
Sasuke's hands involuntarily clenched into fists. "That bastard!"
"Well, obviously I wasn't about to let him have his way with me, so I kicked him in the face. That… well, let's just say it pissed him off. He rushed at me – he was much more violent this time. Can't say I blame him – I'd want this hot ass too," Naruto said, slapping his butt playfully.
"A-and that's when you grabbed the katana?" Hinata asked meekly.
The vulpine boy nodded. "Damn straight. It was right above the bed, so I just reached up and grabbed it. By time I'd unsheathed it and everything, Kisame was already on the bed and coming at me, so I spun and slit his throat. He never saw it coming."
"That was it, then?" Sasuke asked, looking somewhat disappointed.
"Well, yeah. He fell off the bed and sputtered for a bit, but he wasn't about to come back from something like that. It was actually pretty disgusting," Naruto murmured, scratching his cheek. "I didn't really think about it that long, though – I just knew I had to save Sasuke."
"So you ran outside, and that's when Itachi shot you," Shikamaru concluded with a nod. "Makes sense."
"Yeah, that's about it. I ran outside, saw Itachi, and I was going to kill him too – he shot me first, though. That's all I really remember until I woke up in the hospital."
Lee stood up, pumping a fist into the air. "That's amazing Naruto! You fought him off with the power of youth!"
"Yes, Lee… we all know," Gaara mumbled as he rose up beside his boyfriend, his hands in his pockets. "Seriously, though, way to kick that pervert's ass, Naruto. We should get going, though – Temari's giving us a ride home."
"Ditto," Shikamaru chimed in as he stretched his arms over his head with a yawn. "I have to spend the rest of the day with her before I head out for the summer… you understand."
"Just remember to wrap it up," Sasuke said with a sly smile. Shikamaru completely ignored the comment, instead choosing to wave once over his shoulder as he headed for the street. There, Temari's cherry red car was pulling up to the curb and blaring on the horn.
"Hurry up, guys! Shika and I have to get a whole summer of lovin' out of the way!" the blonde shouted, drawing the attention of nearly all the remaining students on the Konoha High campus.
As he watched Gaara, Lee, and Shikamaru hop into the car and drive away, Sasuke heard several footsteps approaching from behind him. He felt a shiver run down his spine: fangirls. Prepared to fend for his life, the Uchiha spun his head around, only to realize that the crowd had gathered around one Choji Akimichi.
"Oh, Choji~!" a pink-haired teen cooed, throwing her arms around the chubby boy's shoulders. "I think it's my turn to go out on a date with you, am I right?"
Another girl with a blonde ponytail elbowed Sakura in the face before embracing Choji herself. "Ignore Little Miss Forehead – it's my turn."
Ignoring both of the girls, Choji shoved a final handful of chips into his mouth before staring dejectedly at the empty bag before him. Rising abruptly, he crumpled the bag into a ball and stared off into the distance dramatically. "I have to go, guys. More snacks await."
Starting off into the distance, Choji was pursued by a small crowd of desperate girls, all of whom clamored over the indifferent teen. Once they were out of sight, Sasuke let out a sigh of relief.
"That was a little too close for comfort."
"Well, they know you're taken now," Kiba commented, throwing his arm over Hinata's shoulder. "They're not going to mess with you now that you're openly dating Naruto."
"Speaking of which… we should probably get going, Sasuke," Naruto said, rising from the grass with a grunt. "I have a bit of a surprise for you today."
"Yikes," the Uchiha responded dryly.
"You lovebirds have a nice summer, all right?" Kiba said, waving to the couple with a broad grin. "I'll see you in September."
"Oh, don't pretend like you won't be visiting," Naruto replied, rolling his eyes. "You'll probably be here every weekend visiting Hinata."
"Well, only if she'll let me. What do you say?" the dog-boy asked, nudging his girlfriend playfully.
"U-umm… I'd like that…" Hinata answered quietly, tapping her index fingers together nervously.
"There you have it! I guess I'll see you in a week or two, then!" Kiba laughed as he waved goodbye.
Strolling across the lawn, Sasuke gave the Inuzuka a final glance before stepping into the parking lot. There, he gave Naruto a bemused look as they approached what was quite clearly Iruka's old, blue sedan.
"Just what are you planning?"
Naruto smiled softly as he unlocked the door. "You'll see."
"I know… you're going to drive me out to the middle of nowhere and leave me for dead. I should've known it would end this way," Sasuke concluded in a monotone as he climbed into the passenger seat. "At least I'll die happy, I suppose."
"That's a sweet. A bit morbid, but sweet," Naruto said, closing the door on the opposite side. He rifled between the seats briefly before pulling out a CD: The Best of Simon and Garfunkel. "Hope you're ready for an hour of my terrible singing."
"Only if I can sing along."
Grinning, Naruto turned the ignition and popped in the CD. As the haunting melodies of 'The Sound of Silence' drifted from the speakers, the blond pulled the car out of the parking lot and started out on the road. Where they were going, Sasuke had no idea.
An hour passed far faster than Sasuke ever could have imagined. Sitting beside his boyfriend, singing the songs of his favorite band, all while watching the beautiful scenery on that peaceful summer afternoon – it was as close to perfect as the Uchiha felt he'd ever get. He had meant what he said – if he were to die at that moment, he would have no regrets.
Lush fields of long grass, dense forests with trees practically blocking out the skies, hills as far as the eye could see, and fluffy clouds that only a friend of Shikamaru's could truly appreciate: they were but a few of the sights that graced Sasuke's vision on the trip. All the while, he and Naruto sang. Poorly.
In all honesty, Naruto's voice not exactly bad – he was just overenthusiastic, as in most things. Still, not even the sharpest note or the worst rhythm could've ruined Sasuke's mood at that moment. 'I am a Rock,' 'Cecilia,' 'Homeward Bound, 'Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water' – together, he and Naruto warbled through these classics, their voices ringing out through the opened windows as they drove by.
Turning to each other in unison, they both grinned as they sang, "Coo-Coo-cachoo, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know… wo wo wo."
"What does that even mean? 'Coo-coo-cachoo?" Naruto asked as the song continued in the background.
Sasuke shrugged. "Does it really matter?"
"Well, if 'coo-coo-cachoo' is Swahili for 'I hate your freakin' guts,' then yes, it matters," Naruto said defensively.
"I think the context suggests differently."
"Maybe that was the idea. Maybe it's all just an inside joke – it's such a happy song, but it's really about something dark and seedy."
Sasuke shook his head. "You do realize it's about a married woman having an affair with a younger guy, right?"
"Get out… is the younger guy Joe DiMaggio?" Naruto asked, looking quite perplexed.
"No, Naruto," Sasuke replied. Just as he was about to explain the entire history of the song and its various iterations, however, a new song began. Their song. "Wait. Just listen."
Naruto, apparently in no mood to obey orders, instead opened his mouth. Instead of the exuberant warbling of his previous efforts, though, what came out was a sweet, soft voice – one that showed a caring and restraint that struck a chord somewhere deep within Sasuke. He listened, enraptured.
"What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline
Of smoky burgundy
Softer than the rain
I wandered empty streets down
Past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
Dripping down the alleyways
As I walked on
And when you ran to me, your
Cheeks flushed with the night
We walked on frosted fields
Of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand
And when I awoke
And felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair
With my grateful tears
Oh, I love you girl
Oh, I love you…"
As the final notes to 'For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her' faded out, Sasuke realized for the first time that the car had stopped. Somehow, lost in the song and his boyfriend's eyes, he had become oblivious to all else around them. Looking around in confusion, he found they were parked outside a graveyard, with a nearby sign reading 'Mizu Cemetery.'
"Naruto? What are we doing here?" the Uchiha asked, momentarily fearing that his joke earlier had been correct.
"There's someone I want you to meet," Naruto replied, pushing open the car door. "Come on. It won't take long."
Silently, Sasuke obeyed and stepped out of the car. A cool breeze blew by, rustling some of the leaves on the surrounding trees. Together, he and Naruto started up the grassy hill into the cemetery, passing by row after row of graves as they went. Sasuke's eyes wandered about, taking in the scene of eerie serenity. There was no one else there that day – no one living, at least. Just hundreds of bodies buried six feet under, lost in eternal slumber.
A few of the graves had flowers, while others appeared as though no one had visited them in years. The further along the path they went, the shoddier the graves became, with many bearing illegible tombstones, cracked monuments, and dead grass. It pained Sasuke, seeing such testaments to human life left in such disarray.
Then, just as soon as he had started, Naruto stopped. They were near the end of the cemetery, near an ill-kept pond covered with algae. A crow stood nearby, picking at the ground while keeping a wary eye on the two teens. Sasuke was more interested in what the blond was staring at, however: a pair of graves, seated side-by-side. One, while worn, was legible, with only a few cracks in the tombstone. The other, however, looked as though it had met with constant vandalism over the years. The very plain monument had been shipped, stained, scratched, and covered with graffiti.
Sasuke didn't say a word, but simply watched the graves momentarily, waiting for Naruto to make the first move. This was his moment – this was something he had been waiting to confront for practically his entire life. It wasn't Sasuke's place to break the silence.
Finally, the blond took a deep breath. "Mom… Dad… there's someone I'd like you to meet. This is Sasuke Uchiha – my boyfriend."
"I know you probably weren't expecting this… but, this is how it is. I'm sure if you could, you'd tell me you were happy for me. And I am happy – we are… I just thought you should know that."
Another pause. Longer this time. Naruto appeared to be struggling deeply to speak his mind.
"And… Dad… I forgive you. I can't speak for everyone you hurt that day… I don't think many of them will forget what happened soon, because none of them remember you as the man Mom married – to them, you're just a murderer. But, at the very least, you can rest knowing that your son is happy, and that he's willing to move on."
Kneeling down, Naruto kissed his fingers and pressed them against both graves, one at a time. He remained that way for a time in silent prayer. What he was thinking, Sasuke would never know.
When he finally stood up once more, the blond was smiling softly. He leaned forward and planted a brief kiss on Sasuke's lips. "Shall we go?"
"Are you ready?" Sasuke asked, clasping his boyfriend's hand.
"Yeah. I'm ready."
With that, Naruto and Sasuke started out of the Mizu Cemetery, the sun peeking through the trees overhead. Walking hand in hand with the blond, Sasuke felt a stirring of warmth within. It was the first day of the rest of his life – and what a good life it was.
Thanks for reading, everyone!