AUTHOR'S NOTE: OK, I apologise for the length of this first note, but there are some things I wanna get straight

AUTHOR'S NOTE: OK, I apologise for the length of this first note, but there are some things I wanna get straight.

First off, this is a better version of the story 'Homecoming' that I started. It's more interesting, I promise , and better written. If you were reading homecoming: I won't be updating that fic again. This one's heaps better.

Second: Since the storyline for this is so long, it's going to run something like a series, as in... there are a lot of plot arcs. I know the ending, but it's a hell of a way away at the moment, thus if you're expecting a short and sweet plot you're in the wrong place. To make up for it though, I'm gonna try to put in a lot of SasuNaru NaruSasu smut. Yay. Also, anyone who knows me knows that my writing tends to come in spurts. It's because I'm in college, and don't have a lot of free time.

Third: I don't care if you don't like how I play the characters. They're my take on how Sasuke or Naruto etc would act. If I get one more character flame, I'll scream. Any tiny tweaks you wanna give me advice on though, is fine.

Fourth: This is set four years after Sasuke leaves Konoha. It follows the anime and manga up to episode 134, but doesn't have anything to do with any shippuden episodes. This is set as if Shippuden never happened. Ok? Good nn

And finally: I know the title sucks. If you can come up with a better one, you're more than welcome to suggest it xD

REVIEWS: Make me very very very happy. Constructive crit. is welcome, along with random spazzes or comments on the plot. It'd mean a lot to me if you'd leave one, even if it was really short :3

Anyway... onto the story...

Chapter one

Sasuke didn't quite know why he'd come back to this place after so long. He'd spent so many years pretending that the memories he associated with this place just... didn't exist. He would never be able to quite understand it, but he just knew something deep down had drawn him back here.

He was seated in a tall tree overlooking a place that had for more than four years, simply been part of an unwanted and half-remembered dream. The moonlight flickered across the nearly empty streets below him as he stared vacantly into the distance at a place he'd once called home, trying to stave off the sudden emotion that he couldn't help let fill his chest. It had been a long time since he'd felt emotions this strong, and it was disturbing. However now that he was here, there was no turning back. The raven's pale face was etched with fatigue, though he took care not to let how he was feeling filter through to his eyes. It was something he'd learned from long ago, even before Orochimaru, before he'd run away. Emotion is a weakness... don't let it show.

Still... a strained frown flickered across his drawn face in the silent moonlight as the Uchiha finally drew a deciding breath and slid down from the tree, walking along the long-forgotten road to Konoha village.

Sasuke didn't know whether this was complete insanity running through his head, but for months it had been nagging him, like a thorn in the back of his mind. There was something... someone here that needed resolving.

--

"Why don't you just ask the guy behind the counter to set you a bed up? Then you wouldn't have to go home in between bowls of ramen."

Kiba smirked as he leaned in the doorway of Ichiraku's, prodding a young blond ninja in the back as Akamaru let out a quiet yap in agreement. The blond in front of him jumped up from his seat in surprise, spinning around on the spot with bright blue eyes wide in shock. The bowl of pork ramen belonging to the blond fell from his lap and smashed on the floor. For once though, Uzumaki Naruto wasn't too interested in the waste of food: Instead, a slowly widening grin started to spread across his face and he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. He moved out from behind the stool and took a few steps towards Kiba, letting out an embarrassed chuckle.

"Hey, I didn't think you'd be back from your mission so soon." The blond admitted with a shrug, hand dropping back to his side as the other young ninja's smirk slid wider across his face.

"Obviously. How many bowls have you had, exactly?"

Naruto's face began to turn slightly red as he sideglanced the long line of empty ramen bowls on the counter where he was sitting. He carefully stepped to one side so that Kiba couldn't see.

"Uhh... One." The blond lied badly, scratching the back of his neck again. Akamaru sat up and growled chidingly at the blond. Kiba glanced up at the dog, then sniggered.

"Akamaru thinks you might be lying."

Naruto's face went redder and he grinned nervously.

"And I think I agree with him."

"Then you're wrong." Naruto huffed. Kiba beamed at him broadly, a knowing look in his eye.

"You've been here all day, haven't you?"

"No!"

For someone going very red indeed, Naruto was managing to muster up some quite convincing indignation.

Kiba sniggered again and turned his back, looking out across the moonlit main street of Konoha. Teasing the blond was fun, but since he'd arrived back an hour ago he'd noticed something different. It was really very quiet tonight, but he could smell something... unusual in the air. A presence that wasn't normally there. Up above him, Akamaru let out an inquisitive noise and nudged his master's head with his nose.

"You smell it too, eh 'maru?" Kiba muttered, his voice masked from the blond since Naruto was too busy trying to hide all the empty ramen bowls under the table. As he realised what was happening though, the grin from before reappeared on the young ninja's face. It wasn't really any of his business anyway, and watching Naruto go red in complete embarassment was much too amusing to put him in a bad mood. He reached up and patted Akamaru thoughtfully, before turning his slit-like eyes and casting them over his shoulder.

"So... you coming back to my place, or are you gonna stay here til' you end up like Choji?"

Naruto stopped rushing around and paused, looking briefly at the ill-disguised used bowls around the ramen stand, then shrugged and slid his hands into his pockets, walking up to the other young ninja and tilting his head with a sudden playful frown on his face. "Hey, I'd just have worked it all off in training anyway!"

Kiba shrugged and reached up to stroke Akamaru.

"Not if you were too fat to train." He argued, trailing a hand over the dog's ear idly as he raised an eyebrow at Naruto. "I mean... look at Choji, he can barely train for a minute before he needs to sit down."

Kiba grinned. His newest hobby was winding Naruto up and seeing the effects, and it was an enjoyable one, too. The blond however, wasn't to be discouraged. He puffed up his chest and glared into Kiba's slit-like eyes.

"I'd still train, and I'd still be able to kick your ass across the village, even if I was big as a damn house!"

Kiba just laughed and slid a hand around the blond's waist, moving closer. "Don't be too cocky, will you? You've only ever fought me once."

Naruto blinked slowly and shook his head for some reason, then a suddenly forced smirk appeared on his face and he raised an eyebrow. "Care to step outside and make that two then, Kiba?"

Kiba just laughed, then backed off, sliding his hand gently over the blond's hip as he did so.

"I just got back off a mission, somehow I don't think it'd be a fair fight, d'you?" Kiba's hand slid down Akamaru's spine one last time before he dropped his arm to his side. He was still grinning, but there was a mischievious tint to it as he began to speak again. "But if you want to come back to my place I guess we can train for a while." The young ninja raised an eyebrow at Naruto. The blond's face had suddenly fell flat, as though someone had just told him all the world's ramen stock had been permanently destroyed. He raised an arm and scratched the back of his neck, fidgeting awkwardly and starting to go red again.

"But... but I thought... we were going to go back to yours and -"

"I didn't say what kind of training I wanted to do, now, did I?" Kiba butted in, his thin, needle-like pupils fixed with a smutty grin on the blond's embarassed face. Naruto averted his eyes and hooked an arm quickly through Kiba's as they headed out, away from Ichiraku's and out into the silent, deserted Konoha street. Akamaru shivered and flattened himself against Kiba's head. It was bitterly cold tonight, and their breath was hanging in the air before them in shimmering clouds as they walked instinctively towards Kiba's house. The blond knew the way by now, he'd been doing this for nearly two months now and despite having his not-so-bright moments, Naruto could sometimes be a fast learner. The blond tried to hide his shivers from the other ninja, clamping his jaw shut so his teeth wouldn't chatter loud enough for the boy at his side to hear. His bright blue eyes slid away from the path in front of them and locked onto the bright crescent moon overhead.

It was an eerie sort of night... not that Naruto was afraid or anything, but there was definitely something strange in the air... a sort of invisible electricity seemed to be running through the empty streets of Konoha, making the night almost hum with a tense and forceful energy. He shifted uncomfortably. The last time Naruto had felt anything vaguely as tense and alive as this was during the chuunin exams, surrounded by hundreds of people, watching his every move, almost four and a half years ago.

The blond gulped and found an angry frown on his light features, peering down at the dim, dusty floor again and cursing himself for being so careless. It had been a long time since he'd slipped up like that... remembering something related to a certain someone when he'd been so sure he'd be able to just cut that period of his life out, just pretend it didn't exist. It had never been Naruto's nature to give up, but it had been four years now. It was too late. That... person, was either dead, or being used as a shell for some evil reptillian monster, and Naruto was here... alive, unable to help and unable to get to the person that he'd longed so badly to just see again. Even if he'd never get to touch that arrogant bastard's pale and flawless skin, and not have to pretend to hate him, he just wanted to tell Sasuke what he'd never had the guts to, that day when the Uchiha had left...

But there was no chance of that now. Sasuke was gone, lost or dead, and Naruto had slowly lost hope in bringing him back. Finally he'd turned to someone else to take the sting off that thought, and that's what Kiba was to the blond right now - a sedative. Naruto was pretty sure Kiba knew it wasn't serious. It was just something... Something to take Naruto's mind off the fact that he'd failed. Despite the grin and cocky manner he managed to keep up in public, when he was alone, Naruto's mind would start racing with thoughts about how he could have changed it all, and how maybe that... bastard snake was now walking around, using the face... the body of someone that Naruto had wanted to protect...

Naruto frowned and stopped in his tracks as that final thought echoed loudly in his mind, bringing Kiba skidding to a halt next to him as he continued to stare silently at the ground.

"...Naruto?"

Kiba extracted his arm carefully from the blond's, watching with a concerned expression on his face at the blond. He wasn't even blinking, so Kiba waved a hand in front of his face. "Hey! Hey! You been struck down or something? You ok?"

Again, Naruto stayed silent and still. He could feel his stomach turning over, his insides contracting as those thoughts began to circle his mind once again. Normally it was easy to stave them off, but they'd come upon him so suddenly...

"I'm feeling kinda sick actually, Kiba." Naruto finally replied as he came back to his senses, blinking slowly before raising his eyes to the other's, looking into the vaguely concerned ones staring back at him. He forced a weak smile. "You wanna do something tomorrow instead?"

Kiba sighed and stuck his hands behind his head, stretching his back. "It's probably all that ramen you were eating, you idiot. I told you it wasn't good for you..." Naruto just shrugged sheepishly and scratched the back of his neck.

"Tomorrow?"

"yeah yeah..." Naruto's stomach made another churn at Kiba's tone of voice. The young ninja patted the dog snuggled against his head from the cold, and stared off into the distance with a sigh. Naruto dropped his gaze back to the floor. "I might call for you tomorrow then." Kiba muttered dubiously, then started walking off in the direction of his home without another word. Naruto listened to him walk away, stomach still turning over with both guilt and the thought of Sasuke fresh in his mind. Once Kiba's footsteps had finally echoed away into nothingness, Naruto finally looked up, blinking back the prickling feeling that meant tears were on their way.

"...Stop it." Naruto snapped at himself angrily, then turned heel and headed down the alley nearby towards his apartment biting his lip thoughtfully. 'This is so stupid' Naruto told himself, dragging his sandalled feet along the dusty floor, 'You're never going to become Hokage if you spend your life moping over one thing.'

But how the hell was he meant to get over the fact that he'd let the only person he'd ever really felt a connection with, slip through his fingers like dust? Sasuke was on his mind every day, no matter what he told himself. Sometimes he'd think he'd hear the Uchiha's voice in a crowded street, or see his face staring at him from some dark corner before it suddenly disappeared again. Naruto blinked up into the rafters of one of the houses he was passing and thought for a moment that it was happening again - The Uchiha's face stared down at him sullenly from the dark, before it receded into the darkness just like it had so many other times...

But wait...

Naruto halted a moment later, mid-step, wide eyed as he considered the imaginary figure up on the roof. Something felt different about this one... had it really been his imagination? The look on the raven's face in Naruto's imagination had always been one of anger or annoyance, but that time... it had looked almost apologetic; Sad.

Naruto blinked and took a fleeting glance over his shoulder at where he'd seen the face. It was with a slightly sickening fall to reality that Naruto realised that there was nothing there, and how could there be in any case? Sasuke was gone, and what was once Sasuke was now the brand new home to a snake-like parasite. Sasuke would never come back...

The blond let out a slow sigh and turned back to the road ahead, hands tightly stuck in his pockets to protect from the bitter cold as he began walking again, head down low and shivering with every step. He was going to start training again tomorrow, so he had to at least attempt to get a decent night's sleep.

Up above him, crouched down low and tucked into the shadows of the flower shop's roof, Uchiha Sasuke stared down with baited breath as the blond's figure became a tiny speck in the distance, then turned the corner of the street. The eye-contact with Naruto had startled him, he hadn't expected the blond to be so perceptive as to see him up there. Not that it mattered in any case...

Sasuke closed his eyes and frowned heavily, placing a hand to his temple shakily. He'd been watching Naruto for the last hour; He'd seen Kiba, seen Naruto smile at him and seen the other place an arm around his waist, stroke his hip... Sasuke had gotten here too late. Naruto had moved on and found someone. Someone who wouldn't run away.
Another hollow space was starting to form itself inside the Uchiha. He should have never come back, it was stupid to think that Naruto would wait for him, after what had happened that last day.

The Uchiha opened his eyes slowly and stood up. He'd head back into the wilderness: He couldn't stay here now, there was no place for him in Konoha anymore...

"Taking a trip down memory lane, are we Uchiha?" Came a voice, growled in Sasuke's ear

Sasuke spun around on the spot in panic, letting out a gasp as he grabbed for the Katana strapped to his back. He was too late. The most he could do was curse himself for not noticing he was being watched, before a fist hit him squarely in the jaw and he fell off the roof. Before he blacked out on the ground, the last thing he saw were three ANBU masks, staring down at him from above.

ANOTHER! Note: About 2 weeks has gone by since I posted this, and there's still no update. Why? Well I have to apologise like... huuugely, but I have a thesis that's due in about 5 days' time, and I've gotta put all my effort into that. I'm not going to give this up like I did Homecoming, I promise, so just... please bear with me? smile