Disclaimer: Don't own it.

Just to clarify: This is an AU highschool fic. Naruto still has the Kyuubi sealed inside him but, since there isn't going to be much fighting or anything like that in this fic, the only thing he gains from having the 9 tailed demon fox sealed inside him is a terrible reputation and his quick healing abilities. This is a SasuNaru fic so if you don't like that, I'd click that blue arrow at the upper left hand corner of your browser. Speaking of which, time for warnings!

Warnings: THIS IS A YAOI FANFICTION. MEANING BOYS LOVING BOYS. Don't like it? Don't read it. Live and let live people. Flames will be used for a bonfire which I, and all the other authors out there who enjoy my same interests, will sit around roasting marshmallows.

So I should probably explain some things. If you were following this story, you probably know how ridiculously bad it was. It was the first story I ever posted for Naruto and I was too eager to think of the most important thing to any story: a plot. Therefore I'm completely re-doing it since a plot has presented itself to me. It's probably not going to be much better but I hope to at least slightly redeem myself. The general idea of the story won't change much but I hope to develop things better this time around without the general air of my own naivety that it used to have. We're gonna slow it down a bit. I waaay rushed things last time.

So let's just start over with chapter one. This one won't be too different but it's still been changed a lot. So then I guess it is different. I'll shut up now.

Chapter One: Melancholy

The bell rang, signaling the end of the school day. Naruto sighed in relief as he hastily packed his things into his backpack. The weekend was finally here and everyone was going to be meeting at Sasuke's that night. They hadn't all had a Friday night off in weeks so naturally, when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped on it. Every weekend had been consumed by soccer tournaments or unexpected practices due to poor performance in a previous match or, for Naruto, ridiculous work schedules.

He slowly rose from his desk, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he walked down the aisle where he waited for his best friend, the ice prince of the century. Sasuke walked down the aisle to the left of Naruto's and attached himself to his side where he always was. Naruto and Sasuke were inseparable. Sasuke could stand very few people, Naruto being one of them, while Naruto was probably the only person capable of repelling the constant verbal abuse the Uchiha threw out every other time he talked.

"Sasuke-kuuuuuun!" Sakura yelled, attaching herself to one of Sasuke's arms, "are you going to sit next to me tonight when were watching movies?" she asked as if the answer should have been obvious.

"No," Sasuke replied bluntly, ripping his arm out of her grip. Sakura was not one of those lucky people Sasuke could tolerate. But, being the cold and emotionless bastard he was, he refused to explain why exactly it would never work out between them as he assumed it would all just go in one ear and out the other in some form or another of denial. As a result, he settled with constantly rejecting the helplessly optimistic girl. He figured it would take too much effort to fully explain the extent of how unlikely it would be that he would ever date her. More simply put: it would never happen.

Naruto inwardly smirked. He couldn't describe it, but he always felt some sort of satisfied gratification when Sakura got rejected by Sasuke. He decided to tell himself that it was because he loved her and that it just kept her available. Although, he knew he was only lying to himself. He knew that too well.

The two of them left the classroom, followed by a somewhat depressed Sakura, where they were soon joined by Kiba, Shikamaru, and Chouji. The six walked through the hallways towards the back of the school where the parking lots were. Soon they had arrived at their cars and said their quick goodbyes, promising to meet again at Sasuke's in a few moments.

Soon, everyone had arrived at Sasuke's house and they were well into the first movie of the night. Sasuke and Naruto sat on a chair in the far left of the room, Sakura, Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji sat, in that order, on the couch next to Naruto and Sasuke's chair. Kiba, Hinata, Shino, Gaara, and Kankuro were laying in front of the couch. Neji, Lee, Tenten, Sai and Temari sat on the floor in front of the couch but behind the five laying down. And Karin, Juugo, and Suigetsu sat smashed together on a small love seat on the other side of the couch. Temari was leaning against Shikamaru's legs, much to Ino's distaste. Girls disagreeing with each other over something so stupid: troublesome. The young genius thought to himself.

Suddenly, all the girls and Lee screamed. Naruto jumped, gripping Sasuke's arm as the horror movie hit its climax.

"You're so stupid," Sasuke whispered so that only Naruto could hear, causing him to shoot Sasuke a glare as he ripped his hand off Sasuke's arm. Sasuke knew Naruto was afraid of supernatural horror films. He completely believed in ghosts and other stupid things like that. Sasuke secretly thought it was adorable but like hell he'd ever admit to that.

"Shut up, Teme," Naruto whispered as his stomach churned. He thought about how he always did this to himself. He hated horror films almost as much as he hated the fact that he lived alone with no one to scare away the demons in his mind. Naruto had always been alone. He was infamous for the unwelcome tenant living inside him: the demon fox, Kyuubi. He never knew his parents, having grown up in foster home after foster home – most of which treated him like dirt for the reputation he carried – before emancipating himself from the heartbreaking life and attaining a small apartment at the age of 14. He worked at a small coffee shop near the school at the most ungodly hours. Tuesdays and Thursdays he'd work from after school until late at night. Mondays, Wednesdays, and most Fridays (tonight not being one of them) he'd work from after soccer practice till even later at night, and Saturdays and Sundays, when he didn't have a soccer tournament, he'd work whenever he could get hours, sometimes pulling shifts up to 12 hours. All he could think about was how pathetic he felt for knowing that as soon as he got home, he'd be swallowed alive by his mind's endless fears once again.

Sasuke could feel the discomfort emanating from Naruto as he wallowed in his fear of the movie Sasuke himself had chosen. He felt somewhat guilty, knowing that the movie would have this affect on his blonde companion. Although it was all just a part of his sick plan that he would never admit to having planned out at all.

The movie came to a gruesome end while everyone got up to stretch, the girls talking about the lack of plot to the movie which was quickly counter argued by the boys, Kiba in the lead.

"The plot was obvious, Ino: gore can be used in a senseless manner to entertain an audience for over an hour and a half," he retorted proudly. Kiba was a horror film fanatic. Ino rolled her eyes and began to walk towards the front door of the Uchiha mansion. Yes, Sasuke was rich. The bastard's parents were the owners of one of the hugest chain restaurants in the country. How could they not be rolling in dough?

Everyone began heading for the door, saying their goodbyes while the girls exchanged future plans that included tomorrow and the mall. Naruto headed towards the door at the end of the crowd with his hands dug deep in the pockets of his jacket. He smiled as told Sasuke that he was a bastard for suggesting such a crappy movie before heading for the door only to be stopped by a hand that grabbed his arm just below his shoulder.

Sasuke sighed. "Dobe."

"What?" Naruto asked as if Sasuke was delaying him from taking care of very important business. This was a sign to Sasuke that Naruto was definitely nervous and extremely tense.

"You're scared," he stated bluntly.

"No I'm not," Naruto replied much too quickly. He sighed, knowing it was pointless to argue with Sasuke once he'd gotten inside his head. Sasuke knew how to read Naruto perfectly. There was a method to the madness: he'd rile the boy up and, based on his response, was able to figure out exactly how the blonde moron was feeling.

"You're staying here tonight," he finished before yanking the blonde in and slamming the front door closed to emphasize the seriousness in his statement.

"Sasuke, I can't. I've got work in the morning and-"

"What? We have games tomorrow. I thought-"

"I know! And I'll be there, but I have work before that so that I won't be living on the streets so I need to leave early enough to-"

"So then I'll set an alarm. Come on, usuratonkachi, if I let you go home you won't sleep and then you'll play like shit tomorrow. Then I'd feel responsible if we didn't win."

This was how most of their conversations were. They both thought that what they had to say was much more important so they would constantly talk over each other until they came to a resolution.

Naruto sighed. He couldn't help but feel extremely relieved as he followed Sasuke up the spiral staircase towards his room but at the same time couldn't help feeling nervous about how blatantly easy it was for Sasuke to read him. He hated it because he feared some day he wouldn't be able to hide something important. He didn't know what he'd ever need to keep from Sasuke, but he couldn't help but feel uneasy about the fact that a situation could present itself at any time.

Everything was going as Sasuke had planned. His movie had scarred Naruto shitless and now he was going to be sleeping in the same bed as him. He knew he was sick and wrong for going about it the way he had but…well he honestly didn't care. He knew he could always just ask Naruto to spend the night, as he did that all the time, but screwing around with Naruto's childish side was more fun than he'd ever admit.

---

Naruto stepped out of the bathroom with a towel tied around his waist as Sasuke stepped in. They both froze at the frame of the door, facing each other in an uncomfortably close distance. It wouldn't have been so uncomfortable if Naruto had been fully clothed. He was blushing furiously and felt his heart skip a beat when he thought he saw Sasuke tilt his head closer, making Sasuke smirk.

"Are you going to leave? Or would you like to join me in the shower, dobe?" Sasuke asked still smirking as he enjoyed watching the blonde's blush deepen.

"Shut up jerk," Naruto mumbled turning away quickly and walking towards Sasuke's bed to grab his clothes.

"What if I was being serious?" Sasuke asked sounding all too innocent. Naruto turned on the spot, grabbing his towel before it began to fall off, and shot Sasuke what might have been an all too excited glare. Damn it. I hope I look disgusted right now. I know he's just messing with me. Or…is he?

"Hn," Sasuke said smirking in an arrogant manner, "just a joke, dobe. Now get dressed. Unless you really do want to join me in here," he said before closing and not locking the door.

What the hell was that about? Naruto asked himself as he quickly threw on some of Sasuke's clothes to sleep in. He figured Sasuke was just toying with him and he didn't know why that thought was hard to swallow. Something was telling him, whispering to him, no, screaming at him to realize that he felt something much stronger than friendship for Sasuke and that he should hurry up and get over it since he knew he had absolutely no chance with the raven. But that thought was too difficult to face. Because if Naruto lived on Earth, which he clearly did, Sasuke was the moon. Only a complete moron would fall in love with the untouchable moon. Then again, Naruto was a complete moron. Sasuke told him so all the time.

Once they were both showered and changed for bed, they climbed into bed and Naruto scooted as far as he could to the edge of the bed without falling off.

Sasuke set his alarm for earlier than he would have liked to think about waking up at before rolling on to his back next to Naruto who was laying on his side facing away from Sasuke. Suddenly, Naruto felt Sasuke's arm snake around his waist, pulling him into the raven's chest.

"Sa-Sasuke?" Naruto stuttered turning bright red at the close contact.

"Hn, I knew it. You're totally gay Naruto. Most guys would have pushed each other away right when something like that happened," Sasuke whispered, slowly pulling his arm off Naruto, brushing slightly against Naruto's manhood: if that was an accident or on purpose, Naruto didn't know.

"Eh? Get the hell off of me you jerk!" Naruto yelled punching Sasuke solidly in the chest. "I'm not the one that's…doing weird things…I bet you're the gay one but you're too insecure about yourself so you're trying to pin it on someone else," he accused, having difficulty putting the words together due to the small problem in his pants and the less than pious thoughts racing quickly through his mind.

"Sure, we'll go with that," Sasuke breathed sounding completely uninterested by now.

"Wait what? So you are gay?" Naruto asked as Sasuke turned around waving his hand.

"Goodnight, Naruto."

"Ne! Sasuke! You can tell me. I promise I won't tell Sakura-chan and the other girls. Are you gay?" Naruto asked trying to sound more amused than excited.

"No, I was just messing with you. Now go to bed," he finished in a finalizing tone that let Naruto know the conversation was over.

Naruto couldn't help feeling somewhat hopeful. It felt like Sasuke was doing more than 'just messing with him', and somehow, it felt thrilling. Oh god, he prayed with everything within him that Sasuke wasn't just toying with him. Somehow, the idea of there being even a slight chance with Sasuke meant the world. Sleep was difficult to find, although, not for the reason Naruto had expected. Scary movies where nowhere near his mindscape now.

---

Naruto woke first to the sound of Sasuke's alarm. He opened his eyes to find himself curled next to the brunette, one of his tan arms draped over the raven's chest. He quickly jumped back, withdrawing his arm is if touching something hot, and fell off of the opposite side of the bed, landing with a painful thud.

"Dobe, make some more noise if you want to wake up the neighbors too," Sasuke mumbled drowsily, not bothering to hide the sarcasm dripping in his voice. Sasuke was not a morning person.

"Shut up teme," Naruto shot back as he quickly got up and grabbed his clothes to change for work as Sasuke silenced the alarm, Naruto frantically wondering, what the hell was I doing? God, I hope Sasuke was still asleep for that.

Naruto always had an extra pair of work clothes in his car due to the fact that he hardly ever had time to run home before going to work from either school or practice or, in this case, Sasuke's house. It just made things more convenient to always have an extra set for times like these in his car.

Sasuke watched as Naruto left, closing the door as silently as possible, obviously convinced that Sasuke had fallen back to sleep. Sasuke couldn't describe it, but the nature of the gesture gave him a warm hopeful feeling that sat in the pit of his stomach, as if egging him on to believe that Naruto had feelings for him as well because part of him had expected Naruto to slam the door as loudly as he could in spite of him. But this he was sure of: Naruto was straight. He could tell by the way he would brighten up over Sakura's appearance even if he was in the foulest mood. He didn't know why he was torturing himself with this empty hope. Maybe he should just try getting over the blonde. But how?

Before he knew it, the alarm was going off for the second time that morning and he had failed to fall back asleep before he had to wake up again. He slowly sat up and got dressed for the tournament. This weekend actually mattered to him. Most tournaments, Sasuke couldn't give a rat's ass about, but this weekend was metros. There might be teams good enough to hang with them this weekend. Their team was one of the best around. They'd had the same team for almost 8 years which is rare for any team sport. This, naturally, gave them quite the advantage over other teams because they all had the experience of playing together so long that they could predict each others' presences without having to look a lot of times. Simply put: they'd gained trust in each other.

Sasuke arrived at the field just as warm ups were about to start. That was just like Sasuke: never late and never early. He was just perfect.

10 minutes before the game was supposed to begin, Sasuke was starting to feel nervous. Naruto hadn't shown up yet. Not only was he feeling nervous about their chances at winning without Naruto, but he was feeling nervous for the fox for the wrath he would surely face from their coach for being late again. Gai was not so strict; it was Jiraiya Sasuke was worried about. The man did not dislike Naruto, quite the contrary actually. He was extremely fond of Naruto and really believed in him. That's why he was always so hard on Naruto. He was almost the father figure Naruto never had.

"Sasuke." Speak of the devil. "Where's Naruto?" Jiraiya asked in a dangerous tone. Sasuke visibly flinched.

"I don't know. He said he would be here but I know he was working this morning," he admitted somewhat lamely. He felt like he should have backed him up somehow; felt like he should have explained that Naruto's boss was an absolute asshole who might not have let him off on time. But the words just wouldn't come.

"Oi! I'm here, I'm here," Naruto yelled, running up to stop next to Sasuke, not bothering to even glance in Jiraiya's general direction as he flung his bag on the ground, quickly putting on his shin guards, pulling his socks up over them, and throwing his work shirt off, exchanging it with his uniform shirt sporting a white number 8. Sasuke looked away and suppressed a blush.

"Naruto!" Jiraiya yelled, causing the blonde who was kneeling down, lacing up his cleats to fall over at the sudden amount of angry noise erupting before him on his behalf.

"What?" Naruto asked in frustration as he grabbed a ball and tried to head towards the field to warm up before a hand on his shoulder pulled him back towards the bench where, to both boys horror, Jiraiya quickly made Naruto sit.

"Naruto," Jiraiya sighed, "how many times have I told you that you need to arrive on time?"

"You are not about to sit me. Do you realize what tournament this is? These teams are actually gonna be good," Naruto replied, completely ignoring the issue at hand.

"And you think the team needs you to win?" Jiraiya asked as Naruto looked away, blushing at how arrogant he'd sounded. "I'm not going to sit you, Naruto, but is it really so hard to just get here on time for a tournament that you know is important?"

"I'm sorry, Ero-Sennin," Naruto muttered, still avoiding Jiraiya's gaze. Naruto felt miserably guilty. Letting down Jiraiya felt worse than anything. Jiraiya was one of the first people to recognize Naruto as a human being instead of the demon child and disappointing him felt like he'd already lost the game.

Jiraiya sighed and pulled Naruto off the bench, smiling in a reassuring way. "There's no point warming up now. Just stretch a little to make sure you don't pull anything. Now get out of here. And stop calling me that!" he added in an afterthought.

Naruto smiled, feeling slightly better after hearing the lighter tone of Jiraiya's voice before he and Sasuke jogged out to join the rest of the team who was finishing their warm-ups.

The game started off a little shaky, Naruto's mind still halfway elsewhere. Halfway into the game, the score tied at 1-1, Naruto cleanly slide tackled the opposing team's midfielder, nearly knocking him over and successfully receiving the ball for his team. The referee blew his whistle and quickly made the appropriate hand gestures as he called for a foul on defense number 8. Naruto sighed and shook his head as the referee waved the yellow card above his head. He knew exactly where this was going.

"What?!" Sasuke yelled. "That was a clean play! What the hell are you playing at?"

"Sasuke, let it go," Naruto warned lowly as he grabbed Sasuke's shirt, pulling him down the field to get in position for the penalty kick. "He won't score a penalty off Gaara anyway," Naruto reassured with a smile, trying to calm Sasuke down before he got thrown out of the tournament. That was the last thing they needed.

Sasuke smirked. "Hn, it's normally me calming you down, dobe. Now shut up. The rational role doesn't suit you well," he finished, not hesitating to complete every sentence with some sort of insult.

"Asshole," Naruto breathed, smirking as he suppressed the urge to punch Sasuke across the face. Throwing a punch at his own teammate wouldn't really help his case.

The penalty kick was, as Naruto predicted, blocked by Gaara. Gaara was such an exceptional goalie that he'd earned somewhat of a nickname: absolute defense.

The rest of the game began to pick up as Naruto regained his fire, determined to show everyone that, even with every ref out there looking to yellow card him, he could play harder and cleaner than anyone else. The ending score was 4-1 to the Jinchuuriki. That was the name Naruto had picked for their team when they first began 8 years ago and, although it was somewhat uncommon, it stuck. Naruto was all about giving society the middle finger. And the fact that naming his team after what everyone called him and Gaara was pretty much just priceless to him.

The rest of the tournament continued on much like the second half of the first game. Naruto received a yellow card in four out of the five games and the rest of the team responded by just becoming more furious, crushing the teams who hadn't really met Sasuke's expectations. They weren't any better than the local teams they played all the time. Soon, Sunday ended in another tournament win for the Jinchuuriki and they received the qualifications they'd entered the tournament for. They were officially qualified for the state cup.

Naruto headed home after a short celebration with the team, his mind buzzing with the left over adrenaline. He drove home, walked up the rusted staircase to the third floor, and entered his shabby one room apartment, closing the door and finally letting his face fall from its usual toothy smile. No, he didn't fake being happy, he just didn't act happy when he wasn't. And when he was home, he definitely wasn't happy. The walls were dripping with memories of harder times, reminding him of the life he'd never escape, reassuring that all his deepest darkest fears were only premonitions of what was surely to come. His thoughts began to wander to its newest blossoming fear: Sasuke. He couldn't understand the way Sasuke made him feel. He felt captivated by Sasuke's presence and when he was alone, he felt addicted to the feelings he got when he thought of his best friend. The problem was that he felt it was wrong. Sasuke couldn't be gay could he? What was he talking about? Naruto himself wasn't gay. He couldn't be. He loved Sakura. Right? Right?

Naruto knew that was wrong. He knew he had fallen hard for Sasuke years ago. God he hated to admit it because every time he did, he was just reminded by the fact that the person he knew he'd never get over would never look even once in his direction that way. Hell, Sasuke had every fucking girl in the school waiting to just bend over the second he said to.

But he never did ask any of them to. As far as Naruto knew, he never showed any interest in anyone. Well that was just great. Sasuke was asexual. It was so typical for him to fall for the guy who hated everyone.

Although Sasuke didn't hate Naruto. Actually, Sasuke made a habit of telling Naruto so whenever he felt he might need to. Naruto wasn't the kind of person to put himself around people who didn't like him. Few people actually took the time to get to know him and Sasuke knew he was a lot more insecure then he let on. None of his other friends were as persistent when it came to making sure Naruto knew he was wanted.

And what was up with Sasuke's behavior Friday night? If Naruto didn't know any better, he was clearly sending Naruto a message. Naruto just prayed he wasn't reading that message wrong.

---

Monday morning had arrived with the sound of some nameless talk show, yelling about some issue Naruto cared not to listen to. He silenced the radio and made his way to the bathroom to get ready for the day. He glared at the clock throughout the morning as he got ready, noticing that it was taking him longer than usual. Something as telling him this was going to be a rough day. Monday's usually were after all.

School was about to start as Naruto sprinted towards his English class. Ibiki was extremely strict. Arriving half a second after the bell rang was considered a major insult in his classroom. Unfortunately for Naruto, he had practically made a sport out of being late. Naturally, Ibiki found him extremely offensive. The bell rang and Naruto swore under his breath as he saw the door to his English class close at the end of the corridor as Ibiki walked into his classroom.

He didn't hesitate before he pulled the door open and hurried to his seat, knowing that waiting even seconds longer would only earn a bigger punishment.

"You're late, again," Ibiki stated in a bored tone.

"Ah, sorry. Won't happen again," Naruto promised with a smile that was saying otherwise.

This was one of his only classes without Sasuke. Sasuke was already fluent in English so he was taking another foreign language instead. He couldn't wait till his next class. He just wanted to be around the raven. It made life so much more bearable.

---

Sasuke sat in the back of the French room, a look of absolute disgust plastered on every inch of his face. Ino and Sakura were each attached to one of the raven's arms as they fought noisily over the poor brunette. The bell finally rang and the girls had to take their seats which were, thankfully, on the other side of the room. Kiba, who was surprisingly also fluent in English, took his seat next to the raven, taking in his flustered friend's state.

Kiba laughed at Sasuke's anguish in the aftermath of the two girls fighting over him. "Sasuke, you must be gay. I don't think I've seen you even look twice at a girl," Kiba joked, not knowing the impact his statement would have on the raven.

"Shut up," Sasuke muttered in a dangerous tone. Kiba merely laughed and shrugged it off. He was also prone to Sasuke's verbal abuse.

Of course Sasuke was fucking gay. Who couldn't be gay for someone like Naruto? Either way, he knew that he wouldn't be able to stand not having a friendship with the blonde, so no one could know about it, especially Naruto. Maybe I should just go out with one of them so everyone will get off my back for a while. Sasuke inwardly sighed. Which one would I rather endure?

Before Sasuke knew it, the bell rang, signaling the end of the class. Sasuke got up and walked towards the door where Sakura quickly attached herself to Sasuke's arm. Sakura's worse than Ino. I could kill two birds with one stone. Plus, I know Naruto likes Sakura. I don't want to hurt him.

"Sasuke-kun! Want to go on a date this weekend?" Sakura asked, once again.

"Sasuke-kun wouldn't go on a date with someone like you, Sakura. Isn't that right, Sasuke-kun? Wouldn't you rather go on a date with me this weekend?" Ino asked while attaching to his other arm.

"Fine, but leave me alone until then," Sasuke stated, satisfied with the effect his words had on the girls. Sakura looked as if she was about to be sick and had unattached herself from the raven's arm, too stunned to keep moving. Ino, too, had stopped in her tracks, obviously too shocked to move. At least that got them out of my hair for now.

Sasuke quickly made his way towards his Economics classroom before the two girls could catch up to him and took his seat next to the empty seat that would soon be occupied by his blonde. He'd just sit and wait patiently until then.

---

Naruto packed his things and headed down the hall to his next classroom, his mind buzzing with questions in two different languages. He reached his locker which was halfway between the two classrooms. He groaned in frustration when the third attempt to open it failed, swiftly punched it, and stalked off to his next class without the necessary books for the class. Today wasn't turning out to be the best.

He arrived two minutes early and took his seat next to the raven, not bothering to hide his flustered state from his best friend. Sasuke shot him a puzzled look which Naruto replied to angrily.

"English is a stupid language. Who even speaks it? Stupid English, stupid Ibiki," he yelled angrily, muttering under his breath about something Sasuke couldn't hear. But he distinctly heard the word test and Sasuke only assumed that Naruto hadn't done well on it.

"English is the dominant international language in the world and the official primary language in 53 countries. So, actually, about 2 billion people speak it," Sasuke stated too perfectly. It sort of reminded Naruto of brainwash which made him laugh, making Sasuke flinch at the sudden change of the fox's mood.

"Sasuke, you're such an asshole," Naruto complained, smiling at how unhelpful Sasuke's information was. Naruto laid his head on his desk, muttering about how Sasuke should shut up so he could get some sleep, before Iruka-sensei walked into the room as the bell rang, asking the fox to please wake up because he could not afford to sleep through another lesson or his grade would start to suffer more than it already has.

"Hai, hai," he mumbled as he slowly lifted his head off his desk.

"One 'yes' is enough, dobe," Sasuke mocked in an under tone that only Naruto could hear.

"Thank you, Sakura-chan," Naruto replied sarcastically, knowing Sasuke was only saying so because Sakura always told Naruto that.

"Today we're going to be working in partners," Iruka began as he watched in amusement at the way the class would jump around as if finding the perfect partner was all the world depended on. Sasuke immediately grabbed Naruto in an attempt to avoid one of his fan girls pairing up with him when Ino quickly broke his grasp on the blonde's arm.

"Sasuke, you should pair up with me. That way we can talk about our date this weekend," she stated smiling as if she had won the lottery. Naruto failed in suppressing a disbelieving snort and Ino immediately turned on him. "You act like you're surprised, Naruto. I knew Sasuke-kun would choose me over that huge forehead girl, Sakura."

"Wait, what?" Naruto asked trying, and miserably failing, to hide the utter skepticism dripping in his voice.

"Sorry, Ino, I already told Naruto we would be partners," Sasuke stated in a bored voice, neither confirming nor denying Ino's conclusion about dating this weekend. Ino sighed before walking back towards the other half of the classroom with a disappointed look, Sakura shooting her a very smug look.

"What was that about? You're not really going out with her this weekend are you?" Naruto asked, almost afraid to know the answer.

Sasuke shrugged and Naruto felt his heart ache. He tried to hide the taken aback look he knew was plastered all over his face by quickly slapping a smile on his face. He knew he wouldn't be able to hide his hurt expression otherwise and told Sasuke that he was crazy for picking a fan girl to go out with before excusing himself from the classroom on account of needing to use the restroom. He grabbed his bag and avoided Sasuke's quizzical gaze as he walked out of the classroom, not caring to ask for permission.

The hell? That freaking idiot, he's probably ditching and now I don't have a partner. What the hell's up with him? Sasuke thought to himself as he pulled out his Econ book, slightly bemused with Naruto's strange behavior.

---

Naruto sat in his car with his head on the steering wheel and his hand on the key in the ignition. He was deciding whether he wanted to go home or not. He sighed and turned the key, waiting for his car to start which always took longer than most cars. It finally gave a low rumbling groan, signaling that it was ready to go. What an asshole. He led me on, he thought miserably as he drove home. Why did this hurt so much? Hadn't he been expecting this? Wasn't he always telling himself to be ready for something like this to happen? And was it really fair to accuse Sasuke of leading him on? Because in all reality, it was more likely than not that it was just his over active and all too hopeful imagination that misread all of the signs the way he had. He knew it wasn't his place to feel jealous and hurt but was it so bad to want to look out for himself for once?

He had to decide: was he going to put up with Sasuke's dating options while he tried to get over him or would he distance himself until he was over it enough for it not to constantly hurt to see him with someone else? Both seemed like pretty shitty options. But that was just the way his life was. He wasn't really ever given a good option. So the real question was which was the lesser of two shitty options?

When he reached his apartment complex, his legs routinely carried him towards the stairwell to his apartment. He couldn't help but feel that he was probably blowing this way out of proportion and acting like a complete girl about it, but he couldn't help it. He'd never felt so low. He didn't realize someone was following him until he felt someone tug his arm, roughly shoving it behind his back at a painful angle as he was shoved up against a wall.

He felt a hand pat him down as if searching for something and Naruto knew exactly what this person was looking for.

"He doesn't have a wallet on him," he heard a voice say, confirming his suspicions. Apparently there was more than one person which Naruto was unaware of until just now. He felt himself being jerked away from the wall, his free wrist now in a painful grasp.

"Where's your fucking money?" a man yelled as he was punched hard in the stomach. Naruto coughed, gasping as he tried to regain the air that had been forcefully knocked from his lungs before yanking one of his wrists free, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out all the money he had on him.

"Here, six bucks, go wild," Naruto breathed sardonically.

"Sarcastic little shit," the first man hissed as he grabbed Naruto's freed wrist, once again twisting it roughly behind his back.

Naruto clenched his teeth, waiting for the beating that was sure to come.

And come it did.

Naruto didn't know if it was hours or days before it finally ended. He was sure it felt like weeks although, he knew it probably wasn't any longer than five or ten minutes before the attack subsided. At least he thought it was over.

There was a pause in the onslaught of hits and kicks until he heard slight shuffling that sounded like someone fishing through a coat pocket. He opened his eyes in time to feel someone attempt to punch him in the stomach and would have scoffed at the half-assed attempt which felt nothing like a sucker punch to the gut if an entirely different sort of pain that could never be associated with a fist hadn't blinded him seconds later.

The asshole stabbed him! What the hell! It seemed like a bit of an overreaction to just being a bit cheeky and not having enough money. Although, he assumed it probably had next to nothing to do with the cheekiness so much as the fact that he was who he was.

Naruto felt the hold on him release and he probably wouldn't have been able to hold himself up even if he had been expecting to regain the task of holding up his own weight again. He slid down the brick wall as the angry voices faded away slowly, probably searching for their next victim in hopes the next might be able to provide more than six measly dollars. Six dollars couldn't buy anything these days: half the weed you'd need for a blunt at best.

But what good was that to them? Naruto could have bought himself six good meals of ramen with those six dollars. Six dollars was two dollars short of an entire hour of work for him. Damn it, his luck (or lack thereof) was frustrating. And of all days he had to get jumped, it would be on the day that he had to force himself to realize that Sasuke was moving onto alternate dating options. The gods just loved to kick him while he was down.

With a soft cry of pain, he forced himself to his feet, leaning heavily against the brick wall as he waited for the pain to subside enough for him to move. His arm wrapped instinctively around his stomach and he grimaced when his arm brushed against the handle of the switchblade still protruding from his stomach. He didn't envy the moment he would have to remove it.

He stumbled towards the stairwell, glaring up at the top of the staircase like it was the furthest thing away from him. Because that's exactly how it felt. He grabbed the handrail, pulling himself up the first step with a pain-filled grunt, sweat glistening across his forehead from the mere effort it took not to scream.

He'll probably never know where he found the strength, but he had made it to the top of the staircase without falling over backwards. He was at least grateful for that. He slowly made his way toward his door, fishing through his pocket for his key. He started to feel a bit panicked when he couldn't find it and slowly made his way over to the ledge that overlooked the alleyway where he had his ass thoroughly kicked. What he saw lying in the middle of the alleyway broke the damn he had been struggling to keep up and frustrated tears poured down his cheeks.

There, lying innocently on the concrete ground one flight of stairs below him, were his keys.

He stumbled back over to his front door, deciding to screw his keys all together. All he needed to pick his lock was a knife and he knew exactly where to find one. He gripped the handle of the knife embedded in his stomach, swallowing thickly as he worked up the courage to rip out. He took a deep breath as he quickly pulled the blade out with a sharp cry of pain.

He had to pause for several minutes to catch his breath before he turned his nauseated attention to the bloody switch blade. He was grateful for the fact that it hadn't gone too deep – just about two inches. He assumed whoever had done it was inexperienced when it came to knives and he was damn grateful for it.

He slid the bloody knife into the keyhole and turned it slowly until he heard it click before letting himself into his small apartment and slamming the door behind him.

He stumbled into his bedroom, tossing the bloody knife onto his floor and stripping off his torn and bloody t-shirt, tossing it too onto the floor next to the knife before grabbing a spare and heading towards his bathroom.

He reached up into his medicine cabinet, wincing at the movement as it pulled at his torn muscles before grabbing several butterfly closures and enough bandage to wrap the wound once he was finished cleaning it. Which brought him to his next problem. He searched through the cabinet, looking desperately for the hydrogen peroxide and almost crying in frustration when he didn't find any. He vaguely remembered using the last of it on a cut a while back but tried not to remember. Because if he remembered, it would mean it was true, and all he would have to clean the lesion with would be alcohol. He couldn't think of anything that sounded worse right now than cleaning this thing with alcohol.

But he knew he had to do it.

So with an uneasy sigh, he grabbed the clear plastic bottle, setting it on the counter as he grabbed a towel from the towel rack. He knew he should take a shower so he unconsciously turned on the water, giving it the time he would use to clean and dress his wound for it to warm up. It usually took a few good minutes before it even started getting warm due to the fact that his apartment landlord was too cheap to buy a more modern water heater.

He sat down on the toilet seat as he cleaned the blood from around the wound, noticing with appreciation that the bleeding had slowed considerably. He had Kyuubi to thank for that. At least the bastard had something positive to give back. He grabbed the alcohol as he breathed in deeply, attempting to keep the anxious nausea at bay before he leaned back, slowly pouring the clear liquid onto the gash, biting his lip harshly to keep himself from screaming.

Once the burning subsided slightly, he let out the breath he was holding as he dabbed the cut, drying it of any access blood and alcohol before applying the butterfly closures and wrapping bandages securely around his stomach to stem any excess bleeding that might seep through the closures. He was shivering violently and absentmindedly pulled the extra shirt he brought with him over his head, forgetting about the fact that he was planning on taking a shower shortly.

His thoughts strayed to the subject he'd been trying to avoid since the second he abruptly left his classroom this morning. His heart ached more painfully than any of the wounds he'd received in that alleyway and he couldn't help but clutch desperately at his chest as he screwed his eyes shut to stem the oncoming tears.

He couldn't help but feel grateful for once that he lived alone. He even thought he was overacting but he couldn't help it. He always knew something like this was going to happen sooner or later. Sasuke was the most eligible bachelor in his age group so it was only a matter of time before he moved on from Naruto and got a girlfriend. Sure, he could pretend to still be friends with Sasuke, but would he be able to handle that? Would he honestly be able to sit around and watch Sasuke and Ino be happy together? He already knew he wouldn't be able to but he also hated the thought of telling Sasuke that. He could almost hear the raven claiming that Naruto was acting like an immature little girl about the whole thing if he let it go that far and he definitely didn't want to upset Sasuke. But was it so bad to want to look out for himself for once? Was it really so hard to want to heal on his own?

Would he drive himself mad to please Sasuke? Which was more important: his sanity or Sasuke's happiness?

---

Sasuke locked his car as he walked towards the rusty stairwell of the rundown apartment complex that was Naruto's home. He had decided the minute Naruto left that he was going to figure out what was wrong. He couldn't figure out what made the dobe get up and leave so suddenly. Something was up, and he was going to figure out what it was.

He walked down the hallway and, upon arriving at Naruto's door, knocked loudly while calling Naruto's name. He tried to leave out the sense of urgency from his voice, but he couldn't help feeling the need to get out of the hallway. This wasn't the best part of town and the least amount of time he spent out here, the better.

He waited several minutes before he began turning the knob while pounding harder on the door but gave a surprised gasp when he found the door was already unlocked. He saw that the bathroom door was shut as well as the bedroom door but deduced that Naruto was in the shower due to the fact that the sound of running water that could be heard. He walked over to the door and knocked lightly.

"Oi, dobe, you in there? It's me," he stated, knowing that no one else would be in the blonde's shower but asking none the less. When no answer came, he tried his luck yet again and turned the knob to find it also unlocked. "Naruto?" he asked as he began to open the door. He almost jumped back at the sight that met him. Naruto was sitting on closed toilet…crying? Was he sick?

Naruto jumped to his feet, falling back and tripping over the ledge of the tub and falling into the shower, fully clothed, a torrent of chilly water falling upon him and erasing the tear tracks he knew were one his cheeks. He groaned as he tried to straighten himself into a comfortable position, his head now pounding more painfully than it had the entire day so far. He assumed slamming it against porcelain tile could do that to you.

"Sasuke, what are you doing here?" he asked his voice hoarse and contradicting to his best attempt at acting casual as he attempted to stand up shakily, only succeeding in falling back into the tub.

"Why'd you leave school today so suddenly? What are you – why are you – Naruto? What happened?" Sasuke asked, taking in Naruto's state. He had dark bruises on his wrists and arms, a bruise forming on his left cheek bone, and the fact that he now looked like a drowned animal sitting under the shower as it mercilessly pelted him with water didn't help either. That skin was too pale to belong to Naruto. He looked like hell.

Naruto didn't respond as he continued attempting to claw his way out of the tub without further aggravating any of his more serious wounds. Sasuke seemed to take pity on the fox as he quickly grabbed him by his arms, trying to be as gentle as possible as he helped hoist him out of the bathtub, turning off the faucet in the process.

"Come on, let's get you changed. You'll get sick if you stay in these wet clothes," Sasuke stated as he draped one of Naruto's arms over his shoulder, helping him out of the bathroom.

"No, it's fine, I can walk by myself," Naruto mumbled, attempting to break his wrist free from Sasuke's grasp. He couldn't let Sasuke see the state of his bedroom; the bloody knife was a bit of a problem. He didn't understand why it would be such a big deal if Sasuke found out about how far someone had taken it, but in his hazy mind, he just couldn't let Sasuke know. Somehow he didn't see Sasuke taking the news well.

"Just shut up and let me help you, dobe," Sasuke said in a frustrated tone as he reached for the bedroom door.

"Just stop it!" Naruto pleaded using all the strength he had left to break free and push Sasuke away from his bedroom door. "I don't need any help. I'll be right out," he finished opening the bedroom door and swiftly closing it behind him. He quickly grabbed the switch blade, folding it closed and slipping it under his bed, throwing the bloodied shirt under it as well before walking over to his dresser and quickly stripping out of his cold wet clothes which were uncomfortably cold as they stuck to his skin, and changed into a much more comfortable pair of boxers, shorts, and a t-shirt before exiting his bedroom to greet his guest.

"What?" Naruto asked, causing Sasuke to almost visibly flinch at the abrupt rudeness of his tone.

"What happened to you?" Sasuke asked, matching Naruto's aggressive tone. "And don't try and feed me some bullshit story."

Naruto just seemed to glare heatedly at the raven, an irritated look clear in his features, "I just went home because I wasn't feeling good. I obviously don't live in the best neighborhood and I just got jumped. It's not a big deal. It's not like this doesn't happen all the time," Naruto explained, hoping Sasuke would focus more on the fact that he had been jumped rather than the fact that it was quite obvious Naruto hadn't been sick this morning, or anything close to it.

"Not a big deal? Naruto, that's a huge deal. I don't know why won't you move out of this place," Sasuke stated for probably the hundredth time. Naruto felt thankful that Sasuke had been temporarily distracted but was irritated all the same. How many times had they gone over this?

"Really? You don't know why? Are you kidding me? Sasuke, you are really not as smart as people think you are. You know why I can't move out. Anyway, what do you want? Did you just come here to ask stupid questions or are you here for something else? Shouldn't you be meeting Ino for a date or something?" Naruto asked, mentally kicking himself for letting that slip.

"Is that was this is about? What, did you like her too and you're just bitter because you can't ever get what you want? How long are you going to chase around girls who won't even give you the time of day?" It was out before Sasuke could stop what he was saying. "Naruto…I didn't mean–"

"No it's fine," Naruto stated with enough bitterness in his tone to completely suggest the opposite. There was a long, tense silence as both boys stared at each other, before Naruto broke the silence. "So…did you want something?" he asked, not bothering to sound encouraging.

"No," Sasuke sighed, a hint of disappointment in his voice as he turned for the door, "I'll see you at practice."

Sasuke turned, closing the door as Naruto rested his head in his hands, sighing in frustration and pain as he sat at the table in his small kitchen. If he thought it wouldn't be possible for his day to get any worse, it just had. He and Sasuke never fought like that. There was never intensity of that level between them, ever. And somehow Naruto knew it wouldn't be gone by practice.

---

Mehheh..should I continue? Yes? No? Ok that's all for now!