AN: Here ya go, my friends! The final installment of this gigantic monster of a story! I can't tell you how much your support has meaned to me. I know this story is far from perfect, but it's something I'm incredibly proud of-- I wrote it purely off of inspiration every chapter; there was no plan, no hothing.. just me, my muses, and a keyboard. I'm so glad it turned out the way it did, and I wouldn't change it for anything. Thanks so much, guys! Enjoy the epilogue :D
Warnings: cursing, kissing
Pairings: Sasu/Naru, Kaka/Iru, Neji/Kiba
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine! (unfortunately... :[)
Five months later...
"Kiba, we're gonna be late!" Neji called, rubbing a frustrated hand through his hair. "What are you doing in there? We've got to–oh."
He abruptly stopped speaking as Kiba appeared in front of him, dressed in a slim black suit, shoulders looking broad and strong under the fitted fabric; lean legs looking longer than ever in the flattering slacks.
Neji swallowed, throat dry. "You look..."
"Like fresh meat, from the look on your face," Kiba joked, smirking a little even in his nervousness.
Neji colored and reluctantly tore his eyes away, muttering, "Sorry."
Kiba smiled genuinely, stepping closer to the other man and sliding his hands around his waist. "I thought we'd gotten past that whole apology business," he murmured, eyes glittering mischievously.
Neji nearly groaned. "Kiba, we've really got to–
The shorter brunette leaned up and kissed him before he could finish, startling him; he quickly got his bearings and was about to push away when a hot tongue slipped inside his mouth and he lost all ability of coherent thought.
It was only minutes later, when he yanked Kiba's shirt up, slid his fingers underneath, and felt the rough criss-crossed scars from the surgery– that he remembered what was so important.
Today was the day the jury was declaring their verdict for the case against Kiba's father.
"Kiba," he gasped, pulling away. "We've really got to go to the court. Now."
Kiba followed his mouth, nipping at the soft lips. "We don't have to," he whispered, curling his fingers around the back of Neji's head and pulling him closer. "We can stay here and–"
"Kiba, no," Neji said firmly, grabbing him by the shoulders and pushing him away, trying to ignore the stung look on the other man's face as he straightened his clothes from their disarray. When he finally looked up, Kiba was looking anywhere but at him, expression set in a scowl, suit a mess of rumpled wrinkles and haphazard fabric, hair tousled and tangled.
"Kiba, you know I want to," Neji sighed, stepping closer so that he could begin to right the other's sloppy appearance. "But not right now. Not when you're using this purely as an avoidance tactic."
"But I'm–I'm not," Kiba said, weakly. He sighed, breath gusting up through his bangs. "Alright, maybe I am." His eyes were troubled.
"What is it?" Neji asked softly, tucking a lock of brown hair behind the other's ear and stroking his cheek.
Kiba sighed again, turned his head so that he could press a kiss to Neji's palm. "It's just...," he began hesitantly. "It's just that, I know he'll be put away– our case was solid; there's no question the jury will find him guilty– and I...I don't want to see his face, when it happens." His voice dropped self-consciously. "His anger...it still terrifies me, even now."
Neji exhaled, face softening at the admission. He took another step closer and wrapped his arms around the other's shoulders, pressing him lightly to his chest. "I'll be right there," he said, low voice rumbling soothingly against Kiba's ear. "If he tries anything..."
"M'not worried about that," Kiba said quietly. "I know he can't touch me, but...that doesn't change the fact that just seeing him angry...it... it still..." he trailed off, embarrassed.
"You have every right to be afraid of him, Kiba," Neji said gently, fingers tracing the other's spine. "I would be, too."
"You?" Kiba snorted in disbelief. "You're not afraid of anything, Neji."
Neji smiled a little. "Believe it or not, I am. And if I'd had that heinous man as my father for all these years, I can assure you that I'd be frightened by him as well."
"You would?" Kiba murmured, biting his lip in lingering uncertainty.
"Absolutely," Neji said firmly.
Kiba sighed heavily and nodded, grateful for the man's support.
"You ready to go, then?" Neji gently prompted.
"No, but I suppose I have to, don't I?" Kiba said, a little bitterly. He shook himself, gave Neji a small half-smile. "Sorry. Yeah, I'm–I'm ready. Let's go."
"Kiba, over here!" Naruto called, bouncing on the balls of his feet and waving his arms at his friend.
"Dobe, stop acting like an idiot," Sasuke said sharply, but his eyes were amused.
"Hey guys," Kiba greeted as he came to a stop in front of them, feeling oddly shy. "Um, thanks for coming."
"Of course we came!" Naruto exclaimed with a grin, bounding over to give him a hug. He pulled back, his expression darkening a little. "We wouldn't miss seeing your bastard of a father get put away, as he rightfully deserves."
"Heh, yeah," Kiba said stiffly, trying to offer a confident smile. He couldn't seem to muster it.
He suddenly remembered something, and said in a genuinely happier voice, "Hey, congratulations about that last Akatsuki member being caught. You guys really are free now, huh?"
At this, Naruto smiled, and it was blinding. He looked over to Sasuke and locked eyes with him, blue irises intense and sparkling. "Yeah, we are."
Sasuke hadn't seen his lover look that happy in a long time. He offered him a gentle half-smirk, and said, "Yeah. Finally."
"That's great," Neji chimed in politely. "I'm happy for you."
"Thanks, Neji," Naruto said brightly, eyes crinkling at the corners.
"Hi, boys!" came Iruka's frantic voice as he came jogging up to them. "Am I late? Did I miss it?"
"Iruka, you're fine," Kiba said, amused. "We haven't even gone in yet."
"O-oh," Iruka said, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head. "Kakashi left this morning for his government operation, and I kind of lost track of time– I thought I wasn't going to make it!"
"Oooh, and how'd you lose track of time, huh?" Naruto cooed, winking at him teasingly.
Iruka colored up to the roots of his hair and sputtered, swatting at Naruto indignantly. "Don't be crude, Naruto," he admonished, refusing to look at the blonde.
"Yes, sensei," Naruto laughed, relishing in teasing the other man.
"Er, sorry, but it looks like it's time to go in," Neji said reluctantly, breaking the cheerful mood.
All five men stiffened a little, and four pairs of eyes went straight to Kiba, who shifted uncomfortably. "Well? Let's go, then," he said gruffly. He stepped forward, and Neji put a subtle hand on his lower back, fingers stroking the tensed skin there in gentle support. Kiba looked back at him and gave him a tenuous half-smile, eyes grateful, then turned back to face the now open doors of the court. He took a deep breath, then walked inside, his friends and teacher following in tow behind him.
"Regarding the charges for the child abuse of Kiba Inuzuka before he turned 18 and the physical assaults on the same man after he turned 18, we find the defendant..."
Kiba clenched his eyes shut, unbidden tension rising within him and making every muscle in his body coil up tight. He squeezed Neji's hand so hard he felt his fingernails biting into the other's skin.
There was a soft 'woop!' that sounded suspiciously like Naruto, and then a collective sigh of relief from the rest of them; Kiba blinked, once, twice, then slumped over and exhaled all the air he'd been holding in, breathing shakily, "Oh, thank God." He'd been pretty sure they'd win– but expecting it and actually hearing it were two completely different things. He was trembling in relief.
And then he looked up– just in time to see his father rocket out of his seat right towards him, snarling and yelling incoherently, face twisted in absolute, all-encompassing rage.
Kiba's breath lodged in his throat; he gave a hoarse yelp and lunged backwards, managing to tumble over his legs and land in a heap on the court floor; he immediately threw his hands up over his head and braced himself for the inevitable impact of fists.
"Order!" the judge shouted. "Order! Police, get ahold of your charge now!"
The men were already sprinting after Kiba's father, who skidded to a halt in front of his son and threw his foot back, preparing to kick him in the stomach.
"Don't you touch him," Neji warned, rushing out in front of Kiba's form, face set in an angry, menacing expression.
Kiba's father opened his mouth to offer a nasty retort, but then he was yanked backwards by the two policemen and wrestled back towards his chair.
"You try something like that again, Mr. Inuzuka, you'll be back in court for something entirely different," the judge barked, looking enraged. "Do I make myself clear?"
The elder Inuzuka scowled and glared at Kiba. "That lying little shit deserves everything he gets," he bit out.
"That's enough!" the judge roared. "Police, get him out of here. The prison sentence I have decided on is 20 years. Have a nice day." With that, he slammed the mallet and stormed out of the courtroom, leaving a stunned audience in his wake.
After a moment, the two policemen obediently began pulling Kaji down the aisle in between the two seating sections, not stopping when Naruto called out fiercely, "You're a sick man. Rot in hell, you bastard!"
"Naruto," Sasuke warned, pulling his angry lover back down beside him.
"What?" Naruto demanded, eyes wild with rage. "Did you see what he just tried to do? That fucking–
"Naruto," Sasuke said louder, reaching out to shake his shoulders. "Calm down. You're getting out of control."
Naruto blinked, realizing with a start that he felt the now unfamiliar feeling of anger crawling underneath his skin like pure electricity. He took a deep breath, counted to ten, then leaned into Sasuke, breathing hard. "Sorry. I just... can't believe he tried to hurt Kiba again. It made me so mad."
"I know," Sasuke said. "But you have to be more careful, alright?"
"Yeah," Naruto said sheepishly. "I know. Sorry." When his lover gave him a short nod he pulled away and stood, eyes roving across the seats to catch a glimpse of Kiba and Neji.
Neji knelt down beside Kiba and helped him to sit up. "You alright?" he murmured, fingers hovering against his back.
"Y-yeah," Kiba stammered, voice shaky with lingering fear. "Is he gone?"
Neji looked up and nodded. "Yes. They just escorted him outside."
Kiba let out a short breath of relief, and slowly got to his feet, legs still feeling a bit like jelly. He had about two seconds to prepare before he was tackled by Naruto, who wrapped his arms tightly around him and nearly squeezed the life out of his lungs.
"I'm so sorry, Kiba, are you okay?" the blonde babbled against his neck.
"Naruto, Naruto," he said ruefully, peeling his friend off of him. "I'm alright, honestly. I just wasn't expecting it."
"Well, okay," Naruto said doubtfully, pulling away from him. "If you say so."
"Really, Naruto, I'm fine," he insisted, ruffling the blonde's hair. It was funny, even though Naruto was a few years older than him, he felt like the other man was like his little brother.
Naruto shook him off like an offended cat and grumbled, "Okay, okay. I believe you."
"Congratulations, Kiba," Iruka said warmly, joining them and clapping his student on the shoulder. "I know that didn't end so well, but after today he'll never be able to hurt you again."
It was as if the words broke some sort of dam inside of him– Kiba's knees nearly buckled and he gasped in air, happiness and relief nearly choking him.
"Kiba– Kiba, what's wrong?" Neji asked, panicked, misunderstanding his seeming distress.
"N-no, Neji, I'm not sad– I'm–I'm– ecstatic!" he exclaimed, grin spreading from ear to ear. "It's really over. He's–he's gone! He's out of my life– for good!"
He threw himself into Neji's arms in a spontaneous, exuberant hug and Neji 'oofed', just barely managing to catch him. "Congratulations," he murmured into the thick brown hair, face melting into a smile at the other's obvious excitement.
"Aw," Naruto whispered, unconsciously leaning into his own lover at the sight.
Kiba pulled back from Neji and said, "We've got to celebrate!"
"Oh?" Neji asked, raising an eyebrow in question.
"Yes," Kiba said emphatically. "And I know just the thing!"
"Spill!" Naruto said excitedly.
"Let's go to the hilltop," Kiba replied brightly. "It's the one place I've always gone to whenever I needed to– Iruka? Are you alright? You went all...pale."
"Er, it's nothing," Iruka said thickly, trying not to remember the last memories he'd had of the place– being locked up and tortured inside of it hadn't exactly done much for its appeal in his book. "I just felt a little sick, all of a sudden."
"Bullshit," Sasuke said quietly. He turned to Iruka, saw the anger sparking there; but underneath it, a clearly frightened gleam. "You can do it, Iruka," he murmured. "Show them that you're stronger than they are. Show them that they don't run your life– not now, not ever."
"Yeah, Iruka," Naruto encouraged. "As of today, all of us are free. The Akatsuki are all put away, Kiba's father is headed for the same fate– we can finally relax. They don't have any hold on us. Not anymore."
Iruka smiled at them, a bit tremulously. "You're right– both of you. I used to love that hilltop– hell, I still do. They can't take that away from me. I won't let them."
"That's the spirit," Naruto said happily, beaming at him. He turned back to Neji and Kiba, who were looking slightly confused– they'd known that Iruka had gotten captured by the Akatsuki like Naruto, but they hadn't known the specifics– and said placatingly, "Don't worry about it, guys. We'll tell you later. Let's go celebrate, shall we?"
"Sounds like a plan," Kiba readily agreed.
"It's beautiful up here," Naruto said blissfully, staring out at the purpling sky as the sun slowly began to set, reveling in the warmth of Sasuke's arm, snaked around his waist.
"Yeah," Kiba murmured, closing his eyes against the feel of the breeze washing over his face. "It really is."
He leaned back against Neji's chest and smiled when the other man put his hands on his hips, squeezing lightly.
The four of them stood in silence for a few long minutes, swaying in the wind and enjoying the peace of the moment.
Iruka was sitting beside the four of them, perched on a large boulder, propping his elbows on his crossed knees and his chin on his folded hands. It was certainly relaxing and wonderful in this place, but he missed his lover, wanted to be watching the sunset along with him like the rest of his friends. He sighed, and resigned himself for a lonely evening.
"Well this is certainly cozy, isn't it?" came Kakashi's familiar drawl in his ear.
"Kakashi!" Iruka yelped, startled; he quickly got his bearings and leapt up to pull his lover into an embrace. "I thought you'd be on a plane by now!"
"Would you like me to leave?" the white-haired man asked, sarcastic smile playing on his lips.
Iruka swatted at him. "Of course not. I just want to know why you're here so soon."
"Yeah, Kakashi, I thought you were on some top-secret government thingie," Naruto said eloquently, not turning away from the stunning sky.
Kakashi shrugged, letting go of Iruka and stepping closer to the rest of them. "Tsunade called and said I could come home. She said that you had some exciting news for me, and that I should probably be here to congratulate you."
Naruto blinked, startled, and turned to face him. "Really? She did that?"
The other man shrugged again. "She's not a complete bitch, Naruto. Just 99.7% of the time."
Naruto snorted. "I guess." He walked up to his long-time mentor and friend and gave him a hug. "Thanks for coming back, Kakashi."
Kakashi gave him a quick pat and pulled away. "You're welcome. Now you gonna tell me the big news, or what?"
"Well..." Naruto began, smile spreading on his face. "As of today, all of the Akatsuki members have been caught and imprisoned."
"And," Neji added. "Kiba's father was found guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison."
Kakashi whistled. "Whew, nothing like knowing criminals are rotting away in a jail cell to make one's day, huh?"
"Tell me about it," Sasuke said lowly, speaking up for the first time, voice an angry growl. "I've been waiting for those fuckers to be put away since last year. I'd rather them all be dead, but this feels damn good anyway."
Naruto blinked at his vehemence, then promptly latched onto his arm and leaned up to peck him on the lips.
"Thank you," he murmured.
"For what, dobe?" Sasuke asked, cheeks heating a little.
The blonde leaned in close, till his mouth was on the other's ear. "For being your unbelievably sexy, protective self."
Sasuke closed his eyes at the hot breath against his skin and curled his fingers around his lover's narrow waist, about to press him closer when Kakashi loudly cleared his throat.
Sasuke cursed and pushed Naruto away, looking supremely embarrassed. Or, as embarrassed as an Uchiha could look, anyway.
Naruto howled in laughter for a few long moments, then gave Kakashi a falsely sheepish look. "Sorry you had to see that, 'Kashi. Sometimes Sasuke just can't resist my–
"Dobe!" Sasuke warned, glaring at him.
Kiba snorted in laughter, and that was it– he and Naruto were bent over their knees within seconds, giggling and gasping for air.
Neji looked at Sasuke, and they shared a look of mutual understanding and frustration.
Kakashi merely smirked, and pressed Iruka to his side.
Under the sunlit sky, laughter and happiness bubbled up and filled the air; after what had seemed like an eternity of pain– there had been so much hurt, so much suffering to cope with– they were now finally, finally, on their way to healing.
AN: I love you all! Hope you're happy with this story and the way it ended. I appreciate any and every bit of feedback. Please come back and read whatever I come up with next!