Characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto, and the song lyrics to Nylon Beat and Maija Vilkkumaa, I just translated them.
If there was a colour darker than black
If you leave me, that's where I'm at
A hint of gray would just make me miss you again
They only talk about it because of the rumours. Gossip in school corridors is powerful; bigger, stronger and faster than faculty propaganda. The attempt is futile, of course, but for their own conscience they try. Their absolution.
"Last Saturday a student of this school passed away. A tragic accident, a young life lost all too soon. This loss touches all of us, in ways that are often hard to understand. We will organise counselling for anyone who wants to talk. Do not hesitate to seek help. On behalf of the entire faculty, I give my deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved this child. Now, we will hold a three minute silence in the memory of our dear friend Kiba Inuzuka."
It's always a tragic accident. What principal Sarutobi is not saying is that Kiba hung himself in the garage after swallowing a load of anti-depressants. That when his sister found him, their three dogs were licking his blood off the floor. He'd slashed his wrists, too, more thorough and careful with his suicide than he'd ever been with school stuff. Quite like getting run over by a bus, yeah. And then they're offering counselling, which is basically forbidding the students to talk to each other. Talk to us, we'll help you the right way. Whatever you do, don't believe your stupid friends.
They stand silent behind their desks, which are, as per usual, arranged in a "communicative circle", staring at their hands, or out of the windows or at the walls where their artistic development of little over two years is on display, courtesy of Iruka Umino. Some might glance at each other, quick, stealthy. Asking for permission to be sad together. No one looks at the empty desk in the far left corner of the rather square circle. Sasuke stares at the ugly-ass Sonata Arctica logo on Neji's t-shirt, Neji stares at Choji's hands on the back of his chair, Choji stares at the pink tube of lip gloss on Ino's desk, Ino's eyes flick from Sakura to Sasuke to Sakura, over and over again and Sasuke half -expects her to pass out from vertigo. One hell of a communicative circle.
Sasuke wonders why he cares. He didn't particularly like Kiba, barely tolerated the guy. He was irrational, annoying, loud, and smelled like dogs and dirt and weed. He was a clown, entertaining enough if you were in the right mood, but mostly just annoying. Umino sure as hell didn't like him, and yet there he is, slouched behind his desk, eyes downcast. The hypocrisy is fascinating.
It wasn't really a surprise, either. Tragic, yeah; unbelievable, hardly. And honestly, who could blame the guy. Alchoholic dad, hysteric of a mother, an over-achieving sister. Add assorted drugs, a few questionable acquaintances, and a debt with a threat to hurt his family. There's only so much a 16-year-old can handle. The more he tried to get out, the tighter the net held him in. His friends knew, his girlfriend knew, but no one could quite understand the truth. And Kiba was never one to complain. Well, sure, he complained about anything and everything else, but never about his personal life. Sasuke suspects a shrink might've helped, might've given Kiba an extra year or two, but nothing in the world could've persuaded the guy to go see one. God knows they'd tried. But he'd kept them away, choosing what to him must've seemed as the heroic thing to do. Leave without getting anyone else involved. For such a brash, unpredictable guy Kiba had a lot pride. Too much.
A lot like Naruto.
Sasuke glances at the guy, standing on his left. Naruto's fidgeting, pulling at the frayed sleeve of his bright green hoodie, then chewing on it, then fishing the lint out of his mouth before starting over. He's rocking back and forth on his heels like he's about to explode, or just really needs to pee. Sasuke knows he's just desperate to say something. He taps his desk gently and Naruto's blue eyes meet his. An apologetic smile from behind the wet sleeve. "Talk later," Sasuke mouths at him. Naruto nods, frantically, and doesn't calm down at all. Fucking moron.
The lesson in the end is a fiasco, but that's more Umino's fault than Kiba's. The teacher decides to give them a chance to express their feelings through art and encourages them to "let it all out!" Few comply, mostly girls, and then Umino seals the deal by adding " even you deepest, darkest fears! Let them all out!" The man really is an idiot.
After that it doesn't take long. With the help of a paper-knife, Gaara creates a marvellously expressive piece of emotional art using his own blood, a splotch bearing vague reference to a gallows, and gets sent to see the newly appointed counsellor. Neji helpfully points out how suppression and patronizing guidance undermine any form of therapy based on creativity and free-flow, at which point Ino starts giggling hysterically, and Umino finally loses it completely. "Your friend! He was your friend! Where's your respect!"
All the while Naruto's trying to talk to him, tugging at his sleeve and poking him. "Sasuke, listen.. I have an idea.." But Sasuke ignores him. The hilarity of the situation in the classroom demands his undivided attention. Umino finally gets into a full-blown argument with Neji and Ino who bitch at him like people possessed, one with cold, aloof argumentation and the other with the fierceness of a mad terrier. Sasuke guesses they are, in a way, possessed, by the need to kill all this horrible fakery. In the end Umino tells them to get out, go stand outside in the rain and think about their actions. He's panting, his cheeks are red and his clutching Gaara's confiscated blood painting so hard it's all crumpled under his fingers.
"You're throwing us out?" Ino sounds thoroughly shocked. It is shocking, Umino has never thrown anyone out, Gaara's been sent to the Clinic to calm down a few times but never has anyone been told to just plain leave.
"Yes," Umino anwers, more quietly but still clearly agitated. "Leave. I can't stand the sight of you right now. Leave, and think."
In the end half of the class obeys him. Sasuke drags Naruto with him, and off they go. Ino, Neji, Choji, Shikamaru and even Sakura, usually the Good Girl.
Behind the gym hall, in the safety of a small, muddy forest, they stand in a circle like some poor little pagans from centuries ago. Shikamaru lights a new cigarette as soon as the previous one is gone, Sasuke let's his cigarette die slowly in his fingers, and Sakura pulls her scarf over her face like a bank robber to get away from the smoke. And they think. Even Naruto is quiet, if not perfectly still. Kohl-black tears are running down Ino's cheeks, she wipes them off mechanically smearing half of her face gray. The bell rings for break time, then again when the break is over, but nobody moves. A silent agreement that somehow feels ceremonious, even tough skipping class is nothing new for any of them. But this time even Sakura doesn't protest, she hides deeper inside her thick scarf and says nothing.
Sasuke's brain is running in circles. He's vaguely annoyed with Kiba for messing them all up like this, and, still, with himself for caring too much. There's a hole in he circle, big enough to fit two people. Sasuke squints his eyes and imagines them there. Kiba, next to Naruto, yelling and laughing and demanding attention, and Hinata glued to his side, smiling like she never used to before him. Sasuke suddenly realises how hard it must be for Naruto. He not only lost his best friend and partner in crime, but was left with the lonely job of the entertainer. Everyone worries about Hinata, every single phone call Sasuke got on Sunday when the news broke was about her. Naruto has always claimed loud and proud to be a survivor, that claim is now backfiring, hard.
Naruro is eating his sleeve again, his other hand flicking the cigarette although there's no ash left to fall. Finally the smouldering tip falls off altogether, and Naruto has to light it again. Sasuke can't hear him but he's quite sure there are a few curse words involved.
Their strange bubble is broken when Gaara wanders over, hands deep in his pockets and kicking everything on his way. Catching his eye, Sasuke lifts his eyebrows in a silent question. Gaara shakes his head. You do not want to know. Despite his gloominess, the others start to loosen up. Ino sniffs louder and Sakura hands her a tissue. Choji feels brave enough to unwrap a chocolate bar.
"Kick the chair right down under me, leave me hanging alone in misery," Neji hums, solemnly, his eyes firmly on Naruto's dirty sneaker. That does it. Naruto snorts and hides his face in his hands. His cigarette, sticking out between his palms, is twitching. Ino cracks next, displaying an undignified combination of crying and giggling. Then they're all laughing, even Neji. Shikamaru tries to stop and lights another cigarette to calm down, but the rebellious laughter beaks out and makes him choke like a beginner.
"Poor thing, can't even inhale," Gaara chuckles, and Ino suddenly kneels on the wet ground, coughing out something about her stomach hurting. There's a warm weight on Sasuke's right shoulder, Naruto snuggles his face into Sasuke's neck, giggling uncontrollably into his ear. "I can't breath," he wheezes. Sasuke is laughing too hard to answer, and to his horror he can feel tears burning his eyes. Breathe. For fuck sakes just breathe.
"Guys," Naruto starts after they're calm again, wiping their eyes and catching their breath. He moves away from Sasuke, bright-eyed and over-excited again. "I think we should do something. For Kiba. A proper goodbye." "What, like send flowers?"
"Crash the funeral?"
"Find the dealer and kill him?"
"No. Gaara, we won't kill anybody." Naruto clears his throat. "A memorial." He motions with his hands, large swirly waves. "The biggest mother fucking graffiti this town has ever seen. Or hell, ten of them!"
What the…. Sasuke wants to say no before the idea gets any more insane, and can tell Neji and Shikamaru share his feelings. But Naruto doesn't give them a chance.
"Seriously. I've been thinking about this since I heard about Kiba. We need to do something. If we don't, everyone will just forget about him, he'll be just another teen suicide in the statistics and an example serving as a warning. But if we do this…" He's smiling now, looking each of them straight in the eye. Don't look at me, Sasuke prays. If you look at me I'm going to say yes and I really don't want to.
"He'll live on. Forever. If they paint them over, we'll do it again. And again. We will not let them forget."
He turns over to Sasuke. "Right?"
Ah, shit. Come on, Sasuke, you hate Kiba. You can't take the risk. Dad will kill you. No going to the States in the summer. No new scooter. You can't-
"Yeah," he says to Naruto's eyes. "Forever."
The smile he gets in return makes it all irrelevant. Summer eyes and dimples and wonky teeth and who the hell wants a scooter anyway. Naruto spins around with his fists in the air and starts pestering Gaara to help him with the designs. Sasuke tries to catch his breath. Next to a now happily squeaking Ino, Sakura mouths a sceptical "What?!?" at him. Sasuke shrughs. Damned if he knows.
In the evening Sasuke avoids his parents the best he can. He can tell mom wants to ask about Kiba, wants to make sure Sasuke's not going to do anything stupid, and maybe even get a promise of finding new, more suitable and sane friends. Dad, ironically, tries to do his bit and promises to ask his colleague about a scooter. Great. It's 17.45 and Sasuke's run out of excuses and hiding places, so he leaves way too early for his Karate training.
He takes the long route back to school, walks around the gym hall a few times. It all looks so different when it's dark and quiet. The streetlights throw weird flashes of light on the huge, empty walls of the hall, making it look ten times bigger. Sasuke stops at a corner close to their usual smoking spot and lights a cigarette. The stone wall above him is glowing yellow and orange. A graffiti memorial, huh. He smiles to himself. No one but Naruto could possibly come up with something like that. And very few people are going to appreciate it. Kiba will, wherever he may be.
Sasuke stubs out the cigarette on a tree trunk, fishes out a chewing gum from his pocket and heads to the main door. He walks fast, through the glass doors, sharp left, then straight and into the brightly lit changing room. He doesn't like these corridors when they're empty and darkness lingers in the corners. He remembers things that have happened here, sees people as clearly as if they were real. People might leave the school but the building remembers.
He sits on the light wooden bench and starts pulling off his shirt. Neji enters a few minutes later and they got to the hall together. From the corner of his eye he can see the shadowy figures of Kiba and Naruto out in the corridor, lifting a long bench up against the changing room door. He passes them by.
Regardless of his absent-mindedness, he's still the best in the group that night, earning extra praise from the sensei. As usual.
The counsellor looks very young, Sasuke would guess about Itachi's age, but he's got to be older, at least 25. He's smiling that horribly encouraging smile that must be the first thing they teach in whatever school these people come from.
"Hello, welcome. Please, sit down, wherever you feel comfortable."
They settle on the green couches of the school nurse's office which are suddenly full of colourful pillows and goddamn stuffed animals. The room looks like a playschool. Naruto makes a half-assed attempt to start a pillow fight but Sasuke sits right next to him and confiscates the red pillow and the stuffed frog and tells him to shut up or else they'd never get home.
As Kiba's closest friends, at least according to the teachers' knowledge, Sasuke, Naruto, Choji, Neji and Shikamaru start the obligatory counselling round. Apparently no one's come forward apart from some random seventh grader girl who didn't even know Kiba, so the faculty decided to give them a little push.
So they just sit there, quiet again. The only sound is the wrapper of Choji's Tupla-bar scratching against the back of the sofa, as he swings his hand in a slow, regular curve, like a depressed pendulum. Minutes pass, and the counsellor starts to get a little frustrated. He takes his glasses off, puts them back on, gets up, paces to and fro in front of them, sits back down.
"Look. I can really help you. But you're going to have to talk." He sounds a bit panic-y, Sasuke notes with glee.
"I need something to work with. Anything. I doesn't have to be about… him… it can be anything."
"Uhm…" Naruto starts hesitantly. There we go. Even though he has no more things to say than the rest of them, Naruto just can't stay quiet. Sasuke can see Neji's mouth curve with a hint of a smile behind his hair, and Choji's chocolate bar has stops moving.
"Yes?" The counsellor is pissing himself with excitement.
"He… uhm. Kiba. He was my friend. And… uhm… all of us.. we really miss him. You know."
"Yes, yes I know. I know it's hard, but you need to realise it was not your fault."
"I know that." Naruto's voice is still quiet, but he sounds more assured.
"I know it wasn't my fault. You know whose fault it was? Yours. It was the fault of every single adult who could've helped him and didn't. He died because he was dealing with adult problems when he was still a kid. We're all just kids. You have no idea what's going on, and you never will because you don't see us and you're asking the wrong questions."
It's the counsellor's turn to be quiet now. Naruto takes a deep breath. He's searching for words again, using his hands where verbal communication fails. Sasuke feels his fingers on his shoulder, poking, tapping, then leaving for a bit and returning, enthusiastic and excited, continuing where his words left off. Frustration, stubbornness, pride. The counsellor doesn't understand the fingers, but Sasuke does.
"Meaning we don't want to talk because there's nothing you can do," Sasuke translates. "Can we go now?"
The counsellor sighs and writes something on his notes.
"We really are just trying to help, you know. We're not your enemy," he tries one last time as they get up from the couch to leave.
"Yeah. And we really don't need help," Sasuke says and closes the door after them.
"Let's skip PE. Pleeeeeeeeease, Sasuke, pleeeeeeeeeeease…"
Sasuke sighs and rolls his eyes even though Naruto cannot see it over the phone.
"You skip one more time you fail, remember?"
Theatrical moaning. "I knooooooooow. But it's stupid dancing again and I hate dancing Sasukeeeeeee…"
Sasuke unhooks the telephone set from the wall and drags it over to the bathroom by the cord.
"Look. I don't think they'll make us dance. That would be just… morbid. Doing the fucking tango when our friend's just died." He squeezes toothpaste onto his toothbrush and starts brushing.
"Don't think they won't. Gai might let us off but that Kurenai woman? She's insane. Shikamaru said she used to be an army commander."
"Was too! What are you doing?"
"Buahhing mah heeh." Spit "Brushing my teeth. She was not in the army."
"Her eyes are red! She's a fucking Satanist!"
"They're mahogany. And you're coming to PE."
"Bye, Naruto, see you in half an hour. Remember to eat some breakfast!"
"Hahaha, shut up, mom….. Sasuke?"
Morbid or not, they dance. Gai somewhat regretfully informs them that the official school policy is to keep everything as normal as possible, and that they're now moving onto Jive. The gym hall is cold; the girls are shivering in their tiny tops and shorts but trying to put on a brave face. It's not that often they get to enjoy joined PE. Sadly, none of the boys are really paying attention, as some idiot has left the trampoline out and everyone knows it's trampolines over girls.
Sakura sighs and slides down on her knees, her back against the cold gray stone wall. She's sacrificed sexiness for comfort and is wearing a hoodie and track pants and congratulates herself on that wise decision. Unlike Ino, she is not forced to hop on spot hugging herself to avoid hypothermia. It's Naruto's turn on the trampoline, and his being is idiotic self. He's jumping higher than the others, doing somersaults and nearly misses the trampoline altogether when landing. Sakura can hear Sasuke call him an idiot before Gai claps his hands and commands them to form two straight lines, girls in one and boys in the other, from shortest to tallest. Sakura gets up follows Ino who is desperately tilting her chin to appear taller. Sakura snickers. Guess she was wrong calling the boys the immature ones.
After five minutes of everyone standing back to back with everyone else and arguing about who's taller Kurenai blows her whistle. "Alright! A line! A simple line is enough." She glares at Gai as if it's his fault the students are dumb. "Good. Now turn to face the other line! Whoever is in front of you is your partner, tall or short."
Sasuke acknowledges Tenten with a nod and she nods back. It could have been worse, much worse. Tenten is a decent, athletic girl with her own group of friends who are the kind of people Sasuke's mom wishes he'd associate with. At Kurenai's command Sasuke offers his left hand to Tenten.
On their right Naruto and Sakura are thumb-wrestling. Tenten rolls her eyes.
"Right!" Kurenai is standing next to Gai, holding his left hand in hers. "Boys, step back with your left foot, girls, back with your right, then bring your weight back on the front leg! Here we go, 1, 2.."
Sakura is disappointed but it's still ok. Sasuke would've naturally been her first choice, but Naruto is fun, and his being such a bad dancer makes her feel like a good dancer. They're always facing the wrong direction and need to take longer steps to get behind the other couples before Kurenai notices them, and somehow Sakura is actually having fun.
"Ok, Choji, move your feet more. Shikamaru, you're supposed to be leading. You're a man aren't you? Keep your left hand up! Well, done, Sasuke and Tenten, very nice. And now, the shoulder turn." Kurenai goes back to Gai and grabs his hand again. "I wonder which one of them is the man," Tenten whispers and Sasuke agrees. Gai does look a little intimidated.
"Ok! Right hand to right hand, as if you're just coming out from the spin. Boys, you turn the girl around, under your arm, the step under their arm and turn sideways to her, so that her arm is behind your neck."
It's easy enough. Tenten moves well, it's easy to guide her around, and they get compliments from Kurenai again. Naruto and Sakura are less lucky. "Aah you bitch, I'm blind!" "Yeah, and you can't dance. You're supposed to go under my arm not crash your face into it!" "I hate dancing!"
"Sakura, try not to bend your elbow so much," Tenten instructs. "It'll make it easier."
"How can I not bend my elbow when he's twisting my wrist," Sakura huffs and Naruto sticks his tongue out at her. "You're just too tall." "You're too short, you midget. I can do the turn just fine."
"You're the one who keeps stepping on my toes!"
"Oh for god's sakes. Come here, Naruto. I'll show you. Once you get it, she'll get it." Naruto stares at Sasuke. "Me, dance with you?"
Sasuke lifts his chin and curls his fingers as an invitation. "Scared? Come on, I'll teach you." "You're insane," Naruto laughs and lets go of Sakura's hand and takes Sasuke's instead.
"Ok. I'm turning around myself, all you need to do is pretend you sort of pushing me in the right direction. Not that hard." Sasuke steps to the side. He has to bend his head and back a lot to get under Naruto's arm. "See? Now, you step there, and sort of pull me back over there." Naruto is actually focusing, he's looking at his feet and their hands and it's not really dancing at all but at least his steps are right. "Now, your left hand on my left shoulder, and then we just pull apart…" Naruto's fingers brush his neck as his arms pulls away. "…and we're back where we began."
Naruto finally looks up to Sasuke's eyes. "You make a better girl than she does," he smirks, and lets got of Sasuke's hand to escape an incoming slap from Sakura.
"Could you teach me the waltz while were at it?" Naruto asks as Sasuke takes Tenten's hand again.
"I could just skip all of these stupid dancing lessons."
Sure, Sasuke thinks. "Hell no," is what comes out of his mouth.
On Thursday evening the plan is put into action. They've settled for three graffitis, all to be done simultaneously in the safe darkness of a weekday night when the streetlights are turned off at midnight. They've picked the spots so that they form a triangle on the town map. Choji and Shikamaru are doing the bus station, Neji and Gaara the mall, and Ino and Sakura are keeping watch on bicycles, scouting the village centre and reporting the movements of any cops they happen to see. Naruto and Sasuke get the most difficult one. Ichiraku's convenience store sits half way up a hill, south of the village centre, with its back to the slope. There are surveillance cameras at the front of the store, since "The Hill", as the neighbourhood is called, is not the nicest of areas, but not at the back, as the only way to get there is either through the shop, or up the crazy hill. Because of the fantastic location, the back wall is visible from virtually everywhere in the village.
There isn't a doubt in Sasuke's mind that Naruto planned it this way, his heroic conviction wouldn't let him settle for an easier place. Naruto slips his skateboard between the shoulder straps of his backpack and they start climbing towards the small gray building. The leaves should be bright red and yellow and orange by now, but the autumn's been so rainy they've given up and decided to stay slimy and black. And slippery. Sasuke and Naruto stumble, crawl and curse their way up the steep slope, rising high above the freeway leading to town. It's pitch black, but they ditch the torches as the slope gets more and more difficult.
Sasuke can feel a trail of sweat somewhere around his spine by the time they reach the noise barrier. Four metres of smooth concrete is blocking their way.
"Great. Now what?"
Naruto answers with a manic grin and continues left, leaning against the dirty yellowish wall for balance. Sasuke sighs and follows.
With the help of two young fir trees and a taller birch they manage to get over the barrier and scramble on. Naruto's skate board gets stuck on twigs and tree trunks but he fights free and continues. When they finally reach the back of Ichiraku's they're muddy and sweating like pigs and Sasuke's gone from being annoyed to downright hating the whole idea.
"God…. fucking… damnit…. Naruto…" He leans against the shop wall.
"Relax… we made it!" As usual, Naruto's tiredness disappears as if magicked away. He digs the cans out of the bags and spreads the sketches on top of the rubbish bins, whistling something off-tune. Sasuke sighs and gets up. "Fine. Let's do this."
They work in silence, effectively and precisely. Naruto does a rough sketch of the composition, trying to occupy as much of the wide blank wall as possible. Sasuke follows his route with a more refined lining. The picture is huge, it's going to take them hours.
"We need to get the top part done somehow," Naruto points out as he kneels on the ground and screws another nozzle on his can of black. "You're heavier, lift me up and I'll line it. The colouring's ok with but the lining... I need to get up there to get it done properly."
Baggy pants can be tricky when you're trying to get onto someone's shoulders, Sasuke can't tell where Naruto's knees are and then he nearly gets strangled and Naruto has to actually pull his pants up where they should be. Their first two attempts only get them as far as lying on the ground laughing. "Goddamnit, you have no sense of balance, you know that?" Sasuke complains as he gets up and tries to brush the dirt off his pants. Naruto lifts his hand to him, and he pulls the other boy up. "Ok," he says, once again up on his feet. "I'll be serious now. Let's go."
This time they manage to stay up right, and after Sasuke has shakily knelt down with Naruto sitting on his shoulders to get the damn spray can the idiot left on the ground, they get to work. Naruto is good, his hand moves with sharp precision and he seems to have memorised the design since there's no request to see the sketches. His denim-covered thigh is rough and warm against Sasuke's cheek. Naruto smells of street dust and cigarettes, and then there's that hint of sweetness, a bit like birch leaves and incense but not really those at all.
And then it's done, Naruto drops down and the warmth is gone. Sasuke gets the yellow can out of his backpack and tosses the orange one to Naruto and they start to colour, and Sasuke makes a mental note -not for the first time- not to overthink things.
It looks fantastic. Bright yellow combined with crazy splashes of purple, green and orange seems to jump out of the boring wall. "MAD DOG Sky High" it screams over the sleeping village. They stand side by side just staring at it and Sasuke feels proud. It was a good idea, after all. Naruto takes his hand and Sasuke can hear a small gasp. He turns to Naruto to tell him something, anything, but the words die before they get out. Naruto is crying, his other hand is pressed so tight over his mouth that his dirty fingernails are digging into his cheeks, and his shoulders are shaking. His grip on Sasuke's fingers is crushingly hard now and his breathing behind his hand is erratic and wheezing. "Naruto?" As Sasuke turns around to face him the fingers leave his hand. Naruto takes a step back, shaking his head, and Sasuke has to grab his shoulders to keep him in place. He's never seen anyone cry like that, Naruto can't seem to breath at all, his mouth is twisted in a painful grimace. "Naruto.." At first Sasuke thinks Naruto didn't even hear him, but the he looks up at Sasuke, eyes wide open and full of fear. "He's fucking… fucking.." "I know.." "Dead! That goddamn mother fucker… Fuck…" He draws another desperate breath. "I… I can't… I.." The hand is about to rise back to cover the mouth and Naruto's back is bending like he's about to fall down on his knees. Sasuke grabs his wrists and forces him upright. And kisses him.
At first Narruto goes completely rigid, eyes wide open, inhaling into the kiss and trying to push Sasuke away. But slowly he relaxes, though the shaking doesn't stop.
The kiss tastes mostly salty, full of snot and tears and it's not really a kiss at all. Sasuke feels a little awkward, trying to move his lips a little when Naruto's just… well, standing there, but it seems to be working so he doesn't stop. After a while Naruto's eyes close and the crying calms down to little sobs against Sasuke's mouth.
When they finally break away with a slightly disgusting wet smack Sasuke starts to panic a little. He started it, it's up to him to explain it away and he really doesn't know how to do that.
Naruto looks at the ground, then to the left, then back down, and then up at him. His eyes are dark in the shadow of his overgrown hair. Dark and unreadable and Sasuke hopes and fears for a sign, anything, to know if he just fucked everything up completely
Naruto wipes his mouth on his sleeve.
"You," he points a shaky finger at Sasuke's face. "are one hell of a weirdo."
But he's smiling.
It's five in the morning when they stumble back down the slope and make their way to the school yard to meet the others. They're quiet, but it's a surprisingly comfortable silence. Naruto seems thoughtful but not angry. Sasuke's having an inner debate with himself of whether he should say something or not, and it is not resolved until their friends are there and it's too late.
Gaara's brother has provided them with some much needed alcohol, and they settle at their usual smoking place and try to relax. The experience has not been easy for any of them, Sasuke and Naruto learn that Gaara and Neji nearly got caught by Ibiki, the crazy local police man, and that it took a daring diversion from Ino to lead him away.
"It was awesome," Sakura gushes. "She pushed a train of like five shopping carts down the hill from the parking lot, jumped on her bike and fled like whoom! Ibiki was sooooo mad!"
"So, everyone finished their picture?" Naruto grabs a bottle Gin Long Drink. It opens with a sharp fizz.
"Done," Choji says and Gaara nods.
"Well, Ooa hela natten, then," Neji says and lifts the gray plastic bottle to his lips. They toast to Kiba. The atmosphere is strangely serious despite their joking, and everyone at some point falls silent and stares into the dark woods. Sasuke tries to fight off the shadowy figures again. It helps when Naruto squats down and grabs the back of Sasuke's knee to hold his balance. Real people, right here. No need to look further.
When all the drink is gone and they're hiding the evidence in the bushes further away, Naruto grabs Sasuke's arm. "Walk back with me?" Shit. What does that mean? Does he want to fight? Talk? …Continue? Argh. "Sure," Sasuke says aloud, managing to keep his voice level.
"I want to go back down to the motorway to see our painting." Oh. Ok.
They wave their goodbyes and head back south. Sasuke won't be home before six in the morning and will be absolutely fucked tomorrow but he's feet follow Naruto and will hear no arguments.
The lamp posts on the motorway are taller than elsewhere, and some are aimed sideways to light the bridge crossing it. Sasuke has never noticed it before, but the last two lights on both sides of the bridge are even higher, off the street entirely. It might be an accident or it might be an artistic statement by whoever put the lights there, Sasuke doesn't know, but what's important is that the two beams of light meet directly at the back Ichiraku's.
It's like their graffiti has a spotlight aimed right at it. It's quite far, but they can see it clearly, vibrant and striking, and there's no way anyone walking on the bridge or by the motorway could not notice it.
They stand side by side on the empty street and Sasuke realises Naruto knew about the lights. He must have, it can't have been a coincidence. The bastard actually planned something well, from beginning to end.
Naruto's hand finds its way onto his hip, sliding halfway into his pocket, his thumb tracing the waistline of his boxers. Sasuke wants to ask him what is going on, wants to know if they're on the same page and what book that page is in in the first place. But he doesn't. Naruto doesn't seem to care, he looking at the painting, the faint yellow glow makes his hair and skin almost golden. His face is showing no emotions, like his hand and his head aren't part of the same person. "What are you doing?" Sasuke asks, his voice low. He doesn't really want to ask, this "If I don't think it's not really happening"-attitude seems like nice, easy strategy but he knows he'll go insane if he doesn't.
"I don't know. Does it matter?" The hand is climbing up his back now and he can't suppress the shivers.
"I think it matters a little."
Naruto turns to face him and the hand slides onto Sasuke's waist. "Can't we just pretend to be drunk and irresponsible?" He's slowly rising onto his toes to get his face close to Sasuke's.
"Naruto, I wasn't joking." He's so close Sasuke is breathing his breath.
"Does it sound like I'm joking?"
"I don't know… are you?"
Naruto pulls back enough to look Sasuke in the eyes. "No. For fuck's sakes Sasuke, I am trying to kiss you. Can you shut up for two seconds?"
Sasuke imagines Kiba sitting on his dark gray cloud, looking down at them. He can almost hear the horrified cry: "Eww fucking faggots stop desecrating my fucking tomb!" It's not your tomb, Kiba, but it might just be ours.
Friday morning Sasuke is scared of going to school. He hasn't been this scared since the first day ofseventh grade when Mom's last words to him were: "Keep up the wonderful woks your brother started, don't forget, the teachers all know him."
Now it's more or less his own fault. The fact that he's so tired makes the paranoia worse, even the fact that he somehow miraculously did not get caught sneaking in at six thirty in the morning doesn't make him feel better. Naruto is such a mystery, Sasuke would've understood getting angry, joking about it, or just dismissing the whole thing, but Naruto just… acted like all that happened was on a different plane of existence or something. And the walk home… what the fuck was that?
He's late, it's five past nine when he enters the educational guidance classroom. Widely considered to be the most useless subject in their curriculum by the students, EG is still the best class to come late to. Tsunade, the teacher, or "guide", is relaxed and has a good, if a little odd, sense of humour. She nods to Sasuke, and tells the class to open their books on page 47.
The book is ridiculous, patronising, childish and illustrated with ugly cartoons. Sasuke flips past the Dealing with grief –section. Apparently the "keeping things as normal as possible"- policy is still on.
"Right. We've covered this topic once a year, and now, we are doing it again. Sex and relationships! Can I get a yay?"
Naruto snorts in front of him and turns to throw Neji's book onto Ino's desk.
"Naruto, please. I really don't want to throw you out at nine am. Can't you wait till lunch?"
"Thank you. Now, you all know this, but I will tell you again. How do you know when you are ready." She seems to be as sick of the topic as the students are, and allows a lot more joking and fooling around as she usually would. Sasuke's half asleep, doesn't bother to fill in the question bits and doesn't really listen either. Untill, about ten minutes before the class is over, Tsunade gets into That One Part Sasuke Had Totally Forgotten Was There.
"And sometimes, as we all know, people find themselves sexually attracted to other people of the same sex."
Shit. Fuck shit fuck.
Around Sasuke his classmates are snorting some more.
"Commonly known as homosexuality."
More snorting and giggling.
"Female homosexuals are referred to as 'lesbians', and men usually just with term 'gay'.
"Yeah, fags. With no bones in their wrists and weird scarfs and fake tan."
"Jeez, Naruto, you know an awful lot about them."
"Shut up, I'm not a faggot!" Naruto elbows Shikamaru in the temple, laughing.
Tsunade breaks it up and firmly suggests they focus on their own books.
Naruto's last words are ringing in Sasuke's ears. So, you aren't one. What does that make me?
For the rest of the day he tries to ignore Naruto, tries to make him notice how angry he is. It's a girly way to deal with things, normally he'd just hit Naruto in the face, but how do you start a fight over something that has to stay a secret? Maybe he should do it anyway, since Naruto just acts like nothing's wrong and actually punches Sasuke on the shoulder and tells him to cheer up.
Sasuke is just sick of being confused all the fucking time.
And those who know everything,
They're like "That's Princess Ice.
I bet she breathes frost,
And she can survive anything."