And this is the last bit. It's a bit long, but I didn't want to cut it. And there's sex like I promised, but it awkward virgin sexXD

Characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto and lyrics originally by Maija Vilkkumaa

***

Sakura wakes up with a head-ache. They used to be worse, when she was 13 and three ciders were enough to get her legless. She thought she'd die with the hangover. It might be her tolerance getting better or it might be that she's just gotten used to feeling like shit.
She rolls over, stretching and reaches for the glass of water on her bedside table. The pink alarm clock next to the glass tells her it's half past eleven. The house is quiet; her parents must've gone out to the city for their weekly shopping trip. Sakura gets up, takes a painkiller and a long hot shower and organises herself a warm, soft nest of blankets and pillows on the living room couch. It's five past twelve when she's ready to make her two phone calls.

Hinata's been up for hours, and is in the middle of a huge window-cleaning operation with her mother. She sounds cheery and a little breathless.
"Aren't you hung over at all?" Sakura moans.
"Well, I didn't really drink that much... I shouldn't... you know... just in case..."
"Oh. Right."
They're quiet for a while, Sakura can hear Edith Piaf in the background, Hinata's mother's cleaning music.
"I'll go Monday afternoon. I'll go to the city. Just... somewhere else, so no one'll recognise me. If they start about the health care districts I'll just... I don't know. Lie?"
"Ok. That's good. I think it's ok."
"I hope so."
"If they try to send you back, we can just go to a private clinic. It can't be that expensive. At least they never tell anyone."
"We?"
"I said I'd come with you didn't I? Are you coming to school?"
"Yeah."
"Ok. We're off at... two, aren't we? Nine to two on Mondays. We'll go straight after Maths."
"I'm starting at eleven but yeah, that sounds good."
"Lucky you, we have Umino's art crap in the morning."
"Mmhmm. Oh, sorry, Sakura, I've got to go. Mom needs me.... Sakura, thank you. Thank you so much."
"It's fine, Hinata. It's ok."
"Uhm… Can I call you later? When I'm done with the windows? If you don't have anything better to do…"
"Sure! We could go see a movie or something!"
"Yeah…. that'd be nice. Really nice."

Her next call will be harder. She's not sure what she's going to say, but wants to call anyway.
The phone rings for a long time and when an answer finally comes, it's a male voice she doesn't recognise.
"Hello?"
"Uh... hello. Uhm, I'm a friend of Sasuke's... is he home?"
"He's sleeping. Hold on, I'll go kick him up." He puts the phone down before Sakura can stop him.
She can hear faint noises, steps, yelling. After a while the phone gets picked up again.
"Hello?"
"Hi, Sasuke, it's me. Sorry to wake you up, it was totally unnecessary and I was about to tell.."
"My brother. He just wanted a reason. Not your fault."
"Oh.. ok."
She can hear clanging and a door slammed shut.
"Ok, better." Sasuke yawns. "So. What's up? Something interesting happen last night?"
Sakura hesitates. He sounds so normal, not like someone with a huge secret.
"Well… I don't know."
She breathes in heavily.
"I wanted to ask you that, Sasuke. Are you ok? You… seemed a little… off last night."
His silence is different now. She can almost hear his heart beat, panicking.
"Sasuke?"
"Uh… No. I mean, it's nothing. I'm… fine. It was just… a misunderstanding. Nothing, really."

And suddenly it's not important anymore. She doesn't need an explanation. He sounds terrified. Well, in a way it is a matter of life and death, she has that power. She could end his life quite easily.
But she doesn't want to. She doesn't want him to be scared.
"Ok," she says, "I'm glad to hear that. And you know… we don't talk a lot, but if you ever need to… well, talk. Then, uh… you can talk to me."
He sighs. Deep, relieved.
"Thank you, Sakura. I'll remember that."

She curses herself mentally as she puts the phone down. Why is she such a sucker for thank yous?

If I was a little wiser or
At least remotely stable
Or my words made a bit more sense
I'd walk with my head high
Say what I mean, whatever and why
And I'd be warm in your arms

***

Sasuke's heart is about to jump out, right through his chest. He leans against the refrigerator, his head falls back and his knees give in and he slides onto the floor, still clutching the phone. It's never really sunk in for him before, what would really happen if people found out. It wasn't important; Sasuke's spent all his energy on worrying about Naruto and being mad at him, other people didn't exist. But they do. How the hell do you tell something like this to your friends? Your family? Sasuke shivers. How the hell could he ever tell his dad?
"So, is she the artist?" Itachi has appeared next to him, and his voice startles Sasuke so bad he his head hits the fridge door again.
"What?"
Itachi bends down to give Sasuke a gentle slap below his right ear. "You neck, lil bro. Did she do it? The girl on the phone?"
Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
"No."
"Oh, so there's more? Jeez, you're a little playboy in the making, aren't you."
"Shut up." Sasuke pushes himself up and makes sure his elbow hits his brother in the arm when he dashes past him, out of the kitchen. He locks himself in the upstairs bathroom and takes off his shirt in front of the mirror.
There are red marks all over his neck and shoulders, even on his stomach. How the hell did Naruto get there? Some are like light bruises and some sharp and dark, almost black. And there's a bright red circle of teeth marks where his neck meets his shoulder. He touches the mark lightly. Hmm. Naruto really needs braces. He's always thought love bites were just attention whoring, something girls like Ino wanted to show off to their friends. He never knew that acquiring them could feel so damn good. Oh, now he remembers the ones on his stomach. He remembers the wet tile wall against his back, Naruto had wanted to make sure his last kick hadn't hurt Sasuke. Like you could tell internal bleeding by looking at someone's stomach. Then there was Naruto's tongue travelling down his skin…
He sighs. They'd said their good byes there, behind the youth centre and gone their separate ways. Sasuke hasn't heard from him since. Ok, it's only been half a day, but you'd expect…. what? He has no idea what to expect. He has no idea what's going on, how could he expect anything?
He decides to take a cooling shower. Partially to calm his head and partially because he can still feel Naruto's mouth somewhere around his belly button.

You're the one who
Makes me tremble.
I've been thinking about you so much
And then you'd ask for my number
And I could say yes
And everything could be so perfect right now

Sasuke is not looking forward to spending the evening at home, but it's dangerously starting to look like he has to. First Shikamaru calls him to say he's stuck at his grandparents' till the next day, Choji's gone to a restaurant with his family and finally Neji calls him complaining about migraine and finally asks if Sasuke knows why Sakura is suddenly best friends with Hinata. No one knows about Naruto. So it seems to be a rare Saturday night in for Sasuke. Itachi is chatting with their parents in the kitchen, mother smothering him with adoring questions and freshly baked oat meal biscuits. Sasuke smuggles ten cookies upstairs into his room in a napkin and curls up in his arm chair with his history book. Between his family and studying for an exam three weeks early… it isn't even a choice, really.
Half past eleven Itachi bangs on Sasuke's door and wakes him up. Sasuke's neck is stiff and he's groggy and didn't really hear what his brother yelled. He's slept in the chair, head on the book, and for a long time apparently since the page he was sleeping on is 25. He gets up and shakes his head until his neck makes a delicious cracking sound.

"What?" Sasuke asks as he takes the last step down the stairs.
"You still here?" his mother asks, "what did Naruto want?"
"Naruto?"
"Yeah. you did see him, right?"
Sasuke doesn't bother answering as he hurries to the front door. Naruto is standing outside, wearing nothing over his green hoodie, and his jean legs wet up to his knees.
"Jesus, how long have you been here?"
Naruto just shrugs.
"I'm sorry, I fell asleep and Itachi didn't tell me…" Sasuke knows painfully well how dumb he sounds.
"I'ma sleep over, ok?" Naruto's voice is low and he sounds strangely childish.
"What?" Sleep over. Sasuke mind is slowly connecting the dots. Does that mean… what? "What?" he says again.
"Kakashi's over. He's nice enough but they're drinking and I don't want to be there. I just don't." Naruto's bright blue eyes stare stubbornly past Sasuke's face, and Sasuke's a little ashamed of his dirty thoughts.
Naruto wipes his nose on his sleeve.
"I used to stay with Kiba. But I… I don't want to go home."
"You can stay."
Naruto looks up at him. His eyes are so full of gratitude it makes Sasuke's chest hurt. He steps aside to let Naruto in. The blonde boy steps past him, but turns around and touches Sasuke lightly on the shoulder.
"Thanks." Naruto smiles, and now there's definitely a hint of mischief there.

Sasuke's mother says nothing, probably because she's still distracted by his brother. Nothing else matter except Itachi's laundry, Itachi's food and Itachi's exam results and how Professor Blah of the Department of Blahtology thinks Itachi's the new fucking Easter Bunny. Sasuke is a tiny star that no one notices because the moon is so damn bright. Hogging all the sunlight and making everyone wax poetic. Ok, it's a good thing Naruto can stay and no one's calling his mom for confirmation or something retarded like that. But still. Sasuke lifts the phone receiver off and leaves it on the table as they pass it in the hall. There. Now Itachi's stupid girl friend can't call him, and will think he hates her and then leave him. Ha.

"Whadya do that for?" Naruto is trying to lift one eye-brow but can't and just looks dumb. Sasuke smiles without wanting to. "Nevermind. Come on." He still walking in a dream, this is terra incognita, and he doesn't even know if he really wants to be there. The nagging feeling of possibly ruining everything, not only with Naruto but for himself, for ever, is constantly there. His mom follows soon after and sets a mattress on the floor for Naruto. Matching sheets and two blankets, and Naruto cheerily promises he won't be cold tonight. Sasuke thinks he's going to throw up.

His mother leaves the room and they're alone together. Very, very alone. Sasuke is still standing next to his bed, stiff and awkward. Naruto throws himself on Sasuke's bed and stretches luxuriously.
"Mmmmmmmmmh… fuck I was so fucking cold out there… I shoulda called before, I know but it all just happened a bit fast and I fought with mom and bleaaargh." He picks on a hole in Sasuke's duvet.
"I could've gone over to Gaara's maybe but ugh I hate it there. They're all so fucking weird and the whole house smells off fucking cat piss and…." He looks up at Sasuke. "Why are you just standing there?" Sasuke sits down on the edge of the bed. He's so nervous his stomach is turning. He needs to think… an excuse not to talk yet…
"Uhm, wanna watch a movie?"
Naruto stares at him.
"A movie?"
"Yeah."
"Well, uhh, sure…"

They watch Jurassic Park. It's a dumb film and they've both seen it a million times but it's still fun. Sasuke keeps the bowl of pop corn between them and for those one and a half hours it's like they're just friends again. But when the helicopter finally soars over the green islands Naruto sneaks a hand behind the pop corn and tickles Sasuke's stomach.
"Stop it!" Naruto doesn't stop.
"Aegh, honestly. Stop it."
"You didn't say the magic word," Naruto sings, imitating the character Dennis.
"You're an idiot," Sasuke says, trying to push the hand away.
"Maybe, but you like it."
"Do not!"
Naruto leans over the bowl and Sasuke is trapped between him and the headboard. The first kiss is innocent and short, but is quickly followed by others that are more demanding. Naruto moves his hand behind Sasuke's head to keep it from hitting the board and leans even closer. Sasuke decides that although being just friends with no problems and no secrets is nice, this is actually quite fine too. Everything is nice and fine up until there' a knock on the door. Naruto pulls back so fast the pop corn bowl ends up upside down in the process.
"Sasuke?" his mother opens the door. "I just came to say good-" She stops. "What are you doing?"
"Uhm… Sorry Mrs Uchiha, I messed up," Naruto explains as he picks pop corn from the duvet one by one. "I'll clean it all up, I swear."
Sasuke notices his mother's discreet frown. She'll like Naruto even less after this.
"Right. Well. Good night. Don't be noisy," she says and backs out of the door.
"She hates me, doesn't she?" Naruto asks after her steps have retreated.
Sasuke nods.
"Ah, well. She'll learn to love me. Like you did."
"We should go to sleep."
"Awww you're no fun"

Sasuke leaves to brush his teeth and when he comes back the room is dark, only the streetlights through the curtains keeping it from being pitch black.
"Are you asleep?"
"No."
And they're quiet again, until Naruto finally breaks the invisible wall once more.
"Are we good?"
"What do you mean?"
"Yesterday, everything… I can't read you, Sasuke. One minute you're hot and then cold the next, I don't know what you want from me. I know you need to talk about everything and give things names before they exist for you but you know this is pretty hard for me, too."

Sasuke has to admit he hasn't even thought it might be hard for Naruto. The other boy seems so carefree and cheerful all the time, Sasuke's been feeling like a martyr, the only one worried about anything. Sasuke stares into the darkness above him.
"I'm sorry."
"Pff don't be. You're a drama queen. I guess you were born that way, I can't blame you."
"Oh fuck off." Sasuke throws a small stuffed cat in the direction of Naruto's laughter. He's relieved. They still haven't talked about anything, he knows he'll still be worried, tomorrow, maybe, but for now he's calm.
"Come here." Naruto says, his voice firm and demanding.
"I was going to... But they're still awake…"
"Now." Naruto's voice doesn't give him a choice.
"Ok."
Naruto is lying on his back on top of the blanket. He's wearing nothing but checkered orange boxer shorts. He grins and lifts his hand to Sasuke.
"Come on. I'm not gonna bite."
"Hnh, you did yesterday."
"Oh, did I?"
"Yeah." Sasuke knows he's being played but doesn't care. He pulls off his shirt. "See?"
"Wow, shit." Naruto sits up and wraps his arm loosely around Sasuke's leg. His fingers tickle the sensitive skin behind Sasuke's knee, and when the grip becomes more demanding, Sasuke doesn't resist. He ends up sitting on Naruto's lap, one leg on each side of the other boy's hips. Naruto traces the hickeys, pokes at the bite mark and then plants a little kiss between Sasuke's collar bones.
"I'm not sorry."
"I didn't think you would be."
"I know I should think more. Think before I say… before I do things…" Naruto is speaking against Sasuke's chest. "But I don't."
Sasuke sighs and scratches Naruto's head. "They're just hickeys." Naruto chuckles and looks up at Sasuke. "That's not what I meant, dumb ass."
"I know."
"Sasuke?"
"What."
"Kiss me."
Sasuke does. He's still confused, still scared, but all that is pushed into the background. Naruto arches back onto the mattress and Sasuke leans down on top of him. The kisses are still a bit clumsy but the feeling is more intense than anything Sasuke's experienced before. There's so much skin, so many places he wants to touch and Naruto's heavy breathing and surprised moan when Sasuke's fingers find his nipple and Sasuke is very much aware of how there are things happening that he cannot control and then someone flushes the toilet and Sasuke damn near has a heart attack.
"Wha…? Sas… ah… what?" Naruto opens his eyes as Sasuke pulls away from him.
"They're awake… someone…"
"Fucking hell, Sasuke…." Naruto is still panting, but somehow manages to sound calm, almost amused. He pokes Sasuke in the chest.
"What do I have to do to keep your attention on me?" That is a fair question. Sasuke leans back down and as he settles against Naruto's body, the other boy lets out a happy sigh.
"See? Better. No jumping around, hmm?" His fingers dance down Sasuke's spine and finally settle somewhere around his hip bones. It takes Sasuke a moment to realise the fingers are guiding his hips in a slow rocking motion against the body under him.
"I mean it… Naruto… they're.. they…"
Naruto chuckles. "The only thing making any noise here is your mouth." He sounds so smug and precocious Sasuke just has to shut him up. It doesn't really work, as he leans down to kiss Naruto he manages to slide his leg between Naruto's legs and that makes them both make all sorts of funny noises. Naruto's hand ends up on Sasuke's ass, and he's getting yanked forward again and again and who care's about family anyway… Sasuke's arms cannot hold him up anymore and he collapses on top of Naruto. They end up in a strange knot, legs intertwined. The friction is about to get unbearable, and even in its current hazy state Sasuke's mind realises that coming too early is bad because he wants this to continue. Yes. More is good. But more means it's over faster. The problem is almost too much for him to comprehend and before he gets any further, Naruto is the one to interrupt.
"Sasuke…" he breathes and pulls at the waistline of Sasuke's shorts. "I want these off."
Clothes off means more skin. More skin is good. But good means over faster. Confused. Oh, that feels good… Still confused…
"Mmmhh…"
"I'll take that as a yes." Sasuke is pushed onto his back and he can feel the final piece of fabric slide off and then he's completely naked. He keeps his eyes shut, he knows Naruto's sitting next to him, looking at him, and embarrassment might just be the only emotion strong enough to break the spell.
Two hands slide down his sides.
"You're beautiful."
Sasuke opens his eyes. Naruto is indeed looking at him, but somehow it's not awkward at all. His blue eyes are unusually serene, almost serious, and there's something solemn about the way he bows down to give Sasuke a small kiss on the cheek. Sasuke shivers.
"You too", he whispers and tugs at the annoying orange fabric. "I, too, am beautiful or I, too, need to be naked?" Naruto grins and strips his boxers off, then falls back into Sasuke's arms.
"Better", he murmurs. Yes, much better…
The calm mood doesn't last long. They're both hard and anxious to point of desperation, and every little move Naruto makes, sweaty skin against sweaty skin and rough pubic hair tickling Sasuke's hip bone, makes the crazy tingling in his head and groin stronger and stronger.
"Jesus fuck…," Sasuke half-screams without meaning to.
"Can I touch you?" Naruto whispers. Sasuke doesn't know if he answers aloud or not but the Naruto's fingers wrap around Sasuke's cock and squeeze just right. Sasuke's own fingers grip Naruto's shoulders a little too hard and they're panting into each other's mouths. Sasuke can taste blood again but he has no idea whose blood it is and what happened. It's all over fairly quickly, first Naruto's hand starts slipping and shaking and his breath in Sasuke's ear gets erratic and hitched. Sasuke barely manages to register the wetness on his stomach when something Naruto does tips him over the edge. His eyes fly open and he knows he's almost screaming but there's no way he can stop himself.

"Hee hee. You're not too quiet, are you? I thought we were supposed to be discreet."
"Yeah, well, it's all your fault." Speaking is a little difficult, Sasuke still feels like he can't get his lungs full enough.
"But I didn't bite you," Naruto points out and kisses Sasuke's knee.
"Hmh."
Another kiss on his upper thigh and then Naruto gets up. Sasuke cannot understand how he has the energy, he himself if too exhausted to move a finger. A crumpled tissue hits him in the head.
"You might want to clean yourself up."
"Mmmmh."
Sasuke sits up and stretches his neck. Naruto's got his boxers back on and he's fishing something out of the pockets of his discarded jeans.
"You can't smoke here! Mom will kill me!"
"The first after-sex cigarette in my life and you're denying that from me?" After-sex? "Was that sex?" Sasuke asks it out loud and instantly regrets doing so. Naruto stares at him for a long time, unlighted cigarette dangling from his mouth. "Well what was it then?" Sasuke shrugs. "I don't know. It's just… I know what sex is… and that… you know."
"Don't tell me you wanted to try something weird involving the ass. 'Cos dude, that's gross."
"Ah, forget it." Naruto turns around and leans out of the window. There's a click of the lighter and Sasuke can smell the smoke. He wraps Naruto's blanket around his shoulders and joins Naruto by the window.
"Oh, Sasuke, you can't bring that here! It'll catch the smell and then your mom's gonna lose it again."
"Shut up," Sasuke says and leans against Naruto's bare back. "You're freezing, too. Give me a cigarette."
He gets a cigarette and a kiss and they watch the white smoke dissolve against the dark sky.
"Which do you think would make you mom freak more, the cigarettes or me naked in your bed?"
"Ha ha. You're sleeping on the floor."
"Aww, now that's just cruel."

And I pressed tight against you
Like the Moon melting into the Sun
And you whispered, that the world would be saved by the two of us.
And if nothing else, I knew that at that moment I was in love
When the day was young and so deliciously messed up.

***

Sasuke wakes up before he's even fallen properly asleep. Hazy bit of dreams mix with memories form last night in dizzying whirl and make his joints hurt and every position uncomfortable. Around eight o'clock he stops trying. Naruto is fast asleep on the mattress, hips, legs and head under the blanket but his tanned back bare. Like a small child, hiding his face and thinking no one can see him. "I can see you", Sasuke whispers, resting his chin on the edge of his bed.

Naruto so thin, Sasuke can see the bones on his back move under the smooth golden skin as he twitches in his sleep. His shoulder blades are so sharp they seem to be cutting him from the inside. Sasuke reaches out and presses his palm between them. Naruto's spine in hard under his hand, the vertebras fit the joints of his index finger like zipper. Burning hot against freezing cold.

He slides down from the bed onto the mattress, scooting closer. Naruto mumbles something incoherent and hides his face deeper under the corner of the blanket. It takes a little forcing, but Sasuke manages to get his hand past Naruto's bent knees onto his stomach.
"Ehmshasgedahscold…"
Sasuke pretends he can't understand. "What was that?"
"Nnngah."
"What?"
"Ah for fucks sakes!" Naruto rolls over to face him, one eye still shut and pillow stripes crossing the whisker marks on his cheek, making it look like tartan.
"Your. Hand. Cold." He sounds annoyed, but allows Sasuke to guide him onto his back, merely shifting to accommodate the elbows poking his ribs. It's a morning kiss, stuffy and tired and not particularly delicious. Sasuke keeps his mouth shut and pulls off before they get too into it. There's wanting to kiss someone more than anything and then there's… morning breath.

And then Naruto sits up, stretching and yawning, and Sasuke's arm falls back onto the mattress, limp. Naruto stretches thoroughly; he looks like a kitten with his blond hair all messed up.
"So, what's for breakfast?" Without waiting for an answer he helps himself to Sasuke's last cookie, forgotten on the desk, and moves to study Sasuke's bookshelf.
"Damn, I never noticed these before," he comments as he notices the trophy collection. Every medal Sasuke's ever got, starting from pre-school skiing competitions is there.
"I knew you were an over-achiever but please." Naruto moves on to the books.
"Fucking hell, have you read all of these?"
Why is it so easy for him? Sasuke can't think of anything to say, and Naruto is blabbing away like nothing happened. Doesn't he think things have changed? Have they changed? Sasuke's mind hasn't even gotten to the "what now?" –part yet. Are they even friends anymore?
"Do you think we're gay now?"
That stops Naruto dead. "What?"
"You and me. Gay. Homos. Faggots. I bet you know more, even nicer, terms."
Naruto looks so hurt and lost Sasuke almost regrets saying anything.
"I… uh…"
"If you weren't one of us, what would you call us?"
"Sasuke, I don't know! Fuck! I…" Naruto sits down on the floor and inhales deeply. "Look, this is what I meant last night. Why the hell do we need to call anything anything? Why can't things just be nice for a change when usually everything's just crap and you're like the only thing I can go to and I don't need to think and think and I can just be with you and everything's ok because I so fucking sick of everything just…fuck…"
Sasuke goes over to him and forces him into a hug. Naruto isn't crying, but his shaking a little and his eyes are too wide. The guy is always so fucking happy there's bound to be something bubbling under.
"I know. I'm sorry." Sasuke whispers. And he means it. He might still have to think and analyse, but maybe Naruto really isn't a superhero with all the answers, someone who never gets hurt. Naruto is squeezing Sasuke's arm almost convulsively, it really hurts, but Sasuke doesn't move. He doesn't move for a long time, not until Naruto's neck goes less stiff and his breathing is normal again.
They don't move, but Naruto turns around and presses tighter against Sasuke.
"You don't have to do any of that. I don't even know why I care. I'm just…. I don't know."
"We don't have to tell anybody, ever."
"No. If you don't want to, we don't have to," Sasuke says. Who cares what everyone else thinks, if they want to have a secret, they can have a secret. Forever.
"Idiots," Naruto whispers.
"What?"
"That's what I'd call us if I wasn't one of us."
Sasuke laughs into Naruto's messy hair.
"Me too."

Naruto leaves at around seven in the evening. It's already dark, and they risk a final kiss in the corner of the porch, hidden from the windows.
"Try not to worry too much," Naruto whispers as they pull apart.
"I won't"
"Yeah, you will. But you shouldn't."
"Maybe we both should."
Naruto kisses him on the nose. "Don't start again. It felt good, right? What's wrong about that? That's all that matters."
Sasuke shrugs.
"You are such a drama queen," Naruto says affectionately. He jumps over the railing.
"See you tomorrow." He waves a cheery goodbye and disappears behind the snowy hedge surrounding the yard. Sasuke stays on the porch, breathing the cooling air. It smells like winter, icy and lonely, but with a hint of a lit fireplace and ginger bread. He keeps last night out of his thoughts by force, that contemplation will require some alcohol and nicotine and above all, solitude. The kitchen window casts a yellow square on the dark planks, just next to where Sasuke is standing.

After a while Itachi comes out. He approaches Sasuke slowly, carefully, like a stranger's dog. That's almost what they are these days, strangers.
"I heard about the suicide", Itachi mumbles, lighting a cigarette. He's gotten more confident, Sasuke didn't think he'd ever tell mum and dad about his smoking but apparently being a university student balances out small imperfections like that. Sasuke carefully breathes in the smoke. It doesn't relax him, only gets him craving for more.
"Are you ok? The kid… he was a friend of yours, wasn't he?"
Sasuke nearly laughs out loud. His brother, Itachi the Great, worrying about a tiny little earth worm like Sasuke?
"Yeah. I guess he was."
"Dumb thing to do." Itachi looks at Sasuke. They used to look similar, when they were young, but Itachi grew up to look more like their father and Sasuke… didn't. But their eyes are exactly the same, it's like staring at his reflection in the mirror.
"Whatever shit might happen, you know there are other, more sensible things to do."
Sasuke snorts. "Like what? Talking to Mom and Dad?"
"Like getting even."
"I thought revenge was childish and non-productive and never the answer."
"No, it's a very adult thing to do. Not very mature, but then again, not many adults are very mature."
A roar of an engine from down the road interrupts their strange conversation. They watch a slightly battered, grayish Nissan Sunny turn onto their yard with a curve far too wide. The front of the car hits the rose bush.
"Your bitch can't drive."
"No, she really can't. But she makes up for it other areas." Itachi steps down and walks over to the unfortunate car, signalling his girlfriend to turn right and back up. She does back up, all the way to the fir tree on the other side of their yard. Sasuke actually laughs at that. She stops the car, waving her hands in the air, and gets out. She's laughing too, as she scrambles out, fighting the snowy branches away from her nylon-clad thighs.

They look so normal. Itachi's never been the picket-fence type, but somehow it now seems he could be. Maybe it's the fact that he's actually smiling right now. Sasuke wonders what he himself'll be like at 21. Will what he and Naruto have be just a phase like it said in the EG book, will they separate at the junction and close the case and live normally ever after? What if Naruto grows out of it and Sasuke doesn't? What if Sasuke's going be gay forever and has to look for a real boyfriend and introduce him to his parents and..
"Hey cutie", Karin ruffles his hair. "So deep in 's up?" Her hand is wet and cold from the snow.
"Nothing."
"Nothing except puberty," Itachi concludes and pulls Karin away. "Let's go inside, I'm freezing."
"You forgot your cigarettes, asshole," Sasuke yells after him.
"No, I didn't." And Itachi closes the door.
Sasuke opens the abandoned pack of Marlboro Lights. There's one left, and a small note rolled up next to it. It's a stupid habit, kick it while you can. Sasuke smiles.

That evening Sasuke has dinner with the entire family, not alone in his room. Karin gets the third degree from their mother, Mikoto clearly thinks she's nowhere near good enough for her Special Boy but Karin doesn't seem to care. Sasuke's never seen anyone match up to mom quite like she does.
"So," Mikoto sighs as she gathers the dishes away. "You're leaving together tomorrow?"
"Oh yes," Karin chirps, licking her spoon. "Ita can drive my car back, I hate driving, really. Neither of us has lectures tomorrow so we can just go whenever."
"Karin's staying here for the night," Itachi says with bored nonchalance, but Sasuke knows he's very much enjoying their mother's distress.
"Oh, really? Well. That's great. Isn't it just great, Fugaku?" She throws the cutlery on top of the plates with a little two much strength.
Their father grunts.
Sasuke catches Karin's eye over the table. She winks.
He winks back.

***

It's another Monday morning, the desks in the familiar circle that's not really a circle. It's only been a week, but it feels more like a year. "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day", as Jiraiya, their confirmation camp pastor from the summer of two years ago, said when he banned Naruto and Kiba from going swimming and made them wipe tables for three hours after they nearly set the sauna on fire.
Sasuke remembers Naruto's face in the camp centre window as he walked towards the beach with the other kids. Angry and defiant and not sorry at all.

He was wrong. Naruto is nothing like Kiba. Naruto is tough, sticky tough like black salmiakki, hiding between Sasuke's teeth and spicing all his other food with the strange salty taste. The harder life would chew on him, the tougher he'd get. He would never, ever, give up, and might just manage to keep Sasuke from giving up as well.

The door opens behind his back. Every pen, every brush in the class stops moving, a few mouths actually drop open. Sasuke turns around. The person at the door is Sakura, and yet it's not her at all. "Holy shit…" Sasuke can hear Naruto's faint whisper. Sakura has cut her long strawberry blonde hair and dyed it eye-achingly bright pink. Her heavy fringe is gone, pushed up with sparkly clips into a messy tuft. Head held high, she's savouring their reaction before slowly starting towards her seat.
"Sa…Sakura?" Umino's half-standing, more unsurely hovering over his desk. "What on earth happened to you?"

Sakura stops at the far end of the circle, directly facing the teacher. She strikes a ridiculous pose vaguely resembling a model at the end of the runway, and flicks her barely-there hair.
"Art therapy, Teach", she says. "Art therapy."

The class erupts in applauds. Lee scares the hell out of everyone with a sharp, loud wolf whistle, and Naruto lifts his desk up and lets it fall back down with a huge bang. His marker and papers are flying everywhere and he's laughing. Sasuke laughs too, and despite feeling ridiculous, lifts his blue marker up in the air in a salute.
"To art therapy!"
Pencil cases, crumpled papers, crayons and cups of dirty water join his marker.
"To art therapy!" They yell together. Umino is once again lost in a zoo, but to their amazement and delight he slowly lifts his bunch of keys. "To art therapy."
Their memories, their sadness, their exhilaration. Sasuke's chest hurts, hurts as if every single emotion he's going to need for the rest of his life is suddenly born within him, stretching and screaming like an alien baby. He might grow up, he might get an apartment and a black cat and job as a cashier or as an astronaut. But this moment will stay with him, a new basis for everything that follows.
One small week at the beginning of one small November. His death and his rebirth and Naruto's smiling eyes.

***

"Good evening, I am Kotetsu Hagane and this is Village Voice on Radio95. There is growing debate going on about the recent increase in illegal graffiti paintings in the village centre. The mayor expressed his anguish over the matter in the Morning Times yesterday, swearing to eradicate the vandalism and help the owners of businesses that have been affected. The municipal council is backing him up, but not unanimously. Especially when it comes to the possible solution, there is much debate. Since the talks are still on-going, none of the representatives would agree to an interview. So instead, we asked Deidara Iwa, a local sculptor who has just been commissioned to design a fountain for the main hall of the new library, what he thinks of the issue. Mr. Iwa?

"You know, the whole thing's just retarded. Yeah, retarded. People are going on and on about crime and vandalism and preventive actions and are totally missing the point. This is about ART, yeah! There are young people in this village with a message; they're sharing their lives, thoughts and ideas with the rest of our dry standing society. Every teacher, every parent is worried sick about losing the kids to all the bad shit in the world, and here they are, throwing their opinions in our faces and we want to silence them, paint white over them! These paintings aren't just tags or mess, they're EXPLOSIONS! A moment in a young person's life shared with those who had forgotten what it's like to be young. BANG! Right in the brain! If we embraced it, we might all learn a thing or two."

Interesting view, Mr. Iwa… but… aren't you afraid expressing sympathy towards the painters might jeopardise your deal with the library?

"Oh… uhm… hmm…"

"That guy is off his rocker." Karin nods towards the car radio. "Well done ruining any chance of intelligent conversation over the matter and blowing the whole thing completely out of proportion."
"Come on, he's an artist. They're supposed to be off their rocker. Right, Miss Art History Major?"
Karin sticks her tongue out at her boyfriend.
"You just focus on steering or we'll be off this road."
"Oh look who's talking. You know, mom was really upset, you killed her favourite tree."
"Her own fault for planting it in the wrong place."
"Of course."

Karin leans over the gear stick to kiss Itachi on the cheek as they pass the sign pointing to the city centre. The first pioneers among the shop keepers have put Christmas lights in the windows, and the snow is doing its best hiding the ugly darkness of the winter. A tiny little country far North huddles closer together to fight the long cold, once again.

***

Stormyclouds: thank you3 sorry to say this was the last update for the main story, I have side stories and a planned sequel though^^