A/N: Originally supposed to be a one-shot. Might still be, I'm debating it and really, really busy with 'Bonded'. This was something I had a dream about and had to get off my chest. It's probably the only fic I'll do that's not related to 'Bonded' in any way.
Sasuke was surrounded. He counted seven boys, all his age or older. Some held actual ninja weapons, others had chains or clubs. He adjusted his ragged shirt on his shoulders and grinned cockily. "Don't be shy, boys! There's plenty for everyone."
"Quit the macho act, Uchiha. We're finally taking you down," one beefy boy said.
"Yeah," another chimed in. "You've terrorized the kids in this village, namely our brothers and sisters, long enough."
A third boy added his two cents. "Just because your brother murdered your clan and you're all alone doesn't mean you can-"
Sasuke yawned ostentatiously. "Yeah, what the fuck ever. You wanna get your asses kicked or not? Step up, faggot."
The boy cursed in rage as he rushed the tall grimy Uchiha. Sasuke grabbed his head and slammed his knee into the boy's face. He dropped him, stepped over his unconscious body and maneuvered himself into a position to receive his other attackers all in one smooth move.
It was a valiant effort on the boys' part, but wasted. Sasuke didn't even have to try. He was quick and they weren't. Fighting was his food and drink, they were kids who'd barely graduated from the academy.
Most importantly, they lacked hatred, came from warm loving families, while he…he was a gutter rat, survival was his daily bread and there was nothing soft, warm or loving about Uchiha Sasuke.
He gave the last boy a twist of his arm, breaking it in at least three places before he calmly stripped the clothes off the largest boy and examined them. Not bad. They just might fit. They were a bit wide, but they looked long enough.
Sasuke tucked the garments into the pack he kept strapped to his back as he sauntered off. A glance at the sun showed it to be close to evening. Another hour and the sun would set. Time to find some food.
The usual place to do this was outside a take-out restaurant. He'd lean casually against a building in sight of the targeted establishment and wait for some idiot to come outside with his purchases. Sasuke would follow the fool, wait till they were on a relatively deserted street, then ambush the guy. Threats of more violence kept them from telling anyone, or so Sasuke assumed. And there were enough take-out joints in Konoha so that he never hit the same one too often.
Today he took up residence outside a charming little spot called Ichiraku Ramen. Not Sasuke's favorite food, but he had to eat something.
Thing was, the place only had one customer today and he looked to be eating at the bar. Sasuke contemplated going somewhere else…then decided he could at least jack the fuck for his money. Then he'd hit someplace else for food.
Whoever he was, the dude could seriously eat. Sasuke counted thirteen orders of ramen going down his gullet, and who knew how many he'd eaten before Sasuke arrived? He was getting tired of waiting. The jerk probably blew his entire wad on all those bowls; there wouldn't be a ryou left to take from him.
Sasuke was just straightening up from his lounging position across the street when the dude got up, paid, and left the restaurant. He ducked under the partial awning and into the setting rays of the sun. Sasuke squinted, but couldn't make out his features clearly. The last rays of the sun were directly in his eyes.
He followed the guy. He knew he wasn't likely to get any money off of him. No, he followed him so he could take his anger out on him for making him wait all this time for nothing. Least his evening wouldn't be a total loss.
Sasuke stayed a measured few paces behind the guy until he reached a seedy apartment building. No one was around, the Uchiha judged the moment to be right. He ghosted forward, slipping from shadow to shadow, his tattered, run down sandals making no sound.
He shot a practiced move towards the guy's neck, but his hand was grabbed and Sasuke spun in a swirl of pink sky and dingy buildings as he was flipped and thrown bodily to the ground. A foot rested on his throat.
Sasuke saw red.
He brought his forearm crashing down on the knee, but it wasn't there anymore, the foot had been removed and his arm was kicked away hard. Another kick landed in his gut and Sasuke curled around the pain, close to vomiting. He went limp, playing the defeated card.
His mark moved away, took a few steps backward. Sasuke let his body shiver and shake, in case the guy was watching. A glance through his filthy bangs showed that he wasn't. The guy, a blond, was calmly walking up the stairs into the building. Sasuke sat where he was for a moment. He'd never been owned like that. Who was this guy?
The information that this might be where the guy lived intruded on his thoughts. Not only would he pay him back for hurting Sasuke and discarding him as unimportant, he'd rob him blind of whatever he owned. Perfect. Sasuke jumped up and jogged after the guy, no longer interested in being stealthy. All he wanted was to sink his fists into the guy's face, to hurt and hurt and hurt.
Sasuke caught up to him as he was putting a key into a door. He caught a flash of impossibly direct, blue eyes before he crashed into him, leading with his kunai.
A foot tangled in his legs, sending him to the floor, but he was caught before he could hit the surface. The guy roughly shoved Sasuke against the wall, away from him. He stood there, looking at Sasuke without expression.
The hall ended in a slimy window that let in anemic light from the setting sun. As Sasuke was on one side of the narrow hall and the guy on the other, the window was between them. Sasuke got a good look at the guy's face.
First of all, 'guy' was the wrong term. Sasuke guessed the dude was around his age, sixteen. He was as tall as Sasuke, maybe a bit taller. The dude had a way of standing slightly hunched over. He was broad, beefy with muscle, but not to the point of immobility. His hair was a shaggy blond, spiking into the air and falling over his ears and neck. The thick blond brows were angled upward over those intense eyes.
Sasuke decided it was those eyes that kept him from attacking again.
They were more than direct. They seemed…expressive and devoid of life at the same time. Had Sasuke the language to describe them, he would have said that they begged for acceptance while shutting out everyone and everything. They were forceful, curious eyes…yet they gave the unmistakable impression of caring about nothing.
The Uchiha realized that the kid was vaguely familiar. Something…a rumor or something was attached to this kid. Sasuke had no idea what it was and cared less. Other people's problems did not interest him unless he could profit from them in some way.
The guy was clean, but his clothes were worn. There probably wasn't anything worth taking in his apartment, either. Sasuke straightened to his full height and edged sideways. He maintained eye contact. The kid didn't stir, only his eyes tracked Sasuke's movements. Just as he came abreast of him, the kid shot his arm out and placed a wide hand on the wall by Sasuke's head, halting his departure.
Sasuke tensed up, ready for the blow that was surely-
The kid held out Sasuke's kunai to him. Sasuke looked down at it, took it. His knuckles brushed the kid's hand as he took his weapon. The palm by his dark head dropped and the kid stepped back.
Freak, Sasuke thought caustically as he ran out of the building.
Naruto stood in his hall a moment longer. His insides still squirmed in the aftermath of the encounter. He turned, found his key jutting out of the lock, twisted it and entered his one room domicile.
It was bare, his living quarters. He was rarely sent on missions and always received the lowest pay when he managed to land one. He didn't have money to spend on luxuries like furniture. What money he managed to accumulate went to food. He'd recently been on a mission that, by virtue of its difficult nature and his completion of it single-handedly, had paid him an unprecedented amount of cash. He had splurged on ramen.
He looked around his space, feeling that the empty room echoed his empty soul. He sat cross-legged on his floor and thought about what had just happened.
He'd known the kid was across the street watching him from the moment he'd taken up his obvious surveillance because of the simple fact that people did not watch Naruto. They worked at not seeing him. He'd been intrigued that the kid had followed him; people kept their distance from Naruto.
Then the attack. Naruto had never been attacked by anyone in the village. Everyone knew him, knew what he was, anyway. They'd kill themselves before trying to provoke him. They did not acknowledge his presence in any way, shape or form. He was not abused or taunted or ridiculed. He was just distanced from the villagers, ignored thoroughly and completely. Never had anyone touched him intentionally. Voluntary touching was unheard of. The only one who had touched him at all had been his teacher when he was a Genin. He'd had a private teacher, never having been on a three-man team. His teacher had been Jiraiya.
Naruto had felt strangely present in the moment as he parried the clumsy moves. His mind was usually far away, removed from his lonely existence. Then to be pursued further, to his very door… it had been a moment for him. What could the kid possibly want from him? He'd never seen him before. He'd stood in the hall, staring at the boy, trying to understand why he wasn't repulsed by Naruto.
The boy was filthy. Naruto didn't think the word 'bathe' was in his attacker's vocabulary. His long, dark hair was matted and caked with dirt. His skin was blotchy with more filth and his clothes were rags that hung off of his lean frame. His straight nose sat between two very dark eyes that looked at him directly, unblinkingly, defiantly.
The kid was not afraid of him. This, too, had been a moment for Naruto.
When the dirty boy began trying to leave, as if daring Naruto to stop him, he'd recalled the weapon he'd taken from him and handed it to him. There had been a touch that the boy didn't flinch from. Another moment for Naruto.
Naruto wondered who the kid was. He sat in the dark for several hours, turning over every gesture of the encounter in his mind. When he slept, he dreamed of the kid.
Sasuke's night went differently. Once outside the building he shook himself as if coming out of a dream. He promptly put the entire episode out of his mind as he spotted a girl, his former team mate, in fact, walking quickly down the street. Sasuke jogged after her.
Sakura had spotted her former team mate exiting the unfamiliar building and sped up, lowering her head, hoping she hadn't been seen. Sasuke terrified her.
"Hey, Cyclops, what's your hurry," Sasuke drawled as he caught up to her. He grabbed her arm and yanked her into a shadowy alley, pressing her to the hard stones of the wall with his body.
Sakura trembled. His reference to her one-eyed state and the patch she wore over her missing eye was particularly cruel. Sasuke had been responsible for the accident that had cost her her eye.
"Yeah…" Sasuke breathed. "Don't run from your former team mate. I might think you don't like me. What you got in these bags here?" He snatched them from her arms and quickly assessed the contents.
"Ha, it's my lucky day after all. Look at all this food. I guess I'll be eating well for a week, whew!"
Sakura peeked at Sasuke through her bangs and tried to run away while he was occupied. Sasuke moved to block.
"Where you going, Cyclops? You're not afraid, are you? 'Cuz that would hurt my feelings." Sasuke dropped the bags and moved closer to Sakura. She was barely as tall as his shoulder.
He'd hated her ever since she'd had the nerve to have a crush on him back in their academy days. He'd been fit to be tied at discovering she was on his team. The time leading up to the Chuunin exam had been spent making her life hell. Sai, his other team mate, sometimes tried to protect her but he was no match for Sasuke. Kakashi-sensei couldn't care less what happened. At least he couldn't until one day when the Jounin had told Sasuke to back off or he'd be sorry. Sasuke couldn't take his sensei on at that time…and he'd been too curious to know why the notoriously uncaring, indifferent man had decided to protect Sakura.
Sasuke got his answer one morning as he arrived at the training grounds early. He saw Kakashi thrusting briskly into Sakura's young body, her legs thrown over his shoulders as she whimpered at his size stretching her fragile flesh.
It was clearly understood that Sakura paid for her protection with her body. Sasuke had watched in interest, wondering if he could possibly blackmail his sensei with the knowledge that he was fucking a twelve year-old girl. He decided against it. No one would care and Kakashi was not someone he wanted to cross.
He did taunt Sakura about it, though. It just bugged him that she'd managed to escape his grasp by going to their sensei. The day he'd set a few exploding tags at their preferred meeting place at the training grounds, he'd been intending to kill them both. Kakashi had escaped mostly unharmed. Sakura had come out of it with one less eye.
He'd been only too glad to tell her it was his doing, too. He'd considered raping her himself on that particular day, but decided the act was entirely too disgusting. He beat her bloody instead.
Sasuke hardly ever saw her anymore. She kept her distance. Seeing her now was a nice treat indeed. Fucking with her was always fun.
Sakura opened her mouth to scream as Sasuke closed the distance between them, but his hand covered her mouth, his fingers digging brutally into her skin.
He tore her eye patch off and spent a few minutes exclaiming at her ugliness. His hands squeezed and twisted her breasts only because he knew this area of her body would afford the most pain. He wasn't interested in girls or anyone sexually.
Sasuke tired of her quickly. She was no challenge, the way she cringed and waited for his torment to be over. He shoved her into some stacked garbage bags, bent to retrieve her parcels and walked off into the night.
He munched an apple he found in one of the bags. He was feeling very fine indeed. Clothes, food…he didn't have any other pressing needs. The rest of the night could be devoted to fun. This he did by visiting the local park. Prey was plentiful on that balmy evening and Sasuke was an accomplished predator.
Naruto woke the next morning and was faced, as usual, with plenty of time on his hands. He got up, washed, dressed and left his apartment. He wandered around the village until he came to the training grounds. Sometimes Konohamaru would visit him there. He waited.
He was in luck. The boy came some time before noon. Naruto noted the sack under his arm and was grateful. Konohamaru often paid for his illicit lessons with Naruto by giving him food. Naruto had told the boy he would teach him for free, but the boy had insisted that no Sarutobi would ever be accused of begging. Naruto was too hungry to continue refusal; frequently the only food he had was what the boy brought him.
"Hi, Naruto! Brought you some rice and pork. There's a fruit cake in there, too."
Naruto merely nodded his thanks while taking the bag in an unhurried manner. Konohamaru was used to his taciturn and humble ways. He wanted to be Naruto's friend but the older boy somehow didn't let things get too comfortable or familiar between them. Naruto was always so remote, never smiling, yet never mean or unkind.
"Can we do Rasengan again, today? I think I'm getting the hang of step two."
"Sure." Naruto's voice was deep. You'd think, for someone that moved so deliberately and had such a calm, stable personality, that the voice would be equally slow. It wasn't. Deep, it was but it had a normal cadence, almost a lilting quality to it.
Naruto took the balloon that Konohamaru came supplied with and blew it up. He held it in his palm moving his chakra within it while simultaneously performing the same action in his other hand without a balloon.
His young protégé watched closely and spent the next couple of hours doing his best to imitate the technique. Naruto let his own chakra dissipate as he looked in the bag and withdrew the dish of rice and barbecue pork.
When Konohamaru lay drained and panting in the grass, Naruto ventured a question.
"Konohamaru, there's someone I'm interested in knowing about. You know everyone in the village, neh?"
Konohamaru sat up excitedly, pleased that his teacher was initiating a conversation. "Yeah, I know everyone! Who're you interested in?"
"There is a boy…around my age, I think." Naruto ran through the description. Half-way through, his little companion's face darkened.
"That's Uchiha Sasuke and he's nothing but a big bullying shark. I hate him. What do you want to know about him for?"
Naruto avoided the question by asking one of his own. "You know him well?"
"Well as anybody who's been on the receiving end of his crap."
"Tell me. Everything."
Naruto listened as he finished eating the fruit cake, licking his fingers neatly. If Konohamaru was to be believed, Sasuke had become the way he was because his own brother, a person he'd idolized, had killed his entire clan. For whatever reason, the village hated Uchihas. Some villagers set about attacking the traumatized survivor of the hated clan whenever they came across him. It wasn't long before the kid started fighting back and attacking people in turn.
"And then Orochimaru made a play for him in the Chuunin exam," the boy continued. "Word is he gave Orochimaru such hell that the old Sannin threw him back to Konoha and said good riddance."
Naruto raised his eyebrows. Orochimaru was a notorious criminal and leader of a thriving child prostitution ring.
Konohamaru was getting into his tale. "Yup and everyone thinks that Sasuke is going to leave the village one day to go kill his brother, but he's not. Nobody can kill Uchiha Itachi, he's the strongest ninja alive."
"Where does he live," Naruto asked.
"Who, Sasuke?" Konohamaru snorted. "Nowhere! What, you think he has a home? The entire Uchiha compound was burned to the ground after the slaughter, with the bodies and everything still in there. That jerk lives on the streets."
"How is that possible? Chuunins make money enough on missions to survive…at least, other Chuunins do," Naruto finished quietly.
"Yeah, well, Sasuke is such a violent person that he doesn't get sent on missions anymore."
Naruto had one last question. "Where can I find him?"
"Holy Jesus, what for?"
Naruto did not answer, only looked at Konohamaru. The boy sighed shortly. "He moves around a lot. Sometimes you can find him at the park, though. At night."
Naruto deemed their lesson over at that point. He stood up. Konohamaru whined about practicing a little more, but the big blond merely shook his head and walked away.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on his own training. Naruto did this out in the woods, where the damage he caused wouldn't hurt or alarm anyone.
Sasuke was in a serious fight. The dude he'd tried to pickpocket turned out to be some retired old Jounin with quite a bit of skill and strength left in him. Sasuke hunched his shoulders, braced against the impact of the fist that slammed into his face again and again, throwing hard punches of his own.
The bear got him in a choke hold, Sasuke twisting and kicking. Finally, he went Sharingan and released lightning chakra from his entire body. The old man staggered away and Sasuke was on him in an instant, landing on his chest, plowing his fists into the grizzled face one after the other until the man was unconscious. Sasuke flopped off of him with a grunt. His knuckles were sore and swollen but he managed to remove the wallet from the guy's back pocket and thumb through the contents. Better than a hundred ryou. Well worth the pain, in Sasuke's estimation.
He stood up with a hiss and a wince. Geezer had done a job on him. Sasuke could scarcely straighten his back and one of his legs was shot. He limped to where his pack had fallen and threw the wallet inside. Blood dripped from his battered face as he considered calling it a night. Yeah, he'd had enough fun for one evening.
His hitching gait took him slowly past the park. Sasuke's black eyes automatically canvassed the enclosed area, searching for prey. He froze.
That blond hair. That hulking stature. It was that guy, that kid from yesterday. Sasuke would remember him, recognize him anywhere. Aside from his unique looks, the fact that Sasuke had been beaten by him would stick with him for years. He hesitated outside the park gate, watching the kid swinging idly.
Naruto had been letting one foot push languidly against he ground as he straddled one of the metal swings. His hands and cheek rested against the cool chain in the late afternoon. He became aware of someone watching him almost as soon as the figure stopped. Naruto turned his eyes towards the park entrance. He froze.
That thin frame, the tightly wound, restrained energy that seemed to bake off the kid. It was him. Uchiha Sasuke. Naruto stood up, unstraddling the swing as he faced the park entrance.
Sasuke saw the dude boldly looking at him. Actually looking! People avoided catching his eye, not wanting to be his latest victim. He could understand the guy looking at him yesterday, I mean shit, he'd just attacked the guy. What the hell was he looking at now? Sasuke decided he wasn't so beat up after all. Maybe the kid needed a repeat of yesterday's action.
For whatever reason, Sasuke conveniently forgot that Naruto had been the one to kick Sasuke's ass instead of the other way around. He marched over to the silent figure intent on starting an altercation.
"Hey," the Uchiha barked, nose to nose with the kid. "What's your problem? What the fuck are you staring at, huh?"
Naruto did not budge, fascinated that the kid, Sasuke, could stand to be this close to him, practically breathing in Naruto's breath. He let his eyes rove over the dirty, bloody features.
Sasuke got spooked by the silent treatment. He frowned to cover this up, but took a step back. The kid was taller. A little. The eyes were brilliant in the sunlight.
Why Sasuke noticed this he didn't know. The kid practically begged to be mauled with his big, dumb self and Sasuke saw no reason not to oblige. He feinted a left hook, then led with his right. Naruto caught the fist without taking his eyes off Sasuke's face. Naruto twisted Sasuke's arm sharply, as if it were an afterthought and Sasuke grit his teeth to keep from crying out. His hand was released slowly.
Sasuke rubbed his abused shoulder joint, scowling at the kid. "What is wrong with you?!"
Naruto blinked at the absurdity of this question. Was he not supposed to defend himself?
"Do you talk, asshole?!"
Sasuke stopped rubbing his shoulder. A shiver passed through him at hearing the voice at last. The huskiness was unlike any voice he'd ever heard. Melodious and deep.
"Well that's a relief. Freak." Sasuke hawked and spat on the kid's face for the sheer hell of seeing what he would do.
Sasuke landed on the other side of the seesaws, an apparatus that was a good twenty feet from the swing set. He rolled to his hands and knees shaking his head. He'd barely seen the blond's arm swing up. He spent a few seconds ascertaining that his head was still attached to his shoulders before standing up.
He glanced around and found the kid still standing by the swings, still watching him. Sasuke had had it. He rushed him, Sharingan on.
Naruto cocked his head at seeing the lightning attacks. He caught Sasuke's wrists, spun him around, and kneed him in the back, before delivering a blow to the back of Sasuke's neck that had the boy unconscious. This was all done without changing his stance. Naruto stared down at the boy for a few moments before stooping down. He draped Sasuke over his shoulder and left the park.
Sasuke woke up in a place he knew he'd never seen before. The walls and floor were bare. He sat up, ignoring the various aches and pains in his body, to glance around anxiously.
That kid. He sat on the balls of his feet, his elbows on his knees, his big hands dangling between his legs as he watched Sasuke from a few feet away. He was clearly visible in the bright light of the one bulb that hung from the ceiling.
Sasuke got to his feet slowly, taking in his surroundings while trying to keep the motionless kid in sight. Sasuke did not like strange surroundings or enclosed places. Bad things tended to happen in both.
He stood, favoring his left leg and looked for his pack. He spotted it near the door and moved in that direction.
His leg gave out, having stiffened while he was unconscious. He went down hard, catching himself on his hands. He rolled onto his side holding his hamstring and grimacing as the pain escalated. The blond freak watched him. Finally, when he could take it no more, Sasuke bit out a plea.
The kid seemed surprised. His eyes widened a bit, but he did straighten from his crouch enough to duck waddle to where Sasuke lay hitting the floor with his fist, squeezing his eyes against the tears that sprang up.
Sasuke felt a large hand tentatively touch his leg where he was grasping and close over the rock hard muscle. The hand squeezed experimentally, massaging and probing until the muscle loosened and Sasuke gasped in relief.
The kid started to remove his hand but Sasuke held it in place with his own, silently urging him to continue. Sasuke's face was turned into the floor, unwilling to face those eyes just now. To his knowledge, Sasuke had never requested or accepted help in anything. It disgusted him that he did so now, so he kept his face hidden, somehow able to convince himself that he wasn't asking a boy he'd attacked twice for assistance.
Naruto's skin felt tight with this prolonged contact. Sasuke not only asked for his touch, his help, but kept his hand over Naruto's guiding his fingers on the injured muscle. Naruto's body was tense. He was not used to any of this and it was highly uncomfortable.
"Okay," Sasuke groaned. "I think it's okay now." He rolled onto his back and sat up, stretching his leg gingerly. His expression cleared when only mild soreness was felt.
Sasuke had been doing some thinking while on the floor. He cleared his throat and addressed his grubby feet as he spoke.
"So. Yeah. I attacked you and shit, but I figure you don't seem mad so maybe we can put that behind us."
Sasuke got silence in response. He continued.
"You're pretty strong. You got a posse?"
There was that voice again. Sasuke's anus tightened disturbingly at hearing it. "A posse, a crew, homies. Friends, you dolt."
"No. I don't."
"Huh. Go figure. Well, neither do I. I propose a partnership. You down?"
"Are you suggesting a friendship?"
"No. Why the hell would I suggest something so gross? A partnership, dude, wherein we both profit."
Naruto, whose hand still tingled from touching the boy, thought about this. Of course the entire situation was without precedent. Someone wanted to associate with him? He found himself agreeing. He had a question, though.
"Why aren't you afraid of me?" The blue eyes were quizzical.
Sasuke snorted. "Why would I be? Because you wiped the ground with me? Please, that's not the first time that's happened to me and it probably won't be the last."
That wasn't the reason at all. Naruto was astounded to meet someone who didn't know about him. He wouldn't have refused the offer if his life depended on it.
"I accept your partnership."
"Yeah? Great. I'm going to have fun showing you the ropes, just wait. You'll enjoy throwing all that muscle around. What's your name?"
"That is my name." Naruto held Sasuke's disbelieving stare.
Sasuke stood up and got to his pack at last. He slung it onto his back. "Tomorrow begins lesson one: identifying a decent mark."
Naruto stood as well. "Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving, what."
"You have no home."
"You may stay here…if you wish."
"Here?" Sasuke looked around in derision. "Dude, the street is better than this place. It's a fucking box."
Naruto said nothing. Sasuke did not understand how the kid could go for so long without blinking, moving or speaking. The blue eyes held Sasuke's as his hand wavered on the doorknob.
When was the last time he spent the night indoors? When was the last time he actually slept completely, deeply, without fear that he would be attacked or killed in his sleep? Sasuke's hand dropped to his side and he stood, accepting the invitation by virtue of the fact that he was still standing in the place.
Naruto nodded once, slowly, as he came toward Sasuke and held out a hand.
"Partners," Sasuke echoed. They shook on it.