The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.
That's What He Said
"What is that?"
Sasuke was staring at a head hiding behind Naruto's legs.
"His name is Shin." Naruto grinned brightly. "I adopted him."
Sasuke waited for the punch line.
"You adopted him," he repeated without inflection when it became obvious Naruto wasn't going to continue.
"Yep!" If Naruto's smile were any wider, it would crack his face in half.
Sasuke was still hoping for a punch line. "Are you even qualified to care for a child?"
"Oi, bast—mean person!" Sasuke smirked as Naruto corrected himself hastily, casting a look at the boy clutching the back of his pants. "Kids love me!"
"You still haven't answered my question. Letting them run wild to keep them happy isn't the same as caring for them."
"I know that!" Naruto huffed. "And I take good care of Shin! Right, Shin?"
The child in question nodded his head against Naruto.
"See?" Naruto punched the air victoriously. Sasuke shot him a pointed look. "Ne, Shin, say hello to Sasuke."
Shin stared up at the pale man, black hair sticking up and eyes cold. Pudgy fingers tightened around the cloth at the back of Naruto's knees. He whimpered low in his throat.
"Stop scaring him!" In a fit of new fatherhood, Naruto smacked Sasuke upside the head. Sasuke snarled, but before he could hit his obnoxious friend-brother-rival, Naruto picked up Shin.
Hit me with Shin nearby and die, his look promised.
While he walked away, his voice drifted back to Sasuke, speaking promises of ramen if Shin behaved.
Sasuke gave it a week.
Naruto actually adopted Shin.
Sasuke had no idea how he managed it. Tsunade had to be affected by her age. He would have hoped for a new Hokage, but if she had actually given Naruto the responsibility of caring for a four-year-old, she would probably give him the hat too.
He had not returned to Konoha to see it wiped out by Naruto's version of proper leadership. One that included ramen established as the official food and Jiraiya's books made into required reading for all shinobi.
Unlike him, Sakura was enthusiastic.
"If you ever need any help, just call me," she said, hugging Shin to her chest. "I think it's so wonderful that you decided to take in a child. You're giving him a chance to have a family. It's admirable, Naruto."
Naruto scratched the back of his neck, his cheeks flushing in pleasure. "Sakura-chan..."
Sasuke leaned against the wall in the small kitchen, watching the child out of the corner of his eye. Shin was tense in Sakura's arms, but he let her stroke his hair. When Naruto held out his arms, Shin scrambled away from Sakura. He locked his thin arms around Naruto's neck, hiding his face against the tan skin.
No one offered Sasuke the little boy. Shin was intimidated by Sasuke and tended to clutch to Naruto like a leech any time Sasuke was nearby.
However, it was nothing compared to his reactions to Sai.
The eccentric man had read in a book about a game called 'peek-a-boo'. He had tried to play it with Shin, not knowing he wasn't actually supposed to frighten the child. Shin had started wailing and Naruto had gone from a cheerful and proud host to overprotective, Rasengan-to-the-face mode in 1.3 seconds flat. Sai had ended up with a broken nose, a kunai to his neck, a swirling ball of energy an inch from his face and swearing to never 'play' with Shin again.
Kakashi, meanwhile, did not even bother to glance up from his novel. "I'm not babysitting," he said.
"Oh, come on, Kakashi-sensei," Naruto wheedled. "You know you'd love it. Huh?" Shin tugged at his shirt, pointing to his empty bowl on the table. "You want more? Hey, Kakashi-sensei—where did he go?"
The other two looked to the window where Kakashi was sitting. The man had disappeared.
"Well, Naruto, he already had to take care of you." Sakura stood, picking up Shin's bowl as she did so. She poured some more ramen into it. "You can't blame him for not wanting to look after another child."
"I was a wonderful kid!" Naruto exclaimed.
The silence was unbroken, but for Shin's slurping as Sakura fed him.
"Right?" he continued, daring his teammates to disagree.
Sakura coughed delicately. Sasuke snorted.
"You're all just jealous that I was so talented," Naruto muttered loud enough for them to hear.
Sakura smirked into the bowl. Sasuke barely refrained from commenting on Naruto's selective memory.
When Sakura finished, Shin curled closer into Naruto's embrace. Within minutes, he was asleep.
"I think I'd better put him to bed." Naruto stood up.
Sakura ran a gentle hand through the boy's brown hair as Naruto walked past them. It was silent in the small kitchen while Sakura busied herself cleaning the dishes.
"Oh. He left his safety blanket behind." The pink-haired woman stooped to pick up the pale blue and heavily worn cloth.
Sasuke pushed himself away from the wall. "I'll take it to them."
"Can you?" She smiled gratefully, dropping the blanket in Sasuke's outstretched hands.
Years of shinobi training allowed him to be absolutely silent as he walked down the hall. He paused at doorway of Naruto's room.
"…worry, little guy," Naruto was whispering. "I won't leave."
Sneaking a glance around the doorway, Sasuke saw Naruto stretched out on his bed. Shin's hands were wrapped around one of his, tiny and pale in contrast.
"I promise," Naruto finished softly. Shin smiled, cuddling closer. Naruto's unoccupied hand ran comforting circles on Shin's back.
Sasuke turned to leave, his hand tightening around the blanket.
When he stepped out of his shower later that evening, he froze when he glanced at his bed. The blue safety blanket had been bunched into a ball and tossed unceremoniously onto his sheets.
He picked it up, stretching it out smoothly.
There was a soft, warm scent, like milk, and another deeper, spicier one that Sasuke had little trouble recognizing as Naruto's.
Shin did not speak.
At first, everyone thought he was just shy and would begin talking when he adjusted. A month passed, however, and still the child refused to speak.
They were supposed to spar, but Naruto had roped Sasuke into going with him to the Hokage to see if she could find anything wrong with Shin.
Sasuke scowled at the little boy clinging to Naruto's neck. Dark amber eyes blinked owlishly over the blond's shoulder, his mop of brown hair sticking up in every direction.
When Naruto slammed open the door to the Hokage's office, he had to duck at the shoe Tsunade threw at him.
"What the hell do you want, brat?!" There were several piles of paperwork surrounding her, each roughly as tall as Tsunade's waist.
"Don't curse around Shin!" Naruto yelled back, covering the boy's ears with his hands.
Sasuke sighed, shoving past his teammate. "Shin won't speak. The idiot wants to know if there's any biological obstruction."
"I am not an idiot!" Naruto rounded on Sasuke. Turning to Tsunade, he pointed to the brunet. "And what he said!"
"Does it look like I have the time to check that kid every time you panic?"
"He was hiccupping for half an hour! That was not normal!"
Tsunade rolled her eyes. "Fine."
She stood up, walking to Naruto. Shin's tiny hand tightened around the neck of Naruto's shirt.
"It's okay," Naruto whispered soothingly. "You remember baa-chan from last time. She might look mean, but she's not. Well, not that much. She's just a bitter old hag."
Tsunade's left eye twitched, her arms folded under her ample chest. "Finished?"
"Yep!" Naruto grinned blindingly. The Hokage rolled her eyes. Lifting one of her hands, a soft green glow suffused it. Although Shin tensed when Tsunade approached, as the healing chakra touched him, Sasuke saw his tiny shoulders relax.
Tsunade ran her hand over the back of the child's neck, up to his head and down his back.
"There's nothing physically wrong with him," she said, the green chakra fading.
"He's not speaking because he doesn't want to." The older woman settled herself calmly behind her desk. "He suffered a great shock, Naruto. He lost his family, is in a new place, surrounded by people he doesn't know...give him some time, brat. He'll come around."
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Naruto's arms had tightened around the little bundle of child nestled against his chest.
The corners of Tsunade's lips twitched up as she saw Shin tuck his thumb into his mouth, curling into Naruto's warmth.
"Keep doing what you're doing now. That boy will be just fine."
Sasuke somehow found himself agreeing to a picnic. No, an excursion. Sasuke did not go on picnics.
Naruto had a bag strapped to his back filled with food. Sasuke carried a blanket and a small bag filled with miscellaneous objects for Shin.
The little boy was running in circles around them. Every once in a while, something would catch his eye—an orange butterfly, an ice-blue flower, an emerald green worm. He would run to them, giggling, but would quickly return. He never wandered out of Naruto's sight.
Naruto laughed at his antics and even Sasuke was vaguely amused. Whenever Shin spotted something he liked, he would tug on Naruto's sleeve, pointing to it. Naruto would say its name slowly, then repeat it. Shin would listen and smile. Then he would run back to whatever it was.
Sasuke remembered when he first saw the boy. Naruto had returned from a simple mission—take a scroll to an outpost on the border—several days late. The onyx-haired man had been about to leave and hunt down the blond moron, damn the consequences to hell. When Naruto finally stepped through the gate, he was covered with soot, his usual orange garments faded by ash. Clinging to his back was a child, just as tired and dirty as he was.
He had ignored Sasuke and Sakura and continued without pause to the Hokage's Tower. Sasuke saw them again two days later, the little boy hiding behind Naruto's legs.
"Did you name him?"
"Huh?" Naruto glanced back over his shoulder, mouth open in a little 'o'.
Sasuke motioned with his head to the child jumping over tree roots. "Shin. He doesn't talk. Did you name him?"
"No." Naruto turned to face the front, shoulders dropping. "His mother did."
"His mother? Why isn't he with her?"
Sasuke paused on the slightly worn path before continuing. "What happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it," muttered Naruto.
"Maybe something about that event might explain why Shin won't speak. I could help you figure it out."
With a heavy sigh, Naruto stopped. Shin had run ahead, chasing a bright green dragonfly.
"While I was coming back from the mission," his teammate began, "I smelled smoke so I changed direction. The town was burning. There had been a rumor that ninja were hiding there so a group of shinobi attacked it. I don't know what village they were from; I'd never seen the symbol on their hitai-ite before. I tried to find anyone alive.
"A beam had fallen on Shin's mother. Shin was under her. She was protecting him from the fire. I tried to get the beam off her, but she told me to stop. She pushed Shin to me—he was unconscious—and told me his name. I said I'd save her, but she just smiled. She died there." He sighed. "Sometimes I have nightmares. That I couldn't save her or Shin. I can't sleep unless he's nearby."
Sasuke was silent.
It was times like this that reminded him of how much he had missed. Naruto would have never been quiet or contemplative before. His sage training, however, had forced him to learn to meditate. He wasn't as rash as he had been. While Sasuke could once read him with ease, he found that he didn't know what the slight arch of his neck meant. How the rounded shoulders turned down could be interpreted in any number of ways. The faint trembling that suffused his fisted hands could be anger or anguish.
Suddenly, Shin popped out of the bushes.
"Ha!" His hands, covering his face, folded away to settle on either side of his cheeks.
"Who said you could try to scare me?" Naruto cried out indignantly. Shin giggled. "Oh, you think it's funny. I'll show you funny!"
Shin shrieked as Naruto dove at him. Hysterical laughter floated in the air behind him as he ran ahead, Naruto hot on his heels.
"Whoa!" Naruto 'accidentally' snagged his ankle on a root and fell. Shin's tiny body fell to the ground in a fit of giggles. "You are not allowed to laugh at me!"
The child's laughter doubled.
"Come back here!"
Naruto stood up, running after Shin again. The child screamed. He scrambled to his feet, avoiding a grab from his adoptive father.
Sasuke followed at a calmer pace, the sound of giggles, yells and falls returning to him. When he finally caught up, Naruto jumped forward and swept Shin into his arms. He tossed the shrieking four-year-old into the air, before twirling him quickly. The child's laughter fell around them like silver bells.
A slight curl to his lips, Sasuke set down the garish orange blanket. There was a small waterfall gurgling cheerfully beside them. A thin mist curled over the water. He entertained himself fetching some wood for a small fire. When he returned, several long dry sticks under his arm, he saw Shin splashing Naruto. The blond faked horror, trying to run away and just kicking up more water.
Shin hid his mouth behind his hands, snickering into them.
"No ramen for you!" Naruto declared, wagging a finger in his direction.
Shin just plopped down in the stream. The water level reached just under his shoulders. He slapped his palms on the surface, surprised gasps of joy dropping from his lips as the droplets in the air refracted the bright sunlight into ephemeral rainbows. He tried to catch them, but the rainbows faded. Frowning, he slapped the water again, hands lunging for the rainbow that appeared. He landed in the water.
Visibly pouting now, he continued the process, becoming more and more annoyed as he proved unable to even graze the illusion. Finally, he sat back in the water, glaring, his hands crossed in front of his chest.
"Don't give up, Shin." Naruto struggled to hide a smile. "If you believe it, you'll eventually catch a rainbow. But you can't give up."
Shin grinned at Naruto, his eyes closing from the width of his smile. He returned to slapping the water.
"Can you believe this?" Naruto pointed to his soaked shirt, shaking his head. Some strands of yellow hair were plastered to his head, the rest sticking up in an even wilder form than usual. With a sigh, he peeled his shirt over his head.
Sasuke dropped the firewood.
He had seen Naruto without his shirt before so he didn't know why the image impacted him so strongly. He had been in onsen with him so he'd seen his teammate wet and half-naked too.
Nevertheless, he could not control the need to study the taut golden muscles as they tensed and relaxed as the shirt was pulled up. He couldn't stop his eyes from roaming over the marked abs or finely defined pectorals. And he definitely couldn't stop staring at the nipples several shades darker than the rest of his skin and hardened from the cool breeze.
Sasuke swallowed a groan.
"Oi, bas—idiot. Come in, broody." Naruto was waving his hand in front of Sasuke's face. Against his will, Sasuke looked down to see the muscled chest expand as Naruto inhaled. "What's up with you?"
"I'm fine," Sasuke snapped shortly. He shoved the obnoxious hand away from him and stooped to pick up the branches he'd dropped.
"Aren't you a ray of sunshine," Naruto muttered. A witty remark on his tongue, Sasuke looked up—and immediately looked down.
The view was even worse from that angle.
"Just go play with your kid. I'm fine."
"Fine! At least Shin actually smiles."
Naruto flounced away. He jumped into the water next to Shin, splashing even more than Shin had. Soon, he had Shin on his back as he tried to swim the far too shallow creek.
Sasuke remained seated, refusing to take any part in the games Naruto made up for Shin. He was counting down the time until he could return to Konoha and finally put some distance between him and the tan body of his friend.
Sasuke was annoyed. Naruto refused to be separated from Shin.
"I'm close," he had confessed to Sasuke after hushing the brunet since Shin was sleeping in his room. "I feel like, any day now, Shin will speak. I can't leave him alone."
Training, refused. Spars, postponed indefinitely. Even offers to Ichiraku ramen were rejected. Although Naruto made Sasuke promise to bring him a bowl—or twelve.
Despite how annoying Naruto could be, he was the only one who didn't glare suspiciously at him and the only one Sasuke could stand for more than three minutes. And he had no time for Sasuke anymore.
As if that wasn't enough, he could barely sleep anymore.
Ridiculously late at night or obscenely early in the morning, the phrase depended on his mood at the time, he abruptly woke up to a jerk of his wrist.
Sasuke groaned in his bed, one fist punching the sheets twisted around him. He didn't know how much more of this he could take. He had never been one for masturbating frequently—he had neither the need nor the desire—yet he could not sleep through a single night anymore without waking up drenched in sweat, his sheets tight around him and his erection so hard it almost hurt. Shin's blanket would be draped beside him, Naruto's scent still clinging to the blue strands.
Desperate to find any way of dealing with his problem that didn't involve jerking off at three in the morning, he learned that thinking of anyone like Sakura, Sai or Karin—especially Karin—made his erection wilt almost immediately. However, thinking of Sakura carried a risk. It was too easy to imagine their third teammate and the memory of Naruto's bare chest was enough to make his arousal rise so fast he felt lightheaded. He couldn't even think of Ino since the yellow hair was too similar.
Sasuke blinked in surprise. Sakura was peering worriedly at him, waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you okay?"
It was too similar to a certain yellow-haired idiot just three weeks ago. Sasuke dropped his head to the wooden table with a dull thunk.
"Sasuke-kun?" There was faint note of hysteria in Sakura's voice now. "Sasuke-kun, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," he forced out.
"You're lying," Sakura declared. "This isn't like you, Sasuke-kun. What is it?"
"Nothing." Sasuke stood fluidly, ignoring her calls.
He stalked through Konoha, ignoring the glares and whispers. Out of the corner of his eye, a shock of yellow hair caught his eye.
"Oi, usuraton—" Sasuke bit off the insult. The man wasn't Naruto. He was similar enough, however, that it was almost too easy to superimpose Naruto's appearance over his. Sasuke was abruptly left with a rapidly burgeoning problem.
He groaned aloud, oblivious to the startled looks.
Sasuke could no longer sleep. Any time he closed his eyes, it was Naruto he saw, imprinted into the back of his eyelids.
At first, it was just the obnoxious grinning visage. Then, he was shirtless and the grin wasn't as wide. Finally, he was completely naked and his smile had relaxed into a knowing smirk.
Sasuke bit his lower lip, arching into his hand. His skin beaded with sweat, the lines of his body stark with exertion. He could not close his eyes. Any time he did it was too easy to imagine Naruto behind him, whispering hotly into his ear, his hands running over Sasuke's body, a tan hand curling around his erection. When he finally came, it was with a half-bitten scream of frustration.
He couldn't keep doing this. He had to face Naruto, talk to him, do something before he went insane.
Dressing quickly, he jumped over rooftops, seeking the fastest route to Naruto's apartment. He let himself in through the window and felt like dashing his head against a wall when he realized only Shin was in the room. He had been so distracted he had failed to sense the very palpable lack of Naruto's chakra.
"Fuck!" he exclaimed, punching a wall.
"What's fuck?" A small voice, still thick with sleep, asked behind him.
Shin was sitting up in his bed, the sheets strewn around him. His head was leaning to the side.
"It's a silly word. You shouldn't repeat it," Sasuke ad libbed. Dimly, he heard the front door open and the sound of running feet.
"Sasuke?" Naruto hid the kunai he had pulled out. "What are you doing here? Shin, you okay?"
"Fuck!" Shin answered brightly.
There was a profound silence.
Naruto blinked. "Shin? Shin, y-you talked! Shin!" He laughed victoriously, grabbing Shin. As if someone had cut the strings, his glee dropped from his face. He set Shin carefully on the bed. "Where did you learn that word, Shin?"
Shin pointed to Sasuke.
"Okay." Naruto nodded his head calmly. "Shin, can you go to the kitchen, please?"
The child nodded obediently and slid off the bed. Tiny legs paddled in the air for a moment before they touched the ground.
Naruto waited until the sound of the kitchen chair sliding across the floor reached them before punching Sasuke.
Ducking aside from Naruto's blow, Sasuke fended off a kick and returned it with a punch of his own.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" Naruto huffed, elbowing Sasuke's stomach and pinning him to a wall. "You know I don't want him learning curses!"
"Interesting." Sasuke smirked. "You want him to be something even better than you, daddy?"
"Now listen here, you bastard—"
Sasuke grabbed the back of his neck, hauling him forward as if was about to place him under genjutsu. His intent was to hiss another insult into Naruto's ear, to goad him until he exploded and fought Sasuke without restraint.
His body behaved otherwise.
To both men's shock, Sasuke's lips ran an undetermined trail across Naruto's whiskered cheek, from the corner of his mouth to just short of his ear.
In his arms, Sasuke felt Naruto freeze. His hands wrenched back and Naruto stumbled. Without looking back, Sasuke walked to the still open window and clambered outside.
"What's going on?" Sakura tapped her foot at him.
Sasuke didn't answer.
"Sasuke-kun, you have to tell me what the hell is going on that is making Naruto act like you left for Orochimaru. Again."
"There is nothing going on," Sasuke replied shortly. "And even if there was, it would be between Naruto and me."
Both attempted to glare the other down.
"Fine," she exploded. "But if you decide to take a short trip to the Valley of the End again, I'm punching you both six hundred feet under."
Annoyed as he was, Sasuke didn't consider the consequences of his statement. "You could try."
A chakra-enhanced fist slammed into his cheek. Flinty green eyes stared down at him. "How's that?"
Sasuke rubbed the abused spot, still glaring.
"I'm serious." Sakura cracked her knuckles threateningly. "Fix it."
Sasuke never imagined he would prefer the days when Sakura was in too much awe of him to even speak.
It was hardly his fault. He wasn't the one trying to avoid the other and doing a shoddy job of covering it. In the market, Naruto had seen him walking ahead and had immediately turned on his heel, pulling Shin with him. Sasuke had run a finger over the brown paper covering his new purchase and bit down the desire to break something.
Shin was still shy, but he was opening up more. His sentences tended to be monosyllabic and he seemed to have acquired a liking for the word 'fuck' that no punishment seemed to cure him of. It didn't help that he just had to waddle to Naruto and hug his knees for Naruto to forgive him anything.
Sasuke decided that if Naruto was going to be immature enough to avoid him, he wouldn't seek the other out either. It felt like admitting a loss if he caved first. Above all else, he and Naruto were rivals—and Sasuke would rather let Sakura punch him than admit defeat to Naruto.
The fact that he was currently on the roof of Naruto's apartment was completely coincidental.
He didn't bother to glance beside him as Naruto swung up from the window. They were quiet for a while, neither at ease.
Sasuke finally broke the silence. "Where's Shin?"
"Asleep on the sofa. Iruka-sensei was teaching him how to mold chakra." Naruto flicked a pebble. "Iruka-sensei said he could start at the Academy in a few years."
"Sasuke, uh…" Naruto scratched the back of his neck. "You—uh—why'd you—do you want to come inside?" he blurted out, too nervous to ask anything else.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow. In answer, he stood, slipping easily into Naruto's bedroom. Naruto followed.
"So, uh, yeah." Naruto laughed uncertainly. "Why are you here?"
Pulling the package from his pocket, Sasuke handed it to Naruto. "For Shin."
"For Shin?" Naruto repeated. He tugged on the bow, letting the twine drop to the floor. The brown paper followed. In his hand, a tiny and delicate stained glass arc remained. The light reflected off the surface in fiery reds, warm oranges, bright yellows, soft greens, intense blues and deep violets. "You—"
"Rainbows are hard to catch." Sasuke shrugged slightly.
Accepting Naruto's silence as his answer, Sasuke turned to leave.
Behind him, Naruto carefully set the figurine on the bedside table. Just as carefully, he walked the six steps to Sasuke. Roughly, he shoved the brunet around, slammed him against a wall and covered his mouth with his.
Weeks of barely repressed sexual urges surged forward. With a groan, Sasuke caved. They battled for dominance over the kiss. Sasuke fanned his tongue across Naruto's lower lip. Naruto moaned and Sasuke seized the opportunity to slip his tongue inside the blond's mouth, teasing the other's member into play.
Naruto's hands fisted around Sasuke's shirt, smoothed over it. Sasuke felt his shirt gape open and callused hands running over his torso. When the fingertips brushed against his nipples, Sasuke couldn't stifle a groan.
Naruto smirked against the smooth neck, his tongue marking damp spots against the pale skin. Sasuke was about to smack him when a hot mouth closed around his nipple and his train of thought spluttered. Naruto's fingertips ran light circles and shapes across the skin of Sasuke's abdomen. The touch was almost ephemeral, just a continuous and light graze, which only served to make his skin hypersensitive.
With a half-stifled snarl, Sasuke grabbed Naruto by his shoulders and hauled him up. He bit down sharply on the blond's lower lip, before running his tongue over it soothingly.
"Do something," he hissed against bruising lips. He nipped them again threateningly. "Or I will."
Naruto snickered. "You're such a bastard." Without warning, his hand closed around Sasuke's erection.
A gasp that wasn't theirs startled Sasuke.
He and Naruto turned around to see Shin standing in the doorway, clutching the Kakashi plushie Naruto had made. The doll dropped to the floor from Shin's slack grip.
"What was you doing?" Shin blinked.
Naruto and Sasuke stared at each other.
"Uh…" Naruto began intelligently.
Sasuke straightened his clothes, heading for the doorway.
"Where are you going?" Blue eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"You're the parent." Sasuke smirked at the door before continuing to the kitchen.
"Bastard!" Naruto yelled behind him.
Shin's head whipped from Sasuke's retreating form to Naruto. "What's a bastard?"