A/N: Hey, mina-san! Last chappie… again… man, the angst of finishing a story and going through writing detox… O.O Thank you ALL who have read the story, my huge, loving thanks to you guys who took the time to review and make my face hurt with happy smiles. I'll miss you all… T.T Thanks also to the people who gave my story and me a home under their Favorites, whether you reviewed or not. I keep forgetting to say that. Gomen~!
My anon readers: XoX – Thank you! I couldn't update sooner because me, RL and my muse were caught in a fatal threeway match, but I hope you like! ^.^ Mo – I'm so happy you liked! Thank you so much for the words of praise. Maybe the idea that I intend to haunt and pester you with more stories will dispel any sadness that comes with this ending… it does take the edge of my upcoming withdrawal. Lol ;-) Thank you for reading and I hope that the epilogue leaves you satisfied. ^.^ 3
Disclaimer: I do not own the manga, or this is what the story would look like. I DO have a beef with RL at this time now, so, in the words of Antony Bourdain "Where's MY knife- maybe I want to get stabby." ^.^
The Sun and the Rainfall
The Sun and the Rainfall
Closed Doors and Open Windows
Waiting was never easy- not even when one was waiting for something good. It tried the patience and ate away at the person waiting, because it seemed that nothing could fill that empty space until time moved and arrived at that good thing- or even the bad thing- and nothing could occupy the heart of mind that anxiously longed for an end to the wait.
Sasuke had never been the patient type to begin with, so Tsunade's barrage of questions and painstaking examination was driving him crazy. All he wanted to do was see Naruto- he needed to see him. Feelings that he had developed- or realized- over time, before all this, and all the feelings that had surfaced in that raw way, while he had no memories- it was all inside him. The things that he had done to Naruto, with Naruto and all the ways that Naruto had reacted to him as he had been trying to put the pieces of his mind's puzzle back together- it was all inside him. Everything- every moment, every tear, every touch- was there, overwhelming him with that single need.
"I said I'm fine." He said for what seemed to be the gazillionth time.
Tsunade looked up from her notepad and held three fingers in front of his face. "How many."
Sasuke had a few suggestions about what she could go do with them and let him be. "Three. My name is Uchiha Sasuke. Kakashi's needs to teach his Ninken the proper places for their feces. Naruto is a Dobe." The last one almost brought a smile to his face, that his annoyance fought away. "I remember everything. Everything."
The blonde woman blinked. "Where's the fire?" she asked with a small smile.
Kami, he hated that smile. It was somehow knowing. Or he was being paranoid. What were the chances… "I need to talk to Naruto." He heard himself say and his hand almost flew to his mouth to stop whatever had possessed him to say something like that. Out loud that was. But now it was out there. Black bangs fell over his face as he stooped his head a little. "I need… to explain… things." He tensed up. "I…"
"You made a mess?" Kakashi asked from the back of the room. "Color me surprised."
Shit. Yes, he had forgotten that Kakashi was in there too. "If you want to see a real mess, wait until we have our talk." He said a little too dangerously. Really, he had not appreciated all the ways that the Copy Ninja- as he realized now- had had fun at his expense the past week. In a way he was thankful to him- because it seemed that Kakashi had always believed that he was going to be okay, that even in his fragile state, he could deal with life- but he would never say it out loud. "Any day now."
"Alright, alright. You had me the moment you mentioned Kakashi's Ninken." Tsunade interjected. "Which reminds me." She turned to Kakashi. "Pick up after your ninja puppies, Kakashi. That's an order."
Kakashi's visible eye turned up into a crescent, suggesting a smile. "Ma, ma… people got so serious all of the sudden." He said, hands in pockets. It was hard to read a man like him, but Sasuke could swear that he seemed relieved. "With your permission, Gai has been pestering me about a challenge for days. I'm past due in dealing with the ridiculous."
The Godaime smirked and nodded. "Don't let him up the stakes too much. He has a mission coming up in a couple of days." He cautioned mock-seriously, for all it was worth. Gai knew no other way than the ridiculous when it came to stakes. Soon as the Jounin was out of the window her eyes softened on the dark boy. "I'll get Naruto now, ne?"
Nod. Simple, slow nod. A nod that required control and careful manipulation of his muscles in order to appear calm and collected. He had already said too much, shown too much- perhaps to everyone but Naruto. "Thank you." He said quietly.
The moment that the door closed behind him, the room felt too empty, too constricting, too full of something thick that was not air. Yes, that was the fabled cold feet he had heard about. The reason why said feet were now past cold and straight into freezing was that he had always, without fail, messed up when he had tried to say the right things. It was why he had resorted to stop saying and just show through actions. They were supposed to speak louder than words, right?
In the past almost-two weeks, he had watched Naruto struggle- and though he didn't understand what he had been struggling with back then, he knew now. Knew, not merely understood. Words were necessary, because actions were not always possible. Words were necessary, because they explained the actions. Actions served to demonstrate and attest to the truth of the words. For all he had done, there had been no words to assert the notions and- yes- emotions behind them. That's why Naruto didn't know. That's why he had been scared. It had all been his fault.
The door creaked open and Naruto's tan face peeked from outside, eyes wide and startled, like he could not quite grasp what he was seeing- even though all that was there was Sasuke, whom he had seen in any way that one person can possibly see another. Suddenly, he frowned, closed the door and… knocked. "Uh… It's me…" he announced- needlessly, redundantly- in a strangely high-pitched voice.
Sasuke blinked confused and arched brow. What was that about? It hit him. Nervous… he's nervous… "Usuratonkachi, get your ass in here." He called out, with some annoyance for good measure.
Naruto burst in this time, finger pointing, shoulders tense and up, face livid. "I was being considerate!" he yelled. "You watch your mouth, Teme!"
Now, that was more like it. Whether it had been awkwardness or somehow he had nurtured a feeling of normalcy in their typical insults, it didn't matter. What mattered was that Naruto was acting like himself- that was all he had wanted. "Or else..?" he smirked, relaxing a little to their practiced repartee.
"Or else-!" the blonde started, but then stopped. Cobalt blue eyes set on him guarded and all the nervousness was back. "Baa-chan said you are okay…" he said quietly, standing several feet away, even in that small room. "… Are you?"
Even though Naruto hadn't moved physically, something about him had pulled back. Instinctively, his voice came out very soft. "You don't have to keep that distance now…" he said and noticed that those eyes widened a bit. "I remember. Everything."
A curtain of gold fell over those cobalt eyes as he looked down, hands curling to tight fists at his sides. The Uchiha's brows creased a little. It was that same aura from down at the cells- that he couldn't explain then and couldn't make sense of now. Because, just like he had never said anything, neither had Naruto. Maybe both of them had been waiting for the other to take the first step and perhaps, just as likely, both of them knew that actually saying something- naming an emotion, putting a tag on their bond, asking certain questions- would change everything. And neither of them had been ready for that leap of faith into the Unknown- into something that was no longer undefined and nameless. Was he ready now? Had this been enough of a scare? And what was more important, was Naruto ready to hear those things?
With a deep sigh, he stepped known from the bed and took a few careful steps towards him. "Listen, I…" he started and there were some many verbs with which to end that sentence. I am here. I am back. I missed you. I- "I'm sorry." He said quickly, interrupting his own train of thought. He knew where it was going. He knew what he was feeling.
"For what?" Naruto asked then, rather tersely, eyes blazing as their eyes locked. "The fact that you lied back then? For what you put us through the past few weeks?" his voice cracked a little and he shook his head. "…Kami, it seems like years…"
Sasuke walked up to him and stood inches away- a gently sway of the body away from touch. "I'm sorry." He said again. And he meant it- meant it so honestly that the words didn't seem adequate, even as apologies had never come easily to him and he had only offered then to Naruto and loved ones long since dead.
Maybe Naruto had been too lost in reliving that helpless feeling to hear him or, maybe, 'I'm sorry' really didn't quite cut it. "You could have died." He said more quietly. "You were inches from a Iwao's blade when I found you."
Did he really have a defense to this? "I knew that you wouldn't listen. We had a mission and what mattered was that we finished the job." he fended, very much aware that he was just falling into an argument that he could not possibly win, even if he were to be proven right. It was one of those times that it wasn't who was right or wrong that mattered, but who would bridge the gap-that emotional chasm that was separating them. Reason didn't do that.
"Does it matter that my trust in you took a dent because of that?" he asked tersely and continued, in spite of whatever he saw on the Uchiha's face. "How can I trust you after this? You lied to me, when I've put my life and", he gulped, took a deep breath and nodded as if confirming for himself what he was about to say next, "my heart in your hands."
Charcoal eyes widened. Heart. What had he just said? My heart in your hands. Those hands were just too callous and rough to hold something so precious, yet, selfishly, the thought came to him that, if he had it, he was unwilling to give it up.
"Why will next time be different?" Naruto asked, but it was a definite accusation. "What if it's not?"
Sasuke felt himself freeze in place- something inhumanly cold spread through him, suspending his body and mind from the inside. All he could do was try to hold on to the warmth of those words- My heart in your hands- in order to find his voice."What are you talking about?"
Naruto straightened his body and looked down. "I think that we should not partner up for missions anymore."
What..? But if he weren't there... What if something were to happen and he wasn't there? Who would protect the Dobe- his Dobe- from the world out there? No one could do it like he did- he would die to protect him. Thought that notion seemed to be the problem currently. "You don't mean that." he said simply. He couldn't mean that.
This time, the blonde's gaze met his, unwavering and certain. "I think that we should not partner up for missions anymore."
Again, those words- this time without hesitation. This time he really appeared to mean it. And he couldn't mean it. It couldn't be- because, though they had never said anything about actually, officially, being together, they were supposed to live together and die together. That old feeling crept inside him again- the feeling that, if he was not there, terrible things would happen, same as that night that he had lost everything. That's what happened to people who took their eyes off what was precious to them- they lost it, lost everything that they could never even afford to lose. That was not going to be him. Not again... No.
Slowly, charcoal eyes blinked back from panic to stillness. "No." he said calmly.
The blonde openly frowned at him, annoyed and frustrated. "'No' is not argument enough, Teme." He just about chastised. "How do you think that missions are going to work if I have to worry about you every time I lose sight of you?"
The response to that was so simple in his mind that it took a real Usuratonkachi not to see it. Timorously, his eyes fell on a vague spot on the wall over Naruto's left shoulder. "How do you think missions will go, if I have to wonder whether you're alive or not?" Sasuke argued quietly. "You don't get it, Dobe… Until now, if we were not on a mission together, it was because one of us was stuck in Konoha- recovering or running errands for Baa-chan. But still, the other left with the knowledge that the one staying behind was safe as it gets, all things considered."
Naruto's startled eyes were wide. "… You would worry about me?"
Maybe a punch would beat the stupid out of him. Or at least he'd have the concussion to blame for the twaddle currently spewing from the mouth that he had kissed countless times- that tasted like ramen and something sweet that he could never place, but found intoxicating, even as he had never liked sweets. "Yes, Dobe, I would worry about you." He confirmed.
Naruto looked at him surprised- so much so, in fact, that it hurt. Did the Dobe really know so little of him or should he, perhaps, turn the mirror around and face the fact that maybe he had never done enough to demonstrate his feelings- his appreciation, his worry... and certainly not his deep affection for the blonde. Desire. That one he'd be a fool to doubt considering all the unwholesome ways that he had demonstrated it the last few months. Then again the Dobe had been proven oblivious to the obvious often enough. Need. No, Naruto had no idea how much he needed him. It was frightening and Sasuke didn't want to scare him or for his love to become fetters, if-
Sasuke blinked against the vertiginous sensation that overtook him at the notion of that particular feeling and staggered back a little, fumbling for the railing of his bed. Love? Naruto was immediately next to him, steadying him. That was what Naruto had been doing for him through the years and had been his salvation- giving him a beacon, a purpose, a rival, a lover… and finally a home.
"Oy, Teme, what's wrong?" he called, sounding alarmed, then, when the Uchiha shook his head, he released his grip on him and sighed. "You should lie down... we can talk later."
Those cobalt eyes were filled with concern and affection. Home… Love. Were they really such foreign concepts, when he had spent his whole life missing those very things- when he knew for a fact what he was feeling each time he'd look at or even think of him? It had been there, waiting to be uttered, but he never did- because then it would be real and it could be denied or taken from him. No matter how many times he would call Naruto an idiot, he knew that he was much, much worse.
His gaze fell on the floor. "Naruto..." he started in that low voice, feeling honestly overwhelmed, "I..."
The other boy tilted his head curiously. "Ne, nanda?"
Kami, he was pissing him off. "If you can shut up for a moment, I'll tell you." he said irritably, even though he had no clue what he had intended to say. Confess? Assure? Perhaps there was a right answer in situations like these- maybe even a healthy middle ground- but he had always existed in such extremes that he'd never know the proverbial medium. Thus, he settled for what was true."You are... very important to me." dark eyes flickered to the blonde for a moment- it looked like he was holding his breath. "No... you are precious to me."
Something very powerful, very urgent registered in the blue orbs, darkening a little under golden clouds. "Sasuke…" he said and paused, apparently unsure as to how he should follow that up.
"You didn't seem to know." He explained, without having been asked. "While I didn't have my memories… you seemed uncertain… about everything." Sasuke looked down again- because he didn't know if this was the right time or the right words. "I didn't understand then. Now I do. And I don't like it." He inhaled deeply and gathered whatever nerve he had left in order to lock eyes with Naruto once more. "I want you to know."
This time, he blinked- more than surprised. In fact, he had that stupid expression that spoke volumes about how he wasn't sure if this was a dream. "… Sasuke…" he said tightly- disarmingly, because there was fear in his voice. If this was a dream, then maybe the Uchiha hadn't remembered, perhaps never would remember and all of this was a cruel figment of his slumber, a play of his innermost wish. A dream, overcast with the fear of that terrible willingness to flirt with death that had accompanied the Uchiha for most of his life. "If you do this again and die-"
"I won't die for you." Sasuke cut him and smiled a little at Naruto's part-relieved, part-disbelieving, part-unreasonably-miffed look- because he had finally found the right answer. For both of them. "I will live for you."
The way that those cobalt eyes widened painfully and shimmered with emotion- the ever-open windows to his soul, through which he would always see the better parts of himself- closed the door to darkness and all those asinine thoughts- that he was a single being, capable of his own choices. Without Naruto he was half- painfully half and cropped and incomplete. When Naruto breathed, he breathed and his last breath would surely be when the blonde died. Until then, though- and he could promise no longer than that and mean it- he would live. Until then, he had a reason to live, manifested in tan skin and golden hair and summery smiles.
Sasuke pulled Naruto to him suddenly, crushing his body against his, kissing him deeply and hungrily. His tongue and lips moved in familiar strokes that they had learned together. The only way he had ever known how to kiss, was kissing Naruto. The only mouth, the only lips, the only taste- only his and he would have it no other way. The only way he knew how to pleasure someone was the way he had discovered with Naruto. And he used all his skill, all he could recall that the blonde enjoyed about a kiss to show him that he was there – all there- now. It was not a dream- it was better than a dream, because it was real.
Even as Naruto was responding to the kiss almost desperately, hanging on to the sensation seemingly for dear life, it took several moments for him to realize what was happening- that it was happening. It hit him then, really hit him, that Sasuke was back. One arm curled across Sasuke's back, securing him in place possessively, his other hand combing through the silky raven hair for a moment before clutching on to several strands rather painfully as the kiss became more forceful.
Had they been in a more private setting, this would be getting very fast and quite irrevocably out of control right about then, but, as it were, the blonde was the first to push away and gasp for some semblance of breath. Tan hands rested on his chest. Naruto jumped for a moment, hands moving away only slightly, eyes shooting up to his in wonder, before placing his hands back on the pale skin. Had he never realized how fast and hard his heart beat in the aftermath of a kiss like that? Probably not, because by the time either of them was in any position to start noticing anything, they were both spent and their vitals slowly drifting back to normal.
A small smile played on his lips at the sight of Naruto's intrigued face. "I lost my memory, but what I felt was there… I just couldn't understand it." He said a little raspily- but it felt good. Words like those were meant to be said and heard, not help captive in the confines of one's chest. "Congratulations on ruining me for any woman."
The blonde smiled uncertainly for a moment, before his expression became troubled again. "And what if you never remembered?" he asked, mostly thinking out loud. "What if-?"
Sasuke took a deep breath at that, then uttered his next words very casually, bellying their importance. "If I never remembered my past, I'd just have to learn new ways to love you all over again…"
"What do you…?" he began to ask but his voice trailed off. Naruto watched him somewhat taken aback, but unable to calculate how serious he was. And just like many times that they had found themselves at the threshold of revelation, he didn't entirely understand what had been said, but tried to top it with conviction. "Well, I bet that if that same thing had happened to me, I'd have gotten the nerve to approach you a lot sooner."
One brow raised in clear disbelief- and yes, some annoyance, because everything between then would turn into a contest… and he hated- absolutely hated to lose. Mature much? "Right after you were done mooning over Sakura-chan."
"Teme!" Naruto yelled. That was the size of the argument.
It was funny and familiar, but he still felt too much, too raw, too close to the surface. That's why his voice softened as he suggested, "How about we hope to never find out, Dobe?"
Surprise. A nod. Then the blonde folded his arms in mock-contemplation. "There has to be some kind of reckoning for what you put me through, though." He said idly.
It was an offer to turn the page. Naruto would be the one to offer and he would always take it. "How about I let you top tonight? … No resistance."
Tonight he felt especially generous- and he knew he'd pay for it in the morning in very physical ways. Because Naruto would heal extremely fast, thanks to the Kyuubi. He, on the other hand, did not. Now wasn't that reckoning? Wasn't that- Love...? He seemed to use the word much more easily than he could have guessed. It was an extremely powerful word, but not a hard one. Yet even as a child he had never been one to say things like that verbally. Could he do it now? Start over, push past habits and leave himself open to hurt- all for Naruto, just for Naruto?
Sasuke closed his eyes for a moment and felt Naruto's inquiring stare on him- alert and curious as to what was on his mind, slightly mistrustful of his thought process when left to his own devices. It all made him smile, in spite of himself- mainly because the blonde was usually right- and shook his head, dismissing any concern. They were as different as the sun can be from the rainfall, yet ever entwined in this changing scenery that was the core of their lives.
Charcoal eyes- dark as the darkest clouds of a stormy weather and quiet coal in which a flame is asleep but alive- snapped up to cobalt blue- bright as the most open skies and the calmest seas- in surprise. "Hn?"
Naruto smirked and took his hand, pulling him along as he moved to exit the room. "And remember." He shot a quick, but meaningful look over his shoulder. "No resistance."
A frown- just because that was what the blonde expected. Yet strange as the notion of such surrender was, for someone like him, he allowed a sheepish smile when Naruto looked away. Thick or thin, come hell or high waters, under the sun or in the rainfall, he trusted him. He loved him. He really, really did.
I love you. He thought at the boy that was still pulling him along, making threats and promises for a night that he had been longing for as long as he could remember and even when he didn't. Sasuke smiled to himself nervously. Like much else with the Naruto, it was a powerful truth, but not a particularly difficult admission. So he resolved to tell him- I love you.
Maybe not tonight, but he would definitely tell him.
And so ends this story. Thank you all for reading and supporting my writing- it's been a pleasure replying to all of you and a more so hearing from you. I will leave you with what I hope is a satisfying conclusion to this and the promise to get to the oneshots that will wrap everything up and cover the future.
Tons of love and kisses to all~!