Author's Notes: This monster took over my life. It's a prompt from the sasunaru_kink meme on LJ. In regard to this, I can only say one thing: IT'S OVER NINE THOUSAND. /is shot

Nineteen Going on Twelve

"Sasuke!" Sakura's voice cut through the din. "Naruto fell!"

Sakura was kneeling next to Naruto. Carefully, she turned him over onto his back. His head lolled lazily.

"Naruto." Sasuke punched the ninja in front of him and placed a second under an illusion. A jab to the back of the man's neck and he plummeted.

When he reached his teammates, Sakura was running green-glowing hands over Naruto's chest and head. She placed her hands against his temples.

"What happened?" Sasuke half-expected Naruto to jump up with an obnoxious, "Just kidding!"

"He was hit by a jutsu," Sakura spoke through gritted teeth. "Looked like the ninja botched it. Suddenly, Naruto collapsed."

Sasuke's fingertips rested lightly on Naruto's wrist. "What's wrong?"

"His chakra system overloaded." Sakura shook her head. "I'm trying to help stabilize it. What worries me is the inflammation of the chakra vessels to his brain. I can relax them, but I have no idea what damage it might have caused. We'll need to wait for him to wake up."

"Fine. We're done here, anyway." Sasuke grabbed Naruto's arms, throwing them over his shoulders. He picked up the blond, wrapping his hands around the other's knees. "You have our target, right?"

Sakura held up the small package.

"Then let's go."

As they ran, Naruto's head shifted with every step Sasuke took. The yellow strands tickled Sasuke's neck. His hands tightened around Naruto's legs.

They returned to the clearing they had camped out in the previous night. Sakura quickly unfurled a sleeping bag and Sasuke laid Naruto on it. Again, she kneeled beside the blond, running a healing hand over his forehead.

"We're going to need a fire." Sakura glanced around them. "Can you start one? I don't want him catching a chill while I still don't know what's wrong."

Sasuke was about to freeze her with a glare. He sighed, instead, and left to find some firewood. He focused on the area around the clearing, grabbing the first dry, fallen branches he found. As he was returning, he heard the unmistakable sound of Naruto's voice. Almost dropping the wood, he ran the rest of the way. Sakura stopped him at the edge of the clearing.


"Get out of my way."

"Listen to me, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura grabbed his arm. The wood fell. "The jutsu affected Naruto's memory."


Sakura relaxed her grip when she saw she had Sasuke's attention. "The jutsu affected his memory," she repeated. "He's suffered...significant memory loss."

Something in how she paused made Sasuke focus entirely on her. "How significant?"

Sakura's gaze lowered. She chewed on her lower lip, hugging her arms.

" significant?" There was a steely edge to Sasuke's tone.

The woman's green eyes rose to meet his. "The last thing he remembers is failing the Academy's final exam."

Sasuke stared at her blankly for a few seconds. He abruptly shoved past her.

"Wait, Sasuke-kun—!"


Naruto lifted blue eyes. For a moment, Sasuke almost believed Sakura was confused. This was Naruto, his Naruto. He could recognize that clear gaze anywhere.

Suddenly, Naruto wrinkled his nose, eyes squinting. "Sasuke? Ah, ha, ha, ha! You look like a girl!"

On second thought, maybe Sakura was right.


Tsunade massaged her temples.

"—and where's the old geezer? I have to talk to him. There's something really weird going on and I ain't buying. There's no way a hag like you is Hokage—"

"Naruto!" Sakura hissed. She chuckled nervously. "I'm sorry, shishou. He doesn't mean it."

"Yes, I d—" Naruto's argument was abruptly cut off when Sakura covered his mouth with her hand. His eyes widened at her close proximity. He flushed red, chuckling idiotically.

Sasuke crossed his arms to control the urge to strangle the moron.

Tsunade closed her eyes, mumbling something behind her crossed hands. Sasuke thought he caught a prayer for patience and the desire to not kill the brat.

"Naruto," she began calmly.

"And another thing!" Naruto grabbed the bottle of sake on Tsunade's desk. "No Hokage should be drinking on the job!"

He tossed the bottle out the open window.

Sakura's eyes bugged out. Sasuke pinched the bridge of his nose. Shizune held the clipboard in front of her like a shield.

Tsunade's left eye twitched. Abruptly, she punched Naruto through the door.

"Uh..." he groaned dazedly. Tsunade stalked toward him, hauling him up by his shirt.

"Listen here, brat! I didn't put up with your whining when you were twelve. I'm definitely not doing it now that you're nineteen! I could care less about your memory loss. If you ever touch my sake again, memory will be the least of your problems because I will punch your brain right out of your head! Got that?!"

She punctuated her threat with a shake that made Naruto's head whip around.

"Y-ye-yes, Hokage-sama!"

Tsunade dropped Naruto. He dove behind Sakura. She yelped when his hands grabbed her waist. Acting on reflex, she turned around, punching him to the opposite wall.

Her hand flew to cover her mouth when she saw Naruto's twitching form slide down the wood. "Oops."

"He already has mental damage. We shouldn't exacerbate the problem," Sasuke interrupted. Not that he believed Naruto could possibly suffer any further mental damage.

Tsunade sighed heavily. "All right. Here's what we'll do. The man who performed the jutsu is currently unconscious. He'll be in the hospital for some time until the damage caused by the broken ribs to his lungs heals." Tsunade stared pointedly at Sakura who laughed nervously. "Then, we'll hand him over to Ibiki and see if he can extract information about the jutsu and how to reverse its effects.

"Meanwhile, Sakura, I'd like you to tell me all you remember about the jutsu. We might be able to figure something out to help Naruto. Sasuke, you'll take Naruto back to your home and try to keep him out of view and out of trouble."

"Hey, wait a minute! Why do I have to go with him?" Naruto jabbed a finger in Sasuke's direction. "I have my own apartment!"

"No, you don't," Tsunade responded. If Sasuke didn't know better, he would have sworn she was smirking. "You've been living with Sasuke for a few months."

"And why the hell would I do that?! He's a stuck-up bastard!" Naruto yelled.

Sasuke grabbed Naruto's wrist, wrenching him away. "Thank you, Hokage-sama. We'll be leaving now."

"Oi, oi, Sasuke-bastard, I'm not done talking with the Hokage-hag! Oi, you! I am talking to you! Sasuke!"

Tsunade waved cheerfully behind them.

Sasuke hauled him along as far as he could before Naruto's unceasing onslaught of complaints killed his last nerve. Which meant he reached the bottom of the staircase before shoving Naruto into a dark corner.

"What the hell is wrong with you—?!"

"All right, Naruto. Let's see if you understand this." Sasuke forced his tone to remain calm. "You were hit by a jutsu that suppressed your most recent memories. I'm going to take you to my house where you will stay without complaint and without wearing my temper thin. You are to stay out of sight until this problem is fixed. Got that?"

Guileless blue eyes peered at him. "Why do I have to stay out of sight?"

"You're vulnerable."

Naruto blinked.

"Right. Four-syllable word. You don't pick up on those until you're sixteen."

"…Are you calling me stupid?"

Sasuke had a desire—as violent as it was brief—to dash his head against a wall. "You're weak in this state," he translated. Mentally, he braced himself for the indignant bellows.

Naruto's eyes widened. "I'll show you weak, asshole!" He dove for Sasuke.

Uchiha arched an eyebrow. Almost bored, he sidestepped Naruto. The blond crashed against the opposite wall.


"Naruto, I've had a long day. You can hurt yourself tomorrow."

"Like hell I will! I'll take you on now or my name isn't Uzumaki Naruto!"

Sasuke considered lying and telling him his name was actually Kabuto.

Naruto swung and Sasuke smirked at how open his stance was—and how unbalanced. Casually, he stuck his foot out.

"Whoa!" Naruto tripped, arms flailing. He broke the fall with his face.

Sasuke walked around his prone form. He kicked the other's shoulder. "Still alive?"

He thought he heard a vague "Bastard" hissed into the dirt.

"When did you get so good?!" Naruto scrambled up. His stance was defensive, but again, left too many openings.

"It's been seven years, dobe. Remember?" The last word held an icy tone.

Naruto's eyes widened. "What did you just call me?!" Sasuke almost went cross-eyed at the finger pointed directly between his eyes.

Right. He forgot the day we were teamed up and Iruka called him that.

Sasuke shoved the finger away. Without bothering to look back, he walked away.

"Oi, oi! Sasuke-bastard! Hey! We're not finished! OI!" As expected, Sasuke heard the sound of Naruto's running footsteps behind him.

He smirked.

As it was still early in the evening, several people were still milling about the village. Although most ignored Sasuke, almost all greeted Naruto cheerfully. Sasuke was a little surprised that Uzumaki wasn't talking his ear off, but he wasn't about to complain. He needed some peace to consider how he was going to deal with a mentally twelve-year-old Naruto who acted more like he was five.

He wasn't aware of Naruto's discomfort until said man was pressing lightly into Sasuke's back.

"What is it?"

Naruto's fingertips were just barely grazing the back of Sasuke's shirt. His eyes had widened, bright pools of blue. His mouth was hanging slightly open.

"Everyone is greeting me. And smiling."

"Remember your dream to be acknowledged?" Sasuke turned his head away. "It came true."

Naruto's head whipped to Sasuke, eyes wider than ever. After a moment, his gaze dropped. A small smile curled his lips. "S-seriously?" He laughed softly. "How? W-What did I do?"

"Once we get to the apartment, I'll tell you what you've forgotten."

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" Naruto grabbed Sasuke's arm and abruptly hauled him along. Sasuke dug his feet in.

"What the hell is your problem now?" Naruto continued tugging. He was about to pull Sasuke's arm from its socket.

"You're going the wrong way."



Once settled in Sasuke's living room, Sasuke briefly recapped the last seven years. He described Team 7 and their mission to the Land of Waves, ("I bet I was awesome!" "You sliced open your own hand." "But it was awesome, right?"), the Chuunin Exam ("Did I do something totally cool?" "You farted in Kiba's face." "Probably deserved it."), skipped over his defection, explained Naruto and Jiraiya's training trip ("Who's Jiraiya?" "He was one of the Sannin." "What's a Sannin?"), and finished with the threat of Akatsuki, forgetting to mention Itachi's role ("So why were they after me? Was it because I'm so amazing?!" "…Yes, Naruto. It was because you're so amazing." "REALLY?!" "No.").

When Sasuke finished, he waited for Naruto's reaction. He ran a finger over the rim of his teacup, watching the curlicues of vapor still rising from the hot liquid.

Naruto absentmindedly scratched the leg he had propped on his chair. "I feel really bad," he confessed. "That Jiraiya was my teacher and I can't remember him at all."

"Wherever he is, Jiraiya understands." Sasuke took a sip of his tea. "And could probably care less as he's probably chasing after women."

Naruto grinned. "Ero-sennin, right?"

Sasuke nodded.

"So..." Naruto drew designs on the tabletop with a little spilled tea. "We're best friends?"

"When I can stand you." Sasuke's comment earned him a raspberry from Naruto.

"I still can't believe that." Naruto propped his chin on his hand. "I'm so amazing and friendly and you're such a cold bastard."

"Trust me. It was never my desire to be your friend. It still isn't."

Naruto again stuck out his tongue. Blue eyes lowered. He drew more circles on the wood. "But we're friends now, right? Good ones?"

Sasuke set down his cup. He clasped his hands, hiding his mouth behind them. "Odd ones. But yes. We're friends."

Naruto grinned happily. Something in Sasuke clenched.

The dark-haired man cleared his throat. "I think we should turn in for tonight. Tomorrow, we'll probably have to meet with the Hokage again. And don't call her old. She will kill you." Sasuke tossed his cup in the sink. Grabbing a towel, he quickly mopped up Naruto's mess. "The bathroom's down the hall, second door to your right. Across from it is the bedroom. You'll find your clothes in the second drawer."

"Okay." Naruto stood up. Sasuke began rinsing the cups. "Hey! How come my clothes are here?"

"Your apartment had a plumbing problem. You were staying here until it was fixed."

"Oh, okay!" Naruto accepted the explanation. He flounced away.

When Sasuke looked down, the cup he held was cracked.

He kept the faucet open, trying to drown the sound of the shower. When he heard the door open, he shut off the water and brushed past Naruto to the bathroom. He showered quickly, pulling on a pair of black boxers.

Pushing damp bags away from his face, he walked back to the room. Naruto, dressed in boxers and a T-shirt, was staring around the room.

"Where am I sleeping?"

Sasuke tossed his head in the direction of the bed.

"So where are you sleeping?"

Arching an eyebrow, Sasuke pushed the sheets back pointedly.

"We're sleeping together?" Naruto's look was horrified.

Black eyes narrowed. "If you're that disgusted, you're welcome to sleep on the couch."

"That's not what I—"

"Good night, Naruto." Sasuke turned on his side.

He heard Naruto shuffle uncomfortably. Finally, he saw the light bulb switch off and felt the tug of the sheets as Naruto clambered inside. Both were tense, each keeping to their corner of the bed.


"Damn it, bastard! Your feet are cold!"

"Shut up, usuratonkachi."

"WHAT did you call me?!"


"Will you please stop kicking me?"

"Then stick to your side!"



"What are you doing?"

"You're hogging the sheets!"


"Kick me again and I swear I will stab you with Chidori."

"…What's a Chidori?"


"Stop hogging the sheets!"


"Oi! Don't take them all for yourself, you asshole!"


"Naruto, you're bouncing on the bed."

"I can't get comfortable! I miss my bed!"

"Just go to sleep."


"Sasuke! Your feet are cold!"

"If you don't stop complaining, I'm sleeping nude."

"You wouldn't dare. …Oh, oh, my eyes! Agh!"


"I'm not asking anymore. Go to sleep."


"Did you just kick me?"

"No. …Maybe."



"What? What, what, WHAT?"

"...I'm cold."


The sunlight streamed through the window. Frowning, Sasuke hid his face against Naruto's shoulder. Naruto muttered something that might have been "five more minutes", his arms tightening around Sasuke's waist.

Peaceful breaths filtered through the still, cool air. A blue slit widened.

"Oh, oh, ew! Ack!" In his attempt to scramble away, Naruto forgot about the edge of the bed. Sasuke blinked at the flailing legs, the only visible part of Naruto.

"What are you going on about, dobe?"

"You were hugging me!"

The previous day crashed down on Sasuke.

"Actually," Sasuke corrected irritably, "you were hugging me."

"The hell I was! Why would I want to hug a prickly bastard like you?"

An argument just wasn't worth the effort.

Sasuke stood up, stretching. Naruto shielded his eyes behind his hands.

"Can you do that somewhere else?"

"I redressed myself hours ago, dobe."

"No, you didn't! You're still in your underwear!"

"So are you."

"At least I have a shirt!"

Sasuke found himself admiring his twelve-year-old self for not trying to kill Naruto sooner. Walking to the closet, he threw a change of clothes at Naruto's face. Mumbling something furiously under his breath, Naruto left. Sasuke heard and felt the bathroom door slam shut.

The back of his head connected with the closet door.


Just as they were about to finish eating breakfast (after Sasuke won the argument regarding ramen as unsuitable food early in the morning), there was a knock on the door.

"I'll get it!" Naruto almost upset the table in his rush to get to the door.

Sasuke barely saved his plate from decorating his floor. He clearly heard Naruto enthuse, "Sakura-chan!"

When he returned, he was trailing after Sakura like a lovesick puppy.

"Good morning, Sasuke-kun!" she said overtly-brightly. Sasuke did not miss how she carefully situated herself some distance away from Naruto.

"Hn." Sasuke continued eating.

"Ne, Sakura-chan, why did you cut your hair?" Naruto blinked at her.

"Oh, I, uh, thought I needed a change." Sakura tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

"You look pretty, Sakura-chan." A faint pink flush climbed up Naruto's neck.

Sakura's eyes flickered between Naruto's rising blush and Sasuke's stony face. "Thank you, Naruto," she said with a twitch that might have been a smile. "But I think someone might get jealous if you pay that much attention to me."

"Huh?" Naruto cocked his head to the side, face lax with confusion.

Sasuke cleared his throat. "Did you need something, Sakura?"

"The Hokage wants to see Naruto. She asked Ino's father to check him."

"Now?" Sasuke knew the answer before he even asked.

Sakura nodded. She smiled apologetically. "Sorry."

"Sakura-chan. Do you…have a boyfriend?" Naruto actually looked half-fearful.

"No, Naruto, I do—"

"Yes," Sasuke cut across her negation.

Naruto and Sakura stared at him. "What?!" they chorused.

Sasuke ignored Sakura. "Some time ago. Sorry, Naruto."

"Well, what's his name?" Naruto's head whipped from Sasuke to Sakura.

Sasuke said the first name that came to mind. "Lee."

"WHAT?" For a moment, Sasuke thought Sakura was about to throttle him.

"He's sweet on you."

"He has massive eyebrows!"

"But you like him."

"Not like that!"

"Sakura, please, not right—where's Naruto?"

Sasuke was at a high jounin level. Naruto had the mentality of a twelve-year-old. An obnoxious, rambunctious and too loud twelve-year-old. How the hell did he just slip by?

"Well, he was the greatest prankster in Konoha, remember?" At Sakura's answer, Sasuke realized he had voiced his question aloud. "We need to find him before he finds Lee."

She glared at Sasuke. He ignored her.

Leaving the dishes where they were, they ran out of the apartment.

"He can't be too hard to find," Sasuke was saying. "He doesn't know who Lee is."

"YOSH! A YOUTHFUL duel for love! I will PROVE my love for the BEAUTEOUS Sakura-san against a WORTHY opponent! Thank you, Naruto-kun!"

Sakura crossed her arms against her chest. She tapped her foot at him. "You were saying?"

Sasuke was going to kill Naruto.

He dove into the melee just in time to stop one of Lee's kicks. Naruto dropped his ridiculous stance in order to punch Sasuke. Or try to.

"What the hell, bastard?"

"Naruto! Stop this, okay?" Sakura grabbed his arm, pulling him away from Sasuke and Lee.

"Ah, Sakura-san! You are more beautiful than ever!" Lee gushed.

Sakura smiled hesitantly. "Yes, thank you, Lee. Naruto, we need to—"

"What does he have that I don't have?" Naruto gesticulated wildly.

Sasuke's look darkened. Sakura chuckled nervously. "Actually, Naruto—"

"Is it the eyebrows?" Naruto cried out desperately. "I can grow out my eyebrows!"

Taking three steps forward, Sasuke smacked him upside the head. "You are not growing out your damn eyebrows."

"Don't hit me!" Naruto yelled in Sasuke's face. "Who the hell do you think you are?!"

"A lover's spat!" Lee suddenly popped up beside them. "You mustn't FIGHT, my friends! REJOICE in the SPRINGTIME of youth and love!" He clapped Naruto on the back.

Naruto, whose stance couldn't be more unbalanced.

Sasuke had little time to react as Naruto crashed into him. As fate would have it, Naruto's mouth fell directly over his.

The déjà vu was killing him.

"Gah!" Naruto scrambled back, his hands wrapped around his neck as he mimed being sick. Sasuke could not deny how much that hurt.

"Sakura-san!" Both men turned around to see Lee, kneeling beside a passed out Sakura. She was grinning idiotically, a thin string of blood issuing from her nose.

"Sakura-chan!" Sasuke nearly kissed the floor as an orange and blue blur barreled past him. Annoyed, Sasuke kicked Naruto. The blond crashed into Lee. The eyes of Konoha's green beast suddenly burned.

"YOSH! A MANLY and YOUTHFUL fight in the SPRING of our YOUTH!"

He dove at Sasuke.

"Lee, get the hell off me."

"Oi! Only I can kill Sasuke-bastard!"

"This is such a JOYOUS occasion!"


"Sakura-chan! I'll beat them all up for you!"

"Yes, Naruto-kun! Thank you for reminding me of the purpose of this fight! I will PROVE my love for Sakura-san or I will run 101 laps around Konoha!"

"You have two seconds to get off me before I Chidori both of you."

"Naruto! Let go of Lee's eyebrows!"


"Oi! No kicking, bushy-brows!"

"A MANLY fight to PROVE our WORTH! Gai-sansei, ARE YOU WATCHING?!"




"What happened to you?" Tsunade blinked as Team Kakashi trooped inside her office. The blond man beside her hid an amused smile.

Naruto and Sasuke each had a healthy-sized lump on their head. Sakura had blood down her shirt. All three were covered with dirt.

"Well, shishou... Uh, actually..." Sakura chuckled nervously. Tsunade arched an eyebrow. Sakura's laughter died immediately. "It's unimportant, shishou."

"I'll take your word for it. Naruto." The Hokage turned to the youngest person in the room. "This is Yamanaka Inoichi. He's Ino's father. I've asked him to examine you to determine the extent of the damage."


"He's going to see what got banged up," Tsunade translated promptly.

"Okay," Naruto replied cheerfully.

Inoichi stepped forward. "Naruto, if you would please take a seat." He motioned to a chair next to the Hokage's desk. Naruto sat down. "Now, I'm going to need you to relax. You may feel a little bit of pressure or discomfort, but it'll pass quickly. All right?"

Naruto nodded. Sasuke noticed he was biting his lower lip.

Inoichi smiled reassuringly and performed a seal. Sasuke activated Sharingan. He saw Inoichi's chakra flow into Naruto's head. It coiled around, as if searching for something. There were flares of Naruto's chakra, which were quickly suppressed. Sasuke then noticed a wholly different chakra, one not belonging to either man.

"Get out," warned Sasuke. "The fox is active."

Inoichi withdrew quickly. The moment his chakra left Naruto, Kyuubi settled.

Naruto blinked. "What happened?"

"You have a good defense system," complimented Inoichi.

"Oh, well, yeah, I do," gloated Naruto. "...What defense system?"

"What did you find?" Sasuke interrupted.

Inoichi spoke to Tsunade, though he turned to observe the other three in the room. "Has his personality changed at all?"

"Yes," Sasuke, Sakura and Tsunade chorused.

"He acts like he's twelve again," Tsunade continued.

"More like five," Sasuke muttered, ensuring it was loud enough for Naruto hear. Sakura smirked. The blond whirled around in his seat.

"Oi, you—!"

Tsunade cast him a dark look and Naruto made an odd choking noise as if the words were lodged in his throat. Sakura clapped her hand over her mouth to hide her mirth.

Ignoring their antics, Inoichi nodded. "The jutsu doesn't affect memory alone. From what I saw, it's meant to tear down the mind itself."

"What do you mean?" Tsunade's golden eyes focused on the platinum-blond man. Sasuke and Sakura grew solemn. Naruto looked completely confused.

"There is a chakra block around part of his mind. The most obvious result of that is the memory loss. But no amnesia should see drastic changes in personality. From what you told me, Hokage-sama, and from my observations now, Naruto-kun has suffered a regression. The jutsu was probably supposed to regress the opponent to an age where they were completely vulnerable.

"The last seven years of Naruto-kun's life are still inside his mind. But it's almost like they were stuffed in a box and it was then locked. If the jutsu can be identified, it could be performed again and, theoretically, restore the missing pieces. However, we would have to be careful. The box is highly unstable. Those years could be lost permanently. Or his entire mind could be compromised."


"You're not sleeping?" Pulling the covers up to his chin, Naruto looked at Sasuke strangely.

"I have some things I need to do first," Sasuke answered vaguely, not moving from his position on the windowsill.

"But…you're not doing anything."

Sasuke didn't answer.

"Okay." Naruto stared at the ceiling. He fiddled with the sheets. "Hey, Sasuke? Do you think I'll get my memories back?"

Naruto studiously avoided meeting Sasuke's gaze. Sasuke glanced out the window. "Yes, I do, dobe. You're a genius at doing the impossible."

Naruto grinned. He settled more comfortably into the bed. "Thanks, Sasuke. By the way, don't touch me with your cold feet. And if you hug me again, I'll pound your ass."

Sasuke snorted. Naruto shot his friend a warning look that only made him look comically half-blind. He turned on his side. Within minutes, Sasuke heard his breathing even. He waited a little longer until he was certain Naruto had fallen asleep. Sasuke abandoned his position at the window and kneeled next to Naruto.

Lightly, he rested his fingers on the smooth cheek. His thumb stroked the dark lines carving across the surface. Naruto continued sleeping. His lips parted slightly, his breath ghosting through them. Never lifting his fingers from Naruto's skin, Sasuke leaned forward. He traced the contours of the sleeping man's mouth with his. He inhaled deeply, a drowning man, robbing Naruto's breath. Slowly, he fanned his tongue over Naruto's lower lip, luxuriating in the soft, slightly chapped skin. For one glorious, devastating second, he felt the blond return the kiss. Surprised, Sasuke pulled back.

Naruto frowned in his sleep. Softly, so low Sasuke almost missed it, Naruto whispered his name.

Sasuke's hand flattened against the other's cheek, seeking upward to clutch at the yellow strands. His forehead fell against the other man's temple. Faintly, he could feel Naruto's pulse, strong and even.

"You're still in there. I know. Just wait a little longer, Naruto. I'll get you out."


"Maa, isn't that adorable."

At the unexpected voice, Naruto and Sasuke abruptly woke up. Noticing that he was cocooned around Sasuke, Naruto freaked out and fell out of the bed. Sasuke aimed a kunai at Kakashi's face.

The older man grinned under his mask as he dodged the weapon easily. "Now, Sasuke, shouldn't you take it easy? He's only twelve."

The next kunai flew directly to Kakashi's groin.

His hair standing further on end than normal, Naruto pointed an imperious finger over the bed. "Who the fuck are you?"

"My name is Kakashi," the masked man introduced himself. "I was your genin team sensei."

"That's Kakashi?" Naruto turned to Sasuke, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "You said he was cool."

"Really, Sasuke? I didn't know you cared."

Sasuke was glaring bloody murder at Naruto and Kakashi. "I never said that," he hissed. Asinine insinuations after waking him up early were enough to secure Sasuke's foul mood. If he ended up maiming either, his actions had been provoked.

"Now, I know you've secretly liked me for a while—"


When the light faded, Naruto gaped at the hole that was previously Sasuke's window and most of his wall. "You killed Kakashi!"

"I wish," muttered Sasuke.

"That you do." Kakashi was calmly reading his porn, appearing right behind Naruto.

Naruto yelped, scrambling away.

"What do you want, Kakashi?" Sasuke glared. Kakashi smiled at him.

"I just returned from a mission to learn there was something wrong with my old student. I came over to check on him myself."

"At six in the morning?" Sasuke was controlling the urge not to give into his more violent tendencies. Again.

"Yep!" Kakashi's only visible eye squinted from the width of his smile. "So Naruto. What do you say to learning a really amazing jutsu? Again?"

"Really?!" Naruto's eyes glimmered hopefully.


"All right!" Naruto dove into the closet. When he popped back out, he was wearing a white shirt and his black and orange pants. "Let's go!"

Sasuke glared at Kakashi. The Copy-Nin waved goodbye cheerfully as he followed an ecstatic Naruto outside.

"Oh, before I forget…" Kakashi poked his head around the doorway. "The Hokage wants to see you. Now."

Kusanagi went right through the wall.


Sasuke leaned against the wall in the Hokage's office. Sakura, Inoichi and Ibiki were also present. Shizune was in the process of hiding Tsunade's sake while the woman rubbed her temples.

"All right. Thank you, Ibiki." Tsunade dismissed the man. Ibiki bowed and left. She sighed deeply.

Without glancing up, Tsunade began, "Ibiki has interrogated our mind-sweeper. He has the details on the jutsu." Picking up a piece of paper, she handed it to Inoichi. "It seems your theory was correct."

"May I?" interrupted Sasuke. He held out a hand for the paper in Inoichi's hand. The man glanced at Tsunade who gave a short affirmative.

The paper contained a more detailed description of the jutsu. The main difference was in its purpose: it was never supposed to regress the victim to a vulnerable state. It was supposed to destroy the mind completely. Sasuke's eyes ran quickly over the sequence of seals.

"What do you think, Sasuke?" Tsunade's eyes were focused on him.

Sasuke retained his composure. "He definitely screwed it up. The sequence makes no sense."

"Can you restore the sequence?"

There it was. The reason why he was called. Sasuke glanced at the sheet again. "Probably," he answered.

Tsunade leaned back in her chair. "You will be working with Inoichi. His knowledge of the mind paired with your knowledge of seals should rectify this jutsu. Then we'll—"

"Then we could easily kill him." Sasuke's tone was cold.

"Sasuke-kun…" Sakura whispered in warning.

"I am well aware of that." Tsunade interlaced her fingers. "Which is why I'm trusting on your wanting your boyfriend safe and whole to see you through this task."

"This is Naruto's mind," Sasuke hissed through clenched teeth. "You can't just make a decision that could possibly kill him behind his back."

"Sasuke!" Sakura tugged on his sleeve. Shizune gaped at him. Inoichi frowned.

Tsunade stood up. "Sasuke, stay. Everyone else, out." Her tone warned against any argument.

Shizune looked like she was about to disagree, but she simply sighed. "We'll be right outside, Tsunade-sama." She quickly herded Sakura and Inoichi out the door. Sakura glanced back, green eyes wide.

When they were alone, Tsunade faced the windows. A manicured hand rested on the glass.

"I don't want him hurt any less than you do."

"He deserves to have a say in this." Sasuke stepped forward.

"And that's why you're here." Sasuke started at her words. "He's twelve, Sasuke. Everything will be explained to him in terms he understands, but the fact remains he is not fit to make a decision for himself. Especially not a decision of this magnitude. We'll tell him it's dangerous and he'll just wave it off. Probably insult us and declare he's Uzumaki Naruto and he doesn't feel fear while he's at it."

Sasuke couldn't disagree.

"I don't think he quite understands the concept of death yet. He's never seen it. At least, that he remembers." Tsunade glanced out the window. The early morning light made her appear years younger than even her jutsu did. She looked like a girl. "Which is why I need you."

"You trust me to make a life or death decision about Naruto?" Sasuke arched an eyebrow.

"I trust you to make a decision that will benefit Naruto." There was a bitter twist to Tsunade's smile. "After all, if something happens to him, you're the one who will lose most."

Sasuke's eyes flashed.

"You've seen the jutsu. You know what could happen. We can let him continue this way and hope that in some seven years he'll mature to the point that he was two days ago. Or we can try this." Again those golden eyes focused on him and Sasuke felt like he was being tested. "I asked Kakashi to keep Naruto occupied while I spoke with you. I'm sure you can imagine what direction this conversation would have taken if Naruto was in the room."

Sasuke snorted. Tsunade smiled ironically.

"You don't have to make a decision now. Study the jutsu. See if you can perfect it. I will allow you to access certain scrolls in our library if necessary." Tsunade sat down in her chair heavily. "All I ask is that you make the right one. You're not the only one who will lose something important if this doesn't work."



The man in question raised his head from where he was patching the hole in his wall. Naruto was staring at the floor. He scuffed his shoes. Sasuke frowned in worry.

"Something wrong, Naruto?"

The yellow-haired man visibly swallowed. "Is it true? Did you try to kill me?"

"Who told you that?" Sasuke's voice was carefully neutral. He already knew. Naruto had only been with one person all day.

Naruto shrugged, shaking his head. "Did you?"

Sasuke closed his eyes, sighing heavily. "Yes."

He wasn't surprised at the punch Naruto threw at him.

"You bastard! You tried to kill me!" Naruto's eyes were a vivid, electric blue. "More than once! You said you were my best friend!"

Before Sasuke could say anything, Naruto continued. "Why is my stuff here?"

Sasuke blinked at the drastic change of subject. "What?"

"My stuff, genius. Why is it here?" Naruto's eyes were desperately searching Sasuke's face.

"You know why." Sasuke turned his face away.

"I'm not buying that 'my apartment is leaking' story! Tell me the truth!"

"Fine. You want the truth?" Sasuke slammed Naruto against a wall. The blond yelped in surprise. "You were my best friend. You were my only friend. And I tried to kill you in order to gain the power I needed to kill the ones responsible for the massacre of my clan."

The blue eyes were too wide. For some reason, the sight of them only made Sasuke angrier.

"But I didn't. I left you alive. And I left the village to pursue revenge, but you would not leave me alone. You sought me out. When we finally found each other again, we fought again. And that time, you left me alive."

Against his will, his thumb was drawing small circles into Naruto's skin.

"You know what I realized afterward?" Sasuke leaned forward as if he would kiss Naruto again. He dropped the words directly against the lips before him. "I couldn't stop thinking about you. I needed you. To even imagine life without you, it terrified me more than anything ever had before. And you know what was the worst part? You felt the same way."

His hand moved down. He alternated between running his palm and his nails over the skin of Naruto's neck. He felt the younger man tremble.

"Even if I had wanted to pretend it wasn't real, you wouldn't let it go. You never let anything go. You just showed up one day, said you were moving in and there was no shoving you out of my damn door. You've always been so damn difficult, Naruto."

A hair's breadth separated their mouths.

"You always have to complicate everything."

Abruptly, Sasuke backed away. Naruto stumbled. His eyes were frozen on Sasuke's inscrutable face.

"Get out," snarled Sasuke.

"Sasuke, I—"

"I said get out!"

Naruto jumped at Sasuke's volume. Swallowing, Naruto crept to the doorway. The sound of running feet and the front door opening and closing followed.

Sasuke put his fist through the recently patched wall. "Dammit," he hissed. "Dammit all."


The next morning Sasuke hunted down Kakashi. The masked man appeared to be everywhere and nowhere. Everyone Sasuke asked had seen Kakashi minutes before. The man, however, remained just out of reach. Sasuke clenched his fists, biting the inside of his cheek.

"You shouldn't do that. You'll wrinkle before you turn twenty."

Sasuke barely reigned in the urge to stab his teacher.

"What do you think you're playing at?" he hissed.

"Hmm?" Kakashi raised his gaze from his novel.

"Did you predict how Naruto would behave? Did you get off on it?"

"You think I told Naruto what you did to him out of a desire to torture you?" Kakashi chuckled. "You're not that important, Sasuke."

The black-haired man's fists tightened. "Why did you tell him, then?"

"He asked," Kakashi replied simply.

"Oh? And you decided now would be a good time to answer honestly instead of handing out your vague comments?" Sasuke wanted to punch that stupid smile from Kakashi's face.

Kakashi pocketed his book. All signs of humor evaporated from his face. "How long did you think you could keep it a secret? He might be an idiot, but he can be quite perceptive when he wants to be. He noticed the treatment the villagers gave him. And your story just didn't explain everything.

"It's as much his history as it is yours. Considering he may be in this state for a while, it's best he knows about all that shaped him until now: the fox, his team and, above all, his best friend."


With a ferocity that almost matched his drive for revenge, Sasuke threw himself into perfecting the jutsu that had hit Naruto. True to her word, Tsunade allowed him to access several scrolls in the library, two among those forbidden. Inoichi and an ANBU escort, however, accompanied him at all times. The ANBU unfurled the forbidden scrolls to the section Sasuke needed, carefully shielding the rest. Sasuke could barely dredge up the energy to glare at them.

He barely slept. Food was a luxury he allowed himself only when his hunger became impossible to ignore. He needed to figure out the jutsu, ensure that it would perform perfectly.

Sakura hounded him.

"Sasuke-kun, you can't keep doing this," she declared after breaking the door of his apartment. She was staring at the quagmire of papers, scrolls and seals surrounding Sasuke. "When was the last time you ate? …Or took a bath?"

Sasuke carefully drew a seal. The brush glided easily over the rice paper, the black ink glistening in the weak light.

"Are you even listening to me, Sasuke-kun?"

Carefully, he blew on the design, willing it to dry quickly.


Placing his hand just over the drawing, he channeled his chakra through it. For a second, it glowed a brilliant orange, before it crumbled into itself, collapsing into fine ash.

"Sasuke!" Sakura abruptly stepped back at the anger in Sasuke's scarlet eyes. The tomoe of his Sharingan circled lazily in obvious warning.

"Okay," she said softly. "I'll leave. Oh and Sasuke-kun?" She paused at his doorway. "Naruto misses you."

The bottle of ink exploded against the wall where her head had been.


Tsunade bit her thumb. Her eyes ran over the scroll in front of her. Without lifting her gaze, she asked, "And you're certain this will work?"

"Positive, Hokage-sama," Inoichi asserted. "Sasuke's idea to use a seal to stabilize and channel the chakra used is just what was needed to revert the jutsu."

Tsunade's eyes flickered to Sasuke. He had a good idea of what she was seeing. Hair messier than ever, dark bags under his eyes, darker still compared to his ashen color. "Have you come to a decision?"

"I want Naruto to be told first," Sasuke answered immediately. "I will make no decision without hearing his wishes."

The corners of Tsunade's lips twitched upward. "Fair enough," she conceded. "I'll call him in—"

"I want to tell him. In private."

The Hokage observed him quietly for a while. Finally, she nodded. "I want to hear from Naruto by tomorrow. And Uchiha? Don't manipulate him. I will find out if you do."

Sasuke kept his look neutral to avoid sneering at her. Dismissing the two in the office with him, he turned on his heel and stalked out the door. Just before the door closed behind him, he heard Tsunade sigh and Inoichi mutter, "Such disrespect…"

Naruto had been staying with Iruka, but there was no one at the teacher's apartment when Sasuke knocked on the door. Kakashi's apartment was also vacant. Sakura had not seen Naruto and Sai had a mission. Not that a twelve-year-old Naruto would have liked to be in Sai's company anyway.

Sasuke rubbed his eyes. He could feel a headache brewing behind his eyes. He remembered Sakura had given him a special blend of herbs for a tea that removed most pain and discomfort. He had had little need of it, but perhaps a cup would do him some good.

Just as he reached the bottom of the stairs to his apartment, he felt Naruto's all-too familiar chakra. He climbed up slowly. When he reached the top, he found Naruto collapsed against his door. His eyes were closed, his head leaning against the wood. Both legs were stretched out in front of him.


Blue eyes snapped open. Naruto scrambled to his feet.

"I wasn't sleeping!" he explained hastily. "I was just closing my eyes for a bit."

Sasuke gave him a pointed look. "Naruto, I have to talk to you."

"Yeah, uh, I do too." Naruto glared at the floor.

"Let's go inside." Sasuke reached past him, sliding his key into the door. He felt Naruto tense when his hand brushed the blond's sleeve.

He swallowed. Pushing the door open, he motioned for Naruto to walk in ahead of him. Naruto did so hesitatingly. When Sasuke closed the door, the younger man jumped.

"Why are you here, Naruto?" Sasuke sagged against a wall, running his hand over his face wearily.

Naruto's head bowed. "I'm sorry, Sasuke."

Black eyes widened slightly at the admission. "For what?"

"Yelling at you." Naruto's voice was lower than ever. It suddenly rose several octaves as Sasuke found himself staring at an unflinching finger an inch from his nose. "You deserve it for lying to me! But I probably shouldn't have yelled."

Naruto suddenly threw his hands up. "I don't get anything! You're telling me I'm nineteen and my reflection is completely different from what it was days ago. I have a demon fox sealed in me and my best friend tried to kill me to get power! No one hates me anymore and the Hokage is a woman who's supposed to be old, but looks young! I'm supposed to be in love with Sakura, but I only feel happy when I'm around you! Why?"

Sasuke cupped Naruto's cheek.

"Don't!" Naruto started, his hand slapping Sasuke's. However, he subtly leaned into the touch. When Sasuke wrapped his arms around Naruto's back, the blond was trembling. His hands fisted Sasuke's shirt.

"You're such a confusing bastard." Sasuke heard him mutter somewhere around the brunet's collar.

Burying his face in the yellow strands, Sasuke inhaled deeply. In his arms, he felt Naruto give into his touch even as the younger man's trembling intensified. He skimmed his fingers over the slightly stubbly skin of Naruto's jaw and tilted his face up.

As much as he wanted to give in, he went slowly. He needed to prove to Naruto beyond a doubt that this was fine, that this was good. Sasuke pressed his lips to Naruto's. He drew back quickly and pressed matching kisses to either corner of Naruto's mouth. Then, he lingered over the center, just a brush of lips. Their breaths ghosted over each other's lips.

Sasuke's eyes darted up. Naruto's eyes were open, but they were half-lidded. The blue had darkened considerably.

He took a risk. Angling down again, Sasuke scraped his teeth across Naruto's lower lip. He followed the path with his tongue, as if soothing any damage he might have caused.

A pink tongue poked out. It fanned over the damp lower lip before traveling in the opposite direction across the upper one. The lights reflected off the slight sheen.

This time, when Sasuke glanced up, the bright blue of Naruto's eyes was hidden behind his eyelids.

His hands lingering over the sides of Naruto's face, Sasuke pressed himself completely to the muscled body before him. His teeth nibbled senseless patterns against Naruto's lips. Those same haunting and irritating lips parted, a tongue sneaking between them. Sasuke ran his own carefully over the damp member, teasing it further into play. He could feel Naruto's hesitancy, his insecurity. He abandoned Naruto's mouth to press a line of kisses across his partner's jaw. His hands slowly ran down a tanned neck, across broad shoulders and down a strong back. He rubbed slow circles into the skin there.

Naruto tilted his head to the side, revealing a golden expanse of skin.

"Sasuke…" he breathed.

Sasuke pressed his lips to the trembling eyelids before melding their mouths together again.

He's twelve. You can't take this any further.

Maybe not. But he would make what little he could take and what little he could give worth it.

Inside his—their—bedroom, the couple lay on the bed. Sasuke pushed Naruto's shirt up, revealing the finely defined muscles. He ran his lips, nose, cheek over the smooth skin. Naruto squirmed slightly.

"It tickles," he complained, pouting slightly. Sasuke moved upward, resting his forehead against Naruto's.

"You can touch me." He smirked against Naruto's lips, brushing them with every word.

Naruto stuck out his tongue. Almost shyly, his hands ran across Sasuke's chest. When one brushed against his nipple, Sasuke gasped.

"Sorry," whispered Naruto. Sasuke shook his head mutely, taking the large hand and laying it against the same spot. An almost child-like wonder leapt across Naruto's face as he observed the effects of his light touch. When Sasuke kissed him again, deeply, gently, Naruto's eyes fluttered shut.

They lay in the rumpled sheets, fully clothed, their hands never straying from the other's bodies. Sasuke closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

"Naruto, there's something I need to tell you."

"Did I do something wrong?" Sasuke chuckled at the sudden fearful look. Naruto scowled. "I don't see what's so funny, ass."

Still smiling, Sasuke took Naruto's wrist in his hand, pressing a kiss into the soft skin there. "If it was something you did, I would have already kicked you out of my bed."

Naruto stuck his tongue out again. Sasuke couldn't resist the temptation to nip at it. With a surprised yelp, Naruto reeled his tongue back inside his mouth.

"No, it's…" Sasuke paused, his fingers trailing over Naruto's side. "We were able to figure out the jutsu."

"That's good!" Naruto smiled. "I can get my memory back! Right?"

"If it works."

"If?" The word was repeated in a small voice.

Black eyes sought out blue. "I won't lie to you, Naruto. It's dangerous. You were already hit with it once. A second one could wipe all your memories. Or it could even kill you."

"I'm not afraid!" Naruto enthused. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto and I am not afraid!"

"Heh. Tsunade really knows you."


Sasuke shook his head. He continued, "The other choice is to leave you as you are. We'll tell you all about those seven years. You'll undergo training again. It's the safe choice."

"You want me to pick that one?" Naruto's eyes were too wide as they searched Sasuke's face.

"I want you to pick whichever one you think best." Sasuke brought Naruto's hand to his lips, not kissing, but just keeping it there.

Naruto was silent for a long time. "I want my memories back," he finally admitted so softly Sasuke had to strain to hear him. "I want to remember. I want to remember Jiraiya and Kakashi and Hokage-hag and Sakura-chan and you. I want to remember."

Sasuke pulled him closer, his hands clenching around the back of Naruto's shirt. His throat tightened. Not trusting himself to speak, he nodded. Inhaling deeply his lover's specific scent, he clung to Naruto.


Tsunade squeezed Naruto's shoulder. "Everything will be fine," she promised.

Naruto smiled widely at her. When she moved to stand behind him, outside of the circle Sasuke had drawn around Naruto, Sasuke noticed her eyes were unnaturally shiny.

They were in a room inside the Hokage Tower. It was underground; the only entrance, the door by which they had come in. Sakura, Kakashi, Iruka and Shizune waited outside. Inside the room, only the Hokage, Inoichi, Sasuke and Naruto remained. Naruto stood in the middle of the circle. Seals surrounded him, all leading to the mark Sasuke had painstakingly drawn on his forehead. With those precautions, the jutsu would target only what they wanted it to: the barrier surrounding part of Naruto's mind.

"Ready, Naruto?" Inoichi asked easily as if he were asking if he were asking about the weather. Naruto grinned, but Sasuke could read the frailty in the lines of his smile. The Yamanaka glanced at Tsunade. She nodded.

Sasuke, kneeling on his circle, activated his Sharingan just as Inoichi's hands began folding in a series of seals. His heart was pounding a painful tattoo. He watched the surge of chakra and he quickly ran his own through the painted lines. Sasuke could not control the smile that ghosted over his lips as he saw his seals work. The barrier was collapsing into itself, the seal on Naruto's forehead absorbing the released and wild chakra.

It was finished. It was done. Naruto was fine.

Inoichi relaxed his pose. Sasuke lifted his fingers from the seal. Naruto grinned at Sasuke.

One lick of chakra flared to life.

"No!" Sasuke slammed both hands down on the dry ink.

Naruto's eyes rolled into the back of his head. His entire body tensed, growing exceedingly still as it seized. And like a puppet with its strings cut, Naruto collapsed.


Sakura hugged herself tightly. Beside her, Sasuke fisted his hands, his knuckles shining white. Kakashi was standing, leaning against the wall. He wasn't reading as he usually did. His gaze was focused on some distant point. On the bench beside him, Iruka held his head in his hands. Inoichi had his eyes closed, his face upturned.

Tsunade had rushed Naruto into the hospital two hours ago. They still hadn't come out of the room.

The wait was killing Sasuke. The feeling of not knowing, every doubt creeping up, every possible mistake reflected everywhere he looked. If after if after if after if ran through his mind. If he'd kept his hands on the seal, if he'd not grown confident, if he had killed that ninja before he used that jutsu, if Naruto didn't remember anything, if after if after if after if.

He wasn't allowed in the examination room, but he had just decided anyone who tried to stop him could sit on their shuriken. He stood up and was about to slam the door down when it opened.

He felt the others behind him stir, but his attention was focused on the yellow color still inside the room.

He brushed past Tsunade who didn't try to stop him. Instead, she closed the door behind him, leaving only a small gap open.

Naruto's eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling in slow rhythm. He was pale against the burnished yellow of his hair. Sasuke swallowed heavily as he touched his fingertips to Naruto's wrist.

"Naruto?" Sasuke almost didn't recognize his voice. Too small, too unsure, too afraid.

Blue eyes fluttered open. For a moment, they stared above, unfocused, dazed. Then, they focused on Sasuke's still and barely breathing form.

"Sasuke?" Naruto squinted his eyes slightly. "Sasuke?"

"Yes, Naruto." A faint tremble suffused his palms.

"Sasuke? …You look like a girl."

Everything collapsed around him.

They were back where they had started. But that was fine. He could work with that. He would tell Naruto everything, stay with him, let him choose Sasuke again. And he would never allow Naruto near that fucking jutsu again. Hell, he would probably need guards to ensure he didn't kill that enemy nin.

Suddenly, an obnoxious grin spread across Naruto's face. "Just kidding. You ought to see your face, Sasuke."

"You fucking little bastard!" Sasuke punched Naruto as hard as he could.

"Ah!" Naruto curled around his abdomen. "God, Sasuke, can't you take a joke?"

Sasuke grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt. "That. Wasn't. Funny."

Naruto's eyes widened. "Sasuke…are you crying?"

Dropping him, Sasuke hurriedly turned away. "Of course not," he spat.

"Sasuke?" He felt Naruto's fingers brush the back of his shirt. "I'm sorry, Sasuke. Okay? It's just—I don't—jokes are the only way I can deal with this. It was…scary."

It was the confession, rather than the apology, that made Sasuke turn around.

Naruto was sitting up, his head bowed. "I'm…I'm sorry, Sasuke. Please don't leave."

Sasuke observed the slouched shoulders, the clenched hands. Slowly stepping forward, he skimmed his fingers across the line of Naruto's jaw. Naruto tilted his head up, surprise and hope marring his face. Sasuke slanted his mouth over Naruto's, luxuriating in the feeling of having the motion returned.

It wasn't deep. It wasn't passionate. It wasn't long. But it was enough. Sasuke dropped to his knees, hiding his face in Naruto's lap. Something damp burned its way down his cheeks, but he ignored it. He focused on the warmth of Naruto, his weight as the blond bent over him. He luxuriated in the feel of Naruto's breathing, the pounding of his heart and the way his arms tightened around Sasuke with the same need Sasuke clung to him.


Every day, the situation was similar. Sasuke would startle awake before Naruto and wait for the blue eyes to open and focus. He wouldn't relax until Naruto threw a glare at the alarm, slammed it off and hid his face against Sasuke's shoulder, muttering, "Five more minutes."

They would get up, dress, eat and report to the Hokage. Sometimes, Sakura accompanied them. When she was busy, Kakashi or Sai rounded out the team. Tsunade would yell at Naruto for something he had done and Naruto would criticize her work. Depending on the day, he would avoid the projectile she threw at him or get clocked in the head with it.

Sasuke would panic at the sight of anything making contact with Naruto's head. The first time it happened, he almost attacked Tsunade. ANBU had been about to restrain him when she waved them off and punched the recalcitrant leader who wouldn't unhand Sasuke. She had told him to relax, that it wouldn't happen again—a promise she forgot when Naruto barged in the next day, telling her alcohol was the reason she looked so old.

During the missions, Sasuke came away with more wounds than he normally would. It was only after Naruto threatened to leave him if he didn't stop acting like a guard-dog and Sasuke saw him begin packing that the brunet began focusing solely on his enemy. This, of course, after an attempt to beat into Sasuke's head that Naruto didn't need a guard failed when their physical energy was channeled into other bodily pastimes.

Sasuke couldn't shake of the feeling that it was a dream he had concocted and which could slip through his hands like water, unable to be held onto.

"I'm fine!" Naruto yelled at him, shaking Sasuke by the lapels of his shirt. "Get it through your thick head, dumbass! I'm not fucking leaving you. I came back, didn't I? While I still remembered nothing?"

But Sasuke didn't believe it. Couldn't. It was so easy to lose everything that was important you. Through the swing of a blade, the piercing of a needle, a flare of chakra.

Every day, the situation was similar. Sasuke would startle awake. His heart would pound a scarlet beat against his throat; his breath would seize in his lungs. Every line in his body would tense and he would only relax when Naruto opened one bleary eye, slammed his hand over the alarm, curled back against Sasuke's side, and muttered, "Five more minutes, Sasuke."