Title: Say it to me again
Summary: Sasuke thought he had dreamed of his confession... However, Naruto took the chance. SasuNaru. Smart!Naruto.
Rating: K+ / PG
Warning: SasuNaru – that means shonen-ai.
I don't know how I found myself in the front of the Dobe's home door. I didn't remember knocking, and after I had come inside, I couldn't avert my eyes from his solemn ones. He didn't say a word, and neither did I. So we stood there in silence, in the dim light of the only one bulb lighting the night.
I didn't know why I was here. I waited for the Dobe's usual shout, so I could find some normality. But the shout didn't come. Maybe it was because of the stillness of the night, or maybe because of my facial expression. Concern slowly slid over Naruto's face and finally he spoke. "Sasuke, are you all right? You look sick."
Suddenly I had this urge to laugh bitterly. After all that I have done to him, all those painful words, the betrayal, even my attempt to take his life, and he still is concerned about me...
Dobe, I tried to kill you. You should hate me, fear me, despite me, and not be my friend. They say, you have the biggest heart in the world. They say you can easily forgive those who have wronged you; you leave the past behind, looking always to the future.
But you are human, are you not? Can you really forgive and forget all that I have done, and what the others have done to you? Do they really think that when you forgive all the hurt, all the pain is gone?
The pain after the loss of my family is still sharp in my heart. Once I thought that after I kill Itachi I would be able to stop that hurt. I don't believe that anymore. If I kill him, I will be even more alone than I am now.
He paused. "...maybe I will kill him, one day. We will meet as two ninjas, both with their own mission. We will fight, and one of us will be victorious. It is for that day I live, because I already have a precious person to protect...
I don't want to be alone anymore. But I don't know how to make friends. I don't know how to keep friends. I don't like people. There is only one person who can reach me. One person who has reached me and has never let go. And even now I don't know how to show him how much he means to me.
My lack of answer wasn't that unusual. I didn't need to voice the words for him to understand. He reached his hand toward my check, and I flinched at the contact, if not for the wetness I can now clearly feel on my face.
He looked at me. I don't know what he saw, but without hesitation he embraced me in a warm hug.
I'm stiff. The last person who hugged me was my mother, years ago. Such close contact is frightening, because it's dangerous to allow an enemy to get so close to your vital organs. But Naruto isn't an enemy. He is a friend. He is the only person I fully trust, The only person around whom I can ever let my guard down. He is the dobe, yet I believe he is the only one who can fully understand me.
So I trust him. I let my guard down and allow the tears to fall freely. I hug him tightly back, my body shaking while I let all my loneliness, my insecurities, my pain flow; certain that he will be there to hold me.
I'm tired and empty. My emotions are gone. I inhale Naruto's scent. It fills me, bringing in new emotions. My legs can't carry me anymore, I slide down onto my knees, and my face is hidden is in his bosom. He put his hand on my head, stroking my hair lightly.
For the first time since the Valley of the End, I can really believe that he had forgiven me, that he really cares about me, that I'm not alone anymore.
"I love you." I say aloud, and realize that I have spoken the truth. I finally admit it to myself. I'm exhausted. A comfortable darkness comes over me. I feel strong hands holding me, and then I don't know anymore.
I open my eyes. I'm in my bed, in my own home. I feel the dried tears on my checks. Was it real? Or was it only a dream. Does it matter?
I love Naruto. "I'm in love with the Dobe." I say it again, aloud. There is no one to hear me, so it doesn't matter. However, it's good to know I can finally admit it to myself.
I feel a strange yet comfortable calmness. For the first time in years, my head and heart aren't in turmoil. I know with a hundred percent certainty that I'm right, that loving Naruto is the right thing. There is no more need to fight, to hold my feelings at bay. There is no more regret for what I want to do.
I go to the bathroom. While looking in the mirror, I'm surprised at myself. An unconscious, soft smile is playing on my face. The Dobe would freak out. He once said I don't smile real smiles. I snorted at him, but I must admit, he was right.
As I prepared my breakfast, I realized that I need to go to the grocery store. We have a random D-rank mission this afternoon, so I decided that after eating would be a proper time to go.
The stroll through the Village is nice. It is a sunny day, not too hot. I notice a few ANBU on the roofs, lazily going their rounds, unnoticed by the civilians. People are on the streets, going about their business, talking, laughing, and living.
I never noticed before how friendly and comfortable Leaf's people were around each other; with one exception, and my mood darkened. It must be so much harder for Naruto.
Deep in my thoughts I unconsciously went on to the Academy grounds. I hadn't been there since my graduation, for the place always reminded me how weak I was.
"Sasuke-kun, is everything all right?" I hear the question and raise my head. It's Iruka-sensei.
It's funny. Kakashi is my sensei as well, yet I never called him that. Why? Maybe it was because even if Iruka-sensei had to watch a whole class, he pays attention to everyone. Since the beginning, Kakashi gave me the most attention, not that I minded or appreciated it then. But now I see how wrong it was.
"Iruka- sensei. You are a very good teacher." I said causing him to blush and smile. Can a simple compliment be so significant?
"Thank you." He is looking at me and I feel uncomfortable. Should I say something? What does he want?
"It's very rare to hear you to speak..." ...dulcet. It is without a doubt the word he would use, if he wouldn't he be such an insightful person. "Did something happen?"
Indeed, something had happened, but I'll rather not talk about it with my previous teacher. I look at him, willing him to leave me alone. He seems to get the hint and silently sighs.
"You know that the swing you are sitting in is Naruto's?" He asks, and he has my attention again.
"Hn?" I ask.
"Every time Naruto felt alone, which was quite often, I would say, or either had a great problem, he came here to think. I heard from the other teachers he has done that since the first academy's day."
I didn't pay much attention to Naruto at the Academy, dead-last and a prankster wasn't someone who could catch my interest. The only reason I knew of his existence was because he also knew the pain of being alone.
"Other teachers?" I ask, and I'm grateful that Iruka-sensei explained it without another prompt.
"You were in the second year I that had taught. Naruto has been in the Academy since he was six, so he has attended the course four times."
"He failed the graduation three times, almost four, Dobe." It was hard to imagine that such a person could become so strong in such a short time.
"Well, I didn't know it at the time, but Naruto never went through the obligatory course. He didn't know how to read, write and count like the other ten-years in his class, who had finished the four years of the basic course."
I couldn't imagine it myself. The four year course was the same type course necessary for a civilian to understand the ninja lessons. I mean, the first assignment is to read about chakra, and it isn't as if twenty-four characters would be enough to read such a text.
After the fourth year, I myself knew little over seven hundred characters, which was enough to read the newspaper and some more advanced books. I knew most my peers only fluently knew about four hundred.
"I doubt... well I know that no teacher could find the necessary time to teach him along with the normal course, so my educated guess is that Naruto had taught himself how to read and to write. So it's no surprise he didn't make the graduation."
I saw Iruka-sensei looking at me with consideration. It seems I achieved a positive note because he started to say more.
"At his second graduation he actually passed. The problems with his bushin no jutsu came to light, but he had gotten enough points to graduate."
"If he graduated..." I became curious like never before.
"His graduation was removed. The council decided it wouldn't be wise that a nine year old be allowed to become a genin. He was told his bushin wasn't enough to graduate."
"But certainly Sandaime-sama wouldn't agree to this decision." I knew he liked Naruto. He was the one who persisted in allowing Naruto to go to the Academy.
"Actually, he felt Naruto should spend more time as a child and supported the council's decision. Two years later the situation was similar."
I knew what happened the next time. I was there. Iruka-sensei didn't like Naruto, but was fair enough to give him a chance. Unfortunately Naruto already knew the course, and was bored. Knowing him, he played dumb if only to give the boredom a break.
In similar circumstances, I would have rather given up and left the Village looking for someone willing to teach me something new. But the Dobe's dream was to be Hokage. And you can't be Hokage if you aren't a genin. So he persisted.
"You were the first year to fully graduate since, well, in years. I can't help but to think Naruto was waiting for you, because it seems, that the whole rookie nine became his friends."
I didn't scowl. Instead I found the whole idea that it was we who were catching up to Naruto, not vice versa, rather humorous.
"Sasuke-kun." Iruka-sensei called going into his class. "Take care of him."
I felt a blush climb up my checks.
I was first at the meeting point, as usual; then Sakura arrived. Since our first chunin exam she had matured a lot. She is the first from our trio who became a chunin, rather ironically seeing as she was the weakest at our first exam.
Kakashi once had said that if Naruto's fight with Gaara would have been observed by any junin, he would have become a chunin as well. With all the mess around the Sound-Sand invasion and the new Hokage, he said the Council wouldn't have had the time or means to give him hindrances as it was the second time around.
Well, I'm happy he didn't make it then. We were the last from the Konoha Twelve to take the exam. It was a piece of cake, from the fighting point of view. But it was hell for Tsunade-sama to stop the Council's plotting to hold Naruto, again, even if the land lords were greatly impressed.
Even after all these years, Sakura is still pining after me. It isn't as annoying as when we were young, considering that she had also started pining a bit after Naruto, but...
Rock Lee is really more suitable for her. Naruto had said she is now more open for the taijutsu user, but as long she has the hope that she could get me, she wouldn't let go. Of course he didn't say it in so many words, and of course I hadn't really listened to his rambling then.
"Sakura." I see her face brighten. It always brightens when I'm saying her name.
"Yes, Sasuke-kun?" I really don't know what I should tell her; that I found myself in love with Naruto? Yeah, right. So I opt for the second best thing.
"Why are you pursuing me after all these years. Wouldn't you be happier with Rock Lee?" I saw her look aside. The silence is somehow uncomfortable, and finally she gives in.
"I don't want to lose you again."
"Hn." I acknowledge her statement, but it isn't enough.
"I... You are my team-mate and friend. I want you to have a person you can always turn to. Someone you know will help you no matter what. Someone with the will to hold you in the Leaf, so you will not feel left behind, if you ever... I don't want to lose you again." She repeats.
Her words stirred something in me. "Sakura. You too are my team-mate. You are... like, or even more so than a sister. But you aren't a person who can hold me in the Village."
I see her face becoming sad and hurt. She grabs my arm, as if to hold me back. Yesterday I would have been annoyed and angry. Today I only see that I have made her sad.
"You aren't the person who hold me in Leaf. But there is someone who attaches me to this place, and because of this person, I will never leave you behind."
I don't see the sadness in her eyes anymore; happiness, curiosity and relief are dancing in her. She looks pretty; almost as pretty as...
"Who is this person?"
I don't want to say. I don't want her to be jealous... I don't want to be embarrassed.
"Ohayo Sakura-chan, Sasuke!" Naruto's voice is loud, as he has cried across the field. I notice the lack of -teme suffix. I wonder what has happened, but I'm happy about it.
"Oh!" I hear a startled exclamation and I look at Sakura. She sees my slight smile and being the smart person she is, she has connected the facts. She put her hands around my neck. I'm so surprised that I allow her to bend my head. "Good luck, I approve." She whispers into my ear and kiss my check.
"Oi! Sakura-chan, Sasuke, what is that?" Naruto asks with mirth.
"Well, I always thought Sasuke-kun needed more hugs. Don't you agree?" Sakura answers instantly.
"I have told it that bastard many times before." He grins broadly.
"Hn." I say and turn around.
None the less, I'm a bit disappointed that he didn't try to hug me.
Kakashi is late, as usual. Naruto and Sakura both chime out together, "You're late!" he, as usual, gives us his excuse; and as always, it is ridiculous, and as always, I try to decipher its true meaning. It seems this time he was holding back about getting the mission's specifications. He could have told us straight out, but that wouldn't have been any fun for him, I suppose.
"Sasuke-kun, you all right?" What is with all of those people and the questions?
"You are smiling." Kakashi states from behind his book.
"Hn." I show him my teeth in a mock of smile and hurry up after Naruto.
The shock on Kakashi's visible face, along with the Dobe's bright rambling put me in an even better mood.
The mission is easy. Fortunately it isn't as trivial as the usual one for genins. They need chakra enforced muscle craft plus good chakra control, in summary, it's a nice training. The only reason it's a D-mission is because of the lack of danger. Well, except for the chakra exhaustion.
Sakura invites us to ramen for a dinner. It isn't such an unusual event; however this time Sakura makes sure that I sit next to Naruto, she herself sat on my other side. She didn't wink, which for I'm grateful. Over time, I have learned that Naruto only likes to pretend that he doesn't pay attention to his surroundings; his observations about Rock Lee during our first encounter was the finest inclination.
We stroll through the village. Sakura is the first to say goodbye. Naruto should also shortly go on his way... Yet, somehow we find ourselves in front of the Uchiha Maison together.
I want to say something to him, something more than the usual "Hn." I'm grateful because per usual, Naruto takes the initiative first.
"So, see you tomorrow."
"Hn" Great. "I can't wait for our training." Well, a bit better. Naruto looks around.
"You know Sakura said you need more hugs?" I nod slightly. I much more want to get...
A kiss. On my check, but he gave me a kiss none the less.
While I remain stunned, Naruto blushes and runs away calling "See you."
Slowly my mind goes through the facts. Sakura kissed me. Naruto kissed me. As a 'hug', Naruto kissed me!
I nearly shouted aloud. I ran to my house, to my bedroom. I grab a pillow and laugh and cry into it. Naruto had kissed me. I am in euphoria.
R&R pretty, pretty please?