Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Warning: male on male


Kiba was playing Half Life. He sat cross-legged on the floor, eyes more than a little unfocused and mouth hanging open for the third straight hour. The control twitched in his hand as he killed a zombie. A groan escaped from his mouth. Next to him, Akamaru whined piteously and rolled his head to fix a beady eye on his comatose master. "Good boy Akamaru…" Kiba slurred, jabbing hard at the A button and sitting up just a little straighter. The swamp bit always got him—it was, like, fucking impossible to stay out of the toxic water. "Just, shoot those motherfuckers…good boy…"

Akamaru whined again and covered his eyes with his paws.

Somewhere to the left, the front door of the apartment banged open. Someone slammed it shut and then Naruto was in the living room, stumbling over Akamaru with a hissed curse, tripping a little on the rug, and eventually landing in a half-upright heap on the couch. Kiba, busy watching a zombie spasm against an electric fence, didn't look up. The blue flicker of the TV gleamed off his blank, stupefied expression. Behind him Naruto scrambled forward to hold his face in his hands. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck," came his muffled voice.

Kiba was bashing headcrabs into oblivion by means of a crowbar. "Dude…" he moaned. The parasites were growing in number. "Dude." He cursed as, despite all his valiant efforts, he was overcome by a pack of the little fuckers. "Damn it!" He slumped, watching the end shot zoom above his player and the reload screen come up. "Naruto man…" he said, stretching his back out with an audible crack and squinting over his shoulder. "Wha…hey dude, you okay?"

Naruto was running his hands back and forth through his hair with a low, hardly audible groan. He stopped suddenly and gripped tight locks on both sides of his head so that they stuck out like antlers. His face snapped up and he looked at Kiba with an alarmingly desperate expression. "Am I okay? Am I okay?" He laughed, and the sound of it bordered on hysteria. Abruptly, he stopped. His face fell. "No," he said, somber and even a little surprised as if he'd only just realized the answer to that question. "I am very not okay, Kiba." His eyes were very earnest and worried. He stood up. Without a word he stepped over Akamaru, walked around the couch, and disappeared down the hall to his room.

Kiba stared after him, mouth hanging open. "Your thesis wasn't due today, was it?" he called. No answer. He looked down at Akamaru, who cocked his head and seemed to raise nonexistent brows at him. Shrugging, Kiba turned back to the TV screen. He cursed loudly when he discovered that during the short intermission in which Naruto had come and gone, he'd been killed again.

Naruto had never seen such an interesting ceiling in his life. He sat slack-jawed, cross-legged on the swivel chair in his room, head lolling backwards as if his neck had decided it was no longer worth the effort to hold it up. He pushed off his desk and spun the seat around again. "La la la la la laaah," he said. "Ma ma ma maaah." The ceiling ignored him. He clicked his jaw shut in retaliation.

After a few more spins he shot out a hand and slammed it against his desk, stopping himself. His head swam. He let it fall against the desk with a painful thunk. "Way to fucking go, Uzumaki," he said. "You've set the bar this time. Oh ho. Yessir." He rolled his face side-to-side against the dusty wood and listened to the crunch of paper under his skin. The students in his writing workshop were going to wonder why he was returning their assignments wrinkled. When he sat up again, there was a post-it sticking to his forehead. He left it there.

Standing up suddenly, he curled his fists at his sides. The post-it fluttered to the floor. His chest heaved as he stared down at the innocuous-looking desk. He kicked the drawer cabinet, hard. "Fuck!" he shouted, though it was more because of the pain that had shot up his big toe than any feelings of anger. "You motherfucking piece of wood. That's what you are. A big stupid piece of wood. You don't even have a brain. Ha. Ha ha ha."

He stopped, and winced. Limping over to his bed, he flopped backwards onto the wrinkled, slightly smelly sheets. The panic that had been simmering under the surface ever since he'd gone and done the stupidest, most idiotic—he had by now titled it THE THING THAT SHALL NOT EVER BE NAMED—threatened to overwhelm him. He covered his face with his hands and let his breath out slowly, shakily. He tried hard but not even his interesting ceiling, the ultracool swivel action of his desk chair, or the unique scent coming from his bed sheets was enough to distract his mind from the vivid, horrible, embarrassing memory of THE THING THAT SHALL NOT EVER BE NAMED.

It was all that bastard's fault. If he hadn't been so—so

Okay. If he hadn't had half the fucking English department after his literary ass. It all came down to that, didn't it? It was all because Sasuke Uchiha got more offers, more women coming on to him in a week than Naruto got in half a year and he didn't even have to try, the fucker. There was no reason for it, either. Was it the glasses? Ha. The hair? His dumb I-really-don't-like-you-and-you-will-never-be-worth-my-time expression? Or maybe it was the way dressed-up undergraduate girls with flouncy hair formed lines outside the office and spilled out all their insecurities about their stories, waxed poetic on the art of writing—nevermind that it was only a freshman-level workshop—and bared their sweet angst-filled souls just to see him steeple his fingers, glare across his desk, and say, "Hn." The members of their graduate writing group and even a few of the professors had all made moves on Sasuke in some form or another. And they had one and all been shot down without even a flicker of interest in those cold eyes.

Naruto thought it was hilarious. Or had thought so, before. His desk was the one next to Sasuke's in the graduate teachers' office. He would prop his legs up, scrawl red notes on his students' pitiful excuses for fiction, and grin over the shoulder of whichever blushing undergraduate had decided to bestow her tripe on Sasuke's ears that day. Sasuke's eyes would meet his ever so often, usually when the student was being especially ridiculous and trying to compare the drunk scenes in her story to the style of William Trevor's "A Day". His brows would lift ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly. Then he would turn back to the student with the oddest set to his lips and Naruto would be left stifling his laughter. If the student turned around, Naruto would immediately adopt a serious expression and pretend to have just looked up. And behind her vapidly baffled face, Sasuke would be smirking.

Naruto enjoyed that. He and Sasuke had been enrolled in the same workshop multiple times as undergraduates. They knew the other's style and weaknesses as writers. They'd come across each other at readings, both off-campus and on. At graduation, they'd nodded at each other. Naruto had come to be very well acquainted with subtle tightening of Sasuke's features whenever he was faced with a piece of writing he disliked. He knew how acidic Sasuke's critiques could be, the way his harsh, efficient words glared up from a once-clean manuscript. And he knew that a simple 'good' scratched in his neat handwriting at the bottom of a page meant much more than any of the verbose praise other class members might offer. And he liked that he knew these things.

He also liked to think of himself as Sasuke's competition, of sorts. If it happened that they'd both stayed past office hours Naruto would take a break from critiquing the writing assignment he'd given his students that week, stretch his arms over his head, and say: "So. Sasuke. Working on anything new?" He'd grin lazily at the ceiling, knowing that Sasuke wouldn't have looked up from his desk.

"Hn. When are you going to stop asking me stupid questions?" Sasuke would reply. They both knew very well that Sasuke had been working on the one novel for the past few months.

"Well," Naruto would say, and his grin would grow even wider, "I am." He'd always been prolific, and tended to stick to short stories besides. He couldn't imagine sustaining enough interest in a single set of characters for the length of time writing a novel would require. And he didn't like to admit it but he wasn't sure he could pull off the cohesion of narrative and tone a novel would require without ending up dead via excessive editing.

Sasuke would either answer, "Congratu-fucking-lations, moron—want flowers?" or "Hn," by which choice Naruto could more or less tell how frustrated Sasuke was with the progress of his own novel. In any case, he would sigh grandiosely, let his feet fall from his desk, rifle through his messenger bag, and stand to casually drop a manuscript before Sasuke. The other man would arch a single brow at the paper now obstructing the view of what he had been previously reading, push it to the side, and say, "I don't have time for this. Go get me coffee."

"Oh no the coffee stand is closed," Naruto would say, staring at the invisible watch on his wrist. But he'd smile at Sasuke's irritated glare and grab his keys. There was a café one street outside campus that sold coffee Sasuke said was 'tolerable', which might be translated to 'fantastic', and the best English muffin sandwiches Naruto had ever tasted. He'd be back in twenty minutes, Sasuke would take the coffee wordlessly, the manuscript would have disappeared from the desk, and Naruto knew that it would mysteriously find its way back to his own desk, comments in the margins, within two days.

He was able to tell that Sasuke was in an exceptionally good mood, a rare event that Naruto had only been witness to three times in the past three quarters, if before leaving for the weekend Sasuke paused at the door to the office, smirked over his shoulder, and said, "I think it's time you returned your ego to its appropriate size, Uzumaki. All those freshmen are bad for you."

The first time that had happened Naruto had seethed for half an hour before turning to his laptop and typing up a email with a fair amount of inappropriate language, a few jabs at Sasuke's own writing, a polite reminder that Sasuke led a freshman workshop himself, and an attachment containing the latest draft of the short story he'd been working on. When he'd checked his inbox later that night while sprawled over the bed in his room he'd found that Sasuke had already replied with a brief message pointing out the multiple grammatical errors in Naruto's email and an attachment of his critiques of the story. Naruto had read over the critiques, surprised as always at their thoroughness and insight, secretly flattered at how positive some of them had been, and replied with a simple: Fuck you, and thanks.

Naruto could hardly think of any story he'd written recently that Sasuke hadn't given his input on. Except for that vignette he'd written towards the end of March, in which the main character had been heavily based on Sasuke. Naruto hadn't showed him that one. Hadn't shown it to anyone, actually. Luckily, Sasuke hadn't been in a good enough mood that week to ask.

It had been Fall Quarter and they'd been sharing the same office for about three months when, one afternoon, they'd both started packing up their papers earlier than usual. Naruto had been standing and shrugging on his coat when he noticed Sasuke doing the same, and they'd both frozen.

"You wouldn't be going to the reading at the Venus Café, would you?" Naruto had asked. Sasuke had nodded, and Naruto's face broken out in a grin. "Awesome. My car's in the shop. I was so not looking forward to walking in the snow."

Sasuke had narrowed his eyes and finished buttoning his coat. "I didn't say I'd give you a ride, Uzumaki."

Naruto's jaw had dropped open. "What kind of monster are you?" he'd demanded, sincerely aghast, which had only caused Sasuke to stare and his mouth to twitch in a way that Naruto later realized was the closest Sasuke had ever come to laughing in his presence.

"Fine," he'd said after a stretch of silence, and then for the duration of the trip seemed almost bemused that he'd agreed at all.

The reading had been decent, even good at moments, at least until the participants contributing poetry had gone up to the microphone. "Honestly," Naruto had whispered into Sasuke's ear after the fifth poem, "how can people stand listening to this crap for so long? My undergrads could do better, and it's not even a poetry workshop." Sasuke had smirked and told him to shut up.

Then when it was over: "I suppose it'd be too much to ask if you could give me a ride to my place?"

Sasuke had glanced coolly at Naruto and informed him that he was by no means ready to leave, that he was in fact going to walk down to the G Street Pub for a drink, to which Naruto had replied with a smile, "Well, then, I guess I'll just have to come with you."

They'd gone. And perhaps gotten a little drunk, drunk enough that Sasuke had revealed the fact that his parents had died when he was twelve and Naruto confessed his embarrassing dream to one day win the Pulitzer, but he hadn't regretted it at all. At least not then. He hadn't minded that Sasuke knew that about him, and he had been more interested in hearing about Sasuke's past than he thought was probably normal. Apparently Sasuke had regretted it, however, because the next critique of Naruto's work came a week later than usual and was harsher than any Naruto had received in a long while, from anyone.

Naruto had spent the next three days wondering what the hell Sasuke's problem was and how he was supposed to apologize if he didn't even know what the fuck he'd done wrong. Then he had stopped wondering, told himself that he'd never been good at thinking things out anyway, and demanded that Sasuke go have another drink with him.

Sasuke had slowly looked up from his desk, pinned Naruto with a strange, possibly quite angry expression, and said, "Fine. But stop pointing your finger at me, you utter moron, and sit down because I'm not done yet and won't be for another half-hour."

And they'd gone regularly every Friday after that. When Naruto eventually drudged up the courage or at least found himself drunk enough to ask Sasuke why he'd been so pissed off after that first time, mentioning the nasty critique, Sasuke hadn't answered immediately. The he'd frowned and said, "You mean that impressively shitty story you wrote, Uzumaki? What the hell does the pub have to do with it?"

Naruto had choked on his drink and found himself quite unable to reply. The next morning he'd dug up that particular draft on his laptop and read it over. In truth, it had not been one of Naruto's better pieces. Cringe-worthy, actually. Naruto had decided to never mention it again.

He thought that it was around that time that the idea had first come to him. He'd been sitting at his desk during office hours, as usual, thinking that it'd been a special sort of day because one of his students had actually come to ask him something, and wondering if the university was aware of how much money they were wasting paying him to hold pointless hours since he'd be critiquing papers regardless. Sasuke had just finished seeing his fourth student, which was more or less the average at that point. He'd probably see at least three more before the day was out, all of them female and entirely too excited to be there.

But this last student had been male. Naruto had stuck his pencil in his mouth, let his tattered copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love fall open on his lap, squinted into the distance, and thought, huh.

By this point he'd been around Sasuke long enough to have gotten over his disbelief at just how many women seemed to find the pale, unpleasant man attractive and begun instead to see the whole situation as a grand joke to entertain him during his otherwise monotonous office hours. He, by then, had no longer been waiting to discover who among their fellow graduates would be the lucky girl to finally convince Sasuke to take her up on the standing offer for a few drinks at the G Street. Instead he'd amuse himself by quietly observing the signs of Sasuke's growing irritation, whether in the face of some giggling freshman during hours or the—Naruto thought—unwarranted fawning of the others in their graduate writing seminar. He'd been holding bets with himself to see if this time, the girl in question would say things inane enough to cause Sasuke to start tapping his pen against the desk edge, as he tended to do when he was annoyed, or frown in that way which meant he was struggling to hold back a comment just this side of scathing, or even hold a hand up in interruption and ask in a flat voice if the student had actually read the Sherwood Anderson story he'd assigned the previous week.

And perhaps Naruto had overthought it but this particular student had seemed to cause a different reaction in Sasuke. He'd been about to leave, thanking Sasuke hurriedly as he slung his bag over his shoulder, and Sasuke had almost smiled. Of course, from what Naruto had overheard of their conversation he had apparently been one of the more promising members of Sasuke's workshop that quarter. His questions and comments on the critique Sasuke had given him hadn't been half-bad, either.

But the thought had come to Naruto nonetheless and despite all efforts he had not been able to unthink it. And so he had frowned at the bulletin board, chewed on his pen, and thought. Besides, it couldn't be normal for someone who garnered as much interest as Sasuke did from the opposite sex to reject each and every one of his admirers. Even Naruto had to admit that not all of those girls were complete wastes of space. Some of the females in their graduate writing seminar were actually quite interesting to be around. Sakura, his mind supplied, the name of a fellow aspiring author with a penchant for writing deadpan humor and characters that had, at one point or another, been prostitutes. She was on the editorial staff of the campus's creative writing magazine. And, she was hot.

So that had left Naruto with the inevitable conclusion: either Sasuke had a secret girlfriend in Argentina, was in fact asexual, or there was something he'd been keeping quiet. Naruto had had a good idea what that something was.

He hadn't had time, however, to verify his observations before the quarter's end. He'd gone home to his adoptive parents' for Christmas and spent the next three weeks wearing nothing but underwear and his old dinosaur quilt, drinking boxed wine alone in the guestroom as he worked on a new story, and not thinking very much about Sasuke at all.

In January he'd shown up to the first set of office hours with a hangover that'd taken two whole days to flush out and the surprising realization that Sasuke looked good for someone who apparently wasn't getting any. Maybe it had just been refreshing to look at something else besides his computer screen and the Franzia wine label for the first time in a month.

The routine had resumed. It'd been slightly more interesting at first in that the ever-so-eager students that crowded the hallway outside had worn new faces. Sasuke, for his part, had not. He'd been as cold, as disinterested as ever, and the strength of Naruto's belief in his conclusion had grown.

It'd been cemented one Friday in late February at the G Street, quietly and for hardly a reason he could articulate. Perhaps he wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't been looking for it, but Sasuke's eyes had trailed after that new bartender longer than Naruto would have thought necessary. And just like that, he'd known. Given his suspicions, the way those normally unemotional eyes had lingered shouldn't have been so surprising but he'd stared until Sasuke scowled at him over the mouth of his Heineken and demanded, "What?"

He hadn't asked. He'd shrugged, turned away, and resumed the argument they'd been having on whether Professor Hatake had been playing devil's advocate for sexual connotations in a story they'd workshopped or if he actually meant it, the dirty pervert.

That was probably when it'd really started.

By spring quarter Naruto knew things like: when Sasuke was an undergraduate he'd begun as an engineering major but had decided that the wishes of a dead father just weren't enough; he tended to assign at least three works by Trevor each quarter but if his students had pissed him off he'd switch one of those with a Nabokov; if Sasuke's cell phone rang during hours he wouldn't bother to answer, though if he did that meant his brother was in town; he had a thing for pea coats but insisted he didn't; he was severely adverse to dream sequences of any form in any story; the type of frown he gave when asked a personal question would let Naruto know whether he should keep trying or never mention the subject again; if he was writing something by hand it meant he was struggling with a scene in his novel; and he never let Naruto read what he was working on if he could help it.

Knowing all that wasn't odd. It had been inevitable for Naruto, being who he was, to come to know Sasuke on some level. But there had been that day when Sasuke had stepped out for the rare phone call and returned with one of the nastiest expressions Naruto had ever seen. Naruto hadn't known what to say, which question would cause the least damage. He'd settled for a "You okay?" His voice had been rough and too loud, and Sasuke hadn't looked up. At four o' clock, Sasuke had left in silence. In the other man's wake the doorway had gaped open to the hall beyond and Naruto had realized with certain clarity that there were parts to Sasuke's life he didn't know about, that Sasuke clearly didn't feel he should know about. Who was he to Sasuke, after all?

That evening he'd sat staring at the blinking cursor on his computer screen, struggling to formulate the next sentence in his newest story. The blank page had stretched for what seemed forever and he'd decided somewhere between a period and a comma that he didn't give a shit if Sasuke considered him nothing more than an acquaintance, an annoyance he'd had the misfortune of being paired with for office hours. He wanted to know what had made Sasuke's face look like that. He wanted to read Sasuke's words and understand why they'd been written. He wanted to know about his brother, and about his dead parents.

When Naruto realized that he hadn't written a word for twenty minutes, he'd powered off his laptop and gone to bed.

The following Friday he'd gone to the G Street with a purpose. It just wasn't right, he'd thought, that he could have spent so much time in Sasuke's presence over the previous months and still not know more than the basics. There was a barrier with steel reinforcements, but he intended it to scale it.

Sasuke had caught on. "Naruto," he'd said, narrowing his eyes in a way shouldn't have possible after three rounds of cheap Johnnie Walker. He'd stiffened, and Naruto had practically seen the walls go up. "What are you doing?"

"I don't know, Sasuke," he'd replied a little loudly, looking away across the crowded bar and then back again. "I thought I was asking you what your brother does for a living."

Sasuke had scowled and finished off his glass. "Don't be stupid. You know what I mean."

"It's just a question, Sasuke. Is he in a gang or something? Like, the mafia? Because you can tell me if he is."

There'd been a snort and a fuck you, Uzumaki in the reply. And Naruto had grinned but his voice, for once, he'd kept flat.

"I'm serious. I just want to know."

"I don't want to talk about my brother."

"Why the hell not?"

"Leave it alone."

"No. You're a jerk. Another one, Dave."

The bartender had handed Naruto a beer and stared at the massive glare on Sasuke's face, and Sasuke had clenched his hand around his glass. Looking straight ahead he'd said, "For all the decent writing you do, you're a real moron. Tell me, how do you manage it?"

"Fuck you. Why can't you just answer the goddamn question?"

"I told you I don't want to talk about it."

"But why?"

"Fucking christ," Sasuke had hissed, finally turning his head to just look at Naruto for once. "I said leave it alone."

Naruto had glared at him, feeling on edge and dangerous like he was skirting the edge of something important, something real. But he'd left it alone. He'd taken a drag of his beer without taking his eyes off Sasuke. And when he set it down on the counter Sasuke had said, "My brother and I…don't get along. Because of my parents. So don't fucking ask me to talk about him."

Naruto hadn't said anything to that. That had been a door just there and, for just the briefest moment, he'd glimpsed through the open crack.

One afternoon two weeks later, when Naruto realized that every new character he'd been playing around with in his drafts was either a sketch of Sasuke or someone eerily similar, he'd understood. Everything he'd learned about Sasuke had seemed like nothing—nothing—compared to what he'd just realized about himself.

He'd opened a new document out of spite and written two Kafkaesque paragraphs on an Indian telemarketer who'd gone home and made the sudden discovery that he'd turned into a frog. Then Naruto had sat on his bedroom floor and laughed. Then he'd stopped and said, "Fuck."

And the next week at office hours he'd propped his legs up on his desk, clasped his hands behind his head, stared at Sasuke, and wondered what his face would look like if he asked him right then and there to go out with him. The thought had not been, for the most part, a pleasant one and Naruto had realized just how screwed he was.

By Thursday's hours Sasuke had started asking him what the fuck his problem was. Naruto had never been a good liar, so he'd kept it simple and said, "Nothing," convincing himself that the smile on his face wasn't entirely fake and that Sasuke shouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. Sasuke had.

"Tell me now, moron. You've been staring at me for the past half-hour. You can't lie for shit. You're turning red. You've just told a student that the suicide slash love-triangle ending to her story was, and I quote, 'really cool'. So. What the fuck is your problem?"

Naruto had stared, open-mouthed. Then he'd wondered what those scowling, irritating, hot-as-fuck lips would feel like if he dragged his thumb along them. The lower one, specifically. He'd turned away, confused.

"Well whatever it is, get over it. I notice you haven't produced any new manuscripts recently. Hatake won't be pleased, moron, if you've stopped writing."

Pissed off and just about up to here with all the uncertainty and anger that came with the revelation that he might have feelings for Sasuke, of all people, Naruto had snapped his head around and said, "Just because you haven't seen anything new doesn't mean I've stopped writing, asshole. Get over yourself."

"Fuck you," Sasuke had said without missing a beat, eyes narrowed. But there'd been something off about his expression, something horrifyingly close to hurt—

And then it had hit Naruto. Sasuke actually cared. In a strange way, involving many more insults and glares than were probably healthy, Sasuke cared. Or at least he cared about Naruto's writing. But Naruto was fine with that.

That night at his apartment he'd gone straight into his room and sat down at the edge of his bed. His foot had been bouncing an anxious rhythm into the carpet and he hadn't made an effort to stop it. He'd held his head in his hands. Then he'd gotten up and started pacing a circuit from his dresser to his desk. With something akin to glee he'd realized that maybe—just maybe—Sasuke might not be completely put off by the idea, if he brought it up. Mentioned it, casually. Yeah. Because it wasn't like it would be something serious. Not at the beginning and any reasonable person would see that there really was nothing stopping them from just trying it.

Besides, Naruto had thought, it's me. He'd known Sasuke long enough by then to be aware that the other man didn't have many friends at all. He didn't have any living relatives except for his brother. He'd realized with minor shock that there was probably no one as close to Sasuke as he was. The idea had saddened him, but only made him more convinced that what he would be attempting wasn't the stupidest idea in the world. He'd thought of all the girls Sasuke had rejected without a thought, and of all times he'd gone out of his way to help Naruto do what he loved doing most. Of all the times he'd let his guard down enough around Naruto so that their interactions might have been considered comfortable, even. And he'd grinned.

In fact, by Friday he'd been quite confident that there was something over on Sasuke's end as well. Certainly not nothing. Sasuke was hard to read, but in the end every story is just words on a page.

At the G Street Sasuke had carefully set his glass tumbler on the counter and said in a low voice, "We are out, Naruto."

"No," Naruto had said, and perhaps just a sliver of fear had worked its way up his spine at the expression on Sasuke's face. "You know what I mean. Out, out. With me."

Sasuke had turned to him then and it'd taken all of Naruto's will power to not turn away. "You'd better explain what the fuck you think you're doing, Uzumaki." Back to last names.

Naruto had scoffed, fighting back the rising panic in his chest. The noise in the bar continued around them. There was a football game playing on a flatscreen behind the counter. "Don't make this more complicated than it is."

"Are you even gay? Do you have any idea what you're doing? I don't think you do."

Naruto had stumbled over his words. "I'm not gay—no, shut up—at least I didn't think I was. I don't know. It's not like I'm suddenly jerking off to guys or anything but I just, I don't know." He'd taken a frustrated swig of his beer. "Look. I like you. And," he'd glanced away and tapped his fingers against his bottle. "And I want to try this," he'd finished, and looked at Sasuke.

And then wished he hadn't. "Did it ever occur to you," Sasuke had said, "that I don't?"

Naruto hadn't said anything for a long while. He'd bit his lip and turned away. "Yeah," he'd said at long last. "Yeah, it occurred to me." Then he'd taken one last drag from his beer. He'd smiled at Sasuke as he set it back down on the counter. He'd paid, stood up, and left.

And so that had left Naruto where he was now: sprawled on his bed, in the dark, and wishing very much that he'd had more than just the one drink. Well, he thought, I think I've just been reacquainted with Sasuke the Asshole. I'd forgotten about him.

He'd thought that all the rejections Sasuke doled out on a monthly basis didn't apply to him. They'd been a joke. Something to laugh at. Something he'd never have to be on the receiving end of because, come on now, Uchiha? It hadn't been something to worry about, because Naruto would never be in danger of putting himself in the same position as all those blushing, giggling girls he'd once laughed at.

Now his only thought was: What the fuck was I thinking?

He groaned and pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes.

Naruto had never noticed just how loud the clock in the office was. Each tick of the second hand snapped through the heavy air and the fact that Sasuke hadn't spoken a single goddamn word since he'd arrived for hours wasn't helping any. Naruto had long ago stopped reading the draft in his hands. One of his students had written it, apparently while under the impression that Naruto didn't actually expect correct grammar. Now he was hunched over his desk, frowning up at the clock face. The story lay in his loose grip, forgotten.

On the other side of the office, Sasuke flipped a page in the novel he was reading.

Naruto had, for a few minutes, considered not showing up for hours that day. He did have a pretty impeccable record in terms of his availability during hours, and though his reasons may have been a little too centered on Sasuke's presence, his students would be able to forgive the occasional absence. If they ever deigned to stop by, that is.

Perhaps he'd been holding onto the hope that Sasuke would jump him and apologize profusely as soon as they next laid eyes on each other, making it clear that he was in fact dying for Naruto but had been too afraid of rejection all these months to express his true feelings.

"Naruto," he would say in a breathy voice, dropping his bag at the office door and crossing the distance between them so as to grip Naruto's face in his long, cool hands. "I love you. Your tangled hair. The way your breath smells when you've forgotten to brush your teeth. That really loud laugh of yours. The way you find the stupidest fucking shit amusing. You're driving me mad—madly in love. I'm sorry for rejecting you. Fuck me please."

What had actually happened, to Naruto's disappointment but not surprise, was that Sasuke had gone straight for his desk and pulled out a translation of No Longer Human without the briefest glance in Naruto's direction. His expression was blank, bored even. He spoke to his students in exactly the same manner he did every day. At one point, he brought his glasses out and began to pen precise little notes on a story draft.

Absolutely nothing had changed, and Naruto felt like kicking something. Preferably himself. But Sasuke would do as well.

Naruto brought the red pen he was still holding up to his eyes. Bic, it said. The letters were scratched out and fading. Naruto scowled at it. He glanced up and found that Sasuke was looking right back with raised brows. "What are you staring at?" Naruto said. Sasuke smirked widely and returned to the book in his hands.

Naruto sat back in his chair. His scowl had transferred from the pen to Sasuke, who didn't seem to notice. He let out a breath of air that was less a sigh than an attempt to temper the anger building like a mass in his chest. There was a brief moment of deliberation, a moment in which a few very important questions such as 'Do I want my balls ripped off?' and 'Where might I have displaced my brain?' ran through Naruto's mind. But he'd never been the patient sort so instead of sticking around for answers that probably didn't exist, he did the proactive thing and chucked the pen in his hand at the asshole's forehead.

It hit. Dead center.

"What the fuck." Sasuke whipped his head up, eyes narrowed dangerously. A second later, Naruto was dodging a pencil.

"I asked you what you were staring at, bastard," Naruto said by way of explanation as he straightened himself in his seat. "Don't ignore me."

Sasuke buried his face in his hand and cursed. For a moment, Naruto considered getting out of his seat and just running. He looked up when he saw that Sasuke had stood. The other man stepped around his desk and came to a stop before Naruto's. Placing his hands flat on its surface, he bent forward until his face was about a foot away from Naruto's frown. "I won't ask you what your problem is, Uzumaki, because we both know. But you need to get over your little issues and act like the adult you're supposed to be. I'm sorry about the massive blow to your ego, but the sooner you stop acting like a fucking fifteen year old girl the happier we'll be both be. Throw something at me again and you'll regret it."

"Tch." Naruto bit down and glared over Sasuke's shoulder. On the other side of the desk, Sasuke turned and walked away. "You bastard," he told Sasuke's back. "I'm not the one who's too fucking scared to even talk about this. What, are you just never going to mention it? Pretend there's nothing going on here?"

"Nothing is going on here," Sasuke said, sitting down. He wasn't looking up, apparently very absorbed in finding his page in the novel.

Naruto gaped at him. "Fuck you, Uchiha. I get it if you don't feel the same way but you don't get to just fucking ignore it! You're the one acting like you're fifteen!"

"Your need for attention gets more pathetic every day," Sasuke said from behind the book.

"Mother—" Naruto clenched his fist and looked away. One of his students was standing at the door, biting her lip and looking as if she were reconsidering her visit. Naruto ran a hand over the back of his neck and sighed. "Come on in," he said with a wan smile. "Ignore the stupid asshole in the corner."

She crossed the room and sat down on the metal chair beside Naruto's desk. Her hair was long and black. She was very pretty, and her face was kind.

"Hi Naruto," she said, smiling nervously. Naruto always insisted that his students call him by his first name. It wasn't like he was a full-on professor or anything. "I sent you an email about my story?" she asked.

"Uh, yeah," Naruto said, exhaling and shifting papers on his desk in search of the draft in question. "You said you had some questions about my critique? So how can I help you?"

She pulled out her own copy and flipped to a page. "Well, there's a scene where you tell me that the way I handle my characters' physical movements is too procedural…"

For the next few minutes they discussed various details of her writing. Hinata's stories showed very promising skill; her work actually included some of the best writing Naruto had ever seen from an undergraduate. She wrote with care and in a style Naruto could only describe as grace. He'd been moved by the latest story she'd turned in, and if he were honest he'd had a bit of trouble finding anything significant to critique.

"You're about two drafts away from a final story, I think," he told her. She blushed. Of course she knew what a compliment like that meant.

"Thank you, Naruto," she said, and tucked the story back into her bag. She stood up and Naruto smiled at her.

"No problem. That's what I'm here for."

She left.

Sasuke was scowling at him. Naruto decided to ignore him. He'd had enough, hadn't he? He looked down at his desk. There was a stack of books, a folder, his laptop, some papers, an empty paper bag from the café, and a thermos. He really didn't want to be there right then.

"Hn," Sasuke said.


"…Is she thinking about submitting a manuscript for the upper division workshop?"

"Yeah. I've been helping her on it."


Naruto rolled his eyes and turned so that his back was more towards Sasuke. He'd picked up a pen, but he wasn't actually reading the manuscript in front of him. The silence seemed to be crawling up his back like so many insect legs.

"You gave her some interesting advice," Sasuke said.

"Did I?" Naruto said. His eyes focused on a line of words in the manuscript and he crossed out a minor grammatical error.

"You suggested that if she's having trouble, to pay more attention to the construction and flow of sentences than the direction in which she wants the story to go. That she can always edit."

"Huh. Well. Didn't know you care so much what I tell my students."

"You told her that the story will go where it will. That endings shouldn't be forced."

"Get to the point, asshole."

"Idiot. Those are my words exactly. I wrote them on the back of that manuscript you gave me. You remember."

Naruto looked at Sasuke. "You wrote 'Get to the point, asshole,'" on my manuscript?

Sasuke's eyes drew in. "Not on that one."

Naruto grinned. Then his grin fell and he looked away again. "Just say what you're trying to say. I don't want to deal with your bullshit today."

"I'm not trying to say anything."

"You're never trying to say anything. Fuck you."

Sasuke banged down his book, loudly, and Naruto jumped in his seat. He looked over. "Will you climb out of your little hole for one minute and fucking listen to me?" Sasuke said. His voice was dangerously calm.

Naruto just stared.

"Look. This thing you suddenly decided you needed to bring up between us. I don't need it." Sasuke rubbed his eyes, but when his hands dropped his glare was as steady as ever. "All I want is for you to get over it, and for things to go back to how they were a week ago. But you can't just fucking let it go, can you?"

"No," Naruto said, pushing the manuscript aside and swiveling his chair so that he was facing Sasuke. "I'm not going to let it go. Why the hell should I? At least I'm being honest with myself!"

Sasuke smirked. "You think I'm lying? I think you're in denial. But by all means, keep being honest with yourself."

"I've got no fucking idea what's going on inside your head, Sasuke. I never do." Naruto was on the verge of shouting. He was surprised no one from down the hall had poked their heads in to see what the problem was.

Sasuke frowned. "What did you expect was going to happen?"

"I don't know—"

"Oh you do, Uzumaki. You know exactly what you were expecting from me. How does it feel, huh? To know that life didn't work out the way you wanted it to?"

"Feels like shit, Sasuke, okay?" At some point Naruto had stood up. He moved until he was standing across the desk from Sasuke, glaring down at him. "Congratulations, asshole. I guess in some weird, twisted way this means you won or something?" Sasuke didn't reply. Naruto's breaths were coming fast, his hands were fists at his sides. "Yeah, well. I guess now I feel as miserable as you act every fucking day. Is that what you wanted? Did this prove something for you?"

Sasuke's mouth curved nastily, pure scorn. He hadn't moved, calm as ever in his seat.

Naruto narrowed his eyes. "Heh. Know what Sasuke? The difference between you and me is that I can move on. I don't know what the fuck your issues are, but you want me to move on so badly? Fine. It wasn't like I wanted something serious. I just think you're hot. Too bad that's not enough to make up for the fact you're a fucked-up son of a bitch."

Sasuke's eyes flicked away, then back. "Glad to know you can be reasonable once in a while."

"Yeah? I bet you are."

Sasuke sneered at him, but the expression didn't hold its usual venom. His entire face, in fact, was oddly blank. Naruto hissed under his breath and turned away.

"Naruto," Sasuke said. Naruto glanced over his shoulder at the use of his first name. Sasuke was looking down at his desk, playing with a pen in his hand. He looked up, frowning. When he met Naruto's eyes he half-smirked, but it fell away as if he couldn't decide what expression to make. "Don't take it personally."

Naruto snorted. "Fuck you. What do you care how I take it?"

Sasuke's eyes flashed. "I mean it."

"Yeah, okay."

"I don't want it to affect your writing." Sasuke eyes were trained on him in an odd way. Black and flat like stone, but a stone in danger of cracking. Brittle.

"…Don't flatter yourself, bastard."

"Hn." Sasuke looked away. "I know you haven't written a thing in weeks, moron. You can't lie for shit."

Naruto had by then turned back to Sasuke, his own chair forgotten. "Like I said. What do you care?"

"If you ever stop writing," Sasuke said, and took a breath. Naruto really didn't like the expression in his eyes. "If you ever stop writing, it had better not be because of anything I did. You're a fucking idiot but I think even you know better than that."

Naruto stuck his hands in his pockets. He frowned, looked at the tiles, then back at Sasuke. "I'm not going to stop writing." He paused. "Since when does this have anything to do with my writing at all? And it'll take a lot more than a dumb rejection, by the way, for me to stop. I don't even like you that much. I actually kind of hate you."

Sasuke looked as if he didn't know whether to scowl or sneer. "Well. Good."

And Naruto just frowned at him. Sasuke was still wearing his glasses. He looked tired, irritated, confused. He looked angry. He was such a bastard. Naruto wondered when he'd gotten good at reading Sasuke. His goddamn pea coat was thrown over the back of his chair again. He sat there pissed off, beautiful, and not even aware of it, or aware but uncaring. And for a second Naruto remembered exactly what it was he saw in the other man. Why, despite all the wiry comments and the silence and the fucking anger, Naruto knew that Sasuke was someone he'd acknowledge and appreciate for as long as he lived. The moment passed, but the sensation didn't.

"Do I have something on my face, moron?" Sasuke asked. Now he looked uncomfortable. Still pissed off, but not at Naruto.

And then, for the second time, Naruto understood.

"You really mean it, don't you? You don't want to have a single thing to do with me."

Sasuke didn't reply. Naruto leaned over the desk, pulled the book out of Sasuke's hands, and brought his face within two inches of the other man.

"Hey, bastard. I asked you a fucking question."

"Get away from me."

"You really hate my guts don't you? You want me to just leave you alone. It'd be so much easier."


"Well," Naruto said, drawing even closer. "You can't always get you want." Sasuke's face was warm under his. His eyes fluttered shut. And Naruto kissed him.

Sasuke inhaled through his nose, stiffened, and moved his head in a way that maybe, just maybe, could have been considered kissing back. He brought up a hand to fist Naruto's hair. But when his grip tightened he strained Naruto's neck back, pulling his head away instead of closer.

"And apparently you can?" he whispered.

Naruto smiled sadly. "Wish it worked like that."

Sasuke's fist tightened. He looked furious. "I don't understand you, moron."

At that Naruto's brows drew in. "Really?"

Sasuke let his hair go with a snort of disgust and pushed away from the desk. He brought a hand up to his forehead and it was shaking. No one spoke. Sasuke seemed to be struggling with his breathing. "What part of 'I don't need this,'" he said in a low voice, "don't you fucking get?"

Naruto was bending over Sasuke's desk, fingers splayed and shoulders hunched. He bent even farther, reached out, gripped the collar of Sasuke's shirt. "The part," he said, dragging Sasuke closer and growling into his face, "where that's complete bullshit."

For a second Sasuke did not react. Then he pulled himself out of Naruto's grip and punched him in the face.

"Oh fuck," Naruto said once his breath caught, head to the side and jaw slack. He stared wide-eyed at the wall of the office as it swayed and blurred before him. He wasn't quite sure where his feet, where his hands were.

"You deserved that," Sasuke said from somewhere to the left .

Naruto slowly turned back. He stretched his neck and winced. His face throbbed thickly. Sasuke was shuffling papers together and stuffing them into his bag. Naruto watched him gather books, a planner, two pens, with harsh and efficient movements. His hand hovered over the coffee cup; he picked it up and drank the contents, then tossed it into the trashcan. He lifted the bag and settled the strap on his shoulder. Finally, he looked at Naruto. "You deserved that."

Naruto straightened until he was standing upright again, ignoring the unsteadiness that still threatened his balance. "Maybe I did."

"I'm done here. For the day. Tell anyone who comes to email me with their questions."

Naruto didn't reply. Sasuke stepped around his desk and walked out of the room. Naruto stood there, hunched over the desk, alone, for a full minute. Then he went back to his chair and sat down.

Kiba was playing Dead Space. He sucked at it. He'd started it two days earlier, after giving up on Halo 2 for the third time. Today he was lying across the couch. He had a crick in his neck from staring at the television for so many hours and his legs were numb under Akamaru's not insignificant weight. The pale, spindly Necromorphs were ganging up on all sides, he was out of ammo, and despite all his badass melee action he'd just been killed, again.

"Motherfuck!" he yelled, punching the air convulsively to vent his frustration. If he didn't figure out a way to get past this goddamn room, he might actually find himself working on the lab report for his veterinary hematology course instead of playing video games. God forbid.

Down at his feet, Akamaru lifted his head and perked his ears. A second later there was a knock at the door. Kiba groaned and sat up as Akamaru jumped heavily to the floor. He trotted away down the hall, nails scratching against the floorboards. Kiba swung his bare feet off the couch, tossed the controller onto a cushion, and followed.

It was a pale man with black hair and a decidedly unhappy expression, looking out of place in the hallway of their building with its dim lighting and threadbare carpet. His hands were shoved into the pockets of slacks, a coat slung over his arm. He looked vaguely familiar. "Hi," he said, voice flat.

"Hi," Kiba said.

"Who are you?"

"Uh," Kiba said, glancing down at Akamaru, who'd started wagging his tail. "My name's Kiba." He looked back at the man, whose frown had deepened at the response. "Wait. Who are you?"

The man sneered, and if it wasn't the meanest sneer Kiba had ever seen. "Sasuke," the man said.


Sasuke glanced away, down the hall. He seemed nervous or something.

Kiba gave up trying to figure it out. "Do I know you?"

"No, you don't. Does Naruto Uzumaki live here?"

Kiba stared. Then he pointed and gasped. "I do know you! You're that guy!"

Sasuke seemed unimpressed. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"That guy! The one who gave Naruto a ride the time his car broke down!" Kiba laughed and scratched his stomach. "Hey, you got him so fucking drunk that time. He was saying the funniest shit. You should've heard him."

"Should I have?" Sasuke asked dryly.

"Yeah, man! He was all like, 'Huh Sas-gay's such a bastard. Don't listen to him, Kiba. Don't give him any of your research papers, man. He will cut you, and take your Pulitzer.'"

Sasuke just looked at him. "I don't have time for this," he said. "Is Naruto here or not?"

"Yeah, dude, he's here," Kiba said lightly, eyeing the man across from him. "Didn't tell me anyone was coming, though. But come on in. He's in his room. Come on, boy." He whistled and turned. Akamaru trailed behind him. Kiba went past the living room and down the other hallway towards Naruto's room. He really hoped Naruto was awake, or something. He'd arrived late the previous night, gone straight to his room without a word, and hadn't come out since. It was now nearing seven p.m. Kiba had no idea what his problem was, but he figured this Sasuke-jerk had something to do with it. He might look dumb, but he wasn't, no sir. "Naruto?" he called, rapping his knuckles against the door. "This guy's here to see you. Tall, pale, mean-looking. Goes by the name of Sas-gay." He looked over his shoulder and grinned toothily at Sasuke's scowl.

There was a sound of scuffling on the other side of the door, a bit of banging and a loud expletive. Then silence. "Who?" a voice called.


A pause. "What?"

Kiba frowned. "What, are you deaf? Sasuke. SA-SU-KE. He's here. Wants to talk to you."

A longer pause. "Tell him I'm not here."

Kiba let his head fall back and gazed at the ceiling. Sasuke pinched the bridge of his nose. "He's not here," Kiba said.

Sasuke bent forward and spoke against the door. "Open the fucking door, you moron."

An even longer pause. "Oh. Sasuke."

After a few painfully quiet moments, it opened.

He stared at Sasuke. There he was, surly and slouching and very much in Naruto's bedroom. He'd opened the door, a mantra of 'No no no no no no' running loops in his head. And there he'd been, standing next to Kiba and looking like this was just another day at office hours and the world hadn't just turned upside-down. He'd stood aside and let him in, closing the door on Kiba's expression which had, for once, been serious.

Now he stood at the center of the room, Sasuke still near the door. He turned away and wished he had a window so he could pretend to be looking at something besides an old band tour poster that had been there since the first day he'd moved into this apartment, years ago. It occurred to him that his room was probably a mess. He ran his tongue over his teeth and looked down at the floor. "You don't have to apologize or anything. I didn't come to hours today because I was sick. It had nothing to do with you."

Silence. He glanced up. Sasuke was frowning, apparently quite confused. "What are you talking about? What apology?"

"Uh." Naruto stared. What apology, indeed. He wasn't quite sure what he was indignant about but if there was something he was ever certain of, it was that Sasuke was a bastard. "You know. For hitting me in the face? You're such an asshole."

Sasuke smirked. "For hitting you in the face."


"You want me to apologize."

"Yes. Well—not exactly—"

"Fuck you."


"You heard me."

Naruto moved closer. "What the fuck is your problem?" he said. "Look at this bruise!" He pointed at his cheek where, indeed, there was a flourishing splotch of blue and sickly green. "Who does that?"

"I told you, you deserved it."

Naruto felt it again, a dark ball of rage bloating in his throat. He took a breath. "Alright," he said. "No apology. Then what are you doing here?"

Sasuke didn't reply. But he didn't look away, either.

"Quit star—" Naruto cut himself off and scowled in the direction of the wall again. He was heaving breaths like a bull. "What do you want?"

"That's a good question," Sasuke said.

"Then answer it. You were pretty expressive about it yesterday. But apparently you're only good at telling me what you don't want."

Sasuke opened his mouth. Clicked it shut.

"Don't even try," Naruto said. He paused, grit his teeth, closed away all the corresponding emotional compartments. "I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not. I wish things had been different, though. Now get out. I'll see you on Monday."

"It's a good question," Sasuke repeated, as if Naruto hadn't said anything. "It's the type of question I'd ask you in one of your drafts. 'What does this person want, Naruto?'"

"Just shut up."

"'What is this character's agenda?' I never did like that philosophical type of story that all the undergrads seem to be writing these days. All style and mood and no content."

"Yeah? I really fucking care."

"You should."

"Should I?" Naruto grinned, and it was sharp. "Why so?"

"Because it's got everything to do with you." Sasuke wasn't smirking. He wasn't sneering, and he didn't look angry. He looked grim.

"It's got nothing to do with me. You asshole."

Sasuke stepped forward, farther into the room and nearer to Naruto. "Why don't you grow up?" he said. Annoyed, but not nearly as much as the day before.

Naruto bit down and didn't answer.

"What if life was like one of your stories, Naruto?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto couldn't reply for a moment. "What if?" he said eventually, shrugging. "It wouldn't mean a thing."

"Hn," Sasuke said. "Probably not. But if there's one flaw in your stories, it's your endings."

Naruto just stared. Sasuke was now two feet away, or less. He looked put together, much more so than Naruto felt. But his eyes shone as if in the midst of delirium, bright and fevered. "My endings," Naruto said.

"I've told you before. They're forced. You've always got a plan for your characters but if there's anything you should never stick to, it's a plan."

A foot and a half now. Naruto could smell Sasuke. "Speak for yourself," he said.

Sasuke smirked. "I'm serious," he said, and it was almost a joke. "You know your characters, but you don't let them lead."

Naruto exhaled loudly and glanced away, then back. He noticed his hands were clenched and shaking. "What are you doing here, Sasuke?" he whispered.

"I asked myself that question, yesterday."


"What if life were like one of your stories? You're a character. I'm a character. I know what you want. What do I want?"

Naruto's mouth was dry. He licked his lips and almost closed his eyes. "And?" he said. His voice was hoarse. Sasuke's face was so close, or felt that way. "What do you want?"

"I've got no fucking idea," Sasuke said. His eyes were wide. "I don't know." He breathed in, exhaled. Kept staring. "That's the problem."

It was quiet. Naruto snorted. Then he started laughing.

"Moron." For the first time, Sasuke looked away.

"That is a problem," Naruto said.


"Can't write a story if your character doesn't have an agenda, Sasuke."

"Fuck you."

"Heh." Naruto grinned and scratched at the inside of his arm. He let his hand fall to his side. "Alright." He paused, and tilted his head. "Alright. You know what I do when I'm stuck with a story?" he asked.

Sasuke seemed to bite the inside of his cheek. His eyes were trained on Naruto. "No," he said. "What?"

Naruto grimaced. "This is so fucking weird, Sasuke."

Sasuke frowned. "What?"

"Seriously. What are you even doing here? I'm not supposed to speak to you for another week. At least. I'm supposed to be giving you the silent treatment. "

"Tch." Sasuke hissed and glanced at the floor. He looked back up, a bit pissed. "Get on with it."

Naruto's lip twitched. The fact that they were only a step from each other was making him heady."Fine, fine. Well, first, I get drunk."

Sasuke snorted.

"No seriously. A bit of Johnnie and I'm good to go."


"Okay. And then I sit back down at my computer."

" Really. How fucking fascinating."

"Isn't it? And then I finish writing the scene. Line by line."

"You finish writing the scene."

"Yeah. And then I go from there."

"…Well that's just fantastic for you. Is there a point to this?"

"Yeah. There's a point."


"Right. Yes. The point is, sometimes if you stop thinking so fucking much it all works out anyway."

"You would say that."

"Yeah. Just run off the emotion in a scene. Follow it through. Makes what your characters want so much simpler. You should try it sometime."

"Hn," Sasuke said, and then just stood there, awkward and with his hands in his pockets again. Close enough to touch.

Naruto shrugged. "Works for me."

"But that still doesn't solve the issue with your endings," Sasuke said, after a bit. He'd brought a hand up and run distractedly it through his hair, which Naruto had never seen him do before. It was a frustrated, anxious thing to do. "You can't just 'run off the emotions' and hope a story comes together."

Naruto grinned. "Right. And that's the problem."

Sasuke snorted. "You're such a moron," he said.

"Good of you to come all the way here just to call me that. I see you can't go a day without it."

Sasuke smirked, and straightened his shoulders. "I did actually come for a reason, Uzumaki."

"Oh?" Naruto looked away from the intensity in Sasuke's eyes. And he suddenly wanted to move back, break their proximity though it would mean capitulation on the little competition they'd been having for the past few minutes. Or whatever that had been. He felt as if he hadn't been breathing correctly. He walked away from Sasuke to his desk and leant back on the edge, facing the other man with crossed arms. Sasuke's smirk had turned smug. "Well. Feel free to tell me all about it," Naruto said.

Sasuke pulled a flash drive out of his pocket and held up. Naruto eyed it with confusion.

"Oh. That's not mine, though. Mine's in my bag."

"Idiot. It's mine. I finished the novel."

Naruto stared, mouth open. "You finished…?"


A slow grin broke out on Naruto's face. "You finished." He threw his head back and laughed.

Sasuke looked at the floor. He looked back up, the remnants of a smile on his lips. "Yeah." He crossed the room, eyes on Naruto, and came to a stop before him.

Naruto beamed at the other man and punched him on the shoulder. "That's so fucking awesome. When?"

"Last night."

"What? Yesterday?"

"That's what I said."

Naruto couldn't stop smiling. "Fuck. Uchiha's first novel."

Sasuke smirked. He held out the flash drive. "So," he said. "Critique it for me."


Sasuke didn't reply.

"But…but you never let me read what you write. You seriously—I don't think I should be the first person to—"

Sasuke frowned. "Just take it. I didn't let you read it because I hadn't finished it yet. Moron."

"That's no reason not to—wait, you've been meaning to let me read it all along?"

Sasuke's frown grew more pronounced. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Well, because—"

"Tch." Sasuke reached around Naruto and placed the flash drive on the desk. "Nevermind. I don't want to hear it." He gave Naruto one last glare, for good measure Naruto assumed, and made to leave. Naruto gripped the sleeve of his shirt.


Sasuke arched a brow.

"Thank you."

"Hn." Sasuke glanced away, towards the door. He pulled at his arm but Naruto tightened his grip.

"Got somewhere to be?"

A muscle twitched in Sasuke's jaw. "Does it matter?"

"Yeah, it matters."

"Let go of me." Sasuke brows were drawn in, lips thin. His voice was flat as sheet metal.



They both stilled at the outburst. Sasuke's breaths were loud, and he was glaring at Naruto's bed. He turned back and looked Naruto over. Looked through him. For a few seconds he said nothing. Then: "What."

"What are you so afraid of?"

Sasuke's expression turned even darker. He leant forward and clenched his hands in Naruto's t-shirt, pushing him against the desk so that Naruto was almost sitting on it. Papers crunched underneath them. "I'm not afraid," he grit out, enunciating each word with a small shake of his fists.

Naruto stared at him, eyes careful, open. "Alright," he said. "I believe you." He brought a hand up and gripped Sasuke's shirt in turn, yanking him even closer. Their torsos slammed together. Sasuke grunted. "You're not afraid of this. So what the fuck is it, then?"

The other sneered so harshly his teeth were bared. "You really want to do this all over again?"

"I never got a good reason to stop."

"But you'll take what you can get, won't you?" Sasuke smirked nastily.

Naruto gripped Sasuke's shirt so tightly he wouldn't have been surprised if it'd ripped. "Fuck you, Uchiha. You told me that you don't know what you want. Well, I call bullshit. I say there's something here and you want it, but you're too fucked up to reach out and grab it. And you won't tell me why." He had both hands on Sasuke now, white-knuckled and trembling. He couldn't remember what had happened to make him this pissed. "That's the problem, Sasuke! This isn't another one of my goddamn stories! Who gives a shit if the fucking plot comes together or whatever! Who gives a shit about the agenda! But you're too much of a fucking machine to see that it doesn't even matter, you motherfucker."

Sasuke's face was centimeters from Naruto's, eyes nothing but anger and hate. "Don't call me that."

Naruto shook his head, quiet and disbelieving laughter escaping his mouth like sobs. "What? What the fuck?"

"Don't call me that," Sasuke said under his breath. "I'm not some cold-blooded, unfeeling thing. Got it?" His lips stretched back over his teeth like a smile gone terribly wrong. "I'm not." He shook his fists weakly, clenched as they still were in Naruto's shirt.

"Just fucking tell me," Naruto whispered. "Tell me what this is."

"Shut up," Sasuke said inching forward, and then their lips were pressed together, wet and frenetic and harsh. There was tongue, the moist heat of panting breaths, hands in hair. The desk edge was jabbing into Naruto's thighs. He pushed back and it was just like another of their arguments, but more savage and so much better. He dug his fingers into the skin of Sasuke's neck, his jaw, bit down on Sasuke's lip so hard the other man grunted. They were breathing together, they weren't breathing at all. Sasuke didn't taste like anything but he was warm as hell. Someone moaned at the feel of slick tongue on tongue.

A sharp object, possibly a pen, poked Naruto's lower back and he broke away to hiss in pain. Gathering up the material of Sasuke's shirt in his fists, he shoved away from the desk and pushed Sasuke back, step by step. They landed in a heap on the foot of the bed. Still attached by the mouth, Sasuke attempted to crawl up its length on his back and elbows, heels slipping on the messy sheets as he moved.

Naruto pulled his head back until his lips were free and laughed breathlessly over Sasuke's cheeks. "Told you so," he said. Sasuke yanked on his hair and Naruto chose to occupy his mouth with the other man's tongue instead.

There was a hand on the back of Naruto's head and a hand on Naruto's chest. The latter was sliding down his body, over his left nipple, past his ribs and the dip where they ended and his abdomen began, all heaving skin and muscle. Naruto's shirt was beginning to feel very hot. No hesitation, the hand moved past his belt and over his jeans to cup Naruto's groin. He bit down with muffled grunt and rocked into Sasuke's palm.

The clothes had to go. Naruto broke away and upright so that he was sitting astride Sasuke and the visible erection underneath the gray slacks. The other man was wet-lipped and flushed and gazing up at Naruto like this was all his fault. Naruto pulled his t-shirt off and tossed it to the floor. He bent forward, arms propped on either side of Sasuke's head for support, and brought his face down to the one below him. "Don't act like you don't want this," he murmured against Sasuke's lips. "Who are you trying to kid?" The kiss this time was messy, a slow and vicious burn. Naruto didn't know how it could ever be any different between them. Sasuke pressed up with his hand and Naruto growled. He skimmed his lips down Sasuke's jaw line to his neck and worked his way down with open-mouthed kisses, teeth and tongue and hard breathing, to the collar of his shirt. "I've been wanting to ask you," he said between mad little bites, nose buried in Sasuke's skin, "why the fuck do you always wear these goddamn shirts?" He budged the collar aside with nose and licked a streak on Sasuke's chest. "These button-up shirts? Freak."

He received a particularly hard squeeze to his crotch for that. "Maybe you should remember whose hand is on your dick at the moment," Sasuke breathed.

Naruto grinned up at Sasuke's flustered face. Without moving his gaze away he found the first button and undid it. "I bet it's because you know you look so hot in them. Especially with your sleeves rolled up and that pissy expression that you love on your face. Heh." He undid the second button grazed his teeth against the skin revealed there.

Sasuke hissed and rocked his hips up, rubbing his erection against Naruto's. "You really never shut up, do you?" he said. He sounded genuinely alarmed.

Naruto slipped a hand between Sasuke's body and the mattress. He gripped the other man's ass through the slacks. Sasuke drew a sharp breath. Naruto only grinned in response to the question.

"Fuck," Sasuke said, sounding as if he trouble breathing. He exhaled loudly and glared at the ceiling, then down out at his chest. He slapped Naruto's other hand away from his shirt. "You take too long, moron." He undid the buttons himself and pulled the shirt off in a few choppy motions. It joined Naruto's on the floor. Naruto was very conscious of the absence of a hand from the bulge in his jeans. And Sasuke was, well, far more fit than any skinny-ass writer had any right to be.

"You work out?" he asked.

Sasuke's face twisted into a disbelieving grimace. "What is this, a porno? What kind of line is that?"

Naruto let out a half-pant, half-laugh. "How does me asking that make this a porno, bastard?"

"I don't know, Uzumaki. But you're not usually so trite."

"Heh." Naruto grinned. "I'm flattered."

"You should be." The words came out strained; Naruto had moved his attention to Sasuke's body. He dragged his fingertips over the expanse of Sasuke's skin, pausing at a collarbone, a nipple, his navel. Sasuke's abdomen was rising and falling in time with his rapid breaths. Naruto stopped and met Sasuke's eyes. After a moment, the other man seemed to smirk, but maybe it was only Naruto's imagination. Without breaking the stare between them Sasuke moved his hands once more to Naruto's groin. He unbuttoned the jeans and pulled down the zipper. Reaching into the boxers, he took Naruto's erection in hand.

Naruto's eyes widened as he stared down at Sasuke's expressionless ones. He bit his lip and exhaled through his nose. Sasuke's hand gave his dick a few dry strokes. Naruto closed his eyes.

"You should see yourself." It was said in a low voice. A thumb ran over his head, then up the length of his erection.

Naruto didn't open his eyes, but grinned through his panting. "What is this…heh. Hah. Sasuke? Being trite?"

"Hn." A few more pumps of Sasuke's fist had Naruto giving shallow bucks into the other man's hand. His pre-cum had smeared and, mixed with his sweat, the going was slicker. Then the hand stopped. Naruto let his eyes open.

Sasuke was smirking. "You'll probably blame me if you don't even make it out of your jeans." He pulled his hand out of Naruto's boxers and started pushing at the hem of his pants. Naruto narrowed his eyes.

"Ha ha," he said, and straightened so that he was kneeling over Sasuke. He pushed his jeans down his thighs, then leant forward on an arm to pull them past his knees. He did the same for his boxers. Sasuke said nothing as Naruto dropped forward on all fours, naked. Naruto glanced down and then up again, grinning. "Like what you see?"

Sasuke snorted, and it was almost like actual laughter. Naruto didn't think his own smile could get any bigger. "God. Shut up, Uzumaki."

"Just asking," Naruto said. He looked Sasuke over. He was the same shade of milky white everywhere, as if his skin never saw the light of day. But he was toned and lean and so very masculine. A trail of coarse hair started near his navel and disappeared under the waist of his pants.

They were actually doing this. They were in his bedroom, alone, doing this.

Naruto looked down at Sasuke's slacks. "Guess yours should go as well, huh."

Sasuke propped himself up on his elbows and met Naruto's lips with his own. There was a hard edge to it. Then he pulled away and Naruto found himself presented with Sasuke's hair. There was hot breath on his ear. "That's generally how it works," came the whisper. Naruto shivered. He turned and mouthed the skin of Sasuke's neck in retaliation. When Sasuke gripped his forearm, hard, Naruto backed away and swallowed. He bowed his head and busied himself with Sasuke's pants. His hands were shaking.

When he unzipped the slacks and yanked down the boxers, Sasuke's erection bobbed free. He just looked at it.


Naruto glanced up. "Sorry." He tried to grin. "I've just, uh, never…not with a guy, I mean."

Sasuke smirked. Naruto felt himself blush. "It's just a dick, moron," the other man said with the utmost poise and reserve. There was a glint in his eye. "I'd ask you if maybe you'd never seen one—"


"But that's, uh, obviously not the case."

Naruto took a moment to process the expression on Sasuke's face. Then he leered. "Heh," he said. "Obviously."


And Naruto understood: it was Sasuke there on his bed, in his room. The other man took an elbow off the mattress and brushed his dark hair away from his face, looking for all the world like this was just another Friday at the G Street except for the pink on his cheeks, and in that instant Naruto's trepidation evaporated.

He ducked his head and began pulling Sasuke's slacks and boxers off the rest of the way, using the moment to bite back the huge smile on his face. That done, he looked up, grinned mischievously, and licked a slow, broad stripe over his own palm. He could practically see Sasuke's pupils dilate. Leaning forward so that he was supported by one arm, shoulders hunched as he hovered directly over the body underneath his, he ran his free hand up the length of Sasuke's erection. It was warm and stiff in his fist, alive. Sasuke arched into him. His mouth was slightly open, his eyelids lowered. Naruto pumped him steadily, watching as Sasuke slowly lost control. Sweat was beading on the other man's forehead.

Sasuke opened his eyes and met Naruto's. Naruto didn't stop the motion of his hand. He looked on as every little breath escaped those swollen lips, at every flicker of an eyelid. Sasuke looked right on back. When Naruto ran his thumb up and down the underside of his dick he bit his lip and groaned, eyes still trained on Naruto's face. Soon he was bucking up to meet Naruto's strokes, a knee raised for leverage. Only when Naruto paused to finger Sasuke's balls did he break the gaze, arching back into the pillow with eyes closed tight and a creative bit of profanity. Naruto resumed stroking, faster this time. He was so hard the feel of his bed sheets alone was driving him mad.

"Naruto," Sasuke said, "Hah." He looked down at Naruto's angry erection and made to take it in his hand.

"Wait wait wait." Naruto was panting. He grinned down at Sasuke and bent to whisper in his ear. "Let me do this. I want to watch you come."

Sasuke groaned again, but Naruto couldn't tell if it was pleasured or annoyed. "Moron. Ngh." He strained upwards, fucking Naruto's fist. Sasuke's pre-cum was flowing fast. The slide of skin on skin sounded wetly in the bedroom.

Naruto licked his lips and waited until Sasuke's glazed eyes had found his again. The man's hair was sticking to his flushed and sweaty skin. "You know, Sasuke," he said, "I only did all this so I could write about it later."

Something dangerous flashed in Sasuke's eyes and Naruto decided that one second was a long enough stretch of time to hold a straight face.

"Joking, bastard," he said, changing the angle of his wrist a little and lowering his head. He met Sasuke's frown with a grin. The kiss was brief and wet. "But maybe you'd like that?" he said against Sasuke's lips. The man's breaths were coming fast and hot and frantic. He was meeting each of Naruto's strokes with a slow, strained roll of his hips. "You'd ask to critique it. What would I write, do you think? Maybe about how fucking hard and hot your dick feels in my hand, how I love the feeling of it rubbing against my palm? How I love seeing you like this, come fucking undone on my bed, flushed and panting? I want you, Sasuke."

Sasuke's upper back bowed off the bed, so that Naruto's mouth ended up near his ear. He was gripping Naruto by the back of the head, nails digging into his scalp, pounding into Naruto's fist so fast and hard Naruto knew he was close. He shifted his free hand under Sasuke's ass and gripped, teasing Sasuke's crack with his fingers. The other man let out a strangled groan.

"Or maybe I'd write about how I can imagine just how it would feel to be inside you right now," he whispered, and pressed the tip of his middle finger against Sasuke's entrance, hard. A few more bucks and then Sasuke stiffened, clenched, arched, and suddenly there was hot cum spurting over Naruto's hand as the body beneath his rode out its orgasm with a guttural moan.

Sasuke slumped back against the mattress, gasping. Naruto met his lips in a rather one-sided kiss, winded as the other man was. "I might even throw in a metaphor or two," he added, pulling back.

Sasuke snorted, though it came out more like a wheeze with the way his chest was heaving. He smirked, panted, glanced away and then up at Naruto's face. "Well, Uzumaki," he said in a breathless voice.

Naruto grinned.

"First time? Really?"


"Heh." Sasuke smirked, and Naruto was suddenly reminded of how hard he still was. "More like wondering when the last time you got laid was, seeing as you're clearly so adept with your hand."

"You fucker," Naruto laughed, trying not to wince as his mind supplied the answer to the question.

"Only sometimes," Sasuke said in a raw sort of voice, and then Naruto found himself flipped over, flat on his back and staring up at Sasuke's looming face. His dark hair fell forward and tickled Naruto's jaw. Sasuke bent and kissed him and Naruto let the warm tongue slip into his mouth, wet and searching. He buried his hands in Sasuke's hair and deepened the kiss.

When Sasuke pulled back for air he whispered, "You know, I think I would like you to write that."


"I expect it on my desk by the end of next week, Uzumaki. You've been slacking off on your writing."

Naruto let out a breathless laugh. "You're joking. You can't just—"

Sasuke shut him up with another kiss. "Not joking," he murmured. Naruto felt the smirk against his lips. "As for that last line." Another kiss. "The bit about being…inside me." The statement was accentuated with a light little gasp and a rock of Sasuke's hips. Naruto almost came, he was so fucking hard. "Well, we'll just have to do some research, won't we?"

"Yes," Naruto groaned, not quite following Sasuke's words. He realized he'd closed his eyes when he felt the other man suddenly pull away. "Wha—"

"But not today, moron." Sasuke was backing away on all fours down the length of Naruto's body. He stopped at Naruto's groin, where his dick bobbed swollen, leaking, and ready yesterday. Sasuke smirked up at Naruto's expression. "I'll want it to be good for me too." And with that he bent and slid the head into his mouth.

"Aah! Sasuke—" Naruto arched and dug his fingers into the mattress. It was hot. Blazing hot and wet and so mindblowingly good. He realized three seconds in that this wasn't going to last very long at all. There was a hand fondling his sac, a hand on his hip, Naruto was bucking shallowly, his legs were straining, scrabbling on the mattress for purchase. He brought an arm up and bit down hard, then gave up on that and just let it out. "Motherfuck, Sasuke. Yes, ah….hah. Nnngghh." He was in no presence of mind to check but it sure as hell felt like Sasuke was swallowing. Just swallowing and swallowing, all tongue and heat and bobbing and the tiniest graze of teeth. "Oh fuck." His groin was tightening, he felt that delicious tell-tale strain in his muscles, his veins.

Sasuke wasn't taking his time either. Naruto jerked against the grip on his hip, he was fucking Sasuke's throat, he was seeing white. When he came it was with a hoarse, unintelligible, cry.

Sometime later, he opened his eyes. Sasuke was wiping his arm across his mouth, looking pink in the face and more disheveled than before though with an expression as contained as usual. Naruto was still trying to catch his breath. He grinned at the other man, who arched a brow in response.

"Well, Uchiha," he rasped. He heaved a couple of breaths. "Definitely not your first time?"

Sasuke smirked. He crawled back up Naruto's torso and landed a kiss on his mouth, ending it with a harsh little tug of teeth on lip. Naruto wrinkled his nose at the taste.


Sasuke merely snorted and collapsed on his back beside Naruto. Naruto smiled up at the ceiling and rested an arm on his forehead. After a brief stretch of silence he turned his neck on the sheets to look at Sasuke. The other man had his eyes closed. His breathing was shallow and quick, his mouth slightly parted. Naruto watched Sasuke's neck bob as the other man swallowed. He glanced down at Sasuke's crotch. It was still wet with cum. He took his arm off his forehead and punched Sasuke on the shoulder.

Sasuke opened narrowed eyes at him. "What."

Naruto smiled. "Bastard. This was good right?"

Sasuke frowned and looked uncomfortable. He shifted where he lay and glanced away. "What kind of question is that?"

"I'm just wondering why the fuck you put up such a fight." He grinned and turned on his side, gripping Sasuke's arm. "God, Sasuke, if you hadn't been such a dick when I tried asking you out we could've been doing this since last Friday."

Sasuke made a face and shook his hand off. "Moron."

Naruto lightly tugged at Sasuke's hair instead. "I'm serious, though. Why?"

"Stop pulling my hair."

"Tell me."

"There's nothing to tell."

"Like hell there isn't."

"Just leave it."

"Just tell me."

Sasuke made to sit up, a scowl on his face, but Naruto held him down with an arm on his chest. Sasuke fell heavily back onto the mattress and glared the ceiling. Naruto slid his hand up Sasuke's chest to grip his jaw. He turned Sasuke to face him.

"Look at me, bastard," he said. "It's me, okay? Just me. Would it kill you to just tell me something once in a while?"

Sasuke didn't say anything. Naruto sighed, dropped his hand, turned away.

"Whatever." It seemed this Sasuke was just as tight-lipped as ever. Naruto felt an odd sort of emptiness, like he'd been turned over and shook out and had nothing left to give. Due to the fact that he'd skipped lunch, of course.

After everything, it wasn't enough.

There was silence in the bedroom. Then: "I'm not, uh…"

Naruto turned back so fast his neck hurt. Sasuke licked his lips.

"I don't do this a lot."

"What?" Naruto asked. "Sleep with men?"

"No, dumbass. I do that, uh, I do that often enough. That's not…"

Naruto rolled his eyes.

"It's not hard for me to pick up willing men, is what I mean. If I go to the right place." There was a hint of a smirk.

"Uh huh." Naruto didn't know whether to laugh or punch Sasuke on the shoulder again.

"But that's not…this is…"

Naruto bit his lip to hide his smile. "Yeah. I know."

"And. I don't do this a lot."

"Well. Neither do I."

Sasuke closed his eyes. "You don't understand," he said. "My family, they…well, they're dead. Most of them. But, uh, I've never been…" He looked at Naruto with confused eyes.

"Never been what?"

"Look. It might not have anything to do with this but you said you were adopted. You have parents. Not your birth parents, but that probably didn't make a difference to you. I…mine died too but you didn't have to fucking watch—" He exhaled shakily and closed his eyes again. There was silence. Then he said, "I don't go looking for…whatever this is. I don't want it—I'm not okay most of the time, Naruto. It's not like I'm constantly thinking about it. I hardly do anymore. But I'm still—I'm just—" He cut off.

Naruto reached out slowly and brushed Sasuke's hair out of his face. He let the hand fall to rest on the mattress between them and Sasuke opened his eyes. He smiled. "I'm sorry," he said.

Sasuke snorted and looked away.

"I am. I wish that hadn't happened to you, Sasuke."

Sasuke glanced at him with an unreadable expression.

Naruto stared at the other man for just a second more and then let his eyes fall to the mattress. He rubbed thoughtfully at a crease in the sheets. "But it did, right? You can't change it and I can't and so here you are." He looked back up with an open gaze. "That's why I want to know this stuff about you. You get it, don't you? I care. I don't want to pity you, bastard. So tell me these things. Let me in."

Sasuke didn't seem to have a response for that. He just looked at Naruto, face blank and seemingly too exhausted to react. But then, suddenly, he smiled. "I always knew you were illiterate."


"I wrote an entire fucking novel on this, Uzumaki. On all these things you say you want me to tell you. I left the flash drive on your desk. Do try to keep up. I should've figured you'd try to get out of reading it."

Naruto gaped at him. "You wrote it based on your life?"

Sasuke's lip twitched. "More or less. Names are changed."

"The novel you've been writing all year. The one you said you'd always planned to show me as soon as you finished."

Sasuke's brows drew in. "Yes."

Naruto exhaled. "Oh. Okay." He looked down at the sheets again. The other man shifted on the bed. Sasuke was turning onto his side as well. "Well. I'll get right on that."


"And I won't go easy on you either, bastard. Give you a taste of your own medicine."

A smirk. "I look forward to it."

"I'm serious. It might be based on your life but the truth doesn't always make the best fiction."

No answer. Naruto hummed under his breath. He sighed and flatted his palm out on the sheets, rubbing back and forth.

"You were the one who told me that. Wrote on the back of one of my drafts."

"I remember."

They lay there for a moment simply staring at each other with vacant expressions. The silence was comfortable. Naruto lifted his head and settled it down again, then winced. Sasuke was watching him. "You know," Naruto said. "You punched me really hard."

The other man smirked and shut his eyes. "Stop looking for an apology," he said. "You won't get one."

The End

AN: inspired by the song 'Fuck Was I' by Jenny Owen Youngs

Also, I've got the next chapter for TLAF written but I want to finish writing the whole thing and just post the remaining chapters in quick succession. Won't be long now. Can't believe it's been half a year, sorry about that.