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The forest was eerily quiet, only the weak chirp of an occasional cricket to be heard from time to time. The cloudy night cast odd shadows onto the mossy floor, and the chill of the air kept most forest critters burrowed deep in their homes. A silver-haired shinobi remained hidden in the shrubbery, his pale eyes gleaming in the darkness. He had been in the same place for almost three hours now, and he could feel the restlessness itch in his creaking bones.
A beetle scurried up the tree bark, and without blinking, the ninja threw a small kunai in its direction, slickly impaling it upon impact. His expression was one of boredom as he obediently waited for his client to arrive. He rubbed at his eyes tiredly, beginning to regret his offer to come to this meeting spot.
There was a sudden shift in the atmosphere, and the shinobi's hyperactive senses tingled. Someone was coming, and he prayed that it was at last the person he was waiting for.
The shinobi grinned in the dark, showing rows of sharp, pointy teeth.
"You're late, chibi."
"Don't call me that, piranha face."
A quick flash of yellow, and sixteen-year-old Naruto jumped into the clearing. She was breathing heavily from her long journey, and her whiskered cheeks were flushed red from exertion. Her two brilliant blue eyes glimmered in the dark.
"Sorry for the delay," she said apologetically. "I met some stray shinobi a few miles back."
Suigetsu stood up stiffly and dusted the dirt off his clothes. "It's been three hours."
"And I said I was sorry, didn't I? I'll buy you sake."
The silver-haired man grinned widely. "Now you're talking." He suddenly noticed the bloodstains splattered across the young girl's clothes, and he frowned slightly. "Are you hurt?"
Naruto glumly raised her right arm and tugged the black sleeve off her shoulder. A large wet gash ripped through her tan skin. The wound started from the inside of her forearm and extended all the way to her collarbone, and it was already dripping blood onto the forest floor.
"Fuck, Naruto!" Suigetsu cursed, jumping a step back. "What the hell happened?"
"I got caught off guard, dammit," she muttered. "Kyuubi's trying his best to heal the wound but I think it's poisoned."
"You don't know how to get rid of the poison?"
Naruto worried her lip. "I tried but I just ended up making it worse. I'm afraid Karin will need to patch me up. My arm is already numb."
Suigetsu groaned loudly and fell limp against a nearby tree. Despair and helplessness washed over the shinobi and he dejectedly bowed his head. With complete and utter seriousness, the white-haired ninja began to mutter incantations.
Naruto stared at him suspiciously. "What the fuck are you doing, Suigetsu?"
"Isn't it obvious?" he retorted, keeping his eyes closed. The expression on his face could only be described as morose. "I'm saying my last prayers."
"Shit, I knew I should've forced Juugo to come instead. At least he can survive a goddamn chidori in the chest. Why did you have to go and get yourself beat up? Sasuke-san will have my head if he sees his precious, little - ow!" Suigetsu's self-pity was cut short as Naruto's angry fist met the left side of his skull. "THE HELL WAS THAT FOR, UZUMAKI?"
Naruto's cerulean eyes glinted dangerously. "You're lucky that was my left arm, you overgrown salmon." She crossed her arms and glared. "Don't look down on me just because I'm a girl. I'll show you the real wrath of Nine-tails if Sasuke-teme dares to fuss over me like some protective mother hen. Let's go, I'm freezing my ass off." And with those words, the blonde furiously stalked away into the darkness.
Suigetsu sighed and woefully rubbed his bruising temple. "Why do the both of them have such nasty tempers?"
The two silently walked a fair distance before the forest cleared and gave way to a meadow. There was a small house in the horizon, and lights shining from the windows indicated that people were present. Naruto's eyes widened momentarily before she turned to stare at the grinning Suigetsu.
"You guys rented a cottage?" she asked in disbelief. "How did you manage that?"
Suigetsu clicked his teeth. "This area used to belong to Orochimaru, and after Sasuke-san killed that old bastard off, the people naturally accepted Sasuke-san as the new leader. It's not hard to exert some authority here and there and pull some strings." The man noticed Naruto twitch, and he chuckled in amusement. "Don't be like that. We didn't hurt anyone. Much." He laughed again at the sour expression on Naruto's face. "Come on, chibiko, let's get you fixed up."
The cottage was homely and cozy, with warm-red bricks and a small flower garden. The windows were tinted, giving the inhabitants of the house total secrecy. Naruto then noticed that the door was made from strong oak, and she found herself tracing its intricate design.
"We're back," Suigetsu called out.
"Took you long enough," came Karin's shrill voice. The door swung open and Naruto was relieved to feel a blast of warm air rush against her face. The autumn night was particularly cold tonight, and she was glad to finally be near a fireplace.
"Hello," Naruto piped cheerfully, taking in Karin's red hair and horned glassed and realizing that she had actually missed the crazy bitch. "It's been a while."
"About three months," Karin sniffed. "You look exhausted, cousin."
Suigetsu's cheeky expression immediately became crestfallen. "You have no idea. Where is Sasuke-san? I prefer my death to be quick and painless."
Karin rolled her eyes. "Have you finally gone mad? Sasuke-kun went out with Juugo to check the parameters one last time. And Juugo needed to rebook our hotel rooms."
Naruto frowned. "You guys aren't sleeping here?"
The redhead snorted. "Goodness, no. It's your birthday. I'm sure you two will want as much privacy as possible."
Naruto flushed at the smirk on Karin's face. She opened her mouth to retort when Suigetsu suddenly grabbed both their hands and dragged them into the living room.
"Suigetsu, what the hell - " Karin started to yell, but she fell silent when Suigetsu tore off Naruto's sleeve to show the horrible wound that resided underneath. The entire surface was now deep purple. "Oh my god."
Naruto fidgeted, embarrassment turning her whiskered cheeks pink. "I was careless. He attacked me from behind."
"If Sasuke-kun sees this..." Karin's face had turned white. "We'll be eaten alive."
Suigetsu was tearing at his hair. "I know, you bitch, so tell me, can you heal this or not?"
Karin fixed the hyperventilating Kirigakure ninja with a piercing glare. "If you shut the fuck up, maybe I can see what I can do." And for once, Suigetsu was wise enough to not retort back.
Naruto found herself being led to the leather couch. She tried to stay still in her seat as Karin professionally inspected the cut. The redhead muttered incoherently to herself before suddenly poking an area of the wound that seemed the worst off.
"Dammit, Naruto, stop twitching."
"I'm trying," the blonde hissed back, tears coming to her eyes at the jabbing pain rolling off her shoulder.
Karin's face looked grim as she continued the inspection. "How are things in Konoha?" the redhead asked absentmindedly.
"It's okay," Naruto replied, making a face. "I think Baa-chan and Ero Sennin were getting suspicious which was why I decided to lay low for these few months."
Suigetsu barked a laugh. "You dumbass, Sasuke almost died when he hadn't heard back from you in so long. You were lucky Juugo can communicate with his little bird shits."
"Shut up, Suigetsu," Karin muttered, a sweat breaking upon her brow as she concentrated. "Your voice is lowering my IQ."
Suigetsu was about to take out his sword when Naruto let out a pained whimper.
"What the fuck is this poison?" the blonde hissed, biting down on her cheek. She felt like her shoulder was going to burn clean right off. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
Karin straightened suddenly and seemed to let out a sigh of relief. "It's tigerbark."
Suigetsu's amethyst eyes flashed impatiently. "And?"
"Curable. Messy and painful, but curable." Karin pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Another day and you would've been a goner. You have Kyuubi to thank for delaying your demise."
Naruto rolled her eyes. "Guess the fox shit isn't so bad all the time." The blonde then noticed Karin rolling up her sleeves, and she recoiled back in horror. "Umm... are you doing what I think you're doing?"
Karin brought her bare forearm to Naruto's mouth. "Bite me."
Naruto's face turned green. "I really don't think - "
"You heard me, Naruto. Bite me."
"Can't you just patch me up the normal way?" the blonde pleaded. "I feel so cannibalistic if I do this."
Suigetsu snorted in the background. "Idiots."
"Tigerbark drains your chakra tremendously while it damages your tissues," Karin explained. "So I have to make sure you won't faint when I'm trying to extract the poison or else your defences will weaken even worse than it already has. Don't you feel lightheaded and feverish? That's the effect of tigerbark."
"But Karin," Naruto begged. "Chomping on your arm is savage."
Karin frowned in displeasure. "Naruto, the more you argue, the worse this situation is going to get."
All three inhabitants of the room froze at the dangerously-low voice that could only belong to one person. They had been too preoccupied with the poisoned wound to have noticed anyone's entrance, and now hell was to be paid for the careless error. Naruto winced as she felt death intent ooze towards her direction, and she tried to not let her trepidation show on her face.
Karin was the first to recover. "Sasuke-kun!" she said as she scrambled to her feet. "It's okay, I know it looks bad but I can heal her up in five minutes, so there is really nothing - "
"Naruto," the Uchiha said emotionlessly. "What did you do?"
Naruto inwardly groaned at the lecture she knew that was coming, but she steeled her resolve and raised her head to meet Sasuke's eyes and level his glare. To everyone else in the world, the icy anger that was rolling off the Uchiha in waves was terrifying. But Naruto looked past the Uchiha's cold exterior and saw the worry in him threatening to raise hell, and she couldn't help herself as a small smile lifted the corners of her lips. He's such a drama queen, she thought.
"Do you find this amusing?" Sasuke asked dangerously, noticing Naruto's sudden elated mood. "Do you think this is funny?"
"I'm fine, Sasuke," Naruto scowled. "Karin knows how to heal this." She then turned to Karin before nodding grimly and - oh Lord help her - biting down onto the redhead's arm. Energy immediately consumed her and started to battle the fatigue that had been threatening her consciousness, and although she could taste Karin's blood in her mouth and the urge to vomit was overwhelming, the blonde had to admit that she felt a lot better. A sudden cooling sensation enveloped her arm, and Naruto realized Karin was now dealing with the poison in her tissues. She closed her eyes and gratefully accepted the redhead's treatment, until the pain was no longer lodged in her bones and most of the burning became a dull throb.
"Done." Karin sighed as she fell back against the back of her chair. Sweat dripped down her face from the taxing task.
Naruto then watched in satisfaction as Kyuubi's orange chakra manifested on her arm and cleanly sealed the rest of the wound. She warily stretched and rotated the newly-healed joint before turning a grinning countenance to the tired redhead. "Thank you, Karin!"
"Be careful next time, cousin," Karin replied. Her tone was reprimanding, but there was fondness in her usually aggressive eyes.
Suigetsu let out a loud whoop. "Guess you aren't so useless after all, bitch. Man, Sasuke, I could've sworn you were going to kill all of us if you found out about this. Can you imagine if Naruto didn't make it here in time? Fuck I think you would've skinned the hell - OW YOU WHORE what the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Karin had walked out of her seat as soon as Suigetsu opened his mouth and she was now brutally dragging him towards the exit by his ear. She smiled sweetly at Sasuke when they passed him.
"I assume Juugo's waiting outside?" the redhead asked, ignoring Suigetsu's protesting yelps. "Have a good night you two, but try to not wake the village up." And with that Karin unceremoniously kicked Suigetsu out the front door and followed suit, locking the cottage with a small click. Another few seconds and Juugo, Suigetsu and Karin's chakra signatures disappeared from the area.
It was now just Naruto and the Uchiha.
Naruto couldn't bring herself to meet Sasuke's eyes now that they were the only ones in the room, and she felt embarrassment engulf her for the tenth time that day.
"I was careless, okay?" she muttered quietly. "It's not a big deal - "
"You could've lost your life," came Sasuke's biting remark.
She flinched at the frosty tone of his voice, and it seemed like his words contained more venom than her wound previously had. "I'm not a baby. Can we just drop this? I know how to take care of myself."
"And that was why I arrived to hear Karin say how you were just inches away from an irreversible death?" the Uchiha hissed.
"I'm fine now, okay?" she said, scowling at the ground. "I haven't seen you in half a year and this is how I am welcomed?"
"Naruto, you still have a long way to go before you can carelessly run through the forest like you are the strongest shinobi - "
The sting in Sasuke's accusation proved too much for Naruto and she shot up out of her seat, her head snapping up to glare daggers at the Uchiha.
"Fuck you, bastard!" she yelled. Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks as her embarrassment kicked into overdrive. Damn him and his condescending words. "When did I ever say I was too good to be caught off guard? Blame me for being careless but don't accuse me of the wrong reasons, Uchiha Sasuke!"
The vein in Sasuke's forehead looked like it was ready to explode. "Then what reason did you have to be careless?"
She felt her throat constrict with emotion. "I was just excited to see you!" Her tears broke free and trickled down her face, and she angrily wiped at them. "But I know now that I was just being an idiot. It's not like you felt the same." Having nowhere to escape from the Uchiha's stare, she dove for the couch and buried her face into a pillow.
There was a long silence.
She ignored him, hatred and spite welling up from her gut. Fuck him and his insensitivity.
His voice was a lot softer now, but she still made no movement. She felt a hand touch her shoulder and she angrily shrugged it off. "Go away," she said into the pillow, her voice coming out muffled. "I hate you."
She froze, and his hand settled on her shoulder again. This time she allowed the touch, but she still had yet to make a sound.
"Naruto, I'm not going to say it again."
Naruto couldn't help smiling at the stiffness in his voice and she turned around so that she was now facing the Uchiha, who had taken a cautious seat on the couch next to her. He was purposely looking to the side and his pale cheeks were tinted slightly pink from his apology, and she knew he was still reeling from the blow to his ego.
"I'm sorry for worrying you," Naruto said. She touched Sasuke's arm apologetically before wrinkling her nose discontentedly. "But I'm not a girl."
"Naruto," Sasuke said. Exasperation was written across his clear, obsidian eyes. "You are."
"I wasn't when we first met. And you had no problem beating the shit out of me then."
Sasuke smirked. "So you admit I beat the shit out of you."
Naruto noticed her poor choice of wording too late. She gawked for a moment before spluttering, "Wait, no, that's not what I meant, teme!"
The smirk did not disappear from Sasuke's face, and Naruto stuck her tongue out in response. She noticed Sasuke's hand slowly extending towards her, and she stilled as she felt him pull her shirt collar down, leaving her shoulder bare. She watched him carefully inspected the area where the horrible poisoned wound had resided just a few minutes prior.
"See?" the blonde said softly. "I'm all better."
"Hn." His hand came to cup her bare shoulder, and Naruto immediately felt a shift in the tension between them. She found herself mesmerized by the depth in Sasuke's dark, obsidian eyes, and she almost sighed as she prepared herself for what was about to happen.
The kiss was slightly hesitant at first, for it had been three months since the last that they had seen each other and neither knew how the other felt, but Naruto then grabbed the front of Sasuke's shirt and pulled him in, so that he was now almost lying on top of her. His weight felt comforting against her body, and she flushed when his arms came to wrap around her. She suddenly broke the kiss and stared at him, both of their breaths coming in light pants and foreheads pressed gently against the other.
"Sasuke," she said. Her cerulean eyes burned with love for the boy who touched her soul.
"I've missed you."
She got another mind-blowing kiss in response. "Wait, Sasuke..." she breathed out, trembling as his lips moved to brush and tickle against her exposed neck.
"What, dobe?" he gently growled. The Uchiha didn't like how she kept feebly trying to fight off his advances.
"Come back to Konoha with me."
A dark look flashed through Sasuke's handsome face at Naruto's quiet plea, and he pushed himself off the couch so that he was no longer on top of her.
"You know I can't do that."
"But you can," Naruto said. She got into a sitting position and raised her hand to gently cup Sasuke's face. His hand came to wrap around hers, but he stared unseeingly into space. The Uchiha's jaw jutted out angrily as he clenched his teeth. The blonde frowned at Sasuke's negative reaction. "Teme, look at me."
He mechanically turned his head so he was facing her, but there was no emotion now in his midnight eyes.
"Come home," Naruto then repeated. "There is a place for you in Konoha."
"I cannot return to Konoha until I have killed that man, Naruto," Sasuke said flatly. "You know that. There is no place for Konoha in my life."
Naruto's sapphire eyes seemed to grow larger on her face with the sorrow that encompassed her. "And me? Is there a place for me in your life?"
Sasuke looked away. "I cannot let myself be distracted. I am an Avenger." His voice was listless.
"So this is nothing? You deny what you feel - here?" At her last words, Naruto placed her hand against Sasuke's chest, right over his heartbeat.
"You can leave, Naruto. I'm not asking you to stay."
Naruto smiled sadly. She had not expected a different answer, but it still hurt. She knew in every fiber of her being that he loved her more than life itself, but the fact that he struggled so hard from the truth, was so unwilling to accept the truth, cut her deeper than any knife.
"I'm not going to leave," the blonde replied. She then grinned bravely before snuggling herself into Sasuke's lap. She felt butterflies flutter in her stomach at her bold move, but her heartbeat slowed when he didn't try to push her off. "And it doesn't mean I'm not going to keep trying. You and I are stuck together like glue. You will come home with me someday, even if I have to drag your sorry ass back the whole way. I swear on my nindo-ttebayo!"
Sasuke stayed silent as he mulled over the blonde's determined words. Naruto watched him carefully, noticing the way his lips seemed to twitch with the ghost of a smile and how his shoulders relaxed considerably. She yelped a little in surprise when his arms tightened and brought her closer to him so that her face was pressed against his chest, but she couldn't complain and she contentedly breathed in the soothing scent that was uniquely his. She didn't need words to understand what was being expressed by his body language.
Thank you for not leaving me.
Naruto then felt Sasuke's hands begin to move in small, delicate circles on her back, and a delighted hum filled the air.
Sasuke smirked at the purring blonde he held in his arms. "Happy sixteenth birthday, Naruto," he said, before lowering his head and taking her waiting lips in a tender kiss.
There was only one thing going through Naruto's mind as she fell into a paradise of warm touches and wonderful sensations.
I love you, Sasuke... I love you, Sasuke... I love you, Sasuke...
She awoke with a jolt, feeling extremely disoriented, as if she had slept through eternity and back. The remainders of that memory burned into her heart like a flaming stake in her chest, and she badly needed a glass of water. The blonde made a move as if to get up, but that plan went to shits when a sharp shooting pain impaled her back onto the bed. She clutched at her head and fought back a scream.
A steady hand suddenly brushed against her forehead and massaged the area, and Naruto instinctively relaxed into the comforting feeling. Her killer headache lightened somewhat, and when she could, the blonde groggily opened her eyes to see who her savior was.
Only to freeze when it was the face of Uchiha Sasuke who swam into her vision. Actually there were two Sasukes that blurred in and out of sight, as she was still suffering the onslaught of that headache.
She started to struggle away from his grasp when the Uchiha gently but firmly grabbed her shoulders and kept her pressed against the bed.
"Naruto," he said softly. "What do you remember?"
She felt cold, stark terror at his question. Was it possible that he read her mind? How else could he have known she was remembering that first time she had spent her birthday with him? The touches of his hands and the taste of his lips were still fresh on her mind and she fervently prayed he could not, would not, and did not know.
Sasuke must've seen the confusion and horror plastered on her face, and he loosened his hold on her.
"Naruto," he said slowly, as if he was speaking to a mentally ill patient. "You got kicked in the head by Black Beauty."
Naruto blinked owlishly as she tried to remember. She opened her mouth to reply but all that came out was a dry croak.
Sasuke immediately reached for the glass of water that was placed on a nearby dresser and brought it to Naruto's lips, who gratefully drank until there was nothing left. She tried again.
"Where am I?" It was a hoarse rasp, but nonetheless Naruto felt proud that she managed to get the words out this time around.
"Nobu's guest house," Sasuke said. His eyes were an unreadable black. "He said we could stay the night."
Naruto groaned softly as her headache gave a painful throb. "What happened?"
"You don't remember?" There was a hint of concern in Sasuke's voice.
"No... I just... I..." She bit back a shriek as the pain shot from her head throughout her whole body, and she shivered uncontrollably."What's happening," she whispered with teeth clenched in pain. "Why isn't Kyuubi healing this?"
"He healed some of it," Sasuke replied. His hand came to massage against Naruto's forehead once more. "But while you were unconscious you kept lashing out with Kyuubi's chakra and he sealed his chakra supply so you wouldn't be able to access it."
Naruto then noticed the angry welts and burns on Sasuke's forearms, and her cerulean eyes widened. "Did I... do that to you?"
"It doesn't hurt."
Naruto stared at the man who was setting next to her on the bed, and although it had been nine years since her sixteenth birthday, there was such a familiarity in the present scene that deja vu overwhelmed her. She was supposed to hate this man, detest him for what he did to her. But this very moment, the way he was staring at her made her feel too much like the sixteen-year-old Naruto who had thought love was enough to heal all wounds.
Come back to Konoha with me.
He had betrayed her. He didn't care about her. He never cared about her.
Sasuke, please. Don't do this anymore. Don't hurt me anymore.
He didn't want her. It had all been a lie from the start. She believed his empty words and broken truths, and now she had to suffer eternity for it.
You promised, Sasuke. You promised me.
The maelstrom of emotions struggled to break free, and she fought to keep them at bay. She couldn't do this. The combination of physical and emotional pain was causing her to go insane, and this man that was now looking at her with so much worry in his eyes, why did he think it was okay to do what he did and still try to come back into her life?
The one word hit way too close to home, and Naruto shattered into a million pieces. She began to sob into her hands, and her migraine intensified with every shaky breath she took. She wanted to forget everything, to do anything to make the pain stop. She didn't know where she was hurting, but it didn't matter because it was consuming every inch of her body and soul. There was no salvation from the past, no redemption for the future. Only pain, and the pain was forever.
She felt Sasuke's arms wrap her into a warm embrace, and she did not attempt to break away. Instead she cried into his chest as he whispered words into her ear, words that she did not recognize, words that she did not want to accept. For he had betrayed her in the worst of ways, and all she wanted was to die. Why hadn't she died? Why didn't Kyuubi let her choke and drown in the puddle of her blood those many years ago?
"Naruto, Naruto, Naruto," came Sasuke's voice through the haze. "Listen to me. Everything will be okay, don't cry anymore. Everything will be fine."
She cried harder. How could he still tell her these lies? Did he have no shame?
Why, Sasuke? Why did I mean nothing to you?
He had left her for dead. Her and that baby she -
A flash of red.
Naruto screamed. There was blood everywhere, and she didn't know where hers ended and his began. Her mind was turning into a sea of black, but before her terrified eyes rolled back into unconsciousness, she shakily reached up to cup his face.
There was a pause as cerulean clashed with onyx.
"S-Sasuke," she begged weakly right before she blacked out. "Why... didn't you love me?" Her arm fell limp to her side as her eyes fluttered shut.
The Uchiha clutched the unconsciousness blonde in his arms as he shook back and forth on the bed. "I do love you, Naruto," he whispered into the dark. He didn't know if the tears he tasted in his mouth were hers or his own. "I've never stopped loving you."
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."
Naruto hopped out of the shower, quickly grabbing a towel to wrap around her body and another to dry her short spiky hair. She reached over with her foot and turned off the water with one toe, almost tripping and falling flat against the wall as she twisted around. Jumping on one leg, she somehow managed to open the door with her wet hand and make a mad dash for the kitchen.
Her food was about to burn.
The blonde burst into the room in a panic, stumbling over some forgotten pieces of trash on the floor. But when she saw that her pot of soup was innocently sitting over the small fire, the girl slumped against the doorway in relief. Safe. The sigh that escaped her was short-lived, however, as the water level overflowed in the pot and started sizzling.
She was at the stove in an instant, hastily lifting the lid and beginning to madly stir the contents of the pot. It wasn't her first try at cooking, but this recipe she got from Sakura certainly proved to be the most troublesome dish Naruto had ever attempted. But the blonde was determined to slay the beast and come out victorious. A bowl of soup was not enough to end her cooking career.
"No, no," she muttered furiously to herself as she took a sip. "It needs salt."
Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she carefully sprinkled a few pinches of salt into the red liquid mass of tomato basil soup. An air bubble boiled and popped, as if it were mocking her and her futile efforts. Naruto scowled in response and stirred madly away.
Everyone in Konoha had been surprised when their number one hyperactive ninja decided to adopt this particular housekeeping hobby. Granted, most of them were oblivious of said ninja's real gender, but even Tsunade and Jiraiya had dubious expressions when a beet-red Naruto barged into the Hokage's office asking the Godaime for some "pots and pans and whatever else people use to make food."
"But Naruto," Tsunade had said with eyebrows furrowed, "excuse my ignorance, but I've always thought you'd be forever content just microwaving ramen for the rest of your life."
A boy-henged Naruto turned even redder. She managed to stammer an incoherent excuse and muttered that she'll drop by in a week to pick up the utensils before quickly stalking out of the room, leaving two terribly confused Legendary Sannin in her wake.
There was a moment of silence.
"Do you think," Jiraiya then said slowly, "she might be in love?"
Tsunade choked into her sake. "You've been reading too much of your rotten books again, Jiraiya."
"But - "
"Oh stuff it," came the Godaime's irritated voice. "It's too early in the day for you to subject me to your perverted antics."
A relieved Naruto had released out a loud breath as she pulled her ear back from the door, where she had been cautiously eavesdropping on the two elders' conversation. She knew she had narrowly escaped an interrogation from her overly protective godmother, and she was very grateful at the moment that sometimes people just could not take the Ero Sennin seriously.
Naruto was roughly jerked back to present day as she yelped in surprise, almost tipping over her large pot of soup upon hearing the intruder's voice. She was about to whip around to face the culprit, but froze when she felt his hot breath against her exposed neck.
"Dobe," the voice growled again. "Why are you naked?"
Naruto's heart pounded loudly in her ears. "T-Teme, I'm wearing a towel!"
"So I realized," he said softly. The ghost of his hands came to wrap around her waist and slowly began to climb upwards. Her breath hitched in her throat, and she felt her knees go weak. "And let me ask you again, why are you naked?"
"I'm not - ah - " Her mind had instantly stopped working as she felt his lips close in on the nape of her neck, and from there he sinfully started nipping and kissing her bare skin. His hands were dangerously close to her breasts, and she was paralyzed to the spot. "I'm... not... naked..." she managed to gasp out.
"Really?" His voice was dripping with sex. "Then I suggest you put on some clothes before I rip this towel off you."
Naruto moaned a little as she felt his finger lightly tweak a nipple through the thin fabric of her towel, but just when she was about to relax into his embrace, his warmth disappeared.
"Wha - Bastard!"
She whisked around to glare at the handsome raven who was now seated at the dining table, his expression the picture of pure innocence save for the devious smirk dancing on his lips.
"Sasuke," she hissed, her bright blue eyes flashing in warning. "I have a doorbell for a reason, you know."
Sasuke could feel the heat of desire burn in the pit of his stomach as he stared at his fiery blonde, clad in nothing but an obnoxiously orange towel - why was he not surprised - and brandishing a large, steel ladle in her hand. He had been startled when he smelled the aroma of his favorite soup wafting in the area as he neared her apartment, and he couldn't help but sneak in through the open window as his curiousity peaked. Finding his blonde working furiously over her stove as she perfected his favorite dish made his chest feel strangely warm, and he was glad he had caught her in such a precious moment.
Naruto, however, was scowling. "You weren't supposed to come until next week."
Sasuke shrugged. "I finished an assignment early."
"You could've sent a message."
"This is dangerous, bastard! Suppose Tsunade-baachan finds out?"
"That never stopped you from searching me out." Sasuke cocked his head to the side before narrowing his eyes. "You don't look excited to see me, dobe."
Naruto's glare deepened. "You ruined my surprise," she snapped.
Sasuke's expression softened. "It wasn't ruined. I was surprised. I still am. I didn't know you started cooking."
The blonde's cheeks tinged pink. "It's a recent hobby," she said quickly. "I'm still not very good."
"It smells delicious, dobe."
Her face flushed even more. "Shut up."
There was a silence, and Naruto shifted uncomfortably. She felt awkward, standing there in her kitchen in nothing but her post-shower garment and watching over a bubbly mess of tomato soup. She hadn't seen Sasuke in a couple months, and they had agreed to meet at a nearby village for his seventeenth birthday. So for the past few weeks Naruto had made it her personal mission to surprise him by cooking his favorite dishes. She wasn't as bad of a cook as she had dreaded, but it still took a lot of trial and error to acquire some adequate skill and land her at the level she was at now.
But he was six days early, catching her in the middle of her act and consequently ruining her surprise. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, he was in her apartment. For the first time since he had left Konoha, actually. And she hadn't cleaned up in a while. Gods, how mortifying.
"Dobe, what's wrong now?"
Naruto muttered something incoherent as she avoided looking at Sasuke in the eye. She knew her face must've been as red as the goddamn tomatoes that Sasuke loved to eat, and she wished that the floor would swallow her whole.
She suddenly flinched when she heard the screech of the chair as Sasuke stood up. She waited for him to cross the distance between them, her breath caught in her throat as nervous energy bounced off her body in waves. She soon was face to face with his chest, but she still didn't tilt her head back to look at his face.
"Naruto..." Sasuke's voice was so soft and gentle, and she could feel her muscles already relaxing at the sound. His left hand came to cup her cheek, while the other hand snaked around her waist to pull her closer to his body.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," he said. His hand rubbed circles on her whiskered cheek. "I just wanted to see you. The soup smells delicious, Naruto. I'm really happy. Thank you."
Naruto smiled at the genuine tone of the Uchiha's voice before finally taking a step back to gaze fondly up at his face. She saw nothing but warmth in his usually passive eyes, and the blonde's smile quickly turned into a grin.
"I forgive you."
Her breath once again caught as the look in Sasuke's eyes quickly turned predatory, and the mood in the room went back to a tension-filled atmosphere, only this time Naruto's jittery energy had nothing to do with her previous awkwardness. The hand that had been resting against Naruto's cheek gently glided down to the valley of her breasts, where the clip holding her towel in place was located.
Sasuke's eyes then darkened. "You have no idea, dobe, how much you've tortured me for these past few weeks," he said, his voice husky and rough with lust. "I ought to punish you for making me wait this long."
She shivered. "Sasu... ke," she whispered, her eyes glazing over with her own desire as she felt the Uchiha toy with her towel's clip, "don't tease."
He growled softly before swiftly grabbing the blonde's shoulders and whirling her around so that her back was to him and her stomach was pressed against the counter. In his haste, the orange towel suddenly slipped out of place and her breasts spilled onto the cold surface.
"Sasuke!" Naruto hissed in protest, trying to turn around to face him. But Sasuke was having none of that, quickly caging her in with his arms and pushing her even harder against the edge of the counter. She would've fought his grip, but he had positioned himself in such a way that his hardness was now pressing against her most secret of places, and all she could manage was a strangled groan.
"What's that?" he murmured into her ear. "I didn't quite hear you, dobe." He didn't wait for a response as his hands lunged for her chest, and Naruto threw back her head in pleasure as he ripped moans out of her throat with the way his hands started kneading and playing with her breasts. She felt wetness pooling in between her thighs as the sensations his skillful fingers created drove her mad, and instinctively she rubbed herself harder against Sasuke, eliciting a shudder from the Uchiha. He then pinched hard on both her nipples, causing her to cry out and writhe in pleasure, and her breathing became short pants.
"S-Sasuke," she said, moaning softly. "P-please, I want you."
Her statement earned her another sharp pinch, and she keened in desperation.
"S-stop teasing, you bastard."
"Insulting me isn't going to make it any better for you, dobe," he whispered in her ear. His hands left her breasts and ghosted their way to her hips, where he grabbed her firmly and secured his hold. His lips then latched onto her earlobe and began to suck, yet before her mind could register the sensations his mouth was leaving on her ear, Sasuke thrusted onto her small body, and a near scream came from her as his rock-hard erection rubbed delicious friction against her most sensitive area. But his thrust didn't stop there. He kept a tantalizing rhythm as he continued his movements, rocking hard enough to make her squirm, yet not enough to satisfy her insatiable desire.
"Sasuke!" She was close to tears now. "Please..."
"You're being too loud," his devilish voice teased as he licked and nipped at her ear. "What if your neighbors hear?"
"I-I don't care," Naruto breathed out, trying hard to concentrate on the feeling of his erection pressing against her bottom. She was dying for the release that only he could give her, and her mind was becoming more and more muddied as her lust for the Uchiha only intensified. "Sasuke!" she screamed again as a particularly hard thrust made its way to rub against her clit. Her hands, which had been holding tightly onto the edge of the counter, suddenly shot behind her to grab for Sasuke's pants.
But Sasuke wasn't going to let her have her way so easily.
A growl rumbled from the Uchiha's chest, and before she had a chance to react, her hands were suddenly locked in front of her and a strip of cloth was tied around her mouth. Her eyes widened in shock before she realized that in a split second, Sasuke had effectively bound and gagged her.
Sasuke's mouth had found its way to her ear again, and she shivered at the predatory intent laced in his voice.
"I care if your neighbors hear, dobe," he whispered, his voice low and seductive, "because what if some guy comes running in here when he hears you screaming and sees me fucking your little pussy raw?" Naruto moaned into her gag, her eyes closed as she felt herself clenching. Sasuke continued relentlessly. "Because I'm promising you right now, dobe, that I'm not letting you go anywhere today until you've screamed your throat hoarse with my name, and any person who comes in here and sees you like this will be personally killed by me." The last few words were finished with a hiss, and Sasuke bit down hard onto Naruto's shoulder, drawing blood and leaving a red mark in its place.
Naruto screamed at the sharp pain, yet her womanhood only got slicker and wetter, and she could feel her juices running down the insides of her thighs. Her moans were a constant sound now, and although Sasuke's bondage kept her dominated and vulnerable, it only turned her on even more. He was the only one she would let rein her spirit, and although their relationship was complicated and unofficial, there was no other person she would rather be with than him.
The blonde turned her head to stare into the eyes of her lover, her beautiful, possessive Sasuke, and finally he relented his sexual torture as he loosened the sash around his middle and stepped out of his clothing. Naruto closed her eyes and stilled as she felt the tip of his hard cock brush against her wet entrance, and Sasuke's hands came to rest on her breasts again.
He paused for a brief second, as if preserving this moment to memory.
And then he pushed in, and Naruto screamed as she fell into a swirling world of pleasure, sensation, and love.
Naruto started awake, her breaths coming in hard pants and her heart painfully pounding against her chest. She was sweating, and she made a move as to wipe her forehead but disturbingly found that she couldn't. Another tug at her arms caused her to realize that her wrists were bound to the opposite sides of the bed. She winced as her tugging only aggravated her chafed wrists.
Her eyes shot to the man seated on the chair next to her bed. His eyes bled red as his Sharingan pierced right into her. It was hard to say who was the more wary one.
"Are you awake now," Sasuke then asked dryly, his expression impassive if it weren't for the slightly worried crease of his brow, "or is this another episode?"
Naruto felt her throat constrict as she stared at the Uchiha, her most recent memory washing over her and burning into her skin. She wondered how many times she had woken up like this only to fall back into unconsciousness. "What time is it?"
"It's the evening," he said. "You have been passed out for almost twelve hours."
She noticed the black circles under his crimson eyes. "You used your Sharingan on me," she accused softly.
His vacant expression didn't change. "It was the only way to stop your nightmares."
Naruto looked away. She couldn't bring herself to ask just what she had said out loud as she feverishly relived the flashbacks of her past, but for some odd reason, there was a certainty in her heart as she scrutinized his blank expression that caused her to believe that he knew enough. "My head doesn't hurt anymore."
"Kyuubi healed the wound. But the infection gave you a fever, and it only recently broke."
The blonde processed the information slowly, a billion questions running through her mind. Her heart wouldn't stop aching.
"I'm okay now," she then said when she was sure her voice wouldn't waver. "Can you remove these cuffs?"
Sasuke didn't reply, but almost immediately he got up from his seat and silently padded over to her bedside. Without further ado he sliced through the cloth using a small kunai, and when he was done he looked at her with unreadable obsidian eyes as if waiting for a reaction from her.
"You must be hungry," he said after a moment. He turned to leave.
"Wait," Naruto said. She had spoken so softly that she was slightly surprised when he stopped to give her a questioning look.
There was a long silence.
"I..." She felt her throat threaten to close and she fought against it. "I just want to thank you - for taking care... of me. You didn't have to."
His face held a strange expression, but he said nothing and gave a curt nod of his head. He turned to leave again.
"Sasuke." Her own voice sounded so fragile to her ears.
He paused in his step.
"I am not... hungry," Naruto admitted slowly. She felt fatigue settling back into her limbs. "There is no need." She stared pensively at his rigid back. He looked like a statue. The blonde bit her lip in conflict before shaking her doubts away. "Will you stay?" she asked gently. "You look tired, and..." She could see his muscles tensing even more under his thin shirt. "And the bed is big enough for both of us," she finished.
It really was like he had turned into a statue. Even at such a close distance, Naruto couldn't make out the signs of his breathing. But she waited patiently, although the seconds that ticked by seemed like an eternity.
But at last there was a twitch of a shoulder, and Sasuke slowly turned around. He didn't look at the quiet blonde as he walked over to the edge of the bed, nor did he spare her a glance as he climbed over her tired body into the empty space next to her. He lightly slipped under the covers and effortlessly used a short chakra blast to blow out all five candles placed around the corners of the room, shrouding the two of them in darkness. But not once had he released the rigidity of his body, not even when his head had been carefully placed on the pillow and his body pressed against the soft cushions of the mattress.
"Sasuke." Her voice cut through the darkness like a sharp knife.
"I don't hate you."
He couldn't breathe.
She sounded so sad, so small. "I don't know what I feel towards you."
He felt his mouth open, and words came tumbling out of his lips. "What - did I do to you that you cannot... forgive me for?"
Naruto shifted slightly, the movement causing the mattress to squeak. "Why do you not know?" she asked in a broken whisper. A breathless sob fell from her, and she inhaled deeply. "Give me time," she then said after a long while. "I... need time. I will decide after."
Decide what? his mind asked over and over. But he didn't want to push her, so he remained quiet. He felt her shift again, and he fought the urge to pull her close.
How was it possible for her to make his heart bleed so easily?
"I dreamed about you. About... us."
I know, he wanted to tell her. I heard you screaming... And moaning. But all the Uchiha could manage to say was another noncommittal "hn."
"I don't know who or what we've both become..." Her sad, sad voice seemed to cut deeper into his chest. "I don't know what's gonna happen in the future. But Sasuke, I really... really miss you..." The last sentence was a soft murmur, and Sasuke had to strain his ears to catch every word. He stiffened at the implications of her confession, yet he was spared of a response when the soft lull of her breathing indicated that the blonde had already fell asleep.
Sasuke closed his eyes as a newfound warmth battled against the old pain lodged in his chest. He reached over and then tenderly pulled the small blonde into his chest, burying his face into her golden locks.
"I miss you too, Naruto."
He allowed the soothing smell of her honey and strawberry scent guide him into a deep slumber, and the two shinobi slept in each other's embrace for the first time in twelve years. Although it was only this one special night that was an exception to the animosity that had become the reality of their relationship, Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke both unconsciously smiled in their sleep as they slept peacefully into the night.
I think I've reached a point with this story where I'm just very unhappy with how it's turning out. PLEASE READ THIS!
I feel that this story has developed so much that I cannot control it. I do not fully understand who Naruto has become. She is emotional and strong and crazy and passionate and hurt and forgiving and loving and hateful that even I, the author, have such a difficult time putting up with her mood swings (forget Sasuke) that she feels so OOC to me. Which is lame because I'm the one creating this character, but there is too much of a time gap between when I write my fanfiction and when I stop that I can't really remember how I left off to properly start it again.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I wouldn't continue this story if it were up to me, but I know how it feels to love a story to death and have the author suddenly go MIA, so I guess if there is enough support from you readers to have to me to try to continue this story, I will NOT abandon this story and do my best to finish it. Maybe this OOC in Naruto only bothers me and you people don't really care about it, I don't know. But I will only continue if I feel like there are enough readers who care to see the completion of this fanfic.
If not... I'm not sure if I will ever feel the need to update this anymore. Fanfiction is really something that I do in my sparest of spare times and so all of my motivation come from you lovely readers.
Please leave your feedback in a review. You can always PM me if you have other questions or comments.