A/N: Okay, okay, okay! I'm here! Almost didn't get this submitted on time. Ran into several snafus, but whatever. About this bonus chap.
At the time I wrote the epilogue, the ending I gave seemed right to me. To be honest, I knew a lot more should have been said, but this was the essence of their ending, and the best I could do at the time. Most of you seemed happy with it, and I moved on to other projects. There were only a few comments about how the ending felt incomplete. I went back and read. Re-read. Re-read again, and thought.
It wasn't complete. It Said what needed to be said...but it didn't quite follow the rest of the fic. For that I apologize, and I thank you for calling it to my attention. Again, though, it's not strictly about the sex. Sex was just a powerful way they communicated.
It's hard re-visiting a fic that's complete, and I don't know that I've ever done it. However, what I've written here is correct; Neither Naruto or Sasuke would be able to simply get over years of separation, painful separation, in the few inadequate paragraphs I gave you in the epilogue. It was also hard to write what needed to be said without back-tracking or undoing anything I'd said before. The characters helped me out. Naruto's issues are severe enough that this chap came and felt right, and now I can really say I'm done. No further chaps will be posted, and I hope this ending feels more complete to you all.
Happy Valentine's Day!
That reunion on the floor, much as their first union years ago by the truck had been, was a blur for them. It had been necessary and unavoidable, but not the true reunion. Just as their true coming together had taken place after the truck, in Naruto's bedroom, so too did the real reunion happen at a later point in time.
What was different was that they rested on the living room floor for a time, catching their breath and adjusting to the idea that they were no longer parted; they held hands where they lay, an indication of equality that had never been present before; and what was different was that as good as that first hasty reunion had been –and it had been very good, yes- they were each aware of just how inadequate it had been. That was a first. Never had they failed to find complete fulfillment in each other's arms. Naruto got up after a few minutes and tugged Sasuke upright with him. This time, he was the one who led the way.
He stopped halfway down the hallway; abruptly it hit him anew, really hit him, that Sasuke was here. In his house. They'd loved just now and the hell he'd been living was well and truly over.
It was an alien concept.
Though Sasuke had let him know he was coming well in advance with the re-introduction of the ramen, and though Naruto had waited for hours in his living room chair, and though he'd been buried in the man's body not thirty minutes ago, the fact that Sasuke was his once more and belonged to him somehow seemed too good to be true. He'd spent years telling himself that Sasuke was gone, wasn't his, should never have been his, and would never be his again. He'd forced himself to believe and accept this. When he'd told Sasuke to walk away from him the day after he'd taken office, he'd meant it. He'd let him go, expecting to never see him again.
He hadn't been successful. On the surface of his mind, he had been…enough for him to lurch through his days in some fashion, but inside, deep inside where he lived and breathed, the stony walls of his obsessive nature had simply refused to give Sasuke up for any reason. Living that dichotomy had been agony. Nothing but agony. The meeting at his door an hour ago, the brief words after, and the feverish lovemaking had not quite done away with the lingering belief that he was only having another one of his secret dreams.
Naruto cautiously squeezed the hand in his… Yes, that was Sasuke's hand squeezing back. And that was Sasuke's quiet breathing behind him. That Sasuke stood silently and patiently behind Naruto now, without asking if anything was wrong, or why Naruto had stopped, was reminiscent of those long-ago days when he'd deferred to Naruto's peculiar ways of doing things.
It was Sasuke then. He was really here, and Naruto wasn't hallucinating.
For the first time, Naruto considered the fact that he might truly have been mad during the three and a half years that Sasuke had been gone. He only realized it now, at discovering how unwieldy the concept of being reunited with Sasuke was in his mind, and at how much difficulty he was having accepting it. Even though he was better able to accept the fact of his love, and ready now to love Sasuke…now that the excitement and anticipation of his arrival was over, he found himself fracturing apart in confusion. Frowning slightly, he swallowed and continued toward his bedroom once more, holding firmly to Sasuke's solid hand.
The room was dark. Naruto hesitated. Continuing without light would be like that time those years ago after the truck. For some reason, he didn't want that. He wanted new impressions and memories…and he wanted to see Sasuke.
Some minutes later they stood by the bed and solemnly regarded each other by candlelight. Sasuke had given a cursory glance around the room when the candles had been lit –he'd seen that the full-body sketch he'd done of Naruto had been removed, which gave him a pang deep in his gut, but otherwise the room was as he remembered it. He turned back to Naruto immediately, aware that the man was working through this awkward situation in his own way. He was patient. So long as he had Naruto in sight he could wait indefinitely for him to reach a state of comfort with the rapid changes taking place.
He studied Naruto as he waited. He saw the way Naruto alternately looked at him with wide, greedy eyes, and looked down at his hands, which were slowly twisting each finger until the knuckles cracked. The hands shook. Sometimes Naruto would take a deep breath, as if he wanted to say something, but then the next moment he would let it out again, the words unsaid. The man was floundering, Sasuke realized, and his heart went out to him.
Naruto had never accepted change easily. Sasuke knew that. During the long years he'd spent waiting for Naruto, he'd had time to think. He'd realized a few weeks after he'd been left in the snow that though the break-up had come as a complete surprise to him, Naruto had probably planned it. He'd had time to accustom himself to the idea, and so had been able to go through with it. Sasuke knew this. He knew Naruto needed routines, needed stability in all things because he himself was so unstable. And as much as he'd been hurting after Naruto had left him, as angry and furious and, yes, even as hateful as he had been with Naruto for leaving him, he'd known that wherever Naruto was that he was hurting too. Maybe even worse than Sasuke. He'd known that, despite the fact that it was Naruto who'd pushed him away, it had hurt the man. And he'd known that Naruto would see it through regardless of the cost.
He'd tried to re-introduce the concept of their reunion gradually to Naruto, mindful of the man's inability to tolerate change or abrupt deviations from routine. He'd hit upon the idea of ramen quite by accident, remembering that it had been the start of everything. He'd left this calling card, silently telling Naruto he was coming, and Naruto had been waiting for him, but Sasuke could see now that despite everything, including what had happened out on the living room floor, that they had not come together in a seamless meshing of their souls as he'd hoped. The jagged chasm their three-year separation had left had not been sealed shut. It was narrower, but not closed; they were here but they weren't back yet.
And Naruto was floundering.
I have to help him, Sasuke thought with a fullness in his throat. I can't stand by and watch him suffer like this. And he knew it was possible for Naruto to be helped, that the chasm could be mended. Everything was different, true, but there love was the same, the white-hot, living, breathing love they had for each other was unchanged. It was simply buried so deep by the coping mechanisms they'd had to employ to survive their separation that it wasn't readily accessible the way it had been before.
But it could be accessed. Sasuke knew this without a doubt. And he felt sure that once he liberated that white-hot manifestation of their love, it would do the job of welding them together once more. He just needed to help Naruto. He'd been too young before, too ignorant, and too lacking; he'd known Naruto was fucked up, just not how to help him, or even if he should. All he'd wanted was to be near him. That would have to change. Whether people accepted it or not, they needed help from their partners. It was why people came together, to be stronger as a unit than they were apart.
This was something he'd learned when Itachi had explained to him why he was getting married. Sasuke had been pissed and jealous at first, and Itachi had actually punched him in the teeth. "Selfish little fuck," Itachi had snarled. "Been watching your ass my whole damn life, don't you think I deserve to live now too? Huh? Kill that noise!" he'd roared when Sasuke had helplessly begun to cry. What with Naruto gone and Itachi seeing Mo, he'd felt completely abandoned.
"Akatsuki's dead," Itachi had raged. "Madara's history, we're good now. Safe. I did my duty, did what Mom wanted. It's cost me, bro, I ain't gonna lie. Kept that fact hidden from you, but as long as you live, you will never know how much it cost me. How much I gave up, how much of myself I had to leave by the wayside in order to just push through and keep running and keep seeing that your happy ass stayed alive." He'd lifted his shirt then and shown Sasuke the legacy of his time with Akatsuki. "See these scars? No, look, damn you, stop being a little bitch. You looking? Huh? See these? These ain't even the worst scars." He'd lowered his shirt, face twisted. "I'm going to tell you something: the worst scars are the ones inside. The ones you can't see, the ones no medicine, or scary pink-haired medic can touch. I know we're tight, bro, and me loving someone else hurts you…just like it hurt me bad when you started up with Naruto. But Mo, man…she gets me. Inside. She touches those places in me. It's not healed, probably will never really heal, but with her, it's better. I can breathe better.
"Did you know she's an orphan? That she lived with this foster family and had this foster brother that used to rape her? Did you know her teammates were the only boys she'd hung with, them and Naruto, the only ones she'd ever trusted in her life? Or that the only person to ever ask her out was her former teammate's creepy younger brother? She'd never dated because men found her too abrasive, and she was too distrustful. I didn't know those things. Not until she told me. I didn't know that when I broke into ANBU to see her that that was the first time anyone had pursued her. Certainly didn't know from the way she punched me that she'd been secretly hoping I'd pursue her again. She told me that. She has scars too, see. She understands. You don't, bro. I mean, you're my bro, that's never going to change, and I'm never going to stop loving you or having your back. And I suppose, if I had to make a choice between you and her, that I'd choose you. I would, I swear to God, but don't make me do that, Sasuke. Now that I can breathe, now that I can admit that I need to, let me lean on her. I need her. I love her. And she needs and wants me. Sometimes people just can't go on without a little help, you know?"
Yes. Now he knew that.
Right now he hesitated, though. He'd always let Naruto lead completely in the past…but then that was just it. The past was past. They were in the here and now, and like it or not, there were changes. Things weren't the same. They weren't even the same people anymore. He and Naruto were no longer isolated in their separate bubbles from the rest of the world. Of course they didn't fit together as they once had; there was a completely new and unrealized shape to each of them now, and this had to be dealt with. They'd both unconsciously expected to slip right into their old little world as if nothing had happened, despite everything that had happened…and it was this that Naruto struggled with. Too much change, too many differences.
Sasuke slowly closed the distance between them, and very slowly raised his hands until they rested on Naruto's. Naruto's hands became still. Sasuke saw that in his feverish worrying of his fingers, Naruto had managed to make them bleed in a few places. He stared at this, never more aware of just how hard Naruto worked to be okay. That Naruto was not okay, was very rarely okay, was something else it had taken him a long time to realize during their separation.
After a minute, Naruto cleared his throat slightly, wet his lips, then glanced up nervously at Sasuke. "I…I'm sorry," he said. He face crumpled into a grimace, as if he'd meant to say something else and the apology had just slipped out. "This…this isn't going well, is it."
Sasuke went very carefully, feeling his way along. He was just as ignorant as Naruto was of the unseen dimensions to their new existence. The difference was that he was better able to cope. It would be best to be up front about the whole thing. Naruto had said, as he was breaking up with Sasuke, that the worst thing he'd done was lock himself away on the mountain. That meant that ignoring his problems, refusing to acknowledge and deal with them, had made them worse. That had stuck with Sasuke. So now, as Naruto whispered that things weren't going well, he didn't deny it. "No," he said in an equally low voice. He kept his hands on Naruto's trembling ones. "It isn't."
There were another few seconds of silence. "I mean it went well out there, on the floor-" Naruto burst out in a rush.
"But now…" Naruto stared only at their hands, at where Sasuke's rested lightly and warmly on his oozing cuts. "Something's…not right. With us." Tension seemed to roll off his shoulders at this admission. He peeked up at Sasuke, shamefaced, as if he'd committed blasphemy by saying that. Indeed, in the past such a statement would have been blasphemy to them. But again, this wasn't the past, and they weren't the all-powerful man with the hero-worshipping boy anymore.
Sasuke waited, letting Naruto work with this knowledge in his own way, in his own time.
After a few minutes of inner struggling, Naruto found the strength to lift his head and look Sasuke in the eye. "I…I wasn't well without you," he admitted slowly. His eyes dropped to the side a bit, as a small frown appeared between his brows. His search for the right words to explain, and the admission of things he'd probably ignored, was almost tangible to Sasuke. "I wasn't…whole."
Moving with a deliberate show of calm, Sasuke turned Naruto's face so they were eye to eye again. "I know," he said softly. He held the bewildered blue gaze. "I wasn't whole either. Neither of us is whole without the other."
"I know I love you," Naruto said uncertainly. "That I will always love you."
"But all you have is how we used to be, and in your mind it had been wrong, right?" Sasuke interpreted.
Surprised, Naruto nodded.
"Then you spent all those years telling yourself it was over."
Another slow nod, the blue eyes wide and attentive now.
"And though you know you want me, somewhere inside there is still that doubt about whether or not this is right, or if it can work."
A final nod.
Sasuke rubbed a thumb over one of Naruto's knuckles, not looking at him now, but at their hands. "It's strange for you, isn't it. Feeling the same, while everything else is changed. I'm not a boy anymore. I look and sound different; maybe it will all be too different. That's what you're thinking, right? That it won't be the same? That even though you love me, now that we're together it will be…less…than it was before?"
He heard a sigh of relief issue from Naruto, and Sasuke knew he'd hit the nail on the head. He thought for several silent minutes, still circling the large knuckle of Naruto's index finger, trying to find simple, uncomplicated language for the thing he'd always known and that Naruto, bless him, had never seemed to truly understand.
"Do you know why we don't feel whole when we're apart?" he asked finally. His voice was low. They were so close, and the mountaintop was so silent, that he barely had to speak above a whisper.
"Or why we weren't able to forget each other and move on?"
Still looking at Naruto's hands, Sasuke spoke with as much gravity as he could, trying to make Naruto understand. "I know. I've always known. You didn't want to believe me because I was young." He looked up at Naruto finally, and found the blue eyes waiting for him, completely spellbound. "Do you believe in destiny?"
"I don't know if I believe in destiny or fate," Sasuke said. "But I know this: We were made for each other. It's a fact…something irrefutable and unquestionable. We were made for each other, Naruto. It's here." Sasuke touched the side of his own head. "And here." He brought his hand down to touch his chest. Then he put his hand over Naruto's heart. "It's in there too. Deep inside. You tried to destroy the indestructible and nearly ended up destroying yourself."
Naruto blinked again, and Sasuke saw a glimmer of understanding in that great, implacable mind at last.
"Do you believe me when I say we were made for each other?" Sasuke asked at length. He didn't look away from Naruto's eyes now.
"That I was born to be with you?"
Naruto frowned, trying to see this notion. Really trying to believe such a thing.
Sasuke stepped closer to him, so that they were chest to chest, sharing breath. He cupped Naruto's face in his hands, the better to emphasize and drive home what he was saying. "I believe that. More, I know it without the slightest doubt. I was born for you. It's why we're incomplete when we aren't together. Why we've never been able to stay away without bleeding. We belong together. I knew it the moment I first saw you, and so did you. You helped me that night in the store. You would never have helped anyone else, but you helped me because you felt it, that thing, how you and I were meant to be. Do you see that now? How no matter where we are, or what our circumstances, or what our ages are, we belong together? To each other, no matter what? That it can never, ever be wrong?"
Eyes staring so hard at Sasuke's dark ones that he was afraid to blink, Naruto thought that he did see at long last. "Yes. Sasuke…"
"You're. Mine," Sasuke said with quiet force.
"I belong to you," Sasuke pressed.
Something terribly hot and uncontrollable was rumbling up from the depths of Naruto's being, coming up from beneath all the rocky layers of denial he'd heaped over it during the past three years. It came with all the unstoppable force of roiling lava, blistering every obstacle he'd put its way to ash, obliterating them one after the other as it hurtled toward the truth.
"I belong to you," Sasuke said again.
"Yes." The layers of denial were being burned away.
That molten heat, the blazing truth he'd denied from the very beginning, at last burst free, erupting to shower Naruto's soul with the cleansing heat of acceptance. His arm went around Sasuke's waist to pull him tightly against his body. "You're mine."
"Again." They were nose to nose, mouths nearly touching.
"You. Are. Mine."
Sasuke stared into those fierce blue eyes, pausing for effect, making sure Naruto knew it and felt it and understood it with every fiber of his stubborn personality.
"Mine," Naruto confirmed, showing that he did.
Sasuke gave a small, serious nod. "Then make it so."
But even this took time. Sasuke could have wished that a more emphatic replay of the living room floor event would happen now, but he knew he had to let Naruto come to it in his own way, and in his own time. That was just the way Naruto was; as long as there was anything less than complete order in Naruto's mind regarding something, the man simply would not accept it. Not fully. Once Naruto did, though…then things would really be healed between them. For such a gift, Sasuke was willing to wait however long it took.
They climbed into the bed and held each other, face to face. Sasuke was quiet, as he sensed Naruto wanted them to be for the time being. A measure of time was spent with the blue eyes roving over his face, just that, just Naruto looking his fill and seeing the changes.
He lifted broad, blunt fingertips to the raspy shadow on Sasuke's square jaw a moment, rubbing back and forth, before moving his hand to the long, wild black hair that lay across the pillow and Sasuke's shoulder. He hefted it, crushed the heavy mass in his fist, brought it to his face and smelled it. Sasuke was submissive throughout, even when Naruto tugged on the red and white pendant, inspecting it. His hand moved to Sasuke's shoulder, now thick with muscle, then to his chest which was no longer narrow, but deep and toned.
The morning found them like that still, arms lightly linked.
That day Sasuke woke towards afternoon to find Naruto hanging the portrait on his wall again, in the place it had previously occupied. He sat up, and Naruto looked over at him. Sasuke smiled, but it wasn't returned. Naruto only disappeared into the kitchen. For a few minutes Sasuke wondered what was wrong now…until he understood. Getting up, he followed Naruto into the kitchen.
He didn't know if the process was peculiar to Naruto's brand of OCD, or if it was a result of just how bad things had been for him during the separation, but Sasuke understood that Naruto needed to reconstruct things a certain way so that they accommodated the changes in them both, and in their lives. Did he have any idea what that entailed? No. But he'd have to accept it.
After observing Naruto preparing to cook, he pushed off from the wall to lend a hand.
During the following days, Sasuke tried to be as patient as possible. A distinctly hard thing to do considering that he'd been waiting over three years to be back in Naruto's arms. He cooked with Naruto, cleaned, waited when Naruto went down the mountain to tend to his Kage duties, and in general underwent an exercise in torture he thought would drive him mad.
He was tempted to go home a few times, but he knew that the most crucial part of whatever it was Naruto was doing was when he came home at night and found Sasuke there, in his house, waiting for him. He always roared up the mountain road in his Windracer, gunning the engine loud enough for Sasuke to hear it all the way from the barricade. He would park right there in the clearing, and burst into the house as if afraid that Sasuke had gone…but Sasuke would be waiting in the living room, face composed. Naruto would breathe a visible sigh of relief, close the door, and give Sasuke a small smile. Sasuke would curb his disappointment that yet another night would pass with them not talking or touching.
Naruto stared at him. Constantly. Whenever he was home, that was all he did. Sometimes he took off early from work and Sasuke would be treated to extra hours of it. He'd learned to pretend to ignore it, reading or writing while those blue eyes remained on him, but all it did was add to the tension he felt.
Patience, he reminded himself. Patience. Naruto just needs some time. Three years isn't easy to overcome, and it certainly won't be done in a single day. And maybe there was more going on with Naruto besides needing to accept that they belonged together. After all, he hadn't seen the man in years, and hadn't a clue as to what the separation had really been like for him, or what it had done to him. He could only guess. And wait. And hope that this time Naruto would really take him back and not push him away again...as he seemed to be doing.
In fact, Naruto was undergoing madness of another sort. It was the complete opposite of the dark, terrifying hell he'd lived for the past three years. This madness was bright, airy, blinding him…and nearly impossible to get a grasp on.
He spent most of each night watching Sasuke sleep. In the morning he showered, dressed, ate, and Sasuke would be there, sometimes eating with him. He's mine, Naruto would think. I'm his. He would spend a few minutes firmly repeating this to himself, before forcing himself to go to work, where he could never remember a single conversation or document he signed. His hours in his office would be spent reaffirming the certainty that Sasuke was waiting for him at home, and quelling the equal certainty that none of this was happening. At the end of his day, or sometimes when he simply couldn't take it anymore, he would drive home to see for himself. And there Sasuke would be. Everything in him would loosen in relief and he'd be all right.
But as the days wore on, and his hesitance continued, Naruto did something he'd never done in all the years he'd been separated from Sasuke.
"Naruto!" Iruka quickly stood from where he'd been reading The Leaflet on the couch and went to open the door wider. Naruto rarely, if ever, came to the apartments he and Kakashi shared in the Hokage building. That he had done so now, walking right in, was a first. "Come in, come in…you should have told me you were stopping by! Is anything wrong?"
Naruto paused at that, looking at his former sensei. "I'm surprised you don't know. You seem to know everything about my life."
Iruka led the way back to the couches, gesturing for Naruto to sit. "I'm not sure I follow," he said carefully when Naruto had dropped down across from him. "We've noticed that you're certainly distracted more and more of late, but then you've actually been much improved over…other times. Is something wrong?"
"Sasuke's come back to me."
Immediately, Iruka schooled his features to polite blankness. It was his listening expression, his way of showing neutrality when he felt anything but. "I see. When did this happen?"
A pause. "Five days ago."
Yes, Iruka thought. He could see now that he'd been wrong. What he'd mistaken for distraction was in fact nothing of the kind. Studying Naruto closely, he saw a quiet sort of wildness to the man, as if Naruto was silently coming apart and just as silently doing all that he could to hold himself together. He couldn't quite keep his lips from compressing in displeasure at this development. "You've never consented to talk about Sasuke before, so I cannot imagine what you're doing here now…unless?"
"I do want to talk about it."
Quelling the fierce burst of elation at getting a chance to really counsel Naruto at last, Iruka dipped his head in acknowledgement. "Why now, after all these years?"
Naruto looked at his hands, spreading them. When he glanced up again, it was to make an admission Iruka thought never to hear. "Because I need help. I love him. I'm ready for him now, and…this time I don't want to fuck it up."
Iruka had Naruto begin at the very beginning, telling how he'd met Sasuke and everything that had happened between them on the mountain. That took the rest of the evening. Kakashi came home, and Naruto was still talking. He settled himself next to Iruka without interrupting. Naruto launched smoothly into the three years of separation without pausing, telling of every nightmare, every tortuous thought. By the time he finally stopped talking, completely drained, the entire night had passed. It was the first time since Sasuke had come back that he hadn't gone haring up the mountain to make sure he was still there. He felt the need to now, but he was also keen to hear what Iruka would say. He wasn't well, knew he wasn't, and refused to let his issues come between him and Sasuke again, as they were already doing. "Help me," he finished by saying. "Just help me."
There was silence in the small living room. The sun brightened against the windows, illuminating all three men, as Iruka strove mightily to arrive at a conclusion to everything he'd heard. He'd processed the entire narration as it had been delivered, so this didn't take too long, and truthfully, much of what Naruto said was already in the past and beyond his help.
He would dearly have preferred that a re-introduction to Sasuke have been made with more preparation for Naruto. That the boy had been aware of this requirement, to an extent, and tried to attempt this with the ramen was commendable, but Sasuke did not have a full grasp of Naruto's delicate mental balance. Here it was Naruto was teetering on the brink of complete psychological collapse, and Iruka blamed the young man who undoubtedly meant well.
It was interesting to note that Naruto was in quite as serious a state as he'd been in prior to Sasuke's return. The only difference was that this time Naruto was happy instead of enraged, and willing to address the issue instead of ignoring it.
"What do you want to happen," Iruka asked finally. "With Sasuke, with your life?"
"Me?" Naruto's hands clenched and opened rhythmically, unconsciously. "I don't know. I mean…I want us to be together."
"But you are. He's in your house right now, waiting for you." Iruka spoke conversationally.
"I want us to be good. As we were before."
"Even though you've admitted that 'before' is impossible? You've said that you're each different now, that you and Sasuke are both aware of this."
"Yes. I mean…" Naruto ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know what I mean. This feels wrong. No…I mean, it's right. Sasuke said it was, that we belonged to each other, with each other, and I know this. I know it. He's mine, but… I don't know what it is. He looks different, but it's him. My Sasuke. And I love him, the way I did before, and have never stopped. I feel all this, know all this. Still, there's just…something." He looked up helplessly at Iruka, and found the older man frowning with him, feeling his frustration.
Iruka's brow suddenly smoothed out as everything clicked into place at last. A broad smile settled on his lips as a deep breath filled his lungs. "I understand."
"You do?" Naruto gusted in relief. "You can help me?"
"No, I can't."
"You are a fascinating creature, Naruto." Iruka actually gave a little laugh, which darkened Naruto's face with insult. "I don't think I know anyone more forceful than you are, or more domineering, controlling, ruthless, and stubborn. And yet, for all that, you have never simply accepted something because it was given to you. You've always been that way, even when you were a boy."
"And…what does that have to do with my problem?" Naruto demanded.
"That is your problem. Tell me again, what did Sasuke say to you that night he came back? After you'd finally accepted that you belonged to each other?"
Naruto blinked. "He said for me to make it so."
"And what do you think that means?"
"Well… that he probably wanted me to make love to him again, with the knew knowledge-"
Patience gone, Naruto snapped, "Why don't you explain it then?"
Iruka appeared to think. Then he reached into his pocket and withdrew a few coins. He reached across the low coffee table and put them into Naruto's hand. "There. That's for you. A gift."
Naruto looked at this, then raised a brow at Iruka. "It's money."
"Yes. For you. The money is yours. How do you feel about that?"
"Like you're the one who needs counseling. What the fuck, Iruka. I'm not taking this." He tossed the coins back at him.
"What do you mean why?" Naruto got up and began pacing. "Look if you can't help me, then I don't see a reason to sit here and-"
"You can't accept it because you didn't earn it," Iruka went on. "I gave it to you as a gift, so it was yours, but you've never been able to take anything you didn't feel you'd earned. Think about that. And Sasuke's words. My God, everything you want is sitting on that mountaintop, within your grasp. Sasuke has come back. You've addressed your problems and reunited. You both still love each other…and yet you still feel that something is wrong. See, you can accept that he's yours or that you belong together, but it's not the same as knowing you have a right to him. And therein lies the crux of the matter."
Naruto went perfectly still.
"All you have to do," Iruka went on in a softer voice, "is reach out and take what's yours. That's what Sasuke meant. It has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with accepting what you know to be true. Accepting it as your right, and believing that you have a right to happiness."
Naruto left their apartments and went directly to his office, lost in thought.
The things Iruka and Sasuke had both said turned over and over in his mind as he began another day of work without going home. He'd been up for twenty-four hours but felt no fatigue. He sat at his desk as his assistant came in and bustled around him.
…Reach out and take what's yours…
He found himself in meetings, knew he was speaking, but could not hear his own voice. He had no idea what he was saying, or if he was signing the damn city away when he wrote his name on papers he hadn't even read.
Reach out and…
Naruto could honestly say that these words, said in this voice, were the first thing to break through his preoccupation. He looked up from his desk to find that the sun was setting, and Itachi was shoving his assistant aside and barging into his office, eyes red.
…take what's yours.
"The fuck," Itachi snapped. "My brother calls me and tells me you ain't been home. I come to check to see if you're dead, and I find you sitting on your ass just as pretty as you please? Sasuke said he couldn't come check himself in case you came home while he was gone. Suppose you tell me," Itachi raged as he walked up and aggressively leaned his hands on the desk, "why it is my brother is so stuck on someone obviously too stupid to appreciate him?"
Naruto looked up into the belligerent features and suddenly broke into a wide, sunny grin his childhood friends would have recognized. All the things warring in confusion inside him at last settled down into a smooth, unruffled and untroubled environment of peace. He stood up. "I honestly don't know," he said. My God, what have I been doing? He walked around his desk to tower over Itachi. "I have to correct you, though. I do appreciate him. And I intend to spend the rest of my life cherishing him."
Itachi halted him just before he walked out of the office. "I don't have to tell you that if you hurt him in anyway I'll be carving your ass up for you, do I? I mean, that's understood between us?"
Naruto had to suppress another smile as he glanced at Itachi over his shoulder. "Perfectly."
He drove home at the speed limit, in silence. There was no need to rush. What was his would always be there, would never leave no matter the distance between them. It would be there even if one of them were absent for whatever reason. You couldn't lose what was in your soul.
Reach out and take what's yours.
Just why it was that Itachi's visit had done the job of clearing the confusion up for him once and for all he couldn't say. Maybe it was how Sasuke had sent him, too afraid to leave the house despite how worried he must have been. Or maybe Itachi's unique way of dealing with things had served to blow away all but the essential knowledge, the simple truth of the whole matter. Whatever the reason, Naruto parked in his garage and calmly walked the short distance to his house.
When he opened the door, Sasuke was pacing the living room, a cell phone clutched in one fist, and a frown of terror on his face. He looked up when Naruto entered and sagged visibly. "Thank God! I thought you'd left me again, and decided that we couldn't-"
Naruto walked up to him and kissed him.
Take what's yours.
No rushing. This time Naruto moved with the leisure and knowledge that nothing in the world was more right that touching Sasuke, that if there was such a thing as destiny then he and Sasuke were destined, preordained, born for each other, as Sasuke had said. This time he reached out and took what was his, even as Sasuke molded to his body with a small moan of need.
The hall was neither as significant as the bedroom, nor as exotic as the living room floor, but this was where they came together, unable to go another step. No light penetrated the hall from the single candle lit in the living room. They didn't need to see; they knew each other far better than the limitations of sight allowed.
Sasuke's solid weight was lifted and settled around Naruto's hips as that blond head bent to his chest and nipped him through his shirt. His own head went back, hitting the wall, as his hands reached up and braced against the ceiling. Heat surrounded one nipple as Naruto mouthed the peak through the material, soaking it, biting him again. The shirt was ripped with a calm deliberation that raised goosebumps on Sasuke's skin, just as his pants were also torn off him without urgency. A prickle of nervous anticipation ran down Sasuke's spine. It's happening…there won't be any stopping him, Jesus. He closed his eyes. There was nothing to see in the dark anyway.
Naruto's tough hands found and laced with his, just before breath fanned his face. He could feel the kiss before those full lips touched his, and when their mouths made contact this time, all thought was gone.
On his own feet once more, Sasuke stood pinned to the wall by Naruto's greater weight. Their hearts thudded against each other, a singular sensation symbolic of the chasm being closed between them. Their senses came alive with this mutual understanding, and some urgency -some, not much- came to their touches at last.
It was more like eagerness. Time had been lost to them. There was an eagerness to take now what they'd missed, to take what was owed to them, what life had taken from them before. Their joined hands tightened, lifting against the wall, above their heads, as Naruto pressed harder against Sasuke, and the kiss deepened. Sasuke lifted a strong thigh between Naruto's legs, wanting more.
Somehow they were naked. Both of them. They slid down the wall, to the floor, where their bodies slithered and slipped over each other, slicked with the perspiration of their rising passion.
The taste of sweat, as tongues dragged over skin, left them hungry for more. No part was left unsampled. Lubricated as they were, their writhing, twisting exploration of each other heightened the already blistering desire roiling through their veins. Their senses came alive: The low grunts of sound, the heavy scent of aroused males, the firm feel of callused hands, and masculine lips. The remarkable feel of a bunched muscle, like velvet over iron. Hair made wet, that stuck to skin. The deep, heavy breathing of a man excited, the rasp of a stubbled jaw, the breadth of a strong throat.
The tang of precum, where it leaked and oozed in steady rivulets, coating the tongue, flooding the senses, sizzling the mind with things to come. And the shocking, thunderous, unprecedented feel of mouth to anus, the sensual glide of a hot tongue over secret flesh, it's invasion into the puckered depths, the growls and roars and screams of Naruto's name suction of this small section of skin elicited.
And then all of it again.
Sasuke's cheek was held pressed to the floor while three broad fingers cupped inside him brutally, jerking and spreading so that his cock swelled to bursting in response. It ached for release, grinding against the wooden floor in search of it. A ragged sound left him, even as his ass humped and writhed on that hand, clenching around it in a plea for more.
The mouth in his ass again. Humming, the vibrations making him bite his forearm till he squealed and saw stars.
Sasuke was turned to his back, the fingers found him again, and this time they went unerringly to his gland, where they pumped and pushed, prodded and poked, stroked and rubbed until his thrashing body rose from the floor on soaring climax that left him drenched in sweat and cum.
The tongue, cleaning him, moving up his body.
The kiss was long and slow. Deep and flavored with his own musk and juices. He ate that mouth, ate it greedily, arms going around that wide, muscular back to hold Naruto close. His hands ran up and down that sweaty expanse. There was more muscle, he found, more heat, more everything.
And then it was happening, the slow, thick, heated glide of flesh in flesh, as Naruto impaled him with all the inexorable force of tsunami. He pushed in deep, touching the very core of Sasuke, reaching for him, taking him, and the horror of those three and a half years began to fade. The chasm was being sealed.
It was there, right there, that special rhythm they'd known how to do together. The reunion on the living room floor a week ago was shown to be a poor imitation of the real thing. This was where they lived, what they were, where they were finally reunited. Here where there was understanding and acceptance at last, solemnity, joy, fulfillment and destiny. Here in the humble confines of the dark hallway, where Naruto drove into him again and again and again with relentless intensity and no restraint. They came together, the chasm pounded and hammered and welded shut by the strength and heat of their movements, their single consciousness in those endless hours of give and take, share and surrender.
Rest and sleep came and went, but the union wasn't broken. It went on, though their muscles quivered with strain. Fatigue likewise seemed to come and go, so that one hour they were barely moving, and the next Naruto was braced on his hands, thrusting away until Sasuke cried with the pleasure, and hissed at the pain.
There were words in this storm of sensation, spoken through touch, and sighs, and trembling flesh. Whether by the gentle rocking of hips, or the pounding of vigorous thrusting, communication was exchanged.
'Don't ever leave me again.'
'Never, my heart. Never again.'
'-You promised before...'
'I will never let you go again.'
'How can I trust you?'
And Naruto was tireless, giving and giving of himself, touching and tasting, and smelling and loving every part of Sasuke, with every part of himself.
His hand closed around Sasuke's weeping flesh, even as he felt him weeping elsewhere, against his neck. He let his lips rest against that fluttering pulse and began a slow glide of his hand, matching the slow pumping of his hips, soothing, reassuring, promising. I can't promise I'll never hurt you again, the press of his lips said. But through whatever hurt we cause each other, I promise I will be here, with you, to ease it.
He sped up gradually, moving in and out of the hot, tight glory that was Sasuke's body even as he increased the pace of his hand to match. Near the end, he braced himself on a forearm, feeling Sasuke's labored breathing wash across his face and throat in uneven panting, feeling him stiffen and arch the more he stroked the tension in him. He continued to stroke and stoke the tension, the pleasure, until they were both at the very limits of their endurance, riding Sasuke fast and hard now, even as he feverishly fisted his throbbing length…
…and then all broke and was washed clean in the torrential heat of mutual release. Their mouths came together, bodies jerking powerfully against each other over and over, Sasuke soaking Naruto, until at last they calmed and all doubts were laid to rest. Never again would there be doubts, or fears, or insecurities.
The sun rose. Light crept into the living room, and into the hall, where two men lay sleeping soundly in each other's arms.
Now they were home.