Summary: Six years after a massive fight with his best friend, Naruto has a part-time job teaching life drawing at the local art school. He expects another usual evening dodging two fangirls and one suspicious boy, but he's in for a surprise. NaruSasu.
Contains: swearing, naked guys, a lot of blather about drawing technique, mentions of gay sex
Doesn't contain: explicit sex scenes, explicit violence, gore
Notes: I meant to finish this in time for my birthday, which was last Wednesday. But I was so busy with -gasp- REAL LIFE, and this fic turned out to be much more complicated than I'd originally planned. You see, I actually started a PWP called "Life Drawing" a couple of years ago. In it, Naruto is an evening life drawing teacher and Sasuke is the model. They'd never met before that night, and I guess they're soulmates or something because Naruto invites Sasuke to his place for some more life drawing and eventually they were meant to get it on. But it was stupid and unrealistic so I tossed it in my "discontinued" folder. I found it again recently and had a better idea, which just snowballed.
If I use any terms in this fic that are unfamiliar to you, I apologize ahead of time. I've been studying art for so long now that many terms are second nature to me and it wasn't until writing this fic that I realized that people might not actually use these words in everyday life. If there's anything you're unsure of, you can always Google it or just ask me in a review or PM. Oh, and I prattle on about cross-contours for about a page. There's lots more to say about them but I decided to cut it short lest I bore everyone to sleep. I have no idea how interesting this is to most readers, haha.
Naruto tugs off his hat as he pushes through the front doors of the little art school downtown. He shakes his head, runs a hand through his hair to return it to its usual mess of a style – as if there was a noticeable difference between this and his hat hair – and heads to the front desk.
The receptionist looks up and smiles. "Hello, Naruto. You're running a bit late."
"Shut it, Sai," says Naruto, but his tone is easy. "There was a collision on Bank Street. Miles of congestion. Ino's the life drawing model for this evening, isn't she? Is she in yet?"
"Oh, about that. Apparently Ino's cancelled – urgent family business. She's found a replacement, though. Let me see what their name is." Sai glances at his computer screen, clicking through the messages on the system. His eyes scan a few lines of text, then widen in surprise. Then he breaks into a smile. "Oh, you're going to enjoy this."
"What? Who is it? A celebrity? A porn star?" Naruto leans over the counter, but Sai turns the screen away before Naruto can see. "Sai! Wait, is it Sakura?"
Sai chuckles. "Of course not. It's a surprise. You'd better get going; I've seen a few of your students come in already. Here's the key," he says, tossing it on the counter in front of Naruto.
"Come on, tell me!" Naruto insists, trying to pull the screen back, but Sai pries his fingers off before he can break anything.
"You'll find out soon enough anyway," he says lightly.
"But I wanna know now! If you show me, I'll go with you on that dinner date you wanted. Tonight." He's offering more than it's worth, he knows, because Sai's right and Naruto will find out who the model is in a few minutes, and Naruto's been turning Sai down for weeks. But he hates it when Sai acts like this. Sai, always so bluntly sincere, purposely withholding information? It's just not him. Anyway, it's not like going on a date with Sai would be that much trouble for Naruto. He's just… well, he doesn't like to lead people on, and he has his own reasons for not wanting to let himself get into something like this with Sai.
But Sai only looks at Naruto knowingly, which baffles the blond. "Not tonight."
"Why? Are you busy?"
"No, but you will be." Sai's smile is still plastered onto his face, but it's turning into that practiced, fake one now. "Go on, Naruto, before your students come down to ask me to unlock the door for them. That would just be awkward on your part."
Naruto scowls, grabs the key, and heads up the stairs. It's five floors up, but the elevator's a slow, rickety old thing, and anyway he tends to prefer the climb, if only for a brief sort of exercise in the midst of his usually busy schedule. Anyway, he wants some time to himself to think. Just who is today's model, for Sai to react like that? Why does he want it to be a surprise for Naruto? And what on earth would make Sai pass on the dinner date? It took long enough for him to get it through Naruto's thick skull that his advances weren't just to tease him or make him uncomfortable. Sai's feelings for Naruto are no secret, and yet Naruto can't find it in himself to return the sentiments. Not because he doesn't like Sai, or because he thinks Sai doesn't deserve it. It's just… it feels like cheating, somehow. Naruto doesn't quite understand it himself – he's single, although he's certainly dated numerous times before, and certainly takes every chance he can get to complain about how much he needs to get laid – but every time he imagines being with Sai, a twinge of discomfort tugs his heartstrings. The problem is that Naruto knows it's personal. He'd date any other guy in a heartbeat, but Sai's too… familiar. Every time Naruto considers it, some distant memory gets in the way, and he knows at once that he'll never be able to love Sai for himself. And that's not fair to Sai.
As Sai said, the classroom door's locked and a couple of Naruto's students are waiting outside the door, chatting. They both light up when they see Naruto, enthusiastically greeting him and asking how he is. He does his best to reply casually, but the fact is that he's almost wishing he hadn't tried so hard to be easygoing and friendly the first day of class, because these two girls, Shibuya Riku and Hirota Yumi, have obviously developed an infatuation with him. So maybe they're cute, but Naruto is well aware of the distance he has to maintain within a student-teacher relationship. They've got to be at least seven years younger than him and he's not cool with that. He's glad when another student, Riku's boyfriend Araragi Makoto, shows up, because they can't ogle Naruto around him. And the guy's only about four years younger than Naruto, and he's cute. Frankly, Naruto is jealous, but he doubts this guy swings his way.
In the classroom, the students set up their drawing spaces, putting up easels with backboards and getting out their paper and charcoal. Naruto makes up his own small space in the corner of the room, near the door, with just a chair and his bag. He's totally immersed in planning out a page of the comic he's working on before he realizes the room's gone dead silent. He glances up to where a tall, lean, utterly sexy stranger stands somewhat uncertainly in the doorway. Naruto's pencil slips out of his hand.
The sound of the pencil clattering on the floor catches the man's attention. He turns cool eyes on Naruto, then his jaw drops. "Wha—"
"Sasuke?" Naruto leaps out of his chair, sketchbook slipping off his lap and landing in a heap at his feet, but he barely notices because his eyes are locked with Sasuke's wide grey ones and memories are rushing through his head so fast he can barely stay upright. "What the – you – what are you doing here?"
It takes a moment for the words to sink into Sasuke's brain, partly because he's been flooded with memories too, and partly because Naruto's voice, although deeper and more mature now, still resonates perfectly with those memories. But finally the meaning of the question registers and he regains his composure, wiping the shock from his face. "I'm the model," he says, and although he looks calm now his voice betrays his lingering disbelief.
"The model. For life drawing? That's what this is, right?" Sasuke glances around the room, where not one pair of eyes has lifted from him. He's used to this. He ignores it and turns back to Naruto, who still seems rather dazed. "Where's the teacher, blockhead?"
No one's called Naruto that in years. He automatically retorts, "I'm not a blockhead, you bastard! And I'm the teacher." He draws himself up, crossing his arms and staring defiantly at Sasuke.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah, it is. Do you want to ask the students? Or check downstairs with Sai?" Sai—! The cheeky bastard knew the life drawing model is Sasuke! Go figure that Sai would want to one-up Naruto's unpredictability by keeping this reunion a surprise. How long has it been? Last he saw Sasuke, they nearly knocked each other out in a huge fight. Trust them to battle it out to the end. Sakura was a bit worried about the pair having parted ways without so much as a smile goodbye, but Naruto knew it was the only way they could really leave it. Because fighting was such a big part of their… friendship, or whatever it was. Because they were so used to beating each other bloody and dragging each other home for healing. Because, deep down, Naruto would never have been able to let Sasuke go if he couldn't convince himself the fight was serious.
Sasuke looks around again. The looks on the students' faces clearly state that yes, Naruto is indeed their instructor, and that this sudden, utterly rude exchange between the two men is nothing short of baffling. Some of the eyes have turned distrusting – or at least they would be, if they weren't so conflicted. They're only looks, but Sasuke can already tell that most of these students genuinely really like Naruto, as a teacher, as a person, and that Sasuke's open, abrasive hostility is warring with his godly looks in terms of their attraction to him. Sasuke starts to find these stares a little unnerving and looks back to Naruto.
"Whatever," he says with a shrug. "We both have jobs to do. Are we getting started?"
Naruto checks around the room – apparently while he was busy being utterly baffled at Sasuke's sudden appearance, the remaining students showed up – and nods. "Yeah. We'll warm up with some gesture drawings. Twenty one-minute poses, as usual," he says to the class, pointedly ensuring this isn't a question aimed at Sasuke, because he usually politely asks the model whether they're fine with it even though it's pretty much standard procedure as far as life drawing sessions go. It's just that he can't even begin to fathom being polite towards Sasuke.
Sasuke deposits his bag next to the moveable stage in front of the room, then covers it with a couple of blankets before climbing on. Naruto adjusts the lights, positioning the standing lamps at Sasuke and going to check the ceiling lights. Then there's a rustle of fabric and he turns to see Sasuke disrobing. The whole room is entranced as Sasuke peels a form-fitting sleeveless shirt up and over his head, revealing a wiry, slender torso, subtly defined muscles, dark nipples that almost immediately harden with the temperature change. He slips the shirt off his arms, then pops the button on his jeans, hooks his thumbs into his waistband, and tugs them down with his underwear. His hip bones are prominent, his backside toned, his thighs powerful yet lean. His pubic hair is trimmed over a – wait… has Sasuke gotten… bigger… since Naruto last saw him? It's not like he wasn't hung before, but…
Sasuke starts his first pose, eyes meeting Naruto's as he does so. Naruto nearly jumps out of his skin; he spins on his feel to face the wall, thanking the heavens that he's due for a haircut because it means Sasuke won't see that even his ears are burning red. He takes a deep breath, composing himself, then remembers he's supposed to be helping out the students. Already he knows this is going to be a long, difficult session.
Within moments that statement is proven true: it takes Naruto another full minute of frowning at people's drawings to realize that there's absolutely no reason anyone should have to draw Sasuke's penis in a one-minute sketch that focuses on lines of action. Naruto doesn't even know why he feels like it should matter; he makes a point of never commenting on a student's rendering of a model's penis (or occasionally the lack thereof). That being said, he doesn't typically criticize hands or nipples either, and faces only if the basic structure is an issue. He doesn't think he's ever seen anyone actually draw a vagina in any of his classes. Such details are not the focus of these sessions, even in the longer poses. In fact, Naruto is of the opinion that no one should be focusing on drawing penises unless they're drawing porn. Because there's no turn-off quite like bad anatomy.
…And there he goes, thinking about dongs again. What is wrong with him? Okay, so it's been months since he got laid, and that was with a girl. But he's been teaching life drawing since before that and it's never been a problem. He shakes his head to clear it and eventually manages to shift his focus to the gestures. Sasuke's poses are amazing, full of life and movement, and yet he stays perfectly still. Naruto knows what it's like to have to draw someone who can't pick an interesting pose. It's dull and dispiriting and saps the motivation right out of him. A good gesture pose will do the opposite, inspiring him to draw and draw and draw, and Sasuke chooses his poses so well that even the less experienced or less interested students seem filled with the desire to capture all the passion Sasuke exudes.
By the time Naruto's checked on everyone, he can hardly stand it; he snatches his sketchbook and pencil from where they still lie on the floor and starts drawing, his pencil a flurry of movement, pages flying as he flips and draws and flips again. Usually he advises students to draw multiple gestures on a single page, as they're rough and meant mainly for practice, but Sasuke is filling Naruto's head with endless ideas for pieces to render later and so he heedlessly reserves a whole page for each pose, every single one of which is succinct, powerful, beautiful. His poses embody a range of situations and feelings. Though his face is controlled and emotionless, his whole body radiates determination, or fear, or elation. There are poses both natural and staged, stretched and hunched. Naruto revels in Sasuke's flexibility, his strength, his grace. He takes in every curve and every angle; all the shadows and highlights on Sasuke's flawless skin; the twist of his body, the arch of his spine, the outline of his shoulders, the jut of his hips.
He could do this forever.
When Sasuke drops the last pose and looks expectantly at Naruto, the blond blinks, as though pulling out of a reverie. "That's it?"
"What, you want twenty more?" asks Sasuke. Naruto can't tell if he's being serious.
"Depends on how the class feels." Naruto knows gestures can be draining for everyone involved – at such a fast pace one can easily tire, or just get bored of the repetition, and it's a workout for the model too. Naruto turns to the class at large. "Do we want to move on to the longer poses, or have a few more gestures?"
The call for more gestures is nearly unanimous. They end up with forty, at which point everyone's exhausted, albeit satisfied. Sasuke tugs on a pair of sweatpants and slumps into a chair while the students, now used to this procedure, flip to their own favourite page of drawings before going around to look at and comment on everyone else's work. Naruto's just touching up a gesture drawing when he realizes that someone's watching over his shoulder. He glances up to see not just the two girls, but also several other students watching him with interest.
"What – what's all the crowding about for?" he asks uncertainly, instinctively pulling his sketchbook closer to his chest.
"You've never shown us your sketches before," says Yumi eagerly.
"Are you even allowed to draw when you're supposed to be teaching us?" asks Makoto.
"Well, why shouldn't he be?" asks Riku, raising an eyebrow at her boyfriend. "There's not much he can do to advise on gestures now that we know what we're doing."
"Speak for yourself," Makoto mutters. "I wouldn't mind a little more instruction."
Naruto looks up at this. Is it just him, or is Makoto staring at him rather meaningfully? It's probably just him. Naruto is almost positive Makoto's straight. He does fight with Riku a lot, and he's always enthusiastic about drawing and often praises Naruto's friendly approach to teaching. But really now. Naruto's not sure what to make of it all just yet, so he decides to keep his options open. He smiles and says, "Well, I'd be glad to help out if you need it. I'm thinking we should have our long break now, since everyone's pretty worn out, and then we can have another shorter break between the longer poses."
Makoto smiles back, an almost triumphant look in his eyes. This unnerves Naruto a little – until a cold shiver runs down his spine. Suddenly feeling like the temperature of the room dropped about twenty degrees, he hesitantly glances sideways and is met with a frigid grey glare that makes Makoto's supposed intentions seem altogether innocent. Still, he's a teacher, and after Makoto expressed his doubts Naruto needs to at least uphold his honour. Anyway, it's none of Sasuke's business what Naruto gets up to.
Naruto stands. "Well, if anyone wants to look through my sketchbook, I'll leave it here for you. Just be careful with it; I need it later. Break's twenty minutes, everyone. Makoto, did you need anything specific in terms of help?"
Makoto seems surprised by this, as though he didn't actually expect Naruto to ask. "Well – that is, it's not specific, but if you could—"
The ice in that voice makes them all turn. Sasuke's put on a shirt and a light jacket and is looking at Naruto expectantly, as though he's waiting.
"What?" asks Naruto, immediately defiant.
"I'm going out for a coffee. Come on." He doesn't even deign to ask.
"I'm kinda busy here, in case you didn't—"
Naruto could swear Sasuke's eyes just flickered red. He winces and turns to Makoto. "I'll help you out after the break, okay? Take the time to rest your mind. You want to come back to your drawings with a fresh point of view."
He grabs his sweater off the back of his chair and quickly follows Sasuke, who headed out the minute he was sure Naruto would yield. Sasuke chooses the elevator. Naruto desperately hopes for someone to join them, but the door slides shut and they begin to descend at a snail's pace, the thick silence between them broken only by the loud whirring of the elevator.
"I have a job to do, you know," says Naruto after a moment. "I can't just abandon my students when they need—"
"You called a break," Sasuke replies curtly. He glances over and meets Naruto's troubled eyes, then sighs. Naruto watches as Sasuke, who up until now has been nothing but tense outside of his poses, almost seems to deflate, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes with a sigh. "It's been a long time, hasn't it?"
"…Yeah." Naruto glances at the floor of the elevator. "Sasuke?"
"Nothing." But Naruto's smiling.
It's odd, Naruto thinks to himself, because after that brief exchange the silence, previously so awkward, is suddenly easy and calming. They go to the coffee shop across the street, grab a couple of drinks, and then sit across from each other at a two-person table. For nearly five minutes, all they do is stare at each other, their eyes flitting over the change they each see in the other's body, gazes meeting briefly and then pulling away immediately afterwards only for the cycle to begin again.
Naruto, Sasuke sees, looks more or less exactly the same as he used to. Sure, he's grown a bit taller, stronger, and – Sasuke has to admit it – more handsome. But all in all he still looks more or less the same. Despite the current situation, Sasuke can see that behind Naruto's scrutinizing eyes is the same attitude he saw briefly while Naruto was going around the room helping the students: there's an easygoing nature about his face that suggests a man who is self-confident, optimistic, friendly, and, above all, charismatic. It's something of a change from the shunned and bullied boy Sasuke met at the age of six, or even the slightly more secure eighteen-year-old that Sasuke turned his back on in the summer following their high school graduation. Sasuke's no stranger to appraising eyes, and it's obvious Naruto gets his fair share too. The difference between them now is that Naruto's got good looks and a sociable personality, while Sasuke can only lay claim to the former.
Sasuke, Naruto sees, is at first glance quite a bit different than he used to be: throughout most of their childhood he retained a hint of baby fat, displaying a full face and soft body despite rigorous workout sessions and strictly regimented diets, maintaining even through their graduation a youthful, almost innocent look to contrast bitter eyes matured too soon by loss. Now, though, he finally seems to have grown out of that, his body turning lean, his bones prominent but not unhealthily so, his muscles strong but not too obvious; his cheekbones are high, his brow strong, his lips thin. Naruto wonders at this; he knows Sasuke's body well – perhaps better than he's like to admit – and seeing him modelling today should have been surprising, but the build suits Sasuke so well that it took Naruto until now to realize it's entirely different from what he used to be. And yet, from the few interactions they've had, Naruto is certain Sasuke hasn't changed a mote in terms of personality. Yes – even though he often seems mature beyond his years, under that mask he's still the stuck-up, childish asshole he's always been.
"Six years," mutters Sasuke after what seems like an eternity, slowly leaning back in his chair.
Naruto waits, but it seems Sasuke has no more to say. Anyway, they both know they're thinking the same thing. Six years ago, just days before they set off for college, they'd fought harder than ever before and parted on turbulent yet very firmly bad terms. Sakura once joked that it was history's worst breakup, which Naruto immediately blew up at. She didn't talk about it after that. It was pretty bad. But Naruto put it behind him. Now that Sasuke's back…
"It's a long time," Naruto finally says. This is not exactly an insightful comment, and he expects Sasuke to scoff and make a jab at his intellect, but it's all Naruto could think of saying in order to bounce the conversation back to Sasuke. He's surprised when Sasuke does not, in fact, insult him.
"How was art school?" Sasuke asks, then takes a sip of his coffee, breaking eye contact and giving Naruto room to respond.
"I dropped out." Naruto gives a short laugh. "Actually, I switched up my last year for teacher's college. By that point I was doing alright off commissions along with my part-time job, and what I really wanted to do was teach. So now I work at the high school just down the street, and I do evening classes here. And some daytime ones if it's summer, like now."
"I'm not surprised, somehow. Your students at the art school are all infatuated with you, aren't they?"
"Of course not. Most of them are way older or younger than I am, for one thing. Anyway, I don't do student-teacher relationships. They creep me out. What about you?"
"I've never been on the teacher side."
"I meant school – wait, are you implying you've had a crush on a teacher?"
"Did I say that?"
"Who was it? Was it a high school teacher? Or elementary?"
"After I finished my fine arts degree," Sasuke says pointedly, "I got picked up for the supporting role in Ninja Wars. They really wanted me, so I learned on the go."
Naruto distantly remembers this – a couple of years back, Sakura called him up saying that there was this new, slightly obscure movie about ninjas or something, and they had to watch it. Naruto looked it up and immediately refused to see it because he saw Sasuke's name on the cast list. "So you're a famous actor now. What are you doing posing nude for amateur artists?"
"I'm not famous," Sasuke scoffs. "Ninja Wars wasn't exactly Hollywood. You don't see people accosting me on the streets asking for my autograph."
"Because you'd say no, you antisocial ass. So why do you do life modelling?"
"I enjoy it," he says simply. "I have a unique build, according to my stylist. I'm pretty well-fed compared to most other fashion models but if someone can make use of my body they might as well—"
"Fashion models?" he repeats, dumbfounded. "You're a fashion model? With a personal stylist?"
"Personal? Of course not. Calvin Klein hires a lot of models."
Naruto nearly drops his drink. "You're a model for Calvin Klein?" A brief image flashes across his mind of Sasuke in Calvin Klein underwear and he gets very close to having blood gush out of his nose. He quickly averts his eyes and takes another sip of hot chocolate.
Sasuke nods, like it's no big deal. "It gets pretty busy when they have a new line-up because they've got me doing the underwear as well as the regular clothes."
"Geez. What else are you, a stripper?"
Sasuke glares at Naruto as if he takes personal offense at this. "I do contemporary dance sometimes. That's it."
"That's it," Naruto mimics, his words accompanied by a sarcastic tone and a roll of his eyes. "And you have your own spaceship, which you're licensed to fly—"
"Naruto," says Sasuke, a note of weary warning creeping into his voice.
"Well sorry if you're a Nobel Prize winner or something," he snaps, standing abruptly. He picks up his drink and leaves the café, briskly heading back across the street towards the art school. He's crossing the street, fuming, when three loud sounds simultaneously accost his ears: a car horn, screeching tires, and Sasuke shouting his name. He whips around and is blinded by headlights speeding towards him, and then he's hit with such force that he's knocked to the ground, rolling until he hits the edge of the far curb.
But the thing that hit him wasn't hard metal – it was soft and warm. A body. Winded by the fall, Naruto struggles to prop himself up on his elbows. That's when he sees Sasuke lying face down at the wheels of a stopped car.
"Sasuke!" Naruto scrambles to his feet and lunges forward only to drop to his knees in front of Sasuke. He turns the other man over, frantically searching for signs of life. "Sasuke, can you hear me? Are you okay?"
Sasuke groans and cracks his eyes open. "Fuck… ow."
Relief floods Naruto. He deflates, slumping forward on top of Sasuke's chest. Sasuke coughs.
"You're heavy, retard." Sasuke tries to sit up, then realizes Naruto's trembling. He gingerly pats Naruto's back. "Oi. Are you that afraid of dying?"
"You're the one who looked dead, asshole!" Naruto retorts, the words muffled in Sasuke's shirt.
The driver of the stopped car has gotten out and approached them. "Are you two okay?" she asks worriedly. "I'm so, so sorry – should I call the hospital, or—"
"You didn't hit either of us," says Sasuke. "It's this idiot's fault for walking headlong into traffic. Sorry for getting in your way. Come on, blockhead, get up. We're blocking traffic."
Sasuke firmly pushes Naruto off of him and stands, then grabs Naruto's arm and hoists him up too, and they head back to the art school. Once they're inside and away from the stares of passersby, Sasuke turns to Naruto, crossing his arms.
"What's with you? I just saved your life; you could stand to be a little more grateful—" But he's cut off by Naruto throwing his arms around him. Naruto is shaking again, so badly that Sasuke instinctively returns the hug, then wonders why he's bothering.
"Thanks, Sasuke," he whispers. "It's just – you, lying there on the ground – just an hour after I've seen you again for the first time in years, and – and all of a sudden I was so – s-scared—"
Sasuke's irritation dissolves. He sighs and rubs Naruto's back. "I'm not dead, moron. I'm not even hurt too badly."
Naruto nods, then slowly pulls out of the hug. He almost flinches as Sasuke reaches up, but Sasuke just picks some gravel out of his hair, saying nothing. Naruto is oddly comforted by this. Then he notices a flash of red and grabs Sasuke's hand. Sasuke's scraped the back of his knuckles, and blood is beginning to bead, trailing down the back of his hand.
"You're hurt," he states. "There's a first aid kit behind the reception desk."
He turns his back on Sasuke and heads for reception. Usually Sai would still be around at this time, but it seems he's skived off early today. Come to think of it, Naruto should have noticed that when they left the school, but his mind was too full of Sasuke to even notice. Sai might even have been there, watching Naruto leave with Sasuke. Naruto makes a mental note to throttle Sai first thing next week. He grabs the first aid kit from the supplies cupboard and opens it up. As he searches through it, a couple of his students enter the building and approach curiously.
"What's happened?" asks one woman in some concern.
"I just scraped my hand a bit," says Sasuke coolly, showing them. As the blood is starting to trickle down his arm now, it's a bit of an understatement.
Naruto, having found the disinfectant and cotton swabs, turns to the students. "Could you let the others know we might be starting a bit late? I just have to take care of Sasuke's wound first."
The woman nods. "Sure thing." She and her friend head for the elevator.
A few minutes later, Sasuke's hand is wrapped in a bandage and they're back on the job. Everyone's looking at the injury curiously, but it seems the students who ran into Naruto and Sasuke in the lobby explained the situation to the others, so no one comments. Or maybe they're just silenced by the awkwardness life drawing often brings. Or perhaps it's Sasuke. He tends to have that effect on people, for various reasons.
Naruto probably really ought to do his lecture first, but he isn't really in the right mindset to teach just yet, so he has Sasuke do a twenty-minute seated pose and disappears off into the staff bathroom while everyone's starting their drawings, since there's not much he can do to help at the beginning of a pose. There he splashes his face with cold water and stares at himself in the mirror. He's a little pale, and his hair is still a bit dusty. He brushes it off, then sighs.
Just scraped his hand a bit, Sasuke said. Okay, so maybe it's better not to worry anyone else, but they nearly died, for goodness's sake! As far as Naruto knows, anyway. He didn't even see the car coming, let alone how fast it was going. If he'd been hit, how badly would he have been injured? How did Sasuke escape getting hit himself? Did he actually fling himself at Naruto in the middle of oncoming traffic? How did they escape with nothing but a scrape on Sasuke's hand? Naruto doesn't know, but he doesn't really feel like questioning his luck. Not when the alternative means disaster within an hour of reuniting with Sasuke.
Sasuke. It's been six years. Naruto was honestly positive that he'd never see Sasuke again. Not when Sasuke had a movie under his belt and was a fashion model – well, not that Naruto knew the latter before tonight, but Sasuke has always been out of his league. Born into a noble name, heir to the family's considerable wealth, always the smart one, the good-looking one, the popular one. Anyway, their last fight was so big that the damage was seemingly irreparable. Naruto vowed back then to never forgive the bastard, and yet…
The thing is, Naruto didn't realize until today just how much he's missed Sasuke. He put so much effort into hating him all those years ago that he blocked out his memories of all the years they spent together. Now they're flooding back – the time Sasuke's parents died and his brother vanished; the time Naruto got cornered by three bullies and Sasuke took them all on with a metal bucket; the time they both got adopted together because they refused to leave the orphanage without each other. The time Naruto hit puberty and Sasuke had to explain to him what sex is. The time Sasuke tried to drive himself home drunk and Naruto leapt out of a still-moving taxi to extract Sasuke from the wreckage of steel and glass. Maybe that's why Naruto panicked just now outside the art school – it reminded him too much of the months Sasuke spent rehabilitating, getting a private tutor and doing school in the hospital because he refused to be kept behind a year. It's not that Naruto ever forgot any of these memories. Possibly it's more like he repressed them, after he and Sasuke parted ways, in an effort not to miss him so much. It looks like it worked.
Naruto takes a deep breath, trying to take it all in. It feels like his life has turned upside-down, now that Sasuke is back, but Naruto knows from experience that life doesn't wait for this kind of thing. He has a class to teach, commissions to do, bills to pay. He has other friends to meet and other goals in life. But one thing's for certain: he isn't willing to let Sasuke go again. After the session, for sure, they'll talk.
By the time he returns to the classroom, the students are already about halfway through their drawings. He begins to circulate, looking over each person's shoulder to observe their work, giving everyone a bit of advice. If there's one thing Naruto has learned as a teacher, it's tact. It takes a certain sensitivity to know how to critique people of different personalities and skill levels, because even if a beginner is drawing next to a seasoned artist, Naruto can't just tell them anything at all, and he favours tips for improvement over pointing out mistakes and discouraging his students. He encourages Yumi to be more decisive in her mark making, suggests to Riku to try checking her proportions using negative space. Makoto's had a few more years of experience and Naruto often has trouble finding something to criticize that doesn't get nit-picky. He watches Makoto trace the curve of Sasuke's thigh, the dip in his spine, the slight protrusion of his ribs. If Sasuke's better fed than most fashion models, Naruto thinks, then they must regularly be falling over out of hunger. Even Sasuke looks like he could afford to eat a pizza or two.
Naruto blinks and his eyes snap to Makoto, who's looking at him expectantly. "Yes? Your drawing looks pretty good," he says.
"I'm not sure about the foreshortening," he admits, glancing back at his drawing. "This leg is coming out towards me, right? But it doesn't look right here."
"Foreshortening is tricky at the best of times. Can I have a look?" Naruto takes Makoto's charcoal and Makoto steps aside to let Naruto see Sasuke from his perspective. Naruto holds the charcoal up, measuring angles and lengths and comparing them to Makoto's drawing. "I think it's just the usual thing foreshortening does to people. You're processing what you see as a leg. In a way, you're understanding it too well. Stop looking at it as a leg, and see it as shapes. See, the knee overlaps the thigh like this," he says, drawing it over Makoto's original drawing to show the difference, "and the curve of the thigh goes like this, up to his hip. You want a little more definition in the ribs, too, like this."
Naruto's eyes are fixed on Sasuke as he traces the side of his torso, the charcoal dipping in to express Sasuke's muscles and tendons and bones under his skin. He always tells his students to try to "feel" the anatomy when drawing, but somehow he's never quite connected it so physically as he's doing now. As he draws, he can clearly feel the charcoal tracing Sasuke's side, feeling the smoothness of his skin, the strength of muscles and bones and the give of softer flesh, the bumps where the light hits and the crevices where it doesn't, the warmth of his body, the pace of his breathing, the beat of his heart. Naruto has always prided himself in his ability to distance himself personally from the model when drawing, but he can't escape knowing Sasuke. Feeling Sasuke.
"Uh, Naruto? Could I get back to my work?" asks Makoto hesitantly. "Only if you keep going, I won't have anything left to draw."
"O-oh." Naruto glances back at Makoto's drawing, which now bears quite a few of his own marks. "Sorry. I'll let you get back to it."
"Thanks." Makoto reaches out and plucks the charcoal out of Naruto's hand, fingers sliding against Naruto's as he does so. He gives Naruto a gentle smile. Naruto, still somewhat enchanted from studying Sasuke's figure, doesn't realize he's still in Makoto's spot, so Makoto puts his hand on Naruto's shoulder and gently coaxes him aside. Naruto feels the warmth from his touch battling with a cold spell sinking into his bones from an entirely different source. When he glances towards Sasuke, all he can see is glaring eyes.
Once the pose is over, Naruto gathers everyone around the model stand to do a short lecture. "Because I forgot to bring cardboard tubes," he says, "and because Sasuke here is an old friend of mine, we're going to cheat a little. Has anyone heard of cross-contours?"
Makoto's says, "That's when you draw a circle around the entire portion of the figure, right?"
"Good. Think of it like slicing a cucumber. Fancy presentation aside – in the simplest form, you're cutting right across it, perpendicular to its length. Because people have muscles and the like, we're not really perfectly cylindrical. Cross-contours help us define and understand the three-dimensionality of the figure. We can also cut a cucumber in sticks. You know those wireframes they use to show 3D models of cars and such? It's the same thing. You're basically drawing a grid on a 3D surface. Sasuke, hold out your arm."
Sasuke complies, and Naruto takes Sasuke's hand and uses a bit of charcoal to draw a circle all the way around his forearm, just under the elbow. He feels Sasuke's fingers tighten ever so slightly around his own hand, though the change isn't visible. His thumb, hidden by their palms, brushes against the inside of Sasuke's wrist, and something in Sasuke's expression softens.
"See this? Here, the arm is mostly round. But if I draw here," he says, tracing around Sasuke's wrist, "you can see that it's much flatter one way than the other, more like an oval. Here's something else. Sasuke's holding his hand palm-down right now."
Naruto draws a straight line over the top of Sasuke's forearm, from the middle of his inner elbow down to his hand. Then he turns Sasuke's hand palm-up, and the line twists. "The inner elbow faces up and only moves a little, even though Sasuke's hand has turned 180 degrees. Skin and flesh are flexible, so these lines can help you to track where it's all going. And if Sasuke flexes, like so, you can see even more where the muscles are emphasized. Okay, now let's look at the thigh. Sasuke, sit down."
Sasuke sits on the edge of a chair on the model stand, and Naruto climbs up to join him. He unceremoniously pulls Sasuke's knees apart and traces a circle around Sasuke's thigh, saying as he does so, "The femur, or thigh bone, is situated closer to the front of the leg than the back. And because of where the muscles are – quadriceps at the front, hamstrings in the back – you'll find a dip here—" his charcoal goes across the inside of Sasuke's thigh and only then does Naruto realize how very awkward this is, but he has to continue nonetheless "—and here," he finishes somewhat gratefully, crossing over the outside and closing the circle. "Does this make sense to everyone, or am I just rambling?"
Naruto looks around at the students for confirmation. None of them seems too confused, although Yumi's wide-eyed and taking in every detail, while Makoto looks a little suspicious. Naruto has to admit he's been a tad liberal. Old friend, indeed. What kind of old friend lets you draw on their naked body? Naruto can practically see the cogs working in Makoto's mind. The thing is, Makoto doesn't look like he's about to back off. If he's assuming there used to be something between Naruto and Sasuke, it's not deterring him. If anything, he looks more determined. Naruto starts to wonder if he's gotten himself into something he might not want to deal with.
But before Naruto can disband the gathering to start the next pose, Yumi raises her hand. "Um, could you draw some circles around the torso? Only I don't really understand it all."
Naruto's eyes instantly flick to Makoto, then Sasuke. Both of them are watching him. Naruto doesn't know what he should do, so he asks Sasuke, "You okay with it?"
"Whatever," says Sasuke with a shrug. So Naruto has no choice but to draw lines over Sasuke's chest and abs, going around his torso. It's only when Naruto has to place his circle in order to avoid Sasuke's nipples that he realizes he's doing just what he was thinking about: tracing Sasuke's body, quite literally, with his charcoal. He's feeling his way across Sasuke's chest, over the speed bumps of his ribs, into the dip of his spine, and back over his pectorals. He's exploring the topography of Sasuke's abs, dipping into his navel, climbing and descending the jut of his hip bones.
And he loves it.
"You done?" asks Sasuke casually.
"Uh – yes," says Naruto quickly, backing off. He's only drawn four circles, but his mind is buzzing with inspiration and desire, the two intertwining inseparably within him. He forces these both down and gets Sasuke to turn around, stretch, twist, and lie down, verbally noting the physical changes with each action. "Does that help?" he asks, turning to the students.
Yumi seems spellbound by what she's just witnessed. "Yes," she says faintly. "It does."
"Well, we'd better get going, then," he says, somewhat awkwardly. "Let's make it a half-hour pose. Of course, we're erasing this charcoal. You'll be drawing the contours yourselves."
As everyone heads back to their workstations to prepare, Sasuke rubs the charcoal off. "Can I get a tissue or something?" he asks, wrinkling his nose at the black smears on his body and hands.
"Oh, yeah." Naruto hunts around the room and finds a box of tissues, which Sasuke uses to clean off his hands a little.
Sasuke offers Naruto a tissue. "Can you get my back?"
Once again Naruto glances for only a moment towards Makoto. His station is all set up and he's waiting for the pose to start, watching them almost intently. Sasuke is waiting too. Naruto's starting to feel uncomfortable, pinned between these his and Sasuke's gazes. He goes around to Sasuke's back, escaping at least one pair of eyes. Ducking behind Sasuke helps deflect Makoto's stare too. He gently rubs away the charcoal, his free hand resting against Sasuke's back to steady himself. Sasuke's skin is cool to the touch from his time spent unclothed, even with the heater on behind him, and he seems to relax into the warm touch of Naruto's hand. But Naruto is ever aware of the eyes on them, the fact that he still has a class to teach, and it's with equal parts relief and reluctance that he draws back and calls for the pose to begin.
Makoto isn't the best in the class, but he's pretty damn good. Besides a grounded understanding of anatomy, he has his own personal touch, emphasizing the shadows with darker lines and allowing the lighter areas to almost fade out. In addition to that, there's a subtle style to his drawing – Naruto recognizes it in all his work – that seems just right for Sasuke: a little thinner here, a bit more definition there, and a mastery of portraits that Naruto sees in very few life drawing students.
"What do you draw in your spare time?" he asks Makoto.
"Everyone always asks me to do portraits for them," Makoto replies, turning. "Not that I don't find it fun; they ask because they've seen my sketchbooks. But I guess that's where most of my practice lies."
Naruto nods. "You have an innate sense of the details that make up a person's unique facial features."
"It's something I really enjoy." Makoto's eyes dart around Naruto's face, and his voice lowers to a murmur. "Honest, wide eyes. Fine, sparse lashes. The relaxed arch of your brow. The slight curve at the corners of your lips. The strength in the shape of your jaw. You have a beautiful face," he says with a smile.
Naruto has no idea how to react to this. It's not like he hasn't begun to understand that Makoto's into him, but he didn't realize Makoto was paying this much attention. Naruto would find it almost flattering if it weren't for how unnerving it is to be scrutinized like that. So in the end, all he can say is "Thank you."
After the pose, Naruto gets the students to look around at each other's drawings again. He goes to the front to grab a drink of water, idly watching Sasuke stretch.
"Making friends?" asks Sasuke coolly, rolling his shoulders, as the others all discuss their drawings. Naruto follows his gaze. Makoto's enduring a harsh critiquing from Riku.
"He's a really good artist," says Naruto. "You should look at his work."
"You know how quiet it is in a life drawing room when people are working, right?" Sasuke raises an eyebrow at Naruto. "I don't think anyone missed that rather detailed description of your face. Except maybe his girl; she's been blasting her music loud enough for me to listen in."
Naruto can't help the flush in his cheeks. "You think I asked for that?" he mutters. "Makoto's just a little more free with his comments than most people."
"I didn't see you objecting."
"What's your problem?" Naruto snaps. "Did you expect me to rebuff a compliment?"
"A little humility never hurt anyone. You should have seen your face when he complimented you. You were soaking it in like a sponge in the desert. Is your life so pathetic that you've never heard anyone tell you how attractive you are?"
Naruto opens his mouth to retort, then realizes something. "Did… did you just imply that you think I'm attractive?"
He expects a response along the lines of "maybe I did," but Sasuke's eyes go wide and he quickly says, "What – no. Don't go ahead and assume whatever you want. You're not much to look at, blockhead."
This doesn't impress him much, but then perhaps he ought to have remembered that Sasuke favours denial over even a defiant acceptance. He can't help a smile. "Then why have your eyes not left me in the past hour?"
Sasuke stands abruptly. "Get someone to pop that inflated ego of yours, moron!"
But Naruto isn't rising to the challenge, because this doesn't feel like their usual fights. Sasuke is using all the usual insults, but they've both always been aware of the other's merits and shortcomings. Naruto's ego hasn't been inflated since he was about fifteen, and even Sasuke acknowledged back then how much Naruto had grown. Naruto just looks up at Sasuke and says, "You're not fooling anyone."
"Fuck you," Sasuke snarls, grabbing his sweatpants. He pulls them on, then starts on his shirt. "You can be the model for the last hour, since you're so eager to get stared at. I'm out of here."
"What? Wait – Sasuke!" Naruto starts after him, then turns back to the students, who heard Sasuke's outburst and are watching with some curiosity. Hastily Naruto says, "Uh, let's take a short break for now."
By now Sasuke's already down the hall and into the stairwell. Naruto nearly falls down the stairs trying to catch up, but finally at the third floor landing he manages to grab Sasuke by the shoulder. What he doesn't expect is for Sasuke to whip around and pin him bodily against the wall, face twisted in rage.
"I never should have come here," Sasuke hisses, his face inches from Naruto's. "Ino told me I'd be in for a surprise. I never would have guessed she meant a bad one."
"What are you talking about?" Naruto says, panting from the exertion of catching up with Sasuke.
"There's a reason I turned my back on you six years ago. I never want to see your face again. Actually, how about this? Go let Makoto draw a portrait of you. Then send it to me so I can burn it!"
"Sasuke, what is your problem?" Naruto asks again, now more anxious than angry. "What's with the hostility? Did I do something wrong?"
"You left me!" Sasuke shouts, his words ringing harshly up and down the empty stairwell. "You went off to art school in a different fucking country, leaving me alone here with nothing but memories of you, and now I come back to find you flirting with a sickening romantic who can only see you for what's on the outside!"
Naruto's stunned, not by the words, but by the tinge of hurt in them, the fact that Sasuke's eyes are glossing over. Sasuke seems to realize what's happening and pulls back, looking away quickly, swallowing down tears.
"I don't even know what we argued about anymore," Sasuke whispers. "All I know is that it had nothing to do with the real reason we fought."
"I meant it," he says, hitching his bag more securely over his shoulder. "I'm leaving. I'm done with this."
"Sasuke, you have a job! You can't just leave!"
"I can do whatever the fuck I want. Tell the school they don't have to pay me."
"I have students to teach, and they're counting on both of us so they can learn. It isn't about the money, it's about the experience. You're the best model I've ever seen, and—"
"I know I am!" Sasuke roars. "I'm the best model anyone's ever seen! With my godly figure and my posture and strength and endurance, who wouldn't want to stare at me, right? I've spent my entire career – my entire life – being ogled, admired, adored for my looks. My body. In school, everyone either wanted me or wanted to be me. At work, I'm constantly being praised for my amazing figure and face. And do you know how many people have looked beyond that? One. I have had a single friend in all my life who got under my skin, who saw through my wall of cynicism, and now even he can't stop drooling at the sight of me!"
Naruto is silent long after the echoes of Sasuke's tirade bounce themselves out on the walls. He doesn't know what he's supposed to say, how he should feel. What he feels right now is guilt. The problem is that he can't deny it.
"I'm sorry, Sasuke," he finally murmurs. "I can't truthfully say I don't think you're beautiful. But beauty is inside and out, and that wall you've put up within yourself is tainting the masterpiece I know is the real you."
Sasuke flinches visibly at this, but he says nothing, just stares at Naruto, waiting for him to continue.
"Envy doesn't become you, Sasuke," Naruto says softly. "You have no reason to be jealous. You are, aren't you? Of Makoto. In any other situation I would have reciprocated, but he's my student, and anyway now that you're here my heart knows exactly what it wants. It's always been this way. Anyone I've ever dated or slept with – I've held everyone up to a standard that they'll never meet. You know how they say you never really get over your first love?"
"Do… do they say that?" Sasuke asks, all fire gone from his voice.
Naruto nods. "I never told you. But I think you knew."
"…Yeah." Sasuke glances away, looking almost meek now. "You've always been so frank about your feelings. And so friendly to everyone. You need to be careful, Naruto. One of these days someone's going to come along and assume you're into them."
"You mean Makoto."
"Yes, I mean Makoto," growls Sasuke. "He's not the only one who's assuming you're into him, though. And unlike him, I actually know you."
"Better than anyone," Naruto agrees quietly.
"And you weren't nearly as friendly around those girls either," Sasuke goes on.
"Well—" Naruto isn't really sure what to say to that. The girls are more annoying than Makoto, who's also better looking. Naruto's always favoured men over women anyway. He can only shrug. "I can't help who I'm attracted to. If I could, I'd forget you in a heartbeat."
"Liar," Sasuke murmurs.
Naruto smiles. "Yeah. I am. Are you going to do your job, then, or did you actually expect me to get naked in front of Makoto?"
Sasuke steps forward and pins Naruto to the wall again, but he's smirking now. "No one gets to see you naked before I do," he breathes, and presses his lips against Naruto's. He lingers just long enough for Naruto to realize what's going on, then draws away and wordlessly starts back up the stairs. Naruto blinks, dazed, then catches up.
"You know," he says, "other people have seen me naked before. Including you."
"Don't be obtuse," Sasuke replies, though his tone is casual. "You know what I meant. And that was at least ten years ago."
"Well last time I guessed what you were trying to imply, you accused me of putting words in your mouth. So say it properly."
"Fine. After this class, I'm taking you home and fucking you into my bed."
Naruto shudders at the husky tone of Sasuke's voice. "Fine by me, but can it be my place? I've never wanted to draw someone so bad."
Sasuke hesitates, stopping on the stairs, and Naruto nearly bumps into him.
"People are never going to stop staring at me, are they?" he says in a low voice.
Naruto immediately feels guilty. "No," he replies, because it's the truth.
"You know what might make it okay?"
"If people saw you for you?"
Sasuke turns, and there's a bitter smile on his face. "No, Naruto. It'd be nice in theory, but they'd only see a cold, hateful person. It's better for them just to look at me as someone beautiful."
"You're not a bad person," Naruto insists. "I know you better than that."
"I'm petty and selfish, Naruto. The thing that would make all the staring okay… is if it bothered you."
Naruto sits sketching Sasuke for the last pose of the night, turning Sasuke's words over and over in his mind. What did he mean by it? If the staring bothered Naruto… that would be jealousy, right? It would mean Naruto not wanting anyone else to stare at Sasuke. It implies a certain possessiveness. But why would Sasuke want Naruto to be possessive? How could anyone want such a restrictive emotion aimed at them? If Sasuke got all possessive about Naruto, Naruto would feel stifled and trapped. He needs his autonomy. Sasuke's always been an antisocial loner, so he'd be the same, right? And just because Naruto doesn't want people to be possessive of him doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy company and acknowledgement. He was, once upon a time, needy for attention, but that's gone now. He has people he loves now, people who love him, and he's much more self-confident than he used to be. And now that Sasuke's back, Naruto feels like there's little more he could want out of life.
The last pose is about forty-five minutes long. Naruto has Sasuke lie on his side for some different foreshortening. He does a couple of his own sketches from different angles, then goes to check on the students. He's still thinking about what Sasuke said. He looks at the students' work, focuses on the fact that they're staring at Sasuke, taking in his body, studying his physicality. But he can't bring himself to resent them. Art is something to be shared, and you can't own something just because you see it, study it, know it. Naruto knows no one else will have Sasuke. In fact, even Naruto won't have Sasuke, because that's not how it works. Anyway, Sasuke needs love in all forms. It wouldn't be right of Naruto to deny him that.
When the class is over, everyone puts away their easels and stools, packing away their supplies, saying goodnight. Naruto always sticks around until everyone is gone, so Sasuke heads to the bathroom first. Naruto is finishing stacking the stools when he hears shuffling behind him. "You ready to go?" he asks.
"Um." There's a cough, and Naruto turns to see Makoto standing there, looking nervous.
"Oh, Makoto. I thought you were Sasuke." Naruto's a little wary following the events of the past three hours, but he puts on an easy smile. "Did you need something?" What does he want to talk about? Will he ask Naruto on a date? Naruto doesn't do student-teacher relationships, although if Sasuke hadn't showed up he would have told Makoto to wait until after the life drawing course was over. Or might he ask about Naruto's relationship with Sasuke? Naruto hardly knows himself, except for that he's prepared to do anything to keep Sasuke this time around and is definitely looking forward to getting reacquainted tonight.
So, with all this running through Naruto's mind, Makoto surprises him by asking, "Do you do modelling for life drawing?"
"Uh – no, not as such," replies Naruto, a little taken aback. "I only really know poses in theory. Physically I have no idea how to do them, and anyway, I can't sit still for very long. A.D.D., you know."
"I don't mind," says Makoto quickly. "I usually draw people at the park or in the mall. Or when I'm drawing a friend's portrait, I talk with them. I'm used to drawing moving people. We can take breaks. I'm not asking for any special poses, I just… I'd really like to draw you."
Naruto looks into Makoto's eyes. There's a sincerity in them, a sense of pure motivation. But there's also an unwavering desire that unsettles Naruto. Can he trust Makoto?
"I'll pay you for your time," Makoto adds. "It can be anywhere. A coffee shop or something. I don't want to miss this opportunity to draw an amazing face."
"I try to keep student-teacher interactions at a minimum, for professional reasons. I'm sorry, Makoto, but that's how it is." Naruto really does feel sorry for having to turn Makoto down. If there's one thing that gets him every time, it's true inspiration. Anti-student-teacher-relationship rule aside, however, he gets the feeling arranging such a thing is not going to go over well with Sasuke. Naruto fears for Makoto nearly as much as he fears for himself.
"Please, Naruto. I can't pass up this chance."
But Naruto just shakes his head. "Go on home, okay? I think Riku's waiting for you downstairs." And she's probably with Sasuke. Possibly bothering him. Sasuke knows Makoto's been flirting with Naruto – Naruto wouldn't put it past Sasuke to say some nasty things that could cause strife between Makoto and Riku. He sighs and makes for the door. "I'm heading home too. The school's long closed by now."
"Wait!" Makoto calls after Naruto, who's pulling the door open. "Wait, please. If – after the course, you're not technically my teacher anymore, right?"
Naruto hesitates. "I guess you could argue that," he admits.
"Then it's fair game," says Makoto. "If you're busy, I'll wait. Weeks. Months. However long it takes."
"You're awfully determined for just one drawing," says Naruto, turning around to reveal a frown. "If there's something you want to say to me, just say it."
"I'm serious! I've never met someone such a perfect face in my life. Even Sasuke – well, I'd say you're about even. The two of you have very different features. All I want is the chance to draw you, once. I'm asking for your permission. I don't want to stalk you in class or something."
"Flattery won't get you anywhere!" Naruto snaps. Makoto looks taken aback at this, and Naruto automatically regrets his outburst. He rarely gets angry, especially in the evening classes when he teaches responsible adults and not a bunch of rowdy kids. He sighs. "I'm sorry, Makoto. The answer is no."
"I've told you why. I don't mind if you draw me in class during breaks or lectures. Draw from memory, find a picture online. There should be some on my website or Facebook or something."
"It's not the same. It's like seeing models in magazines. There's a reason I physically come to these classes. I'm sure you know the difference between drawing from photos and drawing from real life."
"This discussion is over." Naruto puts the key in the door to lock the handle from the outside, then heads into the stairwell. It's not like Makoto will be locked in the room.
He's swift, and he knows Makoto lost some time closing the classroom door, but he can still hear Makoto following him just as quickly down the stairs after just a few moments. If he can just make it into the lobby, Riku and Sasuke will be there, and maybe Makoto will shut up about the whole thing. It's actually starting to creep Naruto out a bit. There's no way his adamancy only has to do with drawing. Makoto wants a date, and he isn't taking no for an answer. Naruto's just reached the first floor landing and is considering making out with Sasuke in front of Makoto when, without warning, a strong hand grasps his wrist.
"Naruto, listen to me," Makoto begins, but Naruto's had enough. He wrenches his arm out of Makoto's grasp and whirls around.
"No means no, Makoto!" he shouts. "You have a girlfriend, and I have Sasuke! There is no part of this that's appropriate!"
Quick steps in the hall make them both turn. The stairwell door bursts open and Sasuke barges in, face livid. "The fuck are you doing to Naruto, you—"
"Makoto!" It's Riku, standing in the hall beyond the door. She gasps when Sasuke lunges at Makoto, but Naruto grabs Sasuke and pulls him back, wrapping his arms around the other man's chest.
"Sasuke, stop," Naruto grunts, holding him back with all his effort. He registers Makoto's stunned face, sees Riku hurrying over to her boyfriend.
"What'd he do? I'll beat him to within an inch of his—"
"He didn't do anything!"
Sasuke falters, partly turns towards Naruto. "What?"
When Naruto sees that Sasuke is no longer struggling, he lets him go. "I'm fine, Sasuke. Don't go starting fights."
The look in Sasuke's eyes is so emphatic that Naruto can't help smiling. He reaches out and fixes Sasuke's dishevelled hair, then looks to Makoto, whose attention is fixed on Riku. She looks him over, then glances over to Naruto and Sasuke. "What's going on?" she asks.
"I just asked Naruto if I could draw him sometime," says Makoto. "That's all I want."
"Nobody wants to draw someone that badly!" Naruto says.
Sasuke's lip curls into a snarl and he starts forward. "Don't even fucking look at Naruto—"
"Hold on, wait a minute!" says Riku. She turns and holds her arms out, standing in front of Makoto, between him and Sasuke. The situation is so odd – tall, strong Sasuke against petite, delicate Riku – that Sasuke falters.
"Riku…" Makoto begins, but she shakes her head.
"Makoto's not the most normal person you'll ever meet. When he wants something, he wants it. And he'll do anything to get it. Naruto, you're – you're one of the most attractive guys I've ever seen," she says, flushing bright red. "Makoto and I, we're both big on aesthetic. Anything pretty, anyone beautiful, our first instinct is to draw them, and we've talked about it – about… you. But trust me, Makoto's straight. Just comfortable."
"Possibly bi with a preference for girls," Makoto offers.
"And a bit voyeuristic."
Makoto snorts derisively, but pink dusts his cheeks.
"Please, Naruto, just give him this one thing. It doesn't have to be anything special. I'll come with you, if you're that suspicious."
Sasuke still seems wary. He moves closer to Naruto; Naruto feels Sasuke's hand resting in the small of his back, warm and sure, and somehow he feels intensely comforted by this. He feels himself relaxing, almost smiling. He asks, "How about we make it a double date?"
Only Sasuke is alarmed by this. "What—?"
"Like I said to Makoto, it'll have to wait until the course is over. I stay away from student-teacher relationships. Gotta draw the line somewhere, you know? But afterwards it's fair game, and you can draw Sasuke too."
Sasuke's scowling, but both Makoto and Riku seem thrilled by the idea. "Okay, deal," says Makoto. "Can we meet at the coffee shop across the road after the last class?"
Naruto nods. "I'm free. Sasuke?"
"Unfortunately," Sasuke mutters reluctantly.
"It's settled then." Naruto grins. "Now really, we should all get out of here. They say at night a ghost likes to wander the school, wearing a canvas smeared with multicoloured paint. Unless you want to go Scooby-Doo on the thing, but we'd need a dog. Sasuke can be the other girl, though."
"If anyone should be the other girl—" Sasuke begins, but Naruto's laughing again.
Riku and Makoto say their goodbyes and head off, Riku hooking her arm into Makoto's. Naruto's smiling as he watches them leave the school, but Sasuke's silent the whole time, leaning against the wall by the student work display case. Naruto turns.
"You're a little pale," he says softly.
"I really don't like that Makoto guy."
"You heard Riku. He's just a little single-minded sometimes." Naruto puts a hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "I'm the one who he would have been targeting, asshole. Don't get so worked up about it."
Sasuke grabs Naruto's arm and pulls him in close, their faces inches apart. "I'll get worked up about anyone who threatens to separate you from me again."
"That's so very sweet of you," says Naruto, somewhat sarcastically. He leans in to peck Sasuke on the lips, but before he can pull back Sasuke's hand is in his hair and their lips are glued together and Sasuke is kissing him fiercely, feverishly, his other arm encircling Naruto's waist. When they part, they are both breathless and dizzy from lack of oxygen and smiling uncontrollably.
"Let's go home," says Sasuke. "I don't want anyone else to even look at you for the rest of the night."
"That might be hard," Naruto replies as they exit the building, hand in hand. "We have to take the bus. I need to at least pay the driver, and then we have to find seats. And since it's a couple of studs like us, I can guarantee more than one pair of eyes is going to be glued to us."
"Idiot, I have a car." Sasuke pulls out a set of keys and presses a button, and the lights flash on a sleek, sky-blue convertible with the top down. Naruto is impressed before he remembers what Sasuke does for a living. As they climb in, Sasuke admits, "I would have gotten it in black, but this colour reminded me of your eyes."
"How old is this car?" asks Naruto, mollified by Sasuke's confession.
"Oh, I dunno. Five years? Six?" Sasuke says vaguely, pulling out of the parking lot into the street. "I got it a couple of months into uni. Anyway, the only other colour option was orange." He snorts, and Naruto has to laugh.
Naruto gives Sasuke directions to his flat. It's nothing special – as an artist, he doesn't exactly make it big. But it's home, and he's never really been one for grandeur. He feels distinctly self-conscious, unlocking the door and letting them in: Sasuke's always been so scrupulously clean, so tidy and orderly, that walking into their shared room at their foster parents' house was like being in two worlds at once, with a perfect line down the middle separating them. To his credit, however, Sasuke doesn't even wince as they step over the threshold.
"I wasn't exactly expecting company," Naruto says sheepishly, flicking the lights on. Thank goodness garbage day was yesterday, because it means the usual piles of instant ramen bowls are gone and the laundry's safely in the basket by his closet. The sink doesn't even have too many dirty dishes in it. Naruto kicks his shoes off and shoves them out of the way with his feet, then steps into the flat, tossing his bag on the couch before following, heaving a sigh.
"Frankly, I'm impressed." Sasuke looks around. "Smartened up a bit, have you?"
"I guess I'm better than I used to be," says Naruto. He glances over. Sasuke has taken off his jacket, revealing a nearly skin-tight sleeveless shirt and a waistband on his skinny jeans that sits low and hugs his hips. Naruto remembers that Sasuke models Calvin Klein and has to stop himself from drooling.
Something in Sasuke's expression shifts and Naruto meets his eyes to see a frown in them, although the rest of his face remains passive. Naruto feels a twang of guilt whose source he can't quite place. "Sasuke?" he murmurs. "Is something the matter?"
Sasuke blinks, then quickly turns away, brow furrowing. "Nothing. Can I get a glass of water?"
"Sure." Naruto stands and heads to the kitchen, grabbing a clean glass from the cupboard and filling it at the sink. He's just turning off the tap when hands slide through his arms and wrap around his torso, and a chin settles in the nook of his shoulder.
"Naruto?" Sasuke murmurs.
Naruto sets the glass on the counter. "What for?"
"What, six years ago?" Naruto lets out a laugh. "That's long over, Sasuke. Anyway, I… I think it was for the best, in the end. It would have hurt too much to leave you otherwise."
"And for blowing up at Makoto, and at you. And for being a jealous, possessive bastard."
"Well, that's something you can work on." Naruto turns in Sasuke's arms and smiles at him. "For now, I'll allow it."
"I don't need your permission," Sasuke scoffs, but he's returning the smile as Naruto's arms slide over his shoulders. "So, this… thing. Us. What's happening?"
"Nothing's happening. There was a six-year break, that's all. Okay?"
"Okay." Sasuke kisses Naruto deeply.
Neither of them is really sure how it happens, but in minutes they're in Naruto's bedroom, stripping like their lives depend on it, hot and panting and full to the brim with desire. Sasuke shoves Naruto onto the bed before tugging off his boxers, and when Naruto sees Sasuke naked he freezes. By all rights none of this should be a surprise. He's just spent the past three hours scrutinizing Sasuke's naked body, and it's not like they've never woken up to morning wood in the same room before. But there's something about it – being this aroused, in private, with the full intention of getting it on – that just makes Sasuke beautiful all over again. Naruto's an artist; he can appreciate a body personally as well as aesthetically, and three hours of studying isn't enough to capture the essence of Sasuke's grace. A lifetime would be a start. Naruto finds himself itching for a pencil, longing to devour Sasuke's physicality with his eyes, with his mind.
"Um, wait just one second," says Naruto quickly, and scrambles off the bed. Sasuke watches him slip out of the room. One second actually turns out to be at least one minute, but soon Naruto comes back with a large drawing pad and an easel in tow.
"Oh, no. Not this," Sasuke says, a note of warning creeping into his voice. "Naruto, I did not come here to be drawn again."
"Please, Sasuke!" says Naruto, setting up his easel in the corner of the room, facing the bed. "I can't get your body out of my head. I'm going to burst with inspiration, just let me get it down on paper and—"
"No!" Sasuke stalks up to him, grabs his shoulder, and pushes him against the wall. "I am not subjecting myself to the whims of your stupid artistic needs. I've spent all night posing, being drawn, being studied. Before that I was up at dawn, getting beautified, changing clothes over and over, having people stare at me and judge my beauty and take pictures of me so that more people can stare at me in magazines and on billboards. I am sick and fucking tired of this shit, and if you so much as think about drawing me for the rest of the night I'm getting the fuck out of here and I don't ever want to see you again!"
Naruto stands in shock, trapped not by Sasuke's physical restrictions but by the pain in his dark eyes, the anger and betrayal on his face. The way Sasuke is shaking, obviously holding back sobs of frustration. The way he looks so beautiful, so hopelessly beautiful in his vulnerability. Guilt overwhelms Naruto's heart.
Sasuke blinks. "What?"
"I want you to blindfold me," Naruto repeats. "If you don't want me to look at you, then I won't. I love everything about you, Sasuke. Sight isn't the only thing I need to love you."
Sasuke is still for a moment, and Naruto is sure tears are about to spill from his eyes. But then Sasuke pulls Naruto into a tight hug. Naruto can feel Sasuke's heart beating fast and hard against their chests.
They draw out their night, unhurried, tender, careful. The scarf over Naruto's eyes is thin enough to let some light through, to allow him to see the basic movement of Sasuke above him, beside him, around him, but all details are surrendered to the rest of his senses. And so he experiences Sasuke in other ways: the sound of his breathing and the melody of his voice, the taste of his mouth against Naruto's, the smell of his hair and sweat, the feel of his hands on Naruto's body and Naruto's hands on Sasuke's body. It is a completely different experience, studying Sasuke's body with his hands. He can't say he wasn't paying attention in those three hours of life drawing, nor in all the years they'd had together before that. But never before has he been able to really explore the surfaces and planes, the nooks and crannies of Sasuke's body, and though Naruto knows it would be enhanced with his vision he also knows that more than anything Sasuke needs this reassurance, this conviction that Naruto will love him no matter what. Naruto has always thought that if he were ever to lose his eyesight permanently he might as well kill himself, because he wouldn't be able to live with not seeing the beauty of the world around him. But as he holds Sasuke and they move together and find passion in each other, he starts to think that it might be okay. If he had Sasuke, he wouldn't mind being blind.
It's a while before Sasuke lets Naruto draw him. It takes a lot of coaxing on Naruto's part, a lot of well-placed words and visits to old friends to reassure Sasuke that his beauty is not the only thing he has going for him. They meet up with Sakura, who rejoices over their newly changed relationship status; they hang out with the guys from high school, reminiscing about teachers and getting in trouble and their grad prank. Some of the teachers they had are still at the school, too, and they all praise Sasuke's amazing learning speed and ability to master any challenge presented to him. Naruto makes sure to talk to Riku and Makoto before their double date. It takes several weeks, between work and other arrangements, and whenever they sleep together Sasuke carefully ties the blindfold over Naruto's eyes. But one day, one lazy morning when they both have the day off, Sasuke finally agrees to let Naruto draw him.
It turns out that Naruto can't even get half an hour into his drawing without desperately wanting to feel Sasuke in his arms again. And so his is abandoned as Sasuke lies on his bed and finally lets Naruto explore him fully, vision and all, and Naruto's eyes follow his fingers as they trace Sasuke's body once more. But the lines are familiar now; his hands know these muscles, those bones. Sasuke glances at Naruto and is surprised to see the blond feeling his body, eyes closed.
"It's better this way," Naruto whispers.
"Let me see your eyes," replies Sasuke.
So Naruto opens his eyes, blue as the sea and the sky and everything in between, and Sasuke feels like he could withstand any amount of staring, just to let those eyes watch him forever.
This fic really dragged itself out. I just expanded some of those inner monologues for all it was worth, and it was tons of fun. I'm often frustrated with myself for writing something that's too bare and doesn't feel full enough, but then I'm a rambler by nature so I have no clue how that happens. Then you get a fic like this, which I may have gone overboard with, but I don't regret it. Once again it's gone and developed from its original mood (somewhat humorous what with Sai as well as the reunion between Naruto and Sasuke) to a rather different one at the end (more tender and loving). But I definitely expected this fic to be something like half the length of what it is now. Ah well. It's about time I wrote myself a mid-length fic.
Writing this was something of a new experience for me, and yet at the same time very familiar. I realize I'm writing about my own field for once and I want to say "about time," but then I remember there's a reason I haven't before. Sure, I see things in real life that inspire me to write stories, and sure, I pour parts of myself into my writing, but overall I have a second-nature ability to separate reality from fantasy. Writing a story based off my recent life drawing course feels like it starts hitting a bit uncomfortably close. In fact, I've gone and imagined the art school and area almost exactly like the one I go to now and then for evening sessions. This is out of pure laziness (as well as economy), but I guess it could make future life drawing sessions a little awkward for me. Oh yeah, and now I'm not going to be able to see Calvin Klein anywhere without snerking.
As for "eat a pizza…" that's something of an inside joke with a friend of mine. It's our advice to skinny-ass anime characters. "Damn, you're skinny! Go eat some pizzas!"
In case you were wondering, the OCs in this fic are not in fact new OCs, though they have been portrayed differently. It's pretty much just the names I've reused. I don't think it's entirely too obscure, but if you think you know where they're from drop me a review or PM. No sketches this time, though.
I really, really enjoy portraying Sasuke as a character who seems proud, independent, and strong, but who in reality is hiding an immense fragility behind all of this. As I was writing the very end I realized that Sasuke's got a weird self-image disorder. Most people would feel insecure thinking themselves ugly instead of beautiful. But Sasuke doesn't want the stares not because he's ugly, but because he thinks they're blinding people to the rest of him. I only just realized that's somewhat backwards. Sasuke is typically described as the attractive one more often, so I thought it would be an interesting characteristic to subvert. I do love my Sasuke-centric fics.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Check back to my profile in a week for the link to my blog!