Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Street Fighter. I just discovered something that rocked my childhood memories to their core a few days ago. What has been learned cannot be unlearned.

My father, a man who I used to think was great at video games because he would beat my ass at every fighting game we used to play when I was small, was nothing more than a button-masher. A lowly button-masher! It was almost enough to bring a tear to my eye.

Damn it old man, look at the move list when I offer it to you and memorize one actual move! Just one! Please! That was embarrassing! Forty-five minutes and you didn't work out one special attack at random? With anybody? The button theory is the same for basically all of them! Luck into one and reverse-engineer that shit!

Chapter 55: The Days of Your Life


"Can't… keep up… anymore," Batsu said, worn down to the limit and hardly able to stand, "You... you... grrr…" He tried to muster ki from deep inside with his anger to activate Burning Vigor, but he couldn't pull anymore up. He'd been using it the entire time just to fight with Naruto as well as he had been. His stores of rage were purely tapped out.

Which coincidentally pissed him off.

…But he'd been getting thrashed the entire time. The Kyuubi thing inside of Naruto was no joke at all. After three tails, Batsu was nothing more than a mobile punching bag.

Naruto watched Batsu fall to his hands and knees and then turned off his own four tails of chakra. Batsu had given it everything he'd had, but it wasn't enough to force him any further. He couldn't safely spar with Batsu any longer.

"This isn't working," Naruto said, breathing hard in his own right. Even if Batsu could no longer keep up with him, it had still all been an exhausting session, "I've gotta be able to work with six tails at least. Otherwise…"

Batsu punched the ground hard, angry at himself for not being able to help more, "Damn it! My bad. This is all my fault."

"It's nobody's fault!" Naruto shouted at him, picking him up off of the ground by his shoulders. What could he do, ask him to be able to endure fighting against a power that no one else he knew could rightly stand up against? "There's gotta be another way to do this…"

It wasn't looking like there was though. Along with the redirection training, Naruto had to make sure he was as accustomed to intense combat as possible.

He had a strategy to employ against Akuma when the time finally came and it involved being as loose and ready to fight as possible when the fists began to fly.

Such a thing was difficult though, because no matter how intense his sparring partners came at him, Naruto couldn't go all out and try to hammer them. Ibuki, Cammy, Batsu, E. Honda, no one he tried could stand up against too much. It was just frustrating. Not just for Naruto but for everyone. Everyone who knew what was at stake and what was to come.

They had turned the nearly uninhabited industrial district into a war zone. The massive scrapyard that they had done their heavy-duty training in for years was even worse off now than it had been when they'd first found it as an expendable place to improve. Craters littered the ground, parts of the gate were torn apart all around the limits of the property, and entire vehicles were flattened and torn apart. Abandoned cranes were broken apart.

It had only been a week and there was almost nothing left for the place worth salvaging if anyone had the inkling to go there and try to do so.

Batsu couldn't take much more either. Three days straight of being Naruto's only no-limit sparring partner was too much for him. He hadn't complained, and day after day he'd given it everything he had to make Naruto go as far as possible, but he had nothing left. That much was clear. His failed attempts to tap back into Burning Vigor mode proved as much.

And if he couldn't do that, he couldn't even begin to keep up with the pace Naruto needed to cut in order to be better.

"Come on," Naruto said, looking up in the air past the smoke and debris that their fighting had kicked up, "Let's go home, alright?"

XxX

(Later That Evening – Naruto's Apartment)

Opening his door with Batsu held up over his shoulders, Naruto kicked his sandals off and had originally planned on dropping Batsu over the back of the nearest sofa like a sack until he could call Hinata to take him home, but the scent of food hitting his nostrils stopped him.

Cammy wasn't much of a cook. Neither was he, so he'd never been enthralled by the mere scent of anything either of them made to eat. That left him with two options. Either Cammy had taken an interest in studying something intensively aside from fighting techniques or cats, or someone else was making food in his apartment.

Down the hallway to the other rooms in his home, Naruto heard a bang and a clatter.

"Ow-ow-ow, it's hot!"

"Ibuki-chan, use gloves!"

"The time it takes to put on gloves I could have already had it out of the oven Sakura-chan!"

"Well, it serves you right that you burned yourself then."

Standing at the doorway to his kitchen, Naruto found Sakura and Ibuki, along with a veritable buffet of food that they couldn't have possibly made without a few hours of work. Especially if they had worked on it by themselves.

He wanted it. In his belly. Now.

But curiosity overpowered his appetite for the time being and he wound up getting attention when he set Batsu down in a chair at the kitchen table, prompting both girls to finally notice his presence and turn around with a start.

"S'up?" Naruto asked, getting a good look at both of them. Their aprons were adorable, "What's going on?"

Batsu stirred at the scent of dinner wafting through his nostrils, "…Fooooood," He droned lifelessly. Naruto had to give him a nudge to keep him from falling out of his chair onto his face.

Ibuki let out a slight laugh and gestured to the counter with the finished food, "Ta-da!"

Naruto knew Sakura could cook. Sakura's cooking had been a form of behavioral control she'd used to make sure Naruto learned common law, and to make sure he didn't belt random kids across the face for giving him funny looks and calling him a 'gaijin' back in the day. Ibuki was something else entirely though, "Ibuki, I didn't know you could cook."

The kunoichi shrugged her shoulders, proud that she'd actually put quite a bit of work into the meal. It had been a roughly 60/40 split of the effort between Sakura and her, "It's left over from advanced assassination training. You can't really poison someone's food if they don't want to eat it, you know? Ehehe…"

Sakura returned to putting the finishing touches on the dishes with a shy smile on her face, "It isn't just us. Cammy and Kanzuki-san helped too."

Naruto gave Sakura an incredulous look at that revelation, "Karin helped cook?" Sure. Probably right after hell froze over.

Even Sakura couldn't give that bit of credit where it wasn't due, "Well… Cammy helped," Batsu let out a tired snort of laughter in his seat.

All Karin did was oversee, which was redundant because she knew nothing about how to even make herself a sandwich, let alone a meal. Apparently preparing her own meals was beneath her. Eventually Sakura had to send her out with Cammy to get something for all of them to drink during dinner to keep Ibuki from dragging a dull kunai down her back..

"We just figured it'd be fun," Ibuki said with a huge grin, "Everybody sitting down and eating together like this. It sounds nice, doesn't it?"

Batsu chimed in from where he was limply seated in his chair, his upper body and his neck hanging backwards over the top of it, "Yo. Just saying; somebody's gonna have to feed me if I'm actually gonna eat. Your boytoy's been beating the stuffing out of me for the last three days."

Sakura rolled her eyes at his almost cavalier way of dismissing his inability to move his muscles, "I called Hinata-chan twenty minutes ago. She's coming too," She had a feeling Batsu would have stuck his thumb up if he'd been able to move his arms to that degree.

Naruto had already moved past the girls and looked over the spread that they had prepared, "You guys didn't have to do all of this yourselves."

"It's just dinner Naruto," Sakura reasoned, moving him away from the counter before luck would have him mess something up, "It's okay."

Ibuki sighed and walked up to Naruto, setting her hands on his shoulders and looking him directly in the eyes, "You know, when someone does cool stuff for people, eventually they want to give that person something back in return. It's a pretty normal thing," She said, sitting him down in a chair at the table, "That's how these things work. Give and take. You see?"

"Ibuki-chan?"

"Yes Sakura-chan?"

"Could you please get out of Naruto's lap?"

"…Do I have to?"

XxX

Despite the fact that his original training at Gouken's dojo had been in Japan, Ryu had never actually done much wandering there. Really, he only came back for tournaments and other reasons. The rest of the world just had so many more challenges available and more opportunities to improve himself than the tiny island nation had. But finding himself in need of a sojourn, he took it upon himself to actually wander the countryside for a spell.

Away from the towns and cities there were plenty of tranquil areas for him to clear his mind and tend to his training. It was fairly pleasant, all things considered, and it helped temper his mood after the displeasure he'd felt upon his departure from Aohura City.

As long as there was a road to follow to take him to the next place, Ryu was fine with it. Bag slung over his shoulder, he noted that soon he'd have to find a place to stop and camp for the night. The sun was going down and that was nature's designated time for most of its creatures to wind down.

The sound of an engine approaching from behind him on the lonely road prompted him to turn around to make sure he was out of the way of whatever vehicle would pass him by on the dirt road. It didn't pass him by though. In fact, it stopped right by him, and he knew who was driving.

"…Ken?"

How he managed to find him in the middle of nowhere was uncanny by Ryu's account, but he failed to recognize that he was very traceable when it came to someone with Ken's resources. Especially since Ryu didn't know enough about technology to know how easy it was to track him by his phone.

It cost a hell of a lot of money for Ken to get access to the sort of technology needed for that kind of thing, but that wasn't necessarily a problem for him.

Ken looked his oldest friend over with a grin on his face at locating him, "Man, you just love roaming around don't you?"

Ryu shrugged in response, "Maybe one day when I'm Master Gouken's age, but until then not a chance. How could I when there are so many places to go and people still out there to fight?"

And with the topic switching almost immediately to fighting, Ken remembered why he'd flown to Japan and sought Ryu out in the first place. Almost instantly his expression changed. As good as it was to see Ryu again, they needed to talk.

Patting the passenger's seat of his car, Ken gestured for Ryu to enter. He did with no questions asked, "Come on. Dan said Master Gouken returned to the dojo, so I'll take you to the mountain. I wanted to see him again anyway," He still couldn't believe that his old master was alive and well.

"He'll defenitely be glad to see you," Ryu said as he closed the door and let Ken take off down the road, "He's heard you're doing very well."

They drove in silence for longer than Ryu ever figured the two of them would go without Ken saying something to him. He never looked Ryu's way, his eyes instead focused on the road ahead of him as if anything other than his full attention would doom them both. Ryu wasn't particularly one for conversation, but to be with his best friend and not hear him running his mouth was odd.

Normally he'd be grilling him on where he'd been or where he planned on going next. That, or Ryu had expected him to talk about Eliza and the baby he was set to have with her. But none of that came up.

Eventually though, Ken did break the silence, and Ryu had quickly wished that he hadn't, "I came to help the kid," Ken said, noting a scowl on Ryu's face. Clearly there was no confusion over who he was referring to when he called him 'kid', "…Apparently, he's about to have himself a hell of a showdown."

Ryu figured that Ken had somehow heard of his little dust-up with Naruto in some form and made no bones on hiding it or labeling it a misunderstanding, "I'm not going to fight him again. Not because of that."

"I wasn't talking about you," Ken pointed out, deciding to cut to the heart of it, "Akuma came to town and tried to take Sakura," Ryu's hands slammed on the dash of the car hard enough that Ken had to raise an issue, "Hey-hey-hey, this is a rental!"

There were more important things afoot than Ken's car, "You can't be serious!"

"Why would I lie?" Ken asked, "If you have to look for a silver lining here, at least he's not gunning for you anymore," No one could ever say he didn't at least try to be positive, even if that wasn't necessarily something to advertise in place of the reality, "Apparently he thinks Sakura would be more willing to use the Satsui no Hadou than you since she's done it four times already in less than six months."

So once again, it was rearing its ugly head. All Ryu could do was shake his head. If Naruto had seen his side of reasoning, maybe this wouldn't be an issue. But it was, because as long as Naruto was in the picture, she would always have that anchor of attachment that she wouldn't be able to let go of as long as it was in front of her.

Ken noticed Ryu's expression change and quickly rapped his friend on the head, "And another thing, you know you fucked up, right?"

"What?"

"If it had been me, and you'd said to me what you'd said to Naruto, I couldn't tell you what I might have done on the spot, but I know one thing," The utmost seriousness was etched on his face as he turned to his fellow martial artist, "You wouldn't have seen my family again, at least until my kid hit middle school."

It was obvious that he was referring to the statement that had led to Naruto's little street fight with him, and Ryu wasn't willing to back down on it, "The second Sakura learned enough to complete the Shinkuu Hadoken, she became vulnerable to the darker potential side of our art. Her ki is too potent now to leave it alone."

"Those two kids knew each other before they'd ever heard of you. She couldn't even use ki when they met. Before she had fighting, she had him."

"She'll turn into-."

"She won't. She's not like Akuma. Remember, Master Gouken said he was taught by a man who could use the Satsui no Hadou and not lose himself."

"And the way to do it disappeared after Akuma killed him. He only had two students and master disowned the killing side of his teachings."

Ken smirked at the point his 'brother' thought he'd made, "Then she'll either figure it out for herself, or she'll find another way," He reasoned smoothly, "She's seventeen, about to be fully grown. You weren't ever around to actually be her mentor. All she really got from you were the techniques and the work ethic."

His complete faith in the situation was startling. Ryu knew Ken had dealt with Akuma, had seen just what the Satsui no Hadou was capable of turning someone into, "How could you figure something like that?"

"Because you weren't around enough for her to pick up on other parts of what makes you who you are," Ken explained, tapping his own temple, "There's someone else that she spends almost every day with. And all I ever see that kid do is get the job done."

Ryu hadn't been around for most of their escapades, but Ken had been in the loop the entire time and had seen firsthand a few times what he was talking about. He wished he'd had the strength and the sheer force of will to pull off what Naruto had been doing since he'd been fifteen when he was that age.

No trainer? That was fine. He'd figure out his techniques by himself based on what he already knew. And Sakura took that mindset when she'd first started learning of her ki. So much so, that when she finally got a guide on how to perform the real versions of things like the Hadoken, she'd completed them quickly and kept her own innovated spin on the move.

Ryu perfected everything he had been taught by Gouken since he could walk, but he did not tend to innovate. That bit of creative spark, she got from seeing Naruto rework his own jutsu several times over to serve separate purposes. From seeing him create his own projectile attacks from scratch.

The absolute lack of quit in him whatsoever when it mattered was something that she'd picked up as well. The series of bouts with Juri was the most recent and extreme example that could be brought up.

"That's not even the most important thing though," Ken continued as the last specks of the sun began to tuck behind the horizon, "Naruto believes in her, unconditionally. Satsui no Hadou or not."

The two just remained silent from that point forward as they continued to drive along to Gouken's domain.

XxX

(Aohura City – Naruto's Apartment)

It wound up being a pretty full table of eight between Naruto, Sakura, Ibuki, Karin, Cammy, Abel, Batsu, and Hinata.

Karin had made it a habit throughout the meal to feed Naruto after trying it once and seeing the immediate displeasure on Sakura's face that the expressive girl couldn't hide.

It frustrated Naruto at first, but eventually he sat back and went with it. There weren't many times in life when a pretty girl was going to be completely willing to feed you, and you had to sit back and let some opportunities come to you when they presented themselves.

"Say 'ah' Naruto-san."

"I'm not saying 'ah' Rin-Rin, but I'll totally eat that."

"You are so much more docile and agreeable when you are well-fed," The young heiress observed, squeezed close to Naruto as her chopsticks dropped a morsel into his mouth, "I must remember this for later. This is fun," She giggled as he rubbed his head against her affectionately from the attention, "Oh, you are positively adorable!"

Ibuki knew she had no reason to comment from things she'd done in the past, but seeing Karin feed Naruto irked her. Mostly because she hadn't ever thought of it beforehand, "Are you treating him like a boyfriend or a pet?"

"Well, certain qualities of both tend to overlap from time-to-time," Karin immediately quipped with a cheeky smirk before letting Naruto go and tend to his food on his own. She didn't need to affirm to anyone how she felt. She knew and he knew as well.

Feeling a nudge on his other side, Naruto turned his head and saw Sakura smiling at him, a smile that he returned as she spoke, "So, I hope it's good."

As far as Naruto was concerned, she didn't need to ask that question. It should have been obvious from the way everyone had torn into it. Even Karin had eaten, and she usually only ate meals specially prepared by her own staff, "Yeah Sakura-chan. You seriously didn't have to do this."

"Ibuki said it earlier," Sakura said, brushing Naruto's cheek with her fist, "Sometimes people just want to do things for somebody else. And I wanted to do this. As long as you like it I'm happy."

The two shared a look but were distracted from across the table by Batsu and Hinata more or less mocking the two of them with a silent kissy-face taunt clearly meant to be an allusion to the two of them.

Naruto silently moved his foot underneath the bottom of Batsu's seat and flipped his chair back, knocking Batsu to the floor in the middle of his antics and putting an end to them. Watching his friend's girlfriend pick him up and put him back in his chair put a grin on Naruto's face and got him a knock to the shoulder from Sakura.

That wasn't the only joke of the evening, and as the meal progressed, everyone took turns talking about older times with a touch of nostalgia, even the not-so-good ones. They all told stories for the benefit of Abel, who was the newest to the way things had gone in their lives.

By now everyone in the know was aware that Naruto had dropped training trying to catch up to Akuma's brute strength altogether and was preparing a strategy for him centered around one technique he was trying to learn. The first person to steer the conversation to the elephant in the room was Cammy, who was never shy to talk about whatever when she was curious.

"So how is the redirection training going?" She took great care to refrain from calling Naruto 'master'. He was embarrassed enough by it when she let it slip when they were alone, to say nothing of her saying it around others, "Have you made any progress?"

Naruto didn't really know what to say. He hadn't really wanted to talk about any of that with them. How he had chosen to try and fight Akuma was something that he didn't want to let them know about in case it failed. If it did, he wanted them to think that he had another plan or an ace in the hole. If he wound up coming up with one, it would probably have to be something on the spot.

All he really did was take a long sip of his drink instead of answering. As the only person present for most of the functional training, Batsu took it upon himself to tell the others about what was going on. It was a simple enough question, and it wouldn't give way to the thing that Naruto really wanted to keep under wraps.

"He doesn't remember how fast Akuma's blasts are," Easily explainable enough, as during the first battle Naruto hadn't been entirely within his right mind at the time, "And even if he knew… well he says there's another problem," Batsu frowned, wondering why Naruto wasn't talking about any of this himself, "He says the thing in his gut told him he has to make Akuma give him his best shot. Apparently it's the only way to make sure he puts the bastard down with it."

Karin gave Naruto an odd look, "But surely if you did what you did against Seth, Akuma would-?" Naruto's eyes met her, clearly showing that he wasn't sure about the answer to her unfinished question either way, "I see."

Having been prompted to respond in some way, the blond ninja figured he might as well talk about it now, "Plus, if his best attack fires anything like the Shinkuu Hadoken, redirecting it might not work. Sakura-chan's and Ryu's are so fast. If his is even faster it might fly too fast to time right."

And he didn't know what would happen if his timing was off, but the Kyuubi assured him that it wouldn't be anything good. Getting hit with something like that without even trying to redirect it would probably take off a few body parts.

Thinking of something like that was enough to bring the mood down to earth. At least until one lively kunoichi decided that she had taken in enough of that atmosphere.

"Ugh. Enough of the down-ness. Everybody needs to cheer up," Ibuki eventually said before reaching under the table and pulling out two bottles, "Because I found Naruto's alcohol~!" She said in a sing-song voice as she waved them around.

All eyes turned Naruto's way as he wore an expression that clearly wondered how Ibuki had even found them. He hadn't been keeping them in the kitchen. Karin didn't particularly see anything off about it. She herself had a sizeable amount of alcohol from around the world in her house and had imbibed her fair share at social functions in the past.

"Naruto?" Ibuki asked, a little grin on her face, "Want to explain?"

Not really, but he hadn't done anything wrong the way he was certain she was implying.

"It's a gift E. Honda gave me a little while back," Back when he'd first moved in to his new place. When Naruto told him he wasn't old enough for it, E. Honda just laughed at him and said if he was old enough to do what he'd done in his bathhouse he was old enough to keep a drink or two around, "So I kept it… you know, in case of… something. I don't know. Don't look at me like that."

"In case of party!" Ibuki finished his previous thought for him, "If bad things are gonna happen soon, I at least want to say I drank with all of you at least once if we never get another chance."

A small uproar broke out amongst the amassed guests over the merits of drinking when it wasn't legal for most of them while Ibuki ran off to check and see if Naruto had anything worth serving any sake in. All Naruto could do was take it all in, and it put a wide smile on his face as he looked around.

This was it. This was his family. Even some people who weren't there would have counted as well. Chun-Li, E. Honda, Ken, even Guile's grumpy self.

It was as close as Naruto was ever going to get to having one, at least until he started his own, and there was nothing wrong with that. It actually felt good.

XxX

(Elsewhere in Aohura City)

Sasuke didn't know what he was doing, standing out in front of Akira's apartment building. He didn't even know what had possessed him to pass in that direction on the way out of town.

He was leaving for a while, he knew that much. Probably the country as well. Gen wasn't going to go anywhere, knowing full well that he was in the younger man's head. That was fine. He could stay at the stupid restaurant because it was his. He owned it. Sasuke just ran it. That was fine. After Sasuke killed him he'd take the place for himself and that would be that, but for the time being he needed to go find a breakthrough.

'What the hell?' Sasuke thought to himself after that train of thought had run its course through his head, 'I'm actually planning over taking that stupid place?' Why not? It was a good business that basically ran itself since there were actual managers there aside from him, and it wasn't as if it got in the way of assassination duties. It actually helped.

The restaurant was a reason to even stick around in Aohura City to begin with.

Well, it was one reason.

And somehow, his second reason wound up pulling into a spot at the curb out front. Stopping and turning off her bike, Akira climbed off of the seat and removed her helmet to grace him with a gentle smile, "Sasuke," She said in greeting.

Their interactions were simple, but they did enjoy spending time with each other. That was something Sasuke could say for very few people in the world. And he didn't need to hear her tell him anything to learn about her. She loved motorcycles and anything fast in general. She had a penchant for racing. She heavily disliked chatter and did so as little as possible.

Most importantly, she expected no ridiculous antics drawn from some romantic pretty-boy archetype from him. She didn't expect some eventual out of character display of warmth. Those weren't his things.

Akira wasn't necessarily good at them either. She made it clear that Sasuke was something more than a friend to her, but she didn't need all of the kisses and touches that most girls would seek from someone they felt strongly for. She was normally far too introverted for that regardless.

Walking up to the impassive young man, the first thing Akira noticed was the bag he carried with him. She didn't say anything, but her frown spoke volumes more than words from her would have, at least to Sasuke.

"I'm leaving for a while," He said, "Not really sure when I'll be back either," Or if he'd be back at all.

Akira didn't like it, but the fact that he was even coming to her to tell her at all meant something significant. If she were nothing to him, he wouldn't even have bothered.

…If she were nothing to him, he wouldn't have bothered.

With that thought in mind, she managed to smile again and think of something, holding up a finger to ask Sasuke to wait for a moment for her to return. Any attempt she would have made to bound off and gather a few things to offer to come with him was stopped. He knew what she'd been intending to do, and he couldn't let her do it.

He didn't need to hear her speak to know what the girl was thinking. Akira's gestures on their own were enough for someone with his eyes.

"I'm not taking you. You don't need to see what I'm preparing myself to do. I hurt people Akira," Sasuke said bluntly, "I'm getting ready to kill someone," He was treating this like an assassination contract he needed to fulfill, and he didn't bring people along on those. Especially someone who didn't need to be introduced to any of that.

Akira's mood fell, but offered up her keys for Sasuke to have in order to help him travel. Such a sweet girl.

Sasuke grabbed her hand and folded her fingers neatly back around the keys, "I'm not taking your motorcycle either," He told her. He had to be direct. Just because he liked her, that didn't mean he would sugarcoat anything. That wasn't how he operated, "You really should keep away."

Akira was soft-spoken. That didn't mean she was the type that went along to get along.

"You're dumb to say that," Akira said quietly, strangely enough showing how much steel she had in her backbone, even without the security blanket that was normally the skull helmet that hid her from the world, "You're just scared of getting close to people."

Sasuke gave her a look that would have made a lesser person take a step back at its intensity, but she didn't flinch. He'd already known that she wasn't afraid to run up against him if she felt like it. She would just be quiet about it… unless she was fully adorned in her biker gear. Then she'd be aggressive and pushy.

Alright then. He'd give her a reason if she really needed one.

"Mangekyou Sharingan."

Those were just words to Akira. They didn't really mean anything. Was he talking about his eyes? "I don't understand," She muttered.

Red eyes spun to life in Sasuke's head, and he took a step in her direction, but she still didn't move away from him. She only shook her head in confusion.

"I can get power beyond my dreams," Sasuke said, holding his hand out in Akira's direction before making her jump as sparks from his Chidori danced around his fingers, "But to get it, I have to kill the person I care about most. And I don't ever want that to be an option, just in case I really am weak enough to do it."

"Sasuke…" Akira said, smiling slightly, actually reaching out and holding Sasuke's hand with both of hers once the electricity faded, "If there's someone out there that you can consider really killing with your own two hands for any reason at all, you clearly don't love them that much."

Reasoning aside, Sasuke was able to read between the lines and gave the girl an accusatory look, "Tch. You think I'm in love with you?" It wasn't any harsher than his usual tone, which meant that there was absolutely no bite behind it.

Akira had already filled her speaking quota for the evening and wouldn't say another word. She just popped up on her toes and gave Sasuke a peck on the lips. There was her answer.

And that was that.

"That didn't prove anything," Sasuke informed her, despite the fact that he'd consciously let her do it. Akira just beamed at him and nodded. She wouldn't say a word if he really wanted to be in denial, "Stay away from Gen. I don't have a clue what his game is, but I don't think that old son of a bitch is above anything at this point."

Not after what he'd learned of what Gen had done to people that he'd only known through Sasuke. People he hadn't even introduced himself to. Sasuke would put nothing past him any longer.

He was going to kill Gen with his bare hands, and he meant it. He hadn't felt as resolute about taking anyone's life in years.

He was going to kill Gen and he was going to fucking laugh when he did. It was what he deserved. And then he would spite him a second time by forgetting about him and moving on with his life afterwards. That was what tended to happen when the only thing you were good at was killing people. The only people who would really care to remember anything about you were usually already dead.

Sasuke took a breath to calm himself. There was no use getting angry now when there was no target in front of him to take it out on. He would save it for when he returned. He had a nasty habit of holding good grudges anyway. Feeling he'd said all he could say, he made to leave.

Akira reached out and grabbed his arm before he could turn around and beseeched that he do one thing.

"Stay."

Not forever. She wasn't asking him not to go and train for what he had endeavored to do. She just didn't want to send him off into the middle of the night like that.

And he didn't know why he listened. Curiosity? The hormones that he'd been ignoring for his entire teenage life? The fact that if her brother came home he would have really pissed him off?

But he did, and even if he was gone before sunrise, before Akira had even awoken the next morning, it still counted and they both knew it. Damn woman. If Yang, Yun, Chun-Li, or God forbid that idiot Naruto ever found out that he'd gotten attached he would never live it down.

XxX

(Elsewhere in Town – Naruto's Apartment)

Abel had left hours ago, as had Batsu and Hinata. Ibuki had been quite lively when she was under the influence, and wound up wearing Karin out with an excessive amount of dancing. The two of them wound up falling out together on a sofa in the living room once it started getting late and there wouldn't be any waking them. Cammy simply saw that the two of them were comfortable before turning in herself.

Naruto had long since turned the TV and the music off, and yawned to himself as he had returned to the kitchen to see to the plates, bowls, and other things that needed cleaning before long. If he didn't his entire apartment would smell within a day or so, and that wasn't cool.

The work was quick for the most part since his new place had a dishwasher, so it was only the bigger things that needed cleaning. All he needed was the light from the bulb above the sink to finish it. Waking up any of the girls was the last thing he wanted to do, but Ibuki and Karin seemed completely out of it.

The creak of the floor prompted Naruto to wheel his head around to find Sakura leaning against the door frame leading into the kitchen, "I could have done that too you know," She said with a warm look in her eyes.

"The girl that cooks me a kickass dinner like this isn't washing my dishes afterwards," Naruto said as Sakura watched him put away the last pot he was going to clean that evening, "Not a chance," Sakura walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, setting her cheek against his back with a sigh, "What's up beautiful?"

"Mmm…" Sakura just hummed, shutting her eyes as Naruto finished up his work, "Hey."

"What?"

"…You know I love you, right?"

"Yeah. I love you too."

The way he'd said it so quickly without so much as a thought made her frown, as if it had been every time they had exchanged the sentiment in the past. Did he not realize that she had been completely serious? "I didn't mean like-."

"I know how you meant it," Naruto cut her off as he dried his hands, "Even if you didn't know it when I said it before, I meant it the exact same as I do when I'm saying it to you right now. Whenever you said, 'You know you love me,' and I said, 'I know,' or whenever I flat-out said 'I love you' just out of nowhere, I totally meant it like this."

But they had been saying that back and forth for years. It was to the point where one of them bringing up the fact that they loved the other was a throwaway statement. It hardly packed a punch any longer because they had said it to one another so often.

"Then why didn't we ever-?" Sakura had to stop and compose herself as she felt her heart flutter, "I mean, why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Because it seemed like you had a crush on Ryu, and I dealt with that kind of thing before. With another girl, you know? Her name was Sakura too actually," Naruto said before trying to break the tension with a laugh, "She's nothing like you though. After all, you never hit me for being dumb."

The latter subject was news to Sakura. They had never had that conversation before, and it hadn't been that he'd been hiding it, it had just never come up. It had never necessarily ever been anything Naruto wanted to talk to her about either.

What was he really supposed to say about it in hindsight? 'Hey, you know how we both want to make a move on each other but never do? Yeah, you see there's this girl where I used to live, that I had a crush on before, and she kind of messed up my view on showing that you liked a girl. And here's the kicker, her name's Sakura too! Isn't that funny?'

She didn't know how to respond to it. She turned Naruto around to look right at him as he continued.

"You went off to find Ryu, and you didn't take me with you or tell me you'd left. And when you found him it was all you could talk about. You gushed about him for years," Naruto recalled, squinting his eyes as he thought of how to put things, "And I'd already decided after the thing with the other Sakura that even if I really liked a girl, if I knew she wanted somebody else and couldn't look at me like that, it was her choice."

It felt like a retread when it had first happened to him. Sort of like Sasuke had been, Ryu seemed even more insurmountable to a fourteen year-old Naruto when he'd made the decision.

Ryu was stronger, to the degree of being a world champion while Naruto was still being kicked around by people like Batsu and other members of Aohura City's finest delinquents. Ryu was silent and more composed as a person. He was handsome and actually grown up. He was Sakura's hero, and the fact that she could actually reach out to him and stand with him simply drove the point home that it would end much like the situation with Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke had ended in Konoha… or something like it.

Being her friend had been enough, even if it was awful to be so close and know that he'd be gated off from what he really wanted. And that bled over into his relationship with other women around him as well, keeping him from ever being too proactive with them, even when he was aware of the depth of the feelings he had for them and vice-versa.

Sakura looked up into his eyes and finally took note that this was why he had never actually wooed any of the girls that liked him. He'd tried it before when he'd been younger, and not only had it failed miserably (more so than she would ever know), it had made him give up being the active one in relationships altogether. Sakura always figured it had been strange that with the force of Naruto's personality he'd never been the one to guide anything to intimacy with the other girls.

Sakura's short brown hair shook as her head did in the negative, "I… you already know how I feel. I told you, my dark side is kind of obsessed with you. And wow, that didn't sound as creepy in my head as it did out loud," She said with a few giggles as she leaned forward into Naruto's chest.

She was extremely feely and loose tonight, more affectionate than Naruto was outwardly used to from the girl. It had taken him a moment to figure out why, as Sakura had been one of the people against actually getting into his sake stash for the novelty of trying it, but the soft glow on her cheeks in the low light and her relaxed eyes were a sort of giveaway. He didn't even remember seeing her take any.

"Sakura-chan," Naruto said, trying to hide a grin and look offended, "You had to get yourself drunk just to come in here to try and talk with me like this, didn't you?"

Sakura puffed her cheeks out and roughly nudged her forehead against his, "I'm not drunk…" She should have known what would come next simply from how close the two of them were together.

They shared the sort of kiss that Sakura had always wanted. She wanted it to last and wouldn't have let him go even if the world had started ending at that very instant. It didn't take her any time at all to run her tongue against his lips, begging him to let her in. Naruto's response was to battle right back. Sakura couldn't help but grin into the kiss, feeling competitive with Naruto as their tongues lashed.

It was simply an exercise in emotion. There was nothing teasing about it whatsoever.

Naruto wrapped her up and lifted her off of the ground onto a nearby counter. She didn't even fight, wrapping her legs around his waist to help keep herself up as he kissed her, "You suck at lying. I can taste it on you. What would your mom say?"

Sakura furrowed her brow in troubled thought at what was supposed to have been a joke, "You sort of have a point there. She's going to know when I get in, and she'll see me like this," Her mother would know she was drunk, and she would not be amused. Sakura was fairly certain that the only reason she made it over to Naruto without having him see her stagger was because she'd followed the pattern of the tiles on the floor to reach him.

The solution from one of the most uncomplicated men walking the planet was quite simple, "So stay the night," Naruto whispered in the silence of the mostly darkened apartment. The only sounds aside from the two of them were the soft noises of Ibuki and Karin sleeping in the living room.

"I don't want to be a bother," For Sakura it was only a fifteen minute walk home. For Naruto, that was fourteen minutes too long, especially with what had been happening lately.

"Not a chance. Everybody else is staying," And he wasn't letting her out of his sight as she was. She had clearly never drank before, because she was far gone and he wished he'd noticed it earlier in the conversation when she stumbled over her words. Sakura usually didn't have any trouble coming up with what she needed to say, "If you think I'm letting you outside in the middle of the night like this, you're crazy."

He didn't think he could let her go, and it wasn't for altruistic reasons either. He felt her rubbing herself against him, and it was driving him mad.

Sakura contested weakly, "You can't make me stay," As if she wanted to leave in the first place.

"I'd love to see you get back up after I got you all the way here."

"Huh?"

Sakura hadn't even noticed that Naruto had basically ghosted to his room with her in tow, at least, not until he dropped her butt-first onto the center of his fairly large bed. Waiting for her body to settle and her head to stop swimming, Sakura shot him an adorable glare before she laid herself back on the mattress with a sigh.

Arms crossed, Naruto just stood and waited for her to get all of the fight-back out of her system, of which there wasn't very much. Only some half-hearted writhing to try and roll herself over and up, but she remained right where he'd dumped her.

When she didn't move again, Naruto figured he had to do something before she fell asleep and hogged the entire center of his bed for the night. Grabbing onto her toes he gave her a shake, only for her to kick her foot free with an annoyed moan. The second time, he grabbed onto her ankle and did it again only for events to repeat themselves, only with a louder, more annoyed groan. A third tug wound up with Naruto being hit in the face by Sakura's shirt, "Really?" Removing the article of clothing from his head resulted in him then being hit with her skirt, "Woman!"

Sakura held her legs in the air after kicking her skirt directly into Naruto's face, grinning in the dark at her own cheeky action. It wasn't dark enough for Naruto to not see it though, and once more time he hooked one of her ankles in place. Sakura tilted her head off of the bed high enough to look Naruto right in the eye.

"Could you close the door?" She asked, prompting Naruto to grab a nearby pillow and hurl it at the door without even looking to knock it shut, "Showoff," She slowly yanked her own leg back and pulled Naruto with her onto the bed, bringing him to a rest right on top of her, situated between her legs, "...Hi."

Naruto could feel her writhe underneath him, as if trying to wriggle herself into some sort of position, as if he had to guess where, "Hi," Her hands had already snaked underneath the bottom of his shirt to pull it up and over his head. Once it was gone, there was no pretending that they weren't about to do what they were doing, "So, tell me why tonight Sakura-chan?"

Sakura bit her lip and looked away. What was she supposed to say? She knew why. It wasn't complex. Because she wanted to experience a night with him. Because she hadn't before. Because earlier, Ibuki's words had stricken a sort of nerve.

Her friend had a point when she'd been talking about drinking with everyone, only Sakura was taking to it differently. She didn't know how many more chances she would have to be this close to Naruto, and if the worst came to pass, for him, for her, for the both of them, she wanted to make sure she had no regrets.

Most importantly though…

"Because I choose to," Sakura said, answering his question, only to see Naruto's eyes go wide at what she'd said, "What? Does that sound familiar?"

It did, because it hadn't been that long since he'd said it to her, "You were actually awake for that huh?" Naruto asked, feeling self-conscious now that he knew Sakura had actually heard his little speech he'd given her in her sleep at the hospital.

"I can't stop you," Sakura admitted, running her hands through his hair, "I won't. It wouldn't be fair. So if nothing else I want you to know that you can't lose. You've got reasons to come back, alright?"

He knew that already.

"Reasons, including Sakura-chan?"

"Yes silly, reasons including me. So-," With a determined sigh, Sakura reached behind her back and loosened her bra, a soft snap noise coming from the undergarment, "-Now what?" She had a rough idea of what she was doing, but not much really. She knew what to do, but not necessarily how to go about it. She'd always been something of a good girl… for the most part at least.

Naruto gave her an odd look before chuckling slightly, "You're so lucky I've done this a few times already, and wow that was stupider than it sounded in my head," He said, getting off of her and sitting with his back against his headboard, "Come here."

Sakura sat up, holding her bra to her chest before she realized how redundant the action was. With a roll of her eyes she let the piece of cloth drop onto the bed and crawled over to Naruto, coming to a rest straddling his waist.

Lemon Start

It wasn't some awkward position that they had somehow wound up in while they were play wrestling like when they were younger, where they would linger in a situation like this just to get a second or so more of a curious touch of Naruto's growing muscles or Sakura's budding curves. There hadn't been any accidental brushing of lips here. No one was apologizing. No one would be moving away.

If it hadn't been readily apparent at all before, it was crystal clear now that the two best friends were both all grown up.

Naruto had to take a moment to drink her in. This had been a long time coming, and he'd thought about it too often to not let those things cloud his mind now. Everything he wanted to do came to him automatically, no thought given whatsoever.

Another kiss, with a quick dance of tongues, and then Naruto directed his mouth lower down Sakura's neck. Her lips were plenty sweet, but it was the rest of her that he'd yet to experience.

Biting her lip in anticipation, Sakura's eyes followed Naruto carefully as he laid kisses on her bare chest. His hands on her waist worked her panties down as Sakura pushed up on her knees to help him get them off, "Yah… not much you're gonna be able to do if you keep those on is there?" She asked, hinting at his pants.

If he'd been thinking clearly, Naruto would have more than likely rattled off a snappy response along the lines of, 'You'd be surprised,' but his mind was too busy elsewhere, focused on the young woman before him.

Sakura's heart hammered in her chest as Naruto cupped her breasts and slowly started massaging them. Ibuki's were bigger, but Sakura's were comparable to Karin's, which were fairly large. They were perfect on her. He fondled and suckled both of her breasts carefully, taking great care with her.

They could have been doing this years ago. Years! Every touch she'd given herself out of loneliness felt so much warmer, more electric, coming from him.

Sakura had several pressing needs that had to be tended to, this being one of them and she mewled at the attention she was receiving until she felt a light nip at one of her hardened nipples. Entirely unprepared, she let out a sharp gasp and swatted Naruto on the head, "No biting," She let off, mostly out of instinct.

It… hadn't been that bad actually.

"You know you like it," Naruto stated before popping one of her perky pink nubs back into his mouth, idly noting that she didn't fight him back on that observation. He could feel it. She didn't pull away when he'd done it, instead grinding herself against him. That was his girl.

He took his time, lavishing attention onto both of Sakura's tits, feeling her muscles clench up. Hearing her struggle to stay quiet and keep from moaning made him want to hear her cry aloud.

It was agonizing for Sakura. So close and yet so far, all because of a pair of pants in her way. She didn't want to get off of Naruto, but his pants would only go down so far as long as she was sitting on him. Every time she bucked forward, Naruto lowered his hands down to her ass and held it tightly.

"God Naruto, why?" Sakura whispered harshly, rubbing herself against his covered erection as his hands groped her behind unapologetically, "C'mon already," She whined fitfully before feeling a quick rush of aggression go through her.

She had been getting bolder about the idea of actually being with him and was feeling markedly frisky and constrained by then.

Naruto's pants and boxers found themselves casualties of this via being torn off of his body, and as he sat relieved of his clothing, still fully erect, he didn't know what to say. Yes, he had many more clothes to wear in his supply, but even so… "What was that?"

"Uh, my dark side?" Apparently it didn't like having a string dangled in front of her as if she were a kitten.

"Wow," Naruto mused, wondering just how this would have gone with slightly different circumstances, "Well I guess it's a good thing we're doing this now. I don't think Sunburned Sakura-chan could wait any longer," She was clearly embarrassed, sitting on the bed away from him, unable to look at him.

He moved over to her and gave her a kiss right on her lips to show her that once again, he didn't care if her Satsui no Hadou side came out to play. He was pretty sure that Dark Sakura would have made up for her complete lack of experience with the most aggressive sex he could possibly imagine. That was a moot point however.

Naruto guided the girl's body to turn around, facing away from him on her hands and knees. She looked back at him with a nervous smile and wiggled her bottom to beckon him her way. Naruto had always thought that Sakura had a cute ass. Apparently she knew it from her shameless displaying of it.

The shinobi took his spot right behind her, one hand on Sakura's hip, the other prodding at her pussy. She was as ready as she could get, "Can I?"

It was probably redundant to ask, but what little gentleman tendencies there were in his mind couldn't help it.

"If you don't, I'll probably kick you through the wa-, oh," Sakura's voice cut out when she felt Naruto slide himself inside of her. All the way in. Slowly, "Mmm."

Thank goodness for training accidents… in hindsight at least. Because Sakura's hymen had already been broken in the past, neither of them had to deal with it right then the way Naruto and Karin had to.

That was the only real fear Sakura had going into any intimate experience, and it didn't hurt at all. That made it much easier to introduce her to the joys of the flesh.

But after months, if not years of pent-up romantic frustrations and finally deigning to take the plunge, Sakura only wanted to go further, "I want to see stars by the time we finish," She said after her lover began slowly pumping himself in and out of her.

Naruto reveled in the complete freedom he found inside of the pretty, young fighter. No warm-up necessary with Sakura.

"I think it's a perfect fit," He grunted out, pounding into her and increasing his pace as he found that she could take it. It was true. She accommodated his erection tightly, but she had gotten so wet and worked up that the only resistance he found was a squeezing pressure that just made it all better.

"Perfect fit," Sakura muttered repeatedly under her breath, losing her concentration and finding her head in a dark-filled haze. She focused back up and arched her back with a yelp when an open palm impacted off of her ass, "Ah!"

"One for every year I've wanted to fuck you," Naruto smacked Sakura's ass four times, eliciting a moan and counting them off for every blow that landed. Sakura bucked her hips and Naruto pulled her into his thrusts to drive himself deeper inside of her, "…You're lucky you're such a sweetie."

Sakura set her face down into a pillow that helped muffle her love cries. Turning her head to the side to look back at Naruto she spurred him on further, "I fought with Karin yesterday," She said, hoping he'd get the hint. He only spanked her hard enough for the sound and the sharp sting on her butt to turn her on more as he plowed into her, and she didn't necessarily hate it.

*SMACK*

"Mmm!" She winced, closing her eyes tightly, "And today when I was cooking."

*SMACK*

Naruto flattened Sakura out so he could nibble on her ear and whisper to her as he continued to pump in and out of her, "Sakura-chan's been a bad girl," Naruto teased, kissing her cheek before a sharp thrust that made her cry out, "She's supposed to be a good girl. I thought she was for all of these years."

"Naruto makes her a bad girl," Sakura told him in the third person, swearing that she'd have been clawing tears through his sheets if they hadn't been making love on his thick comforter, "You make me so crazy," She moaned, one cheek buried into the pillow beneath her.

He hooked underneath one of her thighs and spread her wider. Her eyes went wider at the focused pounding she was receiving. Her toes curled around the covers tightly, and Naruto swore he could see a bit of a red glow bleed into her eye that was visible to him, "You can be as bad as you want to be," Naruto said, not only to Sakura, but to her darker side that may have been bleeding over, "Only with me. I won't tell."

Sakura began to shake her head wildly at the feeling of satisfaction building up inside of her, trying to push herself back up with arms that felt like they were made of jelly, every nerve in her muscles seemingly connected to her honey pot, "Hah… hah…" Naruto planted a hand right on one of her shoulders to keep her pressed down. It didn't take a bit of effort to do so, "You're terrible."

"Stop smiling about it then," Naruto told her in between the girl's gasps amid the sounds of their glistening skin slapping together. The sound of the bedframe rocking filled the quiet apartment bedroom along with their panting until Sakura's began to take on a shaky timbre. She tried to kick her leg free of Naruto's grip, but he'd placed his knee right at the back of hers, keeping it right in place, never allowing her to writhe free and upset their rhythm.

She couldn't take much more. Her throwing of a fit on the bottom of a robust fucking was the last that her body would allow her to do.

Sakura grabbed Naruto's wrist, pulled it forward, and bit down on his hand hard enough to draw blood. Her scream was muffled by the coppery taste in her mouth as she shuddered through her release. Naruto felt his hard-on twitch in warning before he pulled out and shot his load on the top of the comforter underneath them.

A tired laugh came from Sakura as she came down from her euphoric high, "I've been on birth control Naruto. You didn't have to play it safe."

Naruto let out an upset grunt and pulled Sakura up to her knees, causing her to gasp at the cooler air of the room hitting her perspiring body. She lolled her head back onto his shoulder as he spoke into her neck, "Could have said that before I did it."

"Wasn't thinking. Couldn't think," Sakura reasoned breathily, "Thank you."

"I can't be mad at you," Naruto said, nuzzling against her as they both fell backwards onto the pillows by the head of the bed. The two just basked in the company of one another, both of them sweaty and catching their breath.

They could hardly believe that any of that had actually happened.

Everything had all been a whirlwind since they'd left the kitchen.

"W-Where did that come from?" Sakura eventually asked, still quivering somewhat in the aftermath, "Three years of unresolved sexual tension maybe?" She ventured as a guess. All she knew for sure was that she wanted to do it again.

"Four," Naruto corrected as he moved the two of them on their sides, his softening cock still between the girl's thighs as he fit the two of them underneath the covers, "I kinda wanted you before you went off on that trip of yours without me," He began to pull out from between her legs, but Sakura grabbed behind over his thigh to keep him in place, "Hm?"

"No. Stay there," Sakura asked, rubbing her slick thighs together, getting a groan out of Naruto, "I like it like this."

With a comfortable sigh, Naruto reached underneath Sakura's stomach and playfully brushed his fingers against her thin brown patch of pubic hair. Within minutes the two were fast asleep, and would have the best night of it either of them had gotten in weeks.

A pair of mischievous brown eyes peered through a small crack opened in the door, closing it silently when it was clear that the activity had come to an end.

She'd thought about sneaking in and trying her hand at getting herself a go as well, but this was for Sakura's sake. She'd had the courage to go ahead and put herself out on the line, and that in of itself was enough of a reason for Ibuki to behave. Every young girl had a sort of vision for how her first time was roughly supposed to go, and for Sakura's first time she shouldn't have been drunkenly shoehorned into a threesome.

…Even if Ibuki knew that she definitely could have swung it with a little coaxing.

No, if Ibuki was going to wind up in a threesome it was going to be with everyone a consenting, sober party, so she and the rest of them could at least remember it later.

Ibuki walked back soundlessly to the couch that she had been cuddled up with Karin on and easily picked the girl up before walking her to Cammy's room. The reasons being that Cammy had a big bed, the former Doll probably wouldn't mind, and Karin would undoubtedly bitch if she woke up on a couch first thing in the morning even if she'd been having fun the night before.

Cammy cracked an eye open at the sight of them, fully aware of their entry, but quickly shut it and shifted around slightly to get comfortable again. The lack of a rebuke for their presence was enough for Ibuki to figure that it was okay and quickly found herself in an impromptu sleepover.

'Sakura-chan had better appreciate the restraint,' Ibuki thought to herself with a pout, relieved of her street clothes as she slept on the outside right of the three girls in the bed, 'Ooh, now I have to go to bed all bothered and turned on.'

Taking great care to keep quiet, Ibuki slid a hand beneath the waistband of her panties and began to stealthily tend to herself for the evening.

At least today had been a peaceful one. With what was coming their way, there was no guarantee that things would ever be as serene as they were that night ever again.


Alright, that's chapter. Nothing but a daily life piece really. Oh. And the lemon. That happened too.

Sorry to slow it down as far as update speed goes. Work's been kicking my tail, I've got several projects going on, and now that I actually have money to put behind it again I'm working to get myself ready for another fight. It won't be until October though. I've been out of stringent training for too long to just jump headfirst into another bout on a few weeks notice.

I don't even have a sleep schedule anymore. I basically just drop whenever I'm not doing something vital and my body tells me it's time to steal some z's for an hour or two. Sleep doesn't even refuel me at this point. Apparently you're supposed to live like that when you're twenty-two, but I must have an old soul, because I'm not a fan of it.

And here another thing, totally off-topic by the way.

I've been debating going with a story that would be strictly DC Universe in its basis, but I'm not certain how well it would do, mostly because the main character would be an OC, as I couldn't find a DC character that would fit what I needed out of the lead, as it requires a personality and perspective on what's happening around him that needs to be built from the ground up. I've already written a minimum of two chapters for it and know what I'm going to do for the most part as far as the storyline goes.

My mind wouldn't leave me alone until I put something into word document, and that something wound up being almost three chapters worth of work that I haven't decided on putting up. Just a look into how cluttered my head is at all times of the day. I switch trains of thought like I'm literally changing tracks.

And that's it. I'm done. I hope you enjoyed.

Kenchi out, you jive turkeys.