Blue Dahlia I

You moan at the feel of thick fabric clinging to your skin, the weight uncomfortable and suffocating laid over you.

There's a tingle from the legs tangled within your own that spreads to your fingers cool against heated skin. A hand rubs against your side, emits a warmth that makes you shiver.

Your eyes not fully open meet too familiar blue, see Naruto, and you moan again trying to roll on your other side.

He snorts, but his arm around you doesn't let you turn away. "Yeah, being this close to you doesn't make me feel too hot, either."

Your eyes close. You open them again. A hand reaches to shove at multiple layers of fabric, the quilts too many piled on top of you.

"Oh, no—you don't get to do that. Not going through this with you again today." Gritting his teeth, he flings the quilts back over you. "As hot as you think you feel, trust me, you're still kind of cold."

The arm around you loosens, and you push away from him with your palm flat against his shoulder.

"I'm just trying to—" He grunts at your elbow hitting his chest. "I'm trying to keep you warm. Work with me here."

He hisses when your knee brushes against his thigh, tries to hold you still with your legs trapped between his own.

After a moment, you swallow, lie unmoving beside him. Your breath comes out slow, heavy from your chest, and you shudder at his fingers still at your side the source of warmth spreading into your skin. You breathe in, stare. His fingers pause, don't quite move away, and your mouth parts at the sudden hesitance too clear on his face.

"...this is all your fault, you know," he mumbles, breaks away from your gaze to look past you. He pulls the edge of the quilt up to your neck alongside his. "Should have left you in the damn cold."

You feel your body being shifted closer, feel your eyelids begin to droop despite the light from the window too bright illuminating the room. The arm around you squeezes, his fingers pressing too deep into your skin, but the blue already starts to fade away.

...

It's dark in the room, but the sun slowly peeking through the window above you gives you just enough light to see.

You push aside the quilt sitting at your waist, turn your head to him nearly lying on top of you in his bed that shouldn't fit the two of you.

Yet his arm still hasn't moved from around you. Your legs are still caught between his. It still feels warm in too many places where skin's touching skin.

At the very least, he looks like he's sleeping. There's a slight movement from beneath his eyelids, when you notice his nose moving too close almost brushing your cheek, but his breathing's slow. His hold on you is lax.

He moans, continues to move closer still with his bare chest almost flush against yours. Something firm pokes your thigh. His hand flat against your back begins to travel too low and snakes beneath your shirt. He hisses then moans again, slowly starts to rock against you. His breathing picks up, rugged and fast, becomes shallow when the hardness between his legs grows more firm through the material of his pants.

You can't decide how to feel. Considering your proximity, it's not so unexpected, understandable even, since you've woken up with an erection before; however, for someone like him making those kinds of noises while rubbing himself against you, disdain doesn't quite cover it.

But the arm around you tenses. The hand too low on your back is carefully pulled away. Erection still hard pressing against your thigh, he stills, then blue eyes shoot open with a sharp gasp.

He stares at you pulled close to him, seems to finally take notice of what he was doing, and the realisation in his eyes burns his entire face red.

"Oh, shit, I—"

Throwing himself away from you, he falls backwards from the bed with a loud thump, stripping from you and dragging with him to the floor the multitude of quilts interwoven between his legs that don't cushion his landing.

He clambers to stand, hikes above his waist the elastic band of his pants. Worse yet, the painfully conspicuous attempt to hide his erection simply draws more attention to it.

"Bathroom, I was just—the bathroom..."

The red from his face spreads to his neck, colours his chest and arms and his legs revealed by the bottom hem of loose pants raised higher than his ankles.

Taking two steps back, he falls again with another loud thump. He curses, scrambling to pick himself up, and nearly trips over the quilts laid forgotten on the floor. With a quick glance from over his shoulder, he swallows, face still incredibly red in the brief contact he shares with you, but then he rips his gaze away, rushes to the bathroom and shuts the door behind him.

You sigh and turn on your back, close your eyes and place the back of your arm across your forehead.

Being embarrassed over something so stupid, he overreacted for nothing. Morning erections are natural. It happens to guys. Even you know that much, so he shouldn't have made such a big deal about that kind of thing. Except he did. As to why, though, you're not going to let yourself delve into the possible implications of that thought.

For a few minutes you let yourself drift, not ready to leave the bed, but you don't fall back asleep. The need to relieve yourself begins to build, yet with him still in the bathroom, you're not in the mood to suffer his inevitable awkwardness that would result if you went in there now.

By the time he comes out, you already feel a faint light from the sun hitting your eyelids. You hear the door open, but your gaze unseeing doesn't stray from the ceiling.

The door slowly closes behind him, creaks like his steps hesitant yet heavy that should be much lighter edging closer and louder towards you.

"Sasuke..."

You lower the arm lying across your forehead back to your side.

"What happened just now," he says, "I wasn't—"

"Nothing happened."

"...oh."

There's a disappointment in his voice that irks you, a subtle acknowledgement dredging up the past that doesn't need to be raised. Being so close to each other, involved in that kind of moment, it wasn't the first instance. Not to the same degree, maybe, but you were younger then. Those experiences you've only shared with him don't matter. Neither of you knew what you were doing beyond touches too light to have encouraged any real meaning, and the last thing you want is to uproot the history between you that never should have occurred.

You open your eyes, turn your head to meet him peering at you, kneeled beside you with his arms folded resting on the edge of the bed.

"What are you doing?"

"Your fever came back last night," he murmurs, ignoring you in favour of glancing at the unmade bed on the other side of the room. "Even though you were cold, you kept sweating, so I had to move you to my bed. I haven't had time to change the sheets yet, though."

"Why are you so close?"

"To make sure you're still breathing," he says, a slight flush returning to his cheeks as he squints at you, breath warm tickling your nose. He draws away, absently picks at the sheets near your arm. "What else?"

You turn your head away from him, turn your gaze back towards the ceiling.

"I'm still here, you know," he says. "Trying to ignore me won't make me go away."

You grunt.

"Yeah, you definitely must be feeling better all right. At least last night wasn't as bad as before, but I—" He sighs, and his voice grows lower, softer. "...I shouldn't have even taken you to the river in the first place. Not when it was still cold and you're still sick. I shouldn't have let you go outside like that."

In the quiet that follows, the sheets rustle beneath you as you turn to face him again. "You really think you can let me do anything?"

He looks down, stares at his fist clenching and unclenching around the material in his hands. Releasing the sheets, he raises his head with a crooked smile that distorts the expression on his face. "No. I guess not. You do whatever you want to do, right?"

He's humouring you. You know it. He knows it. Even without yesterday's clear indication, it's easy enough to see you're not in the best state to do anything about it, although that expression he's wearing uncharacteristically shrewd almost tempts you to try. Almost. But you won't. You can't.

Not yet.

"Move."

"Asshole." With a snort, he pushes off the edge of the bed that dips beneath his weight when he stands, watches you while you slowly make your way to the bathroom. " Try to be nice and this is what I get."

...

Forgive me, Itachi said, smiled at you like the brother you thought you once knew, tapped your forehead as if such a hollow gesture could somehow supersede everything he'd done.

It'd only taken those words, though, such hapless little words, and a final plea for forgiveness in that one moment was enough to chip away at years of resolve that suddenly seemed so feeble, brought to the surface a surviving doubt clinging to you with a childish persistence despite the hatred for him you drove yourself to bear.

Two weeks ago, that man your brother had become died. Whether by your hand or not, he's dead. It's a new constant in your mind that hasn't changed, won't change the further time displaces you from that day, yet there's still an irrational, almost consuming need to curb even the smallest notion contending with the fact he's no longer alive.

You can't help but question the circumstances surrounding his death. There's still too much you don't understand, too much he never did and never will reveal forever veiled by a gentle smile always meant to both appease and defer. Even as an obstacle to overcome, he was true to his nature, kept you behind him in his shadow with a reach stretched far too long, and it's by that simple reasoning alone, you know your misgivings aren't completely unfounded.

He missed too many opportunities to kill you, probably would have if he hadn't wasted time and chakra to expel Orochimaru from your body. You're still as reluctant to admit it as you were then, but, however seemingly slight you wanted to think it at the time, he'd held the upper hand.

Except now you can't be certain he actually had been trying to kill you, if he ever had any intention of killing you, if it was yet another display of his discerning lack of interest toward you, and the futile sort of nagging awareness from retrospect makes you wonder if his death wasn't the final outcome of that day.

Released from one seal only to be reminded it was Itachi's grasp you'd needed to escape, you're still chasing remnants of a fragmented reality.

Yet it's all you know. It's the closest semblance to any kind of truth. You can piece together enough through what your eyes have shown you, despite what little he told you, too many things you can't let go you still believe, so much he always chose not to say, but somehow, somehow he apparently saw fit to reveal just that much more to Naruto—Naruto—it was more important for him to speak to Naruto. Whatever Itachi had said that managed to alter Naruto's perception of him, whatever had given someone as obstinate as Naruto even the slightest doubt, it was more important to Itachi that you didn't know.

Not his brother.

Never you.

But Naruto.

...

You blink at the wetness beneath your left eye. It's slight, barely a trickle along your lower eyelid that trails and stops right above your cheek, but for a moment, your vision dims. The sight of Naruto's back in front of the closet begins to blur. An itching sensation causes your eye to water, begins to burn, and you raise your hand to cover your eye you hold closed with the heel of your palm.

It passes quickly enough when you redirect your chakra from your eyes, however, and the small flicker easily masked doesn't catch his attention.

"I know I put it here somewhere," he mutters, reaching for the worn knapsack he pulls from the shelf.

You wipe at the wetness below your eye, lower your arm and see a thin smudge of blood on your palm when you look down at your hand. It's a negligible amount, though, nothing that should cause too much concern, but yesterday was already a setback you didn't need.

On the bed below the window, leaned against the wall, you watch him drop the knapsack on the desk, busy your fingers with the quilt you gather in your hand. He takes out a tiny translucent vial and turns to you with a broad grin. Pulling out the chair from beneath the desk, he drags it next to the bed, sits in the chair facing you.

"I've never seen anything like these before, but Hayashi said they worked better than the pills," he says, shaking the vial up and down. "Which they do. Faster, too. And it was easier to get you to take it like this when you were out of it."

He unscrews the small white cap from the vial. Without turning around, he reaches behind him and sits the cap on the desk. "I think it's kind of neat. Having single doses in little bottles like this. When I asked Hayashi how it worked, he said something about causing some kind of reaction when you shake it, but I don't remember exactly."

He shrugs, offering you the opened vial. "As long as it does what it's supposed to do—here."

After a few seconds, when you don't accept the vial, he frowns. "Hey, I bought this for you. Not for me. The least you could do is appreciate it," he says. "I know your side still hurts. You were walking kind of funny when you came out of the bathroom earlier. Leaning your weight on your leg like that. I saw you."

The material of the sheets gathered in your hand, you extend your fingers then make a fist, knuckles pushing into the bed.

"If this is about how tired the medicine makes you," he says, "well, you probably need more sleep, anyway. And it's not like you need to go anywhere right now. You already got sick again last night, and you don't need to get sicker, so take it, Sasuke."

You stare at the wall behind him.

"Look." He motions to the vial in his hand, pushes it towards you again. "I'm going to make you take it even if it means I have to shove it down your throat."

Teeth clenched, his lips curl into a scowl, but you still don't move to take the vial.

He bristles and leans over the bed, shifting closer to you. "Damn it, Sasuke, why do you have to act like this—why can't you just take the medicine? If it helps make you feel better, what's so hard about choosing something like that when you need it? Stop being so stubborn and—you know what? You don't think you need to take it—fine."

The corner of his mouth quirks, just the tiniest bit. "If you won't take it, I will," he says, tossing his head back. He empties the vial into his mouth but doesn't swallow the medicine, turns to you with puffed cheeks and lets the vial fall to bed where it rolls off onto the floor.

One hand grabs your left shoulder, holds you still while the palm of his right hand curves around the back of your head to bring you forward.

Your sound of surprise is muffled by the lips pressed hard against yours. His fingers grip your shoulder, his hand tilting your head towards him when you feel the ridges of his tongue brushing the roof of your mouth, but then he lets go, draws back when you finally remember he's not supposed to do that anymore.

"You just..."

You push yourself against the wall, away from him, unconsciously swallowing the medicine he left in your mouth. It's too late to spit it out, and you're too taken back to do much else. It's disgustingly warm, mingled with his saliva not enough to overpower the unpleasant, metallic taste from the sticky residue coating your lips.

Too fast, your chest rises and falls. You breathe in. Breathe out.

You wipe your mouth with the back of your hand, try to wipe away the stupid familiarity of his lips pressing against yours that you don't want to acknowledge already happened too many times before.

"...I told you I'd make you take the medicine, didn't I?" he says, unapologetic, gaze scrutinising fixed on you. As predictable as he tends to be, there's no trace of his embarrassment from earlier, nothing from the blushing Naruto who woke up next to you.

Your fingers taking hold of the sheets tighten into a fist.

Casual, his thumb wipes at the corner of his mouth slightly parted. "Even if I have to shove it down your throat."

...

The smell of cinnamon and cloves from the incense already burned is faint but still there, alongside the makeshift altar that still hasn't been removed from the desk. Close to the wall and near the edge of the desk lie two crumpled pieces of blue paper. Two tea candles stacked on top of one another sit beside the failed attempt at paper boats, in front of the bronze pot, sat next to the vase holding a single flower with wilted petals pendent over the rim.

Placing your chopsticks on the table top, you shield your face from the glare coming through the window, a haze of purples and reds that doesn't block out the clash of blond from Naruto sitting across from you.

He reaches for his hair tousled on one side. The hand through his strands further ruffles his hair, creates a mess of too many ends sticking up in various angles.

It feels like you haven't slept in days. Since returning from the river, you haven't done much of anything. That medicine makes you drowsy, more so than it probably should, but you took it again, anyway, yesterday and the day before, if only to avoid a repeat performance of him trying to force the medicine in your mouth.

Adverse side effects aren't solely to blame for the bout of lethargy slowly beginning to wear off, although you still feel a little dazed, caught in a stupor hedged by too many thoughts of them.

When you're awake, you think too much about Itachi. You think about Naruto. Think about the ache in your chest, despite the medicine, that still hasn't gone away. Yet when you're asleep, it's only to dream of all the maybes and what-ifs and Itachi's smile displaced by a nameless grin you're still trying to make yourself forget.

"So," he says, pulling on the lobe of his left ear. The separated chopsticks in his other hand tap twice then still on the table top he drops them on. He glances at the bowl in front of you, frowns when he sees it more than half full with the food you barely touched. "Don't tell me that's all you're going to eat for breakfast."

You glance at his empty bowl across from yours.

He pushes his palms flat against the edge of the table, tight-lipped and seemingly hard-pressed for a reply you don't give. Head lowered, his eyes close, and his arms slowly relax with a sigh. He brings a hand to his forehead, fingers rubbing into the lines made by the creases in his skin.

"You can't tell me you're not hungry," he says, dropping his arm and raising his head towards you. "You've been sleeping for two days. There's no way you're not hungry."

Without breaking his gaze, you reach for the mug of tea beside your bowl, take a sip of the bitter liquid a cool tingle down the back of your throat.

"Don't do this again."

"Do what?"

He narrows his eyes. "You didn't eat anything."

During the two hours it took you to eat, the strips of cured fish had become dry. The leftover brine from the pickled vegetables had made soggy rice that was cold and on the verge of becoming stale, but you weren't concerned about the taste.

"I ate enough."

"That better be another fever talking because you're not going to get any better this way. You're going to get sick again like that."

You bring the mug to your mouth and drink the rest of the tea. "I ate enough."

"Yeah, I heard you the first time, but I'm still telling you that you should eat more." He grits his teeth, balls his hand into a fist he digs into the material of his pants over his knee. "Really."

Holding the mug with both hands, you place it on the table top.

You know he's right. There's no way of getting around that, and it's the only reason you don't outwardly disagree. Even though you aren't hungry, if you were in a more sensible mood, you would eat more. But you're not. Too far from sensible, it's for the sake of your own careless pride that you refuse to try, but here, sitting across from him in this room, pride may be the only thing you have left.

"Sasuke, you—"

Suddenly, he deflates with another sigh, stretched long and deep from within his chest. He drops his head over his lap, looks back up to reach for his empty bowl. After dumping his chopsticks inside, he picks up your mug. The bowl of food in front of you, though, he leaves there, and he stands, slowly, looking away from you, then makes his way towards the door to take the dishes downstairs.

...

"You want me to—the hell, Sasuke? What kind of—"

"You heard me."

"I'm not—"

"Hit me."

It doesn't take much to provoke him. He's always been quick to rile, easy to taunt over the most stupid and inconsequential things, but that kind of Naruto, an angry Naruto, you recognise him, know how to respond to the tangible image of him you took when you left Konoha behind. This Naruto, however, comparatively more restrained, teeming with a frustration so blatantly obvious he's still trying to suppress, this kind of Naruto is harder to goad.

"Stop saying that," he hisses, glares and retracts the hand that almost makes a reach for you. "I'm not—" Pinching the bridge of his nose, he tilts his head back, takes a series of short breaths. "I'm not going to hit you. I don't want to hit you."

"You want to hit me."

"Well, I'm glad you're so happy it's that obvious how much you've been really pissing me off lately, all right, but I'm not going to hit you, so don't tell me to do something like that to you because I'm not." He forces air through his nose, drops his arm to his side and lowers his head. "I won't."

The heel of your palm pushes against the edge of the table, nails sinking into your skin. "Why not?"

"Because it's—it's different now. I can't..." He looks away, swallows and stares at the floor. "You still need to get better, and I...I don't want to hurt you, Sasuke. I don't want to—"

"You never let that stop you."

"I'm not going to hurt you," he says, then again. Jaw tight, there's a resolute set to his eyes, like he's actually afraid of hurting you, firm in the belief that he even could, and it's you he thinks he needs to convince.

Except you're the one who spared him. It was on a flimsy whim you didn't kill him that day, your whim the only reason he's still alive. The last thing he could ever do is hurt you. Even in your current state, he can't, and you won't acknowledge any kind of useless sympathy from him. It doesn't mean anything in the end, especially not from someone who always has been and always will be beneath you, and you refuse to let him look at you with that kind of pitiful gaze.

"Hit me, Naruto."

He shuts his eyes. "...stop it. I can't—"

"Hit me."

"Stop it."

"It never made a difference before." Your mouth begins the familiar onset of a snarl fallen to your ears. "So what are you waiting for now? If you're going to hit me—hit me!"

You ignore the pain flaring in your right arm, raise your fist aimed towards his face.

He anticipates the punch, turns his head to evade a blow that probably would have snapped his neck despite the lack of strength behind it, but your knuckles scraping his chin prove he still isn't fast enough, prove he still isn't strong enough. Because he wasted so much time chasing after you, in the time you've been apart, no matter what he does trying to catch up to you, he'll never be enough.

Blue eyes flash.

"You want me to hit you that bad!" Grabbing the front of your shirt, he hauls you up then throws you back down. "You want me to knock you out!"

Hard, your back hits the floor. The hand on your right shoulder holds you down, his fingers through your shirt covering bandages digging into your skin, and the pressure spurs from you an involuntarily wince.

Vaguely, you wonder if it'll bruise, if he's squeezing hard enough to leave marks on your skin, unlike the ones Itachi already left you can't see that won't eventually go away.

But his grip on you becomes slack. The pressure from his hand recedes. He blinks, twice and again, chest heaving. Swallowing, he watches you with wide eyes taking on a slight sheen when his shoulders start to shake.

"I don't want to hurt you," he whispers. "I don't. So stop trying to make me, okay." His voice croaks, and he sniffs, tries to appeal to you with such a stupid smile. "Let's just...let's just—"

You scoff, eyes narrowed and peered at him above you. "...you're still so pathetic."

A growl beneath his breath, his left hand lands flat against your chest, right fist drawn back and his elbow geared above his head.

The air to the left of your face shifts. The inside of his fist grazes your cheek, but his arm stills midair, right before he hits the floor.

Eyes hooded, slowly, he lets his hand fall to the floor, unclenches his fist sitting beside your face.

"...of course I want to hit you," he says, chuckles in a tone low, too dark. "But that doesn't mean I have to like it. Because that's not fair when you pull off stuff like that, when you say those kinds of things. And then knowing you're trying to make me hit you, that you want me to be angry enough to hurt you..."

He lifts his head, stares down at you with eyes moving towards your face close and closer. "That's what makes me mad. That's what really makes me want to hit you, Sasuke. Because that's what still makes me want to—"

The impact of his lips touching yours makes you still beneath him, stops the hand reaching to push him away even though you're not kissing back.

It's not the consequence of his mouth accidentally being pressed against yours. It's not an excuse to shove medicine down your throat. But it's not a tentative kiss, either. Almost desperate, the way his fingers curl around your shoulder, the way he presses himself against you, the kiss is deliberate and demanding, too reminiscent of the kinds of kisses you already shared with him before.

You didn't think much of it, all those times he kissed you and you kissed him. Then, before you left a village that could never offer what you needed, you were too young to realise what you were doing, resolved to make up your own rules in a world seemingly pitted against you, because at that age almost anything was better than feeling alone.

The first time, he tripped and fell into your arms, raised his head and gripped your shoulders, squeezed his eyes tight, then he was kissing you. It was awkward and forced, despite how short, but when he broke away, something inside you snapped.

Instead of bothering to demand why he kissed you, you punched him in the stomach. Punched him in the face when he cried about not really meaning to do it, how you're the one who stole the kiss he was saving for Sakura since he'd never kissed anyone before, but mostly that it only happened because you were just there, and somehow the vehement dissent of something he'd initiated made you angrier than the kiss itself.

You left him with a bloody nose, left him writhing on the forest floor, and walked away from that one lapse of judgement with the promise to never again fall prey to something as meaningless as a kiss when you couldn't afford to lose sight of yourself.

You wouldn't.

Yet you did.

It didn't take much, not even a measly attempt at an apology he didn't give, because Naruto, self-righteous as he was even then, didn't do those with you.

He came to your house the next day. Nose bandaged, he stood outside your door uninvited, suddenly shy, and simply asked if you'd let him kiss you again.

Behind you, your house was cold, the draft from inside escaped and a chill prickling the back of your neck. In front of you, Naruto stayed, two fingers rubbing the sleeve of his already rumpled jacket and the light from the sun beginning to fade behind him.

Your lack of response he took as an invitation, yet with all the reasons not to say yes, you still didn't find yourself saying no.

A hesitant step forward became a hurried two. You breathed, too soft, too fast, remembered the fleeting warmth of him being so close from the day before. His hand reached for your face. His fingers grabbed your hair. His mouth was a tight line mashed against yours. He was touching you again, kissing you again, and you didn't do anything to stop it.

Still clumsy and unsure, this time wasn't different from the first, and he murmured about not knowing what he was supposed to be doing, teeth bumping against yours with his tongue inside your mouth, but you kissed back just as inept without stopping to think about the fact you didn't know what you were doing, either.

The kiss at your house became a secret anticipation between you. While no one was watching, whenever you worked up the nerve, you'd share light kisses alongside touches here and there that still felt like too many, left red-faced from the novelty despite the underlying uncertainty, and too swept up in the rush of having that kind of closeness again, even if it was in that way with someone like him.

It didn't happen often, though. No more than one or two kisses in each of those short moments seemingly housed forever within a day, but sometimes, when you were together alone, you'd lie on the ground beside him with his leg thrown carelessly between yours, and he'd look at you in that one moment as if he knew you, this stranger who could suddenly understand everything about you he wasn't allowed to see.

Even now as he draws back, he looks at you in that same way, so close and familiar despite the years you've spent apart, as if in this room the only distance between you is the inside of his knee nearly brushing against your side that closes when you pull him back down.

But you pulled on his hair then, scowled because you refused to let yourself believe there could be anything like that between you, and he tackled you with an angry cry that led to you tumbling with him on top of the grass.

Every so often, in the aftermath of those kinds of fights, you'd show up to training sessions without changing beforehand, hair ruffled and clothes in obvious disarray stained a green nearly as dark as the overt red of your lips. It didn't go wholly unnoticed.

There were curious looks from Kakashi a few times. From over his book, he'd glance between the two of you the same way Sakura did with silent questions she'd almost ask you pretended not to hear.

But Naruto was the same clueless idiot he never stopped being. Oblivious, he'd derail the unsaid implications with trite proclamations of one day being Hokage, of one day becoming stronger in order to beat you, and he'd give Sakura one of those incredibly stupid grins with his thumb pointed up and his back facing you.

You didn't care. Despite the same single-minded attention directed towards her that he didn't stop giving you, it was pointless to indulge in those kinds of moments together alone filled with his soft smiles and warm laughs that somehow still made you feel cold, as your hands would grip his jacket, holding on to the smallest tingle that caused you to shudder before it disappeared when you forced yourself to pull away.

It wasn't going to last. You weren't expecting it to, but you long ago decided you were going to leave Naruto before he had the chance to leave you, too, and during those times alone at night when you didn't feel consumed by thoughts of Itachi, you buried away thoughts of Naruto thinking of Sakura the way she thought of you, spurning the growing sense of constant familiarity between you because you already knew Naruto wouldn't be enough.

Kisses once reserved became messy and sloppy, grew into short-lived competitions that lasted uncomfortably long even though you continued to drag him closer with hands that fumbled in places they probably shouldn't have wandered. When he'd complain you weren't doing it right, you'd argue back he knew even less than you, ignore the fact you should have been thinking about ways to kill Itachi instead of Naruto's overbearing kisses that threatened not to let you go.

But you continued to kiss him. Through closed eyes shut away from images of pale pinks and pretty greens, you pushed him down, silenced his whine of you being too rough even though he kissed you just as hard, if not harder with hands unrelenting that grabbed too much, needless in the attempt to touch you in as many places at once and gripping your clothes like water seeping through his fingers.

It was an impetuous cycle of clashing mouths held at bay by diffident hands and murmurs of all the reasons why we shouldn't be doing this you'd take turns saying riddled amongst the soft-spoken dares to try this and that and the unspoken possibility of one day moving on to those kinds of things neither of you would say because you were too afraid of what it could mean.

You don't miss any of it, aren't sure why you can remember so vividly all of it in this one instance when none of it should matter anymore.

Yet when Naruto kisses you again, takes your lower lip between his mouth, lifts you against him with a hand beneath your back, when your fingers clutch his shirt to hold him closer, this time you let yourself forget Itachi for a few seconds, just a little bit more, because while Itachi's no longer out there, Naruto's still here, and right now, you can't bring yourself to admit you don't know where else to go.