Author Notes: Thank you to everyone who reviewed and for the people who are continuing to stick with me despite my delayed updates. You all are the best. I really want to finish this story, and I hope you enjoy this chapter. We all have enjoyed the strong Naruto, but unfortunately (I hope no one is mad at me for this), he is going through a lot in this chapter, something probably way different from what you are used to. This one also might be a little slow, but their relationship does need to grow.

Disclaimer: The series Naruto does not belong to me – rather, to Masashi Kishimoto. All of the characters, name settings, etc. (unless mentioned or recognized otherwise) belong to him, not me.

Summary: Uchiha Sasuke has everything – the perfect status, the perfect girlfriend and the perfect image. However, like most seemingly perfect things, they do not last long. This is a story of how one Uzumaki Naruto can ruin it all. –SasuNaru- Other couples include: SasuSaku, ItaNaru, KibaHina, mentioned GaaNaru, ItaDei

Specifies Scene Change: X X X

PERFECT

X X X

-Naruto-

When Naruto told Sasuke they would go out when he is ready, he never expected it to be so soon.

Soon, as in two days after soon – and Naruto decided it, not Sasuke. Now, he is standing in his bedroom, looking at himself in the mirror with his clothes thrown haphazardly around the room.

"I really don't know what to wear-"

"Shit Naruto, please, shut the fuck up."

Scowling, the blond throws a discarded shirt toward his roommate, feeling satisfaction as it hits its target. Kiba sputters and throws the clothing off of him, giving Naruto a glare.

"He's not going to care if it's a red shirt or a blue shirt," the brunet says, his voice irritated. "So just choose something, because you've been debating this for over fifteen minutes! Hinata gets ready faster than you!"

Naruto grumbles, annoyed by Kiba's words. The blond did not take this long in that first date with Sasuke, but this time around, this second date feels more real. Dare he say it, but Naruto has some type of excitement and feelings about going out tonight.

He really is becoming very attracted to Sasuke. That night at the bar really enlightened him of how fast he could lose him.

All Sasuke had to do was be genuine, patient and actually care about what Naruto wants; now, look where it has left the blond – Naruto is in an uncertain place between being friends and boyfriends. He is somewhat disgusted with himself, realizing that he may be falling for the younger Uchiha all because of Sasuke's newfound maturity and willingness to care.

He cannot judge Sasuke anymore based on the past; he has changed to a degree that his past means nothing anymore. This is all so different from their high school days, and Naruto is not sure if he should be excited or scared.

"Just do the blue," Kiba says suddenly, snapping Naruto out of his thoughts. "It goes with your eyes or some other fancy shit like that."

"How does Hinata even like you?" the blond asks, taking his friend's advice and slipping on the long-sleeve, blue button-up. "Sometimes you're really an asshole."

"Only to you, because I know you can take it."

Finished with dressing himself, Naruto regards himself in the mirror. The shirt he wears is the same color as his eyes, and it does in fact bring out his blue hues. Paired with dark jeans, Naruto likes to think he looks more than acceptable. He does not even know where they are going tonight, but wherever there destination is, Sasuke insisted on picking Naruto up.

Naruto sprays a small burst of cologne on himself as a finishing touch. Kiba rolls his eyes.

"Whipped."

"We're not even together," the blond remarks, slightly offended. "Look, I can't smell good? It's not like I'm going to instantly drop my underwear for him. Whatever is going on between us, I'm not one of his crazy followers from high school. I just want to make a good impression."

"I call it whipped," Kiba replies, snickering. "You didn't care about impressions before. You really are trying with him, aren't you?"

"Yeah I'm trying – but, you know as well as I do that I'll call Sasuke out on his shit if he's a jerk," Naruto replies, smirking at Kiba. The brunet nods.

"Won't be long before you will be calling out something else with him…"

A set of knocks on the apartment door is the only thing which prevents Naruto from busting his friend's lip open.

"Go ahead, have some fun. Keep the naughty stuff at his house," Kiba remarks, dismissing his roommate. Naruto rolls his eyes.

"If something more was going to happen, I'd make sure to do it here as revenge. Every time you have sex I hear it."

"Go to his house, seriously. Get the fuck out Naruto," Kiba says. Grabbing his wallet, Naruto jogs out of his room to answer the door. He opens it, revealing Sasuke in similar attire as he – jeans, but a dark shirt instead – along with a scent of very masculine cologne. The blond shuts his door behind him, knowing that if Sasuke even steps in his apartment, Kiba will harass him.

Looking at his date for the night, Naruto wonders if there is ever a day where Sasuke will look hideous for once. Naruto knows his worst is right in the morning, when he has dried drool on his cheek and very unpleasant breath. Sasuke probably looks like a prince then, too.

"I planned on eating and then taking you for a drive outside of the city."

"Make sure your car doesn't get a flat this time, because it's kind of cold outside," Naruto jokes. However, by the look on Sasuke's face, he does not seem amused, probably because they had to wait for a very long time. On that night two days ago, they ended up stranded for about two hours because Itachi had some business to do – and by business, it probably means his boyfriend. By the time they got back, Sasuke and Naruto were too tired to even stand, ruining any ideas of hanging out.

"I now carry a spare," Sasuke says. "It won't happen again."

"Sure, if you say so," Naruto comments. "So, where are you taking me? I don't want to break my wallet."

"I paid for you last time; what makes you think I won't do it again?"

Naruto huffs. "Why do I have to be the submissive in this relationship, where you pay for me?"

Sasuke's eyebrow rises. "In this relationship? So we are together, hm?"

"Fuck you, Sasuke."

All his companion does is smirk, making Naruto scowl. No matter at what point in their dysfunctional relationship, even if they become lovers, Sasuke will always get on his nerves. He is sure the feeling is mutual.

"I'm taking you to a place a little better than our first date," Sasuke says, unlocking and entering his car. Naruto climbs into the passenger seat, a wary look on his face.

"Please tell me it's somewhere not snobby, because I really can't deal with those kinds of people."

"The worst you will probably see is a fake kind of pretentious, where they may have some wealth. However, it is nothing substantial to those with real money," Sasuke replies. His response forces Naruto to think of how separate their worlds really are; no matter what, Sasuke was born into wealth and prestige, and Naruto will never familiarize himself with that lifestyle.

It makes him wonder what his life could have been like if he had those type of funds.

"Damn, if they only knew how much money I had," Naruto says, forcing a laugh. Sasuke looks at him, a hardened emotion in his eyes.

"Does your financial situation really bother you?"

The blond shrugs. "Sometimes, but it is life. It's not like I'm living on the street."

"Hn. I'd never let you."

"And risk staying with you, where at any moment you might do some nasty things to me?"

"Only with your permission," Sasuke replies, speeding away from Naruto's complex. "Although I doubt you won't like it."

X X X

It turns out the restaurant he and Sasuke go to is not so bad; it is in a nice area of downtown Konoha. It is classier than the other place Sasuke took him to, but Naruto still prefers their first location. This establishment lacks the homey feel that Naruto prefers, but it is not terrible. Naruto really could not have asked for better prepared food – walking out of the restaurant, he swears he gained weight. As he relaxes in the passenger seat, Naruto is glad to be in the comfortable interior of Sasuke's car, digesting his meal.

"I feel so fat. Thanks."

Sasuke grunts in response, not saying a word. If there is one thing Naruto would like to improve about Sasuke, it is the younger Uchiha's verbal skills. During dinner, Sasuke was not terribly talkative, but Naruto did laugh a couple of times. Naruto hopes this upcoming ride will not be filled with complete silence, making him feel incredibly awkward.

Whoever said dates make hearts flutter and love spark is lying. This one is kind of awkward, probably because they both do not know how to approach one another.

"I'm driving out to the countryside," Sasuke suddenly says, drawing Naruto out of his thoughts. "It's quiet out there."

"We better talk, or I'm going to be grumpy by the time I get home," the blond warns. "So far, this date is okay. The food was really good, but something is missing."

"I'm not sweeping you off of your feet?" Sasuke questions, glancing at the blond. Naruto shrugs; he may as well be truthful.

"Not particularly, but that doesn't mean you're failing completely."

"I don't know how to approach you," the younger Uchiha states, suddenly blatantly honest. His dark eyes show nothing, but the confused tone of his voice expresses otherwise. "I'm supposed to take this slow – which I am. However, this doesn't change that I want to show you what I have to offer, and that I've wanted you. You shouldn't have told me you're willing to experiment with me again."

"Because I'm torturing you?"

"More than torturing me, idiot," Sasuke responds. "And you don't feel the least bit affected."

"I haven't had sex in years," Naruto says, a few moments after Sasuke's statement. "I feel affected, but I'm not suffering. I'm not going to spread for whoever is attractive to me. Right now, you're in that top spot, but I haven't been in a relationship for a while."

"What stops you?"

Naruto faces Sasuke, surprised to see those dark pools gazing at him intently. The blond licks his lips, unwilling to admit that he is slightly fearful of where this is going. This is why he told Sasuke that this needs to go slowly – because honestly, he is somewhat apprehensive.

Oh fuck, he is lying to himself – he is scared. Nothing holds Sasuke back now and the same goes with Naruto as well. Seriously, why aren't they together? Is it because of Sasuke's very traditional father? The publicity they could get? Their past? Naruto has already admitted their pasts should not affect them, now that Sasuke seems to have moved on and improved himself.

This shit is so confusing!

"Pull over," Naruto demands. They need to talk.

Sasuke is instantaneous: "No."

"Why not?"

"I'm on the highway. Wait until I'm not on a busy road."

"What if I told you I'm going to give you a blowjob?" Naruto questions jokingly, causing Sasuke's eyes to widen comically. The sudden expression in Sasuke's eyes is completely uncharacteristic for the normally stoic male. It makes Sasuke look stupid, and so the blond almost doubles over laughing in his seat.

"You're an idiot."

Naruto wipes at his eyes, continuing to laugh. Sasuke's reaction should not be this funny, but it has got him in complete tears. They only begin to stop as Sasuke pulls over, when Naruto realizes they are not even on the busy street anymore. In fact, they are on a very deserted road, with nothing but green hills surrounding them.

"It was just your reaction," the blond says, sucking in a breath. "Shit."

"You want to talk about taking it slow, and you mention that."

"Come on, it's not like you've thought about it."

Meeting Sasuke's stare, Naruto suddenly does not think this is so funny anymore. Shit.

"You have?" Naruto questions, surprised.

"Naruto, you're really naïve and stupid."

The blond frowns. "And you're an asshole."

"I've been attracted to you for years, you idiot. How would I not think about it, especially recently? Does it scare you?"

Crossing his arms, Naruto huffs. "No."

"Liar."

"No, I'm not scared!"

"Start with a kiss, then," Sasuke baits him, undoing his seat belt and lying lax against his seat. Naruto knows this is a game, if the mischievous glint in Sasuke's eyes is anything to go by. This is something Sasuke is doing to bait him – and honestly, it is working. It reminds the blond of when they were in Sasuke's kitchen that long time ago in high school, where some way or another, the blond landed a nice smooch on his rival's lips. Then, Naruto felt in control, despite Sasuke being the one to tease him.

Now, the blond does not feel so sure.

"Go ahead, Naruto. Kiss me."

"I said slow. You aren't really respecting that, are you?" Naruto questions, somewhat agitated. As Sasuke eyes him, the blond's irritation rather rapidly becomes nervousness instead. Sasuke is not buying it and for right reasons, since it is even becoming painfully clear to Naruto as well…

…kissing really is not so bad.

He is not ready for sex – this is clear. In that case, there needs to be boundaries and slowness. But kissing…?

How bad is it really? He kissed Itachi very soon after getting to know him, so how can he suddenly put rules on Sasuke? He is attracted to Sasuke - that is for sure – but is that really enough to go ahead and start kissing him? Naruto knows he is not like those prissy fans of Sasuke's, but still, if he does kiss him, it feels like he would be giving in. They have been battling for so long that it seems absolutely wrong to let Sasuke have what he wants.

With that thought comes a realization - despite Sasuke always wanting to take control and be the best, Naruto has actually always called the shots. Sasuke is not forcing him to do anything now, because it has somehow become an understanding that Naruto decides how fast and where they go. In the past, Naruto would have been worried about giving in - but that Sasuke is gone, replaced by someone who is still Sasuke but without as much selfishness.

So what does Naruto want? Does he really want to kiss Sasuke?

"Lay back," the blond commands, making his decision as he unbuckles his seat belt. Sasuke looks surprised.

"What?"

"You want this kiss, right? I'm going to kiss you, and you better fucking enjoy it. Don't push it, or all of this is going to end really fast."

"You said you wanted it slow. I'm not pressuring you. I don't want to be blamed when you regret it later."

"I won't regret it. We're still not going to hold hands, and we're not going to make this official."

"Naruto…" Sasuke takes in a deep breath, and for one of the few times Naruto has ever seen, the younger Uchiha appears undone. "Not even two days ago you wanted small steps. What do you want? If you're messing with me, I'm walking away and this isn't going to happen."

"I want to try and see how it feels to kiss you. If I feel it is fast, I'm not going to do it again until I'm ready. Kissing is a step, and maybe my feelings might be clearer afterward."

Sasuke goes silent then, leaning back in his seat with a slight stiffness in his body. Naruto looks him over, realizing that right now, he is contradicting what he said to Sasuke on that deserted road. All that and he is changing his mind.

"Besides, I kissed Itachi not too long after meeting him-"

"Stop thinking," the younger Uchiha commands, his tone very agitated. It must be the topic of Itachi. "I'm not my brother. You'll decide if you will like it or not."

The blond nods, leaning over so Sasuke can meet him halfway. The other male brings his head in close as well, staring at Naruto through half-lidded, sensual eyes. The blond wonders if Sasuke even knows what he is doing; their kisses have not exactly been the most romantic.

As Sasuke comes close enough, Naruto lightly presses his lips against his companion's, fully closing his eyes and allowing the sensations to fall over him. It does not disgust him, and he does not feel scared – he presses harder, tilting his head a bit to bring himself closer.

He feels the younger Uchiha grunt in his mouth, and opening his eyes, he sees Sasuke's hands clenching in his lap.

Pulling away, Naruto lets in a shaky breath before saying:

"Relax. I don't like it that you're tense."

"Naruto…" Sasuke whispers huskily, sending a shiver down the blond's spine. "I'm restraining myself."

Shit, Sasuke really is undone.

"What happened to the normal you, who hides everything he feels?" Naruto questions, bringing himself closer to Sasuke's face again. "Keep restraining. Lips only."

He presses against Sasuke's lips again, making sure to keep it at that. He thinks about how he allowed Itachi to kiss him, even with tongue – so he lightly nibbles Sasuke's lip, not surprised when his companion eagerly accepts the step to move forward. Sasuke wraps his tongue around Naruto's, making sure to claim it as much as he can. His tongue slides against Naruto's, along his teeth, almost down the back of his throat – Naruto has to pull away from the intensity of it all, his cheeks turning a particularly red hue.

"I thought you weren't going to go that far," the younger Uchiha comments, licking his lips. Naruto laughs.

"Well, you got a surprise."

"Yes," is Sasuke's fast reply. "All that talk about 'slow', and you kiss me like that. Hn, idiot."

The blond frowns. "Keep calling me that, you jerk! Let's see if you get one again."

Sasuke says nothing; he smirks, diving his head in to come close to Naruto again.

"I'm sure I will."

And the younger Uchiha kisses him again, pulling away just in time as Naruto moves to hit him. As Sasuke starts the car and pulls off, Naruto swears he hears him chuckle.

X X X

The next time Naruto kisses Sasuke is on their third date, at the karaoke bar where they visited previously. At first, Naruto was adverse to the idea of going there again, but Sasuke was not putting up with the blond's insecurities. When Sasuke went to drop the blond off, Naruto offered him a quick peck as a goodbye before entering his apartment.

They have hung out since then, whether at Naruto's apartment or somewhere outside. However, they never have seen Sasuke's mansion as an eligible place, mostly due to the Uchiha patriarch's foul view of the blond.

As winter's harshest comes around, and the blond's college finals close in on him, he feels less worried and occupied about his relationship with Sasuke and more concerned about his career. He has yet to find a job (besides watching Moegi), and her mother has been paying him less. Kiba cannot account for Naruto's slack, and it stresses the blond immensely.

Currently, sitting on the living room couch in the apartment, Naruto is doing his homework and browsing the newspaper for potential work. An ad catches his eye, something about basic secretarial work. Considering the pay, it is not meant to serve those with degrees, but rather attract college students looking for money or internships.

Considering he has finished classes for the day, Naruto dials the number given. It is five o'clock, but hopefully someone is still in the office.

"Uchiha Technologies, Karin speaking – how may I help you?"

Oh, fuck. Out of all places, it would be Sasuke's family's corporation. Nothing else in the paper reveals any promising careers; he does not have any particular skills, besides working at a ramen stand. He has to take his chances.

"I am Uzumaki Naruto. I was looking in the paper, and saw an ad for some work-"

"I'm sorry, sir. That position has been filled."

"Oh…well thank you. Have a nice day."

Hanging up the phone, Naruto comes to the conclusion he is going to be poor for the rest of his life. It puts him in a foul mood, so when his cell phone rings not even five minutes after the failed job call, he answers it irritably.

"What?"

"What crawled up your ass and died?" Kiba's voice echoes over the phone, seeming rather hostile. Naruto sighs.

"Job searching. It's not working."

"The effort is nice," Kiba murmurs. "Ask your boyfriend for money."

"He's not my boyfriend, stupid shit," Naruto replies. "I'm not taking anything from anyone."

"Well as long as you pay rent, I don't care where it comes from. Having a place is so tedious; I'm thinking of moving in with my mom again. I hate my job."

A knot of dread forms in Naruto's stomach, suddenly faced with the prospect of not having a roommate. Where would he go, what would he do…? His grandfather could take him in for a short period of time, but this is not preferred; his grandfather, despite being a nice man, never wanted kids in his home. When Naruto was old enough to be on his own, he was out.

Unlike Kiba, he has no place to go.

A beep on his phone makes Naruto look at the screen, surprised to see Sasuke calling him. The younger Uchiha should still be at work.

"Look Kiba, let me call you back."

The blond does not even wait for a response; he switches over, slightly happy to receive a call from Sasuke. He is stressed and he would not mind his friend distracting him for a while.

"Hey Sasuke."

"I'm coming over in ten minutes. My father is particularly angry about a potential deal falling through, and he told me to leave for the day."

His tone is commanding. He wants to say no just to annoy Sasuke, but that is probably not the best idea.

"Okay."

Sasuke hangs up afterwards, not even bothering with a goodbye. Naruto already knows he is not going to be productive when Sasuke gets here; the two are going to talk and most likely end up kissing, whether it be on the couch or Naruto's bed. They already act so much like a couple that it is disgusting.

A couple…hm…in order for that to happen, they would have to love each other – and honestly, for all they have been through, it seems rather unlikely. The thought makes his heart stop; he cannot be in a relationship where there is no intimacy on an emotional level. He is not in love Sasuke right now, but he is certainly on that path there if their behavior keeps up. Would Sasuke return the same sentiments? Is he even willing to try?

Fuck, this is why everything needs to be slow. Unfortunately, Naruto's emotions have run too fast.

Maybe he is just panicking, especially considering the stress of his job situation and school. So distraught in his thoughts, Naruto jumps when the telltale series of Sasuke's knocks vibrate against the door.

Undoing the series of locks, the blond opens the door to welcome the younger Uchiha. He strides in easily, taking off his shoes before sitting on the couch. He eyes Naruto's work with little interest, the books sprawled around all corners of the cheap coffee table.

"Finals," Naruto explains, taking a seat next to his friend.

"And the job advertisements?"

"Job hunting, but it's unsuccessful," the blond says. "I actually called your job, since it seemed like the most likely out of all of them. Turns out it was filled."

"It is better you not work in the same building as I," Sasuke comments, his arm stretching out behind Naruto. The brush of Sasuke's fingers leaves a tingle on his shoulder, but the blond ignores it.

"Why's that?"

"Working with a romantic interest never turns out well. I view work as a time for privacy."

Nodding, Naruto inevitably agrees. Maybe it is a good thing the position was filled…

Wait, romantic interest?

"Sasuke, what do you want from us?"

The younger Uchiha's eyebrow raises, the question obviously catching him off guard.

"I want you."

"Yeah, but what from me? You know I don't want to be a secret-"

"Currently, you're making us a secret. I told you, I don't care. Idiot, you would think you'd realize this after our histories."

Naruto is silent for a moment. When he feels Sasuke shift next to him, the blond sighs.

"I feel like I'm changing. It's weird, not having that feeling where I borderline hate you. You've changed too; since we've decided to try this again, you're more confident…less angry. What happened to the emotionally stupid Sasuke in high school?"

Naruto lets in a shaky breath. "We've traded places. In the past, I was sure of what I wanted and you weren't. Now…"

"Naruto, stop thinking."

"I don't feel as strong as I did before. What the hell are we even doing?"

Watching as a scowl forms on Sasuke's face, Naruto considers if he said the right thing. It catches him by surprise when a hand buries itself into blond hair, pulling Naruto towards the younger Uchiha. He is surprised when Sasuke swiftly kisses him, his lips moving heatedly over Naruto's own. The only thing the blond can do is respond, his hands falling on his friend's shoulders. He squeezes them with each feeling of Sasuke's tongue caressing him, gradually losing himself in the kiss.

When the kiss ends, Sasuke stares at him, with eyes that make him want to leave the room.

"Instead of punching each other, we kiss. What would you prefer?"

"The punching," Naruto responds flatly, making Sasuke smirk. "At least I knew what I was doing."

"Why are you worrying about this? Idiot, I've known you for years and I'm pursuing you. The intensity of my previous relationship does not come anywhere close to you. Stop thinking stupid things."

Naruto frowns. "It's not stupid-"

"You're worrying over something you shouldn't," Sasuke states, his fingers sliding into Naruto's blond strands. "Stop."

For a moment, Naruto considers mentioning his thoughts of 'in love' (or lack of) between them. He decides this is a terrible idea, because they could figure that out if they become a couple. Right now, they are passionate and they care about one another - or at least Naruto does - but will they ever actually be in love?

Shit, why is he so romantic? Maybe Sasuke is right; he just needs to stop thinking and just let things be.

"So, from what I've heard from you, it seems you would prefer those times in school," Sasuke comments.

Naruto's nose crinkles in disgust. "No, because those people were terrible - but I guess my life was easier, because I didn't have to worry about paying for everything myself. It's hard to pay rent just with babysitting jobs."

Sasuke looks put off, most likely because of the knowledge that Naruto still watches the little girl who kicked him rather rudely. It makes the blond chuckle.

"You're worried about finances," the younger Uchiha states.

No use hiding it – immediately, the blond feels sour.

"Kiba mentioned moving out. I can't tell if he's serious or not, but if he is, I need a roommate – and a job. Shit."

"Konoha General always needs janitors," Sasuke comments, although by the way his mouth is twisted, it looks like more of a joke than anything. However, it is not a very good one; a part of Naruto is offended, wondering if Sasuke really thinks so low of him to insinuate cleaning bathrooms is the best option.

"Screw you – besides, Sakura works there. You think I want to work with your ex?"

"There's a restaurant opening I saw on my way here."

Naruto smiles, punching Sasuke in the shoulder. "That's better. You're learning."

"I don't appreciate you hitting me," Sasuke says lowly, shifting his body closer to Naruto's. Damn, he is just as bad as Itachi – while Sasuke make not necessarily like his brother much, they share some distinctive Uchiha qualities…

…like possessiveness and sensuality, if lips on the corner of Naruto's mouth are any indication. The blond returns the gesture with a kick to Sasuke's leg, making the younger Uchiha abruptly pull away.

Sasuke is getting too comfortable.

X X X

Naruto will forever be glad to Sasuke – his friend, potential boyfriend, friend with benefits, whatever– for mentioning that potential restaurant job the last time he was over. Naruto ended up getting a position as a waiter, but the downside is that its opening turned out to be rather busy.

He has been running around for hours, and the only thing keeping him conscious is the generous tips from the patrons. The end of his shift is nearing, and then he can hopefully go to sleep. This experience is much different from Ichiraku's stand, where a variety of people came by to eat. This place caters to the upper middle class, but it is not overwhelming. His first day is going pretty well, and he is earning a lot more in money than what he did at the ramen stand.

A party of six enters the building, and Naruto is quick to rush over. Everyone else is busy, anyway.

It is a group of females, all dressed very nicely. Naruto greets them enthusiastically, leading them to a secluded corner with a large table. Blue eyes scan each of them, getting a glance of what his patrons look like –

- and suddenly his heart plummets. His mouth suddenly goes dry as very bright green eyes stare at him, ones he never wished to see again.

"You-"

"Good evening ladies!" Naruto quickly says, interrupting the female before she can speak. A slight frown mars her lips, but Naruto pays no mind.

If he can avoid Sakura, he will.

"Drinks please?"

When each speak, the blond feels impending dread. As Sakura's turn comes, she makes sure to stare at him intensely. 'Water' is all she says, but there are so many emotions behind the word that it seems like she is actually saying 'jump off a bridge and die'. He cannot blame her – he is technically messing around with her ex now – although he is not sure she is aware of that. In fact, Naruto is not quite sure how much she knows, and quite frankly, he is not interested.

A janitor's position in the hospital, or meeting her here – what is the difference?

As he turns to walk away, a hand grabs at his sleeve. He immediately knows who it is.

"When does your shift end?" she whispers. Oh no.

"I'm sorry, but that really doesn't matter-"

"It does matter. What time?"

"Half an hour."

With that, she lets him go, and Naruto realizes his night will probably end badly. As he runs back and forth around the restaurant, all he thinks about is his meeting with her, of how things could escalate very badly. Why in the world did he even choose to try something with Sasuke again? He knew at that time (and knows now) that there would be a lot of external factors which would make things complicated for them. Sasuke's father would be one, along with Itachi's past. Sakura is the icing on the cake.

There must be some kind of feelings for Sasuke if Naruto is going through all of this. It is that, or the blond is in over his head.

When the clock indicates it is seven thirty, Sakura's party is ready to leave – completely in sync with Naruto's scheduled end to his shift. When he gathers his belongings and makes his way to exit the building, Sakura stands at the entrance with an expectant look on her face. He lets in a deep sigh before opening the door, allowing her to go first.

They walk a little distance from the restaurant without saying a word to one another. It makes the blond anxious. Right when he opens his mouth, she speaks:

"Naruto."

Facing her, he is not surprised to see the hand coming – and he allows it, even when it makes his cheek sting terribly. When Sakura retracts her hand, her eyes are filled with so much fury that it scares him. It is one thing to face an angry Sasuke; Naruto knows how to handle him, and if worse comes to worst, they can beat the shit out of one another. With a woman - especially one who is suffering from heartbreak - things are a lot more uncertain.

When she speaks, her voice is low and angry:

"I'm really mad at Sasuke, but I think you're wrong for what you have done as well."

Him? Wrong? The blond frowns. He does not want to face an irate Sakura, but he will not let her step on him.

"If you were happy with a fake relationship, then I guess I'm wrong," he begins. He is going to tell her the truth, no matter how hurtful it may be. "One way or another, whether it was me or someone else, Sasuke would've realized what he wanted and he would've hurt you in the process. I'm sorry I was that person – I'm really sorry– but what would you have done?"

"I would've left it be," she spits at him, her fists clenching. "Your version of helping him with a bit unorthodox, wouldn't you think?"

"Sakura, Sasuke is unorthodox," Naruto says back. He is beginning to feel angry. "He's not that prince charming, because he's been a selfish, screwed up asshole. Did you know that back then, he wanted to have us both? He wanted you as that pretty girlfriend, something to represent his Uchiha name. I was supposed to be in the background, where I was everything he wasn't supposed to have. He had to choose what he wanted."

"And you won?! Does that make you happy?" she asks him angrily. She looks about ready to hit him again.

"I didn't win, because he first tried to choose you, didn't he?"

Her anger seems to dissipate after this, her gaze turning contemplative for a moment. Naruto continues.

"You did what was right to end it with him, and I'm not saying that because I wanted him. Truthfully, at first, I wasn't interested at all. I don't like seeing women being used."

"You are confusing me, then," Sakura murmurs, eyeing him curiously. "Are you two seeing one another? If so, why would you want him, after everything he has done?"

That is the question Naruto must ponder for himself. For all of the men out there – no matter how much he has tried with some – there have got to be some who do not carry the baggage Sasuke brings. Rationally, it is always best to just walk away and find other options.

He tried this, and Sasuke has ended up reappearing. It is hard to imagine Sasuke not being there at this point, and besides...the Sasuke he knows now is not the Sasuke from three years ago.

"This is going to sound stupid, but I really think he's changed. It's stupid, because I've seen young girls say that all the time, but I really think he has. I know I should just forget him and I have forgotten about him – for a while. But I remember him telling me…"

There was a moment of desperation, the day they were broken down on that road, when Sasuke told him:

Don't leave…

"He said don't leave to me," Naruto murmurs. "I can't do that to him, and I don't want to. That's why I don't leave him, because I think he's really found something he wants."

They both become quiet afterwards, standing next to each other on the sidewalk. People pass them by, grumbling about the two standing in the middle of the sidewalk – but both male and female do not pay them mind.

Sakura is the first to speak, her voice rather shaky.

"This is selfish, but I hope Sasuke experiences the hurt I have," Sakura whispers to him. "I don't like how you interfered in our relationship, but I see why. I don't like you Naruto, but I don't hate you. Are you with him?"

Naruto licks his lips, afraid to answer - but he does, because Sakura does not deserve to be lied to or played with anymore. "I guess we are on the way to it."

The immense hurt in her eyes makes him guilty, but there is nothing he can do. She cares because she is still in love. In a perfect world, where Sasuke was not so selfish in the past, Sakura could have possibly had her ideal man - but in reality, she did not understand him, and Sasuke is not black and white.

Naruto thinks that it never could have worked, or at least in the way Sakura envisions. Sasuke could not have loved her like she wanted him to.

"Well, Naruto," she says, her voice subdued. "I wish the best for you, but hopefully we won't cross paths."

The blond winces, knowing what she really means: You and Sasuke can be together, but I never want to see it, and I never want to see you again.

Her words leave him slightly bitter, never being the one to face the brunt of someone's despair. He wishes he could appease everyone, but for Sakura…there is just too much, and some things she will not be able to forgive.

"Will you move on?"

"Yes," she says, clutching her jacket tighter against her form. "Goodbye, then."

No more words need to be exchanged; when she leaves, her eyes are solemn. Naruto is not sure if he would rather have her sadness than her anger, but he is not allowed to dwell on it. She soon disappears from sight, quietly and without any more argument.

All of this – for Sasuke.

Naruto has to be going crazy.