Written for shinigami002 at her request for Hokage-to-be!Naruto and ANBU!Sasuke
A gentle evening breeze tousled his hair. He looked up at the sky. It was filled with starlight. Naruto's lips began to curve into a smile, but his time to appreciate the view from on top of the Hokage Monument was cut short when a series of shuriken came volleying at him. He jumped back as each one plunked into the ground with perfect timing, very narrowly missing the toes of his sandals. He grinned, balancing on the balls of his feet as he leaned forward enough that his fingertips grazed the dirt. The bottom of his red Sage cloak fluttered with the wind.
"Is that any way to treat your new Hokage, Sasuke?"
Sasuke had been lurking on the branch of a tree about 5 meters from where Naruto stood. He, gracefully, leapt to the ground, dressed in his ANBU attire. Sasuke kept his porcelain mask in place as he approached.
"Someone has to keep you on your toes," he replied.
Naruto got to his feet. Sasuke kept a respectful distance from him, his arms at his sides. The ANBU uniform suited him nicely. There wasn't a speck of dirt on it - from the grey chest plate to the metal armguards. When Naruto had been ANBU, it had been very difficult for him to maintain that aura of immaculateness Sasuke could always pull off so easily.
"I didn't know if you'd come tonight," Naruto told him.
"I've never missed one of our appointments before, Naruto. I wouldn't start now." Slightly, Sasuke tilted his head to the side. A nearby lamp post cast a glare across one half of his mask.
"Don't think I'm gonna take it easy on you." Naruto crossed his arms against his chest. "This'll be our last spar before you become my subordinate, y'know. You should enjoy it."
The training field on the top of Mt. Hokage was a rectangular area partially covered in grass. Tall, thick trees bordered three of its four sides. There were four wooden posts - lined horizontally and all of varying heights - at its dead center, and there were several other obstacles on the grounds, including a deep pit, where, at the bottom, it was covered in treacherous bamboo spikes. A group of boulders had been placed in clusters on the eastern quadrant and could be used as a shield of defense against strong ninjutsu attacks like katons or suitons. Although, if it had been Sakura he was sparring with, she could have picked them up easily using just her bare hands. Grinning, Naruto took out a kunai from the pouch strapped to his hip. He spun it around on his finger before tossing it in the air. At the instant he took hold of the handle again, the both of them leapt up and backward into the air.
Sasuke slipped deftly into the shadows. The only light that shown across the training ground was that of the moon. Naruto ran swiftly to the posts at the center and jumped to the second tallest one. He felt a kunai zip past his ear and caught it easily with his left hand. Sasuke had given away his position. Naruto made the seals for a kage bunshin, and the clone breezed by him in the direction of where the kunai had originated. It wasn't long before he sensed his first bunshin had been exterminated, but apparently Sasuke hadn't noticed the second one the original copy had made before disappearing.
Next, Naruto jumped swiftly to the boulders, dodging another volley of shuriken, which, this time, were charged with sparks of electricity that left scorch marks on the ground where they wedged into the grass. He closed his eyes and entered Nine-Tails Chakra Mode. When he opened them, his entire body was covered in yellow flames. Using the Nine Tail's angry red chakra as extended arms, he lifted several of the boulders at once and pinpointed the location of his second clone hiding in the trees just below Sasuke's placement on one of the branches. His speed was almost as quick as his Father's had been, so he was able to close the distance between them in a matter of seconds. He released all three of the boulders at once, and they went crashing into the trees, kicking up a cloud of dust and sending large spray of splinters into the air like a rain of senbons.
Sasuke leapt out of his hiding place, a large fireball shooting from his mouth mid-air, incinerating the shower of wooden shrapnel. It all fell to the ground in little bits of ash that descended just like snow. It coated Naruto's face and arms as he used the chakra limbs to propel himself upward. In the air, they clashed again, with Naruto able to knock off Sasuke's ANBU mask. Sasuke twisted around, and when Naruto put his arms up to defend against what he thought would be a kick to the face, Sasuke grabbed him by the ankles, flipped them twice, and with a serious amount of force, sent Naruto flying toward the ground at a lethal speed. When his body hit the dirt, it went up in a poof of smoke. By the time Sasuke realized it was a clone, Naruto grabbed Sasuke's leg with the Kyuubi's chakra and sent him flying across the field into the pit.
When nothing happened after a while, Naruto, cautiously, walked to the other side of the grounds and stood a meter from the pit's opening.
"Are you dead in there?" he asked, which is when he felt a wire tighten around his ankles, and with a yank from below, he fell face-first into the pit. Sasuke caught him by the collar of his cloak. Naruto smiled at him while his feet dangled not too far above the spikes. "Nice catch."
"You broke my mask," Sasuke narrowed his eyes, "Again." With a grunt, he threw Naruto out of the pit before jumping out, too. He landed beside Naruto, dusting dirt from his chest plate and pants.
Naruto scratched the back of his neck. "Uh, sorry 'bout that."
Sasuke's eyebrow was raised. He shook his head dismissively and started to walk away. Naruto gave a nervous chuckle and followed after him. He folded his arms behind his head and raised his gaze to the sky again. They were both uncharacteristically quiet - or, well, it was characteristic for Sasuke, but Naruto had a lot of different thoughts going on at once, but he felt considerably calmed just by having Sasuke at his side. They walked until they were at the railing on the very edge of the mountain cliff. Arms nearly touching, they stood right above the rock face of the Sandaime. He could clearly see the large crack that had been there since Orochimaru attacked the village during the Chuunin exams. It offered a spectacular view of the village, rebuilt again after being destroyed by Pein's Shinra Tensei. He remembered very well that time when he returned after training at Mount Myōboku only to find the place unrecognizable. The only landmark left that let him know it was even Konoha had been the monument, which somehow managed to withstand the effects of Pein's massive jutsu.
Looking out at all the buildings, all the homes, the academy, the stores, the Hokage Tower - all those little lights down there represented the people that, by tomorrow afternoon, he'd be expected to protect with his life on the line. It had been his dream since as far back as he could remember, and it was finally coming true.
"Hard to believe how far we've come," he remarked, sweeping back his bangs when the wind kept blowing them in front of his eyes.
"I don't know how to feel about a dropout coming so far as to be a Hokage."
Naruto glanced at Sasuke, catching the smirk. His friend was leaning against the railing, also looking at the village. Slowly, he turned, raising his eyes to meet Naruto's. Suddenly, he felt a little nervous, and shifted around until they weren't staring at each other anymore. He rubbed the front of his chest, feeling warmth spread to his neck, cheeks, and ears.
"You're acting strange," Sasuke observed. "Stranger than normal I should say."
"Heh. Guess I'm just nervous. I'm not really one for all the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony. I'm not much of a public speaker, and I'm likely to trip just walkin' up the stairs."
"I don't think anyone would be surprised if that happened," Sasuke replied, the tone of his voice very low.
"Ahem," he cleared his throat. "Sasuke, y'know what I wanna ask you, right?"
"No, I don't think it's appropriate for the Hokage to continue to wear orange."
Naruto rolled his eyes. "I'm tryin' to be serious here. That's hard for me to do, but can ya at least humor me for ten seconds?"
"I'm pretty sure that I'd rather enjoy my last remaining hours of freedom before I'll be forced to obey your every command."
Naruto took in Sasuke's impassive look - one that had become even more proficient at hiding his emotions since attaining ANBU rank - and half-wondered if he wasn't entirely joking. Sighing, he looked out at the village again, elbow resting on the railing.
"It's weird, I guess. When...," he dabbed his tongue across his bottom lip, "When you came back, the time you spent incarcerated, your trial, house arrest - "
"Yes, I remember," Sasuke said curtly.
"Sorry. It's just that... I know I always went on about becoming Hokage. I did, maybe have a few doubts here and there, my biggest ones always surfacing in that time I was chasin' you, when you were being such a stubborn dipshit- "
In a move so fast he couldn't have countered (nor would he have anyway) Sasuke hit him upside the head.
"You're being unexpectedly sentimental." Sasuke straightened up, body twisting toward Naruto, his elbow very much touching the side of Naruto's arm.
Naruto scoffed, shifting, too, until he was completely facing the other ninja. He pointed his finger at Sasuke's chest plate and poked him three times. "I'm not bein' sentimental, I'm just - " He narrowed his eyes; Sasuke's brows both raised questioningly. Naruto shook his head. "Nevermind. Forget it. It's hard to be nostalgic with an emotionally retarded person like yourself."
Abruptly, Sasuke took hold of his wrist and stared. The fingers were warm against his skin, constricting enough that he could feel the thump, thump, thump of his own pulse when it quickened. Swallowing hard, he ripped his hand out of Sasuke's grasp.
"See," he grumbled, grabbing hold of the railing with both hands as if he needed it to steady himself. "Y'never know how to read the mood. It's why you were always so much more cut out to be ANBU than me. I know I'll be a better Hokage for it, but all those assassinations... I sometimes wonder if my hands will ever be clean."
"We're ninja," Sasuke said, his presence still so near it made the hairs on Naruto's body prickle and stand on end. "It's what's expected of us. We do what others can't. We cut off our emotions in order to get the job done. If we let our emotions get the best of us and we falter on the battlefield, even more comrades will be lost."
"I understand that," he responded, his brow furrowing. He folded his arms on the railing and rested his chin in the crook of his right arm. "I understand the duties of being a shinobi, of being ANBU, of being Hokage. It's just my personal opinion that bein' ANBU never suited me quite so well. I wanted to become Hokage in order to protect, to save lives... while I was ANBU, when you and I both became squad leaders... I thought I was losin' the most important part of myself... like I'd lost touch with my humanity."
Sasuke remained quiet, but Naruto knew he was listening. He felt the frustration and doubt begin to bloom in his chest, he wanted... he wanted Sasuke to reassure him, perhaps, but he didn't know how to ask his best friend for it, and Sasuke had never been the type to baby him in that regard.
"Sasuke," Naruto said. "Things will become busier for you, for the both of us... I want to promote you to be one of my personal guards after you finish all your current assigned missions in the field."
There was a pause before Sasuke answered, his voice neutral, "Is this the Hokage's will?"
"It's mywill," he said, turning to him. "Only if you want the position."
"People will talk if you assign me as leader of the Hokage's personal ANBU guards."
Naruto smirked. "Who said anything about makin' you captain? Maybe you'll be one of the peon guards." However, when Sasuke didn't look amused, Naruto rubbed the side of his neck. "If you don't' want to..."
"If it's your will, I don't believe there's a choice, Naruto."
"Don't say it like that. You're still you. You'll always be Uchiha Sasuke, my rival and best friend, and whatever the hell you're supposed to be, but I expect you to also keep me grounded."
"Is that one of my expected duties as your personal guard?"
Naruto put his hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "No, asshole. That's your expected duty as my best friend." When he realized his hand was touching Sasuke, he removed it fast, grinned off Sasuke's quizzical look, and stretched awkwardly. "Gosh, it's gettin' late. Maybe I should go home to my apartment and get m'beauty rest. Weird that it'll be my last night sleepin' there and then tomorrow I'll be in the Hokage's residence. Have you seen that place? Oh man, can ya imagine the parties we could have there?"
"I think the Fifth would have your head."
"Feh. She's retiring, what the hell is she gonna do about it?"
"Ban you from being able to eat at Ichiraku would be my guess."
"What?" Naruto clutched his chest. "Don't say scary shit like that! I think that took more years off my life than all those times I nearly went fully kyuubi-fied back in the day."
Sasuke snickered quietly.
"Hey," said Naruto, watching him. Sasuke looked up. "I'll get ya a new mask."
"I have more, don't worry."
"Um, so. When I was sayin' that we were gonna start gettin' pretty busy, I guess, y'know... what with you probably wanting to rebuild your clan and all that - "
"Just... er, I know we don't have much personal time to... do stuff..." Naruto fidgeted around apprehensively, and the way Sasuke kept scrutinizing him so damn closely, looking at him like he'd grown a second head or something was not helping anything at all.
"If you have something to say," Sasuke told him, "Say it clearly. I can't speak moron. Sometimes it's hard to decipher your babble."
"No shit," he said. "Okay. I guess what I want to ask is... Uh, I know! Why the hell don't you ever date? I mean, y'don't even shack up with people, Sasuke. I know the other Rookie 9 date and... mess around, but... you never seem to show interest in anyone... so..."
"What is it you're asking exactly?" Sasuke straightened up and moved from the railing, closer to Naruto until there were only centimeters separating their bodies. "Besides, I could say the same about you except the brief times you considered asking out Hinata solely based on her feelings for you. Lately, Sakura seems to be showing interest in you, too - "
"Oh, shut up! Sakura-chan's always had a thing for you and always will have a thing for you," he blurted and then clapped his hand over his mouth.
"That's her problem, Naruto. Not mine."
"Problem?" He shook his head. "Love is a problem for you?"
"If it gets in the way of my duties," he said, eyes dead cold and serious. "If it has an effect on my mental faculties, my ability to keep my attention focused on the mission, on strategizing. Do you think I became strong because I let emotions and personal attachments get in the way of going after Itachi - "
"Enough," said Naruto authoritatively, and, because of his rank over Sasuke, it was Sasuke's reflex to obey, the lines of his mouth tightening, his body stiffening. "Sorry, I didn't mean to pull that tone." But Sasuke didn't budge an inch. He'd become less Sasuke his friend, his comrade, and was now the Hokage's subordinate.
Naruto glared and not knowing what else to do, he shoved Sasuke in the chest. Sasuke's only reaction was to take a small step back. "Don't be like that, Sasuke."
"I don't know what it is you want me to say, Hokage-sama," Sasuke replied stiffly. "But if you expect me to be an escort as you entertain the thought of pursuing a love life than I would like to apologize and respectfully refuse your very generous offer of becoming one of Hokage-sama's personal body guards."
"Shut the fuck up with that Hokage-sama shit!" he shouted furiously, getting in Sasuke's face. "That's not what I was sayin' at all, I was tryin' to show concern for your love life or lack thereof. I was trying to be a friend - " He wanted to continue ranting, but when he realized how close his face was getting to Sasuke's he backed away. "Tch. Fine. If I'm gonna be Hokage I should be able to say at least this much, and I don't care if you hate my guts for it afterward, but you are the goddam idiot here!"
Naruto whirled around on his heels and stared Sasuke down again, fists clenched at his side.
"I..." His mouth was dry. Sasuke watched him, features set so firmly in an expression of detachment and aloofness. "Sasuke, I... " He turned and grabbed for the railing, shaking it in frustration. "Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" His shout echoed over and over and over. He slumped forward, hitting his head against the metal bar. "This suuuuuucks."
He heard Sasuke come up behind him. He crouched beside Naruto.
"Naruto." His voice carried the tiniest trace of concern.
Naruto looked at him pathetically.
"It's unlike you to need reassurance."
"And it'd be unlike you to give it!" he snapped because he couldn't help himself.
Sasuke's expression hardened. "I'm not a mind reader."
"I know," he sighed. "I didn't mean to snap at you. The truth is... for a long time..." He put a hand on Sasuke's cheek, lightly at first. He cupped it, and Sasuke seemed to flinch at the contact, so he withdrew the hand, disappointed.
Sasuke noticed the effect of his rebuff. "I didn't mean to do that..."
"It's... fine. It's nothin'. Heh. It's probably just nerves. Yep. Nerves, yeah. Bein' Hokage is gonna be tough work, and..." He worried at his lip, looking at Sasuke again with what was likely obvious yearning.
"What is it, Naruto? Tell me, and I'll try to fix it."
"It's not somethin' y'can fix just 'cause your some ANBU God."
"I didn't mean I'd try to fix it as your subordinate, idiot. I meant I wanted to try to fix it as your..." Sasuke looked uncomfortable as he got the word out. "...Friend."
Naruto's eyes widened, and he smiled crookedly. With his head bowed, his gaze was on Sasuke's toes where they peeked out from his black sandals. He closed his eyes tightly. "These are the things you do... these are the reasons I think that I... love you... um..." He opened his eyes again, and Sasuke's expression was focused, intense. It made his heart skip a beat. "As, uh. More than a friend. Maybe." He had the urge to scratch the back of his head but kept his hand at his side. "Yep. So, that's that." He got to his feet and stretched his arms above his head, trying to remain cool and indifferent even though his heart was beating a mile a minute. "Guess I'll be goin' home now."
Sasuke was up in an instant, grabbing him by the elbow. Naruto wasn't sure, but he thought there was a hint of a blush on Sasuke's cheeks.
"Wait, are you blushing?" he teased, finding it hilarious. "Haha. I didn't even know you were capable of that sort of human reaction."
"Of course I'm capable of it, moron," Sasuke hissed, still holding onto his arm. "When you say embarrassing things like that, how do you expect me to react?"
Naruto shrugged. "What? It's not a big deal. It's not like I expect anything to change between us. I don't expect you to do anything, Sasuke. I just... had to get that out there or I was gonna crack. I already feel under pressure and stressed out, so this is one thing off my mind."
"How can you say it so casually? That you..." Sasuke's gaze shifted around. "...love me."
"Because I've always loved you," he said honestly. "It just took me a while to figure out that the love I felt wasn't so, um brotherly, but so what? I honestly don't expect anything. I'm surprised you didn't punch me in the face, though. I dunno what to feel about that."
Sasuke gripped his wrist harder, pulling him forward. Naruto nearly tripped, his hand going out in front of him, flattening against Sasuke's chest. Sasuke looked him in the eye, emotions wavering. The corner of his mouth kept twitching like he had something he wanted to say.
Naruto's eyebrow quirked. "What is it? Fine. You can have one punch, but not the face 'cause I wanna look pretty tomorrow when I wear my Hokage robes. That hat may have a veil, but it probably won't hide a black eye."
"I don't want to punch you, dobe."
Naruto's lips parted a fraction at the old nickname. "No?"
"You never gave me a chance to respond."
"I might not feel too dissimilarly from how you do," Sasuke mumbled.
"What? Wait, what was that? You're mumblin'."
"Do not ask me to repeat myself."
"Wait... you... feel the same way?"
Sasuke shrugged and finally let go of his arm. Awkwardly, he reached out a hand, as if he was about to touch Naruto's cheek, but then he curled his fingers in and dropped his arm to the side. Naruto stared, dumbfounded.
"What was that?" he asked Sasuke and flailed his arms. "What the hell was that?"
Sasuke turned around and began to walk way. "It was nothing."
Naruto chased after him. "It most definitely wasn't "nothing"!"
"You should get some sleep," said Sasuke.
"What? How am I gonna be able to sleep after that?"
"If Hokage-sama orders it, I'll be happy to put a pillow over his face. It will surely help you fall asleep."
"I want to go to sleep, not die! Maybe I should ask Neji if he wants the position of captain of the Hokage's personal guard!"
"Hokage-sama should do as he pleases," Sasuke said, stopping long enough for Naruto to catch up, "But Hokage-sama will be responsible if there is one less Byakugan user in this village after tomorrow."
Naruto laughed, slapping him on the back. "Ah, Sasuke. Tomorrow's gonna be fun, I can tell. You'll be at the ceremony, right?"
"I'll be there."
Most of the walk down the many, many flights of steps that wound back and forth across the side of the mountain was spent with Naruto chattering away about the details of tomorrow's ceremony, the acceptance speech he had been working on since he was 12, and how he planned on redecorating the Hokage office and the residence building. It was like nothing had changed. Sasuke mostly tuned him out, he was sure. He acknowledged Naruto's words every once in a while, usually with a monosyllabic response. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they both would be headed in opposite directions.
"So... we're good?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke gave a nod. "We're good."
"I don't, y'know... expect stuff."
"Let's just say... uh. I still like breasts!"
"Er. What I mean to say is... I'm not gay."
"Neither am I."
Naruto's face screwed up in surprise. "Wait... you're not?"
"Goodnight, Naruto." Sasuke turned on his heel.
Naruto watched him for a while as he passed under the overhead lights of the lamp posts, slipping into a circle of light and walked into the shadows again only to re-enter the light.
"Okay, yeah. Totally not gay," he said to himself when his gaze kept going to Sasuke's butt. He shook his head and groaned. "I can hear Konohamaru now. He'll taunt me for the rest of my life with a constant reverse Sexy no Jutsu display of me and Sasuke goin' at it." He shuddered, drew in a breath, smiled, and then glanced up at the faces on the Hokage mountain, where, maybe in a week or so, they'd be begin carving his own likeness. He beamed at them, giving the former Hokages a thumbs up.
"I did it, Dad," he said quietly, and, turning around again, wiped at one of his eyes.
Sasuke hadn't slept much. After Naruto and he had parted last night, he took a walk around the outskirts of the village. It might've caused some issue if he were to wander around town in his ANBU uniform without his mask, and not that he particularly would've cared, but he didn't want to cause Naruto any undue stress. Eventually, he returned home without having made any headway with his thoughts on what had occurred between himself and the one person that used to stir so much of... everything inside him that he'd once wanted to destroy his very existence. He'd known how he'd felt for a long time, but when it came to Naruto and how his mind worked, Sasuke could never be sure. He'd often talked about Sakura or Hinata or some other kunoichi, but as he recalled, Naruto had never gone after any of them very aggressively.
After only a couple of hours of sleep, he woke just before dawn broke across the sky, painting it in pale hues of purple, orange, and pink. While he went out to train, he imagined Naruto passed out in his apartment, probably drowning in a puddle of his own drool.
The morning air was cool against his skin. He flowed through a series of poses and positions with his katana, enjoying the stillness, the silence. Meditation had done a lot to keep his past demons at bay.
It was a couple of hours later while on his way home from the public baths that he ran into Sakura. She was dressed in her Jounin uniform, surprisingly cheerful, which didn't bode well for him. He had no problem getting up early, but that didn't guarantee he'd be in the most amicable of moods, or, rather, even less amicable than his typical frosty disposition.
"Tsunade-sama said she sent one of the ANBU to his house to make sure he was up on time! And when Naruto didn't answer, the ANBU - oh, what is her name, she's new!" Sakura looked to Sasuke for the answer, but when he shrugged, she carried on. "Well, not that it will surprise you, but he'd left a clone under the covers! Apparently, he had some errand to run, and then he was going to go to Ichiraku for some ramen!"
She tsked in frustration. Sasuke didn't feel all that worried or surprised. He could sense Naruto's chakra not too far off, but what he couldn't quite wrap his head around was having ramen for breakfast.
Once Sakura finally finished her spiel about Naruto's lack of consideration for others, she went on to talk about the new position she'd been appointed to at Leaf Hospital.
"Since Tsunade-sama is retiring, she'll be spending more time at the hospital. It's so exciting to be able to learn directly under a medical chief like her. Don't you think so, Sasuke? Ah, I know it's not a great topic to begin with, but it never occurred to me before we all graduated that we each at one time would've been tutored by a Sannin."
Sasuke paused in his steps. Sakura stopped when he did, looking confused, her pink eyebrows drawn up in transparent confusion.
"Sasuke-kun, what's wrong?" she asked.
He gave her a slightly irritated look. "It's nothing. Let's just find Naruto. I want to make sure he knows that I have no intention of playing his babysitter from now on."
Sakura laughed behind her hand, setting off again at the same time as him. He listened to her prattle on until they approached Ichiraku. He lifted the flaps, and, right away, spotted Naruto, dressed in a casual style of pants and a black t-shirt. He was in the middle of a conversation with the shop owner, animatedly pointing a chopstick at him, while gesturing in a wide arc with his other arm.
He froze, however, when he sensed the arrival of the two of them. Slowly, he turned around on the stool, offering a sheepish grin as he rubbed the back of his head.
"Naruto!" Sakura scolded, storming up to him and grabbing his ear. "Tsunade-sama expected you at the tower an hour ago! Where have you been?"
"Sakura-chan," he whined. "I told Hanabi that I had an errand to run, and I can't become Hokage on an empty stomach!"
"Hanabi!" Sakura exclaimed, shooting Sasuke a triumphant look. "That's what her name is! How could I forget Hinata's little sister?"
"Yeah, she's hot!" admitted Naruto, but then his eyes flicked to Sasuke and he turned rather red in the face. "Er, what I mean to say is - "
Sakura scowled, knocking the idiot on the head. "She's too young for you! Tell him, Sasuke!"
Sasuke met Naruto's eyes, the corner of his lip curling into the slightest smirk. "She's too young for you, Naruto."
"Heh." Naruto grinned at him knowingly, his deep blue eyes sparkling with a mischief Sasuke recognized all too well. "She's not my type anyway."
"Thank goodness!" Sakura cried, oblivious. She grabbed Naruto by the arm and started dragging him away from his half-eaten bowl of ramen. He flailed his arms toward it, trying to grab onto just the sides with the tips of his fingers, but, unluckily for him, Sakura was a woman on a mission.
Sasuke, of course, seeing that Naruto had not paid the bill, reached into his pocket to pay, but the old man said it was on the house because of today's special events. Politely, Sasuke thanked him, and as he was about to leave, noticed a bag on the stool beside where Naruto had been sitting. He picked it up and opened it. Inside was a brand new ANBU mask, with red marks ringed around the eyes. It was a design used mostly by ANBU in the upper ranks. He placed it back in the bag, not wanting to be so presumptuous as to assume it was for him.
It didn't take him long before he caught up with the other two, and together, they walked toward the Hokage Tower as the village started to bustle with the onset of the day. Shops flung open their doors and windows, shopkeepers calling 'good morning' to one another. The excitement of their new Hokage being initiated today ignited a certain buzz in the air that even Sasuke could not help but notice.
Naruto had been stuck in the current Hokage's office for an hour, listening to her read through a bunch of boring crap that the council insisted he be made aware of before the initiation ceremony. While he tried to maintain consciousness and not die of sheer boredom, other administrative workers fluttered about him, taking last measurements to make sure the ceremonial robes and hat would fit him. Tsunade had been grooming him for years, so Naruto was well versed with even the administrative duties of the Hokage. Although, the old hag would still be popping her head in every once in a while in case there were any hitches in the transition. Then again, she'd also gone on and on about a vacation she had planned and claimed, now that she was retired, she could return to gambling.
Tsunade - in mid sentence - brought her fist down on the desk when Naruto snickered. He'd been reminiscing about the first time he had met her while traveling with Jiraiya.
"Baa-chan," he said, grinning. "Do you remember that bet you made me way back when over that necklace?"
"Naruto," she said, the vein in her temple pulsating. "I am not reading this for my health! The council has mandated you be aware of all the legalities - "
"Y'know I don't understand this complicated, bureaucratic crap. Isn't that what Shikamaru and Sakura-chan are gonna be there for? To spell out all the fine print for me?"
"All this bureaucratic crap as you call it is now your job."
"Yeah, yeah. But let's skip to the end and get this show on the road."
"Fine, we can skip to the end so long as you promise to go over it tomorrow. This position is less about glory and more about paperwork. Believe me, I know." Tsunade turned the chair around to face the window, sighing. "It's too bad he couldn't have lived long enough to see this happen."
"Yeah, well." Naruto leaned to the side, biting the edge of his lip. "I'm sure the pervy sage is lookin' down from somewhere."
Tsunade gave a succinct nod before turning around to face him again, her expression softening. "Make him proud, Naruto."
He grinned widely, eyes squinting shut and gave her a salute. "Of course!"
In front of the Hokage Tower, a platform had been erected for use as a stage. There were several areas of bleacher seating that had been temporarily constructed to face it, while there were also several rows of chairs for important delegates set up directly in front of the stage. Several ANBU had been assigned to keep an eye on the area and were patrolling the rooftops. He could feel them moving around. Sasuke, though not officially on duty today, still sat on the edge of the first row. Shortly after, the rows of chairs began to fill with people of varying ranks - the new current council members, the Fire Daimyō, Yamato, Kakashi, Shizune, Sakura, and Sai. Kakashi ended up sitting next to him.
"Can you believe it, Sasuke?" Kakashi leaned over, whispering near his ear. "Our Naruto becoming Hokage? We're in for it now, eh?"
Sasuke showed him the barest of smirks. "I'm sure it will be one of the liveliest reigns Konoha has ever seen."
Kakashi chuckled, his one eye forming a gleeful crescent. "I guess I wasn't such a terrible teacher after all." The older man sighed. "I was worried there for a while."
Sasuke made no reply. He was preoccupied, having thought he'd felt something strange. He scanned their surroundings, feeling a little on edge or was it that, perhaps, he was nervous for Naruto? That seemed unlikely. Soon, the band began to play and shouts from the crowd erupted in a deafening roar. Everyone rose to their feet as the Godaime approached the stage. She walked right in front of Sasuke before going up the stairs to the platform, where, once at the podium, she briefly introduced the Fire Daimyō and council members. Afterward, she gave a five-minute speech about her time in office as well as a recap of the events of the Fourth Great Ninja War. Talk of that time, caused a coldness to spread over him, and he found himself drifting in and out of his thoughts while Tsunade wrapped up her speech.
When the band played again, it was to signal Naruto's arrival. In his usual flare, he appeared in a poof of smoke behind the bleachers. The people started to fall all over themselves to catch a glimpse of him. Naruto stood atop one of his warrior toad summons, outfitted in a white robe with red flames at the bottom. For an instant, Sasuke thought he looked the very likeness of the photo he'd seen in the academy of the Yondaime. Naruto had his arms crossed at first but then started to casually wave to the crowd, a big grin on his face as he soaked up all the attention.
The toad marched forward slowly on its four legs. Naruto was coming closer to the front of the stage, and when he saw Sasuke, their eyes locked, and he smiled brightly, looking incredibly proud. However, at that same time, a tiny girl chasing after a pink balloon darted in front of the toad, causing it to rear up on its back legs. Naruto went up in the air with it, but after a few forward rolls, he grabbed hold of the balloon, landed square on his feet and handed it to the young girl. She bowed, thanking him profusely as Naruto ruffled her hair. She sprinted toward her parents, her blond pigtails flying behind her as she ran.
"Hey, Sasuke," he said, smiling still.
"Try not to break your neck, Hokage-sama. It'd be embarrassing to rule for less than three minutes." Sasuke smirked.
Naruto winked at him. "I think we can try for a little longer than three minutes, don't ya think?"
Sasuke's mouth fell open, and he quickly corrected it although he knew his face was turning red if Kakashi laughing at him was any indication.
"As my personal guard, would you like to accompany me on stage?" Naruto asked. "Ah, I had brought you somethin' for this, but I think I left it at Ichiraku."
"You mean this?" Sasuke pulled the mask out from his pouch.
"Ah, you found it!" Naruto pointed, making the veil on his Hokage hat shift. "C'mon then. I've got a speech to make!" He grabbed Sasuke by the wrist and started to drag him toward the steps. Sasuke had just gotten his hand free when Naruto apparently tripped on the front of his robes, and, despite being the top-level ninja in the entire village, was unable to keep his balance. As he went down, he took Sasuke with him, and in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, they lay tangled. Not for the first time - he found himself liplocking with Naruto.
The crowd broke into a roar of laughter, with a few people even applauding.
Sasuke, with as much composure as he could, searched for the happy place inside himself as he removed his tongue from Naruto's mouth and helped the new Hokage to his feet. His face felt so warm, it was like he'd gotten caught up in a katon. Naruto, rather than appearing in any way embarrassed, had the biggest grin on his face.
"Wow, Sasuke. And I thought you wanted to take it slow?"
Sasuke glared and gave him a shove toward the top of the stage. Naruto stumbled toward the podium, grinning the entire time. Sasuke shook his head and, while going up the stairs, put his mask in place as he went to stand on Naruto's right side.
He looked at his blond friend - how happy Naruto appeared to be as he surveyed the cheering crowd - and, behind his ANBU mask, Sasuke smiled. It wasn't the first time Naruto had showed him he still had a place here, but it was the first time Sasuke truly felt he had a purpose again, and he had Naruto to thank for that.