January 4th proceeded like any other day. Today and the next were the last days Naruto would spend living in the Uchiha household. On the 6th, they would drop Naruto off at the police station, and all bets would be off. Sasuke and Naruto lie on the living room couch, bundled up with a blanket and watching some Christmas specials that the networks continued to rerun. Their heads were each on opposite ends of the couch, legs intertwined over the small amount of space their bodies had to share.

Itachi was napping. A nurse had recently come in to check on Itachi earlier that morning. She had Itachi perform several exercises, including walking up and down the stairs, which had exhausted him and let to the nap he was currently taking. She informed Sasuke that Itachi's wicks could be permanently removed, and Itachi was now permitted to use the stairs alone, provided that someone else was in the house. Regardless, the nurse instructed Itachi to stick to quick errands rather than any serious outings for at least a week. He still was not to leave the house unattended. Really, this was the only event of any significance that had occurred today.

The topic of Naruto's departure hadn't come up one single time. Sasuke thought about it, of course. How could he not? Sasuke had no idea where they'd send Naruto. What if they sent him back to Kern County, where his foster father had lived? That's where his case had been left off last, despite the fact that the police would discover him on the outskirts of Orange County.

Sasuke could still visit him, of course. It was only a couple hours by train, but even that distance would change their relationship, as they were accustomed to living in the same room. Changing from being around each other nearly all waking hours to only seeing each other every couple weeks would be a big adjustment. And who knew how long it would be until Naruto was placed? Would Sasuke be able to contact him during that period? For how long would Naruto be stuck in limbo? Would they treat him well?

Adventure Time was playing over the TV again. Sasuke didn't have much interest in the show and only had a vague idea of the episode's plot. He wasn't paying much attention to it anyway. Rather, his thoughts were occupied, though the same did not appear to be true about Naruto. Naruto laughed and gestured at the television show just as he normally did. Was Naruto pretending?

During commercial break, Sasuke righted himself on the couch, sitting. Naruto glanced over at him as if to ask if something was the matter. He frowned at Naruto for several seconds, taking in the details of Naruto's appearance subconsciously. Naruto looked strong now. He was dressed in Sasuke's black tank top and red Dr. Pepper PJ pants he'd bought at Walmart. He was curled up, fetal position, his hair a little unkempt from having rested on it for so long. His lips were smooth rather than chapped, and the callouses on his hands had begun to grow softer. But the scars on his cheek were deep all the same.

Sasuke leaned over and tried to kiss Naruto. Naruto turned away.

Sasuke looked down at Naruto in confusion. Perhaps Naruto had been expecting some kind of shouted retribution, but Sasuke merely stared, appearing just the slightest bit hurt.

"Ah, sorry," Naruto answered rather weakly. "I just wasn't expecting it."

Sasuke nodded, but he didn't look satisfied by the answer.

"C'mon," Naruto added, pulling Sasuke towards him by his shirt collar and kissing him. They both opened their mouths. Naruto's tongue entered Naruto's mouth and appeared to halt there. Naruto's muscles were tensed. His movements seemed…rigid. Forced. There was no pleasure in it for Naruto, and so there was no pleasure in it for Sasuke. Sasuke returned to his seat.

And this was how the entirety of the 4th progressed. Sasuke gave up on making advances. Whether these advances were for the sake of emotional comfort or for the sake of hormones, they only left Sasuke feeling uncomfortable. Despite Naruto's smiling, his jokes, and his kisses, he seemed so distant to Sasuke, as if he weren't even present.

When they did speak, Naruto spoke of dozens of trivial topics, and Sasuke responded with even more terseness than was typical, frustrated by the situation. Naruto acted as though he didn't notice it. When they slept that night on the 4th, Naruto faced away from him, his body curling sharply into fetal position. Sasuke could only guess at what Naruto was thinking. They didn't touch all night, other than the one time Sasuke kissed the back of Naruto's head as he was sleeping.

And, again, as if it were any other day, the 5th began. Their last day. They repeated the same routine as they did the 4th, sitting on the couch watching television. Was this really how they would spend their remaining 24 hours together? It was noon. The weather had suddenly become much colder, and even the sunlight sifting through the windows seemed unexplainably insincere.

They assumed the same posture as they had yesterday, lying together on the loveseat with legs intermingling. Each of their heads rested on opposite armrests, a fleece blanket draped over them. Ferret was resting by Sasuke's lap. Since they hadn't moved in a while, Ferret had made herself comfortable, rolling up in a ball. They were watching Jon Stewart, and Naruto laughed at a political joke that Sasuke knew had gone right over his head.

They didn't talk during the show, the only interrupting sounds coming from an ambulance and a motorcycle passing by outside. A commercial came on, advertising some perfume as a model walked down the catwalk. Naruto pointed at the screen, not looking at Sasuke as he commented, "This is… God, how many times have we seen this commercial in the past hour?"

Sasuke sighed, knitting his brows as he stared down at his chest. He couldn't do this. Not today. Not now. He knew he would regret it too damned much if he kept this act going to the very end.

"Naruto, how long do you plan to pretend that today isn't what it is?" he asked, staring at Naruto unabashedly.

Sasuke wasn't the type to force conversation like this. He didn't have a problem leaving emotions unspoken, but something about this felt very off to Sasuke. It concerned him.

"Woah, Sasuke," Naruto laughed in that awkward way he tended to when he was taken off guard. "Where did that come from?"

"Don't play dumb," Sasuke answered, his frustration with the situation beginning to make itself heard in his voice. "We've just been bumming around the house watching television like any other day. We did the same thing yesterday. When I touch you, you get stiff as a board."

Naruto lost several seconds to shock before he shot back, "Well, what do you suggest, huh? That we just spend all day crying and clinging to each other feeling miserable and sorry for ourselves? Is that what you suggest?"

Ferret roused, her sleepy eyes opening as her head poked up. Naruto's tone had brought her to attention. To Sasuke, this sounded very defensive. Really, wasn't it possible to acknowledge their situation without making a big production of it?

"I suggest we stop pretending."

"I'm not pretending!" Naruto shouted, his face confirming all of Sasuke's suspicions. Finding something better to do, Ferret got out of Sasuke's lap and moved to the other room. "Did you honestly think I could forget?"

But Sasuke couldn't shout back at Naruto, as he normally would. Naruto's anger was all too transparent to Sasuke. This was hard for Sasuke, yes. His relationship with one of the most important people in his life would likely change forever. But for Naruto… He was being separated from his only bond and his only home. He was being sent back to the system he had spent a year on the streets to escape, a system that was nearly the death of him.

As unskilled with empathy as he tended to be, Sasuke still realized that this wasn't about him. It was about Naruto. He, of course, held quite a stake in it, but he wouldn't allow himself to become so selfish. It was Naruto's life that was in a state of total flux. Everything he knew was changing, while Sasuke would come home tomorrow to his same house and spend the day with his brother, after which he'd return to his same school with all the same people in it, save for a couple of familiar faces.

So Sasuke's glare turned gentle, and he took his eyes from Naruto, mumbling just loudly enough for him to hear, "It's okay to be scared, you know."

Naruto was shocked and disarmed by Sasuke's response, and he appeared entirely torn on how to react. Would he get angrier still? Would he become despondent? Or…

"Scared? Please…" Naruto answered with a wide smile, swatting at Sasuke. "Who do you think I am? The one and only Uzumaki Naruto doesn't get scared."

Naruto's smile did nothing to reassure Sasuke. Sasuke loved it when Naruto smiled, but not like this. Was he pretending for Sasuke? Had he come to terms with this? Was he being strong? Or was he avoiding it all? Normally, Naruto wasn't such a difficult read.

"I mean it, Naruto. Don't play it up on my behalf."

"You know, Sasuke…" Naruto answered, the smile never leaving his face. "I figure if I laugh, I won't cry."

Sasuke bit his lip, looking rather uncertain. He'd heard of people dealing with their problems with humor, but that didn't seem to be what Naruto was doing. He was just avoiding it completely.

"Would that be such a horrible thing?"

"Not my style, sweetcheeks," Naruto answered, pulling on Sasuke's cheek. Sasuke huffed, staring back at Naruto impatiently and then swatting Naruto's hand away.

"Whatever, fine. But you know, you're gonna be safe."

"I know," Naruto answered, sounding rather impatient for the moment when Sasuke would stop talking about this.

"You know that if you're not treated right, I'll hand their ass to them on a platter."

"In case you haven't noticed, Sasuke, I'm not a little shrimp anymore," Naruto told Sasuke rather gruffly. "I can fend for myself."

"Naruto…"

"I know this isn't quite right," Naruto admitted, his voice suddenly sounding very tired, "But please just leave it be."

Sasuke wasn't one to push people into talking about things they didn't want to talk about. He knew all too well what it felt like to be on the receiving end of that treatment. And so, although it was against his better judgment, he would acquiesce.

"Alright."

But even if Naruto could pretend, Sasuke couldn't. While he admitted that Naruto had the shorter end of the stick here, it didn't make things any less difficult for Sasuke. He didn't have too many people he cared so deeply for. He'd felt sick to his stomach all day, the finality of the situation weighing down heavily upon him. Each tick of the clock seemed like the tiniest defeat. He didn't know how Naruto had managed to avoid it so well, but then again, Sasuke knew that he didn't look upset either. Maybe Naruto was doing the same thing.

Sasuke stood up, motioning Naruto to follow him. They didn't have to talk about anything. Sasuke wasn't a person who required a lot of conversation. He just didn't know how much longer he could take watching television with Naruto, pretending. He didn't want to see those forced smiles.

"Come on," Sasuke commanded, getting out of the loveseat and tugging Naruto with him for a moment before letting go.

"What are we doing?"

Sasuke didn't answer him, but Naruto followed nonetheless. Sasuke walked with Naruto into Itachi's downstairs study, locking the door behind them. Naruto glanced back at Sasuke, predictably oblivious to Sasuke's intentions.

"Sasuke, what…"

But Naruto was pushed against a door now, Sasuke kissing him roughly. Sasuke wouldn't have the opportunity to do this for a long time. Itachi was asleep upstairs, and they wouldn't have time to do this tomorrow. He knew he'd curse himself if he didn't take this chance. Naruto tensed, just as he had yesterday. He froze, and then he at last relaxed, reading the desperation in Sasuke's fevered movements.

It seemed as though some sort of boundary had been crossed, as if Naruto had only just now woken up from whatever self-imposed slumber he'd placed himself under the past couple days. Sasuke was surprised when Naruto kissed him back so strongly, moaning as he bit Sasuke's lower lip and pulled it towards him. Naruto grabbed Sasuke's shirt and pulled him in close to his body, forcing Sasuke to stumble forward. Naruto put his shoe up against the door so that his knee protruded, gently rubbing against Sasuke's groin.

Sasuke steadied himself by placing his left hand against the door, his right hand tracing Naruto's ribcage, drifting down lower to his abs, then his hips. This session was a seemingly spontaneous move on Sasuke's part, but both of them knew what lay behind it. In any case, it was much less awkward and certainly more pleasurable than speaking it out. Naruto grabbed Sasuke's wrist, shoving his body into Sasuke so that now it was Sasuke's back that thudded against the wall.

"Stop banging on the walls," Sasuke grunted. "Itachi'll hear."

He lifted his hand to push Naruto back, but Naruto merely swung his wrist out of the way.

"You started it," Naruto answered, sounding equal parts guilty and mischievous.

He kissed Sasuke again before he could make his retort.

"Sit," Naruto commanded, pointing at the pivoting desk chair. Sasuke glanced back at him, as if to say "nice try."

"I'm not a dog, Naruto."

"It'll be worth it," Naruto purred, rubbing his palm into Sasuke's budding erection through denim.

"Again, I'm not a dog. You can't get me to behave by crinkling the treats bag."

"Sasuke, I will take your cock so deep in my throat that trying not to scream will be your toughest challenge all month," Naruto said bluntly.

"…Okay."

He sat.

Naruto walked across the room, getting on his knees before Sasuke and unbuttoning his pants. Naruto gave a victorious little smirk, which quite predictably got under Sasuke's skin. Perhaps Sasuke could be reasoned with after all.

Sasuke glanced down at Naruto, who'd unbuttoned his pants and was now unzipping them. Naruto wouldn't look up at him. He only looked at what his hands were doing, which Sasuke supposed was fair. Sasuke glanced at the adjacent wall, which had Itachi's large world map across it, muted shades of the individual countries contrasting with the cream-colored background as Sasuke sat in Itachi's wide black leather chair.

They shouldn't be doing this here, Sasuke thought. But if they went to his bedroom, it would be too easy to be heard. In terms of soundproofing, this was probably the safest room in the house given that Itachi was in his bedroom. Like most Californian houses, theirs was built sturdy, so there wasn't a great deal of creaking. Still, it felt a little…

Sasuke was jerked out of that thought process as Naruto began edging his jeans down his thighs. He helped Naruto out, sliding his jeans over his bare feet. Neither of them had hassled with shoes today. Sasuke's erection was poking out rather obviously through his black boxer shorts, the fabric quickly becoming uncomfortably restrictive. He didn't protest when Naruto did away with the garment, his cock giving a modest jerk upwards as it was unclothed.

Naruto wasn't wasting any time. He spat in his hand and grasped Sasuke's cock midway, smoothing his tongue against its head rather brazenly, his eyes fixed on his work. Sasuke couldn't help but scrunch his toes against the smooth hardwood floor. How long had it been since they'd last done this, anyhow? Itachi's presence had certainly complicated matters. Though Itachi probably wouldn't have even minded, Sasuke tried to avoid traumatizing him out of courtesy.

As Naruto took his cock into his mouth, Sasuke tilted his head back, his Adam's apple displaying prominently. His bangs fell back, leaving his pale forehead exposed, forearms draped over the armrests. He ran his finger through Naruto's hair, grasping it and pulling lightly. But Naruto was already taking his pants off. He reached around, fingering his own ass as he took Sasuke's cock in and out of his mouth, sucking harder as he continued.

Sasuke wondered if Naruto was just craving the sensation of being full, or if he was actually intending on letting Sasuke enter him. They were moving awfully quickly. Either Naruto had some plan, or he was just really fucking horny. Sasuke leaned over, grabbing a sample-sized packet of lube out of his blue jeans to aid Naruto's movements. He took the opportunity to put a couple more by his lap in case they should need it.

"Here."

He was glad that Naruto didn't question he fact that Sasuke just happened to have lube in his pants. Never taking his mouth off of Sasuke, Naruto opened the packet and blindly put the contents on his pointer finger and middle finger, which soon reentered his body. It wasn't often that Naruto so willingly agreed, no, even requested to be penetrated. Sasuke certainly wasn't complaining, however. Sasuke was now almost completely stiff, Naruto's lips and mouth working against Sasuke's manhood so enticingly.

Naruto didn't need a cue. He moved towards Sasuke's lap, Naruto's cock already hard.

"Hold up," Sasuke interrupted before Naruto was able to sit on his lap. He took a condom packet out of his jeans, only to have Naruto regard the packet skeptically as if Sasuke had pulled out something completely random.

"Where did you get that?"

Itachi had told him, hadn't he? As much as it killed him to admit that anything spoken during that horrific conversation had been of any use to him, it had perhaps taught him a few new things.

"Santa Claus," Sasuke answered with a deadpan.

Naruto rolled his eyes. Well, it was the season.

"No, seriously. What gives?"

Sasuke supposed he couldn't blame Naruto. They'd never used a condom before.

"It's cleaner," Sasuke answered, gesturing to their environment.

Naruto nodded, pleased that Sasuke's foresight had saved them from cleaning wads of semen off of their surroundings in the near future. Sasuke was glad that Naruto hadn't questioned why he suddenly seemed to have a pharmacy's worth of sex aids in his pockets. Really, it was just a couple condoms and a few sample packs of lube. But he'd known that today was their last chance, and there was a high chance of the mood heating up somewhere peculiar, given the unpredictability of Itachi's whereabouts. He'd kept it on his person to be safe.

Sasuke had never put on a condom before. He opened the condom pack, trying to remember the banana he'd practiced on in sex ed. He didn't want to let on his inexperience. Had Naruto ever put one of these on? He'd been a virgin at the time Sasuke got to him, but even still… Yet even if Naruto did know what he was doing, Sasuke refused to let him stand in for him. So he took a deep swallow and placed it against his tip, rolling it down his shaft as carefully as he could without appearing uncertain. Naruto didn't seem to be questioning anything, thankfully. He had it on without further event, internally relieved that this had gone so well.

Naruto was backing onto Sasuke now, facing the same direction as Sasuke. He got onto his shins, lowering himself onto Sasuke. Would it be difficult for Naruto to get leverage? And besides that… Sasuke really just wanted to see Naruto's face. He ordinarily wasn't so sentimental, but given the circumstances, he wanted to be reminded at every possible opportunity exactly who was riding him. He wanted to remember.

"Turn around first," Sasuke requested, and it did truly sound like a request rather than a command.

"This is better."

No, there was hardly any room for him this way, and Naruto was having trouble even situating himself. He didn't want this to end up like the bathtub incident. Why was Naruto so set on doing it this way?

"No, it's not," Sasuke answered, beginning to sound frustrated. "If you face me, you'll have room for your knees, and you can push off of your feet and support yourself with the armrests. You won't be as mobile this way."

Of course, Sasuke wouldn't confess to the fact that he mostly just wanted to see Naruto's face. Naruto paused to consider Sasuke's proposition. Why was he hesitating?

"Yeah, okay."

He pivoted on Sasuke's lap, and Sasuke was glad that he had stopped Naruto before he'd been penetrated. How much more awkward would this have been if Sasuke was already inside him? Naruto grabbed another lube packet, applying it to his insides. Naruto stared down at Sasuke's abs as he guided Sasuke's cock over his hole by feel. Out of Naruto's sight, Sasuke's fingers dug into the armrest as his sex slid up Naruto's crack, coated in lube now. He wanted to badly to penetrate, the flesh between Naruto's cheeks only teasing him.

And slowly, Naruto lowered himself onto Sasuke, gently holding Sasuke's cock in place. Sasuke was looking at him, but Naruto was still looking down. He appeared to be concentrating. Sasuke shuddered as he pushed past Naruto's tight band, letting out a quiet moan. The feeling was somewhat muted, as the condom presented a rather meddlesome barrier, but Naruto was also tighter than usual because the two of them had abstained for so long. His insides hugged Sasuke tightly, and Naruto moaned, attempting to keep the volume of his voice down.

Naruto began to pant as he raised himself up and then lowered himself onto Sasuke's cock again and again. If Sasuke hadn't been holding back, that blow job might just have been enough to lead him to orgasm, although it was short. His nose scrunching just barely discernibly, Sasuke was already feeling himself beginning to leak, but he'd have to hold it in for Naruto.

Naruto's hardened cock bounced between them as his motions became more dramatic, his entrance acclimatizing itself to the intrusion. Naruto took off his shirt in frustration as his body temperature rose, panting as he was covered in sweat. He allowed his arms to aid his movements as he pushed off of the armrests, the chair squeaking plaintively. Naruto's biceps and the meat of his forearm were starkly defined by his muscles, and Sasuke knew that all of his working out was coming in handy. With a view like this, he could never regret insisting on this position.

Naruto jerked Sasuke's shirt upwards impatiently, and Sasuke discarded the garment unceremoniously. Naruto's cock now bounced against Sasuke's bare stomach as he used his thighs and gluts to push himself up into Naruto. The office chair had something to say about that, but Sasuke didn't give a shit anymore. He was feeling too good to care, moaning under his breath. Naruto moved his arms to rest on the top of the chair, facing the wall behind Sasuke now.

One arm still on the armrests, Sasuke reached up and grasped Naruto's face so that it was forced to level with his. For the first time since they had begun, Naruto's eyes met Sasuke's, the brilliant blue shrinking as his pupils quickly dilated.

"Look at me."

Their gazes only connected for a split second. Naruto looked away, flushing.

"Naruto…"

Sasuke kept his hand on Naruto's cheek, feeling the texture of scar tissue against his palm as he moved forward to kiss him roughly. Naruto's movements paused in surprise, but he soon began to ride Sasuke all the more emphatically, responding to the kiss with heated, pleading moans. Their kiss came to a halt, and there was the slightest diamond-shaped gap between their lips. Their bottom lips still touched, just barely, the contact sometimes broken as Naruto would move up and down. Their eyes just inches from each other, Sasuke's dark irises again looked back into Naruto's.

Sasuke spoke patiently, "Look at me."

And slowly Naruto's eyes dragged over to Sasuke's, and they were held there. Sasuke's eyes, which were ordinarily a near black, seemed to have transitioned to a shade of dark brown. Perhaps the light was just hitting his eyes differently, or maybe the expression on his face was creating an illusion. His eyes seemed so…alive. Warm. Naruto's body trembled as he looked into Sasuke's eyes, Naruto refusing to look away now.

"God, S-Sasuke…"

Naruto grabbed Sasuke's shoulders, and Sasuke rotated his hips as he pounded into Naruto's ass. Naruto hadn't spoken his name until now, and the sound of it had him all but undone. Naruto's cock was red and plump. Sasuke curled his back so that he could thrust into Naruto harder, using his arm and legs to support himself.

"Oh God!" Naruto whimpered.

Sasuke reached forward and grasped Naruto's cock, which he'd now assess was painfully hard. He pumped him quickly, causing Naruto's hands to claw into Sasuke's shoulders.

"I can't last much longer…" Naruto panted out.

Sasuke nodded, grunting before his hazed mind could conjure up a response.

"Likewise."

Naruto's body clenched. He froze. He began to moan as he released, his voice starting off quiet but gradually mounting as he unleashed once, coating Sasuke's stomach. A diminishing spurt following it soon after. The orgasm seized Naruto quickly, pleasure broadsiding him. Sasuke was a soiled mess, the aftermath working down his chest and abs, but he couldn't be bothered to consider that at the moment.

Naruto's body was beginning to slump against Sasuke, but Sasuke kept moving. He hadn't climaxed yet. Naruto was thoroughly exhausted for the moment, the pleasure of the orgasm just beginning to fade. Sasuke wouldn't take much longer. He bit down on the inside of his lower lip, their skin clapping together as he let himself go. Sasuke's balls ached; he'd staved off release for too long.

"Sh-shit…"

Sasuke grabbed Naruto's ass as he splayed it apart, so he could get inside of him entirely. Naruto moaned, suddenly finding that he had more fight in him, Sasuke's raspy panting accompanying it. The sight of Sasuke covered in his seed, flushed and needy beneath him was a memory he hoped to carry with him. Sasuke's eyes clamped shut as he felt himself hit the brink. His body held onto that blissful pre-orgasm feeling for just a couple seconds before Sasuke finally released after what felt like so long. For just a moment, all conscious thought ceased. The bliss he felt left room for nothing else, and he heard the sound of his own moan as if he were a bystander.

Sasuke grasped at Naruto's strong forearms to steady himself, panting as his body began to calm. Naruto was every bit as out of breath, Sasuke still inside him.

"Lift yourself up."

His brother told him to take the condom off right after ejaculation, so he'd listen to him. The thought of accidentally leaving the thing inside of Naruto after he'd gone limp was more than a little unsettling. Naruto lifted off of him, and Sasuke discreetly slid off the condom and tied it up.

"This really is a lot neater," Naruto said through a small laugh.

"Yeah, says you," Sasuke baited, gesturing down at his coated abs and chest.

Naruto tried not to laugh.

"Think of it as an honor," Naruto consoled Sasuke with a grin. "Not everyone gets to be jizzed all over by yours truly."

"I'd hope not."

Their responses were lazy, endorphins still madly percolating throughout their bloodstreams.

"At least we didn't get the chair?" Naruto said sheepishly.

Naruto handed Sasuke a box of Kleenex, which Sasuke gladly accepted. They both began to work on Sasuke's body, cleaning it off so he could at least get to the shower without showing any traces.

"No, at least you didn't get the chair."

"This was a team effort, dickwad," he answered, pointing at Sasuke's soiled body.

Sasuke grunted.

"D'you think Itachi heard?" Naruto asked rather nervously, biting his lips.

"It's a possibility," Sasuke mumbled.

Sasuke hated to admit that, but it wasn't as if Itachi didn't know what was going on. And it was their last day. Still, Itachi probably hadn't heard, Sasuke suspected. He could never hear the music Itachi played down here upstairs. Should worst come to worst, Sasuke was sure he'd understand.

"Ugh, how embarrassing."

"You're embarrassed?"

"Heh," Naruto laughed sheepishly.

They labored a little more until Sasuke was clean. Naruto remained on Sasuke's lap, resting against him, his ear to Sasuke's chest. Was Naruto listening to his heartbeat? Whatever the case, Naruto seemed rather fatigued. "I'm going to miss you." That was the thought inside of Sasuke's head, shouting against the insides of his skull, stubbornly insisting to be broadcasted.

And yet Sasuke wouldn't. This was much more about Naruto than it was about him, and Naruto had told him that he didn't want to talk about it. Naruto looked like he was feeling pretty good, which was difficult to come by at such a time. Sasuke wouldn't take that away from him. He held his tongue, holding Naruto tightly into his chest as he protectively cradled the back of Naruto's head in his large palm. Naruto responded by nuzzling his face against Sasuke, the two holding each other tightly in complete silence.

The two were close to each other all day, physically, but they rarely spoke unless it was necessary. Sasuke cooked the three of them beef stroganoff for dinner. It was a rather awkward meal. Itachi mentioned that they would leave at around one in the afternoon the next day. That was all he had to say on the matter. The boys went silent at the mention, and Itachi was too perceptive not to notice that this had become a taboo subject.

After he did his dishes, Naruto announced that he was going to take a shower, waving at the room's two other occupants in his typically cheerful manner before leaving the room. Without speaking to either of the two, Sasuke began to take the dishes to the sink and clean them. Itachi stood up, taking his dishes over as well.

"I got it," Sasuke quickly spoke up.

"Please, Sasuke, I'm not an invalid," Itachi answered. That statement was even truer now than it had been in months. Although watching after Itachi had been a little tiring, Sasuke suspected that he might miss it in a way. Regardless, he was pleased that Itachi was feeling so much better.

Sasuke rolled his eyes and let Itachi help him. The strong lemon scent of the dish soap filled the kitchen. Itachi worked at one half of the sink while Sasuke worked at the other, a comfortable silence between them.

"How is Naruto doing?" Itachi asked, keeping his eyes on a difficult spot he was sponging off of a plate.

Sasuke shrugged, rinsing off a plate he'd just finished soaping.

"Is he okay?" Itachi asked, pausing his moments temporarily but still not looking at Sasuke.

Sasuke paused before responding with, "He'll be fine."

Itachi nodded, continuing his work.

"Are you okay?"

"Of course I am," Sasuke answered quickly. Perhaps a bit too quickly.

"Sasuke, if you need me, I'm here. The same goes for Naruto. Understood?"

"Understood."

They were done quickly.

"Good night, Sasuke," Itachi said with a smile, patting Sasuke's shoulder casually before turning to the stairs.

"Good night."

Sasuke loafed around downstairs for a bit, making sure everything was put away properly. When he heard his shower shut off, he walked into his bedroom and lay in bed as he read The English Patient, which he knew he'd have to write a term paper on soon. It had gotten late already. This night, cloudless black interrupted only by the sharp pinpoints of stars, carried an air of finality, which Sasuke tried to ignore. Naruto came in soon after with a towel around his waist, his skin still slightly flushed from the hot shower water. Without further ado, he dropped his towel and changed into a pair of thick flannel pajama pants with a white T-shirt, joining Sasuke in bed.

It was about ten now, and the Saturday night traffic on the roads had dwindled. The shower's warmth had not yet left Naruto, and it took considerable willpower on Sasuke's part not to curl up into him. It was cold and windy outside, and some of that frigid air had found its way in.

"Fuck, I'm tired," Naruto groaned.

"Want to sleep?"

"Mhm," Naruto muttered back.

They were silent for a while until Naruto wrapped his arm around Sasuke, holding him tightly into his body as if someone were about to tear him away.

"I love you, Sasuke."

Sasuke breathed in heavily. He should say it back. He knew he should. His tongue was clumsy. His chest didn't let go of that air.

"We may be young, but I know," Naruto continued. "I've never been so damned sure of anything in my life. I love you, and no matter what happens, I'll never stop loving you until the day I die. I want you to know that."

Sasuke stared forward unblinkingly, his heart beating heavily and his mouth feeling dry. He knew that Naruto's words were supposed to reassure them, but they felt so painful at the moment. Sasuke had found something beautiful. Why did Naruto have to leave? Would this be the last time they'd ever fall asleep together? Sasuke wedged his head between Naruto's face and his shoulder.

"This really sucks, you know that?" Sasuke mumbled under his breath in a low and quiet voice.

"Believe me," Naruto said tiredly. "I know."


Wrapped up on the bed fetal position, Sasuke felt himself gain consciousness. If he just didn't open his eyes, maybe he could fall back to sleep. Sometimes if he opened his eyes, forcing his body to acclimatize to the light, or lack thereof, and assess its surroundings, it was already too late to drift back off. It couldn't have been morning yet. The scenery behind his eyelids was still purely black.

The room was chilly. Now that Itachi was recovering, they didn't run the heat quite as often. Sasuke rolled over, searching for a familiar warm body to latch onto, but there was none. Sasuke groaned, trying not to think too much, thoughts formed without his permission. He hoped that Naruto wasn't upset. He was probably getting a snack or using the restroom. He tried to fall a little deeper into sleep, but his body would no longer permit him. Perhaps it was best to join Naruto, if he was awake at such a time. Whatever time they had together would be limited for quite a while now.

He allowed his eyes to open. His bedroom door was still closed. His phone rested on his bedstand, its tiny red light contrasting with the darkness as it received a charge from the wall. His green alarm clock told him that it was 1:08. Sasuke lay on back, his hands clasped on his stomach as he stared up at the ceiling. He glanced at the modest illumination from the street lights coming in through his bedroom window. His pupils constricted as they adjusted to the light, and he felt himself begin to wake up. He rested for a couple minutes, waiting for his body to be ready for motion. He hoped that Naruto would come back in the interim, but when Naruto still hadn't returned, he decided to search for him.

Upon removing the covers, a cold rush of air met his warm body. He rubbed his upper arms with each opposing hand to warm his body up. He couldn't call out Naruto's name, or he'd surely wake Itachi. So he trudged into the bathroom, finding no one there. He took the opportunity to use the restroom and wash his hands, his mind becoming increasingly alert as he performed these routine tasks.

He silently walked downstairs. The lights were off on the lower floor. Turning on the lights, he wondered if Naruto was trying to avoid being spotted. The unoccupied living room was fully visible from the stairway. There was also no one in the kitchen. No one in Itachi's office. Where was Naruto? A hint of uneasiness announced itself, but Sasuke told himself that he should at least wait to react until he'd done a proper check. He grit his teeth as he opened the front door, goosebumps forming immediately. It was raining. Maybe Naruto had gone outside, perhaps to watch the stars as they always used to. Naruto was sentimental like that.

But he wasn't in Sasuke's front yard either. His paces now quick and agitated, Sasuke reentered the house. There was only one room left. The master bedroom. Sasuke tiptoed up the stairs. He had to check the whole house. He very silently opened Itachi's bedroom door, able to just barely see in through the weak light coming in through Itachi's window. Itachi was sleeping deeply, thanks to the Vicodin he'd taken to knock out the pain. No Naruto to be found, not so surprisingly. Itachi's bathroom was also empty. Sasuke contained himself, still tiptoeing until he gently closed Itachi's door. He returned to his own room, pacing back and forth. Uneasiness had given way to anxiety.

What the hell was going on? Where was Naruto? He checked his closet, yanking the door open in a huff. It wasn't all that likely that Naruto had retreated there out of anxiety or whatnot, but where else was there to check? He quickly moved downstairs, his heart rate picking up as he began to consider the horrible possibility that Naruto was nowhere nearby. He checked the closets, under tables… What else was there to do? No, he couldn't be gone. It had to be…some tasteless prank, or maybe just Naruto being his strange self. But all of his searching was futile.

Sasuke swallowed hard, resting his head in his hand. Where the fuck was he?

"Fuck…" Sasuke hissed.

He returned to his bedroom, turning on the lights and pacing back forth. What did this mean? What would he do now? He looked at his clock, noting that it was 1:15. Maybe Naruto had gone out for a walk. At this hour, and in this weather? It wasn't exactly a safe area either, at this hour. Surely Naruto knew that. He didn't want to think the worst. No, he refused to think the worst. Naruto couldn't have… No. Naruto would never do that.

He had woken up several minutes before 1:08, and it was 1:16 now. Naruto's body warmth was long gone by the time Sasuke awoke. He reached for the cell phone by his bed. Naruto didn't even have a phone. He didn't know why he was bothering, but hell, if he had bothered to check Itachi's bathroom, he might as well check his cell phone messages while he was at it. He grabbed the phone and picked it up.

A folded piece of notebook paper had stuck to the back of the phone's plastic case. It had been completely out of view, concealed between the phone and the bedstand. It separated, swishing back and forth in the air as it slowly made its way to the floor. Sasuke watched its path, dumbfounded, his mind construing a dozen different messages that could have been on this lined paper and then going deathly silent. Dread turned his stomach cold. The note was folded once, horizontally. It landed on its edge, Naruto's sloppy handwriting barely visible. His alarm clock changed to 1:17 as Sasuke stared at the ground, frozen by shock for several seconds before bending over and reaching for the paper.


Author's Note: Yup, looks like the calm before the storm is over. Apologies for a cliffhanger; I'm pretty much evil.

I wanted to thank everyone for their reviews. I can't respond to all of them, since I generally do it through PM and some aren't from accounts, but I wanted everyone to know that I appreciate every review I get. Stay tuned!