Important Note: This story is loosely based on the movie Sweet Home Alabama (I've never seen it), and very much inspired by the FF. Sweet Home Sasukebama by Ladelle and The Outlaw by bleakdesolation. The one line that spurred this story for real however, was this line from Ladelle's story: "Naruto had never been this clean before." I don't know why but when I read that line I got this whole idea of a Naruto Gaara Sasuke Alabama love triangle ._.

Warnings: Intentional spelling errors. You'll know they're intentional if they appear more than once. Those mistakes are (poor) efforts to capture old-country accents. I apologize in advance if – no, when – I butcher it.

The Burning Mines

I. Home Sweet Home

Sasuke couldn't help the grim curl that fell on his lips when he stepped onto the platform of the leaving train. He closed his eyes and breathed in the clear air, which was one thing he would admit this place had over Sound. He stood there, appreciating it for as long as he could before he could stand to open his eyes again.

And there it was. Konoha County. Vast plains of dirt, dirt, and more dirt.

Sasuke sighed. What had he gotten himself into?

He saw a lone tumbleweed somersault tragically with the winds, he saw the water-pump that led to the county reservoir he knew too well, and he saw the small array of timid houses and trees in the far distance. There wasn't much he could see beyond that. Back in the city one couldn't stop seeing things. But here, things began, and then they ended. Just like that and there was nothing left to see.

The wind was harsh as it whisked against his suit. He could feel tiny rocks hit his jacket sleeves, and sting the side of his face. He winced and wiped his mouth. It had been a long time since he'd been in this kind of weather: the bitter heat, where strong winds carried hot dirt.

It took him a minute of just staring at the vast plainness before he finally fiddled for the letter he hid in his pocket and unfolded it to do a once over at the contents. Hopefully it would clear his mind and remind him why he was here in the first place.

Sarutobi has died. His funeral's on Saturday, May 15th. He would like it if you came.

The man in the suit snorted again at the letter. He knew Kakashi, his old teacher, must have given the address to his place in city. It was the only way they would have found a way to contact him. He would have a word with the old man about that later. There was no signature, so it was probably a letter of mass produce. He knew he could count on his hometown to make something so grand turn out so simple. Sarutobi might have just been the greatest man to have ever step foot in the dingy little town, and his memorial service card consisted of one line, in the flimsy little paper the local printing press could afford to produce by the masses.

Sasuke sighed.

But who was he kidding? It wasn't the dinginess of the county, or the plains of dirt putting him on edge. The real reason why he dreaded coming here was because he was no doubt going to see him again. The man he'd left behind to find a better life. His fiancé.

Sasuke straightened himself and slicked his hair back. Enough of that. The last thing this place was going to do was make him regret the decisions he'd made. He was going to spend a week here, face up to the town, attend the funeral, and return to the good life he'd made for himself. But for now—

A horn honked and he looked up to find an old pick up truck in front of the platform. A familiar face waved at him from inside. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Mr. Bigshot come to grace us with his presence."

Sasuke sighed and shook his head resignedly as he made his way towards Kakashi, his old mentor's, car. He plopped his large suitcase into the back end of the pick up truck and brought his office case with him to the passenger seat. He took one forlorn look at the deserted train platform before he entered the vehicle, and his eyes landed on the metal rusted sign that stood at the very edge of it, millimeters from where the train would pass. And there, barely visible under the rusted sign, were the words Konoha County.

Sasuke sighed.

Home sweet home.

"Four hundred an' twelve applicants!?" Naruto exclaimed, looking back at his friend incredulously.

Shikamaru nodded his head, looking grimly at the stack of papers in his hand. "And they don't even include the ones that applied by mail."

Naruto looked with him with wide eyes. "That's impossible. I can't get through this many people all in one day…" he whispered in wonder. Half of him, the one that couldn't wipe the constant grin on his face, was excited there as many people willing to work this year. This was the first year he was taking charge of the mines.

Shikamaru shrugged, looking wearily at the large crowd of men before them. A tired frown was on his face, and he would have smacked the blonde for the grin he had on if they weren't in such a public place. "Kiba and I will be here to help." He replied. "And the wife said she might be over here after her shift at the diner to help out."

Naruto shook his head slowly, still looking out into the gathering of potential workers. They were all just standing around, loitering the open space either talking to each other or minding their own. "Well, we don't need this many." The blonde said plainly. "I don't think we've ever had this many turn up before…" He'd been present at the hiring process of mining season every year, and the amount of men that crowded the dirt field just beyond the mining grounds was at least twice over that of the previous years.

His spiky haired friend rubbed one shoulder and closed his eyes. "You know how the economy is. Ain't nothin' out there for nobody. The mines are the only work they can get these days."

Naruto had the decency to let his grin falter a bit, but Shikamaru could still see it behind the firm line on the man's lips. "Well a lot of these folks are lookin' to be severely disappointed. There's only space for a hundred. We don't need four hundred an' twelve miners."

Shikamaru shrugged again, before pointing to a young boy in the crowd. "See that?" he asked quietly. "They get younger an' younger too."

"We'll be sure to eliminate the young-ins first. The mines ain't no place for a kid."

"You were a kid when you started." Shikamaru said, looking at Naruto with the edge of a smile.

Said blonde smirked back at him and waved a hand. "Well, I done learned my lesson. And damned iffen I don't teach these guys one too." He replied simply, turning to face the crowd once more.

"What do you me—"

"All right, fellas!" he shouted, cutting his friend off. Gradually, the conversations stopped and everyone turned to look at him.

Naruto smiled. "Let me start by saying, good mornin'." He gave a small bow. When the men only looked at him, he cleared his throat. "Well?" he asked. He received a chorused mumble of half-hearted good-mornings. "That's much better."

He heard Shikamaru sigh behind him but he only continued to grin. "Now as you can see, a lot of you turned up today," he started, still keeping his voice strident. "And I'm afraid we have less than half the space on the scale of all you fellas showin' up, so we got to make cuts even before we get to the interviews!"

There were a few shouts and angry fists thrown in the air.

Naruto raised sympathetic hands but never lost his smile. "I know, I know…But if everyone under eighteen could please leave the premises, I would gladly appreciate—"

Even before the blonde could finish, the crowd erupted in an uproar.

"Now hold on one, damn second—!"

"I didn't travel all the way here for you to tell me I'm too young—!"

"We need work, damn it! Can't get nothin' nowhere but here—!"

"Now listen here!" said Shikamaru, coming up from behind Naruto. "We don't have space for all of you, so we've got to make some cuts—"

"Cut all the old men then! They can't work like we can—!"

"Whatchu tryin' t'say, boy!" yelled someone else from the crowd. And another angry group of grown men joined him.

"All right, all right!" said Naruto raising a hand. He looked more exasperated than worried. "If that's the way you want it, then everyone under eighteen and everyone over forty can hightail it outta here!"

The blonde only laughed when the crowd got wilder and angrier.

"I ain't changin' my mind!" he yelled, almost playfully. "Now if ya'll don't leave right away—" he was cut off when a large hand came forward and grabbed him by the collar.

"Imma make you change yer mind, little fell—" the large man who'd grabbed his collar was cut off by two loud gunshots to the air. He let go quickly and scrambled backwards into the crowd.

Naruto turned around with a loud sigh. "Kiba, you know I hate it when you shoot that thing." He said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Said man stood behind him with a grin so wide it was a wonder his eyes could fit on his face.

"You know I'm always here to help you, Toad." he said shaking his head. "Didn't look like you had much of a handle on that situation there."

Naruto gave him the finger and turned back to the crowd. He wasn't surprised when they'd moved back a few yards as a whole. He sighed. "I'm gon' say it again. Under eighteen, out. Over forty, out. Now git."

There was a tense silence for the longest time, before a young man screamed 'fuck you!' and turned to leave the premises angrily. That was the precedent for the rest it seemed. Suddenly, a chunk of the crowd was moving, grumbling under their breaths, and stalking away.

"Don't fret, fellas! There's a nice little town right next door with jobs you can apply for—"

"You know just as much as I do that that can't be further from the truth, Naruto." Shikamaru whispered harshly, into his ear.

Naruto turned to him with a half-glare. "You can't make people lose hope, Shika. If you do that, they'll give up everything, and that's the worst thing you can see in a person. You know that."

The man looked like he was going to protest, but seemed to think better of it and let out a tired breath. "You sound just like Sarutobi."

Naruto's smile faded so fast, the spiky haired man winced.


Naruto shook his head. "No, no." he said quietly, turning back to the crowd. "It's a compliment, right?"

Even without the blonde facing him, Shikamaru knew Naruto was carrying that sad smile he wore to mask his real emotions.

He was about to say something again, when the blonde surprised him by shouting. "All right fellas! Can I have the rest of you make three lines in front of me, and my two buddies here. Try to make those lines even, will ya?" he said, pointing to Shikamaru and Kiba. He bowed then, but with his loose and easy way of doing it Shikamaru knew it could be mistaken for a curtsy any day.

There was shuffling, and Naruto turned to look back at his friends, sadness gone. "Well?" he said. "Pull out a desk and interview these poor bastards!" he said with a laugh, getting behind his own desk. "Fifty each." He said when he sat down.

Kiba nodded his head, but Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. "Fifty each? That's fifty more jobs than you said was available."

The blonde shrugged and gave the man a dazzling smile. "Well, I'm feeling generous, today."

Shikamaru shook his head with a small smile. "Too generous for your own good." He mumbled to himself.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, Naruto. Nothing at all. Can I have the first man up, please?"

"Well. Here we are."

Sasuke gave himself a moment before he turned to the side to face the house on the side of the road.

It looked just as it did seven years ago. Small. Quaint. He and Naruto had built it with their own two hands. They'd had some help from friends but it was really him and the blonde that did all the work. Timeless perfection, he'd said, when they finished building it.

How wrong he was, he thought, as he stared at it. Now it just looked like a run-down sort of thing, especially compared to the estates he'd lived in in the past years.

"You going in?" Kakashi asked, startling him.

Sasuke blinked. "Do you think he's home?" he asked.

"Doubt it." replied Kakashi. "Everyone's at the mining field. He's in charge of hiring this year."

That made Sasuke turn to stare at his old teacher incredulously. "He's in charge of hiring? How the hell did that happen?"

The grey haired man chuckled. "Oh, we all knew it was going to happen. Naruto was the best choice."

Sasuke tried to imagine Naruto, the epitome of irresponsibility, leading the chaos that was hiring miners for the oil season, and couldn't. "It's probably a disaster over there, then." He said.

Kakashi shook his head. "Nah. Wouldn't be surprised if we get the best workers in the history of Konoha Mining this year. That's how much confidence I have in Toad."

Sasuke made a face. Toad. He'd always hated the nicknames this town made up for everyone. Naruto was Toad, and he was Snake, named after his crazy uncle Orochimaru - nicknamed Serpent - who was in jail for sexual assault.

"Well? You going in or not?"

Sasuke looked at the house apprehensively. "I'll put my bags inside. Then I want you to take me to the mining fields so I can see the spectacle for myself."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Why would you want to do that? I thought you would've wanted to stay as far away from him as possible."

The raven-haired man shrugged his shoulders. "I ruined all chances of that when I decided I would live with him instead of buy a room in a hotel."

"Why didn't you then?" His old teacher asked, looking at him with sad eyes. "You're only hurting Naruto by showing your face around here. You know that."

Sasuke glared ahead of him. "I'm not going to pay to stay in this dump of a town. I'd rather hurt someone else than spend my hard earned money on something so insignificant."

For a moment the grey haired man looked at Sasuke with wide-eyes before he shook his head. " Harsh words coming from someone who owes so much." He said, looking back at the road ahead. "It was Naruto's idea to send you the invitation, you know. He stifled down his anger towards me and went so far as to ask me where you lived. You best believe he'll be the only one who welcomes you around here. Saying stuff like that won't get you your old friends back. And you know that. That's why you didn't ask any of the others if they'd accept you into their homes."

"I'm not looking to get old friends back." Sasuke replied seriously. " And what hate for you are you talking about?" He shook his hand before the older man could answer, looking exasperated. "Forget I asked. I'm just here to pay my respects and get the hell out of here. I don't need any drama in between."

"Is that so? You don't think something's going happen from you just being here? And are you really going to sit here and tell me hurting Naruto wasn't part of your agenda?"

Sasuke turned to Kakashi with a glare. "What are you trying to say?"

Kakashi sighed. "Look at you Sasuke. The funeral isn't in a week, and you've decided to move in with the man you left stranded here alone and by himself six years ago. And you could have asked to live with me, but instead you're dropping by unexpectedly at Naruto's house. It looks to me like you want him to notice you, and get depressed all over aga—"

"The only reason why I'm here so early is because the next train to this town wouldn't make it to the funeral on time." He hissed into the man's face. "I would never stay here longer than I have to. And I already told you my reasons for not buying a hotel room."

Kakashi sighed and turned away. "Whatever your reasons," he started quietly, "you know that while you're here, you'll be hurting him."

Sasuke didn't reply.

Kakashi visibly hesitated before he spoke again. "When you left…he…" he started quietly. "…he was devastated, Sasuke. He didn't cry, or shout. Didn't start cursing you and your ambitions. He just caved in on himself. Died inside himself. Then he started developing a few bad habits and…"

"Bad habits?"

Kakashi raised a dismissing hand. "We just don't need you back here, to put him through that again. Not when he's just starting to get better."

Sasuke stared ahead for the longest time, before he scoffed and stepped out of the vehicle. "That was six years ago." He mumbled. "When I see him I'll tell him to get over it. That's why I'm here, why I'm staying at his house. I'm going to say goodbye properly this time."

Kakashi stared at the younger man, before he shook his head. "But is this really the right way, Sasuke?"

Sasuke stared at his old mentor for a long time, his eyes narrowing and widening in thought. Finally he pulled back and shook his head, resigned. "Wait here." he said suddenly, as he went round back and picked up his bags from the tail end of the pick-up truck.

He took his stuff out and dragged his luggage to the steps of the house. He wasn't at all surprised to see the front door left ajar, and the same mat from seven years ago that said "Welcome Neighbor". He rolled his eyes and pushed inside the house.

When he was inside, he dropped his bags haphazardly onto the floor and took in his surroundings.

And then he sneezed.

He wiped his nose with a growl and his eyes widened a bit at what he saw. The house wasn't a mess per se. It just looked…abandoned. There was dust everywhere, from the brunette could see. Especially at the living room area, where two familiar couches stood facing each other, with a small coffee table separating them. The wood on the walls looked old, and the furniture looked thrifty. Sasuke was beginning to rethink deciding to live in his ex's place…

No, Sasuke thought, huffing and slicking his hair back. He wasn't going to let this bother him. It was going to be a pain living in a dump for a week, but he could handle it knowing that luxury awaited him when it was all over.

He stopped staring at the home and pushed his things further to the side so he could step out of the house and actually close the door behind him.

He walked back to Kakashi leisurely and stepped inside the truck the same way. "Let's go."

End of Chapter

Authors Note:

Drama on the way, maybe? Next chapter Gaara will be introduced. Chapter two and three are already written. So expect the next one exactly two weeks from today. I really hope you guys like this. I'm still not sure how the pairings are going to end up: SasuNaru? GaaNaru? I suppose it'll depend on how the story progresses, and what my readers want. I hope you all enjoyed!