dedication: to the document i lost where the plot to this story was being stored. And, of course, to the holy trinity forever and always.
He's sitting on the very last booth of the diner, on the side that is against the wall, slouched as he enjoys his burger. He holds it in one hand, the other one holding three fries and scooping up mayonnaise and ketchup that drops from the burger in thick drops onto the plate.
The burgers in Akimichi's Diner are the best in town and Naruto always stops by after he visits the brothel downtown. You know what the say, you have to recharge after using up your energy. He grins at the thought, dropping two fries back to the plate in favor of bringing his Shirley Temple closer for a good slurp.
It's quiet, not that it should be any different; it's at that slow hour in between lunch and dinner and the only people sitting around are an old couple and a girl with long ink-colored hair and a pink summer dress.
Naruto rolls his eyes to watch the passerby outside the window.
Konoha's downtown is grisly. The streets are always dirty with litter and shit like opened condoms and the butt of joints that people are too high to cherish and keep for at least another three hits. Women walk wearing skimpy outfits, sometimes nothing at all, with their hair all tangled and dry and nappy and their makeup smeared, eyes glassy and red from a rough night or beer or weed or crack or all four.
The men walk with lecherous smiles and glints in their eyes, others walked hunched into themselves to tell adversaries that they want no problem.
Naruto takes a generous bite of his burger, his blue eyes landing on two prim men making their way to the diner. They're dressed to speak of their position, gray suits and soft colored shirts under it with matching ties. Naruto's eyes are glued on them as they push the door open, spare a glance at the bell that jingles over them before making a b-line to the girl on the bar.
He leans further back into his seat, stuffing five fries into his mouth and observing the way the girl curls herself away from the men that hover over her.
She shakes her head after one of the men say something to her.
After a minute, the other one grabs at her forearm and she tries to break free but is not strong enough to yank her arm away from the man's grip.
Naruto drops his burger back onto the plate, chewing on his last bite and cleaning his hands with a napkin. He's staring at them even as he slides on his aviators and takes a last slurp of his drink before getting up and out of the booth.
He can see Chouji—the diner owner's son—stare at him with wide eyes but Naruto ignores it as he slides his hands into the pockets of his slacks.
"I dunno, fellas," he said, tilting his head back, "It kinda looks like she don't wanna leave with you guys."
They all turn to him and Naruto gives them a cheeky grin.
"Stay out of this," they squint their eyes at him, as if trying to decide if they know him from somewhere.
He's used to it; people always see his father in him and it's not that big of a deal, anyway. he lolls his head to the side and stares at the girl from over his aviators. He gives her a wink before returning his attention to the men.
"Nah," he says, "I think I gotta step in and be this lady's knight in shining armor since you're giving her a bad time."
The girl's face turns pink and she looks away.
"This is Hyuuga business, you rat, stay out of this!"
"Oh even better!"
He takes his hand out and, without thinking, punches one of the guys in the face and, as the other one reacts a second too late, grabs him and slams his head against the table. Naruto chuckles before stomping on the first guy's stomach and then taking the girl by her forearm and leading her out of the diner.
"You shouldn't have done that," the girl whispers as she lets him lead her away.
Naruto looks over his shoulder and smiles at her. "Hyuuga princess, huh? Must be my lucky day."
"Really," she says, her pale eyes filled with worry. "My father—"
"Who cares? My father was above even him," Naruto says and pulls her until she's walking next to him.
She gasps, "Na... Namikaze...?"
"I prefer Uzumaki, but sure."
He stops them in front of a chopper and he spares a glance at the two men that come out of the diner and begin to run towards them. Naruto mounts the bike and turns it on, making the engine roar as he turns to the girl.
"C'mon, just get on."
She bites her lips and looks up at the men as they begin to near them. Closing her eyes, she gets on, behind him, and wraps her arms around him.
"Where exactly did you get this?"
She looks up at him, an eyebrow raised in question and her lips pressed into a thin line. Sasuke sits on the couch in their loft's living room wearing nothing but his boxers. He looks down at her where she kneels in between his legs, a first-aid kit next to her as she cleans the wound on his thigh with antiseptics and alcohol.
He tries to think of what to say. Sasuke has no problem with telling the truth and gloating when he's been in a fight but it's different when he's going to say it to Sakura. She gets very angry, very possessive, very anxious whenever she finds out he's been in fights and she gets worse when its fights against other gangsters.
"Don't bullshit me, asshole," she hisses, snapping her green eyes up to lock with his. And they're a dark green—the darkest they can get as her pretty face settles into a scowl.
"In a bar fight."
"A bar fight?!" she echoes, incredulous, her hands twitching. She curls them into fists and leans back as she tries to gather her composure. "Sasuke, what the fuck?"
He shrugs, "Wasn't my fault."
"Oh of course not," she growls, curling her lips in a sneer. "You're the perfect little angel that goes to bars simply to drink and then come home!"
"Yes," he nods his head, blinking his eyes and completely unaffected by her growing temper.
"I can't believe you."
"Just ask Tenten, then," he shrugs a shoulder.
"Tenten?!" Sakura punches his good thigh. "You two are awful together! You both don't know how to control yourselves; Sasuke you're putting the Family in danger!"
Sakura hisses profanities under her breath and stands up, ripping the gloves off her hands and walking into the kitchen. Sasuke sits and waits; she's having her moment of anger and he doesn't really like to deal with her when she gets like that. He doesn't understand why she gets like that.
"What's your problem?" he asks after ten minutes of silence.
"You are!" she yells as she storms back in, a hurricane in her eyes. She glares at him for a long time, her hands on her hips and her chest heaving in anger. "You don't get it... You don't get that you can die, that... That... You can go back into another coma or..."
Sasuke sighs again.
"Sakura, I'm a gangster," he tells her. "This is what I do. These are threats I face everyday—I'm fine with it."
He stands up, his eyes blazing black fire as he glares at her. "What the fuck has gotten into you?"
"Akatsuki are merciless," she repeats to him, her voice shaking with emotion. "If you mess with the wrong people they will come after you and they won't stop until you're six feet under the ground. You know that."
He continues to eye her, crossing his arms in front of his chest and cocking his head back.
She looks away, ignoring the way the strap of her tank-top begins to droop from her shoulder in favor of glaring at the defenseless ground. Her jaw is clenched, sharply defined under her alabaster skin, collarbones jutting out and throat constricting with each of her hard swallows. She's beautiful—stupid, but beautiful.
"Just... Promise you'll be careful," she says, turning back to him, her arms hugging her torso defensively. "Promise you won't go out looking for trouble, like that. It's not safe anymore, Sasuke. Promise me."
Sasuke groans, limping towards her and dipping down to lean his forehead against her. "Promise."
Naruto rolls the sleeves of his shirt up to his elbows, grunting as he shifts one of the planks covering the window so a bit of sunlight could lighten the place up. He claps his hands to free them of dust and tiny pieces of wood, running a hand through his hair and turning back to face the girl.
She politely sits on the gross, dirty couch, her legs pressed together and her hands on her laps, eyed downcast. And Naruto stands in place, wondering how exactly she's managed to survive this long.
Affiliated to a gang or not, it's a cruel world out there and those that don't have their arms elbow deep in blood are the cruelest of them all.
"What's your name, princess?"
She looks up at him and her eyes are the palest of silver; Naruto thinks of opals and lilies and he struggles to keep his mouth from hanging open.
"Hinata," she manages to whisper and he nods to distract himself.
"Of course," he says, moving around with a hand on his hip. "Apologies for this, uh, sorry excuse of an apartment."
Hinata shakes her head, "I'm sorry for being such trouble."
Naruto pauses and turns towards her, his tongue peaking out to lick his lower lip in thought. "Hey, so why did you refuse to leave with those guys, huh? Your pops probably—"
"My father did not send those men," Hinata interrupts, clearing her throat and tucking strands of ink colored hair behind her ear. "I... I don't think I'm supposed to say this but my father and my cousin are away to Iwa. My... My uncle has been killed and they are... Handling business."
"Hyuuga's left his little empire unattended?"
"So those guys..."
She nods again.
Naruto whistles, walking over and dropping down next to her, his arms tossed over the couch's back and his legs spread apart. "So I really was your knight, huh?"
Hinata blushes and looks away. Naruto grins and begins to sway one of his legs from side to side, his eyes looking around the place with minor interest. "How about you stay with me while your dad's away?"
He shrugs, "I mean. If there's going to be a kidnapping attempt every time you go out, might as well find yourself a body guard..." He pauses and turns towards her, tilting his head back. "Shouldn't you have, like, ten of those since your the daughter of a mob Boss?"
"I... Ditched them," Hinata whispers and her blush intensifies.
"B—but I wouldn't mind your company!"
They're quiet, then, and Naruto closes his eyes, deciding that the place should get some cleaning if he's going to stay here with her. He always knew keeping a dingy, cheap, horribly maintained apartment on the side would be a good idea.
Sakura lights her third cigarette of the night, crossing a leg over the other and shaking her head in dissatisfaction. She lets the smoke out through her nostrils, her unoccupied hand reaching for her glass of whiskey.
"He doesn't listen." she finally says, anger still laced in her words. "He doesn't listen."
"So you've said," Ino drawls, her chin supported by one of her hands and her pale blue eyes on the small crowd littering the bar.
In truth, Sakura doesn't know what she's more angry about. Or scared; yes, scared is the best approach to the whirlwind of feelings that she's been unable to subdue all day. She's scared but she isn't sure if it's because Sasuke is jeopardizing his life with his antics or if he mistakenly stumbles upon something that makes him remember.
And what happens after, if that is to come true?
He manages to remember absolutely everything? And then what? Two years is a long time and experimenting on a half-dead body produces success but success is superficial. Sakura lives a life of fear, eyeing Sasuke's every move and twitching when he jerks unexpectedly, grows restless when he goes wherever she can't see him, can't follow.
"Relax," Ino says, refiling her glass and smiling at her with her maroon colored lips. "You're thinking too much—too hard. Your forehead's going to sag with all the worry lines and who's going to love you then?"
"Bitch," Sakura scoffs, tapping at her cigarette to rid it of some of the accumulated ashes.
Ino leaves to serve other customers before returning. Sakura looks up at her with a blank expression as Ino raises an eyebrow at her. Ino has been her friend since Sakura can remember; she lost contact with her after her parents' death and after she walked into the life of blood and guns. They only reunited out of pure chance on a nasty night where a bloodied Sakura walked into the small pub in downtown Konoha, pulling a cigarette from her trench coat, ordering whiskey on the rocks and sniffing a reassurance that none of the blood was hers.
"What're you so worried about?"
Sakura opens her mouth.
"You love him," Ino interrupts and her pale blue eyes glitter all yellow and orange at the edges and Ino's always had killer eyes, Sakura remembers. "You love him."
"Don't be stupid, pig."
Ino scoffs and shakes her head. "It's the only answer."
"He fucks me like he misses me," she says, "and it's amazing. And he makes wicked promises and," here, she smiles a bit, "his hair is adorable when he wakes up but—"
"You love him."
"You don't understand," she whispers against the brim of her cup, chugging the amber liquid in one go.
Sakura is afraid and she's come to realize why:
She's in love.
Sasuke runs a hand through his hair, one of his hands holding onto the steering wheel in an almost lazy fashion. The truck trailer's packed with cocaine that Kakashi is trading in for some good money and he, along with Tenten, Karin and Suigetsu are on the job to safely drive it all the way to Takigakure.
He and Tenten sit in the front while Karin and Suigetsu hide in the trailer, both for taking care of the package and for a surprise attack if they are to be ambushed.
Tenten is obsessively staring at the scar that is forming on her forehead, from the night before. Sasuke sighs.
"Would you quit it?"
"I don't mind scars," Tenten says, "but I draw the line when it's on my face!"
"Your hair covers it up."
She pouts and closes the visor with a snap. They grow quiet, then, and Sasuke's mind begins to drift.
He knows its become an obsession, this trying to figure out what Akatsuki could possibly want from Konoha to be shifting their entire attention to the old city. The most Akatsuki has had are prostitute and a minor hand at the drug traffic that goes around it.
It just doesn't make any sense and that's what gets Sasuke hooked. He pretends that it has nothing to do with the thrill of a challenge; the excitement to stumble into them and engage in a shooting, chase each other through the city, have cars flip over, run people over, dance with death and manage to get away with it.
Sasuke has no problem with dying and he believes its because he's been dead, before. He knows he has; he just cheated and has come back to life.
"Quit thinking so hard," Tenten drawls, shifting in her seat and throwing her feet up on the dashboard. "It doesn't look good on you."
"Tch," Sasuke scoffs, muttering to himself when a car passes him.
"Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"
She nods, pushing her aviators up her nose. "Makes sense."
"We're being sent on easy jobs like fucking drug deliveries when we can be out getting dirt on their intentions. It's fucking mind-fucking and it pisses me off."
"I know," Tenten replies shortly. "But it's stupid to get worked up. We'll just play the good kid card and get our own info on the side. I want in as much as you do."
This is why Tenten is his closest friend. She has no limits, like he does, she is a nameless girl, like he is, and she forces herself into where she is not wanted, like he does. If Kakashi and the others—the old gangsters that survived Namikaze's tragic fall—didn't want them to know a thing, fine. They can find out on their own.
The problem with that is few people know and those that do are reluctant to talk. There's more to the old story of how Akatsuki came to rule the gangland life that no one likes to speak about and Sasuke wants to know.
If it gets him killed in the process, then, well, so be it. Who's there to mourn for a sinner like him, anyway?
Deep in the underbelly of Kirigakure a man sits in his office, his elbows leaning against the hard surface of his mahogany desk. His eyes are golden slits, his hair brushed back into a neat ponytail, suit the richest of violet. He's prim and proper and he stares at the eight lined up in front of him.
His lips curl into a smile and he chuckles from deep within his chest.
"Well," he hums, shifting and leaning back in his seat. "Our search has finally come to fruition. It's been two agonizing years but it's finally time to make a move."
He turns his head to stare out the window, sighing in disgust at the fog that curls and hides the city that has been sheltering him for two years, now. But it's finally time to return home. He smiles at the thought, closing his eyes before returning his attention to his visitors.
"It's time to make our move." He nods his head before he breathes out, "Sasuke Uchiha is indeed very alive."