This is sort of a follow-up to the last thing I wrote except over twice as long. Funny how that works. That also means all of this was a result of beeblebabe's and nekoleo's ideas, which I pilfered from with great abandon and then went skipping gleefully off into the night. Thanks, guys!
The Hokage's bedroom was in the basement of the Hokage's official estate and had been for as long as anyone could remember. The walls were reinforced and two hidden doors were accessible by nearly invisible switches by the bed. One led to the roof and the other, by means of an underground tunnel, to the village's war room. There were traps of varyingly clever and malicious degrees on all sides and an alarm two inches from Naruto's pillow.
Not that any of it was any good if the Hokage kept a snake under his roof, they said. The anger was a subterranean current, muffled and fast-paced, but Naruto sorted out who 'they' were and had them put to rights as soon as possible. It was one of the easiest tasks he had and, as he was still starting out, one of the most important.
He never told any of the vaguely embarrassed villagers in front of him (not even ranked-ninja, most of them, and mostly older genin of those. None of the jounin or chuunin of his generation or even their parents had ever, to Naruto's knowledge, said a word against him.) that their worry was unnecessary on even a technical level. Sasuke slept the night through, heavy and motionless as the dead. Naruto went to bed hours after Sasuke was already fast asleep and woke up before dawn. Sasuke, according the the Anbu reports that crossed Naruto's desk, by all indications slept until mid-day.
The only cause for valid concern might be the times when Naruto, after a hard day, would doze off on the couch. But even then, he'd jolt awake by six to see Sasuke napping in a chair or - only once but it was memorable - curled up on the floor beneath his feet.
Iruka-sensei asked him in a very grudging and roundabout way if he wanted to go out for ramen, and that was maybe the only thing in Naruto's life that hadn't changed. Naruto's 'yes' had been encapsulated in a high, yelping noise that sounded weird even to him. He hadn't been outside since leaving the Hokage's house that morning and there hadn't been much time for lunch.
Not that it was bad, he found himself explaining to Iruka-sensei, who hadn't asked. He knew it would be hard and Naruto plain knew hard period - paperwork didn't even make the top fifty of impossible crap Naruto had done. In the hospital that last time Tsunade had told him things between her coughs that he never wanted to know, and he accepted what she asked of him anyway. It was just... he got here by moving, moving, moving, always moving, thinking on his feet and acting before doubts could creep in, and trying harder - always trying harder. But now that he was Hokage, he was finding out in day-to-day terms it mostly meant figuring out how other people would act and then either pointing them in the right direction or forbidding them entirely, and then, until they reacted, keeping still.
Iruka ate his noodles with that expression that meant he was mildly, but not totally, surprised by whatever had just come out of Naruto's mouth. "It's a big job," he ended up saying, rather gently. "It's going to take you a while to find your feet."
"I'm good at it!" Naruto objected, letting his chopsticks clatter into his bowl as he pointed at Iruka-sensei. "Hey! Are you saying I'm not good at it?!"
Iruka waved his hand. "No, no, you're fine," he said, and Naruto deruffled. "But this is a big job. You knew that, but no one can know the shape of it until they actually do it. That's the burden of being Hokage."
"Yeah," Naruto said, poking at a fishcake. He'd always liked the Ichiraku in part because it directly faced the carved rock. He always thought the faces looked fierce, but now he was beginning to see them as somber. The Fourth, for reasons beyond Naruto's understanding, had a cast to his sightless eyes that was almost serene.
Iruka-sensei squeezed his shoulder. He had done that when Naruto was younger, with a steeled, deliberate formality that even an ten-year-old could pick up on. Now when things arguably should be formal between them, it was a casual, thoughtless touch. "But you'll get it, Naruto. You already are. Tsunade-sama had faith in you and I do too. The whole village supports you, Naruto."
That wasn't a hundred percent true, but it felt real in a kind of metaphorical way like a lot of what Iruka-sensei said. At any rate, it cheered him up and he and Iruka talked about the new arcade that opened up downtown. He bullied Iruka into paying for the meal because, as he said, it was, like, tradition and crap.
Iruka didn't bring up Sasuke. No one ever really did except the Anbu assigned as his private guard, and it wasn't like Naruto could ask them for advice.
He followed Tsunade's example and didn't wear the robes and crown very much. She had been a good model in more ways than that and it should have been a little thing, but while the formal dress didn't exactly make him uncomfortable Naruto felt like himself in his old clothes. He used the robes for mission assignments and stuff sometimes, but not when he was just walking around the village or whatever. He missed the old lady a lot and visited the monument whenever he could, which wasn't as often as she deserved. She would probably yell if she knew, but Naruto was sure she'd understand.
He couldn't remember any Hokage who wore their forehead protector while in office, but he kept that too. It seemed important somehow.
When he was younger, he had planned to wear the crown especially all the time and people would bow at his feet and quiver in his wake. He never altered his goal, but the architecture of his reasons had changed and the thought seemed silly now. A lot of things Naruto used to think seemed silly, and besides Sasuke had made fun of it.
Okay, not really. But when he came home the first day, pushing the crown off his face so he could see freaking see, Sasuke had eyed him for a fraction of a second longer than anything else he'd given consideration to since he'd gotten home and snorted. Which started a minor and one-sided but cacophonous war in the Hokage's house that only ended when Sasuke went back to bed.
Sakura said Sasuke was still recovering from a massive amount of stress, but she didn't add 'we expected this' or 'he'll be just fine.' She came over once or twice a week for a checkup and would talk in that bright, brittle way of hers that meant she had thoughts she wasn't saying out loud. Kakashi stopped by often too, sometimes when Naruto was around, mostly when he wasn't. He figured the rest of their friends were a little too intimidated, but by which of them he didn't know.
It had taken a week or two for Naruto to stop knocking on the front door. He wasn't sure who he was expecting to live there, but it wasn't either of them.
Then again, whether or not Sasuke actually lived there was pretty much anyone's guess. He was staying there because the council didn't trust him and Naruto had yelled a lot and Shikamaru finally pointed out that Sasuke would only be secured as a threat if he was in close quarters with the one person they knew could reliably defeat him. So when Sasuke was still in the hospital, Naruto told him the plan except he put a question mark at the end and Sasuke said, "I'd like that." Which was more emotion than he'd shown about anything since Kakashi carried his broken body home and it startled him badly enough he barely remembered to make Sasuke sign the necessary documents. But it all felt temporary, suspended in the limbo of indecision.
As it was, Sasuke spent most of his time in Naruto's bed. Naruto went downstairs as quietly as he could, but Sasuke must have felt the displacement in the air because he woke up with a jerk, his hand searching for something under the pillow that wasn't there. Naruto kept his kunai in his pajama pockets.
"Hey," Naruto said. "Sorry about that."
Sasuke shrugged. He had been sleeping on top of the covers, nested in them, his leg canted out in an obtuse angle. The twist of his ankle was oddly fascinating. Sasuke only slept in Naruto's boxers. Naruto noticed today that he was wearing one of his old shirts with the spiral painted on the front. It had ripped at the shoulder seam, and Naruto thought he remembered putting it in the rag pile under the sink.
"Are you hungry?"
"No," Sasuke said. His hair was a mess and he was still too pale. Sasuke propped himself up on his elbow with no indication he was going to rise any further, more like he wanted a better look at Naruto. Even wearing clothes that looked like they shouldn't fit - they were rumpled and relaxed when Sasuke was never either of those thing - something in the movement made Naruto think it was unintentional but practiced.
"You really should eat. Sakura-chan will yell at me next time she comes over, you're getting so scrawny."
Part of Naruto still expected Sasuke to insult him whenever he said anything, but Sasuke just said, "Later then." and stared at him with no particular expression until Naruto shrugged off his jacket and got into bed. Sasuke put his head on Naruto's chest and closed his eyes, and Naruto let out a sigh that contained the whole day and ran his fingers through the hair up the back of Sasuke's neck until Sasuke's breathing evened out again.
Sasuke looked at him a lot. Naruto would be sitting at the kitchen table with a small mountain of paperwork (if he didn't bring it home sometimes he would be in the office until one o'clock in the morning, and he had been told many times, in small words, that using clones to sign his signature invalidated the notary.) and get that anxious feeling through his spine and look up to see Sasuke staring at him. It unnerved him at first more than he liked to admit, but whenever he demanded an explanation, Sasuke never gave him any that seemed like a good reason to make him stop.
"You're itching for a fight," Kakashi had said to him. He had caught Naruto out by the rock garden out back of the capital, where Naruto was insulting a frog that didn't know enough to be offended.
"I am not!" Naruto said automatically. He thought about it and amended. "So what if I am?"
"Sasuke's not going to give you one," Kakashi said. "You took all the fight out of him already. This won't be resolved in battle. It needs to be slower than that. Give him time."
And Naruto just stood there, dumbfounded, because it was the most horrible thing Kakashi-sensei had ever said about him. He wasn't sure if there was anything left to Sasuke, without the fighting.
There were moments though. Like that first night Sasuke was discharged from the hospital, when Naruto had not been smooth and said it was okay, he'd sleep on the couch. Sasuke had said, "Don't be stupid." and Naruto had said, "HEY!" And it had all been reassuringly familiar. But times like that were rare, and besides, maybe they were too easy. Things between the two of them had never been easy, even if Naruto was only remembering that now.
They didn't touch at all that first night they spent in that bed. That had been very, very hard.
The only time so far Naruto seriously thought about resigning was when Hyuuga Hiashi bowed to him on the street. Because what the hell.
"Stop that!" he had wailed, and then basically all the activity in Konoha within a thirty foot radius came screeching to a halt. The Hyuuga just blinked, which was, as with all members of his clan, a lengthy process.
"Eheh?" Naruto said when he recovered, and did his best to cobble together an apology. Later it neatly re-ordered itself and trickled out to the general public as a political statement: he was the people's Hokage and had no tolerance for airs.
Sakura of course saw right through the spin. "Did you really say that?" she hissed the next time she saw him. "I swear, Naruto, you spaz!" She hadn't been angry at him in weeks, and it was weird, the things that made him happy now. He wondered how Gaara had handled it at first, already used to the power and momentum of the gradual shifting of sand.
After presiding over Tsunade's memorial ceremony and pardoning Sasuke, his first official act as Hokage was christening Kurenai-sensei's baby. It was a fat, healthy boy, named after his grandpa. Konohamaru helped officiate, so eager and so proud Naruto barely suppressed the impulse to ruffle his hair until he squawked.
It helped that he was still thinking about those three kisses. Three dry, tentative kisses in the hospital, Naruto blocking them from view of the security camera by strategically holding up his crown. Sasuke had responded with that old lethargy of his that Naruto always thought was indifference. It probably was, back then.
Naruto gave a speech and Kurenai hugged him, her body newly soft, and he was still stuck on those kisses, like honey.
Anyway, the point was, even though he was distracted, he got the significance of his first three acts, he did. Burial, birth and forgiveness. They made up Konoha, and it would take strength, immeasurable and immutable strength that had nothing to do with the dense rage fueling the Kyuubi, to ensure and protect that.
Besides, three days after the Incident, Neji cornered him and demanded to know, "Did you scream at Hyuuga-sama in the marketplace?"
Naruto scratched his head. "A little bit, yeah."
Neji raised his eyebrow for a second and smirked. "Hmph," he said, and wandered away again.
So that was all right.
Sasuke had been prescribed pain medication as his leg healed. Surprisingly and without much fanfare he took the chalky little pills like clockwork. It made for some interesting developments.
"Oi, Sasuke!" Naruto said one morning, going through his drawers with angry and deliberate banging. "You're wearing my last pair of underpants, aren't you! I got you some of your own - wear them! The Hokage can't go commando!"
"Shut up," Sasuke muttered, turning over on his stomach and burying his head under the pillow. "They smell like you, go away."
Or a quieter one - late one night when Naruto staggered home from a security briefing and barely remembered pajama pants before crawling into bed. Sasuke had wrapped around him like usual, smooth and heavy and tight - Naruto never wanted to make the comparison to a snake but he inevitably, helplessly did - but with one hand he traced the spiral that ended with Naruto's navel, leisurely, like he was making his way through a zen garden.
"I like this," he murmured into Naruto's neck. "Don't wake me up from this dream, Kabuto. Next time I'll be angry."
Naruto didn't sleep at all that night. As far as he could tell, it still only made sense of one thing.
"Did you beg for it?" Naruto had asked. He spat out blood, wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. Sasuke was hunched over, clutching his side, panting, but Naruto was barely standing himself. "Did you ask for it real nice before chewing up that bastard snake and spitting him out? Your fucking bonds - your brother's dead and you've used up everyone else. But I guess you don't even care, do you, Sasuke?"
And Sasuke had screamed - Sasuke had screamed - and gathered chakra from some last wretched reserve, and Naruto could only think of one way he could possibly beat him without killing him.
Watching Sasuke sleep - his face slack and, if Naruto didn't know any better, content - Naruto still knew no, it wasn't really the Kyuubi. That made it so much worse
Jiraiya had let him be after he told Naruto the truth. He came up to Naruto three hours later as Naruto was in the middle of training exercise of his own devising: trying to slice through a tree with his chakra. Jiraiya was puffing on his pipe, deceptively calm. When he was still, it was always with the quiet of deep water, beckoning, with only the potential for danger, never the intent.
"I don't blame you," he had said. "If you hate me."
Naruto hadn't turn to face him. His shoulders were moving up and down with his breath, his head slightly bowed. The tree was cut less than halfway through and safe to stand under for the time being. He said, "You, you pervert? Why should I hate you?"
"Uh, the Yondaime? The secret that I had kept from you your whole life?" Jiraiya said in a higher register, as if he had always known Naruto was stupid, but now he was mining an untouched and particularly rich vein of stupidity.
"Oh, yeah," Naruto said. "That." He threw himself at the tree again and the backlash whipped at Jiraiya's hair.
Naruto stopped to catch his breath again. He rested his hands on his thighs. "Sure. I was angry when you told me. You could have told the whole village right from the start, couldn't you? And they wouldn't have hated me so much. They might have even accepted me."
He craned his head around. "But then I thought about it. I'm still me, right? Even if the Yondaime... I'm still me, no matter what. And if you had told everyone from the beginning, I wouldn't have worked as hard. I wouldn't be the me I am now."
Naruto went for the tree again and this time it connected and the top bowers fell in an abrupt, awkward curve to the forest floor.
Naruto turned to Jiraiya, red-faced and sweaty, and grinned. "And the me I am now is the me that's gonna get Sasuke back, and it's the me that's gonna be Hokage."
Jiraiya didn't exactly look impressed, too stone-faced for that. But he curled his mouth around his pipe and it didn't quite hide his smile. "There could only be one you, Naruto," he said. "One you in the whole world."
They got one more frequent visitor, actually, but while Sai was a good guy and had turned into a solid friend, talking to him was like having a conversation with a funhouse mirror. The only alternative to dwelling on what he said for the rest of your life was forgetting he had ever been there in the first place. Strangely, considering the jumbled and unhappy circumstances of their introduction, he and Sasuke got along fairly well. Or at least Sai didn't know any better than to come over and Sasuke would lounge around reading Naruto's newspapers and old manga while Sai drew.
He left a picture as a present one day. Naruto found it on the kitchen table when he came home from work. It was a seascape, turbulent and choppy after a storm, and parallel above it the paper had been divided neatly by the long, elegant lines of a bridge. Naruto wasn't sure he liked the implications when he understood them.
"Did you tell Sai about that mission?" he asked Sasuke when Sasuke was washing their one dirty dish.
He turned off the water and shrugged. "Yeah."
Naruto didn't even know why he was so angry, but it was gritty, volcanic. "Why the hell did you do that?"
"Why shouldn't I?" Sasuke leveled him flat with a stare, you idiot hinted around the edges. Normally Naruto would be delighted with that level of response, but right now it only pissed him off more.
"Why should you?"
"It wasn't a big deal," Sasuke said. "We were talking about ways we were almost killed."
Naruto opened his mouth, closed it and sagged a little as all the words that could have buoyed him up withered away. Sasuke turned neatly on his heels and walked into the living room.
"Well that was a stupid thing to talk about!!" Naruto said, forty minutes later in his office, after dispatching a team of Anbu to usher in Sai for an emergency meeting.
Sai blinked and ventured a smile, clearly confused and hoping to diffuse the tension. "What was a stupid thing to talk about, Hokage-sama?"
"Don't you even try, you little weasel! Why the hell would you be talking about death with Sasuke?"
The smile vanished off Sai's face when he deduced it wasn't getting him anywhere. Sai could be a creepy guy before you got used to him. "Well... I thought he would know more about it than most people."
So, yes, this interrogation was pointless. Naruto found himself rubbing his temples. "Just... don't do it again, okay, Sai?"
Sai bowed. He was very big on protocol after he had read that book about it. "My apologies, Hokage-sama. I'll remember from now on that it's an inappropriate subject to address with Sasuke."
"Good. Go away now," Naruto said, and Sai bowed, like, five more times before he finally went out the door.
Naruto wasn't the type of guy who thought about the motivation behind most of the things he felt, but they had never talked about that mission, not since Naruto had said, "Hey, Sasuke, you look like a hedgehog," while Sakura was still plucking needles out of him and Sasuke replied, "Shut the hell up, you idiot." It wasn't private, exactly - the mission report was in the hall of records where anyone could find it - but even back then Naruto was prodding at the dim, wobbly understanding that Team 7's confrontation on the bridge had been, well, significant in some way. What Sasuke and Haku had done resounded outside the confines of everything they had been taught. But apparently Sasuke thought of it so lightly he would just go casually blabbing about it to Sai of all people.
He and Sasuke had never been very good at talking to each other. That was probably part of it too.
However Naruto got something close to poetic justice later in the week, when Sasuke sat through dinner with a sour expression, even quieter than usual.
"Something crawl up your butt?" Naruto asked, innocently enough.
That only made Sasuke look madder. "Sai," he finally said, slowly. "Keeps talking about your penis."
It startled the mood right out of Sasuke when Naruto shouted, "WHAT THE HELL I'LL KILL THAT BASTARD." and then laughed so hard he fell under the table
He remembered it in oversaturated, unfocused snapshots like he remembered everything he did on an adrenaline high. Naruto was breathing with a wet, gurgling sound, a hole just below his ribcage, something severed in his shoulder. But Sasuke's entire side was useless, he had made sure of that. Sasuke was a shell, a wasteland of a man, stumbling in little stuttering hops that could have been almost funny. Naruto had won, they both knew he won, and Sasuke still had the nerve, the unmitigated, unobservant arrogance, to smirk at him with his stupid, bloody, dirty, perfect mouth.
"Cute, Naruto," he said. "Be sure to give your fox a treat."
Naruto said, "It's not him, you fucking stupid bastard!" In the end, when everything else had been used and abandoned, it was about the simple things, the ones you started out knowing. Forcing your muscles to move, telling yourself to keep going and going and going as long as your body could listen. It was all about the push, in the end. It was about the need.
Sasuke always thought it was about the technique. Naruto could hear a crunch when he tackled him to the ground.
Naruto raised his head a little, enough to look Sasuke full in the face. There was just pain there, and that was still better than the blank assessment back when he was working for Orochimaru, when Orochimaru was in him, like he could dissect Naruto where he stood and wouldn't care.
"It's not him," he said again. He was crying and when the tears landed on Sasuke, Sasuke flinched. "I learned to control him. They taught me... they taught me. It's just me, Sasuke, you stupid fuck. We need you! Your brother's dead - why don't you want to come home?"
"Naruto..." Sasuke said. He sounded almost sad. "Shut up." And then his arm, the arm Naruto though he had dislocated, came up and it was holding a kunai and there was a bright silver pain.
Naruto remembered punching Sasuke in the face. And he remembered grabbing him by the hair and pulling him up for a kiss that split Sasuke's lip. In the end, it's all about the need.
Naruto had tamed it, but the Kyuubi was very old. If nothing else, that meant it has spent all those thousands of years surviving. It had a grudge against the Uchiha and access to parts of Naruto he stored in the damp and rotting recesses of himself, and it wasn't above feeding Naruto slivers of chakra without his permission if that kept its vessel from dying.
He kissed Sasuke, grinding against his cracked hipbone. Sasuke thrust back, hissing with the effort, as he stared at Naruto with half-lidded eyes and a look on his face that was anything but the betrayal that should have been there. When he passed out afterwards, Naruto, grimly unsurprised that his injuries were gone, picked him up and headed back to base camp where hopefully the rest of his team had reconvened. The sky had been obscenely, insultingly blue.
It wasn't him and it wasn't the Kyuubi. He figured it out on the march home, while Sakura cried and healed Sasuke and cried some more and Kakashi gave instructions to his dogs and Sai tried to fill him in on what was happening with Tsunade over where the real battle raged. It was both of them together.
"Listen," Tsunade had said. He didn't understand the details, but he knew Tsunade was somehow feeding off her own energy. Death, like everyone else, was going to have to wait until she had her say. "It's okay to cry over me, but only a little. This is your village now. You're going to have to be smart and tough and kind all at once. Some will say you're too young, but just ignore them. It's a hard job, but for Konoha you can do it."
He had told Sasuke once he didn't think someone who couldn't save a friend could be Hokage. Sasuke had been trying to kill him at the time, and now he was unconscious in the opposite wing of the hospital but still put under restraint and heavy guard. Naruto felt sick. He knew what victory felt like; it wasn't joyful, exactly, more exhausting, but it was never like this.
("Kakashi-sensei," he had started, carefully looking anywhere but the limp figure dangling on Kakashi's back. "I... Sasuke... when I..."
"Don't," Kakashi said, with a sternness Naruto had only heard in from him during a fight, not after. "Don't confess, Naruto. Whatever you did, you had to do it. Sasuke's safe now. We'll take him home, and if you still need to repent, you do it to him.")
But he thought, part of him thought anyway, maybe bringing him home had just been the first step and the saving could come later. It was as feeble and flickering a hope as a butterfly in a jar, but Tsunade was telling him to be strong. He couldn't look back now, when it was too late for her and he was the only other person she wanted here.
Naruto swallowed and said, "Old lady... I spent so much time saying I wanted to be Hokage. I said it over and over, to anyone who would listen. But I didn't get it at all, did I? I'd give up on being Hokage forever - I'd do that right now, if it meant you'd be okay."
Tsunade smiled. Her skin was gray and had the peach-fuzz transparency of a body becoming less a tool and more a temporary anchor. She'd beaten him once with two fingers and given him a necklace and kissed him like a mother would. "You're a good boy, Naruto," she said, and patted his hand.
"I'm sorry," It was the first thing he said after Sasuke had woken up, when they were finally alone. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be," was all Sasuke said. And Naruto thought about that, about how Sasuke could be capable of taking it in stride, and he had to go throw up.
In his seventh week in office, Rock Lee requested an audience with him and asked for his permission to seek Sakura's hand in marriage.
"Uh... okay," Naruto said. "But you know she has a dad, right? Also a, uh, her."
"I know, I know, Naruto-ku - Hokage-sama," Lee said, nodding. Like most of Naruto's classmates, it was going to take Lee a while to make up his mind. "But even the burning ardor of my youthful passion recognizes the strong bond she has with you, Naru - Hokage-sama! I would be remiss if I didn't have your approval before I officially began the courtship that will lead to our blissful union!"
"Yeah... good luck with that," Naruto said. Lee had gotten better about not talking like a fruit-loop, but he still couldn't help himself when he was really excited. Then Konohamaru burst in, yelling his fool head off about not accepting D-rank missions anymore, and Naruto had to threaten to have Gamabunta sit on him before any sort of order was reinstated.
He told Sasuke about it later that day - both about Lee and the sitting - because he liked telling Sasuke funny stories about the village, thought it might encourage him to leave the house. Sasuke just tapped his fingers on the table and stared out the window, giving one of the three Anbu assigned to their house an imposing stare from where she had concealed herself behind a tree.
"So I gave their team a C-rank mission," Naruto said to fill up the silence. "Let them see how they handle it. If nothing else, it'll give Konohamaru a chance to travel outside the gate."
"You always were a soft touch with kids," Sasuke said, mostly to himself. He turned to look at Naruto. He hadn't used the sharingan since coming home, but most of the time his eyes had the suggestion of it. "I wonder if she'll accept."
"Who, Sakura-chan?" Naruto snorted. "Yeah, right. She's just gonna beat the crap out of Thick-Brows and maybe, if he's real lucky, she'll think about letting him take her out on a date."
"Huh," said Sasuke. He stood up and stretched. Apparently the shirt with the hole was his favorite. He wore it all the time and the sleeve was nearly hanging off now. "I'm going to go read."
"I'm saving your freaking dinner!" Naruto called after him. "You need to eat!"
When he came to bed that night, Sasuke was, surprisingly, awake. His hands were laced behind his head and a cheap paperback rested forgotten on his chest as he stared up the ceiling.
"I'm going to turn out the lights, okay?" Naruto said. He had fallen into the habit of announcing whatever he planned to do after Sasuke proved so easy to startle. 'I'm leaving for a few hours,' or 'I'm turning on the shower.' It irritated him. "I'm not going to break, you know," he said once, but Naruto knew for a fact you could continue breaking what was already broken.
Right now, Sasuke just grunted, and Naruto turned off the lights and slipped under the covers. Usually Sasuke took this as his cue to flop all over him, but tonight the mattress dipped as he turned on his side facing Naruto. His eyes were a dull solid in the otherwise liquid perimeter of the dark.
After awhile, Naruto said. "Yeah?"
It took Sasuke a moment to speak. "You're not upset."
"What?" said Naruto. "Oh. Oh that. ...No. I'm... yeah, no."
Sasuke didn't even nod, and Naruto was close to drifting off when he said, "I thought we'd be great enemies."
Naruto sat up. "What?"
Sasuke shrugged a little. His voice was orchestratedly diffident, but he didn't turn away. "The last Uchiha and the Hokage. I thought I would be your strongest opponent. I thought we could be rivals forever."
Naruto had been twelve and tired and the water he had been floating in had been cold the first of many, many times he was able to absorb that Sasuke geniunely wanted to kill him. I think what I feel for you is what I would feel for a brother, he had said, but Sasuke had hated his brother for years. It was the only reason he wanted to stay alive and it corroded him to the bone.
"I think," Naruto said, careful as approaching a wounded bird. "This is better. That's what I think."
Sasuke didn't say yes and he didn't say no. What he did say, in that too-neutral voice was, "Can I stay?"
A wet little bubble started working its way up Naruto's throat. "Wh - Yeah! Yeah of course." It didn't matter if he meant Konoha or Naruto's bed or the Hokage's mansion rent-free. "Of course. Of course you can stay, Sasuke."
Sasuke just said, "Okay." But the dip in the bed deepened like a weight had been dropped there.
They both had good night vision - darkness was never Naruto's reason for turning off the lights. Sasuke was still staring at him, his chest radiating a fragile, insistent heat where it brushed Naruto's arm. Sasuke never said anything, not when he woke up and Naruto was half-hard against his thigh, not after he woke up from rubbing his own cock against Naruto in his sleep. The kisses in the hospital unravelled something in Naruto's gut, but this new Sasuke with his inertia and the hesitancy in his movements like everything was too sensitive to touch, gave Naruto pause. Sasuke was healing, Kakashi-sensei had said. For other people, that took time.
But Naruto was also sixteen and jerking off every morning in the bathroom, and Sasuke kept wearing his damn underwear. When Naruto said, "I want to kiss you," it came out in an impulsive, mush-mouthed blur.
And Sasuke... Sasuke smirked in his flash-flood way. "So kiss me," he said. "If you've finally worked up the nerve." It was a well-worn challenge wrapped in a new gauntlet, and Naruto growled like a puppy as he bent down.
Sasuke wrapped around him like he had been waiting, with all the ease of a predator, but Naruto could feel his heart pound in his chest and that was reassuring somehow. His lips were chapped and his tongue felt slick against Naruto's teeth. Naruto could get lost like this, but even in the dark and without the anger, this felt like it could be superimposed over the other time, and that wasn't what they should be thinking about.
Naruto flipped over on his back dragging Sasuke with him until Sasuke was reluctantly straddling his hips. He felt the Kyuubi rustle. Shut up, he thought at it. At Sasuke, he just grinned. "This way's better."
Sasuke blinked at him once before he nodded, gravely, like he was accepting a mission or something. And that was all wrong, just no good at all.
"We... you don't..." What he wanted to say was too big to fit in Naruto's mouth, full of snakes and obligation and the questions inherent after so many missing years. Finally, all that came out was. "...I'm sorry."
Sasuke leaned down and whispered in his ear, a feathery, humid prickle that made Naruto shiver, made him harder, that jerk. "I know what I want, Naruto."
"Nothing happens to me that I don't want," Behind the arrogance was an admission, as close to vulnerable Sasuke would ever let him see. "This isn't about either of them."
Naruto wanted to say shut up. He wanted to say just don't, okay? But then Sasuke was kissing him, had leaned down and kissed him of his own accord, which was maybe his way of saying both those things. Naruto had been racking his brain for weeks trying to figure out how to fix Sasuke, but Sasuke kissed like someone who had quietly and independentally come to his own realizations.
Naruto figured he wasn't a bad kisser or anything, but it wasn't like he'd had much of a chance to practice. Sasuke made a soft little breathy sound when Naruto squeezed his fingers through his hair, and he took that as a good sign. The kiss was getting wetter, looser, and Naruto was muzzily sure he could keep it up forever, but Sasuke's cock was a distracting friction against his hip, as Sasuke jerked and hissed a little with frustration.
"You're so impatient," Naruto complained, but the chastisment was pretty damp as his hand was reaching into the slit of Sasuke's boxers as he said it. Slow was good, slow would probably be better, but Naruto was strung-up with the same urgency Sasuke seemed to be feeling, like they just didn't have the time.
No, no that wasn't it, Naruto realized as Sasuke relaxed, malleable and making a little hitching noise against his chest when Naruto wrapped his fingers around the weight of Sasuke's cock. Time was this big, dazzling thing unfurling outside the confines of this room. This was about getting ready to face it, not pushing it away.
"Wait," Sasuke groaned and then he licked his fingers. Naruto wasn't sure whether he was grossed out or really turned on, but before he could make up his mind, Sasuke insinuated his hand between Naruto's thighs and held his dick, and Naruto was saying, "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck!" as his head thumped back against the pillow.
Sasuke's lip twitched - not really a smirk although it wanted to be. His hair was falling in his eyes sticking to a faint sheen of sweat covered his forehead. He rolled his thumb over the tip of Naruto's cock with all the confidence in the world, but he looked younger than usual, closer to his real age. Their knuckles kept bumping together as Sasuke thrust into his hand.
"Hang... hang on," Naruto gritted out. Sasuke narrowed his eyes for a second, then nodded and started moving down, and Naruto felt himself flush from his hairline to his neck. He yelped, "No!" and grabbed the back of Sasuke's thigh to keep him from going anywhere.
Sasuke looked vaguely disappointed, which was not something he was going to think about. "What then?"
"Just," Naruto said, nudging Sasuke until he repositioned himself on top of Naruto again, the tip of his cock wet now. "I got an idea." He wrapped his hand around the both of them as much as he could. And Sasuke for all his posturing, never dismissed it when Naruto had a good plan, and followed him.
They stayed like that for a long time, rocking and jerking, fumbling and awkward like kids, kissing whenever their mouths brushed together. Naruto couldn't make himself shut up - he kept groaning and moaning and saying Sasuke's name. Sasuke kept making this low noise deep in his throat, and he let his eyes close when he came. He sucked a sore spot on Naruto's neck when Naruto was coming, as Naruto clutched at his shoulderblades and whispered, "Sasuke," one last time, guttural in a way that replaced loud. Naruto's stomach was wet and sticky and Sasuke's breath came harsh and hot against his throat.
Eventually, Sasuke scooted down so he could use Naruto's chest as a pillow again like he had done since the beginning. An exposed position maybe, Naruto thought now, but not an affected one. This was a different kind of deliberate, displaying the curve of your throat to a packmate, not a threat. Neither of them made a move to clean up.
"Naruto," Sasuke said, eventually. Naruto could feel the vibrations of it before he heard the words. "I want to fuck you."
"Man, Sasuke, why do you always gotta be such a show-off?" Naruto whined, and then he was asleep.
The ambassador from the Village of the Mist always came with an entourage of jounin Naruto would make wait out in the hall. It was mostly just to piss him off, but partly because a lot of the bloodlines from the Mist Village had really creepy, really distracting teeth. After the formal greeting was over, Naruto kicked his feet up on his desk and the ambassador glared at them the whole time he was making his petition.
"Yeah..." Naruto said when he was done. "Right now, I'm gonna say no."
"Just... no?" the ambassador asked skeptically, like he wasn't sure Naruto had understood him in the first place. He tended to get that a lot.
"Nope!" Naruto said brightly. He leaned back a little in his chair. "See, what you're saying to me is that it's been a poor harvest and you're asking for a grain loan. But what you're really doing is seeing how nice I am to you and what a threat Konoha would be. I've got scouts in Wind that keep reporting skirmishes between Sand and Mist, and it sure would help you guys if we were trading partners before you got into a war with our allies, huh?"
The ambassador half rose out of his chair with a flare of chakra. "How dare you!" But he stopped, legs quivering with tension, as he held himself as far away as possible from the kunai pressed against his throat.
Naruto swung his feet back around under him, nodding in acknowledgment to the Anbu. "It's okay, Sasuke."
Sasuke turned to him. Naruto could just see the disapproval radiating from underneath the fox mask, but Sasuke melted back to his station behind Naruto's chair without a word.
"You didn't let me finish," he said to the ambassador, who looked pretty pale. "Because the thing is, you do have people starving in your village and that's not right. So how about this: you open up negotiations with Sand first. I'll talk to Gaara. And if you guys come to an agreement, I'll double whatever they send in aid, okay?"
"You shouldn't be so forward," Sasuke said the minute the ambassador left, like Naruto knew he invariably would. He pushed up his mask and crossed his arms, which never helped his argument because it made him look really hot. "One day you're going to get yourself in real trouble. It's amazing you've survived so long, you're such a bad diplomat."
"Hey, that's what I got you for," Naruto said. "Come here."
Sasuke squinted warily. "Why?"
"I wanna kiss you."
"You," Sasuke grumbled. "Are such a moron." But he came anyway.