Chapter 1: When It Rains
Naruto let him go.
The moron spent –what? Four, five, six- years chasing after him. And then he let Sasuke leave. Just like that. No yelling, not a single word of protest, not even the threat of a fight.
It was for the best. The terrain around Konoha couldn’t handle another epic battle between two over-powered god-like shinobi.
So, what was this feeling? It followed him everywhere for weeks. Sasuke couldn’t name it. He couldn’t see or process this- this dark shape hovering in his periphery.
He was… Bothered? Yes. And empty, but hopeful. Expectant… Frustrated? Like he thought he would sneeze, but it never came, so he just sat there gasping like an idiot.
Yeah. That’s as close as he can get to explaining that... Whatever.
Sasuke walked until he couldn’t walk anymore. He paid no heed to the scenery or direction. The constant overcast darkened to a drizzle, which exploded to a torrid downpour. He set up camp in a cave to wait it out. As he waited, Sasuke read, meditated, ate some dried meat, and thought.
There was a lot to think about.
The headband, for instance.
He traced the scar that cut horizontally across the dull steel surface, bisecting Konoha’s beloved symbol. A pang of sweet-sharp pain zinged through his chest. Sasuke clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, and leaned back onto the rough, rocky wall.
Warm, wet, bright. It hurt. It hurt so much. His hand inside his best (first, last, only) friend. Naruto bled. Naruto cried, screamed, and begged. He was hurt. Sasuke hurt him, damn near killed him and for what?
Nothing. The world without that light would be dull, dark and meaningless. That’s why he gladly offered his own life the first time, ‘failed’ to kill him the next, and eventually surrendered.
Deep breath. He wiped a stray drop of moisture- probably rain brought in by a gust of wind- and opened his eyes.
“Hi ya, Sasuke-bastard.”
So… He either fell asleep, or was seeing things.
“Your eyes don’t deceive you,” the Naruto-like apparition grinned, “It’s really me.”
That’s exactly what his subconscious would say. Sasuke closed his eyes and willed the hallucination to vanish.
“Oy, don’t ignore me, asshole. You haven’t seen your best friend in forever and this is how you treat him?”
Sasuke should be embarrassed. He spent so much time obsessing about that idiot (‘until things between us are resolved’) that his mind created this… Irritating imitation.
Why? Sasuke harbored no delusions about his tenuous grip on reality. Madness runs in the family. Maybe he finally snapped.
Still… Could it be possible?
The Uchiha reached out to touch the orange-clad figment of his imagination. He drew back when his hand came in contact with something solid instead of simply passing through.
“Heh,” the blond caught Sasuke’s fingers and gave them a firm, reassuring squeeze, “The one and only.”
An ironic declaration from a guy known for the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. At any given point in time, there could be several thousand Narutos scattered from here to Suna, loudly proclaiming their uniqueness.
“You’re really here.”
“Well, yeah. Would it kill you to crack a smile? At least pretend you’re happy to see me.”
“How did you find me?”
“Uh.” Naruto’s gaze flickered to the headband in Sasuke’s hand. The Uchiha clenched his fingers around it, feeling exposed. He didn’t want that idiot jumping to conclusions.
“The mark,” Sasuke said before the silence became awkward, “of course.” The Sage’s marks still connected them. Naruto probably used it to track him.
“Yeah, that!” he rubbed the back of his neck, “Totally, totally the hand-tattoo… Thing. It lead me right to ya!”
Sasuke’s eyes narrowed. The idiot was clearly hiding something.
“But there’s no way you could…”
“Catch up?” Naruto finished, almost reading his mind, “Didn’t you say the same thing when we were kids? ‘Hn dobe, like you’d ever catch up to me.’ And yet here I am.”
“I just missed you, ya know.”
“Don’t say such shameless things, usuratonkachi.”
“Any you totally missed me too.”
“Anyway, I thought you were sleeping, so I didn’t want to wake you up or anything but… Um… You look like you were crying or…” Sasuke glared. “Probably got something in your eye. Right. So. Hi.”
“You already said that.”
“You’re not gonna make this easy for me, are ya!?”
“Make what easy for you?”
“Uh. Just… Being with you.”
Sasuke raised an eyebrow.
“On your travels, I mean. I’m coming with you, Sasuke.”
“It wasn’t a question.”
“Go home. You belong in Konoha. You were training to be hokage.”
“Oh yeah, about that.”
Naruto told him the story.
Well, it wasn’t so much a story as it was two hours of continuous whining.
“… so boring, ya know. It’s just a lot of reading and signing stacks on stacks on stacks of documents, like what the fuck? Kakashi-sensei said it was only the tip of the iceberg, which got me thinking, you remember that mission we had in Snow Country? With that actress? Shit, she was hot. Anyway, the tip of the iceberg- the part you can see- is a lot smaller than the whole thing. Like, whoa, I did not sign up for that crap, ya know.”
“So I said, I said keep the job, leave it, give it to whoever ya want as long as it’s not me. Turns out I wasn’t even the first in line. Sakura-chan, of all people, was their number one choice.”
She was Tsunade’s apprentice, and an intelligent, capable kunoichi in her own right. Her insipid crush on Sasuke… Well, in light of everything, he could forgive her for it.
“Yeah. I guess so. Anyways, I was never…”
“Never in Konoha for long when, uh, when you weren’t there too. Hadn’t thought about it before, but somehow, the whole place feels…” he coughed “anyway, I’m here now. Lead the way!”
“Yeah, yeah, ya prissy bastard. It’s raining. Guess we’ll have to wait it out.”
Naruto shifted, leaning on the cave wall next to Sasuke. Their shoulders touched. That single point of contact warmed Sasuke to the bone.
I didn’t even realize I was cold.
“I’m gonna take a nap,” Naruto announced suddenly, “hope you don’t mind.”
What a loser. “Why would I mind if you- oy, what are you doing, idiot?”
The blond laid flat on the ground, resting his head on Sasuke’s thigh as if it was normal.
“I told you,” said idiot yawned, “’m taking a nap. Wake me up when it stops raining.”
Sasuke should have objected. Pushed him off, pushed him away, called him names, told him to go back home, something.
Instead, he moved his hand –his only hand- to rest gently on the other boys head. Long, pale fingers moved through soft yellow hair, untangling small knots and feeling the warmth underneath.
Naruto hummed softly and drifted off to sleep.
Some time later- he didn’t know how long- it hit him. Sasuke shifted, careful not to move his sleeping moron. The forehead protector. He activated his sharingan, smirking when he found it: a teleportation seal.
So, he thought, I was wrong. You didn’t let me go.
For the first time in his life, Sasuke felt free.
Like, a lot. His eyes- well, technically just eye, what with the rinnegan and his bangs and okay back on topic- glazed over as they alternated between looking at the right side of Naruto’s chest and his bandaged arm.
“Sasuke, you’re doing it again.”
The Uchiha blinked, shook his head, and returned to skinning the rabbit. The bastard always insisted on setting up camp, doing all the hunting and cooking, taking first watch, yatta yatta, chores really suck balls, every single night.
At first Naruto thought Sasuke did it to be an ass. Like it was his way of saying ‘Tch. Idiot. You can’t be trusted to do anything right.’ Sure, it was annoying, but it also made him pretty nostalgic. He remembered cute little genin Sasuke- okay, so the bastard’s still technically a genin, but he’s definitely not twelve anymore- with his puffy arm warmers and permanent scowl (pout). Damn, he missed those days.
But there wasn’t a trace of that signature Uchiha arrogance in Sasuke’s actions. This made Naruto wonder if the jerk was actually trying to be… Nice. And yeah, that’s what it was, but why? Sasuke wasn’t nice for no reason, not unless he was dealing with stray cats or homeless war orphans.
And why did he keep looking at Naruto like that, at the right side his chest, the place where-
No, that wouldn’t do.
“If it’s not one thing,” Naruto grumbled, “it’s the other. Damn it.”
“What are you on about, dobe?”
“I’m tired of this shit. Give me the rabbit, teme.” The blond snatched the animal carcass from his rival and set to work.
They ate dinner in silence. The silence lingered into the next morning. It grew awkward, heavy, and unbearably boring. Not that Sasuke seemed to notice.
Clouds gathered, thickened, and rumbled. A faint flicker of lightning rippled in the distance. Naruto frowned.
It’s going to rain again.
He hated rain. It reminded him too much of that day all those years ago. Ya know, the day Sasuke tried to- Shit. Naruto stopped walking and glared at the sky. He took a deep breath. Here it goes. No use putting it off anymore.
“Hn.” The bastard halted a few paces away.
When’s the last time you looked me in the eye? Naruto sucked the inside of his cheek to distract from the burning pain in his chest. “Why’d you leave the village?” He asked instead.
Sasuke walked (sauntered) to a nearby tree. He leaned back on it, crossing his arms in his signature ‘cool guy’ pose. “Which time.”
“Hardy-har, smartass. Answer the damn question.”
I’m talking about the most recent one. Don’t play dumb.
“I already told you.”
“Yeah, well. I’ve given it a lot of thought-“ Sasuke raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. Naruto fought the urge to punch that perfect Uchiha nose and settled for a “-shut up, bastard. Make your predictable jabs at my intelligence later, kay?” This comment earned him a genuine look of surprise. Which was even more insulting, but he had to stop getting distracted, damn it!
Naruto huffed, took a deep breath, and continued, “Anyways, that whole thing you said about redemption and trying things my way or whatever- most of it was a steaming load of shit. Dunno why it took me so long to figure it out,” Sauske smirked a little at this, “I said, shut up asshole- but oh, actually, it’s because the best lies always have a nugget of truth. That’s what Kaka-sensei said. You were always a good liar.”
“I’m a ninja,” Sasuke shrugged, “What’s your point?”
Naruto laced his fingers behind his head. He squinted at the a lone bird flying overhead. “You called this a journey of redemption, but… What exactly are you trying to make up for?”
For, like, the billionth time, Sasuke’s eye flickered down to the right side of Naruto’s chest and then to his bandaged arm.
That’s when Sasuke knew that Naruto knew, and from the way the Uchiha started walking away, Naruto knew that Sasuke knew he knew- wait, is that- augh, not important!
The Uchiha walked faster with his eyes fixed on the ground. “It’s going to rain again and the next town is-“
Suddenly, Naruto was in front of him (fuck yeah, teleportation!) holding him firmly by the shoulders and giving him That Look. The trademark Uzumaki glare of stubborn determination. He could see Sasuke debate internally, on whether or not he should fight it but the last time that happened, well.
(It’s my loss.)
Naruto took Sasuke’s hand. He brought it to his chest, pressing it against the fabric of his blazer.
“Feel that? See, it’s fine. No scar, nothing, almost like you,” he swallowed and cleared his throat, “it uh, never happened.”
By ‘it,’ he was referring to the fist-sized hole from their first fight at the valley.
Sasuke pursed his lips. He removed his hand from under Naruto’s, moving it to the zipper at the blond’s throat. Pulled it halfway down, then slid his hand under the fabric and pressed firmly against that place. Something like lightning (chidori) zinged through Naruto’s flesh at the point of contact, making his heart race. He shivered.
Sasuke made to pull away but Naruto tightened his grip. “And the new arm?” He chuckled a little breathlessly. “Even better than the old one, I swear. It never gets tired or sore or anything. You should give it a shot.”
“I’m sorry Naruto, I should have apologized before.”
I can’t bear to see that look on your face.
“Shut up,” he growled, taking a half-step forward.
“You should hate me,” the Uchiha breathed.
Look at me, damn it!
“You should forgive yourself,” Naruto countered.
“Bastard, I told you. I told you how I feel when you take stuff on and get messed up for no good reason and then try to-“ aha! An epiphany “-to punish yourself by being all alone when- when- damn it, Sasuke! Just let it go, will ya? Who cares? You did some stupid shit. Big deal, you were a teenager-”
“I’m still a teenager, idiot.”
“-and yeah, you hurt me. And a lot of other people. But you also saved the world. Ever think of that, genius? Also, you almost died saving my life way before you pretended to want to kill me.”
“C’mon,” Naruto forced a grin, “if you really wanted me dead, I would’ve died ten times over by now.”
“Don’t flatter me, dumbass.”
“That wasn’t a compliment, asswipe. Stop trying to distract me.”
“Like I have to try, usuratonkachi.”
“Shut up, bastard. Anyways, if that’s what this journey is about-“ hurting me, Sasuke feels guilty for hurting me that one stupid time all those years ago “-and don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast- but- but…”
Naruto really didn’t know where he was going with that sentence. He had something he wanted to say. This burning, electric feeling jolted through his chest, in his stomach, but especially the place on his chest where Sasuke’s hand still was. When words failed him –which is pretty much all the time- actions always seem to do the trick. So, Naruto inched forward a little more.
“Naruto…” Sasuke tried to move away.
Stop running from me.
Naruto tightened his grip, then leaned forward until their foreheads touched. Well, the leaf symbol on Naruto’s forehead protector rested against Sasuke’s skin. It was oddly fitting.
After all, Konoha was the thing that brought them together, even as it kept them apart.
Naruto blinked. His eyes struggled to focus on Sasuke’s clear, black iris. They were so close- maybe two inches apart, and Sauske was actually letting him- Shit. Shit, he couldn’t hold back anymore. Here goes nothing.
“Sasuke, I-“ A sharp, cold prickle stung his neck. “You know I’m in-” a few more raindrops fell in rapid succession. Damn it!
“See, what did I tell you?” The Uchiha took advantage of the distraction, shaking Naruto’s grip and turning on his heels. “We have to get moving.” He pulled up the hood on his cape and resumed a brisk pace. “Slow down, bastard! Are you that scared of getting a little wet?”
“What the fuck’s-“
“Just try to keep up, dead-last.” And then, the asshole started running. Of course he did- Sasuke made everything more difficult than it had to be.
Naruto was cold for all the wrong reasons. He zipped up his blazer and, as he’d been doing for most of his life, went after Sasuke.
Thanks so much for the kudos/reviews (esp the reviews because fun fact: reviews are like crack mixed with meth, heroin, and coco puffs for us fanfic writers and they are the BEST way to motivate lazy-ass writers like yours truly, ANYWAYS) you guys are the best.
As you've noticed, this fic updates infrequently. There's maybe one or two chapters to go. Pls tell me if anything's confusing.
In case it wasn't clear: Naruto realizes that the real reason Sasuke left the village was, indeed, for a journey of redemption. BUT Sasuke is trying to redeem himself for hurting Naruto all those times- especially that first fight in the valley when they were thirteen.
Headcanon: Sasuke constantly blames/punishes himself for shit that's not really his fault. His self-isolation throughout the series is one way his self-hatred manifests.
Naruto deals with his own self-hate the polar opposite way: by trying to connect with others so that their approval/attention/WHATEVER fills the void where his own self-esteem(self-love) should be.
Because obvs they have to be polar opposites in every way.
So yeah hope that checks out!