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Cultivate Your Hunger

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You still are blind, if you see a winding road

'cause there is always a straight way to the point you see

Don't try to live so wise

Don't cry 'cause you're so right

Don't dry with fakes or fears

'cause you will hate yourself in the end”

 

 

 

When Kakashi and Sakura find them, they are both unconscious.

 

Sakura healed them like it was nothing.

He could barely feel the pain of the lost arm.

Something wriggled in the back of his mind. Telling him there was something not quite right with that.

He just brushed it aside.

 

Sakura stabilizes them, closes their wounds as best as she can.

Then she prays.

 

Survival.

That was their priority for a long time there.

Then, regrouping. Rebuilding. Remembering.

Countless names carved into the Memorial. Kakashi's face carved into the Hokage Monument. New houses, old home. Some strangers decided to stay.

Their dead were buried and mourned. Then life moved on, as it always did.

Routine reigned. Missions and exams. Chuunin, jounin. New gennin, new sensei. Children growing up. Elders growing older.

New perspectives. Settling down, living something more than war and worry. Survival was a given now.

 

They are stable, but in a coma.

Sakura does all she can, but it doesn't quite seem enough.

“Patience,” Shizune says, “These things take time.”

 

Theirs had been an after-war generation. Conceived in passion and relief and a gratefulness for being alive. Holding on to all you had. Fucking instead of fighting for the first time in years. Their parents had fought for the peace their children grew up in.

Once more, history repeats itself.

Weddings and pregnancies. Or pregnancies and then weddings. No weddings, in some cases.

His own parents had never gotten married. Sasuke and Sakura never did.

 

After six days, Sasuke wakes up.

Naruto doesn't.

 

After he had completed his first task of killing Itachi, Sasuke had returned to Konoha. He left again, once his second agenda was fulfilled. Reviving the Uchiha clan.

Little Sarada was an Uchiha in blood and name and face, but not in family. Sakura raised her alone.

Yet Sasuke was not the only one who failed at being a husband and father.

 

“There must be something we can do,” Sakura insists, “Maybe Ino can get through to him. Or Kakashi-sensei-”

Tsunade only shakes her head.

“His body is not used to being without the Kyuubi,” she theorizes, “His mind just closed down.”

 

Hinata was a good wife. Tender, supportive.

Her Hyuuga lineage offered him additional prestige in the eyes of the clans, backing him up in front of the council.

He needn't have married her for that, he knew. He had the Inuzuka, Yamanaka, Nara, Akemichi and Aburame vouching for him. He had the support of all current and several former Kage. He'd been trained by the best and brightest.

But there were expectations of a man in his position. He knew all too well how often people commented on Tsunade never remarrying and Kakashi staying a bachelor for life. People preferred a leader like the Sandaime who went for walks with his little grandchild instead of a gambling Godaime or a porn-reading Rokudaime.

It was all about reputation. He was not a prankster anymore, not a child.

Sometimes he wondered whether Hinata still loved him. Then he remembered that it didn't really matter.

 

Hinata startles when she steps into the hospital room, not having expected any other visitors.

“Sasuke-kun,” she greets, inclining her head slightly. She's never much spoken with him even before he turned traitor. A conversation at Naruto's bedside seems unfortunate, but he only nods his head in a simple greeting.

She indicates the bouquet in her arms before hesitantly stepping closer and replacing the not quite withered flowers on the small bedside table.

“Sunflowers,” she says with a small smile, “His favorites.”

Only then does she notice the bowl of take-out ramen next to the vase.

It's from Ichiraku. His other favorite, she knows.

And they both know it's stupid and sentimental because Naruto probably cannot really smell the dish or the flowers, but then again, the gesture is more for their own conscience than for his anyway.

 

Himawari was her mother through and through. Bolt was all him, as everyone felt the need to point out.

I know, he wanted to yell every time, I know I was a punk and a prankster. I know everyone got annoyed with me. I know my father was never around either because his duties as Hokage had come first.

And he loved his children, he did. He still never quite figured out how to show them.

 

“It's my fault,” Sasuke says and Kakashi doesn't bother to tell him otherwise, “It's my fault he's like this. If I'd given in only a little bit earlier, he'd be awake. He'd be whole.”

Kakashi closes his eyes, the corners of his mouth pulling down. Kage were generally chosen in the prime of their life, when the were at the apex of their power. He has never felt older.

“Do you think I don't tell myself the same thing all the time?” he asks and he doesn't need a Sharingan for his mind to replay all the faces of everyone he has ever failed.

“If I had realized just how deep your thirst for revenge was. If I had stopped you in time. If I had never let him get so attached to you,” he takes a shuddering breath, “Sometimes I wonder... if the Sandaime and Jiraiya-dono and even me... if we had only bothered to take care of this little orphan boy, maybe he'd never have felt the need to go after you.”

The blame rests heavy on him, always. It never lightens with time, but it does become familiar. Acceptable.

“But then I remember,” he adds and Sasuke lifts his head just a bit, curiosity and hope.

“I remember that he is Naruto,” Kakashi points out gently, “And that nothing can really stop him.”

 

This was the most important day of his life. This was what he had been dreaming of since he learned to walk.

Everything he ever did – all the training, the pain, the sacrifices – was meant to carry him towards this specific moment.

He should have been happy.

He was not.

He didn't even realize it at first. When he stood in front of the people and accepted his new office, he felt pride and accomplishment. He felt acknowledged, though in an abstract way he knew that he'd had that long before he was given the title.

It was only when the new addition to the Hokage Monument was revealed and he stared up at his own stern, unsmiling face that it occurred to him that this was how the people saw him.

I used to be different, he remembered vaguely and tried to think of the old times, but instead of a smile that only put a deeper frown on his mouth.

People change, he told himself, I have grown up. This is all I ever wanted.

He did not recognize it as denial.

 

“It's ironic, isn't it?” Sakura comments when she finds Sasuke in Naruto's room – still or again, it doesn't really matter.

Sasuke doesn't say anything for a moment, refusing to look at her. Then, “What is?”

“That he tried so damn hard to bring you back, and now that you are here, he might never even know it,” she elaborates, and the combination of her words and her poisonous tone are enough to make him flinch a little.

“That's why I'm sitting here,” he grits out, “Ino said he might feel my presence. That it would help him.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” Sakura hisses and leaves again.

 

When he was little, he always wanted a family. Of course he did, every orphan does. But he wanted parents and siblings and a grandfather like the Sandaime. He used to imagine that a barren couple would adopt him, that he and his twin had been separated at birth, only to be reunited many years later. He dreamed his mother had been searching for him and finally found him, or that Iruka-sensei would offer him his spare room.

He'd never really thought about having children of his own, always too strung up in the Now to waste much thought on an uncertain future.

But looking back he thought he would have imagined it differently. Would have thought that him and his friends would raise their children together, that they would become one big family, like what he had hoped the village would be to him as Hokage.

Instead Chouchou, Inojin and Shikadai were close by default while Bolt never even mentioned Sarada. Naruto only knew they were in the same class because Shino hinted at it in a conversation with Hinata.

Why don't you invite Sarada-chan sometime?” he told his son the next time he made it to dinner, “You can train together or play or something.”

Bolt only gave him a weird look.

Why? It's not like we are friends or something,” Bolt grumbled into his rice.

But I happen to be friends with her parents,” Naruto pointed out and Bolt's look turned even more annoyed.

Then you invite them,” he huffed and didn't look at him for the rest of the meal.

I will,” Naruto promised, absently noting how Hinata didn't say anything on the subject.

It was only two weeks later that Naruto happened to run into Sakura, and half a day after that that it even occurred to him that he had forgotten to extend the invitation. But Sakura had seemed busy anyway, and he knew he himself was, so he didn't let it bother him and refocused on organizing the Five Kage Summit.

 

“It's not gonna be easy,” Shikamaru warns, legs crossed and cheek resting on his propped-up hand, elbow on his knee, gaze flickering up from the Go board between them and up to Sasuke's face.

Sasuke is still contemplating his next move and doesn't return the look.

“I noticed,” he says instead, hand reaching out to hover over a piece before pulling back.

Hesitance can save lives, Shikamaru knows, but also waste them. He'd expected Sasuke to be a better player, more decisive. For years Shikamaru has known him to favor quick attacks or at least strategic retreat. This uncertainty does not suit him.

“Kakashi will have your back,” Shikamaru muses, scratching the side of his nose, “Can't speak for anyone else, though.”

“I'm not asking for forgiveness,” Sasuke snorts and at least this passive-aggressive bullshit is nothing new.

“But you're asking for a second chance,” Shikamaru reminds him, “Use it wisely.”

“Planning on it,” Sasuke replies and it sounds slightly forced. Still, he doesn't make a move.

The game sits seemingly at stalemate, though Shikamaru can seen dozens of ways out. Ways for Sasuke to win. He would not appreciate if Shikamaru pointed them out to him, though.

So Sasuke doesn't move anything on the board, and Naruto doesn't move in his bed, and Shikamaru turns his head to watch the clouds outside passing by.

 

Shikamaru followed him around, tense and stern and capable. He'd been planning to meet with Chouji and Ino to train their children, as their parents had before. An important tradition.

Naruto had reminded him that today the Kage Summit was their priority. So Shikamaru had stayed without complaint and Naruto didn't let it bother him.

He was sorting out some last minute paper work, when Moegi and Udon stormed in to inform him of his son's newest prank.

When he had Bolt down on the ground once more, Konohamaru was furious and Iruka-sensei was making excuses.

Naruto remembered defacing the Monument himself. Like Iruka he had done so to get attention from someone, anyone at all. Konohamaru and Bolt, though, had always had loving mothers at home and had only acted out against the fact that they felt inadequate in comparison to their Hogake family members.

You already have more than I ever dared dream of when I was your age, Naruto railed silently at his son.

Ungrateful pissant, he added but wasn't sure who it was meant for.

 

“Naruto and I always had a few things in common,” Iruka-sensei is saying and there is something about his mild-mannered tone that throws Sasuke back to his academy days.

“We both lost our parents during the Kyuubi attack,” Iruka keeps explaining, his hand lightly resting on Naruto's, “We were all alone and would have done anything to get some attention.”

He's silent for a moment and Sasuke doesn't want to push him, but he's getting vaguely annoyed by people coming in here and telling him their stories or giving him life advice.

“You probably don't know this,” Iruka continues and there is a mirthless smile on his lips, “But when Naruto first found out about being a jinjuuriki it was because of Mizuki-sensei. Do you remember him?”

Sasuke has to think for a moment, before a face pops up in his mind. Mizuki had been another teacher at the academy, good-natured and quick to laugh where Iruka was often strict and irritable, at least when in class. He'd been a chuunin and wholly unremarkable. After graduation, Sasuke had never seen him again.

“He used to be my friend,” Iruka says now, his gaze a little absent, “I thought I knew him. And then he turns out to be a traitor. Uses Naruto to get what he wants. Tries to kill him. Almost kills me.”

Iruka is swallowing repeatedly as if he isn't sure which words to let out.

“When you deserted, I wanted to tell Naruto that that's how life is sometimes,” he says finally, “That you had chosen your path and that Naruto had to keep going, otherwise he would stray from his own. He never did, though. He followed you and chased you around and he still accomplished so much.”

Iruka laughs lightly, “If he were to wake up right now and we'd tell him Kakashi changed his mind, Naruto can become the new Hokage right this instant – he wouldn't even care. He'd still only have eyes for you, to make sure that you're not just a figment of his imagination.

“It sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it?” the smile dims a little, “Is he caught in a dream right now because he thinks it's better than reality? Or is there just something that his subconscious still needs to figure out?”

Sasuke licks his lips, “What makes you think he's caught in a dream?”

But Iruka only cocks an eyebrow at him, “You think he drags you back and willingly misses out on gloating? No, there's something going on in his head. And let's be honest, unlike you, he was never the quickest thinker.”

Iruka excuses himself a few minutes later and Sasuke is left to wonder how readable his own expressions must have become. Then again, he's barely left this room during the past few weeks, so maybe it's all rather obvious anyway.

He takes the chair that is still warm from when Iruka sat on it. Naruto's hand is warm as well, but that has less to do with Iruka, but more with the fact that there is still undeniably life in the stupid idiot.

 

It'd had been a long day. The other Kage had already excused themselves for the night. Only Gaara was still left.

He had a calculating look on his face, though he didn't say anything yet, so Naruto ignored it for the moment.

They were standing on the balcony of his office, the night air cool and pleasant. The view on the Monument was quite stunning. The graffiti had been washed away, though there was no way Bolt removed it all by himself. Naruto would have to think of a proper punishment later on. Hinata was always too lenient when it came to such matters.

Your first Summit,” Gaara commented in that moment, voice pleasantly bland, “A success, I should think.”

We've all worked hard for it,” Naruto agreed, earning him another measuring look from the corner of Gaara's eyes.

I'd like to say the title suits you,” the Kazekage said, “But I'm afraid you look rather... tense.”

I wanted everything to go smoothly today,” Naruto waved him off, “I had to leave a good impression.”

You already impressed us many years ago,” Gaara pointed out, “There's no need to show off or worry about exposing supposed weaknesses.”

Naruto wanted to argue, but only inclined his head a little bit, “As you say.”

Gaara turned towards him, staring for a moment longer.

The day is done,” he observed, “Yet you are still tense. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Naruto grinned a little, “Host the next Summit perhaps? That would take a load off my hands.”

I was thinking about something more... immediate,” Gaara said, his voice low, and Naruto glanced at him in mild confusion, “What do you-?”

But then Gaara had already gently pushed him against the railing of the balcony, hands on either side of Naruto, and slotting their hips together.

Something more intimate,” Gaara clarified and his breath was on Naruto's mouth and then it was his lips and Naruto clenched his eyes shut, though his mouth unconsciously opened for the invading tongue.

Gaara smelled like sand and sun and clean sweat, and his chest was a hard, lean plane against Naruto's, and there was something about that, something terrifying and arousing, and Naruto had never kissed another man, but-

No, that was a lie. His first kiss. His very first, which couldn't even be counted as a kiss at all, but still, he always had.

He pushed Gaara away.

We shouldn't,” he said, his voice rougher and more aggressive than he intended, yet Gaara only gave him a questioning look, utterly unperturbed.

Why not?”

We are both Kage,” Naruto bared his teeth, “This would only lead to dangerous complications. Do you want to risk that?”

No,” there was a mysterious smile on Gaara's pale lips, “I also wouldn't want to threaten your marriage.”

A cold shiver ran down Naruto's spine because he hadn't even thought of Hinata or their children and what they deserved, and he had a feeling that that was exactly why Gaara had done it.

Good night, Hokage-sama,” Gaara told him, stepping back into the office, leaving Naruto to wonder what the hell had just happened.

 

“I used to be in love with him, you know,” Sakura says.

It's the first time she's spoken to him since her accusations and the air is tense around them. But Sakura's gaze on Naruto is tender and she seems to be in a forgiving mood today.

“I mean, I was crushing on you so hard, for years and years,” she continues, “And I don't think that will ever fully go away. But you... you were make-belief. Everything I ever imagined you doing, training with me and giving me compliments and taking me out for dinner and asking about my day – Naruto did all that. When he returned from training with Jiraiya-sama, I was floored. There was this gorgeous, funny boy who'd tried to lay the world at my feet while I had kept walking all over him.”

She laughs a little and shakes her head, “There were so many times I thought, Next time I'm gonna kiss him. Next time I'll tell him. There never was a next time, though. I had stopped obsessing over you, and he had stopped obsessing over me. Stupid, really.

“He showed me my worth. He fought my fights before I was able to,” her head lowered and Sasuke could tell she was holding back her tears, “He's always been fighting. Since the moment he was born. No one ever gives him a break.”

She's wiping at her eyes then, furiously, futilely, “I just wanted us to be happy. I thought, if you were back we'd all be happy together. Now you're here and it feels like I just exchanged you for him. I don't want to lose my best friend.”

“It's only been ten weeks,” Sasuke tries to be reasonable, though his throat tightens, “Tsunade-sama said as long as there's still brain activity-”

“Yes, thanks, I'm a medic myself,” Sakura cuts him off, but then her sobs take over, “I'm a medic myself. I trained to save people, not to watch them waste away.”

Tentatively, Sasuke steps up behind her and lays a hand on her quivering shoulder. She winces at the touch, but doesn't pull away.

It takes a few minutes until she manages to pull herself back together.

“If he- when he wakes up,” she says, determination in her trembling voice, “You're gonna do what I never dared to.”

“And that would be?”

The glare she sends him is suffused with tears, but still remarkably intimidating, “If you weren't listening to anything I just said, I'm going to smash your skull in.”

“No,” he says, nodding quickly, “I think I know what you meant.”

 

Once back in his office, he dismissed the ANBU guards outside the door, glad that they weren't prone to gossip. Even if they had witnessed Gaara kissing him there wouldn't be going any rumors going around by the morrow.

He shrugged out of his outer robe and ran a hand over his face, feeling terribly exhausted and disoriented all of a sudden. With a tired gaze he eyed the small sofa in the corner, wondering whether sleeping here would make him feel better or worse about the whole thing. He slept in his office often enough. Hinata wouldn't even question it.

When they had started going out, she had told him how he had taught her to stand up for herself. Years of being married to him had turned her into a meek, complacent housewife.

Maybe he should take some more time off in the future, spend it with his family. Himawari would soon be enrolled in the Academy and she didn't even feel like a person to him yet. More like an abstract concept, like when Hinata had come home with the first ultrasound.

There was a breeze coming in and he turned around with a small shiver, planning to close the balcony door and then just go to sleep, guilty conscience be damned.

But there was something in the way. Someone.

Dobe,” Sasuke said, jutting his chin forward in a familiarly arrogant manner.

He looked older, part of Naruto noted. His jaw stronger and his his features sharper. He resembled the pictures Naruto had seen of Uchiha Fugaku. That hadn't been there in their youth.

Naruto himself had always favored his father, even if for the longest time he had never even known who his father was. He wondered whether looking in a mirror hurt Sasuke as much nowadays as it hurt Naruto.

There were other things he wanted to ask. He hadn't seen Sasuke in over four years now after all. So he asked the most obvious question.

What are you doing here?”

Hn,” Sasuke peered down along his nose at him, “I think I should be asking you that.”

Naruto frowned, feeling annoyed, “This is my office, asshat. And you entering without permission is actually a security breach.”

Your security sucks,” Sasuke huffed, “And that's not what I'm talking about. What were you doing outside with our dearly beloved Kazekage?”

To his own relief, Naruto only flushed a little.

Nothing,” he ground out, “A momentary lapse of judgment on Gaara's part.”

Is that what you would tell your wife?” Sasuke wondered aloud, still managing to dig his fingers into Naruto's wounds, even after all this time.

You're one to talk,” Naruto clenched his fist, “How about you go visit Sakura from time to time instead of invading my office just to annoy me?”

I'm not married to Sakura,” Sasuke reminded him, “We owe each other nothing.”

But you owe your daughter your presence in her life, instead of treating her like some sort of status symbol as the heir of Uchiha.”

Oh? Do you live by the same principle when it comes to your own offspring?” Sasuke chuckled, “I told Sakura what I wanted and she gave it to me. No promises, no expectations. We can live our lives the way we want, walk different paths, take other lovers. What about you, Hokage-sama?”

I am just that,” Naruto hissed, “Hokage. And you would do well to treat me as such. Just because we used to be friends-”

Used to?” Sasuke stepped closer, “We still were, last time I checked. What has changed, I wonder?”

It would be easier to stay friends if you didn't run off for years every damn time I turn my back!”

Maybe you shouldn't turn your back then,” Sasuke adviced.

Oh, fuck off,” Naruto resisted the urge to roll his eyes, starting to tug his shirt over his head, “There's the door. If you want to have a proper conversation, come back in the morning. I'm too tired for this.”

He threw his shirt to the side, walking up to the couch and intending to sleep, whether Sasuke stayed or not. Suddenly, though, Sasuke was directly behind him, arms closing around his upper body and pulling him flush against Sasuke's chest. Unwillingly, Naruto was reminded of what Gaara had done before.

I said don't turn your back on me,” Sasuke warned, his breath humid against the shell of Naruto's ear.

Naruto swallowed hard. “Let me go at once. This can be considered as a direct attack on-”

Is that what you do now? Cry for ANBU over every little thing?” Sasuke mocked, “I believe I preferred your old nindo.”

What would you know about nindo?” Naruto growled, though it got stuck in his throat when Sasuke's grip tightened.

Not much, I admit,” Sasuke's voice was husky and left Naruto breathless for some reason.

Hinata didn't talk much in bed, aside from keening his name and whispering her love against his shoulders. He himself preferred to stay quiet, biting her neck or a pillow when undue sounds or words threatened to emerge.

But I know that your former nindo would have included taking care of your family,” Sasuke continued, unaware of the thoughts going on in Naruto's head, “Instead of imagining how if would feel for me to fuck you.”

Naruto tensed in his rough embrace then, lashing out with elbows and smashing his head back, hoping to bash Sasuke's arrogant nose in.

Sasuke let go easily enough, lifting his hands and taking a step back with an easy smirk as Naruto whirled around to face him.

Stop talking shit,” Naruto told him, “And just leave me the hell alone.”

Don't act like I don't know what happened,” Sasuke was still smirking, but it seemed strained now. Pained.

The moment Sakura was pregnant, you ran off and proposed to the Hyuuga girl,” his upper lip pulled back in a sneer, “I didn't even have time-”

Time to what?” Naruto cut him off angrily, “Time to use Sakura-chan as an incubator and then what? Fuck me over as well?”

But Sasuke only shook his head ruefully, “We could have been good together.”

We were never good together,” Naruto hissed, “We were violent and vindictive. We would have self-destructed the moment we-”

He broke off then, swallowing the words as if he were afraid to speak them out loud, but the silence hung between them like a life line, and Sasuke grabbed a hold of it to pull himself closer again.

The moment we did what exactly?” Sasuke's eyes narrowed, his voice a mere whisper now, but still with a sharp edge to it, “The moment we fucked? The moment we acknowledged that... thing between us and gave it a name?”

He was close now, much too close, and Naruto still couldn't back away.

The moment we kissed?” Sasuke asked and then his lips were on Naruto's, just a wet drag, somehow chaste, but dirty as well. He pulled away after that, only to curl his fingers into hair at the nape of Naruto's neck, placing his palm against the gentle curve of his skull.

It was his right hand, Naruto realized vaguely. His good hand. The one that still had a pulse.

See?” Sasuke breathed, “No self-destruction. Still whole. Well. For the most part.”

And his other hand grabbed Naruto's prosthesis then, tangling their fingers together.

You can't just waltz in here and screw everything up,” Naruto ground out, trying to control his breathing as his eyes clenched shut, “I worked hard for this.”

No,” Sasuke disagreed, “You worked hard on bringing me back. Becoming Hokage was just an afterthought.”

You're so full of yourself,” Naruto twisted his head to the side, staring at the bleak wall of his office, “I wanted to be Hokage before I even knew you existed.”

And if I left now to never return, what would you do?” Sasuke pried curiously, “Would you stay here and reign a just and kind ruler? Or would you search the whole wide world just to find me?”

You've been gone for years without me coming to look,” Naruto spat out, hoping to hurt, “What do you think?”

I think we've been lying to ourselves for too long,” Sasuke said and suddenly he sounded different, tired like Naruto always felt, “I think I've grown quite sick of it.”

We can't,” Naruto shook his head, “It's- it's too late.”

We can,” Sasuke insisted, “And it's never too late, usuratonkachi.”

And then they were kissing, properly kissing, with lips and tongues and teeth, and their whole bodies, and for the first time in forever Naruto's stump seemed to remember that something else used to be there, that he had felt pain at losing a part of himself, and he moaned when Sasuke ground his hips against him, and he found that when he bit Sasuke's neck he could taste his heartbeat and the sounds he made low in his throat.

They ripped each other's clothes off then, stumbling towards the sofa, and Naruto let out a grunt when Sasuke landed heavily on top of him. For a few seconds, they just stared at each other like that, the heavy knowledge of what they were about to do – and that afterwards there would be no going back to how things were before.

And Naruto did not know how they would deal with this new development. Whether Sasuke would just fuck off again or whether tomorrow night he himself would simply lie down in the bed he shared with Hinata and act like nothing had happened. But the knowledge would always be there, the memory and the thrill.

Naruto remembered this. This competitiveness and the rivalry. The trying to show each other off, trying to give their best. The fire of it surged through his entire being, reviving, electrifying. When was the last time he felt he had to do something to earn Hinata's dedication? When had he last taken the time to go eat ramen with Iruka-sensei or met up with his friends for more than idle smalltalk or talks regarding missions, just because they deserved some of his attention?

The most unpredictable ninja had become a mere figurehead, caught in routine and paperwork.

Had anyone ever predicted this, he wondered as Sasuke canted his hips forward, making their erections rub against each other. Would anyone expect this of him?

For a split second he wished he had not dismissed the ANBU guards, wished that they were inclined towards gossip after all, wished that tomorrow morning everyone would know that their steadfast Hokage had been fucked on all fours in his office, fucked by a former missing nin, fucked and still begged for more.

But the ANBU were gone and there would be no witnesses, but with sudden clarity Naruto knew that he still wanted it, all of it, all Sasuke could possibly give. Slowly, deliberately he nodded his head.

What followed was less of a kiss and more of an assault. The base of Naruto's skull was pushed into the hard edge of the backrest of the sofa as Sasuke held on to his face, cheeks cradled between palms, fingertips digging into his skin.

Naruto's back arched of the cushions, hoping to gain more friction, more contact, his bared chest touching Sasuke's. His good hand reached down between them, knuckles running along the outline of Sasuke's dick straining against the dark pants, before undoing the strings and closing his fingers around the hardness.

The angle was awkward and he barely had room to move, but somehow that made it better, better still when Sasuke's teeth bit down on his lips, when he pulled at his hair, when he roughly gripped his jaw to twist his head to the side and attack his exposed neck.

Naruto groaned at the sensations, all of them combined, leaving him breathless and overwhelmed. Because he'd had sex before, maybe he had made love, maybe he had fucked, but he had never gotten fucked by anyone.

Sasuke pushed him back then, pushed away and slid to the floor in one graceful movement, and next thing Naruto knew his dick was encased by warm and wet while Sasuke still tugged his tangled pants farther down, pulled his sandals off, until Naruto was completely naked.

Shit,” Naruto cursed, eyes falling shut and fingers grabbing a hold of Sasuke's hair. He was vaguely aware of how discourteous such a thing was, but he just pushed Sasuke's farther down and then pulled him back again, a steady rhythm, slow and sloppy.

And Sasuke moaned as if he liked it, as if this was the only reason he had even returned to Konoha, today and all those years ago, and he was finally getting what he had been waiting for.

Naruto startled slightly when there was something slick and searching probing at his ass, but then he relaxed because this was what he had been waiting for, at least during the past ten minutes.

So he let himself be devoured and debauched till his breath came in shallow little bouts and he started to think that he wouldn't hold out for much longer. But then Sasuke pulled back, all of him, his mouth and his fingers, and Naruto groaned in protest, reluctantly opening his eyes.

Sasuke was standing in front of him, crotch just about at eye level, and Naruto eyed it hungrily.

Turn around,” Sasuke told him, and apart from his messed up hair and the faint flush on his cheeks, there was just the barest tremble in his voice. Naruto just stared up at him.

I don't take orders from you, bastard,” he scoffed.

A second later he was grabbed by the throat, by the shoulders and roughly spun around, face crashing into the backrest, and then Sasuke was on him.

Violent and vindictive, Naruto had called them. Maybe self-destruction would follow after all. He didn't care any longer.

Sasuke's fake arm pulled him upright then, reaching across his chest and grabbing a hold of his shoulder to keep him in place. Automatically, Naruto's own prosthesis reached behind himself to find Sasuke's hipbone.

Their bodies were close now, so close that Naruto only had to tilt his head back a little to steal a kiss from the corner of Sasuke's mouth, Sasuke who was smiling slightly.

Any last minute objections?” he asked off-handedly and Naruto pushed his ass back impatiently.

Just do it before I decide to fuck you instead,” he growled and Sasuke's chuckle reverberated through the both of them.

We can do that next time,” Sasuke said and a shudder slid down along Naruto's spine because there was a promise of a next time and he dared to hope, for something, anything at all.

Their cheeks were pressed together and Naruto's mouth fell open when Sasuke slowly pushed into him. His hand reached for his dick to counter the mild pain, stroking insistently, and when Sasuke bottomed out there seemed no air left in the room for either of them.

Slowly, much too slowly Sasuke pulled back before pushing in again until together they found some sort of rhythm. They always worked well together like this.

During training Kakashi-sensei had despaired of them, because their fighting styles were so vastly different, so incompatible. But when it mattered, when it was life and death it always turned into a dance. They anticipated each other's moves and acted accordingly. If Kakashi could see them now he'd no longer complain about a lack of teamwork and communication.

And they didn't need any words spoken to express their regret for all the things that had gone wrong, all the time that had been wasted. No words to show that this was better than anything, anything either of them had ever felt.

Sasuke wasn't exactly loud in his passion, but he wasn't quite silent either. His breathing was labored and open-mouthed, brushing against the side of Naruto's face with every thrust forward, emphasized by near voiceless grunts.

And this was like fighting between them as well, for Naruto had never managed to keep his mouth shut then, letting out curses and war cries and pained roars. He kept it together now, biting his lower lip to silence the moans, but they spilled out anyway.

And in a way he wanted Sasuke to hear, wanted all of Konoha to hear even, how this man was once again taking him apart bit by bit, putting both of them back together until ever piece fit, until they were one entity, as maybe they had been all along.

Sasuke,” Naruto breathed, nails digging into the sharp line of Sasuke's hip, and a second later Sasuke's grip tightened to an almost painful degree, his movements becoming erratic and stuttering, face buried against the sweaty juncture of Naruto's neck and shoulder.

Naruto could feel him in him then and his hand on his dick sped up, but it was a Sasuke's breathy little moan that it it for him, the dry lips on his skin that barely managed to form a kiss, and Naruto's orgasm hit him like a tidal wave, sudden and brutal, and he was swept away.

 

He wakes with a start, his chakra surging so much that it makes his whole body jerk and the machines around him wail in alarm.

His eyes are wide open, but for a moment he cannot hear or see anything over the racing of his heart. When finally everything swims into focus there are voices and faces, familiar and frantic.

“Naruto-kun,” Ino's gaze flickers from him to the display on the machines, obviously worried, though she puts on the same professionally soothing doctor voice Sakura always uses, “Everything is alright. Try to take a deep breath and calm down.”

Naruto tries to follow her instructions, but it's difficult, because Ino looks so much younger than he remembers, and it's weird, so weird, but at the same time it makes perfect sense.

“Wha- what happened?” he wants to know, and his throat closes up, voice scratchy from disuse.

“You were in a coma for almost three months,” Ino says calmly and a little smile steals over her face, “You had us a little worried there, to be honest.”

“No,” Naruto shakes his head, “Why? Coma?”

Her smile is still there, though a bit more forced, “A little disorientation is normal after waking up like this. You fought with Sasuke-kun. Do you remember that?”

He can only shake his head, “Not a fight. We- we-”

He can't say it. His heart is speeding up again and he feels close to hyperventilating.

Ino glances over her shoulder, “Sai-kun, please go and get Tsunade-taishou.”

Only then does Naruto notice the other person in the room, but Sai looks younger, too, and there is something not right here.

“Sasuke,” he says in confusion, and then belatedly, “Hinata.”

“Sasuke is well,” Ino calms him, “He woke after only a week. Hinata-chan is alright, too. Everyone is alright. You were the only one we were all worried about.”

“I need... I need to see Sasuke,” Naruto insists, “I need to... talk.”

“He and Sakura left just a little while ago to get lunch,” Ino says, “I'm sure they'll be back shortly. Or I can send someone for them, if you want.”

Naruto just slumps back on his bed and shakes his head no.

 

Tsunade-baa-chan checks him over and declares him healthy, if still a little confused and in need of physical therapy.

He doesn't tell anyone about the years he lived within these three months, the life he thought real, still thinks real in a strange, off-kilter way.

Instead he plays the needy, whiny patient, begging for proper food and his froggy pyjamas and some manga to read. And he wants a bath because he feels gross, so Ino volunteers and recruits Sai as a helper to maneuver him to the tiny bathroom where he's allowed to brush his teeth, and then they give him a sponge bath.

Sai comments on how, in comparison to Naruto's stump, his dick might not seem so small anymore, and he stares at his arm for a moment before hysterically laughing because his arm is gone, no arm, not growing back, nope, and somehow he doesn't even mind.

So they wash him and towel him dry and get him into less butt-revealing clothes, and don't ask questions. It's oddly comforting and yet disconcerting. Sai and Ino joke and tease each other, and Ino blushes and Sai's smile seems genuine, and Naruto suddenly thinks No no no, this can't be happening.

Because what if his dream was prophetic? What if the details change, but it still ends up the same?

Because he knows Sai and Ino didn't happen until two years later when they hooked up on a mission, and they were so secretive about it that everyone only found out when at some point Ino stopped wearing crop tops because her baby bump was showing.

What if they fell in love here over watching a comatose Naruto and giving him sponge baths? What if everything his dream, his nightmare really, showed him happened here after all? What if everything went to waste?

Ino is feeding him the disgusting hospital food because he can't hold the chopsticks with his left hand, when the door slams open.

Sakura and Sasuke stand in the threshold, young and wide-eyed. Sakura is holding on to Sasuke's hand and he doesn't shrug her off, clinging to her just as much.

Ino had said they went to get lunch together. That they spent a lot of time sitting by Naruto's bedside. Maybe that's an overarching theme here. Maybe in this reality, dating next to a comatose Naruto is some sort of good luck charm. Maybe Karui has alreay proposed to Chouji. Maybe Temari finally pulled Shikamaru's head out of his ass to just snog him silly. Maybe he was cursed.

But maybe Sakura and Sasuke find actual happiness in this world. Maybe they do fall in love and get married and stay together like a proper couple. Maybe Naruto can even give Hinata what she needs and what she wants.

So he screws his eyes shut and gives the biggest grin that can possibly fit onto his face, and it's painful and devastating, as if he had blasted a Rasengan into his own chest and it just keeps sucking everything in.

“Sorry, I overslept,” he quips and hears Sakura let out a little hiccuping sob.

“About time you woke up, you idiot,” she complains, and he can live with that, can live with all of it, as long as they are still his friends and they are together and talking to each other, and nothing is falling to pieces. Apart from himself, that is.

His cheeks are starting to ache, so he tones down on the grin a little and opens his eyes, only to see that Sai and Ino have made themselves scarce, while Sakura has stepped closer. Sasuke is lagging behind, but her grip on his arm tugs him after her.

“Nee, nee, Sakura-chan,” he teases, “I hear you put the time to good use.”

And he wriggles his eyebrows and flickers suggestive glances between her and Sasuke until she blushes and swats a hand at him.

“That was honestly the last thing on my mind when I was waiting for you to wake up, sleepyhead,” she huffs, finally letting go of Sasuke to pull Naruto into a delicate hug instead.

“Never scare me like this again,” she whispers into his ear. There are warm tears on his cheeks and he's not sure whether they are hers or his.

She sniffs a little bit and then pulls back again, her eyes bright and glistening, cheeks rosy, but a smile firmly in place.

“I should probably get Konohamaru-kun to run around the village and yell out news about your miraculous recovery,” she says, “But then you'll be swamped by visitors and I don't think your health can take that yet. But I'll tell Kakashi-sensei and Iruka-sensei. Anyone else?”

He thinks of Hinata-chan then and that she was his wife. Was. In his dream. Not here.

So when he smiles and shakes his head silently, he feels both guilty and relieved.

“Okay,” Sakura gets up and walks back to the door, “I'll give you guys a few moments then.”

And she sends one meaningful look at Sasuke who dips his head so that his hair obscures his face.

“I'm glad you're back,” Sasuke offers, sounding a little awkward and stilted. It's a new look on him, one that suits him oddly well.

Naruto gives a little smile, “I'm glad you're still here.”

At that, Sasuke's head whips up, a somewhat scandalized look in his eyes.

“I wouldn't have left,” he insists, “You're not the only one who doesn't go back on his words, you know.”

“I know,” Naruto nods, “I just wanted you to know that I'm happy to see you.”

Sasuke slumps down on his bed then, a little too close, making the mattress dip and Naruto tilt closer.

“I was out of the hospital after three weeks,” Sasuke tells him, “But you... you just wouldn't wake up. No one knew what was wrong with you.”

He glances up through his bangs then, “Do you know what was wrong?”

“I just needed to sort some things out in my head,” Naruto smiles, “Some time to think everything over.”

“Yeah, Iruka-sensei said something similar,” Sasuke's eyes narrow, “He thought you were caught in a dream. Maybe some place better than here.”

“I'm in Konoha. While you are in Konoha,” Naruto points out, “Where else would I rather be?”

“In that miniature brain of yours, apparently,” Sasuke huffs and he lifts a hand as if to flick Naruto's forehead. Automatically Naruto's own arm shoots out, catching Sasuke's fingers between his own.

“I'm sorry,” Sasuke hurries to say, “That was inappropriate, that was... too early.”

He tries to pull back his hand, but Naruto holds on.

“It's alright,” he says, “Just... unexpected.”

They sit like that for a few moments, silence and awkward hand-holding included.

“I've gotten a lot of death threats, you know,” Sasuke tells him suddenly and Naruto looks up so quickly he almost gives himself whiplash. If anyone threatened Sasuke now they would have to answer to him.

“The Kazekage got quite explicit there,” Sasuke goes one, sounding rather unperturbed, “I didn't know they two of you had gotten so close. Tsunade-sama, of course, wasn't far behind. Rock Lee gets extra points for fire, and the Inuzuka for swear words. I was quite impressed when the Hyuuga girl cornered me. And the vendor at Ichiraku Ramen looked ready to poison me when I ordered.”

Naruto blinks then because he's only now realizing that people are not threatening Sasuke because they still think of him as a traitor. They are threatening him because they think he might hurt Naruto again.

“Sakura, though... Sakura made a good point,” Sasuke concludes and licks his lips, “She said... she said that if I came back only to wallow in self-pity all over again, she'd just kick my ass out of the village herself. And then... then she'd start courting you.”

At that last bit Naruto cannot help but laugh. “I don't think the situation will spiral out of control like that. She's probably just hinting that you should make your move instead.”

“Yeah, she said that, too,” Sasuke agrees and then he is lifting their joint hands to his mouth, pressing his lips to Naruto's knuckles.

Naruto has been kissed before, by Tsunade-baa-chan, and Sakura-chan and various grateful princesses on missions, quickly pressed kisses to his cheek, his forehead, his temple.

But Sasuke puts his mouth to his skin and lingers there, moving against the bones, tiny kisses along the fist that had punched him countless times.

And Sasuke turns their hands over, until Naruto's fist opens all by itself, uncurling slowly so that Sasuke can run the pad of his thumb along the deep trench of the heart line.

Sasuke's mouth follows the path of his fingers then, breathing an open-mouthed kiss into the hollow of Naruto's warm hand, moving towards Naruto's arm, nipping at his wrist and the zigzagging arteries there.

Naruto's breath hitches, the air caged in his chest as if it were more dangerous than the Kyuubi. Sasuke glances up then and his eyes are the deepest black, but warm, too, and searching.

There are no words in that moment, nothing adequate, nothing that doesn't endanger this careful balance. So Naruto nods his head, just a tiny bit, barely even noticeable, and he knows, he knows that he's given Sasuke the power to destroy everything all over again.

But he doesn't. He just sits up a little and leans in until his face is in front of Naruto's. Naruto who doesn't want to close his eyes, doesn't dare to because last time he did everything turned out to be a dream. And yet they slip shut of their own volition.

His breath escapes then, but Sasuke catches it, pushes it back into his mouth with his own, and Naruto's heart stutters inside him.

For ages Kiba and Ino had teased him about this, about Sasuke being his first kiss back at the academy, but all those years they had no idea, because this, this is what it feels like to be kissed by Uchiha Sasuke for the first time, the proper time, the real time, no screaming classmates and no quick fuck on a sofa.

Naruto knows the theory behind all of it, knows the flowery words and the dirty continuation, he's been sample-reading Ero Sennin's manuscripts for years after all.

Jiraiya liked words like time-stopping. Eye-opening. World-changing. Naruto had thought it cheesy, but maybe the old man had had more experience than him after all.

He doesn't quite know how long it lasts, but at some point their lips are no longer really touching, though their faces are close, noses aligned, foreheads resting against each other. It feels safe then, less fragile.

“Why?” Naruto dares, “What changed?”

“I did,” Sasuke admits, “When you... when you explained why you never gave up on me. How you felt about me. Only you could be obnoxious enough to keep calling that friendship.”

“But you are my friend,” Naruto insists, “My best friend.”

“What about Sakura then? Or Gaara?” Sasuke challenges, “Would you let them do this?”

And he's back to kissing again, more forceful this time, more tongue, until they are both breathless and Naruto is whimpering helplessly, because seriously, he just woke up from a three-month long coma, but it's too good to stop.

And he had dreamed about Gaara trying to do this, had dreamed about pushing him away because it felt wrong and confusing.

That answers the question then for he would never even consider pushing Sasuke away now, not even when the door opens and he becomes vaguely aware of Sakura and Ino standing in the doorway.

“Finally,” Ino is saying, an eye roll obvious in her voice, “If they had just fucked it out from the start, that would have saved us a lot of trouble.”

Sakura doesn't says anything in reply, but when Naruto opens his eye just a crack he can see her smiling happily, head leaning against Ino's shoulder.

Home, Naruto realizes then, breathing in the familiar scent of Sasuke, and of Sakura's hospital sanitizer, and of the breeze that drifts in through the opened window, carrying in sounds of life and growth in Konohagakure.

They are all finally home.