A/N: I've had some bad news in my personal life and so I am just writing random, fluffy-ish things. This is meant to just be simple and escapist. :-)
Unrequited - Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't
Naruto was too nice. All his friends told him this, but he'd never really seen it as a problem before. Sure, it has landed him in more than his fair share of trouble, and caused him to give people the benefit of the doubt when he knew he shouldn't, but never anything he couldn't handle.
At this precise moment, it was causing him to lie to the beautiful young woman he thought he had left behind years ago in high school when she had shockingly declared her love for Naruto during the graduation ceremony. On stage. In front of everyone. Like, the whole friggen' town.
Naruto had panicked back then… a 'deer in the headlights' feeling washing over him. He'd smiled at her from down in the audience… and left the next morning on a three month road trip with his godfather before moving out of state to go to college. He'd left without saying a single word because he hadn't wanted to lie, but he also hadn't wanted to hurt her feelings. In retrospect, it hadn't been his most gracious exit, but he'd been seventeen and not exactly smooth. He had assumed Hinata would just move on and forget about him.
Sure, he'd known Hinata had liked him since grade school. And Naruto liked her, too. She was sweet and smart and funny and talented. Yes, Naruto had liked her, but only in a brotherly or good friend kind of way. And he had tried so hard during their entire time growing up together to just pretend to be so incredibly oblivious about it that he would never have to hurt her feelings by rejecting her directly. Hinata was so painfully shy he was sure she'd never be the first one to say something.
But then she had gone and proved him wrong by confessing in front of everyone. Naruto had never been so grateful that Jiraiya always traveled during the summers and that the older man always dragged Naruto along with him. Naruto hadn't been able to afford a cell phone during that time, and since Jiraiya had moved out of Konoha after graduation, Naruto hadn't been back. So he had never really had to reject Hinata.
He had assumed that - like most schoolyard crushes - Hinata would have moved on and found someone better who could love her for the amazing woman she was. Naruto couldn't imagine anyone really pining for him that long.
But when - six years later - he'd dashed out to grab lunch in the cafe across the street from his office, he'd heard a soft, familiar voice from behind him.
Naruto had stilled, then turned to find the lavender- eyed girl from his school-days grown into a lovely young woman.
"Hinata!" Naruto had beamed at her, happy to see her looking so well. He was sure she had moved on and found happiness. "How are you? I haven't seen you since…" Don't say it! (Since you confessed your love to me in front of the entire school… on the podium… in front of the entire town... and I ran away and never spoke to you again) "... in so long!"
Hinata blushed slightly, biting her lower lip. "Yes. It has been a while. You left so… suddenly."
"Heh, yeah." Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Jiraiya always traveled during the summers. So we'd been packed already the night before. And then he moved during the middle of my first semester in college, so…" The sadness in her eyes ate at Naruto, so he quickly changed the subject. "But how have you been? Did you move here after school, too?"
"I-I have been doing well, thank you. I am just visiting my cousin for the week. Neji works in the government ministry."
The government district was… clear across town. Naruto got a sudden twisting sensation in his stomach. "Oh? That's… great." He glanced over to where Hinata had come from, and saw a booth with several empty tea cups.
Hinata nodded shyly. "I thought... since I was in town, I would… I would look you up."
Naruto nodded, keeping his smile carefully in place. "Yeah. Yeah! That's great! It's really good to see you, Hinata"
Her cheeks warmed with happiness, instantly making Naruto feel like shit.
"But, uh… I'm just on a quick food run from my office. I need to…" he gestured in the general direction of his office building, and Hinata immediately looked contrite.
"Of course! I don't mean to k-keep you." She bit her lip as though to keep herself from saying anything more.
"It was great to see you!" Naruto pulled her into a quick hug, then took a step toward the door despite not having ordered any food.
"Naruto -," Hinata paused, then seemed to steel herself. "Would you like to g-go to dinner with me tomorrow night?"
And here it was. After so many years of avoiding hurting her feelings, there was no way to dodge this.
"I…," Naruto began, his tone hedging. Hinata's eyes dimmed, and she looked down at the floor. "I would… love to."
She lifted her face, happiness radiating from it. He couldn't understand what she still saw in him after all this time, but he knew he had to get her to let go. He just needed to do it without crushing her.
He was suddenly struck with inspiration.
"I have to make sure my boyfriend is ok with it, though. He might not like me going out to dinner with such a pretty girl."
Hinata's face froze. He saw disappointment flood over her face, but not hurt. Disappointment he could handle. He couldn't live with himself if he hurt her.
"Oh… you… you're s-seeing someone?"
"Yeah, I…," Naruto's mind raced. "I met him a few months ago."
"He could come with us, i-if you wanted," Hinata offered gamely.
Since Naruto's 'boyfriend' was completely fictional, that would not be possible. "Nah, he works late."
Hinata nodded. "You can tell me about him… and show me pictures, then."
"Of course! Sure, no problem. So, as long as he's ok with it, I'll… pick you up tomorrow at seven at Neji's place?"
Hinata hesitated, then gave a small nod. They exchanged phone numbers, and Naruto promised to call her if he were delayed.
Naruto headed out of the cafe, hoping that Hinata would finally move on from her crush on him. He just had to be convincingly 'in love' with someone else for one night.
Naruto fidgeted all through the rest of his afternoon at work. He couldn't ask someone from his office to pose as his fake boyfriend for the photo. That felt creepy. He was going to have to put on a convincing show of being 'in love', and he wasn't usually that great at lying. He had a feeling Hinata had asked to see the photos because she was already suspicious. He also couldn't ask any of his regular friends because Neji knew them all and knew that Naruto wasn't dating any of them.
It had to be someone Neji didn't know and that Naruto could convincingly sell as someone he was really into... someone that Hinata would believe Naruto would fall for long term. A guy so impossibly perfect that Hinata wouldn't even feel bad that Naruto fell for him.
Naruto spun his pen around his fingers, staring blankly at the computer screen in front of him. There actually… was someone like that. Possibly the person who had jumped into Naruto's head as soon as he came up with the idea of 'impossibly perfect' fake boyfriend. Of course, the guy was way out of Naruto's league. Naruto had never even worked the nerve up to talk to him, much less ask him out. The guy was more of a shower-time fantasy than an actual option. But Naruto had seen him at the gym pretty often. Maybe… maybe Naruto could just ask for a photo. The guy would probably say no, but at least it was worth a shot.
If nothing else, it would give him an excuse to finally talk to the ridiculously hot guy he'd been pretending not to ogle for months.
Naruto stood in the shower after his workout, disappointed that - after all the work he'd done to psych himself up to ask the guy - Mr. Ridiculously Hot Guy hadn't shown up. Of course, he wasn't there every night, and it had been a long shot that he would be there tonight. Still, Naruto had hoped. He'd been looking for a reason to say something to him for months, but never could come up with something that didn't sound idiotic or made-up. Not that it would matter. Naruto knew better than to try to punch that high above his belt class. The guy was like… perfect. It was a little bit ridiculous that anyone could actually be that hot in real life, if he were honest about it.
Naruto finished rinsing the shampoo out of his hair, then turned off the shower. He scrubbed the towel roughly through his hair to keep the drips from running down his neck in the chilly locker room, then wrapped his towel around his narrow waist and walked back over to his locker.
He quickly spun the dial for the combination of the lock on his locker, feeling his skin pebble with goosebumps across his back as the tiny droplets of water he'd missed with the towel still managed to trickle down over the sculpted contours of his back and chest. He shivered.
"If you dried off in the shower, you wouldn't be so cold," a deep, bored voice said from behind him.
Naruto started, turning to see who was talking to him. Any annoyance he might have felt on the comment died in his throat as he turned to find… him. Dark eyes set in an impossibly perfect face, framed by spiky black hair that basically screamed to have Naruto's fingers tangling through it.
Holy fucking shit.
"Um…," Naruto felt his cheeks heating. He finally had an opening to talk to the guy, and he was already majorly blowing it. "Right."
The man rolled his eyes and opened a locker a few down from where Naruto was. Naruto tried to calm down. The guy had talked to him. And… ok, so Naruto hadn't exactly had the wittiest reply, but the guy had TALKED to him.
His mind raced for something to say as his body went through the motions of getting ready. He untied his towel and quickly dried his legs off a bit better, then tossed the damp towel over his locker door before tugging on his sweats. He always went to the gym after work, and he didn't want to waste another pair of underwear when he was just going to go home and take them off again for bed.
Once he was at least half dressed, he felt a bit more equipped to talk to his fantasy guy. He glanced over, and noticed that the guy was still getting his bag settled in his locker. It vaguely struck Naruto that the dude always seemed to take forever getting ready, but he figured the guy was just particular about where he put his stuff.
"Um… hey," Naruto said, shifting is weight to his other foot, scraping his teeth nervously over his lower lip.
The man looked over at him, one smooth brow arched in inquiry.
"So, uh, I was wondering…," Naruto tried to sound casual. Realized he wasn't really succeeding. "... I know you don't know me or anything but I… I was wondering if you could help me out. I promise it will only take a minute."
The dark-eyed man let his gaze drop briefly over Naruto's form. "I'm listening."
Naruto was sure the guy didn't intend to make the look sexual, but Naruto felt his blood heating just from the brief glance. "I, uh… saw you around a few times. But you're usually with your workout buddy."
The man shrugged. "He couldn't make it today. But you look like you've already finished."
"Oh, yeah! No, I'm done. I don't need a spotter or anything." Though the thought of having the guy's dick literally just above his head as he bench pressed would be totally fucking hot. Though… it might result in Naruto dropping the bar on himself, so… probably not a good idea. "No, it's just… there's this girl -"
Sasuke's face immediately closed off. "No."
"No! Not like that!" Whatever that was, Naruto had no idea but he was panicking at the annoyed look on the man's face. "I just… there's this girl who's been asking me to go out with her forever, and she's really nice but not my type and I told her I sort of had a boyfriend and then she said she wanted to see a picture but her cousin lives here," Naruto knew he was rambling but he really couldn't seem to stop. "... and he knows everyone I know and so I need to just take a picture of someone she and her cousin don't know and won't run into and I promise I will delete it after I show her and -"
Naruto paused, partly because he had completely run out of oxygen and partly from utter shock that the guy had said yes. Naruto had watched other people approach him, and they had all been shot down in usually three words or less. Of course, Naruto wasn't hitting on him, but he still hadn't expected him to say yes.
"What?" Naruto watched in helpless fascination as the man undid the buttons at the cuffs of his white dress shirt. It was stupid how sexy even the guy's hands were. Like… really, what the fuck?
"I said: fine. You can take a picture with me."
"Ok. Ok, great!" Naruto jerked his gaze away from the man's hands and grabbed his bag, digging for his phone. There was a rule about no photos in the locker room, but since it was just the two of them, he figured it was fine. Naruto pulled it out of his bag and turned to see that the man had already undone the first few buttons of his dress shirt. "Do you mind if we do it now?"
The guy shrugged. Naruto blinked, watching the way he could see just the hint of the toned muscles moving beneath the thin cotton. Of course, he'd seen the guy in nothing but his low riding sweat pants and black tank top, dripping with sweat as he ran on the treadmill or used the free weights. Naruto was pretty sure there was basically a trail of drool following this guy wherever he went, so he didn't worry too much about adding to it with his own. He just tried to be subtle about it, because otherwise it was just rude.
Naruto walked over, his heart racing as he stood next to him (deciding it was supposed to be with his boyfriend, so he was supposed to be right up against him, right?), feeling his skin tingle from where the man's white shirt brushed against Naruto's bare skin. He could smell the slight trace of the guy's cologne, and he really hoped his dick got the message he was frantically sending it to stand the fuck down until he could get back to his apartment and jerk off in peace.
Naruto grinned, then nearly choked as he felt warm fingers brush against the small of his back.
"We're supposed to be boyfriends, right?" the guy asked innocently.
"R-right. Yeah, perfect," Naruto absolutely did not squeak.
Naruto took a picture, not even bothering to check to see if it turned out before practically running back to his locker and jamming his hoodie over his head.
"Thanks, man! I totally owe you!" Naruto threw him what he hoped was not a completely panicked smile as he grabbed his backpack and nearly bolted for the locker room door.
Naruto pulled up at the man's voice, turning to look over his shoulder to see an amused glitter in the man's dark eyes.
"My name's Sasuke, in case you want to know your boyfriend's name."
Holy shit. Yeah, Naruto was going to be making use of the guy's name. Though it would be more along the lines of 'groaning it out as he jerked off in his shower' rather than 'telling it to my friend that I'm trying to let down easy.'
"Naruto," Naruto managed in reply, gripping his bag with a white-knuckled grip and jogging out the door. He was sure he imagined the feel of the man's gaze on his back. There was no way a guy like that could be interested. But at least he had his photo. Naruto would just do another hundred extra push-ups and have some 'alone time' in the shower to burn off the fucking truckload of sexual frustration the guy had (surely) unknowingly drowned him in.
Naruto walked around in the gym parking lot for almost five minutes before he could even remember what his car looked like. Had Naruto mentioned it should be illegal to be that hot? Yeah. Definitely needed to be a law about that shit.
The dinner with Hinata had gone about as well as Naruto had expected. Hinata tried to hide her disappointment, but Naruto hadn't even had to fake his blush as he described Sasuke to her. He felt bad that she was disappointed, but at least now she finally accepted that she needed to look elsewhere. Naruto made a mental note to call his old friend Kiba and see if he was single. He always thought they would have made a great couple back in high school.
He couldn't quite make himself delete the photo, even though he had sort of said he would. Sasuke hadn't really told him he had to. Naruto had offered, and Sasuke hadn't commented. So he probably didn't care one way or the other. Naruto was pretty sure the guy had totally forgotten about the whole thing, anyway. People probably threw themselves at him asking for his photo all the time. Dude looked like a fucking underwear model.
Naruto ended up avoiding the gym for a couple of days in the fear that he would pop a woody if he ran into Sasuke in the changing rooms (Naruto had had several heated showers in the safety of his own apartment thinking about how hot Sasuke looked after his showers). It had been one thing to admire Sasuke from afar, but now he knew what the guy smelled like. And what his voice sounded like when he said Naruto's name. That made it harder to… not get hard.
But after three days, Naruto was starting to feel gross from not working out, so he decided to suck it up and head down to the gym. Sasuke would probably go right back to ignoring him, so it wouldn't be an issue.
Of course, Naruto wasn't that lucky. Or maybe he was extremely lucky, depending on how you looked at it. He had been held up at work and gotten to the gym a bit later than he usually did. Naruto walked into the locker room just as Sasuke was just coming out of the shower with towel slung low around his hips. Naruto blinked, snapping his eyes away from Sasuke and over to the row of lockers, but not before he caught a glimpse of the thin trail of dark hair making its way down over the pale, taut abs and disappearing beneath the white towel.
"Hey." Naruto tried to keep his voice casual and polite (since Sasuke had done him a favor, it would be rude to ignore him) as he walked over to his usual locker. He didn't let himself look back over at Sasuke to see what he was doing. It totally was not cool to ogle guys in locker rooms. Especially when they'd been nice enough to do a random favor for you.
"Hey." Sasuke's voice was low and Naruto tried and failed not to focus all his attention on his peripheral vision as Sasuke changed just a few lockers down. Naruto had brought shorts to wear, since today was his usual cardio day and the sweatpants he'd worn to the gym due to the cold air outside were going to be way too hot. But changing into shorts meant taking off his pants next to a mostly naked Sasuke, and Naruto was pretty sure there was going to be no hiding his reaction to that situation. He unzipped his gym bag, grabbed his running shoes, then tossed his bag back in the locker.
He'd just sweat it out. He knew his limitations.
"How'd it go?" Sasuke's voice sounded completely disinterested in his own question.
Naruto looked up putting his shoes on. "What?"
"Getting rid of your stalker. Did the photo work?"
"Oh, uh… yeah. Thanks. She, um… she was bummed, but she realized it wasn't gonna happen."
"Tch. I still don't understand why you didn't just tell her to fuck off a long time ago."
Naruto had no doubt that telling admirers to fuck off was pretty much a daily occurrence for Sasuke. "Nah. Like I said, she's really sweet. I didn't want to hurt her feelings."
"And stringing her along for years is so much nicer?" Sasuke asked skeptically.
"I just…," Naruto turned to find Sasuke standing shirtless and barefoot, wearing only black jeans zipped but not buttoned, damp hair perfectly framing his face. For a moment, Naruto forgot what he was going to say. Possibly also forgot to breathe.
"You just….?" Sasuke prompted, arching an eyebrow. Naruto scowled at the flash of amusement in the dark eyes. Asshole knew he was hot as fuck.
Sasuke finished fastening his jeans, and Naruto swallowed, then went back to tying his shoes. "This way it wasn't about me not wanting her. It was me wanting someone else and her accepting she doesn't have a chance."
"Wouldn't it have just been easier to tell her you're gay years ago?"
Naruto had finished tying his shoe, but since Sasuke hadn't pulled on his shirt yet, Naruto decided it was safer to look in his bag even though he was pretty much ready for his workout.
"Yeah, except I'd dated other girls so she knows I'm bi."
"So how does she know she doesn't have a chance? Is she unattractive or something?"
"No! Hinata's really pretty. Not as pretty as you," Naruto threw him a grin, daring Sasuke to deny it.
Sasuke rolled his eyes, then bent down to put his towel into his gym bag. Naruto watched the play of muscles across Sasuke's back as he moved.
"So… she thinks she has no chance just because I'm more attractive than her? That makes you pretty shallow."
"No! I mean, yeah, you're hot, but that what wasn't what really convinced her."
"I mean, I told her all the other stuff about you," Naruto said, focusing intently on the contents of his locker.
"Stuff you made up?"
"No! Real stuff, like… that we met at the same gym, so we have stuff in common. And how you're super serious, and kind of a hardass."
Sasuke gave a soft huff, but tilted his head to the side. "And that's good?"
"Yeah. She knows I need someone to reign me in... I can be sort of a spaz sometimes. And even if you're kind of an asshole, it's good because I really hate fake people who act all nice but are dicks behind your back or whatever. "
"Hn. Anything else?"
Naruto wished he could read the guy's expression better. He couldn't tell if Sasuke was annoyed or just curious. "Well, I told her that you might be hot as fuck, but you're not a slut about it. I've seen girls and even some dudes hit on you all the time and you never even blink. Which is good because she knows I'm pretty serious when it comes to relationships and I'm not really into sleeping around. And I've heard you on the phone sometimes when you get a work call here, and you're super fucking smart and bossy, which is… sort of a thing for me. Anyway, she realized when I was talking about you that there was just no way, ya know?"
Naruto realized that Sasuke had gone completely still and was just standing there looking at him. Naruto replayed his words and realized that… yeah, he sounded pretty stalkerish. He felt his face heat. He really need to learn to keep his fucking mouth shut.
"I mean… I'm not going to ask you for your number or anything," Naruto said hurriedly, stuffing his other shoes in the locker. "You just did me a favor and… I know it was just… I know you're not interested and...," Naruto wondered if there was medicine out there to help people whose mouths did not know when to fucking stop talking. "So anyway, uh… thanks?" Naruto slammed his locker shut, and spun the dial of the lock. "I'm late for my workout."
He barely registered the slightly confused look on Sasuke's face as Naruto bolted out the door. Late for my workout? What the fuck? Naruto wasn't sure which he was more embarrassed about, how much he looked like he was trying to hit on Sasuke, or how stupid he probably looked when he panicked and ran out of the locker room.
"Shit. So fucking embarrassing," he muttered to himself. He wondered if he would need to totally change gyms or if he could just shift to morning workouts instead of evening ones to avoid the sheer humiliation of what just happened.
Naruto felt better after the grueling workout he put himself through. He spent extra time on the track and then did some weights at the end to burn off all the frazzled, embarrassed energy. He could deal with this. It wasn't like Naruto had never said something stupid before. He was pretty much famous for it back in high school. Even though he'd mostly grown out of it, it wasn't really surprising that he'd made an ass out of himself in front of a guy like Sasuke.
He had pretty much burned through his freak-out. Sasuke hadn't looked pissed off, so even if he was rolling his eyes at Naruto, he wasn't going to call security on him for thinking he was some sort of stalker.
He stripped off his sweat-soaked shirt as he walked to his locker, quickly spinning the dial with the combination. He opened the door, and a piece of paper fluttered out of his locker onto the floor. It hadn't been there when Naruto had put his stuff in, so it must have been slipped in through the metal slats in the door. He picked it up, noticing the precise, masculine script the words were written in. There was a phone number written across the top, and a message beneath it.
You are an idiot.
Naruto stared at the paper blankly for a moment. In all the time Naruto had been going here, he'd never seen Sasuke give his number out. Never. Slowly, a grin spread across Naruto's face. He pulled out his phone, entering in the number and putting the photo he'd taken of him and Sasuke as the contact picture. He bit his lip, remembering the way Sasuke's hand had felt on the bare skin of his lower back when the photo had been taken.
Naruto hurried to take off his sweaty clothes and get showered. There was no way he was going to wait the standard three days to call Sasuke back. Maybe he hadn't lied to Hinata after all.