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"There is love at the center
of each moment with you
and the world moves in circles
all around this cocoon
there is music and laughter
and the search for our souls
and a beautiful purpose
in the way that we move " -"This Cocoon", by Ginger Doss


There were times when it all paid off- all of the fighting and floundering and through it all believing. Naruto leaned against the window frame, peering out, unaware of the crooked smile on his face, unaware of Sakura watching him, ANBU mask firmly in place as she prepared to head back out into the field.

Belief. It tied them all together and into a force the world at large had learned had to be reckoned with. Sakura made one last weapons and supplies check, took that one last look at her friend-turned-Hokage, and left, with a grin on her face hidden behind her mask. Naruto was turning out to be one fine Hokage. She always knew he had it in him.

For his part, Naruto was taking time which should have been spent working through the casual tumble of scrolls on his desk to watch Sasuke. It was fascinating, seeing the taciturn ninja work with the Genin. The new Genin themselves were most likely overwhelmed by stories of their instructors infamy and still at the awkward phase of trying to feel things out. Naruto chuckled, watching them try so hard. Somewhere between trying to prove they were the best and prove they weren't afraid of Sasuke, the Genin were taking in lessons with rare intensity.

And Sasuke himself was an equally fascinating teacher. It wasn't softness, not exactly, but there was something in the tilt of his head and the quiet intensity with which he gave instruction that seemed to express knowledge of the world and all its mishaps that somehow made imperfections almost acceptable. That wasn't to say he didn't have a sharp eye and tongue for correcting his students- Naruto could catch some choice commentary from his position at the window- but those corrections were not aimed to wound. Sasuke gathered the attention of his students with little more than his presence and held it better than he could have with any shouted command or coddling. His reputation was definitely a factor- it was why Naruto was so enthusiastic to have Sasuke teaching.

But Sasuke had been through it all, the good and the bad, and in the end had come back home. An unspoken love of Konoha drifted its way through how he helped the Genin learn to position their bodies correctly for this, to move fluidly for that.

Naruto exhaled, for a moment forgetting the Genin and their gangly bodies still round with leftover baby fat in all the wrong places, and fixated on Sasuke's long fingers wrapped around a kunai, the way his body seemed to uncurl, the lightning quick pounce of a hunting cat, as he whipped it at a target. There was a mesmerizingly lethal beauty to Sasuke's every movement. It sent Naruto's heart off its given rhythm, dried out his mouth, and turned his stomach inside out.

Sasuke made him feel like a Genin again, tripping over feet and words, with every lidded glance and artfully arched eyebrow.

Always one step ahead of the game, Sasuke looked up and caught him staring. Anticipation marched goosebumps up and down Naruto's arms in response to the emotion briefly visible in those dark eyes before Sasuke turned his attention back to the cluster of Genin.

Naruto grinned, the aggressively confident version of the youthful, larger than life expression, and moved back to his desk. It all came back to believing in himself and his friends. Clinging to his belief like a terrier to its prey had gotten him the one thing he wanted most in the world.

And it had nothing to do with the robes he wore or the office he currently occupied, and had everything to do with the feel of arms around him, the touch of lips and teeth to his collar bone. They believed in each other, and that belief had hauled them both back from a handful of hells with someone to lean on.

Naruto sat with an umph and creak of abused furniture and joints. So much to get done, and now Sakura was unavailable to do paperwork for him. Sure, she was an amazingly effective ANBU, but everything in the office got so backed up when she was out working. Naruto knew better than to ask Sasuke…

But the idea still made him chortle quietly to himself. The mere suggestion that Sasuke play secretary would instigate such a look of disdain that the finish would probably melt off the desk and the milk in his coffee would curdle.


Sasuke waited for that moment when he could release the Genin for the evening. He rarely waited to watch them scurry off, eager to practice and eager to eat, intent instead on the light in the Hokage's office.

Somewhere between lunch and dinner Naruto would get bored enough to actually start working. They didn't post guards at his door, not exactly, but leaving the office generally resulted in folks assuming the Hokage had time. Naruto learned quickly that people seemed to think the Hokage needed to be busy every minute of every day. As long as he had that pile of paperwork to hide behind, the more tedious parts of running Konoha were delegated to someone else.

Once Naruto reached that magic time of day when worked seemed like a viable option he threw himself into it with just as much fervor as chasing madly after some mission objective or another. That's what being Hokage was for Naruto- an extended, important mission. Sasuke enjoyed breaking into that time, catching Naruto with his lower lip between his teeth and forehead furrowed in thought.
Gnawed writing implements littered the desk and crumpled paper the floor as Sasuke slipped in, nodding to the ANBU on duty in the hall outside. It took a few work-engrossed minutes for Naruto to pull his attention from the scroll in front of him, but he finally glanced up, grinning wolfishly and motioning for Sasuke to take a seat. It was a grin that was both possessive and galling in its daring, and it got Sasuke's blood boiling on too many levels to easily interpret every time. It was a prelude to crushing kisses and wandering hands, a storm of sensation and emotion that Sasuke was still a bit uncomfortable allowing.

Naruto gnawed on his left thumb for a moment, concentrating on the paper in front of him. "Eh, Sasuke, think we have a good batch of Genin this time around?"

"You ask me that question every time."

"And you always refuse to answer. Afraid you'll jinx us?" There it was again, that toothy smile splitting across a frustratingly attractive face.

"Well, not every round of Genin can be filled with Uchiha. They will do, I suppose."

Naruto's guffaw sent a scroll across the desk. "That…is such a Sasuke thing to say. How can you do that with a straight face?!" He stood, still chuckling. "I think I am done working for today. Join me for dinner?"

They weren't ones to say horrifically cliché things like 'I thought you would never ask', but it was definitely in Sasuke's expression as nodded and stood. There were times when it paid off, all of the fighting and faltering, seeing his distrust and disdain repaid with something as simple as honest concern, a floundering sense of the world bolstered in something as straightforward as being believed in. Sasuke allowed himself to brush close to Naruto as they left the room, shoulder caressing shoulder through their uniforms. It was a small gesture, but for someone as aware of personal boundaries as Sasuke, it was a huge declaration. Its meaning wasn't missed, it was reflected in the way Naruto's expression heated, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly and pupils dilated.

They were experts at body language, knowing every nuance of each other's carriage, having the correct responses. They were fluent in the ebb and flow of their moods and knew when there was a call for moderation, or when there was a need for something a bit more reassuring.

Ranging from innocent puppy pile to hard and hot and needy, their after dinner assignations were a reflection of their emerging personas. They were, each of them, still getting comfortable in their own skins, and it showed. Naruto bantered his way through dinner when he had something on his mind, when he needed the tactile reassurance of Sasuke's hands, touching and shaping, drawing boundaries and definition. Sasuke knew how to taste uncertainty in the way Naruto ate too fast and spoke too much, the cant of his head and the way he picked at napkins until there was nothing left. Hokage he may be, but Naruto was still Naruto.

Naruto knew how to interpret Sasuke's willingness to sit on the same side of the table, to allow thighs to touch, feet to casually brush against each other. Little allowances, bringing Naruto into his personal space, waiting like a stray dog to see what would happen, whether he was going to be caressed or abused. He may be teaching Genin, having dinner with the current Hokage, but Sasuke was still Sasuke.

And when it came down to it, the best thing they each had was each other.



Naruto's lips were always slightly chapped, his breath sweet with the candies he sucked on while working. No matter how many times they came together, he was always slightly awkward, wanting to be exactly what Sasuke wanted, but still not confident in his ability to provide. Sasuke never initiated contact, never did more than cast glances and allow an intimacy he was not quite comfortable establishing. He reassured with every returned kiss and finger that dug into Naruto's back.

They were an odd pair, the clichéd night and day somehow coming together in the soft light of dusk to reestablish meaning.

This time when Naruto tried to pull away, respectful of Sasuke's established boundaries, his usual stopping point somewhere between kissing and a frustrated fumbling towards zippers, Sasuke bit at Naruto's lip, baring teeth. They were safe, settled in Naruto's room, and Sasuke was more than willing to try a new level of trust, one that involved no barriers, nowhere to hide or retreat to. Naruto's eyes were wide as Sasuke raked trails down his back, pausing to cup buttocks and then pull at his pants.

There was an understanding in the little gasps and grasps, illumination in wide eyes and slack jaws. Fingers danced through territory strange and new, lips following paths previously denied. Sasuke felt a knot shudder loose somewhere in the pit of his stomach as his toes curled and Naruto let out a little breathless laugh.

Naruto was amused at Sasuke's need to bathe almost immediately after their breathing settled, though his teasing had an edge gentled with familiarity, knowing he couldn't push too hard. Sasuke kept himself from bristling at the friendly antagonism, knowing that Naruto soothed over every discomfort with a quip, his way of convincing himself and everyone else that everything was okay. Their positions had changed, time had trudged onward changing almost everything about and around them. But the littlest, and yet most important thing had survived it all, allowing Naruto to fall asleep with his head pillowed on Sasuke's chest, to allow Sasuke to wrap an arm around Naruto and drift off to sleep himself.

Belief and trust could build empires, and Konoha was theirs.