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Comes the Girl with Burning Eyes

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“Hey, idiot- can you hear me in there?” Sasuke kept her face cool, even though a four-tailed fox demon was advancing on her. She'd found Naruto searching for her and had easily pressed his buttons to make him angry, and therefore slow. But then, the balance dramatically shifted. She swore as a claw of flaming chakra pinned her explosively against a tree, bruising almost every rib she had. This would not end well. She could escape maybe but killing Naruto- it wasn't anything she'd ever really been able to do.

Even if he seemed prepared to throw the reins to a demon that would kill Sasuke without a second thought. It made her feel a strange mix of pride and something else. One the one hand, Sasuke was glad to warrant such an attack. In the other, she squeezed the handle of her katana, trying to express the energy without wasting movements. “Remember what I asked you- when we were younger,” the creature paused in its attack. She gritted her teeth when the jagged teeth of the blood red creature pressed against her mouth. She tasted iron. Naruto's blood. It hunted a rush of arousal through her. She squeezed her thighs around him. The way she had when they used to play at being grown-ups in the abandoned halls of the Uchiha district. Now it wasn’t as much of a game anymore- Naruto was hot against her front- the demon chakra prickling her skin.

The kunoichi bit her lip, trying to hide her smirk. This was too easy. In a moment she'd have the upper hand again. “Good boy.” the moment she spoke the glowing white eyes of the demon twitched wider. She sought eye contact, and at the same time, Sasuke brought her sword around in a sharply angled swing. The Kyuubi would heal any holes she put in Naruto- she'd seen it before. Faster than she could meet the glowing sockets she was on her stomach, face pressed into the dirt with sharp claws embedded threateningly in her neck. “Shit!” she tried to slip out of its grasp but it was fast- and seemed to have an unlimited number of arms. “Not so rough dead-last,” Sasuke yelled, feeling all her limbs pinned forcefully down.

“Stop that!” She threw her weight against it, but it had her trussed too well. Another set of chakra claws ripped her pants to shreds. With her Sharingan, and by twisting around painfully in the Kyuubi’s grip, she could see that Naruto’s real hands were ones gripping her hips and forcing her to arch into an unnervingly exposed position. Then she was pushed back down with a rough, warning growl. As for the rest- the ones pinning her neck and limbs were pure chakra. It wouldn't even help to try and cut them unless she could manage a Chidori somehow. Electricity flared to life in her hand but- it was just absorbed into the red cloak instead of cutting it, slipping away from her faster than she could gather it up. She swore in frustration.

Her voice caught- she could feel him. She was wet. She always was when Naruto touched her, sparred with her, argued with her. When he showed her his power most of all. That day he’d done all four. Even so, it wasn’t nearly enough to make what the Kyuubi was doing work. She’d never put much of anything in there- much less anything Naruto’s size. The first moment was pleasurable as her entrance clenched hungrily against the dull, hot pressure of it surging against her- trying to get in. Sasuke canted her hips as much as possible trying to reduce friction- the motion making it slip. She gasped, gritting her teeth as his member sawed intentionlessly over her clit. Growling, he realigned and pressed deep. She was actually made to contend with his girth. It was- much. She’d known it would be much but not how much. The kunoichi bit her lip because if she didn’t, she might let out a sound that was entirely too undignified.

At least when she started to bleed it slicked the demon’s harsh press into her body. She couldn’t see it but she could feel it drip from her core down her thigh- and stick between her and Kyuubi when their flesh pressed together. It was so hot- her insides were boiling, and so were the backs of her thighs where its body pressed against her. When he was fully sheathed, Sasuke could feel the heaving of Naruto’s ribcage against her back- a familiar sensation if not for the way the Kyuubi was handling her. Naruto would never have been this rough. She wished fleetingly that she- no. No sense in thinking about that now.

The Uchiha tried to empty her mind of anything she couldn't use to her benefit. Swore when it didn’t work. The sensation was too new and strange to ignore- stretching her out, pulsing hotly in time with the heartbeat against her back. Then it began to move, bringing its hips roughly against hers. It wasn't comfortable. Her cheek scraped the ground and grass blades and dirt got in her mouth. She hardly noticed- for all that it was uncomfortable she was definitely getting used to it. And if she imagined her teammate instead of a giant red monster? She moaned softly, feeling the next thrust spear a bit deeper into her than the last ones had. She flushed. Had that uncontrolled noise really escaped her? She got her answer in a moment when some searing sensation shot nearly up behind her ribcage and she screamed, her body snapping tight as she came.

Her scorched flesh pulsed erratically around the Kyuubi's intrusion. She breathed heavily, wiping her face against the grass. She was sweating. From pain. From the heat of the Kyuubi. From the effort of keeping still despite the tremors of bittersweet pleasure clawing at her insides. Her body was turned but her face was forced to the side, hot, black talons covering her eyes. Sasuke thrashed- but the jinchuuriki was stronger. She'd been foolish to think the demon wouldn't remember her Sharingan capabilities. Not after how flagrantly she'd used then to dispel it last time.

Burning hot hands groped her breasts. She squirmed, gasping. Her lips lifted against the creature of their own accord, bumping against fiery chakra and hard abdominals. Her eyes, even covered, rolled back when the demon manhandled her hips and slid it's full, throbbing length into her pussy. It licked at her mouth with an iron-heavy tongue. She could have kicked him hard enough to send him flying- she didn't. Some part of her wanted to lay under the swaying motion of the oppressive demon chakra. The way one would let waves wash over them at the shore, she felt it shifting over her skin, tugging through her clothes and hair. It felt… strangely good. Never mind that she could feel the prickles of her skin truly burning when it slammed into her- and the raw feeling inside- renewed with each slow but ultimately quite powerful thrust.

She shivered. It pushed so deep into her she could sense her organs shifting. When she put her hand against her stomach, she could feel it moving, hard under the soft flesh of her navel. The way it would find her limits and force them further had the kunoichi struggling to draw breath. “Naruto,” she moaned softly, feeling her body launch into another set of spasms. Weaker than before but still enough to make her muscles tense and her body clench tighter around him. Sasuke could feel his responsive lurch. She hissed in pain as he pressed against the very back of her and still wanted deeper- she wanted him to stop immediately- or move again- or?

Her mind blanked when she felt a warmth spreading out from that spark of strange pleasure-pain. When it pulled out, the Kyuubi left a smear of fluid on her thigh she could feel cooling even before he took his clawed hand off her face. She whipped up into sitting, ignoring the pained spasming of her abdominals and once again stood in that weird, flooded room facing the Kyuubi's gigantic steel cage. Naruto was there as well, standing with his palm against the seal. She grabbed him by the collar and threw him back. He cried her name, but she paid him no mind. He’d taken himself out of the game. She couldn't respect him like this. Since it was a genjutsu she could hide her torn clothing and how shaky her legs should be, but when she hooked her fingertips into the Kyuubi's chakra and used her Sharingan to scatter it to the wind- well.

Something about the shock and distress in Naruto's expression caused a mirrored pang in her chest. She ignored it and decided to twist the knife. “Look what you did, Naruto.” She didn’t have to fake the shaky hoarseness of her voice. She moved into her preferred kneeling position. Their faces were inches apart and he was staring at her with startled blue eyes, shoulders heaving with the confusion in his breath. Her seat was formal, and when she took it- Naruto would feel more compelled to obey her. She did intentionally let her torn shirt slip from her body- spread her thighs so he could see the scorched handprints. When he flinched back from her, he revealed another one under where he’d still been holding her hip till that very moment. She ran her fingers over feverishly hot flesh, feeling her insides throb in response.

How long would her body react like this to touch? Her body convulsed and leaked fluids, causing Sasuke to look down in alarm that all of it might be blood. She breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn't. She was still annoyed. It was a few miles to the river before she could take a bath.

“I- When did I?” She raised her eyebrow at him- daring him to tell her he didn’t. “I can’t remember.” He bowed to her, forehead to the ground in supplication and as far as Sasuke was concerned, direct permission to remove his head. She almost laughed. Well, at least he remembered how to beg for his life.

She took her katana across her lap. It was comforting to have again, as unsure as she was. “You let Kyuubi control you. You couldn't face me,” Sasuke hissed, knowing it was unkind and far from fair- but it was the truth, in many ways, and she would speak it if it would serve her. “You will tell your dimwit superiors that you didn’t find me,” she ordered. She stood, using his head as a crutch. crushing him into the dirt as he had done to her before. “And I’ll try to forget that you did.” she heard a soft sob from behind her. Didn't look. Changed her mind. “Get out of my sight,” she hissed, even while drinking in the posture, the expression, the chakra of his despair over her shoulder.

She flipped her hair away from her skin- it now made her shiver whenever it touched her neck- and walked away.

+++

Naruto had gone over because he could smell fire and the strange scent, he was beginning to associate with older nin at the academy in the air. He wanted to know if she’d seen where the fire was, and if it was dangerous. Nothing in this area looked burned- but the air was hot and prickled the hairs on his arms. As he walked towards her, she took a deep breath and spewed a curling flame over the water. More of the strange smell, and fire.

He gasped. The way the black lake reflected the red and yellow flames and the pale white beams from the moon above had him frozen. He couldn't breathe for a second. Real ninjutsu! It was so cool! The girl turned, her dark brows drawing together when she realized with some surprise that he’d managed to get right behind her without being noticed. “You’re that loser from my class,” she scowled, looking back over the lake, where her flames were quickly dying out.

He scowled back at her. “You wanna get punched again?” What was her name? Saki? Satsuki? No, it was a boy name. He was pretty sure her name was Sasuke. Uchiha Sasuke, by the crest on her shirt.

“If you can land a hit.” As if he hadn’t already. They glared at each other tensely. He was itching for a fight, and he could see by her tightening fists that she was too. “But this time let’s fight for something,” she suddenly decided, flicking her hair back with a slight motion of her head. “I can dare you to do whatever I want when I win.”

A bet. He definitely had to beat her in that case. “You can forget about beating me right now! So get ready to do my dare!” She rolled her eyes. Her whole thing was pretty annoying. She wasn’t better. It wouldn’t be that hard to hit her, even if she was a girl.

He struck out at her, and it should have been a solid hit, but she grabbed his arm and twisted it until his elbow locked and he had to let his shoulder go limp or dislocate something. It had happened before- he didn’t want to go there again. It hurt! “What the hell? Let me go!”

“You lost,” she smirked, letting him go. “If you were smart you would’ve trained before trying to fight me again. You might have hit me once, but don’t forget who won.”

He folded his arms and huffed. “Fine.” Her moves were kind of impressive but if she thought that made her better at everything, she was wrong. She’d show her how awesomely he could do this dare and she’d totally be in awe. For sure!

She grinned, and for some reason, it made him wary. “I dare you to draw a mustache on Iruka-sensei while he's asleep." He blinked at her. “You have to sneak into his house.”

“That’s so easy!” He laughed. Internally he was trying to figure out how likely it was that Iruka-sensei would actually kill him when he woke up. “I’ll show you!”

She did that hair flip thing again, putting a hand on her hip. “Show me, then.”

He set off a trap instantly upon opening the window and got caught by the wrist in chakra wires that snapped tight around him faster than he could move out of the way. He heard Sasuke snickering from behind a water tank on the next roof over. She must have known about the traps before. He got out a kunai to cut himself free, but apparently, he’d already woken his teacher. Before he knew what had happened, he was getting the earful of a lifetime and having the window slammed shut in his face.

“Geez.” He shrugged, sticking his hands into his pockets and kicking a piece of loose tile off the roof. So much for that.

“You’re kidding if you think that counts,” Sasuke smirked, landing on the roof next to him with a stumble. Her eyes widened comically and her arms flew out as she skittered on the metal sheets to keep her footing. He made the mistake of laughing. Had he made jumping around up here look too easy for her? With an indignant huff, she swept her foot across his ankles. Naruto went sliding off the metal sheets on his ass.

It was the first of many times she’d knock him flat.

---

Sasuke sighed, drying herself on a large, smooth plane of rock that cropped out by a small stream. She’d stripped out of what had been left of her clothes before washing. The shirt was a lost cause. The rope for her waist, and the wrist guards she kept. Her Kunai holster was intact and would not leave its spot strapped to her thigh until she was dead and they removed it from her. She felt more naked without a weapon than any of her clothes. Adjusting it, she accidentally brushed over the sensitized skin in the shape of a man’s handprint- feverish from the chakra cloak that had gripped it.

It hunted a shiver through her. She was remembering many things. Like- the way Naruto looked bathing in a similar river to the one she sat beside. Or how hot his breath had been against her neck. She pressed down into the tender flesh if only to see how much it would hurt. But the ache- for as much as it did ache- made the throb between her legs return. It had been going, on and off since she’d left Naruto face down in the dirt many miles behind. If she closed her eyes- and focused- she could feel his imprint on the inside-

“Hey!” She snapped out of her thoughts, taking her hand out from between her legs in a way she hoped was not conspicuous. “Did you get what you wanted?” Sasuke turned, unfazed, it was just Karin. A sparrow summon was perched on one of the redhead’s shoulders and slung over the other she had a bag which Sasuke sincerely hoped held clean clothes... and also food. For some reason, she was starving.

“I did,” Sasuke answered. Karin stared at her silently for a moment. The young nin put out her hand for the sack over Karin’s shoulder, flexing her fingers to hurry the other woman along.

Karin cocked her eyebrow grinning. She could sense that there was some kind of gossip to be had. Was it visible in her chakra somehow? Sasuke sighed. “... Then why do you look so annoyed?” The red-haired kunoichi asked. Picking up Sasuke’s wet shirt (she’d used it to wipe herself down instead of submerging herself in the water), Karin stuck her fingers through the gaps clawed into the fabric and wiggled them, giving her teammate a meaningful look.

Sasuke hissed, reaching over and snatching the bag and shirt for herself. “None of your business.”

Karin rolled her eyes. “As the team’s medic, it kinda is. What was he like? Was it any good? Is he into that freaky stuff?” Sasuke blinked. Not that she intended to reply but if she had wanted to it wouldn't have been possible. “I bet you’re just mad because you weren’t in control- but he is a jinchuuriki- they’re all a little wild you know? Did you get bent over a tree-stump? Is that why you’re annoyed?”

Sasuke pulled on the clothes Karin had brought her. The muscles below her waist ached as she twisted her body into the garment. She supposed she could tell the medic something but- “He’s your cousin, isn’t he?” She asked Karin, quirking her eyebrow.

Instead of flushing and feeling rightly uncomfortable, Karin flapped her hand dismissively. “Tangentially he might be my cousin. Our clan was huge.” Was huge? In that case, how could there only be two left? A grim thought flirted across Sasuke's mind. She already knew firsthand how a large clan could become a very small one. “All I know is that- that doesn’t look normal-” She touched a shallowly bleeding bite mark on Sasuke’s shoulder, pushing the fabric aside to reach it, spreading her healing chakra over the injury. Then she treated the scorched raw handprint on Sasuke’s ribcage.

“Tch. I knew he wouldn’t be docile,” Sasuke quipped, laying back so Karin could push up the shirt she’d just put on and have more access to her various ills. “Shit. Karin,” she suddenly gasped, squirming as a strange slick feeling gripped her thighs and middle.

Karin withdrew her fingers covered in white fluid. Sasuke flushed, she was still leaking, then. Wiping it off would have defeated the purpose, she’d thought. The young nin tried to keep her expression schooled but she knew she was turning pink. “There’s a lot of chakra in that-” The sensor murmured interestedly.

“The Kyuubi’s,” The younger kunoichi replied.

“You’re storing it? With seals?” Karin asked, rubbing the fluid on her index and thumb. Sasuke nodded, looking away at anything else. She showed Karin the seal she’d tattooed onto her right arm, and the colored in marks that indicated it was charged with chakra. As she used it up, they’d fade to pale scars until she refilled it. “It’s like your body has another chakra source- Can you pull the chakra?” Wordlessly, she put her hands together and channeled to her fingertips. A small flare of red-chakra. Well, it looked red with her Sharingan activated. Without it, it looked like nothing- like most chakra. “Shit. That’s hella weird.”

Sasuke shrugged. “It’s fine.”

Karin put her hands on her hips. “It’s fine till someone notices you gained a bunch of weight and can’t fight anymore,” she corrected, amused. “You sure you don’t want a pill?”

“First, Danzo will die,” Sasuke stated, folding her arms. “I have a plan.”

The red-haired woman put her hands on her hips. “Do you think Itachi’s eyes-”

Sasuke snarled, feeling her pupils painfully dilate as her brother’s Sharingan kicked itself into gear. She took a deep breath, willing the chakra to abate. She had to get that under control. They weren’t her eyes, but they responded to her emotions faster than her original ones had. They tended to feel odd in her skull- and the things she could see now! It made paying attention to single details more difficult.

She could even feel chakra sometimes. Karin’s felt like cool steel being run along her skin. If she’d known that her sense would change so much, she might have kept her own. Being distracted in battle could easily cost her life. “You think my brother’s eyes are all I have?” She hissed quietly, gritting her teeth against bitter frustration.

“Whoa-” Karin apologized quickly. Sasuke scoffed at the panic in her voice. “That’s not what I meant, Sasuke!”

Sasuke rolled her eyes. “With this demon chakra, it can’t be too difficult.”

Karin’s sighed. “You’re something else,” she murmured. Sasuke smirked and took it as a compliment. She shifted her thighs and felt a fluttering sensation climb up her spine. She could sense her heartbeat in her core again, thumping stronger and stronger as the moments passed.

She fixed Karin with her eyes, catching the kunoichi red-handed, both fingers in her mouth. Both flushed. Sasuke’s lips parted around a soft breath. Her body was throbbing. Karin’s mouth looked soft and pink, and she couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like. “... You can,” she offered, letting her eyes go half-lidded.

Her teammate blinked. “Huh?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Sasuke replied, trying to keep the sharpness out of her voice. She wanted a favor, after all. She spread her knees, running a finger along the sticky slit and then offering it to the red-haired kunoichi. “You can have my leftovers,” she purred.

+++

Naruto hummed as he walked to the stream, his nose twitching as he took in the scents of families cooking and eating dinner. The smells of home. The smells of different people. It made his chest tighten up. He squeezed his empty milk jug to his chest and kept walking till he came to the river. All the water in Konoha went through metal pipes. Tasted like iron, like blood. His nose wrinkled at the thought of the rust smell. He’d been coming to the river to get fresh water since he was old enough to walk that far without being stopped and sent home.

Otherwise, his ramen would taste awful! Getting closer, he began to wonder about Sasuke. Her family lived across this body of water. He’d watched her crossing the bridge and chatting with an old uncle and aunt when he’d last walked her home. Was she with her family, eating and laughing? What food smells would he find if he walked by her house? He wasn’t an Uchiha, though. So he wasn’t allowed to go in there.

He sighed. Taking off his sandals, he dipped his feet into the cold water. It was a pretty far walk from the center of town to way out here. Maybe he’d treat himself to Ichiraku on the way back. Or should he save the money? Naruto had wisely already set aside rent and lights. He didn’t need hot water, in the end showering cold was fine so he only bought heat in winter. So what were some noodles compared to that? He kicked a bit, splashing the water.

But it was pretty boring and he didn’t wanna sit there forever, so he got his jug and dipped it under, filling it to the top and screwing on the top. “Good job,” he praised himself quietly. He dipped his palms in to get some water to drink but as he brought it close to his face his nose twitched. Why was there this metal smell in the river water? He growled in frustration, letting it trickle through his fingers. He couldn’t drink that either- but why was it like that?

And why was the other side of the river so silent? Even if he cupped his ears- nothing of the normal chatting voices. Nothing of people walking around. He shivered. It was far too quiet for this time of day. For some reason, that girl, Sasuke, flashed across his mind. He never ignored his gut, so when it twisted in the direction, he’d seen her walking home, he followed.

He stepped over a few rocks in the stream. They sank slightly into the mud as he sprung off each one and onto the other bank. He kicked the water out of his sandals, then hugged the shadows as he headed up into the Uchiha complex. He stayed in the forest; in case everything was fine. Then he’d be in huge trouble for being there.

He found the first body in the rocks. The stream widened up into a little river this way, and the boulders had caught the drifting corpse. It was an Uchiha by the crest, but they were eyeless and mangled. The metal smell suddenly made sense. It was this person's blood. Naruto’s stomach heaved. He’d almost drank it.

The scent of blood became so strong, he could taste the iron in his mouth. The color of the water began to change. Red rivulets began to appear, swirling in the current. Once he spied the fourth motionless and blood-soaked Uchiha, he didn’t hug the bushes anymore. He ran full tilt searching all of the bodies for anyone alive. The blood smell was too strong. They didn’t move slightly from breathing. They were missing limbs. He didn’t- he couldn’t-

He saw her. He recognized the white shorts. The black shirt with the fan design. The way her hair fell against her earth-smeared cheek as she lay splayed out on the ground. He froze, unable to touch her right away. There was a stripe of blood on her arm, still bleeding. Her lips were pale but still pink. Not blue. Was she still alive? He kneeled by her side and pulled her up into his arms, crushing his head against her chest to hear- a heartbeat! And she was warm and smelled so different from all the others he’d passed. She had to be alive. So why was she laying there like that? “Sasuke- Please sit up,” he begged softly, shaking her. “Please,” he whispered. They needed to leave soon in case whoever did this decided to come back.

For a while she lay mostly motionless- but she was breathing. So he waited, his ears pounding painfully as he strained for the sound of anyone approaching. “You’re squeezing me too hard,” she complained, coughing and pushing her elbows out. It forced him to loosen his arms. He hadn’t meant to crush her. She struggled to sit up, pulling on his shoulder. “I can’t see,” she murmured. It sounded slightly panicked.

“Hey,” Naruto told her. “We should get out of here.” She nodded; her expression strangely flat. He maneuvered her onto his back and hurried back into the safety of the forest, Then through town, up to his apartment. Her wrists pressed into his neck, and her legs felt like metal poles squeezing his sides. They both did that then, hold things too tightly when they were scared.

He sat her on the couch and wrapped her snugly in a blanket, tucking her arms against her side. Her eyes flicked around aimlessly. They were red, with weird markings. She really couldn’t see. She could cry though. “Why didn’t I die?” She asked softly, sniffling as she tried to blink away the tears in her eyes.

It was quiet for a long moment. How was he supposed to answer that? Either someone had decided she should live after everyone one else had been killed- or she’d just been that lucky and survived when someone had tried to kill her. Neither was really comforting. “You weren’t meant to,” he soothed her, touching her hair. Then he wiped her cheek with his sleeve. “Don’t go back there,” he murmured, half asking a question and half wanting to just tell her so.

She shook her head. A black cloud seemed to him to form over her the more she thought about that place. “I have to, I’m an Uchiha-” She couldn’t see, so she had no way of blocking his punch to her uninjured shoulder. “Ouch!” She cried, kicking out at him. But it’s wasn’t like she could aim. It went way wide. “Jerk!”

“I dare you to sleep over at my place!” He rushed out. At least for a day, she could avoid that place. There was no reason she should have to see those bodies in the morning.

She blinked, surprised. Then nodded, biting her lip. “... Okay.”

He made her a cup noodle with water that tasted like mined iron instead of iron from… bodies. “Eat this.” He hoped she wouldn’t notice the similarities. She took a few listless bites before pushing the cup back into his hand and shaking her head. “Then lie down,” he tried, guiding her head against the armrest, and putting an extra blanket over her.

“Thanks.” She touched his hand with hers, and he held it. Her grip was tight. It didn’t loosen, even after she’d fallen asleep.

---

He actually moved quietly, his usual demeanor a deception. She knew that. Then he was making noise, brushing the dust off his jacket. A forcedly casual laugh. “Thanks for helping us,” he said. “It was good to be a team again.” His voice was soft and husky, earnest. A step closer. She felt her muscles pulling tighter along her bones. The golden hurricane of his chakra was dying down to normal levels as he released his cloak, fizzing out in the air around him. Before he could get too near, she checked the zipper on her shirt. For once it was actually closed, and with the rope tied around her middle, he’d never notice.

Not that there should have been anything for him to notice. Only four months had passed since they'd seen each other. The only reason he might was that she was weak and had never been able to make the final seal- or get the Mangekyo on her own. It all came back to this boy- over and over and over. Sasuke suppressed the urge to sigh, or maybe scream. “I’m going now.” She replied instead, cocking her hip in a challenge.

He touched her shoulder, fingers circling tightly around her. She jerked. “Wait-” His hand was so warm. If she wasn’t keyed up from battle her body would demand she let him touch her- more. Even then it whispered.

“Don’t follow me-” Sasuke hissed venomously, putting a hand on the hilt of her sword. She drew it a bit so Naruto could see in the gleam of her steel that she wasn’t bluffing. “Or I’ll kill you.” She hoped he would. If she killed him then maybe she could finally be free of... of whatever it was she felt around him that made it so hard to get anything done. She glared over her shoulder. What would he do?

His breath was paused in his lungs, but then he released it at the same time as his hand fell from her arm. She realized with no small amount of guilt that she could have removed his hand sooner. “Geez, Sasuke.” His sadness was palpable in even the slant of his body. “Do you have to be like that?” He was just whining. “I just want to talk to you.”

There was no point in listening to another one of his speeches. She’d end this. Then she’d finish what she’d let go on for too long already, and once she’d removed the orange eyesore, she’d claim her second Rinnegan. That was what she’d do. “Have it your way,” she hissed, drawing her katana fully. “I’ll make it quick.”

Naruto growled. A frustrated canine sound escaped his lips as he failed to control his emotions. “You can try,” he challenged, moving his body into a stance he must have learned from Jiraiya for how unlike Kakashi it looked. Then- she wouldn’t underestimate the preferred style of a Sage. Sasuke ran current through the steel in her hand and activated her Sharingan.

She advanced. Bringing her sword down against his kunai. He gasped, his body seizing from shock. He couldn’t even drop the kunai- his hand painfully flexed around the livewire, his whole body trembling violently. With a cry of exertion, he broke free, chopping her wrist with his free hand and causing both her sword and his kunai to go clattering down the stones.

She jumped back. Fine. She didn’t need her sword when she had Chidori. The singing arcs felt like home in her palm. But the spinning whirlwind chakra in his hand- she’d seen it used during their battle with Kaguya. It was like the Rasengan- but with chakra transformation? She swayed, feeling her chakra waver. A sickly movement in her abdomen. Karin’s pills hand worn off hours ago- so she needed to end this quickly.

Naruto was still, watching her, waiting. He wouldn’t attack until she did- which gave her the advantage. When her chakra settled, she shot forwards with her old teammate mirroring her, bringing a thousand birds up against a hurricane. Contact- blazing static racing against her skin as the two jutsus canceled each other out. She pressed, feeding all her chakra into it- a spear of electricity into the eye of the storm. It shivered, almost destabilized.

Just a little more- and she could put her hand through his heart and it would be over. She’d finally be free. She stumbled- feeling a suddenly rolling in her abdomen, and the Chidori dissipated as quickly as it formed. Her Sharingan flickered off and at that moment the Rasengan made full contact with her arm and shoulder. Agony. Her whole body felt hot from pain, and all her skin simultaneously broke out in an icy sweat.

“Fuck!” Sasuke swore, curling instinctively in on the wound. She couldn’t pull chakra- her brother’s Sharingan wouldn’t wake up, nor would the Chidori heed her summons. From her shoulder down- sloughing skin. She could see her muscles- oozing fat and blood. She swayed, the blood loss and the sight of her exposed flesh beginning to affect her.

She heard him swearing, fretting. “I'm taking you back,” he decided. Soft-hearted trash. Idiot. Dead last. Asshole. The kunoichi heard herself release a sound of pain and frustration as she was propped up by a blurry orange smear. His hands ripped off the tattered remains of her sleeve. She tried to bat him away- but she was too dizzy. Couldn’t call Amaterasu, Susanoo- anything.

“No,” she ground out. Breathing made her lungs burn. Speaking was worse. He was wrapping a bandage around her to try and keep some of the blood in. She hissed in pain. Accepting help from him- she could scream in rage but she already knew how much it would hurt. She did it anyway- not even sure what abuses she was hurling but just reveling in the pain and her hate. She hated him so much. So much.

“Shut up!” He growled, shaking her and making her hatred break off into a whimper. “Do you wanna die?” She stared at him in enraged silence until he wrapped his horrendous orange jacket tightly around her, compressing her arm against her chest. She squeezed her eyes shut to try and control the pain. It was too much.

An attack like that proved it. Naruto had… truly become strong.

+++

Sasuke flew back, making a highly surprised noise as she fell on her ass. He ran over, feeling a little guilty about the black eye she was now sporting. Not overly guilty though. The bitch definitely had it coming. “I won!” He whooped, jumping up with his fist in the air. She swayed, touching the skin as she struggled to sit up.

She shook her head, glaring through her good eye. The other was wincing because the act of glaring agitated the small bruise. “No fair,” she yelled. “You cheated!”

He shrugged. “No, I didn’t.” She hissed at him. He wasn’t scared. “You have to do a dare,” he crowed, putting out his hand to pull her up.

She took it, getting onto her feet and dusting off her shorts. They had grass stains, because of how pure white they’d been before. The smell of the broken blades filled his nose with powerful greenness. He could smell her sweat, too- and the metal of the blood crowding to her skin. He was suddenly really glad that it was all still inside her. “No, I don’t! Because you didn’t win!”

He shook his head. “Did too!”

She glared silently, putting a hand on her left hip. She stood in that pose a lot, especially when she was about to argue with him. “Rematch,” she demanded.

He laughed. “No way. You never let me have one!” Last time he’d asked she’d just rolled her eyes and talked her dare right over him.

She pouted. Wouldn’t get her anywhere if she’d lost fair and square. Which she had. And he’d won. She was pouting yeah- but he was so psyched about actually winning that her fake sad face couldn't ruin it. “But-” She whined helplessly. For a moment it wasn’t a pout to get what she wanted. She was actually pouting about losing. It took the wind out of him. Should he ask about it? Or comfort her?

He interrupted her strange expression her with his dare instead. He’d been waiting for weeks to know and Sasuke seemed to be the most popular of the girls so she should know if anyone did. “I dare you to tell me how to get a girl to like me!” And because it was a dare she had to answer. Her expression shifted to one that asked why he was wasting her time. “Sakura is so pretty, but she won’t go out with me. Kiba says it's because I don’t know the secret to getting a girl to like me.”

Sasuke’s mouth twitched into a grin. “Sakura?!” She asked, trying and obviously to suppress a smirk. “You really like her?” He hated that annoying face. How many times would he have to show her she wasn’t better just because everyone told her so?

“What’s so funny?” he grumbled, annoyed.

Sasuke shrugged. “You’re gonna waste the only dare you ever get!” She teased, sitting back down and picking a tiny wildflower from the grass.

He whined. “I never argued without you about your dares!”

“It’s a waste,” she repeated, her voice becoming serious. With a shrug, she revealed the secret. “You can’t get a girl to like you if she doesn’t already,” she stated matter-of-factly. “All you can do is be nice to her and tell her and if she likes you back that’s that.”

He made a sound of surprise. “Really- there’s no trick to it?” That was painful to believe. But he did believe it. Maybe he had wanted love to be easier than it actually was.

“No,” she flicked the flower away. “Kiba lied to you because you’re an idiot.” Naruto flushed red, his face feeling hot as he tried to hide the embarrassment and totally failed. What was her deal? She was so mean! She looked at him with a slightly apologetic look. “I mean, maybe he believes it too-” she added, a bit more gently.

He sighed, falling down into the grass beside her. He picked up the discarded little blossom and held it up to the sun. “I really did waste my dare.” It smelled nice when he rested it on his face. The combination of the perfume and the warm sunshine made him kinda sleepy.

“I’ll give you another one, just this once,” Sasuke told him suddenly, rolling over onto her stomach so she could take the flower back and try to balance it on his nose.

He grinned. “I dare you to swim in that fancy lake with me!”

She groaned. “Why are all your dares so laaaame?”

“First of all- this is only the second dare I’ve come up with.” She scoffed, then opened her mouth to say something like ‘and that’s my fault how?’ but he didn’t let her. “And secondly!” She pressed her lips together, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “It’s not lame if we draw faces and swear words on their fancy koi fish.”

She took the bait. “... I see where this is going.” Her eyes narrowed as she tried to mentally imagine the layout and how they could do it. She was a pretty good planner that way. “We’ll definitely get caught,” she told him, opening her eyes.

He grinned. “Chicken!”

She hissed. “I never said I wouldn’t do it!”

And so when it became dark, they went. Neither of them had parents so sneaking around Chunin was all they had to do. It wasn’t that hard. They’d learned pretty early that Jounin and those higher types weren’t interested in two misbehaved children and wouldn’t react even if Sasuke and Naruto passed right by them.

It was a nice lake, on the outskirts. Off limits because of… reasons not described to them by any of their elders. But Naruto had been there enough times to know there was nothing poisonous or venomous or dangerous at, really. It was just a lake, with pretty fish. Why not swim?

He tried not to stare- not to look more than was normal when she peeled off her shirt. Her undershirt and shorts were black too. It must get hot in the summer, to be dressed like that. Without that collar, he could see the back of her neck, and the way her ink black hair stuck to it. He was right about the heat. There was a wave of her scent, coming from the sweat on her skin finally meeting the air.

He tugged himself out of his clothes, leaving the inner layer as she had. Girls kinda… looked different, smelled different, he thought, comparing the way she looked in her undershirt to himself. He heard a soft splash as she jumped into the water. Smelled the misting of lake odors from the droplets. Mud. Desiccating leaves.

He went to the shore, wading in and starting slightly when she popped out from under the murky surface nearly right in front of him. She was dripping wet, holding a squirming white koi. With the moonlight hitting them, the fish and the girl both glowed like spirits. “I caught one! What now?” There was a leaf stuck to her shoulder by the water. He wanted to peel it off.

Naruto looked at the gaping fish and suddenly the image of it covered in ink didn’t amuse him anymore. He could feel- suddenly, grippingly, painfully- it’s panic. “Uh-” he hesitated. “You know I kinda think we should just let him go,” he admitted, rubbing his neck sheepishly. “It’s really nice out here, right?” He touched her wrist, trying to encourage her to drop the creature back into its home.

Her grip tightened. Poor fish. “What about the dare?” She asked, skeptically. He understood. An incomplete dare was a debt, in her eyes. She didn’t want it left unpaid. She was a pretty intense girl, he supposed. Maybe it had to do with what the Hyuuga clan had asked in exchange for living with them- it was no wonder she’d rather live in the ghost town of the Uchiha district than be in debt to them.

He rolled his eyes- he wasn’t like that though. “I dare you to apologize to that fish,” he grinned.

She blinked. “That’s so-” He sighed heavily, obviously. So that she’d know how troublesome she was being. Maybe Shikamaru had it right about girls? She held the koi up to her face, looking into its solid black eyes. “Sorry fish,” she murmured, then set it gently into the water. She looked up at him, the fish circling around her bare ankles before swimming away, almost like she was waiting for his say-so that she’d completed the dare. He nodded, patting her shoulder.

He watched the Koi vanish back into the reeds. “Wanna race across?” He asked, hooking his thumb behind him. She smirked cautiously, brushing his hand off her shoulder. “Sorry,” he apologized. He hadn’t known that touching her shoulder would upset her.

“It’s okay,” she shrugged. He relaxed. She wasn’t angry. “You wanna lose again already?” She teased, cocking her hip. “You know I’m the fastest,” she boasted.

He stuck his tongue out. At running maybe, but… “At swimming?”

She waved her hand in the air. “Everything.”

“Sure, but this race involves climbing too,” he teased back. “See those caves- where the water comes out?”

She gasped in mock surprise. “Then you’re rigging it in your favor!” She reached over and shoved him. It wasn’t a particularly hard shove. “Doesn’t matter, I’ll still get there before you.”

“Whatever. You’re just mad I might win twice in a row,” he countered, shoving her back, then twisting out of the way before she punched him in the stomach. So vicious. He grabbed her around the torso, pinning her arms to her sides so she couldn’t swing at him again, and shook her. She shrieked, kicking out and jamming her foot into his ankle so he tripped on his next step.

They fell into the water with a splash. Both surfaced, giggling quietly, half shoving and kicking each other back down, half trying to get up. It was unsaid that the first person on their feet would have a head start in the race. “Hey! What are you two doing out here?”

It was an older Chunin. “Shit,” Naruto swore. He turned to tell Sasuke to run but only saw her retreating form tearing down the path. Towards their original goal. Was she escaping or cheating? Either way- he dashed after her. The Jounin’s yelling faded into the background, and Sasuke vanished in front of him. He scaled the rocks and slipped into one of the dark caves. A hand grabbed him and pulled him behind some stones.

They pressed close together, holding their breath as the older Chunin crept past their cave’s opening. Soft curses filtered through the air. He could feel Sasuke’s narrow body trembling against him, just slightly. Was she cold, or scared? He didn’t dare ask which one it was, he was too afraid to get caught. Once he was sure the Chunin was gone, he climbed out of the caves, then beckoned for Sasuke to follow.

They snuck home to his apartment, not wanting to press their luck. Sasuke dared him to add curry powder to his ramen cup- it was an interesting combination, and apparently one of her favorites. He found it too spicy, but… she smiled when he said it was yummy so he ate the whole thing.

---

When she awoke it was noisy? She awoke in a swell of malaise, her chest banded with steel, but knew better than to move before she'd ascertained her situation. “She's stabilized.” Sakura was there. “We managed to keep the arm on- somehow.” Sasuke flexed her fingers, just enough to test the arm while passing notice. Bad idea. Pain radiated through her body. She locked her muscles so she wouldn't writhe in pain, forced herself to breathe slowly.

“If Naruto would-” The fifth Hokage. She’d healed Sasuke after she’d been locked into the Mangekyo, once. Had that been Itachi’s intention, and for what purpose? Sasuke was only beginning to know what had been hidden from her all her life. Every turn uncovered new lies and complex machinations that only seemed to result in more complications.

“He can’t.” Sakura cut her off. “I already-”

The fifth Hokage sighed heavily. “Even when we tell him-” A hand touched Sasuke’s forehead, and the medic woman twitched. “Uchiha Sasuke,” there were many things mixed into her tone. “You’re awake.”

“Tch,” Sasuke sighed, opening her eyes. No point pretending now. And she trusted these people not to kill her, sort of. “What are these?” She growled, glaring at the black lines she immediately noticed on her exposed abdomen. Her Sharingan still wasn’t activating.

“We sealed your chakra,” The fifth Hokage told her. “It can’t go past your skin.”

Sasuke scoffed. “We’ll see.” She channeled chakra forcefully, anticipating the drag the disruptions in her arm would cause. She’d snapped seals in worse states than this- and she was already tired of being in this dingy hospital bed. Pain exploded down her side, each cell screaming, every nerve burning. She gasped audibly, pulling the chakra back out as fast as she could, the only thing that would make the pain reduce even a little bit. Her arm ached even after.

“Your arm- even without the seals, the effects of the Rasenshuriken are quite serious, Uchiha.” Rasenshuriken. Yes. She had heard Naruto say that, spinning the wind between his hands and preparing to hurl the vortex at an enemy… at her.

“Godaime... Hokage.” Her voice was sore and rasping. How long had she been out? “You’re treating me. Why?” She didn’t care why. She was stalling while trying to figure out a plan. Escape at that juncture- did not seem possible. Sasuke should still keep her eyes open.

“I’m not treating you, specifically. You’re pregnant.” Sasuke nodded, not knowing how else to react. “And you’re not surprised.”

She narrowed her eyes. “... No.” Surprised was the wrong word. It was more like- infuriated.

“Why would you put your child in danger like that, then?” Her child. In danger. She couldn’t help it. She laughed. Tsunade and Sakura stared at her in confusion and shock. She rolled her eyes. “You have Naruto and this fetus to thank for your provisional pardon.” Tsunade pushed, unwilling to stop even though she clearly didn’t get it. “Is that why? So we would take pity on you?”

Sasuke snarled. “I don’t need anyone’s pity.” Especially not over a clump of cells she didn’t even- hadn’t even-

“You didn’t even try to block.” The room was silent, except for her sharp intake of breath. Naruto. She didn’t look, but she could feel her brother’s Sharingan begin to stutter painfully on and off. She’d used to be able to see chakra as colors. Now she still had her old abilities but she could feel it as a vibration as well, flickering on and off, droning against her skin.

It was too noisy. She wondered if- she wondered if killing them would make it quiet- and whether she had any chance of succeeding.

She twisted the cool hospital sheet up in her good hand, pulling it over herself even though by then he must have known by then. He must have noticed it when he carried her. “Who told you that you could come here?”

It was quiet except for the flickering cacophony of their chakra and the ringing of a migraine that was quickly building. Stabilized her ass. She put her hand over the more mutinous of the two eyes, for some reason her Rinnegan eye hadn’t reacted to the disruption. She could see the faint outlines of each of their seven chakras with it. They were the only orienting thing she could really see. Her other eye was showing her a mess of colors and vibrations. “I need you to tell me why you lost,” he replied. Her question was ignored.

She hadn’t let him win. She’d just not been expecting to feel so keenly the life she’d been planning to extinguish. Feel its energy surge in reverse to her own in a rebellion of… what it was, she didn’t know. “I let you bring me here because I was-” What would he believe instead of that, though? “I was... Thinking of our child. There are those who would harvest our eyes while I'm-” She bit her lip. Those words felt so unfitting her mouth. She wanted to spit them out. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to defend myself after the injuries I sustained in the fight with Kaguya.” And even as a lie, that was a bitter pill.

The room was still. “Our-” He began. “You didn’t say-” a second aborted attempt. She could hear his jaw working. Feel the tornado of his chakra threatening to bowl her over her. He was furious.

“It would have only distracted you-” She argued. “You wouldn’t think I was capable of fighting.”

Naruto growled, “You’re not!” The sound made her shiver. She wasn't frightened. Who would be scared of that stupid idiot? She gripped the sheet tighter so her hands couldn’t shake.

“I was-” She hissed. “And I still would be if you hadn’t shredded my fucking chakra pathways!” She heard his intake of breath, the step back. His life-force died down, a dampened ember. No wonder Itachi had found everyone so fucking easy to read. Pathetic.

“Enough you two.” Tsunade intervened, pulling Naruto back by the shoulder. The Uchiha sighed her relief. The stupid questions were over. “Sasuke. If you remain hostile house arrest is not going to be a viable option.”

She twitched. House arrest? They really thought they could keep her- “No! It has to be me.” She finally managed to get her Sharingan under control while they argued amongst themselves. Either that or she’d lost control of it completely. Either way, it was off her and the world was a bit quieter.

Sakura finally spoke up, after spending whole minutes as little more than decoration. Her little sky-blue bubble of chakra had barely moved since Sasuke had woken up. “Well it’s true that a pregnant Uchiha is a massive target,” she admitted. “Naruto is probably the only one who could stop an enemy who thinks they can kill Sasuke, injured or not.”

“Especially since no one knows about the injuries,” Tsunade agreed. She probably was thinking of the gains of keeping Sasuke and the child in comparison with the resources shed need to allocate for protection. If all that was required was throwing Naruto at the issue, it was easy enough to decide. Sasuke glared at her hands. If the Uchiha had anything to say about it, this woman would get neither her nor her offspring. “So you return to the village for its protection- but what about after.”

Sasuke shrugged, knowing the casual movement would enrage any Kage. “We’ll see.” She doesn't look up until they've all filed out, Naruto requiring a sharp call from his superior to leave his spot by Sasuke's hospital bed. She spat out a curse into the empty room. Nothing had gone as planned.

Eventually, Naruto returned. Alone. He picked up her weapons. There was nothing special about them and so the village hadn't seen any point in confiscating some well-made, but in the end quite plain swords. “You're coming with me,” he almost managed to make it an order, releasing her from the cuffs that kept her in bed. She needed his help getting up- fighting the seal had weakened her to the point that her ankles wobbled as she searched for footing. The moment she felt stable she jerked away with an annoyed hiss.

It was awkward. Painfully so. She sighed and looked at his face for the first time. Turmoil. He shouldn't wear those so openly. His eyes were fixed on the roundness of her stomach as she zipped her shirt. Tsunade must have opened them for treatment purposes. “Your apartment?” She huffed, looking aside. “It better be clean.”

He nodded. His hand just barely touched her arm as he led her down familiar streets to the same low-income housing complex that he'd always lived in. Some of the street stalls had changed but otherwise- it was like being slingshotted back ten years. By now he should have been able to afford something better. Why didn't he? inside the apartment was the same but different. Neater now. More shelves and furniture items. Someone had taken time to patch some of the cracks. A larger bed, if she looked down the hall. The fittings and other little things had been renewed.

Taking off her shoes and placing them on the little stand by the door was more muscle memory than anything else. But that was as far as that got her. She stood in the hallway, unsure, as he locked the door. Should she sit- or make a break for the window and hope he wouldn't activate the seal on her? He touched her arm for attention but didn't give her the satisfaction of grabbing for the injured one. “Hey Sasuke, is it really mine? You're sure?”

He’d come so close she could feel his warmth, making Itachi's Sharingan flicker in agitation. She felt little gusts to match the flashes of yellow. His eyes were so blue under pale lashes. The colors and sensations were painfully overwhelming. Sasuke needed to get away. She nodded stiffly. She was absolutely sure. Completely. It was the only time she'd ever- they both flushed. She squirmed out of his grip. He seemed for a moment like he might say something idiotic. “I'm glad you're here.” Right on cue.

She couldn't let this go on. She had to end this before it escalated into anything more. “It's not like I had any other options,” she snapped, folding her arms over her chest. Her breasts had been pinching sorely and the walk to the apartment hadn’t helped. She really needed to undo her bandages and redo them looser.

“Tch.” He plopped onto soft-worn couch cushions, kicking the air agitatedly. “I don't care,” he drawled, visibly annoyed. Let him stay mad if he felt like it. Was she supposed to care? “I'm still glad you're back,” he finally murmured. Could anyone be more annoyingly welcoming? Then he fixed his eyes on her and she was struck with his- his what? She narrowed her eyes. He was suddenly unreadable. “It's been-”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” she interrupted. She couldn’t even wait for the conversation to end because the longer she was around him the easier it would be to do something the rational part of her mind would find unacceptable.

“You know where it is.” She nodded, already looking down the hall. “Hey. Don't make me chase you,” he added, gazing at the ceiling. There was nothing of interest up there. She’d checked. “The Anbu outside might kill you before I do.” He tapped his nose. He’d smelled them then. She could have found them herself if her Sharingan wasn’t currently useless. It seemed like it would only work when it wanted to.

“Whatever,” she scoffed. But she had been planning to leave through the bathroom window and would have undoubtedly not made it far in her state against chakra masked Anbu. Fine- she’d just do it in the bathroom then. The chakra spike would seem like Naruto was practicing with nine-tails chakra, which he’d have to be known for doing. She closed the door. “Just do it,” she whispered- her hands flitting through the first ten seals.

She built up the demonic chakra she’d stolen in her good arm. It bypassed the seal, burning along her veins. She’d attempted it so many times, she barely had to think. “Just do it,” she repeated, louder. It was an affirmation and an order. She hesitated too long and, in her haste to catch up fumbled, her middle fingers sliding past each other instead of aligning. It was the brace around her wounded arm, messing up her kinesthetics, making her hand clumsy.

She tore it off, but without the support, the pain became so much worse and the whole limb felt much heavier. “Fuck!” During the second attempt, her left hand shook more and more each seal until she abandoned the attempt and defeatedly slipped her arm back into the brace.

She took a breath and admitted it. She didn’t want to… She didn’t need too. She had a Rinnegan. She had the Mangekyo. And he’d said- he’d said he was glad. What she was about to do definitely wouldn’t make him happy. She groaned, leaning over the sink and trying not the throw up when a wave of vertigo rushed over her. Was it clarity or insanity telling her to just let it happen? “Whoa what-” It was Naruto. She ducked so he couldn’t see her face in the mirror. “You- you built chakra… with the seal?” He asked, sniffing the air. Then, “You’re crying, Sasuke.”

Her hand was cramping painfully, her eyes burned, and her cheeks felt feverish. Fuck. He was too observant. “Don’t you dare fucking tell anyone,” she hissed, letting the demon chakra crackle into a half-formed Chidori that coated her fingertips. Perfect for piercing a human’s chest cavity if he’d give her half a reason too. “Or you’ll be the first one I run through.”

His hand circled her wrist, not an ounce of fear in his eyes. He extinguished the burning chakra as he let her hand slip out of his grip. She felt something drain out of her- was he absorbing the little chakra she still had control over? No- she could still feel it churning low in her belly. “You shouldn’t be doing that. It’ll burn your body... and your heart,” he murmured softly. “I'd save it for emergencies.” She sniffed, turning her nose up at him. Like she didn’t know that? The line of his mouth hardened. “What were you doing in here?”

His serious expression actually made it hard to lie to him. She narrowed her eyes. “None of your business,” she shot back, pushing his shoulder so he’d move out of her way. He slid past her push, twisting his body sideways to absorb the force, then used his sleeve to wipe the tears from her cheek. “I’m fine.” It was obvious he didn’t believe her. “Get out, I’m still using this,” she ordered softly.

He rolled his shoulders and jerked his head sideways in agitation. “Fine,” he growled, crossing his arms. Dissatisfaction with her answers rang out from every cell in his body. She almost smirked just from being able to vex him so much, but her expression seemed locked into a painful grimace. He closed the door behind him. She sighed and began the arduous process of unwrapping her breasts with only one hand. Everything ached.

Chapter Text

+++

Naruto didn't remember how- but Haku was retreating. Sasuke was trembling in his arms, her breath shallow and hitching as he pulled the needles out of her. He still had claws. She saw them. “What-” she asked breathlessly as he helped her sit up. “What are you?”

He touched his stomach. “In here… is the nine tails.” She didn't seem surprised, or she wouldn't to the casual onlooker, but her mouth bent into a grim line, and the flush of fighting fled from her cheeks. “Are you scared?” He whispered. He didn't want anyone else to hear what he was telling her. Sakura had never been the most understanding person and Kakashi probably already knew but still. “Please don't stop being my friend-”

“Of course not!” She hissed, trying to stand up on her own. Too soon. The scent of her blood intensified. He took her weight over onto his shoulder. “Who'd be scared of an idiot like you?” She punched him in the ribs but it was worryingly weak.

He'd come so close to losing her. His only friend. He could feel the claws painfully receding into his nail bed. The smell of lightning mixed with iron in the air, burning the tip of his nose. Their sensei must be close by. He rubbed at it absently, trying to make out shapes in the fog. “Let's find Kakashi-Sensei.”

---

Sasuke awoke bathed in sweat- her arm, eyes, and neck blazing. She gasped, her palm flying to where the child rested in her womb. She could feel it shifting slightly. Pulling her hair up from her neck helped- Sasuke felt the cool air brush against her but… also eyes. She got up and pulled down the shutters, then went back to the couch, turning over her pillow, and shaking out the blanket.

The feeling didn’t go away, instead, it intensified, coiling tighter and tighter. Her eyes refused to stay closed, and she couldn’t get comfortable laying down. The shadows in the apartment shifted ominously, and her heart rate kept climbing, climbing, the organ pushing up into her throat as she struggled to swallow and breathe.

She untwisted her hands from the blanket, gathering it and the pillow up in her arms instead. She couldn’t stay here. Filled with restless energy, Sasuke hurried down the hall, nervous of the darkness. Someone could climb through the window- or set exploding tags- or any number of things that would end up with her dead. Or even worse- not dead. Naruto was supposed to be protecting her, so he had to help. Sasuke poked him in the cheek until he awoke. He blinked at her sleepily as she climbed into his bed. “Never said you could sleep here,” he grumbled.

He still let her push him over on the bed so she could fit. “I know,” she admitted. She did feel safe beside him. His body emanated a heat that she could feel lingering in the mattress as she tried to settle in. She wanted to scoot closer for warmth, but she wasn’t sure how she’d feel if she did. She was too awake- her hands twisted the sheets nervously. Before she really knew what she was saying, she was already pleading into the middle of the night silence. “You’ll protect me? If I-” She took a deep breath. “You’re the one-” She began, then fell silent. “I know that that I-”

She broke off, feeling him sit up. He rubbed his eyes with his forearm. “I will,” he replied. His voice was ruddy but his eyes were clear when he swore: “To my last breath.” She shivered, feeling the intensity of his oath, the closeness of his body as he leaned in to make eye contact. He was… so earnest she didn’t always know what to do or how to take it. “You and… your child. Whatever you want.” That last part was a sigh, he was exasperated with her. That she’d known for a while. “Go to sleep now,” he added, yawning. He hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her to lay down.

“I didn’t say you could touch me,” she hissed, squirming to test to see how tightly he was holding her. It wasn’t too bad. It felt okay.

“Shut up,” he growled, and it vibrated through Sasuke’s chest, making her inhale a sharp breath. He was warm against her back, across her waist where he’d casually thrown his arm. She pressed her thighs together trying not to get too... agitated by his touch. He thankfully fell asleep immediately, and it was hard to get too turned on with him snoring away. But it did make her sleepy. She curled into the shell of his body, warm and shielded, and slept.

When she awoke she needed space. About a hundred miles of it. He was too warm, too close, too comfortable. That wasn’t possible, though. She was captive there. “I’ll be using the bath,” she told him, lifting his arm away from her waist. He felt his fingers trail over the protruding curve of her tummy and shivered. With a soft affirmative noise, he rolled over and curled up, pulling the blanket up to his shoulder.

Sasuke went to the bathroom, undressed, and ran herself a bath. Even his tiny, narrow tub was a step up from the freezing river. The hot water made her moan as all her muscles melted. Feeling warm and weightless, she flexed and unflexed her left arm. It half responded to commands. Each movement sent little zaps of pain, starting at her fingertips and ending in her shoulder. The limb shook if she held it flexed too long.

Gripping the edges of the tub with her good arm, she submerged her sore breasts. They kept getting bigger and heavier. It was annoying how they encumbered her movements. She’d been binding them down. The pain increased when she did that- but if she could grit her teeth through it, she could have most of her movement back.

But there was nothing she could do about her middle and, she supposed, that was why she was in the village in the first place. Carefully, she placed both palms on the rounding of her tummy. The skin there was pale and taut- with the netted-lightning pattern of stretch marks building on her sides as time went on. Sasuke breathed an anxious sigh, it was incredibly unnerving to be like this. Before she'd been able to brush it off as a temporary state her body happened to be in. The way things were sussing out- she had to acknowledge that there was... another person forming inside of her. It was too strange. It was too permanent.

She got out of the bath and wrapped a towel around herself, needing to take the changes out of her direct vision. Sasuke combed her fingers through wet locks, then gave up and squatted awkwardly around her bump to rummage for Naruto’s comb in the cabinet. The brush she found was close enough. Her hair was getting pretty long, so she found a band for her hair and tied it back into a ponytail.

Putting on lotion was last, before clothes. Sasuke gave up on squatting after a few moments, especially with the motions she was trying to do. Unpleasantly surprised with how many areas she couldn’t reach, she twisted futilely around trying to moisturize her skin. Gripping the sink, the kunoichi pulled herself into standing.

She could hear her ex-teammate puttering around in the living room. She sat on the edge of the tub. She wondered if she should do it. She could just put on her clothes- it wasn't as if her skin really needed it. But then she remembered- and shivered. No. Her skin was thirsty after all. So she called him. “Naruto. Come.”

His movements in the other room paused. “I'm not your dog,” he complained. Came anyway. She heard his footsteps and her heart began to beat faster because- was this a mistake? But maybe it wasn’t.

She rolled her eyes at his complaint, or at her own indecisiveness. “Hush,” she ordered. He pushed the door open, giving her a venomous look. His arms were folded discontentedly over his chest. “Good boy,” she told him. Grinned when he twitched.

He murmured something under his breath about her always trying to start a fight but didn’t do her the satisfaction of repeating it when she asked him. He sighed, looking pointedly left of her bare body. No, he was looking at her mottled arm and shoulder- where the skin barely was healed over the muscles Naruto’s jutsu had left exposed. “Why are you naked?” That was a stupid question, but she was trying to forgive him because he was so clearly in distress.

The expression she made was fearful and affronted. How she felt was… was? “You'd hurt me again?” She asked him, nonetheless. It wasn't exactly a response. But she didn’t know how to respond to his question without being even crueler.

He flinched. “It's not like I would mean to,” he murmured quietly. She knew it was unfair. But so was everything else. Then biting his lip, he breathed “I'm sorry.”

She shrugged, passing him the lotion bottle. “Put this on me.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “You want me to touch you?” He asked, unsurely. “You mean it?”

She shrugged. “I can’t move my arm like that.” Would he accept that? He nodded, kneeling on the ground in front of her. He rubbed her calves- pushing his fingertips between the furrows in her muscles. She almost moaned out loud, and only managed to suppress some of the little gasps and shivers that came from being massaged. Of course, he couldn’t just smear it on her skin- he wanted to help her relax. She glared, looking for something to make him as uncomfortable as she felt.

“What?” He asked, feeling the pressure of her gaze- his fingers paused on her thighs, skipping upwards to her tummy and sides. She felt his fingers skirting up her ribs. Coward. She arranged her legs out of the way when he was finished with them, letting him lean his chest against her so he could reach up and take her hand. He dug his thumbs into her palm, then moved up her arm. It hurt- but she could feel the release and afterward the warmth pooling in the muscles he had rubbed. She wondered if he’d touch the other arm and give her an excuse to hit him.

His eyes flick up to her, then back to the skin, he's rubbing. “What’s that?” She asked, hooking her foot up and under his groin. She’d felt it there, hot and heavy and couldn’t resist toying with him when he was like that. She shivered when she felt the heated weight through the fabric of his pants. He shivered too, his mouth quirking annoyedly at the corner. His canine got hold of his lip, turning it white.

He rolled his eyes at her, shifting away. “You know,” he sighed. She could see it pressing out against the orange fabric of his pants.

Sasuke smirked. “Disgusting.” Her foot pinned him down by his shoulder, roughly forcing him back against tiles. His shirt rode up and she was momentarily distracted by his abs working as he struggled to sit back up.

“Please,” he breathed as she stroked him once with her other foot. She could see all his muscles tense from his throat to his partly bared navel. Fire pulsed behind her eyes, her Sharingan activating without her command to drink in every detail of his fluttering lashes, trembling fingers. His chakra rushed against her skin like a wind.

She braced herself back on her hands, using the rim of the tub for support. “Please what?” His blue eyes were either glaring at her or begging her. It wasn't often that she couldn’t read him offhand, it made her hiss in frustration. “Are you asking me for something, now?” She asked, pressing her heel down against him, and watching his breath hitch.

“Yeah.” He tried again to move out from under her. She leaned her weight on him- in that respect at least she had the advantage. He wheezed. One hand gripped her ankle and redistributed some of her weight from his lungs to his arm. “Stop it.” She huffed. Fine, if that was how he wanted it. She took her weight off him. His fingers moved up the back of her calf. “Are you gonna let me finish?”

She had to stand for him to reach her back, but that made her dizzy, so she ended up leaning against his side. She breathed, trying to steady her swirling head.

He helped her onto the couch and gently put clean bandages around her arm, then the brace. It still hurt, and she had to bite her tongue to keep silent. His expression didn’t match the softness of his touch at all. Blonde brows were knitted together, and his mouth twisted into a violent frown. He left her there. She spent some time on the couch, holding her throbbing arm to her chest and waiting for the world to stop swaying.

+++

Naruto whimpered- feeling all the air in his lungs rush out. He tried to inhale but his throat felt locked up. Sasuke had kicked him pretty hard in the gut, her leg lashing out almost faster than the eye could see. Well her eyes could probably see it just fine. Her two tomoe spun aggressively whenever one of her moves connected particularly well. After that, she’d hardly ever make a mistake doing those motions again. It made sparring with her really unfair.

He went down, his ribs shifting painfully with every movement. “I give,” he told her- putting up his hand to catch her next strike. She heard him and pulled back on the kick. Her ankle smacked against his palm but didn’t knock him over again. “Damn, girl,” he breathed shakily, feeling his clothes and exposed skin grind against the dirt under him.

“You’re fine.” She put out her hand and helped him up. Then she peeled her hair up from her neck with her fingers, letting the air touch pale skin. He could smell her sweat evaporating as she tried to cool herself off. Naruto waved at her, telling her with his motion to move into the shade. On hot summer days like this, sometimes only going swimming would help, but at the moment they were supposed to be training. Sasuke tossed him a water bottle and leaned up against their shade tree, pulling at her collar to get some air. Her skin was so white.

More of her scent came riding on the stiflingly warm breeze. She smelled like… he couldn’t name it. Incense burning, but not a kind he had ever smelled before during ceremonies or festivals. He could find her in complete darkness by then, and it had been helpful in a few missions. He could find Sakura and Kakashi as well if he tried. Sakura used a floral shampoo, and Kakashi always smelled like lightning striking. He’d have to sniff around for a minute to find either of the other two, but he had a constant awareness of his rival, not solely because she liked to stage sneak attacks and push him into bodies of water. “But you do owe me.”

“What?” He demanded. She was nuts if she thought she could claim that as another win. She put her finger in her ear as if he’d made it ring. Whatever he hadn't actually been that loud. “Training doesn’t count!” He shouted. She wasn’t gonna get him to do whatever she wanted just because she felt like it. It had to be outside of training for it to count because otherwise, they’d get in trouble for slacking off. Last week he already had, thanks to her.

Sasuke rolled her eyes. “But we’re supposed to be water walking, anyway.” She stretched her legs, pointing her toes all the way before releasing them and jumping up to her feet. “We decided to fight, so that makes it count.”

He sighed. That was true. He supposed they already were slacking off. Kakashi would have scolded them for sparring unsupervised anyway. Especially since that time he’d managed to sprain Sasuke’s ankle and she hadn’t been able to go on an important training mission. “Fine.”

She grinned evilly the moment he agreed. “I dare you to kiss the girl you like,” she snickered. At his stunned expression, she added: “Then we can water walk like we’re supposed to,” in a sarcastic drawl.

He stuck his hands in his pockets and kicked a pebble by his foot. “I think she might punch me,” he predicted. Sasuke scowled.

She struck her own palm with her fist. “I’m gonna punch you if you don’t do it!”

Why was she always making everything so unfair? “Eh?” He asked, not believing she was threatening him over something like that. “Don’t you care about me at all?” He whined.

Her scowl deepened. “I’m tired of watching you sigh around in secret!” So she’d noticed him after all? Looking at her? When he took any excuse to grab her hand and lead her somewhere, did she notice? Her pretty black eyes were staring into him and it made his stomach flip in a weird way. He squatted in the grass close to her, she stared down at him, expression full of expectation. He stood. “And if you can’t take a punch from Sak-” He was already pressing a kiss to her cheek when he realized his mistake and heard her stunned “Oh-”

And felt her fist jam into his ribs- right where she’d just kicked him. “Ow!” It hurt. He doubled over. He punches her back without any real force, grinding his fist into the same spot she’d hit him. He squirmed uncomfortably from the friction of his clothes chafing at his skin. “You just wanted me to get punched!”

She flushed hard, contrasting her wide, dark eyes. “I-” Sasuke pushed him over onto his ass and folded her arms over her chest. She stuck up her nose. Naruto could see the spot where he kissed her. He touched his lips, remembering how soft her skin was. What were the chances she’d let him do it again? “Whatever.”

“You’re turning all red,” he teased. She touched her cheek, glaring at the empty in front of her. He sniffed. There was something shifting in the way she smelled. He wanted to… press his face to her neck. The urge to touch her was strong but she didn’t like that and he wasn’t trying to get punched again.

She flushed even harder as if she could hear his thoughts. “Stop it.” She told him, even though he wasn't even doing anything. She curled her hand into a fist and got into a stance. “Don’t think I won't hit you again just because-”

“But Sasuke, you dared me to kiss the girl I like the most,” he argued, grinning. Her eyes were avoiding his. She was pink as Sakura’s hair. He stuck out his tongue.

“I know that!” She replied hotly. Naruto resisted the urge to laugh. “I know that,” she huffed again more measuredly. She was pouting. He wondered why, but it was probably because she realized she’d been wrong and it was making her skin crawl. She visibly relaxed, then sat down a short distance from him, legs crossed over each other. “You...” She hesitated, biting her lip. “You have to tell me next time you’re going to do that.” Her voice became totally soft near the end- he had to lean close to hear it.

He felt her hand lightly touch his. “It’s a promise!” He told her, squeezing her fingers. She nodded. “But your face is way too serious.” He slowly moved to touch her cheek with his free hand. It left him a bit precariously balanced, but he didn’t care. She eyed his palm suspiciously at first but let him, leaning into the contact. Her dark hair parted, exposing the flushing skin on her neck.

“Hey!” They both jerked. It was Sakura. She couldn't see what they were up to from that far away, but they obviously weren’t practicing chakra control. “You two!” She screeched from across the training ground. “Why are you always fooling around?”

---

Sasuke shivered on the futon Naruto had purchased, tightening the blankets around her body. No matter how many she asked for it wasn't enough. “Mistress,” she heard. It was just outside the window. “Please hurry- It’s going to start snowing!” That was probably a bit of an exaggeration, but snakes were always highly melodramatic about winter, which wasn't quite there but was fast approaching Konoha. Sasuke braced herself for the chilly air, then stretched her arm out to a low hanging tree bough and allowed a medium-sized viper to coil around her forearm.

She ran her fingers over the cool scales. Even less suited to the late autumn temperatures than Sasuke herself, Junko was obviously enjoying the warmth the kunoichi was generating. “Hello,” she greeted quietly. Sasuke didn’t necessarily want Naruto to wake up and know she had a visitor. Not until she knew what the message was anyway. “What brings you?” She went back to the futon and huddled under the blankets, shivering. Junko uncoiled from Sasuke’s wrist and curled up on her belly, where it was warmer.

She took a few moments to regain the energy she’d lost slithering around outside in the cold. “Sannin sends me,” Junko finally told her, using simple phrases to conserve energy. “He wants to know.” It was like him to check in on her, and snakes were good for moving intelligence. They were quick enough to bring him the information he wanted without risking exposing themselves but sending them wasn’t an insignificant matter.

He had to make sacrifices for the snake tribe’s loyalty that made them unsuited for something as casual as checking on her. If it had slithered all the way to Sasuke on its belly in the cold it must also have a message. “I’m fine,” she answered swiftly. “Halfway to bursting but fine.” Junko made a soft hissing laugh at her joke, twisting her shimmering black body on itself.

“You might crack like an egg instead,” Junko snickered. “All your guts will spill out.” Snakes loved mean-spirited or morbid jokes, and Junko was no exception. The reptile sobered. “Someone is coming.”

Sasuke shook her head. “He’s sending- I told him not to,” she huffed in frustration. Her mentor could be a bit overbearing and liked to send spies- of course, he’d always call them back up when confronted, but Sasuke knew better. That prying old Sannin better mind his own business.

“No-” the summon hissed. “Bad someone.” Not Orochimaru then, or any of his followers. “From the North.” But definitely someone from those times. Someone she’d angered. She’d defeated so many, and they were all still alive. Her first real kill had been Danzo, but sometimes she wondered if she should have killed a few of them at least, to tie up the loose ends. “Someone is looking for an Uchiha.” At the time she'd thought nothing of each threat to ‘erase from this world the blight of the Uchiha bloodline.’ But now that she was carrying a child, it wasn't just her own skin she had to watch out for.

Sasuke glanced nervously at the window. She’d closed it, and the blinds, but that did nothing against the crawling she kept feeling on the back of her neck. “Last spotted leaving Sound’s borders.” Sasuke pursed her lips. Quite a while away then, even on horseback. She had a little time to prepare. Junko seemed to sense her distress and swayed her body left and right in a display of aggression. “Not to worry! I will protect you with my venom. You are sworn to us, after all.”

Was she so pathetic that a snake summon felt the need to comfort her? “Thank you.” She'd still take the help if it was offered to her.

Something went bump outside in the night and Sasuke jerked violently. “What’s that?” She asked, half ashamed of her own jumpiness. Her eyes stung painfully, then she could see as if her Sharingan were activated. She hadn't willed it to. She could feel her cheeks burning in shame. “Never mind. Let's find Naruto.”

Once again, she pulled the sheet aside and jostled Naruto’s shoulder so he’d make room for her. “Oi-” he growled into the silence of the night. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Then go back to the futon,” he hissed irritably. His eyes slit in foxlike annoyance flick to the door. His hand found her shoulder and pushed her backward. He was leery of letting her into his bed after the games she’d played with him. Petty. She took a reluctant step backward- then forwards again- her chest contracting painfully from the rejection.

“Your whole apartment is cold,” she hissed, punching at his shoulder. He grabbed her hand and absorbed the strike by twisting his wrist so her attack hit the pillow. “Do you want us to get sick, or do you just not care?” He finally made eye contact with her, and his expression immediately softened. He was obviously still annoyed, but he stopped pushing back on her.

She blinked, pleased. It seemed, she could make him do things if they were necessary for their offspring- or if she could make it look that way. He huffed and made room, scooting to the far side of his bed, his back turned to her. Unacceptable. Even when she pressed her body to his warmth, one side of her was left shivering. She poked his cheek. “Turn around,” she told him.

He batted her hand away. “No.”

She sighed, hazarding to run her hand through his hair. His renewed glare was like a wave of fiery air. She ended the contact- quivering internally with a strange feeling of... perhaps guilt? “Please,” she requested, casting her eyes down. He stared at her for a moment, unsure. “I can’t sleep.”

“Fine,” he eventually agreed. He rolled over and tucked Sasuke into his arms, correctly gathering what she wanted, despite that she’d never said so. She didn’t acknowledge or praise him for it, just curled up like she’d been waiting to do. “Is this okay?” He murmured against the back of her neck. She felt his lips brush against her skin for a moment and shivered.

With his arm around her, she suddenly felt very drowsy. “Mmm,” she agreed. She pulled his palm to her tummy. “Rub," she ordered.

“Fucking princess,” he whined, stroking the taut skin of her abdomen. She sighed softly, soothed by the touch of his palm. He was so warm. “Fuck your feet are cold as hell!” He cried. She could feel him shivering as her cold extremities leached their iciness into him. She snickered, pressing them harder into his thighs.

Junko thought it was funny as well. Naruto twitched. His hearing must be sharp if he noticed that. She heard the sharp intake of air as he began to sniff the air. “Wait-” he lifted up the sheet. “Is that a snake?” Junko was hiding, he couldn’t have seen her, but his guess was sharp enough that Sasuke gave in and told him.

“Yeah.” Junko showed herself, slithering up between them. She could see Naruto’s skin crawling. His chakra, for a brief moment, was visible in whirling gold- it shrank close to his skin from nervousness. He didn’t like snakes and it was probably thanks to Sasuke. “She’s with me.”

Naruto heaved a sigh of relief. “You could have said it was your summon,” he whined, stretching his hand out towards Junko. It only shook a little. He was obviously trying hard to move slowly and keep his hand steady. Animals usually liked him because of his calm demeanor.

But Junko was not a regular animal. Nor was she technically even Sasuke’s summon. She hissed, stacking her coils and trying to look bigger. “Don’t grab me!” She looked wary but didn’t strike.

Naruto stopped just shy, his fingers an inch or two from her bared fangs. Surprisingly, his hands had stopped shaking. “I’m not, I’m gonna put you up there if that’s fine.” He jerked his head towards the headboard. “No biting.”

Junko inclined her head and seemed to settle back down. “Not you,” she replied reluctantly. She obviously was not willing to make the promise not to bite at all. She let him pick her up and move her to the headboard. Sasuke was shivering again, impatiently waiting for Naruto to put his arms back around her.

“Okay,” Naruto approved. He was easy to please. A snake in his bed only needed to be adjusted slightly before he’d accept it. What a foolish boy. “Sasuke you can't bring snakes in the bed without telling me.” Oh- and apparently, he needed to be notified first as well. Sasuke almost laughed at him.

Sasuke stuck her tongue out. “Why not?” He blinked, then grinned back at her. Instead of answering he wrapped his arms around her and burrowed them both under the sheets. She pressed back into him, trying to avoid the cold as much as possible. Sasuke didn’t have to ask him to pet her tummy or stroke his palm over her hair. She was floating in a soft sleepy haze within moments, the heat of his body making her drowsier and drowsier.

When she woke up, she didn't need space. She did have to pee, though. Her bladder cramped painfully, and her stomach rolled as she got up and the child was forced to shift in her womb just from the change in the direction of gravity. She’d been having to pee constantly for the past few months. Her balance was off. She sat down to relieve herself, leaning sideways against the sink because she couldn't really be qualified as awake yet.

Sasuke sighed as her half-dreaming mind recalled the events of the previous night. Stronger than the feeling of comfort was the shame at her own weakness, and what had caused her to need Naruto in the first place- even if getting him to do what she wanted was its own victory.

It was obvious that the only thing she could do about this situation was to make sure she was ready to defend herself.

Naruto wandered into the bathroom sometime later, his eyes half closed. She huffed, and he blinked in surprise. He’d probably thought it was empty. “Hey good-” he started to greet her. “What are you doing?” He pointed at her swords, both of which she was attempting to wield. Her injured arm was screaming in disagreement so she let her short blade drop.

It clanged on the tiles between them as metal hit ceramic. “Practicing. I don’t want to lose my skills.”

Naruto folded his arms, leaning against the door frame in a way that was probably meant to look casual. It didn’t. “I get the feeling you’re hiding something?” Sasuke rolled her eyes. Naruto’s sideways look narrowed in annoyance. He continued. “Because there’s suddenly a huge black snake in my apartment. I got hissed at this morning because I tried to wear the shirt she was nesting in.” She smirked at that. Junko had just decided to make herself at home, then. That was comforting in a way- but it also meant the danger hadn’t passed. “You’re also doing sword Katas in the bathroom, even though you’re not going to be going on anything like a mission for months.”

Sasuke lowered her second blade to fold her arms, mirroring his argumentative pose. “And why should I have to start training from zero?” She asked. It didn’t make sense for her to let herself go completely soft and then start her training from scratch. She’d already lost enough muscle mass and agility as it stood. Forget the arm- that was gone forever as far as battle assets went. “I’m not hurting myself, am I?”

“You were using that arm,” Naruto stated blandly. Something must have shown on her face because Naruto immediately waved his hands to brush away his statement. His brows creased with worry. “Nevermind. Just… are you okay?”

“Why?”

Naruto sighed. “I don’t know-”

Sasuke knew he had more to say but she cut him off anyway. Served him right for not getting straight to the point. “Nobody knows anything around here.” All her response did was make it harder for the conversation to continue. Just as well. She needed it to end.

Naruto groaned in frustration, and it made Sasuke a little embarrassed. He knew she was being intentionally difficult, but who was he to look down on her anyway? He forged on anyway. “I was serious about protecting you and… You don’t have to ask to sleep in the bed anymore.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “I guess I was just afraid I’d wake up with you gone and a kunai in my belly.”

“You still might,” Sasuke admitted. His eyes widened, and she saw hurt just below the surface. It made her hurt, somehow. Still, she refused to hurry when adding “But not by my doing.”

“Oh.” His eyes changed as he realized the situation- and the hurt in Sasuke’s chest lessened. “... Awesome.” It didn’t go away.

+++

Naruto dug his heels in when Sasuke pulled on his arm, trying to get him to go past the gate. “C’mon,” she hissed, keeping her voice low. She glanced left and right, making sure no Chunin were coming to bust them. Naruto sniffed the air. He could only pick up Sasuke and the animals who lived in the area. He didn’t trust it. His nose was closed from his cold- it was hard to get air through.

Naruto pulled backward, trying to get her to let go. It was better if he stayed outside of the complex. They’d already both been threatened about non-Uchiha’s entering the district, and about Sasuke sleeping over at his place. “You got in trouble last time.” Anyway, he needed to head home. The heat was messed up but at least he could curl up under his covers and hope that his cough went away.

Sasuke yanked again, and she’d hit her growth spurt before him, so he was actually lifted up a bit when he stumbled behind her. “I don’t care,” she drawled. “You’re sick.” From her voice, you would have thought she didn’t care, but her fingers were painfully tight around his wrist, and it gave away her worry.

Naruto sighed and let himself be towed into the complex. They hugged the corners of houses and enter hers through the back. The old wood smell always got stuck inside her house during winter. She got cold easily and didn’t open the windows to let fresh air in.

Sasuke left him sitting on her floor alone for a moment and came back with clothes in her arms. “Put this on,” she told him, already pushing the wool over his head. He put his arms through. The clothes all smelled like Sasuke, and Naruto felt warmer than he’d felt in days. She went back to her room and came back with a pile. “And these all might fit you too.”

Naruto rubbed his arms to warm up. “Are these the clothes you outgrew?” He asked, blushing. It wasn’t fair that Sasuke grew before him.

She smirked. “Yup.”

“They smell like you,” he admitted, holding the ends of the sleeves to his nose. The arms were still just a bit too long. One day he wanted to give her his jacket, instead of the other way around. But he only had one- and it was too small for her.

“What’s the smell,” Sasuke asked curiously, breaking him out of his thoughts.

He waves her closer and she scoots next to him. He touched a bit of her hair because he knew it would bother her the least and sniffed it. The strands were soft and silky between his fingers. “It’s smoky,” he told her. “Like a temple.”

She made a soft sound of annoyance, turning her head to the dark hair slips out of his fingers and goes back to hanging at her neck. “Thanks,” she huffs, pulling her knees up to her chest.

“I really like it,” he told her quickly. “I didn’t mean it as a bad thing.” She smiled hesitantly, relaxing her position slightly. This close he could see the pink of her lips, and the darker spot where she was biting it just a second ago. “Can I kiss you?”

She wrinkled her nose at him. He was sure he would say no, but she leaned close and pressed her lips to his for a brief moment. Her scent surrounded him, sweet and smoky. Then it was over, and she was walking out of the room. “Come eat,” she called from the doorway.

Naruto hurried to his feet and followed.

---

Sasuke tried to stay awake. She curled up in bed as if asleep and held her short sword at the ready. If anyone tried to grab her, she’d slit their throat before they even realized she was awake. Or- that had been the plan anyway. As the night stretched on, she felt herself dozing off more and more, each tiny sleep punctuated by her jerking awake with heart-clenching panic and guilt at her own weakness. If she couldn't do this how could she keep herself safe? She saw a foreign color of chakra shifting near her. Half-asleep and certain she’d already moved too late to save herself, Sasuke lashed out with her short-sword.

“Shit Sasuke-” And the voice was too familiar to be an enemy. Junko hissed aggressively, unrolling from the headboard. Her brain worked in fits and starts to catch up but eventually, she realized with blinding clarity her mistake. She’d sliced open Naruto’s arm as he moved to set a fresh glass of water by her side of the bed. His chakra was whipping around him, razor sharp from the pain- but in his usual golden color. Was the stranger’s color she’d seen all in her imagination? Or a dream?

He was kneeling by the bedside, his hand curled in towards his chest. Pain moved over his face in waves. Sasuke knew how a fresh cut felt. The pain started deep under the skin and radiated outwards. Unlike a scrape, the sensation couldn’t be ignored. Sasuke put her hands together around the hilt of her blade and apologized. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m fine,” Naruto soothed. He got up, walked to the bathroom and rinsed his hand. She listened to the faucet running, guilt twisting her insides around, and around, and around. She could barely breathe. She was sure he wouldn’t come back. He’d leave her alone, sick of her inability to even do the slightest thing properly- “See, I heal pretty fast.” Sasuke’s eyes slowly focused on the palm he stretched in front of her. The gash in his arm was still pink, but it wasn’t bleeding anymore, and she could see his chakra knitting everything back together. “Don’t worry.”

He touched her hair and Sasuke jerked her head away from his touch. She didn’t want to be comforted. It didn’t actually fix anything. “The waiting-” she choked. She couldn’t say any more than that. Her eye spasmed and the colors vanished. She touched her eye, wincing.

He nodded. “I get it.” He pushed her over in the bed, taking her spot near the window. “I’ll stay awake, you sleep.” He propped himself on the headboard, pushing his hair back from his face with a yawn.

Sasuke tried to get comfortable but couldn’t until she gave up and laid across his lap. She closed her eyes when his fingers touched her hair. “How do you keep doing that?” She asked, frustrated. Sasuke couldn’t help but hold grudges but no matter what she seemed to do, Naruto would just forgive, and hold her close again.

“What?” He asked, as oblivious as ever.

Sasuke huffed. “Idiot.”

“Bitch,” he scoffed back.

And Sasuke slept- for a while.

It only seemed like a few moments had passed when she woke up feeling violently sick with Naruto clutching her hand. Her stomach heaved and someone held up a pan in front of her just before she threw up. Sasuke groaned. Nothing felt right. Her body felt hot and cold. Her mind was swimming and she had a splitting headache. She hadn’t felt anywhere near this shitty when she’d fallen asleep. “Hey, babe-” “You just regained consciousness, and we’re in the hospital. Don’t try to do anything.” Her vision was blurry and the bright, white lights weren’t helping.

“What’s going on?” Sasuke gritted out, hating the taste of her mouth.

“... Someone came,” Naruto told her softly, gently. Her heart lurched but she managed not to make the sound of panic that tried to escape from her mouth. “You’re getting treatment for the poison right now. He also cut your side a little bit.” She bristled at the tone that was clearly trying to keep her calm. She didn’t need to be kept calm. She needed to see a corpse. “You’re going to be fine now that you’ve woken up.”

“And-” she realized with a shock that even she could handle the poison and come out fine, it didn’t mean nothing had been lost. She went still. She was afraid to touch her stomach, but if she could feel it shift just a bit...

“He’s- dead,” Naruto sighs, his eyes shifting away guiltily. It takes Sasuke a moment to realize who he was talking about. Who he thought she cared about. “Maybe I shouldn’t have, but-”

Sasuke shakes her head. “No. You should’ve.” She lets herself lay a hand over her tummy, to make things clearer. “Naruto-”

At that moment Tsunade entered the room. Her eyes pierced Sasuke’s and the young nin felt her worry perfectly transmitted to the other woman. “Perfectly fine,” the medic affirmed without even asking. “Just a little startled. Its heart rate will go down soon if it hasn’t already.”

Sasuke sighed in relief. As much as she hated to admit it… it mattered. Sasuke doesn't really know how she would have reacted if it wasn’t fine. “Idiot,” she hissed at Naruto, punching him, and the impact felt unbearably weak. “I told you.” She couldn't really blame him if she was being fair, but she needed the tension out of her body. She could be fair to him later when her heart had stopped thudding so painfully hard in her chest.

“I know,” he apologized, even though he was smiling. He knew. His expression became more serious. “Your snake got hurt too, so she went back. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” she huffed, feeling herself deflate. He really wasn’t any fun anymore, when he already knew her so well. “I know you did everything.” She moved her gaze over to Tsunade. “Can we go home?” She asked. Then she flushed when she realized she’d thoughtlessly said ‘home’ instead of ‘Naruto’s apartment.’

The Hokage shook her head, checking the fluid bags that were intravenously supplying Sasuke with medicine. She made a mark on a clipboard. “Tomorrow morning.” It didn’t leave any room for argument. “But I’ll let Naruto stay over.” Sasuke scoffed. As if that was any comfort.

Naruto grins. “Thanks, granny.” He waved at her as she moved to leave them.

“Wait- Tell me what you know about him.” When the woman just stared at her, Sasuke added “please.”

Slowly, the medic shook her head. “No.”

“No?”

“No.” Hearing it a second time only increased the bristling along Sasuke’s body. “It will only cause you more stress, and as a prisoner, you’re actually not entitled to the information. Keep trusting in Naruto.”

Sasuke sighed, looking at the blond at her bedside. He’d kept her alive so far. “I suppose.”

+++

Lunch break had Sasuke and Naruto sneaking away from the training field and hiding behind a thick tree trunk so they could press close to each other without being seen. Sakura had a really intense crush on Sasuke that Naruto didn’t want to get mixed up with the wrong way.

He’d gotten Sasuke comfy with him touching the ends of her hair, then the top of her head and her cheek. Eventually, she’d gotten okay with kisses. Now her whole side was warm against him, and her lips were tentatively pressed against his. Her fingers had made a fist in his jacket. He didn’t plan to pull away, but he doubted he could have if he wanted to. His own palm was spread over the side her spandex shorts- her thigh flexed as she pressed closer to him. “Sasuke-chan is a lot softer than she looks,” he teased.

“Wipe that stupid look off your face,” she snapped, flushing pink. Her fingers tightened in his jacket, and she pulled him towards her. Her words- didn’t always match her feelings or what she did. She’d hug him and that claim her body moved on its own.

He rubbed his nose against hers and she scoffed, craning her neck away from him as if she thought he was gross. He didn’t believe her. Not when he could still taste her chapstick. “Oi- Do you want me to kiss you again or not?” He asked.

Her eyes narrowed him. “Hurry up,” she ordered, settling back against his side and closing her eyes. He leaned forward and lightly touched her hair, then kissed her. Her cheeks got pinker every second. It was really cute.

---

Thankfully no one was around to see it when Sasuke burned her mouth on noodles. “You know you're eating ramen?” Never mind. The idiot was there- as always. As was his task. Since he’d become her glorified jailer, he’d switched to wearing his civilian clothes. They were far more comfortable four watching a treasonous teammate. Sasuke was wearing them too, for other reasons. She was five months along, and the clothes she’d stashed in his apartment years ago probably didn’t fit her anymore and finding them had left her with a strange feeling she didn’t want to exacerbate further by trying to put them on.

Because of that, she’d almost not noticed him. He moved silently. In beige khakis and a plain t-shirt, he almost vanished entirely into the woodwork. She’d managed to avoid expressing any surprise at seeing him so far, but that wasn’t to say she hadn’t been surprised yet. Once again, she played it off. “This isn’t tomato soup?” She asked sarcastically. He smiled, blonde lashes touching his cheeks as he looked down in amusement, then at her again. Sasuke’s arm jerked with a spasm of pain, and almost knocked her cup over entirely, spilling scalding hot soup on her injuries. A soft sound of pain escaped her.

He was there in half a moment, his hand around her wrist. She had been prepared for the burst of agony but instead of worsening at his touch, the feeling seemed to let up some. A lot, actually. She blinked, her whole body relaxing as even some of the pain from her injury slipped away. That was definitely a new jutsu for him. Did he use it to deal with the damage from the Rasenshuriken while his body healed? “How’s that?” He asked. “It’s about all I can do, but Sakura can-”

“No thanks,” She cut in. “Your kid really wants these noodles right now.” He raised his eyebrows at her. She blushed, realizing to a greater degree what she had said. “Going to the hospital would definitely delay that,” she elaborated sheepishly. She took her chopsticks and began slurping the still uncomfortably hot soup to give her mouth something else to do than give away everything at once.

“My kid,” he murmured quietly. “Or the Kyuubi?” She looked up at him in alarm. “I wasn’t there the way I should have been,” he admitted, expression troubled. “Sometimes I don’t know.”

Sasuke bit her lip. “Yours.” He nodded. She grabbed the hem of his shirt and made him sit cross-legged on the ground next to her. “Sit.” He put his elbows on the coffee table, but that wouldn’t do. She pulled his palm to the curve of her tummy. “Feel. That's its chakra,” she told him. Sasuke could see him trying to figure it out. He was slow sometimes. She huffed. “It’s obvious that you and I made it.”

“How would I tell that?” He asked, grinning. He pinched her side lightly- making her feel more ticklish than anything else. Sasuke batted the offending hand away. “Sasuke forgets other people don’t have Sharingan,” he teased. Just because he didn’t have Sharingan didn’t mean he couldn’t sense chakra. In the past, he’d been able to notice all sorts of invisible factors. She wondered if it only worked in battle. Until just previously, she’d been able to use Sharingan at will. “What if I’m no good at this either?”

She moved closer to him and let him hug her for his own comfort. He was warm, curling up around Sasuke and pulling her into his lap. He was like an octopus “Are you questioning my decisions?” Sasuke asked his temple. She pushed at his shoulder so he would look at her- or maybe to get some a bit more space.

He laid his head on her collarbone. “Sometimes," he admitted. She touched his neck, tracing the skin. His eyelashes fluttered, and he nuzzled her neck. He had plenty of scars- she could see the beginning of one of them on an exposed bit of his shoulder. The Kyuubi healed him but Naruto just ran at danger nine times as hard to make up for it. Each of his scars was a wound that would have easily killed someone else. She knew because she’d made some of them herself.

She flicked his nose, and he wrinkled it up, huffing at her in annoyance. “Well don't,” she told him matter-of-factly. His eyes seemed to be fixed on her mouth. “I picked you, you're my pick and I'm a genius,” she informed him haughtily.

He grimaced, squeezing her gently like he was afraid she’d get up and leave him there. She might still have if he hadn’t sighed: “I was your pick before... that.” That was his concern then. It was Sasuke’s turn to make a face.

She sniffed. “And you're still the only person I can tolerate so shut up.”

“Okay.” He looked inordinately happy to hear it. She was rather comfortable cradled in his lap, so she leaned her weight into him and decided not to get up yet. “Hey Sasuke, do you-” Suddenly there’s a soft knocking on the door. “It’s open!” Naruto called. Sasuke slid off his lap- a stranger seeing them entangled like that made her distinctly uncomfortable. For another thing- why wasn’t the door locked? One of Naruto’s palms came to rest on the small of her back where they sat side by side.

Kakashi appeared in the hallway, shoes off and in his hands. “Hello, cute students!” Naruto did not seem surprised at all. Maybe he’d left the door open for their Sensei’s arrival. Then again- no one who wanted to harm Naruto would be perturbed by the lock of a shitty apartment door. She’d still feel better with it locked. “I was on a mission. Imagine my surprise to discover these current events.”

Sasuke bowed to him from sitting because standing up would be hard. “Sensei.”

He stared at her for a moment and then… breaks into laughter. “You’re huge,” he snickers into his novel of questionable pornography, gesturing her pregnancy on his own body. “Are you just further along, or is it twins?” Sasuke made an indignant noise and opened her mouth to reply but her sensei just continued. “Must be the noodles, after all, hmm?”

Naruto gave her an apologetic look when she whipped around and caught him stifling his own laughter into his hand. “Well now she’s not gonna let you touch her tummy,” he teased his sensei, petting Sasuke soothingly behind her back, where Kakashi couldn’t see it.

Kakashi gave his student a dry look and tonelessly ordered. “Naruto. Go away. I need some alone time with my favorite student.”

“How is she your favorite?” His voice was devolving into a whine and Sasuke shot him a glare. He was too busy giving Kakashi his most hurt look. “I’m the one who stayed with you!”

“And absence makes the heart grow fonder. So go be absent.” Sasuke pushed herself up to her feet. She felt the need to greet her old sensei properly.

Naruto looked scandalized, then it transformed into worry. He probably feared the village reversing its decision and choosing to have her executed after all. “It’s fine,” she told him, pulling his hand away from her lower back. It was obvious he didn’t like it, but he went out of the window anyway. After a few moments, they could hear him speaking, probably informing their guard of the situation.

Kakashi waited for the voices to become silent, then pulled her to his side in a hug. She hugged him back fiercely, grateful that Naruto was somewhere else and wouldn’t see. “How is domestic life?” Her sensei asked, ruffling her hair like when she was a little girl.

“How should I know?” She grimaced, folding her arms. She didn’t so much let him help her sit on the couch, as suddenly find herself off her center of balance in his arms, and then sitting. She wondered if she’d ever completely catch up to his speed, no matter how she trained.

“I wonder,” Kakashi mused pointedly. “It’s really his?” His voice was deceptively casual. He picked up her noodle cup and passed it to her so he could put his feet up on the coffee table. She took it gratefully. It had seemed moments ago like the whole world was trying to prevent her from eating and she already felt faint enough.

“Yeah,” she mumbled around a mouth full of ramen. She avoided his eyes, feeling exposed. She wanted to cover her stomach with her hand, but that would attract more attention to it. She wistfully remembered when she could easily hide the bump under her shirt. But at the same time- she wanted to show her sensei what she had wrought and maybe she was kind of proud of herself. But for what? Serving a simple biological function without dying?

Kakashi shrugged, oblivious to her internal monologue. “Then you’ll be alright,” he told her cheerfully. Or at least, she surmised that from his one exposed eye.

She sighed. “Of course I’ll be fine.” Her tone was indignant, and she could tell that that amused her old teacher. She scowled. In any case, she didn’t need anyone’s help to survive. Or she wouldn’t- once her body was back to normal. Her arm chose that moment to spasm inside the brace. She braced herself for the pain but felt only a dull throbbing and remembered Naruto’s warm fingers circling her wrist and wiping the sensations away.

“You might consider being kinder to him,” Kakashi drawled in that way of his. It was hard to tell if that was a serious statement or more teasing. “Especially when you look at your other options-”

“It wouldn’t have happened with anyone else,” she interrupted. Of that, she was absolutely sure.

He shrugged. “I believe that. Even so,” he trailed off, letting it hang in the air. Sasuke resisted the urge to squirm in discomfort. Kakashi stood, ruffling her hair again. “I’m actually going to be late to something. Remember what I said.”

She huffed, looking down into her cup of soup. “Fine.”

Chapter Text

+++

“Shoot!” Naruto let his hand fly- forming the shape of scissors. Sasuke had bet on paper and lost. “I win!” He crowed with a grin. He crooked his finger and she leaned forward. He pecked her lips. They were soft and moved slightly against his as Sasuke kissed him back. Her scent changed a little when they kissed, it went just a bit sweeter, and when he pulled back, she was a pretty pink.

“Shoot.” At her cue- he went with rock, thinking she definitely wouldn’t choose paper again. He’d thought wrong. She covered his hand, his pale fingers crossing over his. “I win,” she smirked. “Come,” she ordered. Naruto leaned forwards. A kiss from Sasuke, he hoped. The sound of a smack rang out as the sting of her hand bloomed across his cheek.

“Ouch!” He cried, touching his face. “You’re too cruel-”

“Hey, you two!” Sasuke and Naruto both jerked. The tent flap was opened and their sensei ducked in. The lightning smell and the adult smell Naruto had come to realize came with frequently using chakra intensified as he glared at them with his one eye. “You shouldn’t be in the same tent with this formation-” their sensei scolded. “Who’s guarding the south?”

The two genin looked nervously at each other. “Uh?”

“This is not what I meant by teamwork,” Kakashi lectured angrily. “Never abandon your post.” They both bowed their heads, unable to meet their sensei’s eyes from the guilt. “Naruto.” The boy flinched at the sound of his name, and his sensei’s tone. “Sasuke might be safer with you here but what about Sakura?”

“I’m sorry,” Naruto mumbled. “I didn’t think.” He really was sorry. He’d just been so excited to sleep over with Sasuke without Chunin trying to separate them. He’d been excited to not be alone- but it had been selfish. He’d forgotten about his teammate. “Those who abandon their comrades are worse than scum,” he recited softly.

His sensei made an affirmative sound. “People can die when you don’t think, Naruto.” Naruto stared at his feet. He heard his sensei sigh and felt a hand ruffling his hair. “I’m glad you two are close but this isn’t the time.” Naruto nodded. “And I would think you know better, Sasuke.”

“I’m sorry Sensei,” Sasuke apologized softly. “I should have said something.”

---

Sasuke did her best not to swing her feet nervously while she waited for Tsunade to come back with the results of her exam. She was six months along, and her body felt like a mess. Her breasts ached hellishly, she constantly had to pee, she couldn’t sleep and she could barely keep food down. She just knew something was wrong.

“Everything seems to be progressing well.” Sasuke blinked. That was a surprise. “But you need to reduce your stress and exertion levels, your body is already working hard to sustain the child and heal your arm. Your paths are already disrupted, as well.” There it was. As she’d expected her body was in shambles. “If you want your child to have the best chances you must prioritize rest in these late stages.”

It would be agonizing. Her sword practice was all that gave her any peace lately. She’d been useless in the first attack- it couldn’t be that way again. To rely on Naruto was terrifying for many reasons. “I have to sit around all day?” She could already feel the restless energy building to unbearable levels in her body.

“You can do yoga, and meditate,” Tsunade supplied, entirely unhelpfully. “No more heavy lifting… or swordplay.” She handed Sasuke a bottle that rattled with pills. “I also want you to take these vitamins.”

Sasuke accepted the container numbly. She wanted to go home, after the news she’d gotten. “Thanks.”

“You look like you need new clothing.” Sasuke looked down at where Naruto’s shirt was stretched to its limit over her body. She’d taken a pair of his army green capris as well. She’d been choosing his softest and most forgiving fabrics. She didn't notice scents the way that Naruto did, but she could smell that they were his clothes when she pulled them out of the drawers, but it faded as she wore them. “I can approve an outing or send some over.”

“Send it, please.”

Tsunade pursed her lips. “It wouldn’t hurt to go outside and see some of your graduating group. With Naruto watching over you, of course.”

They only cared about her status as a prisoner when it served them. Sasuke shook her head. She really didn’t want to go shopping. She only knew what clothes she liked for training, which she wasn’t allowed to do. Trying to buy civilian clothes would only remind her of her limitation. “No. Thank you.” Anyway, what could possibly be gained by seeing all the people in the village who hated her?

The fifth dismissed Sasuke with a quick squeeze of her hand. Sasuke didn’t really know what to make of the gesture but it encouraged her to leave quickly. Naruto was waiting for her outside with a canvas shopping bag with a pattern of cartoon frogs on it. He’d clearly chosen it when he was much younger since it was worn and faded in certain spots. She knew he hated replacing things when they were still good, but it was amusing to see him still carrying it around in public. “How was it,” he asked cheerfully. “Are you healthy?”

Sasuke nodded. “It’s still alive,” she tells him, tartly. His nose wrinkled above a wavering smile. He wanted more information. She let out a small sigh an indulged him. “We’re doing well. It’s about this big.” She mimicked the gesture Tsunade made and hoped she wasn’t too far off. Naruto’s eyes widened in wonder. “I should be feeling more serious kicks soon,” she grumbled.

Naruto was grinning. His hands fluttered around like he might try to touch her but thankfully he didn’t do that. They were in public and it would have made her supremely uncomfortable. “Have you already felt softer ones?” She nodded. She’d felt lots of rolling around besides. “That’s good.” He held the door of the clinic open for her and they began to make their way through town. They took a bit longer of a way that avoided the main streets. Out of the blue, he asked: “What do you think- is it a boy or girl?”

Sasuke thought about what the answer might be. Had she had any feelings? No matter how she searched her mind she had no idea. She hadn’t even dreamt of it. “What does it matter?”

Naruto hopped onto a stone garden wall, showing off his balance by landing on one foot. “For names?” He said it like it was obvious.

“No.” When it was born… it would need a name. It would be its own entity and need a name to identify itself with. So much could go wrong still before it was born. If she gave it a name too soon- it would be much more painful when she failed.

“But-” Naruto complained.

Sasuke shook her head. “Not yet.” She couldn’t. Trying to think of names would make her panic.

He shrugged. “Whatever you want.” He hopped back down at the end of the stone wall. He bumped her shoulder lightly with his- which did not bristle her as much as it should- and reached into the bag. “While you were in there, I went shopping and got you these,” he dug around for a moment, searching by feel, and pulled out a small paper carton.

Sasuke accepted it and opened the carton to find little sticks of incense inside. “These are the ones-” she realized with a start. He nodded, his smile widening. “Thank you.” The gift startled her. She looked over at him and he was holding out a little incense holder to her as well. Like the incense itself, it was the type she used to have, rectangular and made of matte green-brown ceramic. She stopped walking to look at it properly. It was a little nicer than the one she used to have, just by being new. “Thank you,” she repeated.

She gestured towards him, and he opened his shopping bag to let her place her gifts back inside until they get back to his apartment. She gently placed them, since both objects were delicate. “I know you like to pray. I’m actually sorry it took so long.”

“It’s fine.” She told him. And it was. She hadn’t been able to have a proper altar for years, living on the move, nor had she mentioned wanting one. But the thought of the little incense burner and the little sticks made her feel right. It was definitely an improvement.

They returned to the apartment and Sasuke watched Naruto put groceries away. He set the incense and holder on the kitchen counter. Sasuke picked them up. It felt good to hold them, and she was impatient to set them up and have a little space that was just hers, and not Naruto’s. “Where can I-”

Naruto pointed to where the walls of his apartment formed a little alcove under a window, most likely due to poor planning by the builders. Naruto had pushed a little end table into there, and it had been cluttered with random objects the day before, but it since then it had been cleared off, even wiped with a cleaning liquid. It smelled a bit lemony still when she knelt in front of it.

Looking at the small wooden table with her new belongings arranged on it made it impossible to pretend Naruto hadn’t been thinking about her for a while. She couldn’t help but blush, and she hid it by leaning forward so her hair curtained her face. Sasuke hauled herself back onto her feet and dug through his kitchen for matches.

She hesitated in the last moment before lighting an incense. Naruto bustling in the kitchen didn’t make the mood seem right. It had been a while since Sasuke had asked the attention of the spirits. She needed to do it correctly. Especially now that she had real proof that the spirit was eternal, she herself being a reincarnated being who’d been given powers beyond her bloodline by a half-god’s ghost. Thinking about it gave her a headache, but she couldn’t deny what she knew. She set the matches down. Sunrise would be a good time, maybe while Naruto was still asleep.

+++

Naruto squeezed Sasuke’s hand. She’d put on a velvety dress for dinner, and the sleeve brushed pleasantly against his arm as they walked. She’d also put on shimmery gloss, and it smelled like a toasted marshmallow. Naruto wondered where girls got all their sweet, glittery stuff. He really liked it- it made them smell like treats.

“Was that a good date?” He asked as soon as they were behind closed doors. He’d been holding the question until they were done sneaking around outside. She made a noise but didn’t really answer his question, keeping her back turned to him. Sometimes she was so shy. He tugged her close by her hand so she had to turn around and looked into her wide, dark eyes. “Tell me.” She blushed, smiling a tiny smile.

“Yeah,” she swooped in and kissed his cheek for half a second before fleeing, her fingers slipping out of his. Naruto laughed, his body filling with warm bubbles. “Come in here,” she called. He followed her into her room. She patted her mattress for him to sit. “Wait here a second.” He sat.

Naruto’s nose quirked as the scent of incense flared up in the next room. “Take your time,” he called back. Naruto rolled up in her blanket, enjoying the thick fabric and expensive furniture. His apartment kind of sucked. Her place was way nicer, except that it was huge and empty. It must be a real hassle to clean it all up. He closed his eyes.

Someone poked his cheek. “Hey.” Naruto opened his eyes. Sasuke was laying on her belly with her face close to his, her pale fingertip pressed into his cheek. “You wanna kiss some?” Naruto grinned, unrolling himself from the blanket so quickly he went tumbling off the edge. He could hear Sasuke snickering as he crawled back up onto her futon.

He snuggled up against Sasuke’s side, eagerly throwing an arm around her waist to pull her close. She pressed the softness of her body against him, and her leg hooked over his. Naruto swallowed because… well, he was a boy after all. He couldn’t just ignore a girl getting all close and rubbing her chest against him.

He pressed his lips against hers, and her lip gloss tasted so good he couldn’t resist swiping his tongue across her mouth. She shivered, her eyes fluttering open to look at him with a glazed look. She closed her eyes when he leaned forwards again, pursing her lips. He stroked his hand over her hair, and her thigh squeezed his hip. Naruto really liked trading touches with her. They kissed until Naruto felt dizzy and pulled back for breath. Even Sasuke was panting softly.

She rolled onto her back and as she did her dress rode up. Her panties showed and they were white with little strawberries printed on them. “Whoa-” Naruto grinned. He touched her side, rubbing the fabric of her dress with his finger. “These are cute,” he told her. He bit his lip, feeling his tummy twist with excitement. “Can I touch? Please.”

Sasuke stared at him for a moment, her expression nervous. He was about to tell her to forget about it when she whispered “Yeah. You can.” She touched the velvety hem pulled up her dress, exposing more of her creamy white skin and cute panties. Naruto stared at her hip bone, fingering the cotton fabric before dipping his fingers under it. Her skin there was so soft. Sasuke made a soft high sound, her hand flying to her mouth. Her hip pushed into his hand though.

He tried to look in her eyes, but she was avoiding looking at him. Her signals were fighting a bit so he decided to make sure. “Are you okay,” he asked gently. “Do you want me to stop?”

Sasuke shook her head. “No. Do it more,” she ordered from behind her hand. Naruto slid his fingers along her skin inside her panties, reaching around to grip the soft skin of her butt. She exhaled shakily, her lips parting around a gasp. She'd gone past pink straight into scarlet. Naruto kissed her again, feeling her lips tremble against his. His hand drifted up into her lower back, around her tummy, then down over her panties again.

She was moist and soft in front, and when he pressed his fingers in against the fabric, she made a soft cry and her thighs clamped down on his hand, trapping it. A new, really exciting and musky scent was spreading from between her legs. He quirked his fingers and she trembled, moaning into his next kiss.

“Does that feel good?” Sasuke nodded quickly. She squeezed his hand with her thighs, wiggling against his fingers. The scent intensified and the outside of her panties started to feel moist. He rubbed against her wiggling- he didn’t know much about how to make a girl feel good but it was obvious enough what she liked: her lips parted and her eyes went hazy when he touched her right.

When he kissed her, her lips moved more hungrily, more clumsily against his. He liked that too. She was losing control a little bit, and she trusted him to hold her through it. As he got better, her wiggling became twitches and she made soft desperate noises, biting down on his lip. Suddenly she stiffened, then her whole body went soft and still. Her thighs parted and Naruto got his hand back.

Sasuke put her hand on his shoulder and pushed him away. Probably overheated, she pulled her inky hair up and away from her neck. Naruto liked the way she looked starred out on her futon, her strawberry panties rumpled and sticky. They sat crookedly on her hips, pulled down on the side where Naruto’s hand had been roaming over her skin.

“Do you think we can do that again, soon?” Naruto tried not to sound too eager but failed. Sasuke just huffed, but there was a smile playing on her lips when she grabbed a pillow from above her head and smothered his face in it.

---

Another month had passed, and Sasuke felt so heavy she barely wanted to move. Her only task was to get up early enough to pray. The morning light came through the window in a pale sheet and played with the smoke from the incense to create soft swaying shapes in the air. She closed her eyes and wished she had a photo or some kind of token of the dead relatives she was trying to remember. All she had were the memories of them before that painful day. If she could go to the Uchiha complex it would be different, but the way things were she neither could nor did she really want to.

Years ago she’d promised to avenge them. Then she’d spent most of her life trying to kill the one she believed responsible. She’d succeeded, following the trail of deceit to its bloody end, and it had brought her only despair. Kneeling there in Naruto’s apartment she had nothing else to promise them- and her vengeance had done nothing to reverse that they were gone and that she was alone. She wondered- if any of them were actually pleased with her success.

Sasuke sighed. Her body felt heavier with those thoughts unraveled. She bowed before her tiny shrine and asked whatever spirits might be watching for some guidance. She knew the likeliness of an answer was slim- but she’d also spoken with an apparition of a sage’s ghost. It therefore felt like a worthy use of her time, especially when her life had taken such an impossible turn.

As expected, there was no ghost or whispered message. But a warm sunbeam did slant through the window at just the right angle and strike across her face. She sighed at the warmth, remaining still until it faded away behind a cloud. It was good enough encouragement, and she was exhausted from kneeling and being pregnant at the same time. She clapped her hands and called it a day.

After that Sasuke collapsed back into bed and slept. Eventually, Naruto woke her up and told her “You’ve been in bed all day.” She brushed his hand off her shoulder and pulled the blanket higher.

He pulled the sheet down again and brushed her hair back to let the light directly into her eyes. Sasuke raised her eyebrow at him, sending a question through her gaze. How badly did he want to keep his hand? “I’m tired.” She didn’t tell him to leave her alone because that much should be obvious.

The idiot frowned. The longer she looked at him, the harder it would be to fall back asleep, what with the midday sun filling their bedroom with light. He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, inspecting her face. “After sleeping so long you shouldn’t be.” Worry creased his brow.

“What do you know about it?” She closed her eyes, deciding to allow his touch at her temple because it felt good.

“Nothing. I’m just worried.” Sasuke groaned her complaint. It was true that she’d barely moved from bed in the past week. But what was the point? With the exception of her prayer, she couldn’t do anything that actually mattered to her. “Please get out of bed at least,” he coaxed. “Can I brush your hair? Maybe a bath?”

She sighed, sitting up. A bath might be nice. She felt so heavy and slow, but the water would take that weight off for a little while. Naruto gripped her good arm to help her up, and herded her into the bathroom, pushing on the backs of her shoulders to encourage her forwards. Sasuke whipped around and hissed at him wordlessly. He lifted his palms in surrender, taking a step back.

She stripped down while he ran the water, then waited for him to help her into the tub. He didn’t say anything else, thankfully. He just set to work using a cup to pour warm water over her hair. Once it was all wet, he took a brush and began working all the tangles out. It caught on knots far more often than Sasuke would have expected. She didn’t realize it had been so long since she combed it. She hated to admit that Naruto might have been worried for a reason.

He did her the favor of not offering to bathe her. Instead, he just handed her the soap and left her alone for a while. When she was finished, she managed to climb out of the bath by herself. Even though it hurt her arm to put weight on it, Sasuke didn't want to accept any more help. She had to do some things on her own or she couldn’t feel like a person.

Naruto had food ready when she wandered into the kitchen, dressed in fresh, clean clothes. “You should eat.” He offered her a cup of noodles. Sasuke wrinkled her nose. She’d liked them at some point but at some later undefined point, the smell had become off-putting. “You were eating but now you stopped.” He tried to press it into her hands.

“I’m not hungry.” Sasuke pushed the cup away from her person, starting to feel green as the smell made her stomach consider a revolt. “I haven't been hungry.” Nothing seemed worth doing anymore, in general. Food especially was tedious and it always came back up. There was no point.

“But-” Naruto pressed. Sasuke resisted the urge to hiss at him again. He was an idiot but he was doing his best. Sasuke tried to keep that in mind but she was beginning to lose her patience. “It’s not about you in this case.”

“I don’t care,” she folded her arms across her chest and sat forcefully down on the couch. “I don’t want to eat that. The only thing I could stomach right now is fresh tomatoes or chili peppers.” They were her favorite foods and even they didn't seem so appealing.

“Just eat this okay. I’ll get you tomatoes and spicy stuff for tomorrow?” He set the cup down on the coffee table in front of her. Sasuke scowled. He wasn’t listening. She reached out with her foot and pushed the cup away. His lips parted as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He should have believed it. “Don’t be difficult.” Sasuke narrowed her eyes. Oh, he wanted difficult? She’d show him. She swiped her foot sideways and knocked the cup over spilling the soup and noodles onto the floor. “What the fuck, woman?”

“I said no and you didn’t listen,” Sasuke drawled. “What did you expect?”

When he answered there was a warning growl in his voice. It made her a little nervous if she was honest. Good thing she wasn’t. She had no plans to shy away from this fight. “You to not act like goddamn lady Amaterasu herself!”

“Weren’t you always trying to get me to come back?” She snapped back at him.

He knelt, his expression somewhere between rage and grief as he scooped the ruined noodles back into the styrofoam cup and threw it all into the trash. “What a waste.” Sasuke refused to acknowledge a cup of noodles she hadn’t even asked him to make as a waste. If it was, it was his fault that it had happened. “Didn’t you want to come?” He hissed, spreading a rag over the soup.

“You’re the reason I’m here- the reason I can’t channel chakra.” She gripped her arm, feeling it pulse angrily as the pressure in her blood increased. The medic had warned her against getting too excited or upset.

“I guess I’m the reason you’re not fucking dead, too.” Sasuke flinched.

She kicked the coffee table and despite her weakened state felt It come dangerously close to breaking. She heard the wooden joints warp and threaten to splinter. “Go fuck yourself.” Naruto almost screamed at her for breaking his furniture, it was plain on his face. For wasting his food. He’d always had little and Sasuke knew that being vicious with his belongings spat in the face of all the work he’d done. She just couldn’t bring herself to feel bad.

But then his face smoothed and he blew out a heavy, exasperated breath. Sasuke scoffed, but her old teammate failed to react. “I-” he paused, shaking his head. He finished cleaning the floor in silence, then left the room. Sasuke quivered and didn't know whether she was about to cry or explode into a rage. Before she could decide he came back. He had a small silver object in his hand, half behind his back. “Listen Sasuke.” he sat on the couch beside her. “We don't have to fight all the time.”

“What are you talking about?” Sasuke asked suspiciously. He placed a small silver and pearl hairpin into her hands. Sasuke could tell it was well made, but I wasn’t too flashy. It was the sort of thing she might have liked to wear before when they’d still been dating. “What is this?” She demanded. It made tears prick the corners of her eyes and she would not, could not, cry in front of him.

“It's for you,” he told her simply. “It’s fine to just worry about taking care of yourself, let me do the rest.” She shook her head. Naruto touched her hand. “Don’t worry about looking weak, either.”

Sasuke jerked away from him and fled to the bathroom, locking herself inside. She cried but stayed silent. When her eyes were dry, she looked in the mirror and tried to imagine herself wearing it. Did she seem so weak that he needed to buy her girly presents? Should she just give up on being strong? His promises- were a distraction. They must be. She picked up the scissors and almost without thinking cut her hair too short for a pin to hold.

When she came out of the bathroom Naruto stared at her in shock. “You didn't have to do that,” he sighed. She’d hurt him, deeply. She could see it in his- well, his everything really. Why was it that every time he hurt- she hurt as well? It hadn't always been that way.

Sasuke shook her head because he was wrong. He didn’t understand anything about her. She didn’t understand anything about him. “I did. And it has nothing to do with you.” Naruto stared at her. “I have to go,” she whispered in realization. Sasuke felt as though she was hurled across the expanse between herself and the front door.

She heard Naruto’s gasp of surprise. He probably hadn’t seen her move that quickly in ages. She didn’t even stop for shoes.

Instead, she just ran.

+++

“It’s not forever,” Sasuke promised softly. Naruto was crying, and even though it was raining over both of them, he could tell she was crying too. “You’re such a good boy.” He scowled at the nickname, but his hand tightened on hers. She squeezed back. “I’ll see you later, and then we’ll be together again.”

Naruto shook his head. “You can’t go,” he begged softly. “You’re my closest friend.”

“I have to,” she cut in. If she hadn’t, he would have said that he loved her. “Otherwise I can’t protect what’s important to me.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he argued. “Stay here. Stay with the things you cherish instead of leaving them.” Naruto hated Itachi for making Sasuke feel like she had to leave. Hated him for leaving her without a clan to hold her back. Hated him for surviving all these years as a missing-nin.

Sasuke pulled her hand free, breaking eye contact. “Get out of my way, or I’ll have to hurt you.”

He flinched, then deflated. He looked away, his hands forming fists at his sides. “Can’t you see it? You already are.” Sasuke stared at him for a moment, then nodded in acceptance, her eyes looking down.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized, before turning away. One step at a time, she left him behind. Her scent faded too quickly in the rain, so Naruto watched her back until she vanished into the gray.

---

“Miss are you okay?” Sasuke looked up from where she was sitting in the dirt, her body cramping in a million horrible ways. Running like that had been a terrible mistake. She wasn’t even confident in her ability to walk back to Naruto’s apartment. She ran her fingers across her shorn scalp. It was uneven and choppy. The bottoms of her feet were black with dirt and burned from the rough pavement. “Miss?”

Sasuke looked up. “Hyuuga Hinata,” she recognized quickly. Hinata had been one of the few other kunoichi Sasuke had felt could actually amount to anything.

The young woman nodded as she searched Sasuke’s face to see where they’ve met before. “You're-” she gasped. “Uchiha Sasuke.”

“Quiet,” Sasuke hissed softly. No one had stopped her so far but if Hinata kept shouting her name into the distance that could easily change.

“Uh- yes!” Hinata realized quickly that Sasuke didn’t want to be seen. She took hold of Sasuke’s good arm and pulled her up with surprising strength. “My house is right over here. I think you should rest for a while before you go anywhere else.” It was as good a place to hide out as any so Sasuke let herself be led into the Hyuuga heiress’ home.

Hinata guided her to sit down at the desk in her room, then left for a moment before returning with a glass of cool water and a pair of shoes for Sasuke to walk home in. She was a deeply considerate person. Sasuke hadn’t asked her to do any of that.

“How… are you both?” Hinata asked shyly, tapping her fingers together. “I don’t mean to pry but you-” she paused, thinking over her phrasing. “You’re the first in our age group to-”

Sasuke nodded, touching her belly in acknowledgment of Hinata’s stuttered question. She was the first, and she wasn’t sure if she should be proud or embarrassed. She didn’t have parents to approve or disapprove either. It was just a fact of her life. “You're curious? Do you want to touch?” She wasn’t sure what possessed her to offer something she’d only ever let Naruto or medical professionals do before. Maybe it was because she’d felt like Hinata once, curious about carrying a child, without a mother to ask questions of.

“I would be honored,” Hinata replied with a bright smile. She pulled up a chair beside Sasuke and waited with her hands folded in her lap for Sasuke to bare the skin of her stomach. Hinata touched Sasuke’s tummy gently and carefully, pressing lightly against the taut skin of her navel. Sasuke found herself not minding to a surprising extent. She tapped her finger against a spot where she could feel the weight of the child resting and let Hinata feel that as well.

It shifted in response to being prodded, and Hinata’s eyes widened in wonder. “Naruto is the father?” Hinata asked after a few moments of openly pleased silence.

Sasuke nodded. “Yes.”

“You're so lucky,” the other girl sighed wistfully. Hinata patted Sasuke’s navel softly and then withdrew her hands, inclining her head to show she was finished. Sasuke covered herself, her mind chewing on what was in Hinata’s sigh.

“Hmm.” She knew Hinata had loved Naruto when they were younger. The fact that she still did was a little bit of a surprise but it did make sense. She didn’t suppose people could simply stop loving someone. Sasuke had never been able to fully sever it, even after trying. Sasuke also wasn’t quite sure if she should be flattered or jealous that another woman wanted to have Naruto’s child. The one in her womb kicked and Sasuke grimaced, letting out a sound of discomfort.

Hinata’s attentive eyes flicked up to her face. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing,” Sasuke dismissed. “But I should go back soon.” How long had she been missing already? She had no idea.

Hinata helped her stand and let Sasuke use her hand to steady herself as she put the borrowed shoes on. “Could I walk you home?” Hinata asked, her pearlescent eyes showing concern for Sasuke's wellbeing. Sasuke felt herself wanting to resent Hinata but as she stared into those genuine lavender eyes, she couldn’t do it. It would be easier to dislike her if there was anything to dislike. Even loving Naruto was a point in Hinata’s favor, as much as Sasuke wanted to hold it against her.

Sasuke shook her head. “I don't need you to.” Even if Hinata was nice and had Sasuke’s same taste in men, Sasuke didn’t need a babysitter.

“I know that,” Hinata soothed. “Please? I wouldn’t mind an excuse to drop by Naruto’s.” It was a white lie but it managed to soothe Sasuke's ego. Hinata linked their arms and picked up some of Sasuke's weight. Sasuke quickly realized that running there had exhausted her and was wordlessly thankful for the other kunoichi’s help.

Sasuke was relieved when she made it to Naruto’s place. She didn’t care if she got arrested but Naruto would surely have been punished as well. He hadn’t done anything wrong, except be annoying and she supposed that wasn’t really a crime worth court-martial. Sasuke opened the door and signaled for Hinata to come in as well. She’d said she wanted to see Naruto, after all.

There was a clone that looked like Sasuke sleeping on the couch. It dispelled when Naruto caught sight of her. He was standing in the kitchen, his arms folded and his expression twisted with frustration. “Where did you go?” He asked, his voice deathly sharp. “I had clones looking everywhere.”

Sasuke folded her arms, bristling against his accusatory tone of voice. “None of your fucking business.”

He growled in frustration. “You’re putting yourself in danger whenever-”

“Please stop you two. Sasuke, Naruto was worried about you.” They both froze when Hinata cut in. Her voice was soft but it made both of them shut up instantly. “Naruto- she feels guilty enough about it already. You should both be happy to see each other again.”

Naruto blinked as if he wasn’t sure she was really there. “Hinata?”

“Ah- Naruto,” Hinata flushed, fidgeting with her hands behind her back. Sasuke’s heart squeezed painfully. She had no reason to be jealous if she thought about it. It wasn’t like she and Naruto were really anything. It should have been fine for Hinata to like him. “I was walking with Sasuke.”

He grinned warmly at the Hyuuga. “It’s good to see you. You look great.”

“Ah- thank you.” Hinata accepted the compliment with a deeper flush. Sasuke left. Even if she knew how she should behave, she couldn’t really watch them flirt and act that way. At least, not yet. She escaped to the bathroom to wash her feet in the tub.

“This is why, then,” she heard, even despite the closed door and running water.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t forget what you said.” It was obvious that Hinata had confessed. Sasuke’s eyes prickled. She curled up against the bathroom wall, closed her eyes and tried to breathe the tightness that kept growing in her chest away.

“I understand. She needs you. It would be wrong if you didn’t.”

“You’re really wonderful, Hinata. I don’t think I ever told you how cool I think you are.” Sasuke gritted her teeth against a sob. She couldn’t let them find out. She had to be better before she could leave the bathroom again. At least the pounding in her ears muffled their conversation.

She managed to get herself under control and stepped back into the living room to find the other two of them at the door, saying goodbye. Naruto gave her a deeply concerned look, his hand reaching out to touch her arm and soothe. Did she really still look so distressed? She thought she’d managed to hide it all. She used the flat of her palm to create a barrier, showing him where her space began. He nodded.

“Hinata- could I ask you something too, before you go?” her voice cracked, and it was painfully embarrassing, but Naruto ducked away to give them privacy and it made things easier to bear.

“Ah yes- of course,” Hinata replied, concern shining in her eyes as well. Sasuke really needed people to stop looking at her like that. She ignored Sasuke’s flat hand and gripped her wrist. Sasuke felt the discomfort from the touch deep in her bones. “What is it?”

“I-” Sasuke choked. She swallowed in preparation to speak again. The kunoichi didn’t really know what she’d planned to say. She just needed- She had to-

“Sasuke would like some feminine company?” Hinata asked softly. She smiled cautiously, squeezing Sasuke’s wrist. “Naruto is sweet but he’s still a boy, right?” Another white lie. Hinata knew Sasuke was struggling with and was giving her an out, as well as another chance to try and say what she needed to.

Relief flooded through Sasuke’s body, and she nodded, bowing her head in shame. She felt so weak. “A woman knows,” Hinata soothed softly, tapping her own temple. “You should rest. May I come by tomorrow?” Sasuke nodded again, numbly.

She closed the door behind Hinata, then wandered into the bedroom to curl up against Naruto’s side on the bed. Sasuke was surprised he let her, and she was even more surprised when she woke up from a feverish sleep with him holding her.

“Naruto?” She asked, half expecting him to already be asleep.

Naruto made a soft sound. “I’m glad you made a friend. Maybe you can piss someone off who’s not me,” he whispered into the dark, stroking her hair.

“I’m sorry for running,” Sasuke murmured back. Her eyes felt hot, so she closed them.

His hand stilled on her hair. It was silent for a moment. Sasuke expected him to scold her about putting her life in danger and forcing him to cover for her. Instead, he hummed softly as if thinking. “I can take it back if you really hate it,” he offered after another moment.

She touched the pin where it rested in her pocket. She thought about giving it back to him and found she wanted to keep it. “I don’t hate it.”

+++

Naruto sensed her and followed that sensation until he picked up her scent on the breeze. He was supposed to be tracking bandits to make sure team seven’s campsite would be safe for the night, but he couldn’t resist. She was too near to ignore- his feet moved on their own. Only minutes into searching he broke into a small clearing by a stream and found her sitting cross-legged by a fire, watching some rabbit meat roasting on a stick.

Sasuke spared him a glance, pushing her dark hair behind her ear. It was longer than it was when she had left, her ponytail brushing over her shoulders. Naruto knelt beside her. He imagined asking her to come home, but he already knew the answer. “What are you doing out here?” she asked, leaning her shoulder against his and putting her hand over his own in a gesture of plain affection.

“Looking for some bandits. You?”

“Survival training,” Sasuke sighed. She wasn’t enjoying herself, then. She held up a singular kunai, then twirled it fancifully around her finger. What a showoff. Sasuke snapped her wrist, closing her grip hard around the handle. “All I have is this and my clothes.”

Naruto whistled softly. “Intense.”

She got up and Naruto caught the scent of her using chakra in her feet and hands to quickly scale the tree closest to them. “Come up here.” Naruto scurried up the tree after her, waiting in confusion as her eyes bled red and scanned the tree line. “Right over there,” she pointed. Naruto saw the small curls of smoke from distant campfires. He’d never have noticed them among the trees without them specifically being pointed out. They were quite far off; team seven’s camp was definitely safe. The area around it was empty of even large animals. “Is it them?” She asked, smirking.

“You’re getting really good at that,” Naruto complimented. He could tell his praise pleased her; her smile was even smugger than before. She flung herself down from the tree, landing solidly on her feet. Again he followed, landing beside her.

“I didn’t leave the village for no reason,” she told him haughtily, flipping her hair to one side and exposing the pale skin of her neck. Naruto wanted to touch her, hold her hand at least, but he hesitated.

“I miss you a lot,” he admitted softly, reaching out a hand. She looked at his palm for a moment before taking it and moving closer. So close he could easily kiss her. He let go of her hand and put his arm around to waist to pull her against him and press his lips against hers. Her eyelashes fluttered against his face when he did. He touched the soft skin of her neck, stroked her jaw. She moaned softly, kissing him back with quiet hunger.

“I miss you too,” she replied, her cheeks pink. Then she pushed him away, her hand stroking over his collarbone once before she ended the touch. Naruto suppressed a whine. She saw it and shook her head. “No more. You need to go back.” And that much was true. Naruto sighed heavily, sadness weighing him down. He really hated her for leaving sometimes, but at that moment he just felt the pain of missing her. “Meet me again?”

He hadn’t expected that. “When?” He asked eagerly.

She shook her head. “I don't know yet. But you’ll find me, won’t you?”

Naruto nodded quickly. “No matter what, babe,” he promised. Sasuke smiled, and pushed him into the bushes, back the way he’d come.

---

Sasuke twirled a strand of black silk in her fingers, pinning Hinata’s characteristic bangs to the side. She was so beautiful that it made Sasuke wonder why she covered half of her face. “We could be sisters- if you wear your hair like that,” Sasuke realized with a start. They were both intensely pale, with straight dark hair. Hinata’s was so dark it shone blue like oil on water. Ruefully Sasuke thought that Naruto had a pretty obvious type.

Unlike Sasuke, Hinata had much rounder features, a voluptuous figure, and wide, pretty eyes. She was… so much more like a woman should be. Sasuke bit her lip, pushing down the darkness that wanted to well up in her. She didn’t want to be jealous of her only girlfriend. She simply wanted to appreciate her.

Hinata, who was perfect the way Sasuke must have been once. At a time before she lost the use of her arm, and before she’d made her eyes asymmetrical in her hunt for power- she maybe could have been as beautiful as Hinata. If only she’d stopped for just a moment and considered it. Sasuke could have been receiving Naruto’s appreciation. Sasuke knew looking in the mirror would grate on her, so she avoided it.

“It’s such a pretty clip,” Hinata gushed, touching the silver and pearls with violet fingertips that Sasuke had just painted. Sasuke’s own were scarlet. Those chosen each other's colors. It had made something move in Sasuke when Hinata had picked the red and told Sasuke that someone like her should ‘burn brightly.’

“Naruto got it for me, but my hair is too short.” Sasuke watched Hinata’s eyes widen as she realized Naruto had chosen the ornament. She ran her hands through the hair she herself had chopped off and for a moment regretted it. Even after Naruto had sat her down and evened it out, she still wished she’d worn the pin, just once, before making it impossible. “It looks good on you, though,” Sasuke complimented, hoping she didn’t sound bitter.

“I shouldn’t,” Hinata immediately pulled it out, her bangs fluttering back into place. She slid the pin securely into the collar of Sasuke’s shirt, adjusting it so only the ornamental part was exposed, like a little pearl button. “He really likes you,” Hinata told Sasuke, her voice earnest and slow. As if Sasuke herself didn’t understand that fact.

Sasuke swallowed. “... Have you seen the way he watches you- when you come over?” She countered. Two could play at that game.

“I-” Hinata fretted, fidgeting. “Yes,” she admitted. “While you weren’t together… we went out a few times but I could tell he was worried about you the whole time.” Sasuke… hadn’t known about that at all. “Things kind of didn’t work out,” Hinata continued, with a sad sigh. Then she seemed to remember who she was talking to, her eyes widened in apology. “But I don’t have any bad feelings, I promise!”

“If it’s you I don’t mind,” Sasuke soothed, touching the pin, letting her fingertips catch over the pearls. At Hinata’s look of confusion, Sasuke continued. “He’s forced to be around me- but you would make him happy.” Hinata’s expression showed that she still didn’t understand. “If he stopped seeing the woman he liked because of me-”

Hinata shook her head. “You shouldn't feel so guilty. I know that you… have strong feelings for Naruto.”

“We aren’t anything. I don’t know if we can be,” Sasuke sighed. Something panged deep in her chest, so painfully that she had to double over. She exhaled ragged pants, her eyes squeezing shut as she tried to ride out the pain.

“Are you in pain?” Hinata worried, touching Sasuke’s wrists and making her uncurl. “Let me look over you,” she pleaded softly. The chakra vessels around her eyes swelled as she activated her doujutsu. “You’ve got blocked chakra points,” Hinata realized. She held up her fingers, charging a small invisible needle of chakra. “This will hurt,” she warned. Then she tapped Sasuke’s forehead, just between her eyebrows.

“Ouch!” Sasuke cried, even despite the warning. Something ugly oozed through her veins and made her stomach roll. She got up and stumbled to the toilet only moments before her last meal found its way out of her body. “Ugh,” she grimaced, flushing it. She washed her hands and face, trying to forget how gross it was to throw up. Her eyes burned hotly, and moments later she was sobbing as tears streamed down her face.

“Your Sharingan activated,” Hinata noticed, kneeling down next to Sasuke in the bathroom. Sasuke touched her cheek in surprise. She hadn’t even felt that happening. Her mind had been rushing with images. Decisions she’d made that now seemed impossibly wrong. People she’d hurt. Sasuke looked up and could see the pretty, deep purple chakra concentrating around her friend's eyes. A pure tone rang out in Sasuke’s mind when she looked at that energy, like someone running their finger around a partially full glass. “Are you doing it on purpose?”

“No.” Hinata hummed softly, in thought. Sasuke held her arms out to the other woman. “Clear the rest too.” Because she did feel better afterward. Things she’d thought were justified actions now felt horribly wrong, but she also felt her chakra flowing like it hadn’t since before she’d been injured. Maybe if they were all cleared, she could even feel normal, act normal.

“I shouldn’t. It's risky to reach into your body like that. Your chakra can influence your emotions and physical state a lot.” Sasuke sighed heavily. Anything was better than her current state, where she could barely make half a decision. But things were never easy, especially not when Sasuke desperately needed them to be. “Some of them are in your arm and... I’m afraid to even try it because of the baby.”

Sasuke grimaced. “I guess I’ll just stay like this.”

Hinata shook her head. “I’ll show you,” she offered, helping Sasuke to her feet and guiding her to sit on Naruto’s bed. Hinata then climbed into the bed herself and formed the needle again. That time Sasuke was able to see how she did it and controlled the shape with her chakra control. “We should take advantage of the fact that your eyes are working right now, right?”

“I wouldn’t call this working,” Sasuke complained. They were really just doing their own thing. Sasuke could only choose where to aim them. If they went off, that would be that. She produced a wavering needle on her first try, using the Kyuubi's chakra, which she was quickly able to stabilize to something that resembled Hinata’s flawless purple point. Sasuke hoped the other woman couldn’t see colors or she would surely notice what Sasuke was doing. If Hinata did notice she didn’t say anything. “How did you learn to do this?” She asked, continuing to practice.

“I needed to,” Hinata replied. “These blockages are caused by repressed emotions, memories, regrets.” Sasuke almost laughed. No wonder she was such a mess. “You have to agree to keep this secret- I’m only telling you this because I know how you’re hurting.” Hearing that killed Sasuke’s bitter amusement. The fact that something that had the power to heal was kept a secret by the clan could perform it was… sad. “Others would look down on me for showing part of a Hyuuga technique- or needing to use it this way.” The fact that its own members were discouraged to use it on themselves was sadder.

“You’re too kind to me,” Sasuke told Hinata, letting the needle fade away so she could hold Hinata’s hand. Sasuke being allowed to learn the hidden jutsu that Hinata secretly used to be able to cope with her trauma was a great honor, and one Sasuke didn’t entirely deserve.

“No, I’m not.” Sasuke wanted to ask what Hinata meant but the other woman simply moved on to the next part of the lesson. She pulled Sasuke’s good arm towards herself and showed her the tenketsu, how to find their specific shapes in her body and taught her what they should look like in a balanced state. Hinata had to use her own arm for that part. “Now look,” Hinata returned to Sasuke’s arm and pointed to one that looked wrong. It was too dark, nearly black from the dense chakra bruise formed there. “It’s like this.” She pressed down. “Feel that?” It hurt. Sasuke nodded.

She formed a needle and dug the scarlet flare into her bruised chakra point, forcing the buildup there to dissolve. She felt the seal constrict around her own chakra as it sped up in her body, and for a moment it was too difficult to breathe.

Hinata squeezed her hand as Sasuke struggled with the regrets she’d managed to ignore for so long crowding to the front of her mind. Most of all how she’d treated Naruto, but there was a lot there other than that, too. “Are you okay?”

“I want to stop practicing,” Sasuke pressed out, squeezing Hinata’s hand as an anchor.

“You already did more than I usually do,” Hinata replied gently.

Sasuke looked up at Hinata, hopeful for confirmation that she wasn’t as hopelessly weak as she felt. “You only do one at a time?”

“When I started, it took me a few tries to do one,” Hinata admitted softly. “You’re really strong.”

Sasuke sat up, she’d gotten her body back under control. “I have to be.”

“Not right now,” Hinata told her, and it felt almost like a scolding. Even if it was a scolding, for some reason it almost made Sasuke smile that Hinata felt they were close enough to scold her. “Right now you need to rest for both of you.”

She touched Sasuke’s stomach, reminding her about the new life she was carrying. Sasuke placed her hands on it too, feeling the baby moving inside. Hinata was right. Sasuke already had a lot to think about, a lot of things to process. She would have been lying if she said she wasn’t nervous, or if she was sure she’d deal with it all the right way. But it felt good. It felt like finally.

+++

“You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?” Sasuke asked out of the blue, her eyes going narrow and suspicious. She’d been hugging Naruto and kissing his cheek only moments before that, so the shift was pretty shocking. Suddenly her arms around him went too tight, and Naruto had to tickle her to make her wiggle and let go.

Then he answered the only way he knew how. “What?”

Sasuke’s nose wrinkled. She was annoyed. “Well, we can’t be together like we were.” Naruto nodded slowly. That much was true, but he’d never just get another girlfriend- no one could just take her place. “And I saw how you looked at Hinata, even before,” she complained, her cheeks puffing out as she pouted.

“She’s really pretty. I can’t help it,” Naruto shrugged. He liked her looks. She looked pretty similar to Sasuke and sometimes Naruto would find himself thinking she was Sasuke from far away until his eyes focused on her. He felt pretty bad about those times. They were different and didn’t deserve to be confused, despite their similar colors, and both being really pretty. They smelled really different. “She’s a really nice girl,” Naruto added. Sasuke huffed. No matter what she said, she was super jealous. “But I was waiting for you,” he promised.

Sasuke wrapped him back into her arms and dropped her weight onto him, dragging him onto his back. Thankfully he hit her bedroll and not the packed earth of their campsite. “Good. You’re mine.” They kissed.

---

Hinata arrived in the middle another fight. Both Sasuke and Naruto fell silent when she knocked on the door, unwilling to involve her in their argument. Naruto scowled then turned to climb out the window onto the roof. He usually went up there to give her and Hinata privacy, that time he was going up there angry. Sasuke opened the door for Hinata to let her in. Her eyes glanced around, no doubt taking in Sasuke’s black mood, and the lack of Naruto. “It hurt him when you left,” Hinata says softly into the stiff silence. “He’s still dealing with that. Be gentle.”

Sasuke scoffed as she closed the door behind her visitor. “Gentle.” In truth their fight wasn’t because of the past, it was because of the future. Resolving the blockages had forced Sasuke to confront the fact that everyone in the village probably hated her. She’d also had to realize that she was the type of person who ran away, and who hurt those around her. She couldn’t promise Naruto she wouldn’t run away again- and when he’d asked, she’d been unable to answer. “He should stop expecting me to stay,” Sasuke replied. “I’m here now but-”

“It’s only for the child,” Hinata surmised, correctly, her voice deeply sad. “You’ll leave it here- without a mother?” She asked. Her tone was not accusing but Sasuke felt the accusation anyway. She would be abandoning her child, no matter who’s probably much more capable care she left it in.

Sasuke didn’t know what to say. “I never intended to be a mother,” Sasuke pressed out. She was still entirely unsure of her ability to raise anything. “Naruto is hoping for a family.” Her hands twisted in her lap. Admitting she lacked something had always been difficult. What she was about to ask made her feel like she was pushing needles under her fingernails. “What if I can’t?”

“I-” Hinata stuttered. “I don’t know.” It really was too much to request. Hinata probably had her own problems. Even so, Sasuke couldn’t help but want more.

“If I left would you take care of them?” She felt it rush out of her and enjoyed the relief of not holding it in anymore. Sasuke also immediately regretted being so weak as to need to say it. She inhaled to continue. “Naruto and-”

“Please stop,” Hinata begged, her eyes wide with shock. “You shouldn’t go.” Sasuke exhaled in exasperation. It wasn’t that easy for her to just choose to live there. Most of the times it felt like it wasn’t even possible. “Please.” For Hinata and Naruto and her child Sasuke wanted to try. But… she couldn’t promise anything.

“But if I did-” Sasuke forged on. There was already enough confusion in her life, and she needed one thing that wouldn’t waver the way Sasuke herself did. “You could love them- Like your own?” It nearly felt like a demand, and Sasuke admitted that partly it was.

“I already do,” Hinata admitted with a sob. The Hyuuga flung her arms around Sasuke and pressed her close. “And you as well.” Sasuke’s lips parted in surprise. She held Hinata back, lightly placing her own arms around the other woman’s waist. “But please-” she broke off into delicate sobs, shaking in Sasuke’s stiffened arms.

The crying made Sasuke unsure what to do, but the response she’d been given with it flooded her with relief. Even if Sasuke failed, someone would be there. She wouldn’t be leaving Naruto completely alone. “Hinata,” Sasuke soothed, squeezing, and feeling Hinata squeeze her back. She rubbed her cheek against the cool, silken curtain of Hinata’s hair. “You’re too kind to me.”

It had been ages since she’d been able to touch another girl like this. She fiercely missed Karin at that moment. Hinata was soft and gentle, and completely unlike Karin, who Sasuke wished for. The Hyuuga even smelled sweet. Sasuke surprisingly didn’t find herself looking down on that. She simply enjoyed it. Hinata took deep breaths to steady herself and wiped her tears. “It’s okay to be frightened to do something you’ve never done before,” Hinata murmured softly.

Sasuke nodded, keeping her eyes down. “I know.”

“It’s okay to be frightened,” Hinata repeated firmly.

“I know,” Sasuke hissed, narrowing her eyes at Hinata. Hinata inhaled sharply but didn’t break the gaze. Sasuke scoffed, deliberately softening her expression, and watched Hinata tentatively break into a smile. It was Sasuke who had to look away. “Can you get this one-” she requested, touching a blocked chakra point in her shoulder, the one above her sword arm. She couldn’t really make any more needles. She’d exhausted almost all of the Kyuubi's power trying to heal herself, hoping that she could reach a point where she didn’t hurt those around her anymore.

“Then maybe you’re not ready,” Hinata suggested gently. “This should take time.”

“I don’t have time,” Sasuke argued back. By the time the child was born Sasuke needed to have some sort of steadiness. “Please. If it's you, it will be fine.” Hinata hesitated but formed a needed between her two fingers. Sasuke felt the pop of something deep in her muscles bursting. It radiated out into her chest. Sasuke curled over, gasping as it crushed the air out of her lungs. “What is this.” Her eyes felt hot and feverish as stinging tears forced their way out of her eyes.

“Here?” Hinata touched the spot on her shoulder

Sasuke shook her head, spreading her hands over her chest. “Is something wrong?”

Hinata shook her head. “Your body is fine.”

“What is it?” Sasuke choked.

“... Grief.”

She knew that her dreams that night would be filled with the face of her brother.

Chapter Text

+++

Sasuke was straddling his lap when he first noticed her new tattoo. He wanted to poke the little tadpole between her tits. It looked almost like the one that had been painted on his hand so he could focus and create his first Rasengan. “What’s this?” He asked, moving his fingers through the air near her uncovered sternum. That white top would be the death of him. “Needed something to go with your new shirt?”

She stretched her arms above her head and Naruto’s eyes compulsively flowed up along up the left and right borders of her shirt to see if any part of her rosy pink nipples would show. They didn’t. Was she using chakra to hold it just barely in place? “Sex appeal is a weapon and besides,“ she traced the little tattoo, the first rounding of a spiral. “it’s for genjutsu”

Naruto grinned. “You don’t need that to bewitch me,” he teased.

“But it does save chakra.” She leaned forward and pushed her tits together, making the spiral wiggle its tail. He couldn’t look away from the soft valley of her cleavage or he spiral in between. The longer he watched, the harder it became when he tried to tear his eyes away. His body faded away. He was sinking into the swirling world of her genjutsu. She released him and he slumped back onto his elbows. “See? Got you,” she smirked, her eyes smug and black. She hadn’t even used her Sharingan.

He touched the collar of her shirt and slid his thumbs along the inside. Her breath caught as his knuckles brushed over her nipples. “I wanted to be got,” Naruto retorted, rolling his eyes. “So are you gonna use your tits to fight your brother? That’s pretty weird.”

She smashed her hand none too gently into his nose. Not enough to break it, but tears did spring into his eyes from the pain. “Gross, Naruto. You really are an idiot.” She squirmed as his thumbs kept traveling down, brushing the sides of her waist. “Mm-” she made a soft sound of pleasure but her eyes were downcast and her face was too strained.

“Hey,” he asked, placing his hands on the outsides of her hips. He squeezed gently. “What is it?”

“Sometimes, I think… I’ll never be strong enough,” Sasuke worried, bowing her head. She’d made an attempt on Itachi’s life, but it had ended in failure. It seemed like her brother got stronger every time she did and stayed just out of her reach. Naruto had already watched her shed bitter tears about it.

Naruto stroked her sides gently, and she leaned into him, hiding in his neck for comfort. “It’s okay to be afraid. You don’t even have to fight him alone if you don’t want to.” He wasn’t as worried about what would happen if Sasuke killed Itachi, as he was about what would happen if Itachi really decided to kill Sasuke. “I’ll help you.”

Sasuke jerked upright, giving him an alarmed look. “It has to be me. I have to do it alone.”

Naruto frowned. “Who told you that?” He asked incredulously. There was a reason shinobi formed teams and squads to complete difficult missions. Some things were just much easier with backup.

She shook her head vehemently. “I don’t want you to die too.” She started to tease their bodies apart. Naruto tried to cling to her, missing the warmth of her pressed close already. He wished he hadn’t said anything to upset her.

“Who said anything about dying-” he sighed, but she was already standing completely separate. Without another word, she fled. Naruto reached after her, but she really was the fastest. “Hey wait!”

---

“You can’t just leave her as your replacement!” Sasuke’s hands slipped and the glass she was holding clattered loudly against the counter. It didn’t have the decency to break. “Hinata told me,” Naruto accused. “Because she was so worried about you.”

Hinata. She was too caring for her own good. Sasuke folded her arms before she turned around. “You can’t control what I do,” she snapped. Besides, it was for his own good. Hinata would make a way better partner and mother if (when?) Sasuke decided she couldn’t take it in the leaf.

“I dragged you back, didn’t I?” Naruto growled, gripping her shoulder. His touch felt painful, even if his grip wasn’t that tight. She hissed and brushed his hand off.

“I can’t stay here with you. You make me weak,” she hissed. Naruto flinched, his blue eyes filling with hurt. “I could have had so much more power but you-”

“You can’t blame me for any of that.,” Naruto interrupted hotly. “You admitted it yourself that you decided.” He reached out to her but didn’t touch. She wanted to take his hand, despite everything but knew if she did, he would know that she was soft inside. “I only want to be side by side with you,” he pleaded.

“I know what you want,” Sasuke bit out, her chest clenching painfully. “You want to be the Hokage and have a woman who’s not a traitor.”

His hands became fists. “You think you know me so well that you can just decide what I get?”

“Don’t I know you?” Sasuke shouted back.

“That’s so far from the point,” Naruto argued. His teeth were bared in anger, she thought she might see his pupils turning to slits. And why not, she was saying things she knew would make him hate her. He was too emotional, could never see things logically. “You know I want you. You never tried to help me with that one.”

“Maybe I don’t want you,” Sasuke challenged. It was a lie. She did want him. Enough that it made her afraid. She couldn’t be together with him, so it was better if he thought she didn’t love him, then he wouldn’t miss her. He’d move on. “I’ll make you hate me and this village if- we just stay together long enough.”

“We both know that’s a fucking lie.” Sasuke paused. Was he saying, he knew she wanted him, or that he’d never hate her? She didn’t know which she’d rather hear. “That’s why you’re dangling me in front of poor Hinata- out of fucking spite. She thinks you’re her friend but you hate her, don’t you?” It was Sasuke’s turn to flinch. She shook her head. She didn’t hate Hinata. It would be so wrong. But Naruto didn’t stop. “I can’t choose her over you- what kind of fucking choice is that when you’re having my kid?”

“It doesn't matter how Hinata feels because I’ve just been trying to protect you-” Sasuke shouted back. Not everything could be an easy choice. It was easy for him to stay in leaf and live a happy life but for her, it was already painfully difficult to not be able to run away until she’d given birth. She could see her regrets around every corner. “You’re all trying to twist my arm to like this village but I hate it and I hate all of you who fucking live here.”

“This is your home.”

She couldn’t help shrieking in derision. Maybe once it had been her home, but how could it be after all that she had already done? “Fuck you!” She reached out to him but not to take his hand. Instead, she pushed him. “And your fucking kid and your fucking girlfriend,” Sasuke cried, feeling her throat close up as she choked back angry tears.

“It’s your kid too,” Naruto hissed. “and she’s not my girlfriend.” Sasuke laughed bitterly. It was obvious that they’d had something last time she left, and once she left again, they’d be something again. “I can’t believe you’re jealous when you’re so shitty-” She snarled and pushed him again. He stumbled backward and fell back onto his backside. “Bitch-” he growled. His eyes were red. Sasuke inhaled sharply, taking a step back. He seemed to not have noticed. His hands became fists at his side. “You know I won’t hit you right now, but-” The fact that he wanted to hit her hung unspoken in the air. Not as a part of a spar, but to hurt her.

“You both-” Naruto and Sasuke’s heads both whipped sideways. In their fight, they hadn’t noticed the door opening. Hinata stood there, tears pearling in her pale eyes. “Are so cruel.”

Sasuke gasped her name. It hurt her chest to speak because she’d somehow managed to ruin everything even more than she’d already managed to do. The only other person in the leaf she might have eventually wanted to call a friend. “Hinata?”

“How long-” Naruto began. He broke off. It was painfully silent. Naruto made a movement to get up, and Sasuke took a step towards her.

“Don’t.” Hinata’s voice was soft, brokenhearted. Sasuke hugged herself and quickly turned her eyes away from both of the others. “I don’t want to see either of you right now.” The door closed behind her with a final click.

“Fuck. I can’t believe this,” Naruto sighed heavily, his shoulders slumping where he sat on the floor. Where Sasuke had pushed him. Sasuke hiccoughed a sob when her body couldn’t hold the pressure anymore, hiding her face in her hands. “Why the hell are you crying?” Naruto asked as if he couldn’t understand her. She sobbed harder. They were both so fucked.

+++

Her fist split his lip and sent him reeling back. Her kick just before had nearly bruised his eye shut. The spar had stopped being a spar. Instead of trading attacks for practice, she was coming at him dirty and hard. She was stronger at taijutsu, he had to admit. “Stop-” She didn’t stop. Her fist swung at him again with all the force she possessed. He threw up his hands and felt her fist collide painfully with the bone in his forearm. “I yield,” he gasped out, curling up on the ground in case she decided to kick him in the ribs. “Shit, woman.”

He felt her pause and dared to look up at her. She seemed nearly as confused as he was. “Sorry,” Sasuke apologized, hanging her head. Her eyes had been weirdly hollow while they’d been sparring, but the sharp gleam was coming back her to crimson eyes. “It’s not helping anymore,” she admitted, fear showing in her own voice. “Sometimes… Sometimes I can’t feel anything.”

“I-” Naruto began but broke off, lost.

The sharpness in her eyes had passed normality and moved into mania. “Make me feel something,” she ordered, her eyes still dangerously red. He watched as she pushed stretchy fabric off her thighs and swung a leg over him so she was kneeling over his face. “Give me your mouth.” She twisted up her fingers in his hair and tugged him up.

Naruto swallowed, tasting the iron from his split lip. He should hesitate, find out if she was okay, but he could smell her, musky and sweet, and so close. He couldn’t resist something like that. Before he could decide, she ground herself against his face, and he moaned, pressing his tongue against her hot, wet center. She tasted amazing, musky and sweet. He hooked his arms around her thighs and pulled her down so he wouldn’t have to keep his head lifted so he could focus on moving his lips and tongue against her.

He found one of her most sensitive spots, a soft, hooded nub. He swirled his tongue around it, nipped at it with his teeth. “Oh fuck-” She trembled, her fingers tightening in his hair. Her body bowed over, hitching with pleasure. Her scent built up as he pleasured her, forming a dizzying cloud. He nuzzled his nose into the soft black hair she had between her thighs. “It feels good,” she cooed softly, stroking his hair instead of pulling it. “More.” Naruto closed his eyes, loving her touch in his hair.

He gave her more, flattening his tongue against her inner lips and licking in broad stripes. She whined his name, her voice going high and pretty. He sucked her folds into his mouth and let her go with a pop- she cried out. Her back snapping into an arch. She liked that. Naruto did it against, slurping on her like a bowl of noodles. He almost laughed at the mental comparison but knew Sasuke wouldn’t appreciate it.

Instead, he just kept up the slick motions of his tongue, the ones that made her squirm the worst until she violently shuddered, letting out a soft shout. He pressed kisses to her folds and stroked her thighs as she rode out her release. She mewled softly at each touch of his lips, her fingers leaving his hair to play over his brows.

The taste of her was addictive, so Naruto made her cum again before he pushed her off of his mouth and helped her wobbly legs back into her coverings. He wiped his mouth on his jacket sleeve, tasting his own blood as well as her flavor. Once he’d dressed her, Naruto wrapped her in his arms and pressed kisses against her neck. She tilted her head to the side and showed him her enjoyment with a soft breathy moan.

“Kill Itachi soon and then come back,” Naruto murmured into her skin. Sasuke’s breath was relaxed and slow. Her eyes were black and half-lidded. He wanted to keep her like this, as close to being content as he could bring her- but knew he couldn’t. She had to leave and avenge her clan, and she’d never get any peace until she did. “I don’t like what’s happening to you.”

Sasuke sighed heavily, burrowing deeper into his arms. “Yeah.”

---

“What do I do?” She begged in whispers, afraid to have Naruto wake up and hear her prayers. They hadn’t been able to talk to each other for days, so she’d started getting up even earlier than usual to light her incense in order to sleep through the day and avoid him. It was barely dawn. She knew it was wrong but until she knew what she was going to do- what she was going to say… She couldn’t argue anymore like that. She’d already hurt Hinata. The other kunoichi hadn't been back at all.

“Please help me.” She clapped her hands together as loudly as she dared, bowing her head over the tiny altar. Hopefully, they could hear here even without the traditional items necessary for it to be a real shrine. She had it set up as best as she could. “I know that I haven’t done anything to please you but if you tell me now, I won’t ignore it,” she swore quietly, staring into the shape of the incense for some kind of sign or message. She jumped when the wood of the floor creaked behind her. “What are you doing up?” She asked, keeping her tone carefully neutral.

“I got this weird feeling-” Naruto yawned sleepily. He was just checking on her then. He nodded as if satisfied that she was fine and turned his back to return to his bedroom. “I wasn’t going to bother you.”

Maybe it was her sign. Naruto usually never woke up before the sun hit his face in the morning. Even if she made noise it was so unlike him- and his weird feeling could have been the slight push of fate her prayers had brought her. She looked back at the curling smoke and saw for a moment suspended, a perfect spiral, like the orange one on Naruto’s T-shirt. She sighed heavily. “Of course.”

“Huh?” Naruto asked, having been ignorant of Sasuke’s internal dialogue.

She patted the wood floor next to her, gesturing for him to kneel. He sat cross-legged, and Sasuke almost made him fix himself, but in the end, decided it didn’t really matter. He watched her with curious but guarded blue eyes. Since the fight things had been tense and different. What should she say? Something that would make him hurt less. “... It wasn’t your fault, what happened.”

“What?”

She rolled her eyes. He was always so slow. “I said what I said to get that result,” she told him. Then huffed. “It’s not your fault you’re an idiot. You only did what I told you to do.”

His eyes widened in realization, and skittered away from her, darkening with guilt. That was the opposite of what she had wanted. “Sasuke...”

She cut him off before he could say anything else. Maybe he'd stop looking like he hated himself if she explained. “When you're using the Kyuubi chakra you don't react the same. I thought I could be in control- but I wasn’t prepared either.” He nodded, his grimace still firmly in place. “And I didn’t know how doing it would affect me… or us.” She feels some kind of weight flutter away at telling him that. It was the truth, but not one she’d felt comfortable speaking. Resolving her points and meditation had helped her admit that she'd been reckless with both of their emotions.

She watched him for his response. He nodded as if he accepted it, carefully meeting her eyes. What he said next wasn't what she expected though. “That sounds terrifying.” She blinked. “Why did you do that?” Sasuke shook her head. She barely knew. “You could have killed me if you needed to.”

She couldn’t have done that. It would have been so terribly wrong that it didn’t even occur to her at the time. And to have his child, with him dead. Or maybe she would have killed the child as well- if she’d already gone through with murdering Naruto. She cut that train of thought off. It was too dark, too broken.

Instead, she just replied with: “Because.” Naruto sucked in a breath that kind of resembled a laugh if Sasuke really tried to hear it. “... Anyways don't feel too bad,” she told him, running her hand through her short hair. “It felt good. I'm fine. You don't have to bend over backward to make me happy anymore.”

“It was never really about that.” Naruto curled his knees up to his chest, looking painfully small. He rested his head on his arms, his whole demeanor exhausted, down to his sleep ringed blue eyes. “I know you wanted to lose it."

“Then why?” Sasuke asked. He'd seemed so determined to help her, but if he didn’t feel like he owed her anything, why?

“You're my best friend,” he sighed, exasperated. Sasuke frowned. She didn’t like feeling like the slow one. “Being pregnant is painful for you, I can tell.” Sasuke couldn't argue with that. But it hurt to hear someone say out loud that the appeared unsuited or incapable of doing anything. “And afterward you looked so hurt. When I see you hurting- I hurt.”

Sasuke scoffed. “You're stupid.” If he felt her suffering it was because he chose to. She’d never asked it of him. But his eyes were so genuine she couldn’t really stay annoyed.

“And you're an absolute psycho,” he replied, reaching out for her hand. If she was insane, what did that make Naruto, who spent all his time chasing after her? He must be completely out of his mind. She felt herself smirk, but it was belied by her impulse to lace their fingers together. He gave her a hesitant smile that warmed until it was sunny and bright, the way it used to be when they were younger.

+++

Naruto snuggled Sasuke closer. If he didn’t, she’d fall off of where they were delicately perched on a thick tree branch. He couldn’t let that happen. What kind of person would he be if he let his girl fall? She smirked at him, leaning her head back onto his shoulder and letting her feet swing freely. “Tell me about it,” she asked softly. “What you think it will be like when I come back?”

Naruto hummed in thought. “Well everyone’s gonna be pretty mad for a good while,” he admitted. She had committed some pretty serious crimes, treason against one's village featuring high on the list. Others would be angry about being left. Sakura would definitely would furious with Sasuke for a little while.

“Yeah,” Sasuke murmured, her voice dipping into sadness. Naruto kissed her neck at a spot where she was ticklish and she squirmed, giggling despite herself.

“But they’ll forgive you,” he quickly added. He hoped it was true, that they would forgive her. Otherwise, he wasn’t sure she’d stay, and if she didn’t stay Naruto wasn't sure what he would do. “Especially when I tell everyone you’re my babe, and I’m your one and only.”

“I didn’t say you could tell anyone that,” Sasuke deadpanned. She’d always been pretty private. Only the other two members of team seven knew they had been something, and even then, they had no idea it was still going on, or how deep it went.

“Eh. Not even when you come back?” Sasuke shrugged. She probably still wouldn’t want the attention but he wanted to do things with her that would get noticed. Dates out in town, and other things like that. He blushed when he thought about it but didn't shy out of saying it. “It’ll be really confusing for everyone when we move in together then.”

“You want to live with me?” Sasuke voice rose in surprise but she didn't seem to hate the idea. She twisted around in his arms to look into his eyes and see if he meant it. When she saw that he did she flushed too. “We’d be grown-ups so we could do it. Either make them let you move in with me, or we could live somewhere else entirely.”

Naruto doesn’t call her on the fact that she doesn’t even mention living at his place. Most times, he doesn’t even like living there. A new place, he thought, would be best. No ghosts. “I wanna wake up with you every morning.” He kissed her neck. She squirmed, whining about being tickled. “Wanna make you tea.” He ran his fingers up her ribs and she squeaked. “Kisses. Maybe more,” he purred in her ear.

“Stop it~” Sasuke moaned, her fingers gripping his wrists painfully tight in warning. Naruto wrapped his arms back around her to show he wouldn’t tickle her any more. She sighed in relief, relaxing back against him. “That sounds nice,” she admitted.

“It’s something to look forward too for sure. A reason to get strong fast.” Once Itachi was dead, or whoever else Sasuke felt she needed to kill, she would come home. Things would be different, but they’d be back together again. That as all he needed, really. “Then I’ll come to meet you, walk you home.”

Sasuke gave him one of her rare smiles. The one where she didn’t smirk but instead her eyes were soft and deep, and her lips curved into a sweet pink bow that didn't mean any harm, or make Naruto feel silly. She was just happy. She gave him that smile and replied: “It’s a promise.”

---

Sasuke looked up from window gazing when Naruto returned from getting groceries and relieved the ANBU who’d been watching her in the meantime. It had been an awkward few hours. Sasuke had stared at the stranger, and the stranger had probably stared back. The mask made it hard to tell. Neither had spoken.

“I miss Hinata, and I want her back,” she told Naruto as soon as the other shinobi was out of her line of sight.

“Me too,” Naruto sighed. He crossed to the window and sat on the sill beside her. “But we should figure out us first.” She touched his wrist and pulled his palm to her swollen tummy. The baby was moving around inside her, and Naruto was distracted for a while with the way its little limbs would visibly press out against her taut skin. As expected of Naruto’s child, the one in her womb was very active, regardless of it was day or night, and as it grew larger the kicks had become quite forceful.

She took a deep breath, closing her eyes to try and think of what Naruto meant. She didn’t come up with much. Naruto looked up at her, his eyes gleaming with happiness about being allowed to touch. “Okay. How do we figure out us?” Sasuke asked, pressing her own fingers against what she knew was a little foot. The baby kicked and Sasuke sucked in a breath and tried to steady herself. It was fascinating as long as she didn’t allow herself to feel horribly invaded by the other life.

Naruto shrugged. “I guess just be honest about how we feel.”

“Maybe it will help if we get past what happened-” Sasuke mused softly. She had to try. And if she was honest her body still reacted to him the way it always had. She’d spent a lot of time in the past few months secretly aching for his touch, hoping he would hold her again the way he used to, and press kisses against her neck. It had taken her long to admit it, but as of recently, she could. So she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pressed her body against his.

“Sasuke-” he swallowed; his voice gone husky. She smirked. “Wait.”

She paused, sighing. Why was he making it more difficult than it needed to be? “I can't give you this?” She asked her voice tenser than she had wanted.

He hesitated. “We don’t have to rush,” he finally told her, stroking her hair. He hadn’t pushed her away.

“Shut up. Kiss me,” she ordered.

“You’re killing me,” Naruto breathed softly. She paused, realizing that he was crying. “It's not fair.” Sasuke was frozen. Why was he acting like that? She was trying to give him what he wanted- trying to do things the right way. She must be messing it up again but she didn’t at all understand how. “I just,” he sobbed quietly. “love you so much.” His fists came up to rub at his eyes. “Why did that have to happen- why did I-”

“I know you love me,” Sasuke interrupted, pulling his arms away from his eyes and wiping his tears herself. They were her fault. “It's obvious. I use it all the time.” Naruto laughed bitterly, looking away. Admitting she’d been manipulating him hurt them both. But at least no fresh tears ran down his cheeks. She had to tell him something. “I was hoping to make you happy and get the Rinnegan but everything came out wrong.”

Naruto shook his head. “You thought you could make me happy like that?”

Sasuke blushed. “I didn’t want to die before- without giving it to you.” It was kind of embarrassing. “You wanted me for a while.” And she’d promised he’d be her first when they’d still been something.

“Not like that, though,” he replied.

“I didn’t realize.” In hindsight, she definitely should have realized. She'd been so selfish to think that letting him spend a night with her would make up for all of the insanity she’s subjected him to. That offer counted as just another turn of the insanity. “I just made you more unhappy. And then, when this happened- I thought it might make you happy to see our child.” She touched her tummy. Naruto’s hand followed hers, stroking tenderly. “After taking everything from you.“ She fell silent.

Naruto nodded. He hugged her then. And Sasuke went limp in his arms, the affection more than she was able to resist or bear. “Do you still want to?” He asked in an almost inaudible voice.

Sasuke thought about it. “... I don't know,” she told him truthfully.

“Then let's just cuddle,” he suggested, getting up and helping her heave her ungainly form onto its feet. “Come to bed.” She kept hold of his hand as she padded after him to his room. It was already dark enough out that settling into bed by his side felt perfectly natural.

She used his one arm as a pillow and pulled the other one over her waist. Naruto grinned, snuggling right up against her. She could feel that he was interested in. She pressed her thighs together, her body was responding, recognizing the form it had once been entwined with. It almost always did. “I-” she began, because if he wasn’t going to voice his desires someone else would have to get things going.

He saw her face and shook his head. “No rush.” He touched her cheek tenderly, moving a short strand of hair just for the sake of touching it. Again she was regretting cutting her hair. He’d liked it so much.

Nothing she could do about it anymore. She should focus on moving forward instead. Sasuke huffed, frustrated with both Naruto and herself, and wound her fingers into the neckline of his t-shirt. “Do you want... to kiss some?” She asked, pulling him close and letting her lips almost brush against his.

He laughed at the callback to the time he’d fallen off her bed, his expression becoming reminiscent of an Inari statue as he squinted in amusement. “Yeah,” he breathed. She felt the warmth of his air against her lips. He was so close. Sasuke’s heart was hammering violently in her chest as they closed the last of the distance in unison. She moaned dizzily, letting her eyes flutter shut as his lips moved against hers. It felt like she was in free fall. The only solid thing was his body beside hers.

Naruto’s fingers on the side of her face were warm, and she could feel the rough patch of callous on his thumb as it absently stroked her cheekbone. Sasuke deepened the contact, parting her lips and inviting him to taste her. His tongue darted out and licked her lips, and Sasuke shivered. She wanted more. His kiss felt like home.

She reached for the slight pressure of his interest. She didn’t really know what she’d do when she had it in her hand, but she would figure it out. She had to or else they would never- He caught her hand and gently pinned it up away from there. “Don’t, babe.” He’d called her ‘babe’ again. The nickname hit her with a wave of nostalgia. Even if he was saying that it was having the effect she wanted- it was taking them back to before. She couldn’t stop.

“I can!” She argued, her face feeling hot. He shouldn’t look down on her. She was strong. She had to be.

Naruto pecked her lips and Sasuke whined softly. All at once she was desperate for contact. “I know you can but… Your hand was shaking.”

Sasuke flushed with embarrassment. “So?”

“It’s okay to not be ready. It’s not your fault either.” He let go of her wrist and stroked her cheek again. “We’re both stupid. Really stupid.”

“I’m afraid,” Sasuke bit out. “But it’s not even you-” She choked on her words, then sucked in a deep breath and tried again. “I’m tired of getting stuck,” she forced out, feeling her eyes sting. She wouldn’t cry. If Naruto didn’t want to be touched by her, that was her fault, she was the one who’d made him afraid. “Do you still even want-”

Naruto gave her a stunned look when he realized what she was asking. “Have you seen yourself? Of course, I want to.” Sasuke didn’t understand. If they both wanted to then why wouldn’t he? Just because she was shaking a bit didn’t mean she hadn’t decided. “When I see you like this it’s all I wanna do,” Naruto admitted softly, stroking the pale skin of her belly. He flicked up his eyes at her and she could see the lust in them. “Are you gonna say you don’t believe me?” Sasuke hesitated, but then shook her head. She believed him, and it made warmth spread out in her chest and the heat between her legs sharpen. “Let me,” he offered, running a hand up her thigh.

“Okay,” she agreed softly and shuddered violently when he pulled her sleeping shorts and panties down. He tossed them off the side of the bed, then smoothed his hand reverently up her inner thigh until his fingers brushed the outside of her folds. She was already wet when he touched her and released a gasp when his touch parted her outer lips and he began to gently stimulate all the spots he must have remembered were good for making her squirm.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and used him as an anchor. He was warm and made her feel safe. When she whimpered, Naruto nuzzled her sweetly and whispered in her ear about how gorgeous he found her, how much he loved her, and how the pregnancy made her “crazy fucking sexy.” She couldn't help but giggle but broke off into a moan when he started teasing her clit.

She felt herself gush fluids as she was pleasured and flushed with heat and embarrassment. Her body seemed too eager. He would definitely find out how she felt about him if it kept this up. She pursed her lips and he obliged her with kisses, his warm lips moving hungrily against hers. Sasuke trembled, letting her moans tell him what she enjoyed the most. The pressure against her hip bone increased, but she didn’t try to reach for it again, afraid it would make Naruto stop touching her. “Don’t stop,” she begged against his lips. He nipped her teasingly. “I’m gonna-” she gasped.

Sasuke arched, her mind going pleasantly fuzzy as she came. Naruto kissed her over and over again, making her dizzier as she panted for air. “How was that?” He asked, his fingers lightly brushing over her to bring her down. He was so affectionate Sasuke felt like her heart might burst.

“Good,” she complimented. She put her arms around him and smothered him against her chest. “You’re too good for me,” she murmured, running her fingers through his blonde hair.

Naruto shook his head, nuzzling her breasts through her shirt. He poked his nose against where the thin fabric showed a faint outline of her tattoo. “I don’t know. I’m pretty selfish,” He admitted, pressing his lips there.

“I’m more selfish than you,” Sasuke countered.

Naruto chuckled, giving her a dry look. “Are we really gonna fight about this?”

“I guess not,” she relented. “We could just both forgive each other,” Sasuke suggested, leaning close to kiss his cheek. She could feel the markings on his face bunch together as he smiled brightly, closing his eyes to receive her touch. “That does sound like a better idea.”

+++

“Give me the Mangekyo.” Naruto stepped back as she advanced. “Please. Don’t you love me?”

He couldn’t lie. “I do.”

Her face filled with relief. “Then this will work.” She put her hands on either side of his face, it looked like caress but the pressure was near crushing. “If you die I can-” Naruto cried out in pain. “My one and only.”

“Shit!” He hit her once, seriously, in the stomach. It stunned her long enough for him to get her in a headlock and try to shake some sense into her. “Sasuke stop!”

She snarled, already making efforts to escape. He’d only be able to hold her like that for so long without knocking her out. “You’re really losing it,” he yelled. “I don’t know it’s that mark or your eyes but something bad is happening to your mind!”

“Who cares?” She kicked her feet out, and almost managed to destabilize them both. “Who cares if I burn?” Naruto gritted his teeth and squeezed his arms tighter until her body lost tension. “I just need to kill Itachi-” she gasped. “Then- then I’ll come home to you.” Naruto inhaled sharply. She couldn’t mean- “I won’t be long, and then we can be at peace together.”

She shook in his arms, and he felt wet spots of hot tears dotting his forearms. “Sasuke,” he asked softly. “Are you okay now?” A moment ago she’d been talking about both of them dying by her hand. He wasn’t sure it was safe to let her go.

“Go away.” Her voice was empty. Naruto didn’t like her tone so he held on.

“Let me help you,” he begged. “I can.”

“You can’t,” she replied bleakly. “You can’t.” When Naruto let her go, she slid to her knees, still crying. Naruto truly had no idea what to do.

---

Another appointment ended with fairly good news. She’d been resting properly, as much as it pained her not to train or exercise the way she was used to. Sometimes she practiced her kata in extremely slow movements and didn’t use her swords.

Tsunade kept telling Sasuke things that sounded suspiciously like compliments. The baby would be born at a good weight. There weren’t any noticeable problems. Sasuke was doing shockingly well for carrying her first child at such a young age. Sasuke nodded and accepted all this, not knowing how else to respond.

She was waiting for a moment to bring up another issue entirely. When Tsunade was about to let them leave and asked if they had any other questions, Sasuke decided she was looking at her moment. “Naruto get out. I want to be alone with Lady Tsunade.”

“What can I do for you, girl?” The Hokage asked. Sasuke wrinkled her nose. It was odd that Tsunade called her girl. Sasuke was by all rights an adult. She wondered how old Tsunade really was to naturally call her a child. But that also wasn’t what she wanted to ask.

“I want to live in the Uchiha compound,” she requested, putting her hands together and bowing. She knew that the Hokage had the power of decision over the Uchiha district and what happened to it. Sasuke was honestly surprised when Naruto told her it was still standing when she returned to the village. Maybe Tsunade intended for Sasuke to live there when she returned.

The chance that someone might accept Sasuke's return and prepare for it other than Naruto made Sasuke feel something… but she realized that Tsunade probably only cared because Naruto did. It was probably also for that reason that the fifth was personally overseeing her care. “Naruto’s apartment is really shitty,” she added, sure that improving his situation would be attractive to the Hokage. “He should live with me.”

Tsunade’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’ve decided to stay?” Her expression wasn’t pleased and Sasuke shifted nervously. “Don’t do this just to play with the boy.”

“This isn’t a game for me!” Sasuke felt herself shouting. Her head suddenly went light and she swayed. Sasuke knew she shouldn’t shout this far along. it made her dizzy and it woke the child where it had been peacefully resting inside. She felt queasy as it kicked in indignation. “Shit-”

“Calm down.” Tsunade soothed, the suspicion in her expression going away. Apparently, the emotional outburst had somehow been the right move. “You want to go home. I understand. But you won’t be free. He’s still going to be there, and so is the guard we’ve had assigned to you.”

Sasuke breathed deliberately, trying to get her body under control. She smoothed everything except for the now agitatedly moving infant. It would have to settle on its own. “Are you allowed to tell me that?” She asked sarcastically. The placement of Anbu guards was usually a secret, even if it didn’t always stay that way.

“Your Sharingan must have revealed that to you months ago, don’t play coy.” Sasuke stared at her, unsure how much she knew and what to admit to. “I’ve had reports of you using chakra, somehow.”

“... I can’t control it,” Sasuke admitted. “My eyes activate when they want to for the most part.” She didn't say anything about the chakra needles. It was too much to explain. And Tsunade didn’t seem like she was going to ask. Instead, she was fascinated by Sasuke's admission about her eyes.

“Triggered by emotions?” Sasuke nodded. “Fear?” She nodded again. Definitely fear. “Interesting.” Tsunade's hand glowed as she ran diagnostic Justus on various locations of Sasuke's body. “Well, your chakra is flowing much better than before. I imagine you will get full control back of everything up to your left shoulder.” So her arm was fucked. But Sasuke had known that.

“I’m going to write your prescription after the baby is born. It should be safe for nursing mothers and their babies but you understand that we’re still nervous about destabilizing your chakra as a pregnant woman.” Sasuke nodded, numb from the new information. Other than her arm- she could have her normal chakra back. She’d just have to learn to fight without it. She could almost laugh. “You’re just going to have to be patient.”

Everyone was saying that to her lately.

Tsunade considered Sasuke silently for a moment and then decided. “I’m giving you permission to move.” She waved her hand in the air giving some kind of signal and several masked shinobi appeared. “These Anbu will help you because I need to see Naruto.” She gave Sasuke a sharp look. “Don’t try anything.”

“I won’t,” promised, and it was the truth. She had no plans to run away the way she was. She and the three Anbu walked to Naruto’s apartment. She didn’t have to show them where it was. When the four of them arrived she asked them to “Move everything. Be careful!” Naruto’s things fit into surprisingly few boxes. A lot of what he had was just trash that needed to be picked up and thrown out. Sasuke did that. There were things she would have needed to bend down to get. She left those as someone else’s problem.

One of the Anbu found her leaning against the wall in a hot flash and swiped the items out of her hand while simultaneously pushing her into a chair. She was too out of breath to resist. “Miss Uchiha. Please take a rest.” She thought she might recognize the voice but couldn’t quite pin it down.

After a while, when she felt better, she forced herself onto her feet. “Okay let’s continue.” It was funny to watch Anbu carry the oversized boxes across town. They were so conspicuous in their masks and uniforms, that Sasuke, in one of Naruto’s hoodies, went entirely unnoticed.

She thought she’d choose a house at random, but when she entered the Uchiha complex she froze, instantly overwhelmed by how many there were. It hit her in a rush how many people had died to abandon so many houses. At her old shrine, she’d used to recite all their names, and now the litany of fallen Uchiha’s played itself unbidden across her mind. Needing to see her shrine, she gritted her teeth and entered her own home.

The Anbu followed her. It was pretty clean in there, but dusty. The shrine especially had gone untouched for years. She set to that task since it was the easiest on her body and felt most pressing to her spirit. She mouthed the names inscribed in the small stone funeral plate. Her parent’s names were first. Sasuke realized she hadn’t said her parents’ names in all those years.

The lack of offerings must have made them think she’d forgotten them, even though that was the opposite of the truth. She wiped the wooden table, the stone tablet, the incense holders, and the picture frames with a damp cloth. She recited the names of her clan all the while, apologizing for each one in being so remiss in her duties. In her defense- she’d felt like she was walking dead all that time. Maintaining shrines was the work of the living.

Kneeling quickly became too much to bear so she sat in front of the shrine instead to arrange Naruto’s gifts with her other spiritual objects. When she was satisfied, she looked up and realized that one of the Anbu had been standing nearby with their eyes averted, respectfully waiting for her attention. “Thank you,” she told the Anbu looking past him and seeing that all the furniture was placed and that the boxes of smaller things were carefully stacked in the dining room. “You can stop now.” They vanished but when Sasuke turned around someone had placed another glass of water on the table for her to drink.

She dusted until Naruto burst through the door, annoyance clear on his face. “We moved all your things, Uzumaki. You are to report to the Uchiha compound and your official address has been changed?” He parroted the Anbu who had probably met him and informed him of the changes. Sasuke smirked. “What the fuck was that about?” Well, Sasuke thought that much was obvious.

“Naruto,” she soothed. Even saying his name softly made him look less upset. “You’re still renting the old place technically. I would cancel that.” It was fun to watch his face warp as he struggled to keep his cool.

“Well if I wanted to live there, I’d have to move all my shit back,” he groaned, running a hand through his blonde hair.

“You would,” Sasuke agreed. That was only logical. She had no idea why he would want to move back though. This house was much better than his apartment.

Naruto glared at her. “And you wouldn’t help.”

She patted her tummy, unable to prevent herself from smirking smugly. He couldn’t make her do anything. “I regrettably can’t. I’m too close.” She was already exhausted from the day. Even if she really wanted to it would have had to wait. And she didn’t want to. Sasuke had been serious when she’d told Tsunade that Naruto should live with her.

He made a face of exasperation, which quickly morphed into acceptance. “Which one’s my room?” He asked, picking up his folded futon where it lay on the floor of the living room.

Sasuke shrugged. “Just choose. I can’t climb the stairs too well so the one by the bath is mine.” The rest of the bedrooms were upstairs. She tapped the small brass key on the counter that she’d had to dig out of a terribly dusty storage drawer. “Here’s your key.”

“Fine.” He came over to pick it up and slipped it into his pocket. He looked down the hall to the staircase and then hesitated, giving her a cautious expression. Sasuke ran her fingers up his arm, gently, and hoped he wouldn’t hate it. “What are you doing?” He asked suspiciously as she drew him closer. He closed his eyes when she kissed him, his long blonde lashes flicking against her cheek. “Is this normal now?” He asked, his voice a mix of hope and confusion.

Sasuke rolled her eyes. “We’re figuring out us.”

“I’m confused,” he admitted.

Sasuke groaned her complaint. She was too but they didn’t have to talk about it. “Try not to be,” she suggested, acidly. She immediately knew it wasn't necessary to take that tone with him, but some habits were too deeply ingrained. She smoothed it over with another kiss. Naruto melted so easily for her.

“Sasuke.” It was a soft desperate whisper. Sasuke’s emotions pulled in hundreds of different directions when he said her name that way.

“Don’t make that face-” she complained. She hugged him. Even if it wasn't her first instinct, it obviously made him feel so much better. He hugged her back enthusiastically, almost taking the air out of her. “You really are an idiot.”

+++

When he saw her he drew his kunai. “Stay back.” He wasn’t sure whether she’d try to kill him or not. Things had been really weird the past few times he’d seen her. She’d lashed out at him and said things that really made him ache in ways that he wasn’t sure how to deal with.

“I decided I don’t want power Itachi’s way,” she told him. She took a step forward, and Naruto stepped back. Her face fell. Naruto regretted hurting her but if he was honest, he didn’t know if he could trust her anymore. “I’m sorry... About that.”

“It’s fine,” he lied. There was no need to hurt her anymore. But he couldn’t stay there. Every nerve in his body was on edge. Her scent had changed. The sweet incense was gone and instead, she just smelled like lightning and blood that wasn’t hers. He really didn’t like what that spelled. And if she snapped on him again. “... I’m going now.”

He regretted leaving her there looking so lost almost instantly. But he’d already done it.

---

The bath on the lower floor was huge and luxurious. She’d missed lots of the things in her home, but she’d especially missed the bath. As a missing-ninja and when living with Naruto, her bathing situation had been pretty constantly garbage unless she made a detour to a hot spring. For the last few months, she hadn’t even been able to do that. She set the temperature to her preference and let the tub fill up while she rinsed off.

The door opened. “Oh shit, I forgot about the bath.” Naruto ran over to the edge of the tub and let the steam move over his face with a blissful sigh. He gave her a look that begged her to join, and she nodded without hesitating. He’d stripped down and was rinsing off next to her in record time. Sasuke flushed. She hadn’t seen him fully naked in some time. She’d seen parts of him exposed here and there but they hadn’t- she blushed harder.

There were a few things that were different. She passed him the ancient soap she’d found under one of the sinks, trying to avoid staring. He took the soap but noticed her averted gaze and touched her thigh. “It’s fine, you know. Otherwise, I’d feel weird looking at you, too.”

He had recently seen her naked, technically, but she’d been being cruel, and he’d definitely felt weird about looking. She was sure neither of them wanted to count that time. “We’re doing everything so out of order,” Sasuke complained. But she looked at him and shivered when she felt him looking at her.

Naruto was corded with muscle and deeply tanned by the sun. His skin was banded with the silvery lines and pockmarks of battle scars. Sasuke looked at her softened thighs, her stretched stomach, her warped arm. She didn’t feel his match at all.

Sasuke met his eyes and her thoughts stuttered. They were darkened with lust, and his lips were red from being worried by his teeth. Sasuke shivered, unable to do anything with the clear desire in his expression. He grabbed the sides of the stool she was sitting on and dragged her close. He kissed her lips, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed their chests together. His body radiated heat that Sasuke felt spreading into her own skin

She wanted to feel that look of hunger in his eyes expressed physically and was pleased when his hands gripped her hips and drug her closer, till she was sure she’d have to climb into his lap for them to press any more skin together. His hardness bumped against her stomach and Sasuke felt herself clench in response.

She opened her mouth to ask if he wanted to and felt that his answer would have to be yes with the way his lips hunted hers when she pulled back to try and speak. Her words were muffled by another round of desperate kisses. She moaned, nearly forgetting what she’d been planning to say.

They both made sounds of surprise when warm water flowed over their feet. The bath was beyond full. Naruto laughed, clinging to her even once they’d noticed. If she didn't want to badly to take a decent bath, she wouldn’t have extricated herself from his hold. But as it was, she truly wanted a decent bath.

She gestured impatiently for Naruto to get in first. He grinned and slid into the tub; his thighs spread most likely for her to sit between. But he was hard and Sasuke had to ignore the way seeing him spread out made her feel. He held her hands to steady her as she lowered herself into the water, and immediately pulled her against his chest. She sighed in pleasure. It was amazing. Especially compared to Naruto’s shitty shower and tiny tub.

With Naruto holding her head above water, she could just close her eyes float. The tenseness that had been in her body melted away. Even getting poked in her lower back couldn’t keep her from feeling blissed. If he wanted to ignore it, she’d let him. She sighed in pleasure as Naruto cupped water in his hands and poured it over her abdomen.

Sasuke shifted her body so she was sitting up, resting against his body sideways. “Hey- you and I?” She began, reaching for a small plastic bowl. She filled it with water and poured it over his hair, then used her fingers to smooth back the wet strands. He blinked away the droplets that got caught in his lashes, grinning. She kissed him. It felt so much easier than before.

He took the bowl from her and copied what she’d done. Hot water trickled down her nape and spine. Sasuke bit her lip as his nails scratched lightly over her scalp. “In this new place,” he agreed softly. “You and I.” Sasuke leaned against his shoulder as Naruto continuously poured water over her hair and face, pausing once in a while to run his fingers through Sasuke’s tangles and undo them. Her body relaxed against his.

Eventually, the bath turned cool. It was time to get out. Naruto caught her in a towel and rubbed her dry with it. Now that it wasn't so strange when they touched, he looked for any excuse to do it, even going so far as to dry Sasuke's hair for her. She pecked his cheek in thanks as he dried himself off after.

She took her towel off her head and wrapped it around her body. “I want to- tonight,” she told him, spreading her fingers out on his chest. He was firm, and his skin jumped at the touch of her fingers. She wondered if she did to him what he did to her, and realized that she must, at least partly. He’d been excited their whole bath.

Naruto paused, tracing her hand with his own fingers, encouraging her touch. “You sure?” He closed his fingers around hers and pressed kisses all over them.

Sasuke rolled her eyes. “Haven’t you made me wait long enough?” She asked, making her voice husky. She dropped her lashes and traced her fingers down her neck. Naruto’s eyes helplessly followed the path her hand took to the little swirl between her breasts. “You don’t want to touch me?” She didn’t have to use genjutsu to catch him, she knew she’d won when he licked his lips and exhaled shakily.

“You know I do,” he growled. He grabbed her hips and ground his hardness against her. Sasuke gasped, but the sound was cut off when he claimed her mouth. She smirked against his mouth, having successfully snapped whatever was making him hold back. “Let’s hurry,” he teased huskily, tugging on her hips again. She couldn’t suppress her voice as he ground against her. “Since I’ve made you wait so much.”

They hurried to her room and once they were there Sasuke let her towel slip off her body. She pulled his hand to her skin. It was so warm and left a broad path of sensitized nerves wherever it moved. “Do what you want,” she offered him. “Naruto-” Sasuke breathed, as the male cupped both of her breasts and teased her nipples with his mouth. She squirmed as he left a series of small red marks on her skin with his lips and teeth. Each nip sent a zap of sensation through her body that made her spine straighten, and her thighs twitch. “That makes me feel all hot- idiot.”

Naruto grinned at her, running his tongue over a fresh mark. He pressed her tits together and gently sniffed the expanse of her skin. Sasuke, squirmed, ticklish. “You smell so good,” he complimented, laying another row of little marks. His hands moved down her thighs, squeezing the dimpled flesh. He let out a soft groan. “So soft. Fuck.”

“Idiot,” Sasuke complained. “You’re just feeling me up.”

He didn’t deny it. He nodded, moving to his knees to press tender kisses on her belly. “Your body is different now. Lots to learn.”

Sasuke sat on the bed, her knees were quickly becoming too wobbly to hold her up. Naruto filled the spot by her side, winding an arm around her waist to pull her against him. “Do that later. Make me feel good now.” She spread her thighs in invitation.

He chuckled at her orders. “Yes, ma’am.” One of his hands slipped between her thighs to part her slit and toy with her. He gently used his fingers to expose and stimulate her clit. Sasuke moaned, her eyes fluttering shut. He teased her nipples with his other hand and peppered kisses all over the sensitive skin of Sasuke’s neck.

“Can I do it?” he pleaded softly, his warm breath making her shiver. “It has to be on your side- you’re so round,” he apologized, moving the hand from her breast down to her belly to stroke the taut skin gently. His body's muscles are heated against her side and she can feel his member twitching against her hip. She threw him a glare, but he just laughed and locked their lips together. “Don’t act like you think I don’t like it.”

Her frown melted as she sank into his kiss, her thighs squeezing his hand as pleasure made her head swim. Sasuke shivered, feeling his tongue part her lips.

Naruto carefully moved her into position on her side, with himself warmly aligned against her back. “First time doing it again- and like this…” Sasuke murmured softly. She felt his touch retreat, moving from inside to her hip, and quickly shook her head. “I’m all right,” she told him. “But- slow.”

“Real slow I promise,” he purred against her ear. His hand left her hip and she trembled as she felt the head of his member touch against her slit from behind.

“Naruto-” She gasped as the tip parted her outer lips and came to rest against and tease her opening. “Ah-” True to his word he was moving slow- perhaps, just a bit too slow. Sasuke’s heart, on the other hand, was beating insanely fast. She could feel the heat of him- her body clenched desperately for it to be inside her.

Naruto pressed in a little, his breath becoming shaky from his own pleasure. Sasuke whimpered feeling him pierce shallowly into her core. She gripped the forearm she was laying on to steady herself. “It’s not too big for you is it?” He teased, all the while placing soothing kisses on the side of her face. He paused in deepening the contact, waiting for Sasuke’s say so.

But she was impatient already. “Are we gonna do it or not, dumbass?” Sasuke hissed.

He huffed a laugh, nipping her neck once with his teeth. A small pleasured sound escaped her lips, and Sasuke felt herself turning pink. “Bratty princess,” his hips flexed and he slowly buried himself to the base, using the arm she didn't hold hostage to pull her hips flush against his. Her pussy made a slick, wet, sound as it accepted him. Sasuke dug her nails into his forearm, her eyes rolling back into her head as a wave of pleasure washed over her. His voice trembled when he asked her “Does that feel good?”

“Naruto~” She moaned. It was all the response she could come up with. He was way deeper than his fingers could reach, spreading her and throbbing inside her. It was better than her first time. she knew she wouldn’t get hurt so she didn’t have to keep alert. She could just relax and let him have it. He was big, and he made her ache, but it didn’t hurt. She whined as he pulled back, feeling empty and desperate. He thrust forward again, fingers digging into her hip for leverage, and Sasuke cried out her approval, pushing her body back against his.

“Fuck,” Naruto growled, his voice going low and canine. He bit down on her neck possessively, and Sasuke's muscles tensed up. He hadn’t bitten her like that before. It was way more intense than his little nips, closer to the deep bites she’d gotten her first time. His tongue smoothed over the mark. She relaxed on the next thrust and cried out as the softening of her body let him penetrate deeper than before.

“Does it- feel good for you?” She asked, feeling inexplicably shy, her breath catching as he bottomed out inside her over and over. He always asked her, so softly, so gently. She wanted to know if he also felt it. Felt like they were melting together and becoming one. Like pleasure moved from one of them to the other. She whimpered when he paused to answer and kiss her. She enjoyed his kisses but wished he wouldn't stop moving.

“Amazing,” he promised. Instead of thrusting he rubbed her clit and Sasuke gasped, feeling herself flutter around him. His breath caught in concert with hers, answering the question better than his words. He did feel it. “You’re amazing,” he murmured against her lips. “I love you.”

“... I love you too,” Sasuke whispered back, barely audible. She couldn’t look at him in the eyes just at the moment she said it.

Instead, she watched his mouth, and the way he grinned brightly, crushing her closer in his arms and thereby pressing himself deeper into her. She couldn’t stay twisted around anymore- her muscles were shaking from it. His lips found the back of Sasuke’s neck, and her resulting moans were muffled against Naruto’s forearm. “Naruto!” She gasped. “I’m so full-” It was overwhelming. He must be against the opening if her womb- the way it felt was that intense. She was turning into jelly in his arms. “Naruto,“ she whimpered.

His voice was teasing when he nuzzled against her ear. She must know he was just calling his name. “Yeah, babe?” His fingers hadn’t slowed on her clit that whole time, and the sensation was building more and more, racing under her skin. Then he started moving again, and Sasuke couldn’t string her thoughts together. All she could think was that she wanted more of him. “What is it?”

He moved faster. Her pussy made slick sounds as he pressed himself deep and caught every texture inside her with his own ridges. She’d hardly ever been so wet before. Naruto groaned, his breath puffing warmly against her neck, his fingers tightening on her hips. He was close too. She squeezed herself down on him, tightening herself around his member. They both gasped as the sensations intensified. Naruto thrust hard, letting out a bark of pleasure that he stifled in her neck. Her whole body tensed up, snapping tight as the orgasm rushed through her. “I’m coming,” she hissed, digging her nails into his arm.

“Fuck- you’re so gorgeous, Sasuke,” he panted, his body shaking against hers. “Kiss me.” Sasuke twisted around and locked her lips with his, just as desperate to be connected as he was. The aftershocks of her pleasure moved in waves through her body. She could feel him twitching inside her, and that same point of heat spreading within her she’d felt her first time. She realized with a shiver that he’d come inside.

“You don’t have to say that I’m pretty-” Sasuke breathed, pulling his arm tighter around her and letting the feeling of warmth lull her.

“You’re gorgeous,” Naruto argued softly. His fingers were sticky when he pet her hip, but it was still really soothing. Sasuke closed her eyes and moaned as he kissed her neck. “You’re all glowing- and cute,” he praised softly, nosing against her nape.

Sasuke scoffed. “Cute.”

“Yeah, you’re really cute,” he repeated. He was quiet for a moment then with heated desperation in his voice, requested “Say it- say you’re mine.”

Sasuke sighed heavily. When she shifted, she could feel his member spreading his seed inside her. He was still hard, too. “You made me yours again,” she admitted, flushed. She knew her heart could never have belonged to anyone else. But he’d taken her body back as his too.

“As many times as you need,” he promised, in a deep growl. Sasuke shivered.

Her voice was small when she asked: “What about again, now?” He was still hard, after all. She wiggled, thrusting her hips back on his. He moaned her name, his fingers tightened on her hip again.

“Yesss,” He fucked her slow, letting her feel every inch. There was hardly any friction with how slick she was but there was still the stretch- the sweet ache of him pressing deep into where only he’d ever been- and that only once. “Fuck yes,” he growled. He purred, thrusting once hard enough for their hips to smack together. The impact shook through her and Sasuke released a desperate, strangled cry. “Can you take it like this?” he asked, nipping her neck. She’d have a bunch of tiny marks the next morning, but she didn’t care.

If he wanted to fuck her harder, she’d let him. His hips smacked hers again and she whimpered. “Naruto~” She whined, biting her lip. The rhythm he set was just a bit faster and rougher than before. It made her ache with pleasure deep inside. The impact that shook her body made her clench pleasurably around him. She closed her eyes and rode the sensations, her fingers squeezing his arm, or fisting in the sheets for leverage to push back against his force so his thrusts would spear deep. “Deeper,” she begged.

And he did. All she could feel was him inside, the rest of her senses falling by the wayside. She heard a voice crying out and it took her a moment to realize it was her own voice, hiccoughing in pleasure. She was on the verge of coming again, her legs were shaking violently. Even the child kicking in her womb and stealing her breath wasn't enough to make her ask him to stop. Sasuke gritted her teeth as stars exploded over her vision. She arched, and Naruto’s hips jerked unsteadily into her as he followed her and came too.

They slept.

Chapter Text

+++

The next time saw her, he was wary. “I don’t want to revive my clan anymore,” she whispered. There was something shattered in her eyes. He’d known in a roundabout way that she planned to have some kids, and that if he stayed with her, maybe they would have been his kids. But he’d never really thought about it past a distant possible future. They were way too young for stuff like that to feel real.

Her making it an impossibility kinda made him sad though. “I can understand that,” he told her. It wasn’t that he had really set himself on having kids with her or felt betrayed by her saying she wouldn’t. It was more like- he was sad that she was giving up on family for herself. “Do whatever you want.”

Sasuke nodded. She bit her lip, looking at him from under her lashes. He didn’t like seeing her so withdrawn. He liked her much better when she was fiery, even when it meant she was kind of mean. Lately, she could be dangerously mean, though. Enough that he was worried about them hurting each other sometimes. Her actions lately made him really unsure “Do you still love me?” Sasuke asked suddenly.

“I’m not sure how I feel,” Naruto sighed. “You-”

All the remaining light drained out of her eyes like he’d poked a hole in her and it was flowing out. “Forget it,” she snapped, turning around. “It was a stupid question.”

He grabbed her shoulder, instantly regretting trying to play her games. “I do love you,” he admitted, pulling her close in a hug. “Sorry-I was trying to do that thing you do.” Sasuke scoffed, but she was clinging to him tightly. He was such an idiot to say something like that when she was already so upset. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset you attacked me like that.”

She nodded, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder. “I know. I’m sorry.”

---

Naruto had replaced both of them with clones before sneaking out, so they had a bit of extra time before any of the Anbu would probably notice they were missing. They made it all the way to the Hyuuga compound unnoticed, relying on Naruto’s sense of smell to keep them out of sight. Hinata made a soft sound of surprise when they silently appeared nearby her. “Hinata we- have a new house,” Naruto jumped right in, not wasting a moment. He bowed deeply to her in an apology. “Come over, please.”

Sasuke followed suit, adding. “You’re too good for us and… we’re sorry.”

“I missed you both a lot,” Hinata admitted with a gentle smile. Sasuke feels relief wash over her. She was so worried that Hinata would just decide to hate them both, and that they would be sent away without being allowed to even beg her forgiveness. “But I don’t want to be your sister. Do you really feel that way about me?”

Sasuke shook her head but didn’t reply right away. Hinata spoke with a lot of care. Sasuke should reply the same way. She thought for a moment before replying. “I want more of you than one should of a sister.” Hinata nodded, pleased to hear the truth. “You were the only one I would have accepted with him in my place- but I want to see you together anyway.” The words tumbled past Sasuke’s lips. She knew she was rambling- and what she meant was getting away from her. “The things I said- I was trying to hurt him.” She couldn’t stop. “I can’t promise I won’t but I’ve been doing the meditation and I cleared them all how you showed me and-”

Hinata’s hand was warm and smooth when she touched Sasuke’s cheek. Sasuke’s breath caught in her lungs. “Hush,” Hinata soothed softly. Sasuke inhaled sharply. “It’s okay.” She let Hinata enfold her in a hug. Everything stabilized, and her mind got quieter.

Sasuke bit her lip, hoping it wasn’t too obvious she was burying herself in the other woman’s arms. “We can share Naruto, right?” She asked. She hoped that if the answer was no, Hinata wouldn’t be too mad at her for asking.

Hinata giggled, and it made Sasuke flush. Was what she’d offered silly in some way? “I’m fine with it,” Hinata replied, stroking Sasuke’s hair. Sasuke realized she’d gone stiff with nervousness and forced her muscles to release.

“Whoa,” Naruto breathed. Sasuke realized with a jolt that she hadn’t asked him.

Before she could Hinata did it for her. “Is that alright, Naruto?” The Hyuuga snickered softly, leaning down to stage whisper conspiratorially in Sasuke's ear. “I’m sure Naruto won’t mind having two girlfriends.”

Naruto laughed. “Sasuke was gonna do whatever she wanted with me anyway.” Sasuke scoffed but didn’t deny it. “I guess I can’t complain,” Naruto allowed easily.

+++

Naruto looked out his window to see a sparrow impatiently hopping on the sill. It had a note tied to its leg. He opened it and was excited to see the shapes of Sasuke’s elegant, sharp-stroked handwriting. At least, until he focused on the words.

He read it out loud, just to be sure he wasn’t losing his mind. “I don’t want to see you anymore. You’re just a distraction. Find someone else to be with. I’ll never be foolish enough to live a happy life in Konoha. I’m sorry, Sasuke.”

He struggled to breathe, crumpling up the note in his hand. Naruto stared up at the ceiling. How many times was she going to cast him aside? “... This woman.” He hoped that she would come back, at least once more. Goodbye through a letter was too painful.

---

Sasuke stretched out on his mattress, feeling her back pop and release tension. She rolled over onto her side, grabbing one of Naruto’s pillows to curl up with. On the walk home from that day's appointment, Naruto had convinced her to talk about names. She thought she had her first two suggestions. “Tatsuo for a boy,” she told him. “And for a girl- Nanami.”

Naruto grinned in that way that told Sasuke he was about to make a stupid joke. “What about Menma?” He never disappointed in that.

She scowled. “I’m not going to name our child after a ramen ingredient. Besides, that’s only a boy name.” Naruto paused thoughtfully. He snapped his fingers as the answer came to him but Sasuke cut him off. “I won't name our daughter Nori, either.”

Naruto groaned. Sasuke must have hit his suggestion right on. “How will anyone know it's my kid?” He complained, falling into bed beside her. He pushed her hip enough to roll her back a little. Her belly made it hard to roll back into her previous position. He stuck his tongue out at her while she struggled to get back onto her side, glaring all the while. “You’ve got all the dominant features and the last name,” he complained. “I should get to pick the first name or we’ll have no bond.”

Sasuke rolled her eyes. “You’ll still be the father.” She couldn’t let her child be branded with some goofy name and end up suffering through life as a laughing stock just to make Naruto feel better. Naruto pouted, and Sasuke had to reconsider that. Realizing how much she’d hurt him in the past made it terribly hard to say no to him in the present. “You can pick the first name but I get to say no if it's stupid,” she relented, rubbing her temples. She knew she’d regret it soon enough. “It might help if I knew that the Uzumaki naming pattern was,” she wondered aloud. She hoped if she guided him towards one of those names, they’d find something meaningful to Naruto, but also respectable. She wasn’t willing to let him have complete control after all.

Instead of going into clan names, Naruto grimaced. “The only Uzumaki I know about at all was my mom, her name was Kushina. It’s kind of a jinchuuriki name, and our kid won’t be one.” His tone was vehement on the topic of their child not being a jinchuuriki, and the way things had ended, people wouldn't be sealing tailed beasts into themselves anymore. Sasuke wondered if people would start making contracts with them like they did summons.

Sasuke sighed. “I only know two of you as well.”

Naruto’s eyes widened. “You know someone else?”

“Karin is an Uzumaki,” Sasuke confided softly. She didn’t imagine anyone would hear them, but Karin liked her identity and bloodline limit kept secret. The same reason Sasuke had decided to seek her out was the same reason others would try to capture or kill her.

Naruto’s brows drew together as though he was trying to remember something. “That red-headed girl?” They’d never been formally introduced, it seemed. Things had been pretty hectic during the war. Her allies knew better than to ask for explanations in the heat of battle, and to Sasuke making sure everyone knew names hadn’t been on her list of priorities at all.

Sasuke was curious because Naruto neither looked nor fought anything like Karin. “Yeah. She's a sensor. Are you?” Naruto shrugged. “They're also supposed to be talented with sealing,” Sasuke pushed.

Naruto hesitated, then admitted. “I can sense you most of the time. Other people I kinda can sense, when I’m on a mission.” He looked up at the ceiling as he tried to recall. “I guess I'm okay with seals. Frog sages trained me a bit so I could deal with the Kyuubi better.”

“Don't move-” Sasuke ordered. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close. She picked an easily accessible point on his neck and bit down. She felt about half the rush of vitality she got whenever she used Karin’s chakra to heal herself. Of course- her chakra was sealed and dammed by her injury.

“Ow!” He complained. He put his hand on her chest and pushed her away. “Are you draining my chakra?” He rubbed the spot with his hand and Sasuke bit into his exposed wrist. She had to test it a few times before she’d believe it. “Cut it out,” he complained. But it made Sasuke feel significantly better, so she smirked at him and bared her teeth once more. He dodged, grabbing her cheek and turning her bite aside. “Fuckin’ bitch.”

Sasuke couldn’t fully suppress her snicker. “I knew there was a reason you’re so weak to chakra-based attacks.” Naruto’s mouth twisted as he no doubt remembered the time that she’d absorbed nearly all his ten tails chakra, with little to no resistance being put up by the jinchuuriki himself. “Your body is trying to share chakra- even with the enemy. That's so lame!”

“Oh my god shut up.” She leaned into his space and he watched her suspiciously, his eyes narrow but gleaming. He was hopeful for a kiss. Sasuke kissed him, but also nipped his lip. He made a high whining noise. “And stop biting me!”

Sasuke pressed her hips against his again. Without teeth, that time. She could feel his internal grumble, but he relaxed under her, his palm coming to rest on her waist. Sasuke moaned softly in approval. His hand moved down to caress her thighs. Then he dug his fingers in to pull her closer against his chest. “I'm just trying to figure out what bloodline limits our kids will get,” Sasuke admitted, resting on his shoulder.

Naruto blinked. Sasuke wondered what was holding him up until she realized she’d used the plural instead of singular. “Kids?” He asked softly, enunciating the s.

Sasuke flushed. Her tongue had slipped. “Kid. Whatever,” She corrected awkwardly. “Look,” she told Naruto, making a chakra needle with what she’d borrowed from him. He gasped. Sasuke smirked, he was so easily distracted.

“Wait-” His face twisted with concern and he inhaled sharply. “What are you doing?”

Sasuke shook her head. She let it fizz out and ran the fingers soothingly over his face. “It’s something safe.” She pressed another small kiss against his cheek.

She watched the worry drain from his face, the tenseness leaving his body. “All right.” It left behind a tenuous trust. Sasuke was happy to see it.

+++

After training ended Sakura sat down next to Naruto on the bridge, swinging her feet over the sparkling blue water. “What’s your deal?” She asked, putting her elbows on the bottom rung of the railing so she could rest her chin in her hand.

He didn’t know how to explain to her that he’d been sneaking away to meet their ex-teammate S-rank missing-ninja. Who he was in love with. Who’d just said goodbye again, but in a way that felt more final than any of the times before. Instead, he just murmured “dunno.”

Sasuke patted his shoulder. “I know you’re bummed about Sasuke. She was my best friend too you know?” Naruto had to suppress a scoff because sure, Sasuke and Sakura had been close friends, but it was nothing like what he and Sasuke had. It wasn’t even comparable. Sakura didn’t seem to notice those thoughts, and Naruto was thankful because hurting her feelings was not something he wanted to do. Sakura pinched his cheek, giving him a sad smile. “But this serious face doesn’t suit you at all.”

Naruto forced a smile onto his face, and it felt like it might crack at any moment, but Sakura smiled back at him and- it was obvious she needed him to be his usual self for things to feel okay. He wanted her at least, to feel okay, even if his heart was definitely breaking with every moment that passed since reading Sasuke’s letter. “Hehe, you’re right,” he laughed. “Wanna come out to Ramen with me?” Anything to distract himself- to not just think about how without the promise of his girl on the horizon he felt desperately and crushingly alone.

Sakura grinned, punching his side lightly. She could put him through a wall if she wanted to, but since Sasuke had left both of them had been careful even during sparring, afraid to hurt each other. “You’re treating?” She asked cheekily, twirling a lock of her bubblegum hair. It wasn’t nearly as haughty as the Uchiha’s flip, but it still reminded Naruto enough of it that it made his chest pang.

Naruto sighed, thinking of Gama-chan, still so skinny after his time training with Jiraiya. But he wasn’t willing to risk her saying she wouldn’t go. “I guess.” He silently hoped she wouldn’t actually make him pay.

Sakura looped her arm with his and began to lead him off the training field. It was nice. “Feel better, okay.” He wished that he could feel better just because Sakura asked him too. He didn’t like feeling gloomy. “And it's been long enough that you might wanna think about getting a new girlfriend if you’re that lonely.” Naruto didn’t comment on the fact that her clothes smelled like Ino’s flower shop, and moreover, her hair was wafting the scent of Ino’s shampoo.

“Yeah.” Sakura had also thought she loved Sasuke once. Somehow, he was the last one to move on. Naruto shook his head. “It just feels like it hasn’t been that long at all.”

---

Sasuke had hesitated when Hinata had first asked to help her that way, but later she realized that she would have been a fool to refuse. Sasuke moaned in pleasure as Hinata deftly massaged her arm. It had healed over enough that the warped skin didn’t pull painfully when Hinata rubbed it with salve. In fact, it actually felt good to have the other kunoichi’s warm hands pressing into the muscle of her upper arm, reminding it how to relax. “You’re so soft,” Hinata complemented, switching to Sasuke’s other hand. “Resting has done you good.”

Sasuke nodded. “Some of them came back,” She admitted, looking away in shame.

Hinata squeezed Sasuke’s hand briefly, then kept massaging her way up to Sasuke’s forearm. “You avoided the dreams?” She asked, keeping her voice light and casual. Sasuke sighed softly. Hinata was so gentle with her, and asked things in a way that made it easier to answer- made Sasuke want to answer.

“I know it’s my fault.” Sasuke was a bit frustrated with herself. She wanted to be better and she’d drastically reduced the blockages but some things she simply hadn’t been able to process. They’d twisted inside her dreams and she’d woken up with no resolution or ignored the answer that she knew she was meant to be seeing because it hurt too much. “I’ll wait before trying again,” she sighed.

Hinata rewrapped the support bandages on Sasuke’s arm and pressed a kiss to Sasuke’s fingertips to finalize it. Then she let go of Sasuke’s hand and ran her fingers along the neckline of Sasuke’s shirt until she touched the decorative pearls on the hairpin. Sasuke had worn it there each day as she waited for her hair to grow. Arguably it was already long enough, but Sasuke was nervous to move it over. She wasn’t sure how she would feel if she was wrong and it didn’t stay. “Your hair is longer now,” Hinata spoke as if reading Sasuke’s mind. It made her flush. Sasuke let the Hyuuga heiress pull the pin free of her top and pin back a twist of Sasuke’s hair. “You should start wearing it again.”

Sasuke touched the cool pearl and metal with her fingertips, feeling where Hinata had placed it. It wasn’t how she normally wore her hair. “How… do I look?” Sasuke asked nervously, looking up at Hinata through her lashes.

Hinata smiled, stroking her thumb along Sasuke’s cheek. “You’re always beautiful,” she complimented genuinely. Sasuke tilted her head just so, her lips pursed questioningly. “And spoiled” Hinata giggled, leaning close and pressing a kiss against Sasuke’s mouth, nonetheless.

Sasuke pulled one of Hinata’s palms to her collarbone. “Do you want to touch?” She asked softly.

Hinata grinned, making a face that showed Naruto was rubbing off on her. “I am touching,” she teased, rubbing her thumb over skin that was barely the beginning of Sasuke’s breast. Sasuke nearly moaned in frustration, pushing into Hinata’s hand.

“More. Don’t tease,” Sasuke pleaded, closing her eyes as Hinata’s hand slid down.

Hinata squeezed gently, and Sasuke let out a soft gasp. “You like giving orders,” the Hyuuga accused playfully. The Uchiha trembled and let out a soft whimper when Hinata’s delicate fingers pinched her sensitive nipple in a momentary punishment. The pinch was smoothed over as Hinata gently rolled Sasuke’s nipple between her fingertips. Sasuke shivered as the heiress’ warm lips touched her neck. “Be nice now,” Sasuke heard whispered against her curse mark.

+++

He breathed in the air around her, and she smelled like ripe plums. “Hey, Hinata.” The Hyuuga heiress froze in surprise, making a soft noise of shock. Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He hadn’t wanted to sneak up on her. She turned around; he could instantly notice her scent shifting sweeter in response to seeing him. Hinata liked him. He’d known for a while and been nice to her, but hadn’t asked her out because he’d really thought that he and Sasuke-

Maybe Sakura was right, and he should try to see if he could be with someone else. “I thought… we might go on a date,” he asked gently, but clearly. He didn’t want to shock her too much, but he also didn’t want to be misunderstood. It wouldn’t be her fault if, after years of being treated as a friend, she didn’t realize that he was trying to change the way he saw her.

She flushed a deep red. It looked really pretty on her pale skin. Unlike Sasuke who was statue pale, Hinata’s undertone was a peachy color. “Really?” Her eyes were wide and moving to a side to side as if she were looking for any sign it was her imagination. “Oh, I-” she stuttered, fidgeting. “I-”

Naruto smiled in a way he hoped was comforting. “Yes or no?” If she didn’t answer he'd take it as a no. After that- he didn’t think any other girl in the village would really suit him.

“Yes!” She finally blurted out, ducking her head as she flushed even deeper. “I’m so happy.” He held out his elbow to her and she put her own arm through it. Her touch was shy at first, but then she was holding his sleeve tightly. They started to walk, and she was smiling up at him the whole time.

Naruto was trying to figure out where to take her what a sparrow landed on his shoulder. It had a note tied to its leg. It was unsigned, but he recognized Sasuke’s hand. “Meet me at the lithographs?” He read under his breath.

“What is that, Naruto?” Hinata asked softly. She pointedly didn’t look at the paper, her eyes averted to respect his privacy. He crumpled it up. He knew where those stones were, but he wasn’t in any rush to go there.

He shrugged. “No clue.” Hinata gave him a confused look but didn’t press it. “I didn’t plan this far, where do you want to eat?” He admitted, giving her his best grin. The Hyuuga giggled and squeezed his elbow in towards her chest before pulling him off down the road.

It turned out to be a street vendor with shaved ice. Despite Hinata’s cheery attitude and the tastiness of the treats, Naruto’s mind still wandered to the note. Why did she want him there? Was it possible that she was in trouble? It was the first time he’d been summoned by such a short note. But… she could also be waiting there in one of her moods where his life meant nothing to her.

Naruto bit his lip, thinking hard. Then he startled when Hinata called his name. “Naruto?” She asked softly. Her eyes were full of worry. “Are you okay?” He must have made a face that betrayed his feelings, for her to be looking at him like that.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry Hinata. That note…” She nodded, already understanding. “It was something and I think I have to handle it.” He gently separated their linked arms and- felt cold right away without her tucked against his side. She blushed deeply when he hugged her goodbye.

“See you soon, Naruto.” He left her there holding both of their cups of shaved ice. It felt horrible. But he couldn’t stop the images of Sasuke flashing through his head. Ones where she was hurt and would bleed out, because the only person who could have helped her was eating shaved ice and decided he didn’t care.

Once he reached the outskirts of the village proper, he started running. The Uchiha complex loomed, ancient and abandoned. A ghost town. And then in the back of that, towards the dilapidated wall that had once separated the complex from the forest was their small temple and their ritual stones.

He entered the temple and found Sasuke, visibly injured, crudely bandaged, but not bleeding to death. He breathed a sigh of frustration. She hadn’t needed him- so this must be another game of hers. He didn’t want to play. He made to step back but she’d already noticed him.

“What the fuck took you so long,” she hissed. She didn’t turn to him. Something in her voice made Naruto unable to leave her, forced him to enter. And her scent was so… bloody. He could barely find her under it but what he found made him shiver.

He had to be ready to defend himself. “You’re lucky I came at all,” he replied hotly. “After that letter.”

“Who were you with?” Sasuke demanded. Her voice caught strangely and when he touched her shoulder and turned her around her face was streaked with salt and pink from bloody tears. “That you didn’t come to me.”

He didn’t feel guilty about spending a few hours with Hinata instead of running here immediately. Except he did. “You’re the one who tossed me aside.” Her eyes were pointed like daggers at him and they were blood red, the black markings of the Sharingan thinned to where he could barely see them. “What do you want?”

“I want-” she touched her cheekbone, her expression warping as she forced the words out. “help.” Naruto’s eyes widened. “My eyes,” she whispered, her voice shaking with some violent emotion that Naruto couldn’t place. “If I don’t have you my world goes black.” The hand at her eye reached for him, blindly. The other stayed wrapped tightly around her midsection.”

She couldn’t see. “Are you okay?” He asked. He peeled her arm away from her midsection and found blood blooming near her bellybutton. “Shit,” he cursed. She followed his hands when he pushed her to lie down. He looked closer at the cut and found that it wasn’t too deep, then breathed a sigh of relief. He ripped the sleeve of her shirt to bind it. Her fingers found his collar and tugged, trying to pull him close. “Hold on-” he argued. Sasuke huffed impatiently. “If I do this... if I stay will you promise not to leave me again?”

Sasuke pulled again, harder. He didn’t budge. “I swear,” she relented. And then, softly “Please. I want to see you.” Naruto groaned. He knew it was a mistake, but he couldn’t leave Sasuke like that. Again she pulled, and that time Naruto let himself be drawn in until their lips touched. Something was winding painfully tight in Naruto’s chest, and he didn’t know why or what to do about it. Sasuke made him so confused.

Naruto was careful not to lay his weight on her, but she held him against her softly moving lips until he ran out of breath and had to either pull back or collapse on top of her. He inhaled deeply, fighting the dizziness that her kisses always brought him. When he opened his eyes, she was watching him, her eyes bottomless and dark. “I see you,” she told him, smirking. “You have no idea how hard it was to get here when I couldn’t see.”

Naruto laughed, more out of relief than anything else. If she’d stayed blind, she would have surely died. “Thank goodness.” She tugged on his collar and they locked lips again. She nipped at his lips, and Naruto felt that he could forget everything she’d done if they could just stay like this. Wishful thinking, for sure. But he wanted it.

She didn’t even give him more than a few hours before she was getting up and fixing her clothes and her weapons back into place. She gave him one more kiss at the door of the temple. It felt ugly somehow. “Bye, Sasuke,” he called. She gave him a half wave but didn’t turn around or stop. He decided it wasn’t worth it to chase her down and say anything about the afternoon he’d spent with Hinata.

---

Tsunade touched Sasuke’s bared middle, reaching up under the hospital gown and between Sasuke’s spread thighs to do it. It was nearly impossible not to feel weird about how the Sannin was touching her, even if it was medical. All the medical professions had looked up under that gown, including Sakura, who’s cheeks had turned a light pink when she probed Sasuke’s body to see if she was ready. “We're removing the seal. You won’t be able to run anywhere after this.” Sasuke nodded, her eyes firmly fixed to the wall.

Even in the midst of contractions, she couldn’t imagine running. Not that she wanted to but arguing was something that was also beyond her capabilities as powerful cramps tightened her abdomen and made her breath in her lungs stall.

“Okay, Uchiha. Time to prove how stupidly perfect you are at even these things.” Reluctantly she moved her eyes over to Naruto. She twitched. He was too fucking close. She could see the striations marking his blue eyes. He was worried and excited, and his chakra was rushing along her skin like whirlwind. For the first time in a while, her Sharingan had turned on because she was afraid.

If she reached out, she could feel Sakura’s bubble trembling with worry. Tsunade’s honey chakra was barely a touch away from ordinary. She must have seen many women give birth. That thought gave Sasuke a bit of confidence, even if she felt like she might rupture integrally at any moment. “Stop breathing on me,” she hissed, planting a palm in his face. “And calm your chakra.” He made a noise of complaint. Of course- he didn’t know how to do that. Sasuke scowled. “Idiot.” He wrinkled his nose and once he’d made sure it wasn’t broken, went straight back to hovering over her.

“Ow,” he whined. He intertwined their hands and Sasuke thought about pulling free until she felt the soothing warmth that radiated from his touch. “Sasuke you need to calm down,” he pointed out gently. He pushed back her hair with his free hand and left it on her clammy forehead. The warmth there made her headache less so she left it as well.

She breathed deeply. “I’m calm,” she told him, once she kind of believed it was true. He grinned at her, stroking his thumb across her forehead, between her eyes. “If I’m screaming it’s because it hurts, not because I’m not calm.”

He laughed. “Got it.” She glared at him but somehow, he seemed unafraid.

“Administering,” Sasuke heard, but a contraction gripped her and her own pained whimper made it too hard to hear the name.

“Wait- What did you give me?” She demanded, but the outline of whoever had done it was striking out of her line of sight. “Naruto,” she hissed. She almost made to sit up but-

His hand on her forehead suddenly weighed a ton and she couldn’t move. “Sasuke, hush,” he ordered. He never spoke to her like that. When he did it was surprisingly hard to disobey. “It’s just for the pain.”

“I didn’t ask-” she complained and heard herself whining. He shushed her, stroking her forehead again. She could feel the drug spreading out in her body and her thoughts getting slower and heavier. “I’m all numb.”

“Normal-” Tsunade confirmed. “Just relax to till it's time to push, dear,” Sasuke would have said something about being called ‘dear’ but it didn’t bother her at that moment. She floated in a haze, interspersed with pain every five minutes, and the feeling of Naruto soothing her.

“It’s time. Push!” Sasuke shook herself as alert as she could. She pushed but came against a wall of pain denser than anything she’d experienced before. She felt her body curl up and heard her own breathless voice crying out. “You can't pull back from it, Uchiha, or it’ll never come out.” Tsunade. So reasonable. Sasuke still didn’t want to. Naruto squeezed her hand encouragingly and Sasuke heaved a heavy sigh. She gritted her teeth and pushed again, leaning into the pain. The colors of all their chakra flickered on and off and Sasuke felt something in her body give, tearing wetly. A fresh layer of clammy sweat broke out of her skin as her organs painfully rearranged themselves. The pressure in her hips became enormous.

She could feel the bones in Naruto’s hand grinding together as she deliberately loosened her grip and felt satisfaction at his hiss of pain. “Much better,” the medic complemented. Sasuke nodded, panting for breath. Now that she’d started, she felt her body’s need to continue- to finish. It railed against staying in between the way it was. She shored up her strength and pushed again. It felt like her flesh was splitting between her legs as something pushed out. She managed to not scream, but her breath rushed out and she swayed dizzily and the pressure in her body dropped. “That’s the head,” Tsunade confirmed confidently.

“This really sucks huh,” Naruto apologized. She’d nearly forgotten about him. “I’m sorry.” He kissed her hand and Sasuke applied crushing force to his fingers, watching him try to retain his apologetic expression while wincing in pain. If he thought he hurt-

“Fuck you,” she hissed. Then whimpered as her body contracted, trying to move things along. “Ugh!” She understood. It wouldn’t wait for her. She took a deep breath and pushed again. It was the worst pain that Naruto had ever managed to inflict on her. It was worse than being thrown by the Kyuubi. Worse than having the Rasenshuriken turned on her and nearly losing her arm. Worse than seeing him smile at Hinata like she was his only hope.

Sasuke cried out, her voice slipping out of control as she tried to finish and just make the experience be over with. She hated it with a passion that she herself couldn’t quantify but when it was finished, she would make Naruto wish he had never done it to his own mother.

“You’re almost there,” he encouraged. You’re doing amazing babe.” She resisted the urge to snarl at him because getting angry only meant more pain. Sasuke felt she could have certainly killed him if that meant she’d be free of it. She could feel incremental movements but she wanted it out. The whole thing. She didn't pause in pushing, except to gasp shaky breaths, until she felt a blood-slicked heave in her abdomen, and all the strength suddenly fleeing her muscles. She slumped backward in the hospital bed, feeling something slip free that was no longer a part of her.

She was unmeasurably thankful that nurses were there to catch the newborn. Its chakra was pure white and Sasuke desperately reached toward it, a beacon in the fog of the pain coming from her still cramping abdomen. “You’re not done.” Tsunade used all her authority and physical force to push Sasuke back down. “Let’s finish in one go.” Sasuke heard herself making a noise of displeasure as her child was taken to the other side of the room. Her vision was completely blurred, a cacophony of vibrations and mixed lights and she just wanted to hold that white glow so she could know what her child felt like. “I know you can,” Tsunade encouraged. “You’re a strong girl.”

It was the last thing Sasuke wanted to do but she gritted her teeth and pushed. Something more slid out from between her legs. She’d been told it was the baby’s old home, what kept it alive inside her. It wasn’t needed anymore. “Fuck!” She swore, her vision graying around the edges from pain. One by one the lights of everyone’s chakra winked out. When she came to the ceiling was different and only Naruto was still there with her. “... What happened?”

He smiled when he saw her open her eyes. “You blacked out in the last moments, but everything is fine.” He was whispering, and Sasuke was thankful for that. Even his softened voice made her head ring a bit. “The baby is being washed, so relax.”

Sasuke twitched. “Who has it?” Her heart rate shot up before she could even process why. All she could understand was the baby wasn’t in the room and that was unbearably wrong-

“Whoa, Sasuke.” Naruto’s brows creased in confusion. There was no way he understood. “Just a nurse.”

She sat up even despite that feeling all sorts of horrible. “I want it- now.” Her eyes awakened but it wasn’t the normal Sharingan. It was the Amaterasu and Sasuke could feel the prickle of hellfire burning behind her eyes. She’d torch the whole hospital before she let someone else-

The nurse returned, a bundle cradled securely in her arms and Sasuke finally could inhale. But the bundle- Sasuke should have had it, not that woman. She didn’t like the way the woman’s drab, rain colored chakra hovered over the brilliant white of her newborn. She reached out and if the nurse didn’t hurry, she would burn. Quite foolishly, the nurse paused, eyeing Sasuke nervously.

Naruto saved her life by blocking Sasuke’s line of sight and collecting the bundle. Sasuke huffed. She couldn’t aim past the golden whirl of him. He immediately brought the bundle over and placed it at Sasuke’s breast, folding her weakened arm under to support his head. “Here he is, mama,” he soothed. “Now please relax with the eyes, you’re scaring everyone.”

“Hn.” She reluctantly let her chakra pathways relax. Naruto grinned and gave her a thumbs up, leaning down to kiss her forehead. Sasuke huffed. He was being too clingy. “A boy?” She asked. It was already all swaddled up and she had only been able to see its chakra right until the moment he was placed in her arms. Curious, she pushed back the blanket it was wrapped into and-

“Yes, ma’am,” the nurse answered, seemingly unaware that Sasuke was in the process of melting. She hesitantly touched the newborn’s lined cheek. He had Naruto’s markings. No one would ever mistake him for anything else but Naruto’s son, even if he was pale and rosy, with hair as black as Sasuke’s own. He was so soft. His nose wrinkled up and he let out a cry of annoyance at being prodded. Sasuke had to suppress a laugh. Just because she was drugged didn’t mean she had to look foolish in front of the nurses.

“Uchiha Raijin?” Naruto suggested and it took Sasuke a moment to realize that that was to be her son’s name. “I know it’s not one of the ones I told you about.”

Sasuke shook her head and Naruto fell silent. “It’s a decent choice,” she told him, to make sure he knew she wasn’t rejecting his name. He grinned, brightly. He was too close but she was starting to get used to it. Sasuke gestured for Naruto to take Raijin and he very carefully did so, sitting beside her hospital bed with a smile that was almost painfully bright. Sasuke filled out the forms, knowing she wrote better than he did, and once she had passed them off to the nurse Sasuke threw an arm over her eyes and let her breathing go soft and even.

The nurse addressed Naruto. “Well, she’s probably going to sleep so we’re gonna leave and let you two get familiar.”

Sasuke moved her arm as soon as she heard the door close. She was tired of being hovered over. All she needed was time and the pills that might partially fix her arm. Maybe some pain relievers. She wasn’t sure how she’d feel once the anesthesia wore off. “Do you like him?” She asked.

“I love him,” Naruto replied seriously. His hand hesitated by Raijin’s sealed eyes. Sasuke reached out to touch Naruto’s wrist and make him take his hand away. “He hasn’t opened his eyes yet, even before.”

And that was natural. She’d been the same. As had all her clan members. The longer it took before they opened their eyes, the more likely it was that they’d develop the bloodline eyes. Instead of explaining all that to someone who was technically still an outsider she simply told Naruto “He’s an Uchiha.” Naruto stared blankly, as she’d expected. “It’ll take a little while longer before he can handle how bright it is out here.”

Naruto nodded, careful relief coming over his features. “Okay.” He was still tense.

Sasuke sighed, lowering her hospital gown and opening her arms expectantly. As soon as Raijin’s weight was settled in her arms, she pressed her nipple against his mouth. The infant latched on immediately and sucked hard enough to make Sasuke wince as her milk began to flow.

“He eats like you,” Sasuke commented, pushing her hair behind her ear. Like it might be his last meal, even though it was his first. Naruto didn’t laugh as he should. Maybe treating him like an outsider wasn’t the way. “You’re worrying a lot,” she accused. “Why don’t you go read the scrolls in that shrine. They’re hidden under the slab. You just slide it.” She was telling him clan secrets and if anyone else had been alive she’d certainly never have heard the end of it.

Naruto’s eyes widened in recognition. But then he shook his head. “I don’t deserve your secrets.” He bowed his head and was suddenly unable to meet her eyes. She thought they’d passed that part. She reached over and lightly pulled his hair- it was all she could reach- to make him look back up at her.

“Why not?”

His eyes slid away again. “Some parts I do remember,” he breathed shakily. “It’s kind of a blank but I can remember parts and I remember-” his rush of words caught. He looked like he might cry. “wanting to hurt you back.”

Sasuke nodded. “I know.”

“I didn’t heal you either,” he added, and he was crying. “I didn’t know if I could do it but didn’t even try to heal you because you’d leave if it worked.” She pulled him to lay on her lap and petted his hair with her weaker arm, letting him cry himself out. She had to admit it felt nice with both boys curled up against her.

“You’re not a medical ninja- you probably would have messed it up worse,” she told him, gently as she could for all she was telling him he couldn’t do anything. She didn’t know how else to comfort him so she turned back to Raijin who was still hungrily suckling an empty breast. Careful of her weak arm, she switched her son over and watched him continue drinking with renewed hunger. She wiped a bubble of milk from the corner of his small pink mouth. “Honestly, just like you.”

Naruto chuckled against her thigh; her voice still cracked from crying. “Probably,” he agreed. Was it to her comment about Raijin, or about him sucking at medical ninjutsu? Either worked. She smirked at him. It was multipurpose.

“Go,” she ordered. Then more softly. “I’ll see you soon.” She finished feeding Raijin and they both slept. Sasuke awakened briefly to speak to the nurses but they mostly kept her painkillers coming through the IV without her asking.

After that, the next time she awoke was to Naruto picking up Raijin and giving him visibly loving snuggles.

“So…” Naruto began when his eyes met hers. “I did read them, even though it said it was Uchiha’s only all over it.”

Sasuke pursed her lips in annoyance. “Spit it out.”

“You planned to kill him-” Naruto breathed softly, covering Raijin’s head with his palm as if the baby had any notion what was going on. “Because I’m from Senju blood-”

“I planned to prevent him and absorb your cells.” Sasuke corrected. She could never have killed Raijin, not when he had a name and was blissfully curled up in his father’s arms. But if she’d moved early enough, she was sure that beyond a few thoughts of what might’ve been it would have been fine. Naruto felt differently because he wasn’t the one who’d carried the child. To him, Raijin had always existed as a hypothetical person. “For the Rinnegan.” Naruto grimaced. “I got one from the sage just before I would have.”

His expression was pained and Sasuke hated to do it to him, but after what he’d read, he would have caught her lies. “And then you couldn’t,” he surmised. Sasuke nodded in confirmation. He flushed, biting his lip. “It also said we’re engaged?”

Sasuke shrugged. “By the traditions of a dead clan. It doesn’t mean anything now.”

Naruto grinned, letting his son wrap tiny fingers around his pinky. “This clan doesn’t look so dead to me,” he laughed. He looked aside, smile still playing on his lips. “You could have let me read that part earlier,” he added softly.

“Knowing what I planned to do would have torn you apart.”

“You don’t know that,” he argued. Sasuke raised her eyebrow. “You don’t-” he repeated, his voice hot even though he kept it soft. “I would definitely rather you carved something out of me than-” he looked guiltily down at Raijin. Sasuke smirked. She’d asked him and he’d refused. Now he felt guilty because he realized he could have prevented a lot of suffering by just laying down for her. Sasuke was glad enough to have not killed him, but it certainly would have saved everyone a good deal of trouble. “You’re worse than Itachi,” he accused, narrowing his eyes as she kept smirking at him. “Don’t laugh.”

Sasuke showed her palms, letting her smirk slip away. “That’s just how we Uchiha are,” she offered seriously.

Naruto scowled. “Why can’t you just tell the truth?”

It gave her pause. there were so many rationalizations but one thing behind them all. “It’s hard.”

Naruto pressed his nose to the bundle in his arms, closing his eyes as if the better memorize the scent. Sasuke knew smell was Naruto’s main sense, so she didn’t say anything that might make him feel weird about it. “I’m glad you didn’t do it,” he admitted, raising his blue eyes.

“So am I,” Sasuke admitted lightly, unable to show how much it mattered to her. She opened her arms and Naruto gave Raijin back. Naruto holding him didn’t bother her but holding him herself felt much better. The infant held onto her finger just as faithfully as he had Naruto’s. She watched as he squirmed within his swaddling for a moment, fussing noisily. Then, he began to open his eyes. It was soon but Sasuke didn’t mind if he wouldn’t get the Sharingan. If that was the case, she almost expected blue eyes. She inhaled sharply.

His eyes looked like her eye- her left eye. They were ringed, grey and blue. Unlike a proper Rinnegan, they didn’t cover his whole eyes. He had normally sized irises, and the white parts showed.

Naruto lips were parted in awe. when he spoke, he said, “I met a girl with eyes almost like those once.”

Maybe it was just the appearance he’d inherited. “When?” Sasuke asked, wondering if that girl had ever gained a real Rinne.

“In prison” at her alarmed look he waved it off and said, “I’ll tell you later, but she didn’t have the ability.”

Sasuke huffed, but she had more important things to worry about. She activated her eyes. “They’re not real,” she ascertained with no small amount of relief. “No chakra.” But that didn’t stop their son’s strange eyes from bothering her. “Without the Sharingan- anyone who sees will assume.”

+++

Naruto met Sasuke in the shrine again. She was holding a container filled with liquid and sloshing around in that liquid were eyes that had to be her brother’s. Naruto grimaced. “You killed him after all.”

“He died,” Sasuke corrected. “I was foolish to think I could kill him,” she continued. She was grieving. Her scent said it, and so did the slant of her shoulders and the tightness of her grip on the container. “He was just trying to make sure I was strong.”

He knelt by her side and tried not to show that the disembodied eyes were grossing him out. “Are you going to implant those soon?” he asked carefully. He didn’t want to imply anything that might piss Sasuke off when he asked the question.

Sasuke shook her head, her face twisting in rejection of Naruto’s words. “I think I’ll destroy them.”

Naruto blinked. “Won’t you go blind?” He asked. Sasuke shrugged. “What if I’m not around?” He’d been helping keep her eyes open by giving her love and kissing her but what if she stopped loving him- or he wasn’t there when her eyes got closed and she was killed before they could get together? He’d rather she had eyes that would never close. The eternal Mangekyo was what she needed, especially to kill Danzo, as she’d said was her next plan.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sasuke sighed. “It’s better this way.”

Naruto touched her hand and she flinched. It was a far cry from a few minutes ago, when she’d been begging to see him, pressing closer and closer. “I can’t let you do that,” he told her, gripping the container. When Sasuke came back to herself she’d want the eyes.

But at that very moment, she was furious. “You can’t decide what I do.”

Naruto bit his lip. “If we’re…” he hesitated because she might take offense. He didn’t want to assume but he needs to get his point across. “If we’re lovers you owe it to me to try and stay alive?”

Sasuke’s short-sword cut a silver arc through the air. Naruto barely dodged. “Then I’ll sever this bond,” she decided. Naruto had to scramble away to avoid being cut. She was fast- so fast. Naruto saw her hand flash and felt cold- then heat. only after a moment of shock did the pain begin to spread out. “I don't owe you anything,” Sasuke hissed, driving the blade in deeper.

Naruto touched the steel, his fingertips shaking. Nothing could ever get him used to the shock of being impaled. Impaled by Sasuke. He’d spent a whole night tending her sight and now she was drawing her sword back out and flicking her wrist so a sharp line of his blood could decorate stone walls. “Fuck!” He cried, curling up. Tears came, not because it hurt but because it had been Sasuke. “You swore,” he gasped. “Why?”

“To force me to choose,” Sasuke drawled. “Either I’ll use Itachi's eyes or I’ll die.” Naruto shook his head. She wasn’t making a lick of sense. He hurt, and he could taste his own blood. Sasuke’s words made him hurt more, somehow. “Either way I can’t be relying on you for my sight any longer, dead-last.”

---

Because of Sasuke’s age and relatively narrow hips, they’d kept her a bit longer before letting her leave the hospital. By the time she and Raijin were discharged, she was desperate to leave. Naruto ushered her home through the mostly empty streets of Konoha, chatting all the while about the things he’d arranged in the house for her- to make things easier he hoped.

Seeing the walls of the Uchiha compound brought her a mix of emotions. She’d grown up there. It had become a nightmare. She was trying to make it a place she could live again. Naruto felt much simpler about it. He just smiled and said, “we’re home,” before pushing open the door so she could enter unhindered.

He immediately walked to the crib that hadn’t been by the bed when Sasuke had left for the hospital. He must have moved it from the nursery to Sasuke’s room, near the side she usually slept on. Sasuke watched him fluff up the softened blankets they’d inherited from her family and couldn’t resist smirking. Where he’d initially been annoyed with moving into the compound, he’d given up on that in favor of enjoying the luxuries that a real house had over low-income government housing. “Better for a baby than the apartment?”

Naruto rolled his eyes. “Shut up.” He gestured with his hands and she nodded, letting him take Raijin into his arms and sit down on the bed. Sasuke had thought the plan was to lay the newborn into the crib- but Naruto seemed to be reluctant to set Raijin down once holding him. Sasuke could understand that.

There was a sudden knock on the door. Sasuke hadn’t expected any visitors. “Sasuke!” It was Hinata- enveloping Sasuke instantly into a plush hug. Sasuke squirmed against Hinata’s body, pushing back. She ached- and being touched caused overstimulation that was making the ache verge into serious pain. “I tried to come- they told me no visitors because you’re a prisoner. Which is news to me!”

Sasuke smirked. It really hadn’t stopped her from leaving when she needed to. “I’ve been sneaking around my tails since I was eight.” She jerked her head towards the bedroom so Hinata would know to follow her when Sasuke started walking. “Also Naruto was a bad jailer.”

“It isn’t my thing,” Naruto murmured softly, his eyes flicking up from his son’s face.

Hinata bounced in place, her eyes wide as she leaned over Naruto’s shoulder to look at the baby. “Can I?” She whispered, clasping her hands in front of her chest and making the most pleading eyes Sasuke had ever seen her use. She turned it between Sasuke and Naruto in turns.

Naruto threw Sasuke a look, passing the decision into her hands. Sasuke felt it was where it belonged. She wasn’t sure how she would react to Hinata holding her child. Usually, Hinata was fine, but something was making Sasuke hesitate. She couldn’t resist Hinata's look forever, though. “Wash your hands,” Sasuke finally relented.

Hinata practically ran out of the room to wash her hands. When she returned Naruto made her sit and coached her on holding Raijin in a way that sounded like Sakura and Tsunade had joined forces to drill it into him. “Amazing,” Hinata gushed, her eyes glittering with pleasure. “What pretty eyes.” Naruto’s face broke out into a sunshiny grin. “Great job you two. I’m jealous.”

Sasuke felt like ‘great job’ was a stretch, but it made Naruto happy to hear it, so Sasuke didn’t say anything. “Are you going to have one too?” Sasuke teased her girlfriend, sitting down beside her. She carefully leaned against Hinata’s side, letting herself get used to the pressure of Hinata’s body slowly.

“Maybe in a few years,” Hinata mused. “For now I’ll just borrow yours.”

“Please do,” Sasuke agreed. Hinata holding Raijin was fine. Naruto was there with her, and he’d probably learned more about the newborn than Sasuke had. She’d still been pretty messed up when the medics at the hospital had explained everything. Between the two of Sasuke’s friends, it shouldn’t matter if she disappeared- at least for a few hours. “I’m going to sleep.”

+++

“Naruto-” He jumped. She moved so quietly lately. Her scent had changed so much, and kept shifting, meaning he didn’t always recognize her. It’s mostly was mostly that shame that held him in place, but if he was honest- after everything that had happened, he still wanted to see if she was okay. She placed a cool hand on his shoulder, leaning over him menacingly. “Were you hiding from me?”

He looked up and her eyes were red with black markings rotating within them. “It’s not hard when you always rely on your Sharingan like that,” Naruto shot back. They hadn’t narrowed at all. She must have implanted Itachi’s eyes.

At his words, her eyes flickered into black. “What do you know?” She asked, putting a hand on her hip and whipping her dark hair over her shoulder.

He didn’t expect her next move to be locking their lips together. It was all teeth. Naruto tried to resist and she bit his lip, hard. “Hey- what are you doing?” Naruto pushed her back, shaking his head. “You said- you severed our bond.”

Sasuke scowled, but her hands wound gently around his neck. “I can’t have some fun with you?”

“No,” Naruto growled, grabbing at her wrists, trying to peel her away. He closed his eyes; he couldn’t look at her lips that close. She smelled different but she still smelled good. Her scent still managed to turn sweet in that way that Naruto had only ever had to respond to one way before- “I don’t like this,” he complained, tugging harder at her wrists.

“That’s a lie. You want me,” Sasuke he heard her smirk in her voice as she whispered into his ear. He ducked down to keep her breath from ghosting over his ears, but as a result, ended up looking between her peaked breasts. Naruto whined. It was confusing, especially when the tadpole started swimming lazy circles in the cream white lake of her skin. Genjutsu. “Don’t you wanna know how it will feel?” She murmured. Her fingers drew electric lines along his nape. “Didn’t you always want to be the first?” His hands tightened on her wrists. Would it be wrong- to take what she was offering? Her voice was smug as she let him grip her upper arms instead of her wrists. “That’s it. It’s okay to take what you want.”

She was surprised when he pushed her off, that much was obvious. Naruto didn’t think she should be so shocked. “If I wanted you, I’d want all of you,” he hissed, folding his arms over his chest.

After a moment of heavy silence, Sasuke scoffed. “You’re spoiled.”

“Look who’s talking! Do you even care how I feel?”

“No,” she replied flatly. “I don’t.” He wasn't dealing with it well. He knew that his passenger was starting to slip free and if he wanted things to end slightly better off he should leave. “I just want to do it and you’re acting like a child about it.”

“And that’s surprising to you?” he cried. “After all that I-” His hand unconsciously when to his side- where he’d felt the bite of steel. It had been a strike meant to kill, and death had been prevented only by the foxes burning chakra cauterizing the wound as Naruto struggled to suppress the tidal wave of pure rage that welled up. “After you used me?”

“It’s your fault for taking everything so seriously,” she snapped, making Naruto flinch. He looked at his hands where they were balled into tight fists at his sides. His nails were too long. He could feel his jaw aching as it struggled to accommodate longer, sharper teeth. “Did you really think a lowlife like you could be with me forever?” He couldn’t listen to her. She had to be lying- but why did she want to say such cruel things to him? “I never meant any of that stuff I said. I just liked your tongue and if you won’t give me the rest I’ll just leave.”

“Fucking bitch. I’m not your toy!” It ripped out of him, and it wasn’t entirely his voice anymore. He fell backward into darkness and things flashed across his vision but he couldn’t control what happened any more than he could understand what was going on. Eventually, he could get up. He used the bars of his passenger’s cage to bring himself to his feet. The seal- he didn't dare touch it. He knew asking the Kyuubi for power was the wrong way out.

Sasuke appeared in a flash and dispelled all the dark chakra with a flick of her wrist. Made it look effortless. Things changed. His vision changed. She went from perfectly poised to bruised to gasping. There were soil and grass marks on her tattered white shirt. He jerked back- and saw the shape of his own hand imprinted into the white of her hip. Despair swallows him. “I- When did I?” He’d failed her by letting that thing get out of control- by letting himself hate her for even a moment. It was all his fault. “I can’t remember.” He bowed, begging for forgiveness. Maybe she’d kill him.

She’d told him before that her world went dark without him- but maybe it was the other way around- maybe he chased her like an insect chasing a flame.

Her blood- the scent of it was all over him. Once, a long time ago, he’d promised he’d make sure her first time didn’t hurt at all.

She had her katana. Naruto hears the slide of metal and braces himself for pain. Hopefully, she’d do it quickly. “You let Kyuubi control you. You couldn't face me,” She put her whole weight into the back of his head and used him to stand up. “You will tell your dimwit superiors that you didn’t find me. And I’ll try to forget that you did.” He nodded, feeling hot tears course down his face. They feel guilty. Naruto wasn’t sure he ever deserved to cry about anything that happened to him again. “Get out of my sight,” she ordered.

Naruto wasn’t sure where he planned to go, or what he’d be able to do when he got there, but he left all the same.