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Naruto knew they existed; he’d seen them before with his own two eyes.

He was five when his parents died.

They were out that night, his grandfather Jiraiya being his guardian until they got home. They played games together, watched movies and had fun to keep Naruto distracted of his parent’s absence. He was a clingy child much to his mother’s delight and father’s amused disapproval.

They received a call around 1 a.m. that had the gray-haired man snatching Naruto up quickly and running out of the house in a hurry. Naruto was quickly buckled into his car seat as he watched his grandfather frantically climb behind the steering wheel and pull out of the driveway before speeding down the street. His little heart was starting to beat fast. He’d never seen his grandfather in a such a rush with that look in his eyes. Fear, dread, sorrow, panic; they were glossy, as if the man would cry and that set Naruto on edge.

Something didn’t feel right.

Jiraiya chanted all the way there, silently praying to himself to “Please let everything be okay.” The pair arrived at the place of the incident shortly after the call, a scene of bright fire, a crushed car against a tree was too much for Naruto’s young eyes, watching his father and mother be pulled out of the burning vehicle, their bodies from the chest down crushed beyond repair. He wasn’t supposed to see that.

He shouldn’t have seen that.

His mother’s hair fell like a river as she was placed on the ground, her hair matching the blood that kept pooling on the concrete underneath her. Her navy-blue eyes held no light and it frightened his small mind. She should have been smiling at him, she should have been pinching his cheeks and reminding him that he looked just like his father. She should have been telling him he had her personality. She should have done something as Naruto called out to her. She did nothing.

His father was no different. Those blond locks he inherited and the bright eyes he’d come to appreciate were dull and lifeless as well. His face held no emotion, it was plain. His caring eyes weren’t there and they should have been. His warm words of encouragement weren’t there and they should have been. His father’s strong arms holding him tight and making him feel safe weren’t there and they should have been. Naruto called out, getting the same response he got from his mother; nothing.

 His father laid in a pool of blood as well, staining the golden hair the same color as his mother’s and that wasn’t right.

Naruto trembled in his grandfather’s arms, sniffling as he was told to look away from the scene. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t understand what was going on and what was wrong with his parents, but he knew something wasn’t okay. He wiped his eyes briefly, clearing them from tears and looked upon the scene, surprised to see a child standing over his parents.

Naruto called out to the child and the child looked up at him, as if it was shocked to be noticed. The child quickly vanished into thin air causing him to receive strange looks from his grandfather and the people surrounding them as he continued to call out for the child to return. They didn’t.

The autopsy results came later; it was ruled as a suicide. Naruto didn’t believe it.

As he grew, he came to understand just what that child was. It was one of those heartless bastards; those who do nothing but take selfishly.


His second interaction occurred when he was 12; seven years after his parent’s death. He was taken in by Jiraiya, who tried his best to raise the boy, albeit with a bit of a struggle. Naruto had grown to be a troublesome child. He played pranks on all who were unfortunate enough to fall for his tricks, he stole, he skipped class, and caused an all-around ruckus. Parents had their kids avoid him, fearing the trouble-making boy would taint them.

Naruto was almost expelled many times, if it hadn’t been for Jiraiya’s wealth. The old man wrote novels, very famous, explicit novels, which influenced Naruto. He spied on women and men shamelessly, being arrested and bailed out many times within those seven years. Jiraiya began to teach Naruto how to properly sneak around and not get caught.

They bonded. A fucked-up bond it was, but a bond, nonetheless.

At the time, Naruto wasn’t sure what caused the old man to fall sick, but with his refusal to go to the hospital, Naruto had to listen to his grandfather die in one night. Naruto sat outside of Jiraiya’s room, listening to him heave for air. The breaths were shallow and short, but they were enough to keep him hopeful. Then, he couldn’t hear them anymore.

Naruto slammed the door open and froze. He still swears he saw a man of red hair and sea-foam green, pupil-less eyes staring down at his grandfather. The kanji for love sat above his left eye, both eyes being adorned with black tribal markings. He knew it was too late, but that didn’t stop Naruto from swinging a fist at the man who simply disappeared. Naruto panted as he shook Jiraiya’s body, limp in his arms. He called the police and as they reached the hospital, Jiraiya was announced dead.

It was a less gruesome death: less gruesome than his parents.

When the autopsy was performed on Jiraiya’s body, they found he had overdosed on sleeping pills.

It was ruled as a suicide. but word got around quickly and rumors started soon after. Some were of little harm, wishing the deceased man safe travels on his venture to the afterlife, wondering what could have caused the man to go through with such a thing. Maybe he was depressed, none knew, but they wished well on the poor boy he’d left behind.

Some were more damaging; they accused Naruto of murder. Claiming he had drugged his grandfather for some conspicuous reason he knew not. They dubbed him a bad omen, an oni child, a yokai. Each of these was preceded by the name Kyuubi. Each name laced with venom all the same.

Naruto struggled to finish secondary school after that incident. He was avoided, bullied, beat up; he remembered the day some classmates decided he’d look better as the fox yokai, kitsune, they claimed him to be, cutting six identical slashes into his cheeks, three on each side. He was talked down to, and even the teachers seemed hesitant to teach ‘the demon child’. He was alone and for the first time he felt like all the things people said about him being a murderer were true.

He woke up the day after Jiraiya’s funeral wearing a necklace with a gem shaped like a blue teardrop.

He never found the want nor need to take it off.

The third appearance came when he was adopted by a man by the name of Iruka Umino at the age of 14. Naruto would have been adopted by his grandmother Tsunade, but she wasn’t deemed suitable with her gambling and drinking habits. That’s how he found himself staying with the friendly man, a teacher.

He was kind to Naruto. Patient as Naruto took time to open up to him, patient as he helped Naruto tear down the walls that surrounded his heart, patient as he watched Naruto’s smile return, no matter how shy and guilty the boy looked every time he did so. Iruka never saw someone look guilty for smiling, but he didn’t press.

Naruto flourished under Iruka’s care and lost his past habits and anger. He grew into being a kind, loving person of a beautiful laugh and smile.

Naruto was grateful.

In the time they spent together, Iruka opened up a daycare which Naruto secretly helped in seeing as many people did not want to hire a person everyone believed to be a yokai. No harm would be done if no one knew he was working here, and he could help Iruka pay bills. It felt so good to be useful to someone, to mean something to someone again.

Naruto and Iruka were at the daycare, cleaning after all the kids were picked up. A wide smile crossed his face as he picked up stray toys and things the children used to draw with, hanging a few drawings some kids had left behind. The window was open, letting in a breeze that was causing the papers to sway.

He moved to close the window and his breath caught when he saw the gray-haired man staring at them through the window. He wore a mask that covered most of his face, showing only one black, amused eye. Naruto knew what that meant, he knew it wouldn’t last long, but why so fucking soon, and found himself tripping over small wooden chairs as he ran out the door ignoring the voice that was screaming for him to come back.

“No. Not him. Please.”

Naruto ran that day, at the age of 19. He ran as far as his legs could take him. He ran out of the small town into the neighboring woods, breathless as he pushed on, trying to get as far away from Iruka as possible.

He wouldn’t be the cause of Iruka’s death as well. He’d killed too many. So, he took his grandfather’s inheritance and moved as far away as he could get. He moved to a large rural village, one where he wasn’t known and could easily be forgotten if he were to interact with anyone. He learned to live off the land and get himself dirty, grateful that he could at least interact with plant life and some animals.

At 21, he received a letter with no return address. He opened it and felt himself choke on his breath. His heart quickened, tears spilled from his eyes as he read the letter before hugging the paper to his chest, letting himself cry loudly in his small cottage.

Iruka was still alive.

The final time he encountered a Shinigami in fear was the day he went to visit the grave of his parents and grandfather.

Moving to a different town, a rural one at that, had allowed Naruto to work, so he took a job at a small food stand selling produce. It paid well enough and it gave him the chance to make small interactions with people without any deep connections. Kami forbid he make any friends, but he couldn’t help the longing he felt as he watched people converse freely, smiling, laughing, not afraid. He felt envy at such simple things he himself could not enjoy.

Naruto woke up earlier the next day, greeting a few people that he had learned the names of. He fixed his veil as he walked through the large market, stopping to buy a few groceries and flowers, placing the items in his basket as he quickly scurried off to continue his journey.

Naruto had begun to take as many precautions as possible, choosing to wear a veil so that no one could get attached to him. His mother and Iruka had always told him what a gorgeous boy he’d grow to be, and Naruto didn’t want anyone to get attracted to him. He couldn’t- no -wouldn’t be the cause of another death.

He forced himself into solitude, refusing guests in his home, refusing to visit others, keeping conversations to a minimum. His voice grew soft as the boy spoke less and less. Naruto had no need to use his voice often, so why worry about it barely being above a whisper?

The walk to the graveyard was a silent one for Naruto. No companions to speak to, except for the small animals that scurried by, and they wouldn’t understand a single word he said. Best believed he tried.

Once he arrived at the headstones that were of most importance to him, he removed his veil and sat his basket down, grabbing the flowers and placing a few on the three graves. He bowed his head as he spoke, moving his robes around to allow his bare knees to touch the moist earth, “I’m sorry I didn’t come visit sooner, Mother, Father, Jiraiya. It’s been hard to find the time to do anything nowadays. I can’t leave without people questioning my whereabouts and I couldn’t possibly try to start a conversation about what I did to you all. I brought flowers. I hope you find them to be pretty.”

Naruto shifted to sit after he took a look around to make sure he was alone. “I got adopted a few years back by a man named Iruka, but I’m sure you know that. He was so kind to me, so patient, and well, I blew it. I saw one of them outside near the daycare he worked so hard to open and I just…I couldn’t stay. I ran away and I’ve been living in a rural community since. I know you wouldn’t wish this for me. I’m so sorry…”

If one were to walk by the graveyard, they would hear nothing but leaves rustling in the wind and crying. A devastatingly perfect sound in the burial ground. It fit; it fit really well.

“You’re the only ones I can talk to without fear of killing you. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but I’m sorry…I’m so sorry I hurt you.” Naruto touched each headstone as if he were touching warm flesh, something he hasn’t felt in years besides his own. God, how he wished to be able to do so freely. “I just wished I had someone to talk to. Someone I know won’t get hurt.”

“What’s stopping you?”

Naruto jumped in fright, head swirling left and right before he caught sight of the man sitting atop Jiraiya’s headstone. He hurriedly reached for his veil and put it on, moving back.

Whoever that man was, he wasn’t normal.  Red wasn’t a normal color for people’s eyes. That pale of skin couldn’t possibly be normal either; or that dark of hair.

The man’s face held no expression as fiery eyes looked at Naruto as if he could see his face through his veil.

Naruto stuttered over his words as he quickly grabbed his basket. He held it to his chest as he stood, shaking. “What do you want from me? W-Who are you?”

Naruto had always been afraid of death, for he knew not of the sweet release people talked about. He knew of soul-reaping, life-wrenching, world shattering death. The cold faces of his parents, the lifeless body of Jiraiya, the green eyes and masks of Shinigami. There were no pleasantries that came with death and Naruto wasn’t ready to face that if he had a choice. Not to be sent to the Underworld where he’d be beaten by Oni for all of eternity. Life was bad but dying and his fate of being alone and hated forever would be worse.

“What I want is you.”

Naruto couldn’t move; he didn’t want to move. If he moved, he would have to face the fact that this wasn’t a dream. He couldn’t wake up to his parents’ warm faces or Jiraiya’s belligerent yelling, or Iruka’s kind smile along with the kids in the daycare. He’d have to face…whatever this man was and that, Naruto wasn’t ready to do. “Are you…a Shinigami? Have you come to t-take my life?”

The man hopped off of the headstone with a smirk as he approached Naruto.

A step forward, a step back. Forward, back.

Naruto couldn’t move back any further as his feet caught onto the tail end of his yukata and he fell backward, landing roughly as the groceries in his basket scattered out onto the ground. The man kneeled in front of him and he flinched when hands came to lift his veil; the only thing separating Naruto from reality.

“I’m Sasuke. You are correct about my position in this world and what I’ve come here for, but don’t look so afraid. I won’t be taking your life so soon. I’ve come here for much more important purposes. Now,”—Sasuke held out his hand as he stood— “stand. You have a home, yes? I’ll see that you make it back safely.”

No. No, no, no, no, NO.

Naruto wasn’t a fool and he surely wasn’t going to grab onto some foolish reaper’s hand so he could be tricked into death. Disregarding his food, Naruto grabbed his basket once again and took off in the direction of his home, veil lost in the back of his mind. His feet hit the wet earth as he ran along the path, panting and near screaming as he continued to run.

He repeated a mantra to himself of “Don’t look back.” His eyes were bloodshot, his nose was turning a bright red as tears forced their way down his face. He wiped at them furiously as he continued running, heart beating out of his chest. He was almost glad he encountered a Shinigami without anyone else around; he was the only one who was going to die. It was only fair he did so.

So, when his foot slipped and he began falling down the hill near the local rice fields, he cried despite himself. He knew he was supposed to die, he sometimes wanted to die. But if now was his time to die, he’d do so, even if with a bit of hesitation. For none would have to take his place again. Even if he was scared, he’d welcome death with open arms.

Naruto’s neck hit a more jagged part of the hill and everything soon went black.

Naruto awoke in a room that was not his own. Surrounded by candles of different sizes and different flames, the room was much too dim for him to see any of the features or if he was truly alone.


He turned towards where the voice came from and found no one. “W-Who’s there?”

“You’re quite the idiotic person, aren’t you? Running away from a Shinigami wasn’t the best of ideas, but you don’t seem to have many of those.”

Naruto was panicking again. He heard a voice, a voice that took up the entire room yet only spoke to and for him, but he couldn’t place a voice to a face, and it unnerved him. “Please show me where you are. Please! I don’t know where I am and-and…” For once, he noticed.


Unnaturally cold.

He touched his lips and felt how dry they were, how cold his hands were. “A-Am I dead?”

The voice responded with a throaty chuckle and red eyes peered out at him from behind a higher row of candles. “In a way you are. Although I can’t allow you to die. Come here, Naruto. Speak to me.”

He didn’t know what caused him to, but he found himself crawling over to where those red eyes floated and kneeled in front of them, waiting. He gasped when a body joined those red eyes, that smirk burning right back into his memories. “Sasuke?”

“Right you are, though you were wrong to run away from me.” Sasuke sat up and looked down at Naruto from his perch. “Do you know where you are, Naruto?”

“How do you know my name?”

Sasuke rolled his eyes as he stood. He slowly walked down until he was standing in front of Naruto before crouching down to his level. “I’m still a Shinigami, you fool. I know the names of many. Yours just happens to be very important to our society right now. Now I’ll ask again, and I expect an answer. Do you know where you are?”

Naruto shook his head silently.

“Figures; this- “—Sasuke moved one hand to tilt Naruto’s chin up to look and the other to motion to the room— “is the Hall of The Living. These candles represent the lives and lifespans of those who reside on Earth.” Sasuke let go of Naruto’s chin and moved to grab an extremely low candle with a short flame. “When these lights go out, the person attached to that light will die.” He blew the fire out, causing a few fires to flicker before they returned to normal.

“Why did you blow it out, you bastard?! It wasn’t finished burning!” Naruto quickly snatched the candle away, holding it to his chest.

Sasuke held another candle, this one was tall and red in color which Naruto found to be strange as all the other candles were cream.

“Sometimes a candle will not completely be burned before a person’s time is up.” Sasuke moved the red candle gently, being sure not to disturb the fire. “This is your candle. Notice the color and how large it is.” Sasuke sat it down gently. “You’ll be going back to the living world once I finish explaining things to you. Tell me, where did that necklace come from?”

Naruto went to touch the necklace laying innocently around his neck. He himself wasn’t too sure where it had come from, but he never bothered to take it off. All he remembered was it appearing after Jiraiya’s funeral and he assumed it had been a good omen. “I’m not sure…” His eyes widened in realization as he clutched at it, turning his body away from Sasuke. “You can’t have it!”

Sasuke snorted again as he shook his head, that infuriating smirk still in place. “You truly are an idiot, Naruto. I don’t want that necklace, I’ve had one before.” He reached in his shirt to pull out a necklace with a small white and red fan on it before stuffing it back into his shirt. “That necklace is a sign.”

Naruto opened his hand and looked down at the necklace. A sign? Was he right about it being a good omen? Or maybe it was a bad omen? He looked up at Sasuke again, confusion all over his face. “A sign of what?”

Sasuke’s smirk dropped as he sat up straight, staring directly into Naruto’s eyes. It made him shrink into himself as he waited for a response; a response he may not like.

“When you die, you will be a Shinigami.”

Naruto’s heart started beating out of his chest. Him? A Shinigami? The very thing he hated, the thing that ruined his life, he was supposed to be that? He shook his head, his hands shaking as tears came again. It wasn’t fair, nothing was fair to him. He glared up at Sasuke from his sitting position.

Sasuke’s eyes softened. He’d been through this process before when he was first told he would be a Shinigami. It was never a joyful experience.

“That can’t be true! You’re lying, I know it. I can’t be a-a killer! Not anymore…” Naruto softly laid his head on the floor of the room, crying his heart out. After all his hard work of keeping people alive by staying away and now he had no choice but to kill them. Fate was cruel.

He felt Sasuke put a hand on his shoulder and it made him cry harder. He looked up with blurry vision, sniffling as Sasuke moved to wipe the tears from his vision. “It’s alright to cry. I did the same.” Sasuke grabbed Naruto’s candle and placed it back on its’ stool. “You can be a merciful Shinigami, you know. Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be painful. I usually have people die in their sleep.”

Naruto hiccupped as he sat up again. “You can decide how people will die?”

Sasuke shook his head as he moved to stand and held out a hand for Naruto to take. Sasuke helped him to his feet and led him out of the candle lit room. “Not exactly. You can push them towards a certain type of death, but we can’t actually kill anyone. That decision is all their own, we just give them the incentive.” They walked in darkness towards a bright light. “Now let’s get you back.”

They cleared the expansion of space quickly, moving into the blinding light. Naruto shut his eyes tight and hissed. His body was in pain, his neck hurt bad and he was cold and wet. He opened his eyes again and peered around. He saw a dark sky. Blinking, he sat up slowly, hissing as his hand came to cradle his aching neck.

It was night outside and he remembered. He fell and hit his neck on something. Naruto pushed himself to stand and made his way back up the hill onto the path he had been on when he fell. He trotted down the path in pain.

He just wanted to go home and rest. Yeah, rest. That’s what he needed.

Naruto thought about the information he gathered from Sasuke, if he was even real anyways. He’d die, become a Shinigami and have to do the very thing he’d lived through so many times. It didn’t make sense to him. Couldn’t he work something out to avoid it? Maybe he could trade in his soul or something; people still did that, right? His head hurt from all the thoughts running rampant and he sighed out, letting them float to the back of his mind.

Naruto reached his house and opened the door seeing as he never bothered to lock it unless...unless he went to visit the graveyard. His blood ran cold as he stopped turning the handle. The door was open meaning someone was in his house and since Naruto lost his veil, that person might see Naruto and die. He could always just turn around and hide until they came out, but he was tired and in pain.

Risking the chance that he could possibly get killed walking into his own house- not that he cared much -he opened the door and stepped in, shutting it loudly behind him.

Naruto could hear feet hitting the floor as whoever was in his house walked towards his location. He braced himself but stared dumbfounded as those same red eyes looked down at him. “Sasuke? You’re real?!”

Sasuke rolled his eyes as he stepped towards Naruto but quickly backed up when Naruto tried to swing at him. “Hey calm down. I was wondering when you’d get here; thought I’d have to come get you.” Sasuke moved to walk back to where he’d been but he felt Naruto tug at his shirt. He turned his head a bit to look down at him, quirking an eyebrow.

“What the hell are you doing in my house? How did you get in here? Did you go through my things, you bastard?  Naruto stormed his way through the house all the while dragging Sasuke along. How dare this stranger just barge into his home uninvited, leave his door unlocked and possibly snoop through his things?

Sasuke may be a death god, but he’d be a dead god if he happened to mess with anything important.

“Tsk, I only looked, I didn’t touch much of anything. Not that there’s much to touch anyways.” Sasuke walked to the kitchen and took a seat in a chair, watching as Naruto looked around a bit before turning to Sasuke with puffed out cheeks.

“You made me lose the food I bought today. Now what am I going to do?”

“If you were so concerned about the things in your house, you would have noticed the basket sitting on the table.” Sasuke lazily pointed a finger towards the covered basket with a smirk. “I don’t feel apologetic for you losing your food since that was your fault, but I did gather it along with some other things. You’re welcome.”

Naruto rolled his eyes and lifted the cloth over the basket. He gasped; there were so many foods he usually didn’t get as they were out of his budget. He looked at Sasuke then at the basket; he repeated the process a few times before a small blush crossed his face. He bowed a bit. “Thank you. Would you care to stay for dinner?”

“I don’t care much for human food.” Sasuke stared at Naruto.

“Then what do you…” Naruto was on alert again. He backed himself into a corner after grabbing a knife and stood, shaking. How many times is he going to be tricked into this? “Don’t eat me!”

There was silence for a bit. Then Naruto could hear Sasuke desperately trying not to laugh at him before he failed miserably. Naruto’s blush came back with full force as he continued to hold the knife in front of him. “What’s so funny?”

Sasuke’s laughs quieted down to a few stray chuckles. “I just showed you your candle and I don’t eat souls, stupid. I help them cross the bridge to afterlife. Whether their outcome be Ame or Hell.”

“Wait so I’ll live a long time?” Naruto remembered his candle being pretty big.

“I wouldn’t say that.” Sasuke stood and grabbed the basket, grabbing a knife, cutting board and various other things before he set it all down in front of the small fireplace. He quickly got a fire started as he started chopping scallions. “The rate at which your candle will burn is uncertain to me. Just because your candle is large does not mean you’ll live a long life. It could burn quite fast. In fact, it could burn out tonight or stop burning right in the middle.”

Sasuke stood to grab a bowl, and a pot, filling it with water before setting it inside the fire. He dropped a few eggs in before turning to eye Naruto. “Soft boiled or hard boiled?”

Naruto slowly answered, “Soft.” He went to sit at the table and slouched in a chair. “But if you don’t control death…why’d you blow out that candle?” Naruto watched Sasuke work as he mixed flour and water repeatedly until it reached a nice consistency.

Sasuke stretched out the dough before setting it in a bowl to let the gluten relax a bit before he cut it into long strips. “Like I said, some people don’t live long lives. Those who don’t, need assistance in their death. It’s also to ensure that the correct human dies. You all are devious creatures, and many have tried to trick a Shinigami. It doesn’t end well.”

Naruto chewed his bottom lip; that made sense. But he had a question he was too afraid to ask. He didn’t want an answer. He was afraid of what Sasuke would say to him, how Sasuke would react. But he mustered up the courage to ask anyways; he waited all these years to know and damn it, he was going to find out. He saw Sasuke chop up some pork before setting it aside and feeling the temperature of the broth that was now simmering over the fire. “Sasuke?”

Sasuke hummed without turning around. He moved the broth and brought a pan over the fire to cook the pork.

Naruto took a deep breath. “Am-Am I the reason my parents and Jiraiya died? That Iruka almost died?” Blue eyes caught the pause Sasuke took before he poured the broth into a bowl; he plopped in the noodles along with the pork, scallions and a soft-boiled egg. Grabbing a pair of chopsticks, Sasuke walked to the table and placed the bowl in front of Naruto along with the chopsticks.

Ramen! It had always been a luxury to Naruto with all the fancy ingredients, but it smelled so good! He took his chopsticks, thanked Sasuke for the food and dug in. He hummed in delight at the taste. It was rich and amazing.


Naruto almost didn’t catch the word when it left Sasuke’s mouth. He tilted his head in confusion. “Yes what?”

Sasuke sighed from his place opposite of Naruto. “You are the reason your family died. All Shinigami are.”

It made Naruto drop his chopsticks. All these years he’d been fearing that it had all been his fault and to hear that it really was, it broke his heart. His heart was pounding, blood rushing in his ears. How many more things could go wrong tonight? How many things have gone wrong since he was born? He couldn’t recall. All he remembered was the pain; it made him turn in on himself as he cried for the fourth time that day.

So much crying. All he ever did was cry. Kill and cry, cry and kill. Naruto’s head lay in his hands barely registering anything Sasuke was saying.

“We as Shinigami attract death and other Shinigami, whether we’re Shinigami when the deaths occur or not. As long as we make deep bonds with any of those around us, they will die. But Naruto,” Sasuke moved to stroke Naruto’s hair gently. “They will die anyways. Tomorrow, in a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of years, they will die. It’s the circle of life. None can escape it.” He tilted Naruto’s chin up, peering into those watery blue eyes. “Now eat. I’ll run you a bath.”

Sasuke got up and walked out of the room.

Naruto continued to cry until it hurt, and no more tears would come out. He slurped at his noodles slowly, not even bothering to savor the taste. He didn’t want to taste anything anymore; he just wanted to wake up and go back to silently avoiding people and living a lonely, but simple life. Now he was expected to become some death god, kill people and that’s that? It hurt him so much.

He’d have to ruin families just like his and once Fate decided, there was no way to get out of the deed without doing something devious and worse than the original path. Naruto left the bowl on the table as he stalked to where his bathroom was, pushing the door ajar as he peered inside.

Sasuke was sitting on the side of the tub checking the temperature of the water. “This should be good.” He stood and moved to walk past Naruto. “Go ahead and bathe. Clothes will be set out in your room. I’ll make some tea.”

Naruto grabbed at him again, stopping him from leaving. “Why are you being so caring? Aren’t you a death god; why are you taking care of me?” He wasn’t sure what to think of this whole situation. It seemed weird that Sasuke was being so kind. Sure, he let people die in their sleep, but what if the Shinigami had been lying about the whole candle thing? What if he was going to try to have Naruto die tonight?

“I’ll explain to you after you freshen up.” With that brief statement, Sasuke left the bathroom, letting the door softly close behind him.

Something about that look of dread mixed with apprehension and sadness had Naruto stopping himself before he tried to call out to Sasuke.

Sighing he stepped into the tub and washed himself clean, prolonging the time as much as he could. It helped take away some of the pent-up stress, confusion, fear, and anger he was feeling, but not by much.

After he was finished, he got out and scurried to his room, getting dressed quickly. Naruto came back to the kitchen where he saw Sasuke sitting at the table with a steaming cup in his hands. Ouch. “Doesn’t that burn?” Naruto took a seat, eyeing his own cup.

Sasuke smirked as he took a sip. “I’m dead, stupid. Temperature doesn’t affect me.”

Naruto blushed and scratched at the back of his neck, giving Sasuke a half-assed glare that caused him to roll his eyes. “I forgot. Sorry.” Naruto grabbed his cup once it stopped steaming and took a small sip, humming at the warmness he felt in his chest. “So, what did you need to talk to me about?”

“You’re curious, yes?” Sasuke’s fingers drummed against the table.

“About what?”

“About how I became a Shinigami and how the Shinigami world works.”

Naruto choked on his tea, quickly sitting the cup down as he beat on his chest. Sasuke made no move to help the choking human and Naruto grumbled, “Bastard.” He had thought about it in the tub, but he didn’t think he’d shown any curiosity. Did he?

“I only ask because I was that way before I became one. So,” Sasuke looked at him, his face blank. “Would you like to know?”

Naruto slowly nodded.

Sasuke sighed as he leaned back in his chair; he’d always disliked telling this story, but it helped people calm down enough to accept their newfound role in the world faster if he was a bit more open. The sooner they accepted it, the easier it would be for them to accept it in death and Sasuke was all for the easy way out. His eyes found a random spot on the table as he recalled his first experience with death.

“Shinigami have been around since the beginning of mankind, but our history starts somewhere after the Edo period, so our existence is relatively ‘new’ to you humans. I was around 7 years of age when I experienced my first bout with death. Seeing as this was quite a few years back by your standards, established schools and all the things that came about with the Industrial Revolution were unheard of. As a young boy, I helped out in the local rice field, setting up and fixing small irrigation errors. I planted rice seeds most of the time since my smaller hands allowed the seeds to be more precise and closer together.” Sasuke flexed his fingers in memory, a sad smile touching his lips as he remembered playing in the soil as the elders would watch in mirth.

“I went home one day to see our family house on fire. My clan was very close-knit, so we lived in a large family compound. Aunts, uncles, cousins, mothers, fathers, and siblings alike. When I went to open the gate, it was locked. Turns out, every single passage used by our family to enter and leave the compound had been blocked, trapping everyone inside.”

By this point, Naruto’s hands were covering his mouth. Sasuke’s entire family couldn’t have perished, could they have? That would have been near impossible, right?

“Most of them died, whether it be to breathing complications, buildings crushing them, or any other reason. But I remember my mother’s death the most.” Sasuke’s hands clenched as images flashed through his head. It had happened decades ago, but he could never shake the memory. It haunted him even after death.

“I had an older brother- Itachi Uchiha. I admired him quite a bit and wanted to live up to be everything he was. But when I saw him standing over my mother’s struggling body, I didn’t recognize him anymore.” Sasuke took a deep breath and turned his eyes up to look at Naruto.

“Since we lived off the land, we had standard farming equipment. Itachi used an axe to take my mother’s head off like the unwanted end of a carrot. My father lay next to her, already dead. That look of absolute madness in Itachi’s eyes, something about it was off. That’s when I saw it.” Sasuke made no move to look away from Naruto.

Naruto squirmed under Sasuke’s gaze; why was he staring so intently?

“There was this—" Sasuke’s hands made small circles in the air before coming to rest at the table. “this man sitting on top of my family’s house. Watching the whole scene as if it were a play coming to life. Strange looking; came to find out his name was Orochimaru. I died quite early on, maybe around my late teens—”

Naruto interrupted with wide eyes. “You can meet the people who killed people close to you?” If that were true, he could meet the ones who killed his family! He might not be able to hurt them, but he could get some closure.

Sasuke’s face was grim as he glared at Naruto. “Shut up. Yes, you can, but that’s unimportant.” He leaned back a bit. “You see, Shinigami do the work that needs to be done in order for the world, spiritual and physical, to stay in balance. And you,” Sasuke leaned in to tap Naruto’s forehead with two fingers. “Are a part of that cycle, Kitsune.”

Naruto blinked; Kitsune? He remembered being called a fox yokai back when he was a child, but that couldn’t be true either. “What do you mean Kitsune? I’m a Yokai?”

“All Shinigami are Yokai, Naruto. I am Hebi, which is Snake, just like Orochimaru. I suspect one of the Shinigami you’ve encountered was also of the tailed yokai origin.” Sasuke’s face returned to its’ smugness and it made Naruto relax a bit.

Sasuke’s hand extended forward a bit, the billowing sleeve of his long shirt opening a bit to allow a small blue snake to slither out. It curled up on the table, sampling the air occasionally.

Naruto jumped back a bit. There was a snake on his table; a freaking snake! He looked back at Sasuke to see that stupid smirk forming again. “Why the hell is there a snake on my table, you ass?! Get it off!”

“His name is Aoda. He helps me along with my duties as a Shinigami.” The snake slithered across the table to Naruto, peering up at him curiously. He’d never seen that bright of hair and eyes and it intrigued him. He climbed off the table and made his way up Naruto’s quivering leg. Curling up in Naruto’s lap, the snake settled down, hissing in content. This person was quite warm, unlike his master.

Naruto shook as the snake rested in his lap; it was freaking snuggling him. He turned his head towards Sasuke, his eyes blown wide in fear. He stuttered as he spoke, careful not to make any sudden movements. “G-Get this thing o-off of m-me!”

Sasuke covered his mouth as a smile formed on his lips. He’d never seen Aoda be that clingy towards anyone that wasn’t Sasuke. “It seems he’s taken a liking to you. Maybe he’s enjoying your warmth. Try petting him.” He dismissively waved a hand around.

“Pet him?! Are you insane?” Naruto quickly quieted down as Aoda looked up at him, as if waiting for Naruto to do what Sasuke had just said. He didn’t take that as a command, did he?

“He doesn’t bite unless told to. He’s fond of humans so just try it.” Sasuke rolled his eyes and snorted.

Naruto gulped and brought down a shaking hand. He rubbed down the back of Aoda’s head and felt the smooth yet hard scales; he blinked in curiosity. It didn’t seem too scary…taking a chance, Naruto continued petting the small snake’s head, watching as it laid still, its’ tongue coming out occasionally to scent the air. He looked up at Sasuke in delight. “He’s so calm and stuff. Where’d you get him?”

Sasuke kept that smirk as he watched Aoda practically fall asleep under Naruto’s ministrations. “All Shinigami have what we call guides. They help when needed, say if there’s an influx in deaths. We not only help humans in their deaths, we lead their souls in the afterlife; usually our guides will do that job for us. You’ll get one too soon enough. Aoda appeared when I was 15.” He snapped his fingers gently. “Come Aoda.”

The snake in question moved its’ head to look at Sasuke, displeased to have to move from the warmth, but did as told. He slithered up onto the table and back over to the Shinigami. He climbed back up Sasuke’s sleeve and Sasuke rested his arm on the table, leaning his head on his hand. “Have you any questions to ask me?”

Naruto twiddled his thumbs as if he was nervous. Now that Sasuke asked, his mind had gone blank. Here was this Shinigami sitting at his table and he had nothing to ask. Naruto sputtered something out quickly, getting uncomfortable in the prolonged silence. “How’d you know I was a Kitsune? Is it just in your powers or something?” Naruto didn’t bother bringing his eyes up to meet Sasuke’s, knowing full well he must have looked pretty stupid.

“Hm, no.” Sasuke drank the rest of his tea before standing and smoothing down his clothes. “Your sharp canines are usually a tell-tale sign of those who are of canine or feline descent. Kitsunes are also often blond. Why, I don’t know.” Sasuke turned his back to Naruto as he walked to the entrance of the kitchen. He looked back at Naruto, his face going completely blank, but his eyes held the smallest bit of hope. “Get some rest.” He paused for a while before he turned his head and clicked his tongue. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Naruto’s breath caught in his throat. He’d have someone who’d come back tomorrow, someone who wouldn’t die, no, couldn’t die. He’d…he’d made a friend. An odd friend, but a friend, nonetheless. His eyes watered, but he quickly blinked away any tears before they could fall.

Naruto nodded as he got up from his seat with a warm heart and a beautiful smile adorning his face. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” He called out to Sasuke’s retreating form. He’d see Sasuke tomorrow, he’d talk to Sasuke tomorrow. Naruto did a small dance in his kitchen once he heard his front door shut and he ran to his room, throwing himself underneath his covers with glee.

The stress and exhaustion of the day eventually caught up to him as he fell asleep, a smile still on his face.

True to his word, Sasuke did come back to see Naruto. In fact, he came back every day, growing accustomed to the boy’s bright and bubbly nature. It was addictive in a sense, watching Naruto do menial tasks around the house, tend to his small flower garden. Sasuke came to know a lot about Naruto in the few months they’d spent together. Like Naruto’s love for the color orange and ramen. He took notice when he saw the orange tree Naruto tended to often and the array of orange flowers the blond planted.

It came as a shock to Sasuke when he watched Naruto interact with people. His brightness shrunk back as he talked to people with minimal words exchanged. The way his loud voice turned into a quiet whisper, how he worked hard not to look people in the eyes, and that veil was back.

Naruto was working hard to keep people alive; he’d figured out early on that people died because of him and he took measures to make sure that wouldn’t happen. Sasuke looked on at Naruto in a different light after he’d realized that, accidentally slipping up and telling Naruto “You’ll make a fine Shinigami one day.” Naruto’s lips stretched into a brilliant smile while his cheeks grew a rosy red. Sasuke found he liked Naruto’s smile a lot.

Sasuke sat near Naruto as he worked, watching the small interactions he had with strangers, the gentle smiles no one could see. He was beautiful and innocent, a lily in a garden of roses. He cursed and turned away, his face heating, though he couldn’t blush. Although Naruto hadn’t meant to do it on purpose, he was a vixen by nature, the occasional turn of his hands, his batting eyelashes when he got embarrassed would be tempting to anyone who could see those moments. Sasuke was no exception.

Taking a few moments to calm down, Sasuke turned back to see Naruto struggling as a man of brown hair tried grabbing at his veil in evil mirth.

Naruto batted him away quickly, taking a few steps back to keep the man from his success. “Hey! Stop that; hasn’t your mother taught you manners? You should know it’s not polite to grab at people’s belongings, Now, shoo!” Naruto crossed his arms and frowned at the man, though he couldn’t see it.

The man frowned and tried to lean over the fruits in front of him. His hands reached out again and he failed again. “C’mon! Let me see; I’m not going to tell anyone or anything.” He tried again but was pulled back by a red-haired man who stared down at the brunette with a blank face.

“Stop disrupting him, Kiba.” He turned to Naruto, then turned to look at Sasuke with the same blank expression. He bowed lowly and stood. “Sasuke.”

Sasuke gave a small nod in return, a small smirk in place as he eyed Kiba who was still sitting on the ground rubbing the back of his neck in pain. “I see you’ve found a little Oni child on your travels.” He turned his full attention to Kiba, his red eyes lit up in mirth. “What’s your name, little one?”

Kiba puffed his cheeks in embarrassment. He wasn’t little! “Don’t treat me like a child, you stupid death god!” He stood with a wicked smile as he pointed to himself, trying his best to deepen his voice. “I’m Kiba Inuzuka! I’m like the best Oni Child there is!”

Sasuke snorted as he stood from his place from behind the bodega. “Is that so? Tell me, Inuzuka, where’s your club?”

Kiba blushed as his bare feet kicked at some dirt. “I don’t have one yet…”

Sasuke chuckled and turned to Gaara. “So, care to tell me where you found him?”

While Sasuke and Gaara conversed, Kiba turned his attention back to Naruto. “Hey Blondie! What’s your name?” Kiba leaned against the wood and waited.

Naruto handed a few apples to the man he was speaking to and turned to Kiba with a small smile. He was sure Kiba was older than him, with him being a yokai and all, but he just acted so child-like. It filled Naruto with warmth. “I’m Naruto. I’ve heard your name is Kiba.” He extended a hand to which Kiba shook. “It’s nice to meet you.

“What do you wear that veil for? You got scars or somethin’?” Kiba’s head lolled to the side as he watched Naruto work. It was very fluid; pick up an item, take the required money, give change, give them the item. Rinse and repeat.

“Well, you see, I’m to become a Shinigami in my afterlife. So, if people speak to me or see me, they’ll die faster. So, I try not to let people do that, so they won’t get attached.” Naruto bowed to the woman who approached, starting a small conversation with her as he quickly gave her the items and bowed when she took her leave.

Naruto noticed he didn’t feel jealous anymore. He felt happy speaking to people, even if his interactions were short and simple. He had a friend now, someone of his own he could talk to. He may have made more friends if Kiba and Gaara stuck around long enough.

Kiba perked up at that bit of information. “Hey, I won’t die! You can show me!” He bounced on the spot, having decided it was a great idea.

Naruto laughed softly, the natural rasp in his voice peeking through a bit. Kiba was like a dog; very easy to entertain and perky at the smallest bit of excitement. “Maybe later.” It’s not safe here with all these people around. Why don’t you go help Sasuke and Mr. Gaara? I’m sure they’d like your company.”

Kiba nodded and turned to leave but stopped. He turned back to look at Naruto with a wide grin. “There’s someone I want you to meet later!” With that, he rushed off to find out where Sasuke and Gaara had gone off to.

Naruto smiled. Even if his friends happened to be the supernatural kind, he wouldn’t mind. He’d felt happy and most importantly, he didn’t feel lonely.

After he finished his shift, Naruto headed home, basket in tow. He’d stocked up on some food to cook. Even if Sasuke didn’t eat food very often, he didn’t want to come home empty-handed to a house full of guests.

He smiled as he approached his house.

Naruto stopped and his basket dropped at his feet, his hands shaking. Standing beside Sasuke was the Shinigami that killed Jiraiya, the one he saw standing over his lifeless body. He hadn’t been able to tell earlier since his veil made it hard to tell the features of others but was sure of it now. Gaara was the one; that tattoo and those sea-foam green eyes. He couldn’t mistake it.

Naruto’s eyes teared up as he took off in a sprint, running towards Sasuke and Gaara with full force. He could see Sasuke give a small wave, but he ignored it as he barreled right into Gaara’s stomach, taking them both down to the ground. He sat on him and pounded on his chest with his fists, his eyes too teary to see. “You killed him. You killed him, you fucking bastard!” Naruto yelled and yelled until his voice went hoarse. His fists weakly beat on Gaara’s chest as the man laid still, staring up at Naruto.

Sasuke helped Naruto off of Gaara, gently drawing circles on Naruto’s back with his hands. “Hey, tell me what’s wrong.” Sasuke tilted Naruto’s chin up to look into sad baby-blues. The hurt in those eyes made Sasuke hug Naruto, resting his chin on top of blond hair. He shushed Naruto as he continued to cry.

Naruto sniffled, his nose a bright red. His cries quieted a bit, a hoarse hiccup leaving his lips. “H-He’s the one who killed Jiraiya. H-He took him from m-me…” He buried his face into Sasuke’s shirt, quietly crying as Gaara got up from the ground.

Sasuke sighed and opened the door to Naruto’s house, sweeping a hand through the doorway. “I think you’d better come in. There’s a lot we need to discuss.”

Gaara nodded as he entered the house, taking a seat on the large tatami mat laying on the floor. He sat opposite of Sasuke and Naruto, eyeing them both as Sasuke helped Naruto sit down. He looked at Sasuke’s face, seeing the soft expression he gave Naruto. It intrigued him.

Once they were all seated comfortably, Sasuke looked at Gaara with a frown then back to Naruto. He tapped at his shoulder and gave a small snort when Naruto’s eyes turned up to meet his, wide and innocent. “Naruto, take a good look at Gaara for me.” He motioned in front of him.

Naruto sniffled, but obeyed and looked at Gaara, his eyes immediately shooting to the kanji on his forehead. Love; Naruto snorted. “As if he could know anything about that.” He thought to himself.

“I’m the one who took Gaara’s mother’s life.”

Naruto looked back at Sasuke in surprise. “What?”

Sasuke sighed as he saw Gaara purse his lips and look off to the side. Sasuke knew it’d be hard to talk about; Gaara was closed off like that, but it had to be done so Naruto could understand. He cleared his throat and gave a small nod to Gaara. “Go on, Gaara. It’s not my story to tell since it’s not my loss.”

Gaara nodded, his eyes staring down at the tatami mat instead of at Naruto. “My mother died when I was around 6. She was a sweet woman; I was more connected to her than my father. She was kind while he was more serious; very business-like. I remembered being absolutely distraught over it; I clammed up, never spoke a word unless it was required.” He looked up at Sasuke, his eyes gentle.

“She died in her sleep and I remembered seeing a man leaving our house, but I couldn’t catch up to him. He vanished into thin air. Her funeral was held on a Sunday, early in the morning. As we all sat mourning and saying our last goodbyes, I looked over and saw the same Shinigami I saw when she died, and I vowed to take revenge for her. That Shinigami was Sasuke.” He gestured towards Sasuke who bowed his head slightly.

“Sasuke was waiting for me outside. I ran to him and tried punching him, although my small hands couldn’t do much damage. I screamed at him, I cried, and he let me until I had released everything. After I got it all out of my system, he sat me down and explained to me how all things must die, whether we like it or not. The circle of life continues on, with or without us. I didn’t want to hear that; I just wanted my mother back, but he explained to me that most Shinigami don’t do their job out of enjoyment.”

Gaara turned his eyes towards Naruto, intently looking at him. He knew these were important words to hear, they were the same words Sasuke said to him that fateful day. “We do what we do because we have to. Shinigami are troubled spirits, those who cannot move on in the afterlife because our lives have not been fulfilled, so we take the role of death gods. We help others cross over because we cannot. Sasuke took my mother because it was her time. He took her not only because her candle had stopped burning, but also because she had no regrets in life. She’d be able to pass on freely without becoming one of us. She’d be able to truly go to the afterlife. To Ame.”

Gaara’s hands sat in his lap, balled up into fists as he spoke, never taking his eyes off of Naruto. “Jiraiya was ready. More than ready to go, Naruto. I know you may not like it, but he died content. He was happy with all he’d accomplished.”

Naruto’s eyes widened as they became teary again. Letting go of Sasuke, he crawled over to Gaara and grabbed his cold hands, holding him in his warm ones. He brought them together and bowed. “Thank you.” It was all he could say. For he knew Gaara was only doing what he as a Shinigami had to. He’d been blind to that, but he understood now.

Naruto had to let go.

The door burst open as Kiba stood on the outside of it dragging a small woman behind him who was carrying a basket. His smile died down once he noticed Naruto’s watery eyes, Gaara’s gentle gaze, and the hard glare Sasuke was shooting towards him. He inched back a bit, a nervous laugh leaving him as he hunched his shoulders. “Bad timing?”

Sasuke pinched the bridge of his nose and rose, walking over to the door and dragging Kiba in. He gave a small nod to the trembling woman and turned back to Kiba. “Listen you little ogre. You knock before entering the house of a human. You also wait until someone answers, you understand?” He clicked his tongue when Kiba didn’t answer immediately.

Kiba nodded quickly, hiding behind the woman as she continued trembling. “Got it; sorry Naruto!”

Sasuke growled and sat down, looking at Gaara in annoyance. “Haven’t you house-trained that thing?”

Gaara snorted as Naruto released his hands. He stood and walked over to the trembling woman, detaching Kiba from her back, and led her over to Naruto. He sat her in front of Naruto before he sat down as well. “I was working on it.”

Kiba stomped a foot and crossed his arms, pouting. “I’m not a fucking child and I’m not a fucking pet either!” He stomped over to sit next to the woman, still pouting as Sasuke came to sit next to Naruto.

“Naruto, this is Hinata. She’s a Taka yokai.” Gaara looked down at Hinata who was still trembling, face beet red.

She’d never seen someone so beautiful before. She peered up at Naruto’s golden hair, subconsciously reaching up to touch it. It felt soft in her hands and she gasped, twirling a few strands around her small fingers. Her eyes traveled down, stopping at the big blue eyes that looked at her curiously. She gave a small squeak as she quickly retracted her hand.

“I-I’m so s-sorry. I didn’t m-mean to!” She bowed.

Naruto frantically waved his hands in front of him, trying desperately to switch between Hinata who looked like she was about to pass out and Kiba who looked like he saw an angel.

“Dude, you’re like really pretty. Like almost as pretty as Hinata.” Kiba stared at Naruto, transfixed. He’d never seen a human that beautiful before. Everything about him was charming, even as he was waving frantically.

Full blond eyelashes and pouty pink lips. The delicate hands of a gardener and the tan, smooth skin of someone who spent most of his time in the Sun. He was so androgynous looking that Kiba would have definitely mistaken him for a woman if he didn’t know any better. Something about Naruto was ethereal, otherworldly.

Everyone heard another squeak as Hinata passed out after Kiba’s comment. Her poor mind couldn’t handle all the stress at once as her body slumped forward.

 Gaara sighed as he gently laid her on her back. “Yes, everyone is falling in love with Naruto.” He made sure to lock eyes with Sasuke before going back to tending to Hinata’s unconscious form. “Naruto, would you mind getting some water and towels please? Kiba, go with him.”

Naruto nodded and showed Kiba where the kitchen was, blushing when Kiba commented on his appearance again. Though endearing, Naruto wasn’t used to that type of attention since he was usually covered. Sure Sasuke would sometimes stare a bit too long at him or made small comments about his appearance, but Naruto tried his best to ignore the butterflies that flew around in his stomach when that happened.

Once they left the room, Gaara eyed Sasuke again, his gaze serious. “You like him.” There was no doubt in his mind about it. The way Sasuke looked after Naruto was something he’d never seen before. Sasuke could be cold, hell, he was still cold towards Gaara occasionally. With Naruto, Gaara suspected the man made Sasuke putty in his hands.

Sasuke scoffed and turned his head. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that.” He knew he did.

“I can see it, Sasuke. Naruto may be a vixen by nature, but there’s no mistaking that adoration written all over your face as lust. Dare I say, you love him.” Gaara moved to face Sasuke fully. He folded his hands in his lap patiently.

Sasuke glared at Gaara; he’d figured that much out, but it’s not like he wanted to admit it. It wasn’t common for Shinigami to fall in love. In fact, it wasn’t common for Shinigami to stay around as long as Sasuke had. He couldn’t help himself. Naruto filled a space in his chest that he didn’t want to give up so easily or quickly.

Seeing the blond every day, teasing him, helping him in his garden, watching Naruto work, helping him clean his house, hearing the natural rasp in Naruto’s voice, sharing meals, and all the other things Sasuke did for Naruto, he loved it. Sasuke loved spending time with Naruto. Sasuke loved Naruto. It left him feeling warm, fulfilled, satisfied, and happy.

He was happy.

“I just don’t think it’d be best to—"

“Tell him? He deserves to know, Sasuke. After all, by the way Naruto looks at you, I wouldn’t say it isn’t reciprocated.” Gaara leaned to the left to see if he could see Naruto and Kiba. Once he deemed it a negative, he turned back to an openly surprised Sasuke. That wasn’t something you saw every day.

“What do you mean the way he looks at me? How does he look at me?” Sasuke turned to look behind him before turning back to Gaara who simply shrugged. Curse him.

“Why not ask him?” Gaara called out to Naruto and Kiba telling them to hurry up so he could wake Hinata up.

Sasuke wanted to frantically wave his hands, but it’d be against his nature. So, he opted to make his face devoid of emotion, his hands growing clammy when he heard footsteps approaching. He’d never been so nervous before, so the fact that he was now meant this was important.

The two came barreling into the room, Kiba holding the towels and Naruto carefully holding the water. Gaara thanked kami for that choice, no doubt Naruto’s. Had Kiba been carrying that bowl of water, they would have woken Hinata up all right. Kiba would have tripped and spilled the water all over her.

Gaara grabbed the bowl and set it down, moving to grab the towels, dunking one in the lukewarm water. He rung it out and laid it on Hinata’s forehead and took another, wet it, and laid it on her throat. He moved her hair away from her neck and cleared his throat, turning back to the other occupants of the room. “Naruto, I believe Sasuke wanted to have a private discussion with you. It seemed quite serious.”

Sasuke glared at him and clicked his tongue. “Don’t meddle, Tanuki.”

“Tanuki?” Naruto’s head tilted to the side as he looked between Sasuke and Gaara in curiosity.

Gaara smirked; Naruto’s attention span couldn’t be that of an adult; it was too dynamic. “I’ll show you after you’ve had your conversation with Sasuke. Now go.” He watched Naruto stand and drag Sasuke to his feet before tugging the silent man out of the room. He felt some hope. If Naruto and Sasuke felt the same way about each other and grew to love one another, then maybe…

Naruto closed the door behind him and smiled as he looked around his backyard. He could see the rice field a little ways away and see some of the people working while the little children played in the water, giggling freely with bright eyes and wide smiles. He loved this time of the year; it was nice and warm; the community came together to help out and he could watch it all.

Sasuke watched Naruto peacefully. He’d been nervous at first; he wanted to go back into that house and kick Gaara’s ass, but now, standing outside with Naruto and watching him glow in the sunlight made all the nervousness go away. He felt his face warm, unbeknownst to him that a soft, pink-rosey blush played on his cheeks. He approached Naruto slowly, tapping him on the shoulder to catch his attention.

His eyes. Sasuke’s eyes were the first thing Naruto could remember noticing about Sasuke. Although he had been scared when he first encountered Sasuke, now they were captivating to Naruto. Such an unnatural color, but like a finely cut ruby, they glowed and gleamed. It left Naruto breathless. They were the eyes of his very first real friend, the eyes of his companion. The eyes of…

“Naruto.” Sasuke moved to sit on the lowest step of the back porch, patting the spot next to him. Once Naruto sat down, he started up again. “Originally when I came to see you, I only came to let you know of your duties in the afterlife, what Fate had decided for you. However, that first time in the kitchen I couldn’t bring myself to say no to you. I couldn’t say no to coming back to see you.” He ran a hand through his hair as a sigh left his lips. “So, I came back the next day, but I was going to tell you that I wouldn’t be coming back. But something about you made me keep coming back. I don’t know why.”

Naruto grinned, his face red, but he didn’t care. He chuckled a little, looking out as the Sun started to set, its’ beautiful rays of orange, blue, and pink littering the sky. He felt happy, he felt alive. “I’m glad you came back.” He turned to look at Sasuke. “Look I—” Sasuke shook his head, silencing him.

“Spending so much time with you has attached me to you. I notice everything about you; your smell, your heartbeat, your voice, your smile, every little thing. Naruto I…” Sasuke frowned; he wasn’t one to hesitate and he wasn’t about to start now. He turned fully towards Naruto, staring him directly in the eyes. Either he’d get the reaction he wanted or not; that was that. He took a deep breath. “Naruto, I fell in love with you. I’m still in love with you, even now and I don’t see it going away any time soon.”

Naruto’s heart skipped a beat. What Sasuke was saying to him had been everything he had ever dreamed of. He grew to become so attached to Sasuke that he grew lonely when the Shinigami had to leave on business. His world lit up again when the man would appear again, his smirk and usual greeting of “What have you been up to, Stupid?” like music to Naruto’s ears. Naruto didn’t really know what love was; he’d only witnessed it in small spurts when he saw the people around the little shops walking around. He knew he wanted to have it however. Sasuke was his first chance and it was a chance he was more than willing to take.

Mustering up his courage, Naruto leaned up and placed a small peck on Sasuke’s lips, finding them to be warm and soft. He pulled back with a fierce blush, smiling widely despite himself. To know that Sasuke loved him back was more than he could ever ask for. “I think I love you too.”

Sasuke blinked then blinked some more before he pulled Naruto close again, placing a much stronger kiss on those lips. It made him feel whole; warm and alive. Something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Naruto gave Sasuke something he hadn’t wanted ever since he first became a Shinigami; the want to cross over.

They parted slowly, a tender smile on both of their faces. They looked over to the side when the door cracked open and a green eye peeked through. “Hinata’s awake. She brought your basket in, Naruto.” The eye looked at Sasuke. “Come cook dinner; I looked through the ingredients in the basket and some in the kitchen. There’s enough for Okonomiyaki.”

Sasuke sighed and stood, holding a hand out for Naruto to grab. He hoisted him up and hugged him close, taking in the scent he had grown accustomed to. It was intoxicating.

Naruto smiled as he hugged back before pulling away excitedly. “C’mon! You’ve never made Okonomiyaki before! I wonder how it’s going to taste.” He rushed in the house, dragging Sasuke along who simply rolled his eyes, a small “Idiot” leaving his lips.

Soon enough everyone stood in the kitchen and watched Sasuke. They were all silently amazed at Sasuke’s ability to cook since he didn’t really eat. Watching him move through the kitchen, flipping the large mount with ease, putting the toppings on with precision had Kiba bouncing in his seat in anticipation and Naruto nearly drooling.

The smells wafted through the air as Sasuke set the skillet on the table, taking a seat and nodding his head towards the food. He grabbed a steaming cup of tea, holding it in his hands. “Eat.”

Numerous repeats of “Itadakimasu” went around the table as each occupant helped themselves. Kiba cut Hinata a piece, a goofy grin making its’ way on his face when Hinata blushed and muttered a small ‘thank you.

Naruto was the first to take a bite, hardly catching the moan of approval that left his lips. It tasted wonderful; all the flavors worked well, and nothing was overpowering. The Okonomiyaki sauce and Mayonnaise helped take away the powerfulness of the umami flavors, but the added Bonito flakes helped bring just a hint of it back so it wouldn’t be drowned out.

If the groan coming from Kiba, the look of shock from Hinata, and the smirk from Gaara weren’t coincidence, Naruto would say they agreed.

Gaara looked at Sasuke and an idea popped into his head. He gestured towards the hot food, glancing up at Sasuke. “Take a bite.”

Sasuke’s right eyebrow raised. He set his cup down and leaned back in his chair. “You know I don’t really enjoy human food. It’s tasteless to me.”

Naruto looked at Sasuke in confusion. He’d never heard Sasuke complain about not tasting anything. “What do you mean it’s tasteless?”

“Ah, I see Sasuke hasn’t explained it to you. Because we Shinigami are essentially dead, there are certain senses we do not have.” Gaara sat his chopsticks down and sat up straight. “Some senses become heightened like our eyesight, hearing, and our sense of smell. Others however become faint, like our sense of touch and our taste. I can taste things, although they are a little weak, but Sasuke here—” He waved a hand towards him. “Can’t taste anything.”

Sasuke frowned and picked up a pair of chopsticks, sectioning off a piece of the Okonomiyaki. He grumbled before he shoved it into his mouth. “I’ll show you.” Sasuke didn’t really enjoy food too much because of that simple fact. He wouldn’t starve if he didn’t eat and just feeling tasteless food mush around in his mouth wasn’t appealing. He drank tea because of the temperature.

Sasuke chewed quickly at first but then his mouth slowed to a complete stop and his eyes widened.

Naruto grew worried the longer Sasuke kept his position. Gaara wasn’t really helping either as he crossed his arms and snorted. He touched Sasuke’s shoulder gently, giving in a small shake. “What’s wrong? Do you not like it?” He knew Sasuke couldn’t taste it, but maybe it was too hot? He didn’t blow on it or…wait. Sasuke said temperature didn’t affect him.

“I can taste it.” Sasuke swallowed what was in his mouth and went back for another piece, this time it was bigger. “I can taste the food.” He was perplexed. In all his years of being a Shinigami, he’d never experienced or knew a Shinigami who got their senses back; sure, there were tales about it happening but he just passed it off as fiction. He swallowed and grabbed his cup of tea, taking a sip and gagging at the sweetness.  Sasuke stared at the cup in amazement. “I’ve always hated sweet things...”

“I figured it out when I came to retrieve you two from the backyard. Sasuke was blushing, meaning that there was blood flow.” Gaara took up his chopsticks again, his smirk still in place.

“So, he’s alive?” Naruto looked between Sasuke and Gaara quickly, hope spreading in his chest.

Gaara shook his head. “No, there’s probably not a heart beating anywhere in there, but the more you two bond, the more things Sasuke will gain. Maybe he’ll actually be able…no. Never mind that. But he won’t suddenly start living so don’t get your hopes up.”

Naruto nodded and went back to eating. Everyone had a nice time conversing and getting to know each other. Naruto found out that Hinata had very good eyesight since she was a hawk demon, and about Kiba’s little attraction to her. He teased Kiba endlessly.

Looking around the table, Naruto felt his heart swell in delight. Here he was, sitting and talking to people. Having conversations, sharing food and touches, and they would be okay. Even if they were either dead or already demons, Naruto was happy. He’d never admit it out loud for fear of jinxing himself, but Naruto liked to play as if this were a family; his family.

They stood by the door, all ready to leave when Naruto remembered something he’d been meaning to ask. He’d been having so much fun over dinner that it kind of slipped his mind. Oops. He grabbed Gaara’s sleeve and gave a tug, causing the Shinigami to look down at him in confusion. “Well um, Sasuke said all Shinigami have a guide. His was Aoda. I was wondering if you had one too…?” Naruto scratched the back of his neck with a nervous smile. He didn’t want to seem creepy, but he really wanted to see what Gaara’s guide would look like.

Gaara nodded and held out a hand, sand appearing in the middle of his palm. It spun until a small tanuki-like creature formed. It gave a tiny roar and looked over at Naruto, its’ gold and black eyes blinking up at him curiously. “This is Shukaku.” Gaara held him out. “He won’t bite; at least I don’t think he will.”

Naruto hesitantly reached out a hand to touch the little sand beast. He was in for quite the shock when Shukaku jumped onto his arm and crawled up to lay in his hair. He growled lowly as he settled in, taking in the welcoming scent and warmth. Whoever this person was, Shukaku liked them.

Gaara stared at the top of Naruto’s head, slightly amused. Shukaku didn’t really get along with anyone. Hell, he barely got along with Gaara sometimes, but here he was, snuggling Naruto like a close friend. “I’ve never seen him do that before.”

“Aoda did the same thing. Climbed right into his lap.” Sasuke crossed his arms with a smirk on his face; he remembered asking Aoda why he’d felt the urge to do it and the snake just cocked his head, telling Sasuke that it felt welcomed by Naruto’s presence alone. “I suspect Naruto may have an affinity for such creatures.” He looked down to Naruto. “Be sure to check your garden more frequently. Yours may just pop up.”

“But how will I know if it’s special or whatever? I mean Aoba looks like a normal snake to me.”

“It’ll speak.” Shukaku rasped out from his spot on top of Naruto’s head. “We also don’t look like normal animals. Aoda is blue. Blue is very rare in nature and even rarer on animals.” He hopped off onto Gaara’s hand and disappeared, leaving a small lump of sand behind.

Naruto was amazed when he heard Shukaku speak and he spun to look at Sasuke, bouncing gleefully while he stood in his spot. “You mean I’ll have a talking pet?! That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted a pet.” He didn’t know they could talk; Aoda had never spoken to him before.

Sasuke slapped the side of Naruto’s head lightly. “Idiot, they aren’t pets and don’t like to be treated as such. They also won’t be around all the time. Like I said before, they help us in our job, so most of the time they’ll be gone. It’ll most likely stick around until you die. After that, it’ll wander off from time to time.” Sasuke placed a finger on his chin, tapping it in thought. “However, it may not like you at first.”

Gaara stepped in before Naruto could say anything; that pout and puffed out cheeks seemed like he would be putting up a bit of a fight and Gaara just wanted to leave. His newfound blond friend was nice and all, but he could be a bit of a handful. “Most guides don’t like their partners. To put it simply, they can feel a bit trapped at first. So be gentle and patient.”

Kiba looked between the three impatiently before he sighed and grabbed Hinata’s hands and walked out the door with a huff. “When you three boring fuckers finish, me and Hinata are going to be outside. Geez, you act like he’s going to become one of you tomorrow!”

Hinata squeaked as she was pulled out of the door, trying her best to scold Kiba for his rudeness even over her stutters.

Gaara gave a small bow as he left, and Naruto waved from the doorway with a smile. Closing the door, he turned around and his face hit Sasuke’s chest. Naruto backed up and glared up at Sasuke, rubbing his nose. “Move, you ass. It’s not polite to stand in the way.” He went to move around Sasuke until the man grabbed his wrist and tugged him towards his bedroom. Naruto gave a look of confusion when they stood in his bedroom; that was until Sasuke took off his shirt. “Hey wait! Don’t you think that we’re moving too fast?”

Sasuke rolled his eyes and placed his hands on his hips. “Relax stupid. I just want to lay down with you. That should be fine, right?” He went to the bed and sat down, getting under the covers and snuggling in. He felt the warmth against his cool skin and smelled Naruto’s scent all around him; it made him relax. “Plus, I’m not even sure I can get erect yet. Just because there’s blood flow doesn’t mean I have that back.” Sasuke patted the spot next to him. “Get in.”

Naruto got into his normal pajamas and slid in next to Sasuke. He tried to keep his distance, but couldn’t when Sasuke decided to pull him close, making him shiver at the coolness. Sighing, Naruto turned to lay his forehead against Sasuke’s chest and let himself be lulled to sleep. Being wrapped in Sasuke’s arms like this was comforting and made Naruto feel all giddy and warm inside. He could get used to this.

And he did get used to it.

Naruto became very used to Sasuke’s touch as they explored the more intimate parts of themselves. The way Sasuke touched him could be considered no less than body worship. He’d learned Naruto’s every curve from the top of Naruto’s head to the soft soles of his feet. He treated Naruto’s body like an oasis in a scorching desert, drinking every last drop of his essence whenever he came across it. Even thinking about their love-making sessions made Naruto stop whatever he was doing and reminisce, a blush always coloring his cheeks.

Naruto tried his best as first, not knowing much about the sexual process but found his way there soon enough. When he would watch Sasuke stifle a sound or grip at the sheets underneath him in restraint, it made Naruto a bit proud. He was the one making the otherwise collected Shinigami pant like a dog in heat. Those eyes would squint in pleasure and Naruto found he enjoyed that look on Sasuke’s face. Naruto was the one unraveling him and neither party had any complaints.

Not only did their intimacy grow physically but emotionally as well. Sasuke became gentler in his approach. When he’d find an opportunity to sneak in a kiss or two, try making new things for dinner, or miserably trying to care for Naruto’s garden which always ended up in failure and dead things, it made Naruto hum happily. He liked this “love” feeling and Naruto enjoyed it even more knowing that it was Sasuke who he chose to love.

But even with Naruto getting used to Sasuke’s presence, he just couldn’t get used to his absence. When Sasuke would need to leave on business, it left Naruto lonely. Not as lonely as before, but lonely, nonetheless.

Gaara, Kiba, and Hinata would come visit sometimes, and it helped, but not by much. Sasuke would even leave Aoda with Naruto sometimes. Naruto liked Aoda, but he wasn’t much of a talker and only served as another reminder of Sasuke’s absence. Naruto wanted a friend who would always be with him, at least until he passed on.

That’s when he met Kurama.

He was 34 by then.

Naruto was in his backyard tending to his garden when he saw it; nine little tails peeked out of the vine tomatoes, flickering around curiously. He’d planted them when he found out they were one of Sasuke’s favorites.

He crawled over to the tomatoes and gave a low whistle to catch the little creature’s attention. Naruto thought that since there were nine tails, it may have been a pack of little cubs or kits or whatever the creature was, but he was surprised when he was met with one small, slightly displeased face.

Naruto went to try grabbing it but pulled his hand back when the thing growled at him. He couldn’t really tell what it was; it had black markings on its’ little face, hand-like paws and nine fluffy, orangish, long tails swishing around. Naruto put his hand back in his lap and smiled wide. It wouldn’t do any good if he was frightening the little thing; best to try the friendly approach. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you; you can come out if you’d like.” He offered a hand again, this time it was palm up. “What’s your name?”

The thing crawled out a bit, allowing Naruto to get a better look. He could tell it was a boy and something in his brain clicked. Sasuke had called him something the first time they met. It was some type of yokai he’d been called when he was a kid. K…Kit…Kitsune! “You’re a fox!” Naruto exclaimed and looked down at the little fox with glee. If he was correct and this thing wasn’t just a freak of nature, this thing could possibly be his guide. Nine tails definitely weren’t normal on foxes, were they?

Naruto apologized when he saw the slight sneer appear on the fox’s face; he’d frightened it. “I’m sorry, little one. I’m Naruto. It’s really nice to meet you; it’s been getting pretty lonely around here with just me most of the time, but now you can keep me company. Would you like that?” He tilted his head up thought. Naruto hadn’t really bothered to ask Sasuke or Gaara if his guide would come with a name or not. It wouldn’t hurt to try.

“Let’s give you a name! How about…” Naruto hesitated for a second. “Isao!”

The fox snorted and climbed out of the tomatoes completely, sitting in front of Naruto, his tails flicking around behind him lazily. “It’s Kurama, you stupid human. Don’t tell me I’ve been paired with an idiot.”

Naruto gawked before pointing an accusing finger at Kurama. “So, you can talk! And I’m not stupid for trying to name you!  I asked you your name and you didn’t answer; so, I named you. You’re really rude, ya know that?” His arms crossed as he pouted and glared at the fox. He remembered Gaara saying they wouldn’t get along at first, but he didn’t remember anyone telling him the thing would be an asshole.

“Says the one trying to grab a wild animal in their garden. I would have bitten you if I were as dumb as you. But since I have more intellect than you do and can obviously see I’m not some normal animal, I didn’t.” Kurama turned his muzzle up with a huff. “You should be grateful.”

“Why you little—” Naruto went to grab at the fox but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He looked back and relaxed when he saw Sasuke standing there with Aoda. “What are you doing here?”

Sasuke crouched and let the snake slither off of him to the ground, and sat next to Naruto, cross-legged. “I sent Aoda to come keep you company, but he came back to me saying you already had company. Once he told me it wasn’t your normal company, I came back to see if you were okay. But from the looks of it, I can see only your intelligence has been insulted.” Sasuke smirked as he watched Aoda and the little fox size each other up. “What’s his name?”

Naruto grumbled and looked away from the two guides. He could piss Kurama off even more and say something like “Fluffy” but decided against it. Better to handle that headache later. “Kurama.”

The fox in question looked over curiously, his eyes moving from Naruto to the new…person sitting next to the blond. He wasn’t human; Kurama didn’t remember red eyes being normal for humans. “Who’re you?”

“Sasuke Uchiha. It’s nice to meet you Kurama; I was wondering when you’d show up.” Sasuke nodded towards Kurama with amusement in his eyes. Usually guides showed up a few years before the human died, but Naruto’s candle was still burning fairly strong, albeit a few flickers here and there.

“What are you?” Kurama looked between Aoda and Sasuke.

“A Shinigami.”

“Not too good of one if this idiot is still alive.” Kurama grinned mischievously as his tails rustled around behind in mirth. Pissing people off was something he’d always enjoyed, human or not.

Sasuke frowned and held out a hand, which Aoda dutifully slithered into. He climbed onto Sasuke’s neck and curled around it, silent. Sasuke moved a hand out and grabbed Kurama by the scruff of his neck, picking the wiggling creature up and bringing him into the house. “You’re sassy.”

Kurama growled and tried desperately to break free of Sasuke’s hold but to no avail. Everyone who knew foxes knew that the scruff of the neck was a weak spot. Apparently, this bastard knew.

Naruto could only watch in slight amusement. “Serves you right.” He grumbled as he followed the three into his house.

From that day on, he had someone to keep him company and eventually they learned how to get along. It took some coaxing from Naruto, Gaara, and Sasuke- Kiba said something about that not being his problem and Hinata silently agreed -, but eventually Kurama came around and when he did, it was chaotic. He wouldn’t let anyone touch Naruto, not even Sasuke. It was amusing to see the little fox growl whenever Sasuke would attempt to hold Naruto or vice versa. They worked through it. Even when Kurama got a little too feisty, Sasuke could always grab him by the scruff of the neck and sit him outside.

Shukaku and Aoda fought with him on many occasions when they continued trying to cuddle the welcoming blond, but eventually things went back to normal for the group. Well, as normal as normal for them could get. But all good things have to come to an end, even if the end itself wouldn’t be bad.

Naruto died when he was 57.

He’d come to peace with it every day and when the time came closer, he’d accepted death with open arms; not because he didn’t want others to die this time around, but because he’d lived. The little family he had created didn’t grow, but they became close-knit and it was more than Naruto could ever ask for.

His love for Sasuke grew as well. No longer was it a small attraction, but a deep devotion. Everything he had, he owed it to Sasuke, even though the man himself would deny that every time Naruto brought it up.

Naruto laid in his bed with Sasuke and Gaara by his side when he took his final breaths. Kiba and Hinata had come by earlier to say their goodbyes but had to leave- well more like Gaara kicked them out because of Kiba’s hysterical crying and Hinata trying to talk and cry at the same time. Something about stuttering, crying, and talking all at the same time wasn’t very nice to listen to even if it was supposed to be a touching moment.

Sasuke held Naruto’s hand in his as he raked fingers through Naruto’s hair. Sasuke had watched people die before, but something about watching Naruto die was…unsettling. Naruto would die, but he’d be back by Sasuke’s side in no time. It was strange to think about but as long as he had Naruto, he could put up with the feeling a little longer. “How are you feeling?”

Naruto smiled and raised a slightly wrinkly hand to cup Sasuke’s warm cheek. “Like shit.” He chuckled a little before closing his eyes and laying his hands across his stomach in a comfortable position. He sighed. “I think I’m ready.”

Sasuke nodded and laid a kiss on Naruto’s lips. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Sasuke placed a hand on Naruto’s chest and felt his heartbeat start to fade slowly. Slowly, but surely. Then it was gone and Sasuke couldn’t help the ping of pain he felt in his chest when Naruto stopped breathing. Just because he’d be there in a second didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt Sasuke a little. He lived through Naruto; his heartbeat, his breathing, all the things that Naruto had needed to do as a human where things Sasuke could enjoy. He didn’t feel them in his own body but feeling them in Naruto’s was more than anything he could ask for. So, having Naruto but without any of those traits would be weird. Sasuke would love him, nonetheless.

He carefully picked up Naruto’s body and walked out of the room with Gaara following.

When it came to Shinigami, it was best to leave all their organs in their bodies and bury them quickly. They gained a new body in death so there was no reason to keep the body out any longer than needed. Sasuke quickly and carefully lowered Naruto into the grave he’d dug and covered him, silently praying over the grave as Gaara did the same.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked over Gaara, surprised to see the faintest of smiles on his lips. He frowned and his brows furrowed. “What’s wrong?”

Gaara shook his head and let his hand fall to his lap. He looked up at the sky then to Sasuke again. “Enjoy yourself Sasuke. Hopefully I can join you two one day. And take care of Naruto.”

Sasuke blinked confused before he felt a heartbeat- inside his own chest. It started slowly then sped up quickly, beating erratically before it stopped completely. Sasuke tried to reach for Gaara, but his vision went black. The only thing he could hear from Gaara was “Goodbye, Sasuke.”

Gaara looked up at the sky again and stood, leaving the house and closing the door behind him with a sad smile. He’d had no other words to say so he left the house as it was in memory of his friends and went to continue his duties and find his own happy ending.

Sasuke hissed when he woke up, sitting up as blinding white light hit his eyes. Everything hurt and it shocked him; he could feel pain. His body ached and the light was hurting his eyes! Once they adjusted, Sasuke could see he was in a white…space. He couldn’t really call it a room because it seemed to go on forever, but it did occupy space. It was neither big or small; there was just an endless expanse of white and he began to run through it desperately. “Gaara!” He called out before standing still and looking around him. He had to get out of here; back to Gaara. Back to—

“Took you long enough, bastard.”

Sasuke spun around to find where the voice was coming from and his breath- since when did he breathe – paused. Naruto was standing there in robes, looking angelic. They were a soft gold in color and almost transparent. They flittered around him in heaps of fabric, cascading down his body and pooled all around him like a small puddle. Sasuke’s heart was beating fast; Naruto had always been beautiful, but this; it was literally mind-numbingly gorgeous.

Sasuke slowly walked to Naruto and hugged him close, squeezing him. He took in Naruto’s warmth and scent. It felt familiar and that eased him. He pulled back and gave Naruto a long once over. “What happened? Where are we? What—" He was silenced when Naruto gave him a small kiss.

“We’re in the afterlife, silly.” Naruto rolled his eyes as if it were the most obvious thing ever. He knew it wasn’t, but it was always funny to pick with his lover.

“Naruto, the afterlife isn’t like this.” Sasuke gestured around him to the expanse of white space, his brows furrowed with a frown on his lips. The afterlife he knew was cold, dark, and almost lonely. Shinigami weren’t social creatures, so it wasn’t very common to see them together. “This is—!”

Sasuke paused, staring wide eyed at Naruto’s grinning face. He remembered the words Gaara said to him, his heart beating in his chest; the tale about Shinigami who leave no burdens behind. He did it. He actually made it. He’d thought it was possible but didn’t want to get his hopes up; here he was, standing in the true afterlife. With Naruto. “This is Ame…”

Naruto’s grin only widened as the space changed into clouds and a blue sky, a large gate off in the near distance. He took one of Sasuke’s hands and pulled him along to start walking, seeing as the man was too busy trying to piece it together. “I figured it out when Gaara told me the story.” He deepened his voice comically, trying to keep a straight face the way Gaara would. “Shinigami are those who leave behind burdens too great to be considered insignificant when they die. They help lead burden-less souls into the real afterlife, Ame and Hell. But if a Shinigami can somehow manage to fulfill the burden they had when they were alive, they can fully transition over to the afterlife.” He looked Sasuke who seemed to be fighting himself internally. “What do you think yours was Sasuke?”

His voice came out in a whisper, afraid that he’d wake up and it would all come crashing down around him. “I didn’t experience real happiness in life when I was alive. As a child, sure, but a child’s happiness is different than an adult’s.” He held Naruto’s face in his hands and kissed him gently. He’d have all of eternity to do this and that made him kiss even harder. But he had to pull back now that he needed to breathe “I guess I finally got there.” His voice was airy but full of delight. Sasuke stared into Naruto’s eyes and a full grin sprouted as he picked Naruto up and spun him. He chanted “We made it!” as he spun Naruto who was giggling freely.

Naruto laughed freely as he was spun; he’d never seen Sasuke this happy before. He’d never seen Sasuke smile and here he was, childishly spinning them around, grinning like a Cheshire cat. It made his insides melt and bubble at the love he felt for the man holding him so tight. He was glad he got to go to the afterlife; with Sasuke.

It was finally over. The viscous cycle of watching person after person die, killing human after human and watching the happiness he could never experience began and fade right in front of him; it was finally over. Setting Naruto down, Sasuke grabbed his hand and began to walk towards the gate with him, hand in hand.

As they got closer, there sat Kurama and Aoda, waiting patiently. “Took you long enough.” Kurama huffed. He was larger now; about the size of a regular adult fox, although a little smaller.

“It’s nice to see you Master Sasuke.” Aoda hissed as he bowed his head. He was bigger too; about the size of a fully-grown Ball Python.

Sasuke gently grabbed Aoda as Naruto grabbed Kurama. “I was wondering where you’d gone off to.” He smirked when Aoda simply slithered up to lay on his head. His master was warm now so finding heat in him shouldn’t be an issue.

Naruto smiled as Kurama secretly cuddled into his neck. “Someone’s missed me.” Naruto thought. He turned towards Sasuke and held out a hand, waiting for his lover to grab it. “Ready?”

Sasuke grabbed Naruto’s hand with a smirk, pulling him forward. “You’re here so I think I have everything I could need, want and hope for.” He kissed Naruto again, smirking into it when he heard Kurama huff. He pulled back just enough to look into Naruto’s eyes, which were still that gorgeous blue. ‘Hopefully you don’t do something stupid enough to get us kicked out.” He dodged a smack from Naruto with a chuckle.

“Bastard.” Naruto laughed as they walked in the gates. He was going spend the rest of eternity with Sasuke; his Sasuke. Naruto wouldn’t have it any other way. He mentally thanked Fate as he smiled. Had Fate not decided for him, he wouldn’t have made it to Ame and he wouldn’t have met Sasuke that day. Sasuke, a Shinigami, the thing he had always hated and feared was walking side by side with him, so deeply in love and Naruto couldn’t help the sigh that escaped his lips. He’d had everything he could ever wanted, and it was all thanks to Sasuke.

The gates closed behind the pair, fading back into that expanse of white as the place awaited its’ next set of residents.