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A Crown of Peonies and Primrose

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It was something Sasuke had never really thought about in the years prior, beyond the obvious necessity of reviving his clan. But even when he was younger, he hadn’t connected that goal with marriage specifically. He hadn’t really understood what marriage entailed, or desired to be with someone in any romantic context. To him, it was just a means to an end. It wasn’t until the possibility of waking up each morning to eyes the colour of the sea presented itself that the idea of marriage became something he…desired.

But actually taking that final step was a lot more difficult than he expected.

Sasuke pondered how to ask for days on end. And if he had thought planning dates was difficult, this proved to be ten times worse. He was torn between doing something casual and preparing an extravagant event. Should it be a traditional proposal? With a family relic, or perhaps at one of the village temples? Probably not. Naruto didn’t have any family traditions, so such a thing would only hold value to Sasuke, and he wanted this to be for Naruto and Naruto only.

Should it be public? At one of their group sparring sessions? In front of all of their friends? Definitely not. The mere idea of that had Sasuke cringing and his breath quickening from anxiety. While Naruto might actually appreciate something like that Sasuke would never survive such an experience.

Perhaps something spur of the moment? Just in bed in the morning, or on a walk through town. But that felt wrong as well. Even Naruto, for all of his reckless nature, took care with things that were of great importance. And this…was incredibly important. He hoped, for both of them.

All Sasuke knew for sure, was that he wanted it to be special. Something Naruto would like.

He had a ring. And he had narrowed his plan down to a few select ideas. But the real clincher, the one thing that kept him from taking that final step, whatever route he chose to go with, was the possibility that Naruto might actually say no. He knew that Naruto loved him. He knew that Naruto liked being with him, and spending time at his side. But marriage…was something else entirely. It was a promise. For forever.

What if Naruto didn’t want forever?

Days passed, and then those days became weeks, those weeks months, and still Sasuke had yet to ask. Sakura had even brought it up on one occasion, questioning if he had perhaps changed his mind. He reassured her otherwise, and she seemed to understand, if a little amused at the idea that Sasuke was struggling so much with something so…pedestrian. Even with her words of encouragement, it wasn’t until a very particular moment that he found his resolve.

He and Naruto were on a mission, just the two of them. It wasn’t that odd for them to be sent out together alone. Although in recent days it had occurred less frequently with the increased threats against jinchuuriki. But in this particular case, there really wasn’t anyone else for the task at hand. And even the Mokushiroku and Akatsuki were unlikely to send shinobi so far north.

The two of them trudged through the icy terrain in the northern most part of the Land of Snow. They had the difficult task of finding a needle in a haystack, or in this case, a gemstone in the mountains. It wasn’t just any gemstone either, which was the reason they were assigned to the task in the first place.

After the peace summit in Suna, and the prospect of new threats, several of the shinobi nations had rushed to find alternative methods to defend against potential attacks. Snow, in particular, had made the mistake of trying to imitate the power of the bijuu, creating their own version of the beasts by manipulating the chakra of their strongest shinobi and sealing it into diamonds. The experiments proved largely unstable, and the program was shut down when Lighting discovered it and grew wary of the possible dangerous outcomes. Unfortunately the failed attempts had already been sold to the highest bidders and scattered across the land.

Sasuke and Naruto had the ill-fated job of tracking each artefact down and disposing of them all before they found themselves in the wrong hands. They had just one left to go, but it was also the most potentially dangerous. The experiment that had come the closest to succeeding, and the one most at risk of a sudden violent explosion.

The salesman who had purchased this particular gemstone had turned himself in. He’d somehow managed to lose the diamond on his journey through a mountain pass. He had searched for days with no luck, and it wasn’t until the nearby villages reported unusual bursts of chakra that he realized the threat it posed, not only to his hometown, but also the village his wife and children resided in. It seemed he feared for those losses more than the money he could gain from the sale.

“How does someone just lose a gemstone infused with a chakra beast,” Naruto groaned. He rolled over in his bedroll atop the snow irritably. “Was the guy just keeping it in his pocket?”

Sasuke stared up at the cloudy sky, his own bedroll pulled up to his nose. “Mmm.”

“Like it didn’t have the power to eradicate an entire village if the seal broke?” Naruto continued. “And besides that, who the heck would just be walking through this icy pit of hell for fun?”

“People do actually live in these parts,” Sasuke drawled.

“Can’t imagine why.”

Sasuke closed his eyes tiredly as he listened to Naruto shuffle around. “You and Kurama still can’t sense anything concrete?” he asked, also looking forward to getting the mission over with. 

“Nothing.” Naruto sighed for the millionth time and turned towards him. “How long do you think it’ll take to find it?”


“On what?”

“Well…either we spend days searching until we happen to come across it,” Sasuke started, opening his eyes as he turned his head to the side.


“Or something happens to trigger the seal to release. I’m sure it’ll be really easy to find then,” he finished, and Naruto groaned loudly.

“This sucks!” Naruto shouted, the sound echoing in the mountain pass around them. Sasuke silently agreed.

There was a time Sasuke would have said he preferred winter climate missions to desert ones, but now, he was beginning to think the opposite. There was nothing worse than a persistent feeling of cold deep inside one’s bones. He could hardly feel his toes anymore, and his thighs and face hurt from the constant icy wind. Even with a fire nearby, the temperature ate at both of them, and Sasuke willed his mind to think of warmer places as he struggled to fall asleep.

“I hate the cold,” Naruto blurted.

“Well if you hadn’t rolled into the fire last night and ruined your jacket, maybe you’d be a bit warmer right now,” Sasuke grumbled irritably. Naruto huffed and turned around to face away from him, scrunching his knees up to his chest and wiggling like a worm inside his sleep sack. He looked ridiculous huddled up like that, and Sasuke stared at his back with narrowed eyes. He was shivering. Sasuke could see the way he trembled, the puffs of air that came with his shaky breaths. Unlike Sasuke, Naruto had never liked the cold. Even the slight chill on summer nights was enough to bother him, and Sasuke figured the temperatures in these regions must have been virtually unbearable for him. He sighed heavily and shifted closer, tugging his bedroll apart and pulling Naruto inside.

“I’m fine,” Naruto insisted, but Sasuke still zipped him in beside him, ignoring his pathetic attempt to get free.

“Bullshit, come here.” His hands shuffled beneath the thick sleeping bag as he formed hand signs against Naruto’s body, and then the small bit of air surrounding them heated to a comfortable temperature. Naruto shimmied back against him, and let out a noise of contentment as Sasuke held him close. “One day I’ll teach you how to do this.”

Naruto turned slightly in his arms with a look of surprise. He stammered for a moment before managing to say, “I…I don’t think I could control it like you.”

“You’re better at those things than you think you are,” Sasuke reassured him. “If you couldn’t focus you never would have achieved sage mode.”

Naruto hummed softly and then snuggled into Sasuke’s elbow. Sasuke kissed the back of his head gently and after a few minutes he felt himself beginning to drift off. He was floating somewhere in the space between dreams and reality when the ground began to rumble beneath them. His eyes shot open, and Naruto rolled onto his front, staring into the darkness around them in surprise.

“Is that…”

“Avalanche!” Sasuke shouted. “Naruto get up! Run!” He grabbed the back of Naruto’s shirt as he struggled with the zipper, both their feet getting caught in the bedroll as they shimmied out of its cover. Naruto grabbed their packs off the ground and Sasuke just barely managed to pick up his sword and holster when he saw a cloud of falling debris approaching horrifyingly fast.

Sasuke jolted, reaching out to drag Naruto along behind him, and their feet hurried through the thick snow. They used chakra to jump further, but weren’t particularly well practised for such terrain, and the avalanche gained speed on them quickly.  

Sasuke cursed as a tree trunk flew over his head, snow flying above them as it hit various branches and stones along the way. They ducked to the side, barely escaping getting buried, and then Naruto stumbled over a tree root and suddenly they were rolling down the mountainside, hitting every bump along the way. Sasuke watched as one of their packs flew from Naruto’s hand, lost forever in the mounds along the cliff. Naruto clutched the other tightly against his chest, eyes scrunched shut as he tumbled, and Sasuke groaned as his own shoulders and legs landed harshly with each twist and turn of his body. They rolled for a long time, until the rush of snow tapered off behind them and both of them ended up face first in the slush.

Sasuke had barely managed to lift himself up and spit the flakes from his mouth when the ground beneath them cracked and started to separate. He sensed the burst of chakra and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. It appeared they had found their diamond in the rough.

He groaned and stood up, then faltered when he realized Naruto wasn’t at his side. “Naruto!” Sasuke shouted when he spotted him a fair distance away brushing snow from his hair. Naruto looked up, his eyes widening as he saw the ground sinking in, snow falling like a waterfall into a gaping hole that only grew in size between them. He staggered to his feet and backed away, and Sasuke gripped his sword in frozen fingers. The snow beneath his feet started to crumble away, and he had little more than a second to bite into his finger and form the seals for his summoning jutsu. A massive hawk burst from the air in front of him and Sasuke barely managed to crawl atop its back before the ground completely caved in beneath him.

It was then he saw the beast that emerged from the large hole, a bundle of swirling chakra energy that looked to hold no particular shape or recognizable animal form. It had eyes, and a toothy grin, but beyond that, it was little more than a monster, perhaps the reflection of the many shinobi that had helped to create it. He watched as it began to climb free from the hole, claws sinking into the snowy landscape and breaking it further apart.

He could control a bijuu, to a certain extent, but bijuu had complex minds, not all that different from a human. This…thing in front of him, was completely unpredictable. There was no telling what exactly it was capable of, or how it might react in the face of Sasuke’s sharingan. He hadn’t had the chance to test it with any of the others as he and Naruto had made sure to find them before they were able to fully break free. The last had been close, but Naruto had managed to redo the seal in time, giving them enough time to destroy it without so much as a fight. Their only option now was to subdue the chakra beast long enough for Naruto to come up with a new fuuinjutsu. One that could lock away whatever chakra they were facing and force it back into nature. Which meant Sasuke was on his own for an undetermined amount of time. He’d have to take a risk.

“Sasuke! Wait!” Naruto shouted as Sasuke urged the hawk to follow the beast, but he ignored him, already set on his goal. They had to act quickly. The wind was frigid on his face, and he held his arm up to shield himself from the biting cold. He flew just far enough above the creature until he was lined up with its head. It would take the perfect timing. He counted down, willing himself to jump at just the right moment. His knees bent, and then he flew away, landing hard atop the beast’s brow. It jerked suddenly to a stop, and Sasuke nearly flew from atop it. He slammed a kunai into its head, dragging himself down the front of its face, holding fast as it tried to shake him off. His mangekyo activated, and he stared into its eyes before crawling into its mind.

He was met with absolute chaos. The creature’s headspace was just as uncontrollable as the chakra that swirled around its hulking form. There were little more than screams of pain, not a single coherent thought, just an energy that was desperate for release and fighting even against itself to do so. Icy flames wrapped around his body and Sasuke felt his control cracking after only a few seconds.  He panted against the strain on his mind, but held it still for a solid minute, until he was forced out and thrown from its body. He slammed into the ground with a loud groan, thankful for the slight cushion as his body tumbled across the snow.

Sasuke rolled onto his knees a mere second later and drew his sword as the beast charged at him. The ground thudded and Sasuke braced himself. There was no room for mistake. Too soon, and the creature would catch him off balance, too late, and it would already have him clenched between razor sharp teeth. As it approached he clenched the hilt between his fingers and swung, slicing through a chakra arm with his chidori. It flew off and dissipated into the air, growing back as quickly as it was lost, this time crackling with lightning as well, and Sasuke growled and sprinted away. He danced around its lunges, dodging each swipe and hacking away at the limbs he couldn’t quite avoid. Flames chased him across the snow, and the wind swirled and tossed him to the side. It was as if every single chakra element was combined into one form, and Sasuke realized that was exactly what the shinobi of Snow had done.

They’d created a true monster. One constantly at war with itself. It was the opposite of how the elements coexisted in nature. Here they each sought for control, to eradicate the others. There was no balance. Just raw, untamed power.

When he had more than a second to spare he glowered into its eyes, locking it down once more. They were face to face. Sasuke’s gleaming red irises staring down the beast intently. He fought harder this time.

Its mind was no less chaotic. It was spinning with energy. Water, wind, rocks, electricity, and fire all whipping about and nipping at Sasuke’s clothing. He felt himself sinking, and he spread his legs, willing his body to stay afloat just a little bit longer.

Fuck. It was draining.

This time when he was thrown from its mind Sasuke lay stunned atop the snow for much longer. He saw the creature charge at him, and he tried one more time to trap it, unable to lift his own body from the ground. It held for just a few seconds.

Sasuke was sure he was about to die. The claws inched towards him, and he gritted his teeth for impact, only to take a shuddering breath when a huge toad crashed into the monster’s side in the nick of time. It missed Sasuke with its claws by a hair. Gamabunta’s cloak billowed in the wind, and Sasuke sighed in relief when Naruto jumped off of him, punching the beast in the neck. It lurched to the side, and then Naruto was on the ground between them, forming several seals with his hands. He was already in sage mode, and his toad-like eyes barely spared Sasuke a glance as three tails sprouted from his body all at once.

“Naruto, you’ll have to seal all the elements separately!” Sasuke shouted.

Naruto stared straight ahead, and then he pressed the palms of his hands together and formed several more seals before crashing his fingers into the ground. “I know,” he growled, and sure enough, five sealing papers floated up around Naruto’s form, already marked up with various symbols and scratches that Sasuke couldn’t even attempt to comprehend.

He let out a half laugh, pleasantly surprised that Naruto had seemingly already figured out exactly what needed to be done. He must have come up with the runes on Gamabunta’s back. Sasuke panted on the ground for a moment and then urged his body to its feet, shaking out his head as he prepared to help Naruto set them all in place. When Gamabunta teleported away, he took action, running back at the creature and attempting to distract it while Naruto placed the first seal. He flew between the beast’s legs, throwing out attacks the entire way. The creature took the bait, and Sasuke glanced to his left where Naruto shot around behind it, towards the chakra twisting around in little tornados at one of its feet.

It howled as the seal was slammed against its limb. Chakra seeped from its body, curling into a ball of energy as the paper wrapped itself around it and disappeared into the air. Wind. It was Naruto’s easiest element to control, and thus, the easiest for him to seal. The others would be much more difficult for him to place.

The beast didn’t appear to lose its power, if anything the assault only made the remaining chakra more violent and unpredictable. Streams of it shot out at random, and Naruto was forced to join the fight for a few moments at Sasuke’s side. He created some clones to help in the battle, but too many right now would be risky. He needed to reserve as much chakra as possible. Sealing such violent energy required an unimaginable amount of power. It was like fighting against a natural disaster. An impossible feat for most. Sasuke was surprised to already see five tails swirling behind Naruto’s form now. He rarely went past four, only using so much of the fox’s power when absolutely necessary. It was proof of just how much strength these particular fuuinjutsu required.

Naruto glance briefly at Sasuke, and he took the hint, trying once again to control the beast’s mind. He just needed a few seconds. Just long enough for Naruto to place the second seal. Sasuke cried out as his mind strained against the hold. He could feel his arms burning as fire licked across his skin. When the beast shrivelled away slightly and shrieked in his mind Sasuke released it, falling to his knees to catch his breath. He was surprised to find the burns were real, and he stared at his arms in wonder before searching for Naruto desperately. He was a fair distance away, but the second sealing paper hovered in front of his body, flames flickering violently inside of it, and Naruto bared his teeth as he scrunched it between his fingers. It fought against his hold the entire way, eventually dissipating into a cloud of smoke.

Naruto’s clones were busy distracting the beast, but they were disappearing quickly. So Sasuke lunged again, grunting as he trudged through the snow. He sliced at one of the beast’s legs, and then stabbed up into its gut, while Naruto took advantage of his quick attack and drew out yet another chakra type, this time launching the electricity up into the sky.

There were just two left now. Surely they could make it.

Yet when he looked at Naruto this time, he was down on one knee, visibly wearing thin. Sealing was one of his greatest strengths, but working against elements he was less proficient in took a huge toll on his body. And the sheer size and strength of the beast he was sealing away was enough to leave a lasting mark on even Naruto’s chakra stores. He could only borrow so much from the fox. Any more…would be far too dangerous.

Sasuke immediately brought forth Susanoo. It took much of his remaining chakra to do so, and he knelt atop the snowy ground as the hulking form towered over them, reaching out to hold the beast in place. Pain thrummed through Sasuke’s veins as the armoured structure fought for him. But there was no way he could attempt to reach into the beast’s mind again.

The fourth sealing paper launched away from Naruto. Sasuke heard him scream as it wrapped around the creature’s belly and vibrated until the chakra exploded into a gush of water, completely soaking the landscape around them. It splashed up in waves over their bodies, and Sasuke jumped out of it as it began to freeze and harden atop the ground. He slid across the ice, his head pounding as his eyes throbbed from overuse. His sharingan faded and Sasuke blinked down at his fingertips. They were starting to turn white, and he used what remaining energy he had to warm them, unable to move in the slightest.

He shook water from his hair, shivering against his cold and uncomfortably wet clothes. His eyes found Naruto, who looked equally as drenched. His pointed teeth were chattering, and Sasuke wished he was closer so he could warm him too. But the monster still stood between them, its hulking form far less chaotic than before.

It was weakened now.

It fumbled atop the snow, unable to control the direction it was headed. But earth was Naruto’s worst element, and he looked tired. He was slouching slightly, sweat dripping from his brow despite the cold, and then Sasuke watched in horror as a sixth tail sprouted from his form. Sasuke stumbled to his feet, his limbs cramping up before he could take a step closer. His eyes sought out Naruto’s desperately, but no matter how long he looked, Naruto’s gaze remained lowered towards the ground. Surely the strain on his body would be too great!

When he finally glanced up, his eyes were elongated like a demon, and his jagged teeth bared as he pulled the fifth and final paper in front of himself before slamming it forcefully into the creature’s head. The chakra rumbled, quaking the earth around them as it thundered atop the ground. Sasuke watched as it strained against Naruto’s hold, pushing him back along the ice. Naruto slammed a foot down, cracking the ice beneath him so that he could hold himself in place, and then he wrenched the beast lower, pushing the seal towards the surface of the earth. The chakra started sinking, but it pulled Naruto along with it, and his eyes widened as he fought against the pull. It was like quicksand, except he was surrounded by ice and mud, and Naruto cried out as his legs disappeared into the frozen soil.

He groaned painfully as the chakra dragged him down, and Sasuke forced himself to move to his side, wrenching his body upwards so that Naruto could focus his attention again on the seal. Sasuke’s muscles strained, and Naruto was shaking in his hold. He tensed, tails whipping around his form, and he yelled loudly as the seal finally flattened against the earth fully, trapping the chakra beneath them in the ground. The two of them fell away at the sudden release of power, Sasuke flat on his back while Naruto toppled forwards into the slush.

They barely moved, hearts beating rapidly as the quiet of the snowy landscape surrounded them once again. Sasuke watched the tails disappear from Naruto’s form one by one and then his body sagged completely as he slipped out of sage mode. Sasuke struggled to sit up, eyeing Naruto’s prone form like a hawk until he shuddered and pulled himself to his knees weakly. He stared at Naruto’s back with worry, but was glad to see him moving at the very least.

“Thanks dobe,” Sasuke wheezed.

There was a moment of silence, during which Naruto’s shoulders tensed, and then he was up in a flash and punching Sasuke in the face.

“You idiot!” he shouted as Sasuke fell back against the ground again hard. Sasuke cradled his jaw in his hand in surprise, staring up at Naruto with wide eyes. “You could have died!”

Sasuke sputtered for a second and then pulled himself to his feet. “To complete the mission! If I hadn’t attacked when I did who knows what might have happened!” He stomped over to Naruto, exhaustion forgotten, and stared down into his angered expression. “Imagine the destruction! It could have desecrated an entire village. It could have found its way to Konoha, or into the hands of Konoha’s enemies. Don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same thing in my position.”

Naruto’s nostrils flared as he breathed in and out heavily, and then he pushed Sasuke backwards, pressing his fingers into his chest hard. “You don’t get it do you!” he shouted. “You will always be my first priority Sasuke, always! Not Konoha, not some mission, not the rest of the world.” He took a shaky breath and punched Sasuke weakly then, eyes starting to water. “You, always you.” And then his gaze filled with rage again and he was pulling at Sasuke’s collar and shaking him roughly. “You could have waited! Just five minutes for me to prepare, so we could start the fight together!”

“It would have gotten away!” Sasuke cried, holding his arms out to the sides.

“It was a hundred metres tall! We could have found it!”

Sasuke staggered at that. His anger fading as he stared into Naruto’s eyes. Now that he put it like that…Sasuke felt a bit foolish.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do without you huh!?” Naruto hissed, and he tugged Sasuke closer, knuckles turning white as his fingers clenched in his jacket. “You think I’ll just be okay? Fuck you Sasuke! Fuck you!”

His fingers loosened then, and he pressed his palms against Sasuke’s chest, shaking his head as tears started to fall. “I love Konoha, but a K-Konoha without y-you…” Sasuke felt the air leave his lungs. He stood limply as Naruto wrapped both arms around him, sobbing against him loudly. “Please don’t leave me again.”

Sasuke cringed.

He’d forgotten.

For just a small moment, he had forgotten that he had more to live for now than just a mission, or a goal. He’d been so caught up in the adrenaline of the fight. So intent to take the beast down that he’d not even thought of the possible consequences. He knew better.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, reaching out to clutch Naruto to his body. “Naruto…I’m so sorry.”

Naruto was the reason he was there in the first place. The reason he had a place to call home, a life worth living. He’d promised that he wouldn’t leave him again. They were two parts of a whole. It was together, or not at all.

They started their journey home in awkward silence. Naruto trudged along in the snow in front of him, and Sasuke tried to discreetly warm him, though he knew it would be obvious what he was doing. Naruto hadn’t looked at him once since pulling away from his grasp. And Sasuke was afraid to say another word. He was fairly certain he had already ruined everything, that he’d lost Naruto’s trust.

They took a short rest at a frozen over pond, and Sasuke melted the ice and heated the water so it was comfortable enough to bathe in. He was so tired. But he knew it was dangerous to get too relaxed. They had a long way to go, and he couldn’t heat such a large area for too long on his still limited chakra reserves.

Naruto sank down beneath the water to his chin, and Sasuke watched him from a distance, neither saying a single word. Even Naruto’s chakra was nearly depleted. The little scratches all over his arms and legs hadn’t healed even slightly. The fox was likely already sleeping, and Naruto seemed on the verge of passing out, but he didn’t rest long. He pulled himself above the water after only a quick dip, tugging on his still wet clothes so he could trek back out into the snow. Sasuke fumbled after him, frowning as he kept up with his hurried pace.

“Naruto, take it easy,” he spoke, eyeing the way Naruto’s breaths came much harsher than before. But Naruto pushed on, not so much as turning his head at the comment. “Naruto!” Sasuke lunged forward, pulling Naruto back by his arm, but he wrenched it out of Sasuke’s grasp angrily and continued on. “Can you just slow down for a minute?”

“We need to get back,” Naruto panted. He sounded winded, and Sasuke pulled him into his chest, holding him tight in his grasp.

“Just wait, just…,” Sasuke gasped against him. He squeezed him in his arms, and breathed heavily into his hair.  “I need you to know, that I love you more than anything.” Naruto blinked at the ground for a minute before nodding and continuing to walk. But Sasuke didn’t let him get far, reaching out to pull him back in again. “Naruto, please.” He felt the shaking in Naruto’s shoulders before he saw a few tears fall down to the snow below. They left tiny little holes in the white mounds, and soon enough there were so many that the snow began to flatten away into ice.

“I’m being s-selfish,” Naruto cried, and he lifted his hands, holding them in front of his face, even as Sasuke rubbed at his back. “A-asking you t-to put me above a mission.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

Sasuke breathed in the cold air, reaching around Naruto to tug his hands away from his face. “If you’re selfish, then so am I, because I would ask the exact same thing of you.”

“Then why didn’t you wait? When I called out to you, why did you…just fly off?”

Sasuke clenched his jaw and turned Naruto to face him, cradling his cheek in his palm. “When I’m fighting alongside you…I don’t even think about the risks,” he started. “It’s no excuse, but I…I knew you would get there in time.” Naruto sniffled a few times and looked at him then, eyes moist and reddened.  “I would never leave you. Never. But I trust you Naruto. To always have my back. No matter what.” Naruto took a shaky breath and Sasuke tilted his chin up a bit more. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course,” Naruto whispered. “I just…” he glanced to the side and back again, blinking his eyes rapidly to clear them. “You scared me, and I froze…and I thought I wasn’t gonna to make it in time.” He sucked his lower lip into his mouth and bit down on it hard, clearly trying to stave off his sniffles. “Sasuke…I…I want you by my side always. Do you understand?”

Sasuke ran his thumb across his lip, easing it free, and then he watched the wet trails drip down Naruto’s cheeks before wiping them away. He opened his mouth slightly, overwhelmed briefly with emotion. “I do.” He encased Naruto’s face between his hands, so gently that his skin just barely grazed at the hairs on his skin. “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful next time.”

Naruto sighed and nodded, then pressed his face against his collar firmly. They hugged for a while, just standing and taking comfort in the closeness. Eventually Naruto muttered into his jacket, “We’re both idiots.”

Sasuke grimaced, and nudged Naruto with his chin. “Yeah.”

Naruto pulled away then and stood on his toes to kiss him chastely. Even his lips were cool to the touch, and Sasuke rubbed at his back and eyed him in concern. Now that really he looked, Naruto’s lips were turning blue, and his entire body was trembling slightly. He was just about to say so when Naruto beat him to it.

“Can…can you keep me warm?”

Sasuke exhaled in surprise, and then pulled him in again, already forming the seals. “Of course.”

They would be okay. They loved each other. They loved each other and they would get through everything, together, no matter what.

He wasn’t afraid anymore, of asking for Naruto’s hand in marriage. Compared to the things they had faced together, it seemed like such a foolish thing to hesitate over. They were already committed. Already dedicated to each other. Even if it meant facing death at each other’s sides. For this life, and the next.

Sasuke knew without a doubt, that Naruto would say yes. He just had to ask.

Sasuke woke Naruto early on their third day after returning to Konoha.

He had spent much of the night sitting in the kitchen, anxiously wringing his fingers together as he waited for the hours to pass. He knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but he was nervous regardless. His eyes drifted towards the little clock propped on the wall repeatedly, and he counted down the minutes as his leg bounced up and down. Eventually he stood, deciding he couldn’t wait any longer regardless of the time. He found Naruto sprawled over their bed, drooling into his pillow, the blankets twisted haphazardly around his body.

Sasuke stared at him, feeling his heart swell at the sight. He loved him. So very much.

It was the small things that he’d begun to appreciate the most. The simple things. Like dipping their feet in the pond, watching Naruto laugh as the koi fish nibbled at his toes. He enjoyed reading while Naruto practiced new jutsu from the Uchiha archives, helping him occasionally with the ones that were particularly complex. He liked visiting the temple with him on the southern edge of the compound, ringing the bell, making wishes, and leaving offerings for the gods. They cooked together, cleaned together, and on those odd days that Sasuke needed spend a few hours away, writing mission reports and doing work for the Hokage, he missed him dearly. 

Sasuke sat down on the bed, leaned over him, and touched his face, and Naruto woke immediately. He scrunched up his nose and peered up at him through sleep clouded eyes.

“Wha’s wrong? Mission? I thought we had a few weeks off,” he slurred, and Sasuke smiled at him fondly.

“No, nothing’s wrong.”

Naruto blinked at him, and then his mouth inched upwards into a playful grin. “Wanna, you know?”

Sasuke chuckled lowly but replied, “I was hoping we could watch the sunrise together.” His gaze shifted, running down Naruto’s form. He had a t-shirt on, but it was bunched up his chest, and it seemed he had forgone putting on underclothes after they’d made love the night prior. Sasuke swallowed as he reached down, sliding a hand between his legs and finding him still slick. “But I suppose there’s time yet.”

He pulled his arousal free from his shorts, not bothering to take them off as he pushed one of Naruto’s legs up against his chest and crawled above him. He slid inside of him easily, and Naruto sighed happily, throwing his head back against the pillows.

Naruto was sleepy and pliant beneath him, and Sasuke revelled in the soft sounds of contentment that came with every thrust. He didn’t intend to make it last long, and he was glad to see Naruto’s cock leaking across his belly. Still, he couldn’t help but get a little caught up in the act. He bent down and kissed him, licked at his lips and breathed against him heavily.

Sasuke rocked into him quickly, and Naruto whined, wrapping his legs around Sasuke’s hips before reaching between them to stroke himself. It was Sasuke who came first, grunting as his hips stuttered along with his release. He pulled out as soon as he regained control and fingered Naruto deeply until he followed.

It had been quick, but satisfying none the less.

Sasuke kissed Naruto’s nose and pulled his fingers free, wiping them against the sheets carelessly. He’d worry about that mess later. “Let’s hurry and wash up, we don’t want to miss it.”

There were three things that Sasuke knew without a doubt that Naruto loved. Ramen, Konoha, and him.

It was with that thought in his mind that he led Naruto up the Hokage Mountain to await the rising sun. The pathway was clear, no other civilians or shinobi making the climb on that particular morning, and Sasuke was grateful. He was jittery, and his eyes flittered over to Naruto every few seconds, taking in the flush from their lovemaking still high upon his cheeks. Sasuke already missed feeling his body wrapped around his own.

Every now and then Naruto tried to peek over his shoulder and into the bag hanging from his wrist, but Sasuke evaded his reaching hands, and held it away from him teasingly. The contents were part of the surprise after all.

The two of them reached the top, and Sasuke jumped over the guard rails in place for one of the lookouts, helping Naruto settle with him atop the stone shaped into the Sandaime’s hair. It was the highest point in the village, and they could see all of Konoha from so far up, as well as much of the surrounding land.

It was still a bit dark. The sun hadn’t made an appearance just yet, but there was an early morning glow on the horizon that spoke of its nearness. Naruto was like a beacon of light amongst the shadows at his side. He was grinning, his eyes forming little crescents as he sat back on his hands and kicked out his dangling legs in front of him. Sasuke smiled secretly and then reached into his bag, pulling out a small foam container.

Naruto’s eyes widened when he spotted it, and he lurched forward, mouth opening in a wide grin. “Ramen for breakfast? What’s got into you?”

“Who knows,” Sasuke laughed. “It’s not Ichiraku, but…”

“Well I’m certainly not going to complain.”

Sasuke pulled out the thermos he’d poured hot water in and filled a cup for Naruto, then one for himself, before passing him a set of chopsticks. The two of them sipped at their noodles for a while, and Sasuke paused as the sun finally poked up above the horizon, spreading an array of pinks and oranges across the sky. He watched as the colours shifted over Konoha, and then at the way the rays cascaded across Naruto’s face while he leisurely sipped at his bowl. He looked so soft, like he was a part of the landscape himself, like he belonged there with the wind lightly blowing through his hair, and the sunlight reflecting in his eyes.

“My mother would have liked you,” Sasuke said suddenly.

Naruto glanced towards him in surprise, smiling a bit shyly as he ducked his head and slurped at a few noodles. “Y-you think so?” Sasuke nodded, holding his chopsticks above his cup as he studied him. She had appreciated the softer things in life, more often than the rest of his clan. “And your father?”

Sasuke paused, the smile fading from his face slightly as he turned to look out at the sky. “My father…didn’t really like anyone. Not outwardly, but I think…he would have come to see what I see.”

“Oh? And what do you see?”

Sasuke glanced towards him again, expression serious as his gaze flickered over Naruto’s face. “A strong shinobi, with a heart of gold. Determined, hardworking, bright, unerringly loyal.”


“Like a ray of light.”

Naruto scoffed, turning away from him as he muttered, “I doubt he would’ve seen all that.” His ears had reddened, and he twisted his fingers around the now empty cup in his hands.

“I guess it doesn’t matter now anyway, what they would have thought.  Not really. I’ll always care for them, and miss them, but I have another family now,” Sasuke admitted. He set down his own cup, leaning to the side to kiss Naruto softly. Sasuke was hesitant to stop, but eventually their lips parted, and he pressed their brows together gently. Naruto bit his lip, glancing down, and Sasuke nudged him with his nose. “What is it?”

“I…,” he started, eyes blinking a few times. “I never had a family. Not one I can remember,” he commented. He pulled away, staring at Sasuke intently. “But…I think I understand. This feeling…it’s something to protect.”

Sasuke eyed him and swallowed nervously. All of his earlier anxieties had suddenly reappeared. He fidgeted, and exhaled heavily, trying to muster up his courage. “Want another bowl?”

“You bet!”

Sasuke was much more careful as he reached into his bag this time around, digging for one cup in particular. The lid was already pried open just a touch. He fumbled it from the bag in shaking hands, and then eased back the cover partway to pour in hot water. As he passed it to Naruto, he struggled to hide the slight tremors in his arms, but thankfully they went unnoticed.

Naruto thanked him and dug in eagerly, sipping away at the noodles as he looked out at the sky every so often. Sasuke didn’t look away from him for a single second. As Naruto swirled his chopsticks around in the ramen he startled suddenly, peering down into the foam cup, and Sasuke froze.

“Huh? There’s something in here.” He poked around a bit, frowning as he plucked the object in question from the noodles and pulled it free, holding it up to the light. “Sasuke someone lost a ring in my ramen!” Sasuke was tempted to groan, but he felt such a fondness in his heart in that moment that he could do little more than stare.

It was indeed a ring. Sasuke didn’t have to look to know. He was the one who put it there after all. It was fairly plain, with little fans and spirals etched around the outside. A few small black diamonds were inlaid in between them, seven in total, to symbolize the team that helped them form a bond. At the base of the ring was a single unique symbol engraved in the metal. An Uchiha fan, split in half, completed with the Uzumaki spiral. It had been custom ordered, and Sasuke had even gone so far as to sketch it out on paper before showing it to the recommended jeweller in town. Sasuke had long since memorized the way it looked, having spent hours staring at the thing while he struggled over how to finally gift it.

Naruto stared at it curiously where it was trapped between his chopsticks, a noodle wrapping around the band and falling out the other end. He twisted it in the low lighting, mouth slowly opening as he recognized the markings on it. Sasuke inhaled deeply and stood, balancing out on a bit of rock just to Naruto’s left. He stared down at him for a minute as Naruto looked between him and the ring in confusion before getting down on one knee.

“Marry me?”

Naruto stared at him blankly, and then his eyes widened slowly, and he gaped at the ring, dropping it back into the ramen in surprise.

“Is it…too soon?” Sasuke wondered, and he clenched his fingers in his pants as he watched Naruto flounder around.

“It’s not that,” Naruto blurted. He stuttered a bit, not saying anything intelligible, until finally gasping out, “Why me? Why would you choose me? You could have anyone Sasuke. Anyone.”

“I want you.”

They gazed at each other unblinkingly, and then Sasuke stood again, stepping closer to Naruto’s side so he could crouch down beside him and pick up one of his hands. “I want a home with you, a family, if that’s what you’d like as well.” He kissed his fingers and held them tightly between his own. “You are my equal.  There will never be another. And your smile is the greatest happiness I’ve ever known.” Naruto’s eyes watered and Sasuke leaned forward to touch his cheek. “I love you, Naruto. I know I don’t say it much. But I love you, so much. I can’t imagine my life without you.”

Naruto breathed in quickly, and then he fumbled the cup of ramen in his other hand before practically tackling Sasuke, who just managed to steady both of them and keep the cup from falling towards the village streets below. He stared at it with gritted teeth, catching his breath before turning to look into Naruto’s eyes. “Is that a yes?”

“Of course, teme.”

Sasuke grinned, and let out a shaky laugh, before he tore the lid off of the ramen completely and pried the ring from the noodles. He poured some water over it, and then blew on the metal to cool it before putting it on Naruto’s finger with shaking hands.

“I can’t believe you put it in the ramen,” Naruto snickered, staring at his finger as he touched the ring in wonder.

“You have no idea how much it hurt my soul to do so.” Sasuke pulled him forwards by the back of his neck and kissed him hard. “But for you, anything,” he promised. In the end, they didn’t watch the sunrise at all. But Sasuke didn’t really need to. Not when he already held the sun within his arms each and every day.

They had a small wedding. Private. With just close friends, and those they called family in attendance.  There was no need for more than that. Naruto hadn’t stopped smiling for a single second, and Sasuke hadn’t been able to tear his gaze away from him. After some research, they’d planned a traditional Uzumaki ceremony, painting runes and seals on their skin that told stories and promises they meant to keep. Sasuke was enraptured by it all, glad to share in a tradition that was new to both of them.

They wrapped a ribbon around their wrists, binding their arms together as they told their vows, and then Sasuke kissed Naruto like he’d been waiting to do so since the beginning of time.

Iruka might have been crying, his face pressed into Kakashi’s shoulder, their sensei having abandoned his risqué literature for a single day. The rest of their friends were either drunk, dancing, or snacking, and Sasuke smirked when Lee began singing loudly to Sakura, who looked about ready to kick him six feet underground, even as he twisted her around in a gentle waltz.

Sasuke had never been a fan of parties, and Naruto knew that, so when he distanced himself to allow others to enjoy the festivities Naruto only caught his gaze every now and then and smiled at him brightly. He watched Naruto mingle, listened to him laughing in the distance. Watched him dance and eat and run around excitedly.

He couldn’t help but get caught up in the joy that radiated from his being.

When Naruto approached him, hand held out, palm facing the sky, and said, “Just one Sasuke?” he relented. They stepped on each other’s toes, chuckling and tripping over each other to the upbeat music and Sasuke stared at Naruto’s face as they spun around each other. Naruto was so beautiful.  Smiling and laughing as he twisted, the decorative fabric of his kimono swirling about his form with his free flowing movements. There were two braids in his hair, just on one side, and the loose tufts on the other fluttered over his brow and eyes. He danced without inhibitions, like he wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. Sasuke pulled him closer, placing a hand at the small of his back. He pressed his face against Naruto’s hair, hiding the smile that broadened with each passing second.

He’d never imagined he’d be in such a place. Laughing and having fun as he danced with his most precious person wrapped in his arms. “I love you Naruto.” He whispered the words against Naruto’s ear, pulled away to kiss him when Naruto’s head twisted in his hold. It wasn’t a happiness he’d ever thought he would feel. He certainly didn’t deserve it. But there was no way he would ever give it up after holding it in his grasp.

It was late evening when they started the walk back towards to the Uchiha compound, Naruto’s head leaning on his shoulder as they padded through abandoned streets. The sky was clear, and Sasuke peered up at the almost full moon then back towards Naruto’s tilted head. The flower crown Ino had placed on him somewhere during the night was still nestled in his locks, and Sasuke lifted a hand to toy with the petals that encircled Naruto’s head. He looked like a fey creature. The way his hair shone beneath the moon’s light, how the details on his kimono glittered slightly as the fabric shifted about his form.

Naruto stopped suddenly, and Sasuke turned fully towards him, holding Naruto in place against him. When guarded blue eyes met his own Sasuke frowned and bent down, kissing Naruto tenderly. There was nothing for them to hide from each other. Not anymore. He held Naruto tightly against his side, brushed his hair back, and waited. Naruto twisted in his arms, standing on his toes to kiss him back, and when he pulled away just a fraction of an inch, Sasuke was breathless.

“Sasuke,” Naruto muttered against his lips. “Do you want me?”


They kissed again, deeper this time, and Sasuke’s hands slid down Naruto’s back, over the thick fabric of his obi, and down to his ass. Naruto teased him back, dragging his fingers between their bodies, lower, and lower with each passing second. Sasuke groaned. He wanted him so much, even if it was right there in the middle of Konoha’s streets. He was desperate for him, and just as Sasuke moved to push him up against a wall, Naruto disappeared from his grasp. Sasuke blinked at him in surprise, and then Naruto smirked deviously, before creating a bunch of clones.

“Gotta catch me first,” Naruto taunted. He let out a little teasing laugh, and held his chin high as the clones scattered out to every side. Sasuke’s eyes widened, and he activated his sharingan immediately. He rushed towards the real Naruto, reaching to hold him close, but Naruto held a hand out, palm flat against his chest, forcing Sasuke to falter.

“Stop. Teme, no cheating.” Naruto pointed directly at Sasuke’s eyes, staring him down heatedly. “You have to follow the clues.”

Sasuke frowned, but he let the sharingan slip away as he searched Naruto’s gaze. “Clues?”

Naruto blinked at him, and then nodded. “You’ll find the first one with my favourite food,” he said before placing a quick kiss on Sasuke’s lips and disappearing into a cloud of smoke. Sasuke’s eyes widened as his jaw practically dropped to the street. It had been the real Naruto, he was sure of it. And yet clearly he’d been wrong. When had he used a replacement? Sasuke stood up straight with a snort and then smirked. It didn’t matter regardless. He knew exactly where to go.

Sasuke hurried through Konoha’s pathways, eager to get to the first destination. If Naruto wanted to play this little game, he’d go along with it. He knew what awaited him at the end, and it was more than worth whatever plot Naruto had up his sleeves. The first clue was easy to figure out, and after just a few twists and turns Sasuke found himself perched atop the correct building. As promised, Naruto was leaning across from a long closed Ichiraku, pouting dramatically as he glared up at Sasuke’s form.

“That was too easy wasn’t it,” Naruto said. Sasuke jumped to the ground in front of him and walked closer. He leaned down for a quick kiss and was glad when the clone reciprocated, even if just for a moment. “The second clue, is near the place I grew up,” Naruto muttered, and the clone disappeared with a pop. Sasuke stared at the empty space in front of him, and then flashed around the corner. If all of the hints were this easy, it would take no time at all.

He found the next clone hanging upside down from a clothesline near Naruto’s old apartment. Naruto’s hair hung down towards the street, and Sasuke walked up to his dangling body, holding his chin between his fingers. “Are you even trying to make this a challenge?” Sasuke taunted, and Naruto, raised an eyebrow and huffed. His arms crossed stubbornly, but when Sasuke kissed him, he spluttered and flapped around awkwardly. Several of the hanging shirts and socks fell away as Naruto writhed around in his hold, and Sasuke laughed against his lips, before kissing all across his chin and jaw.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough!” Naruto sputtered out between giggles. He struggled to keep a straight face, glancing at Sasuke briefly before looking off to the side. “This next one will be more difficult. Find me where we had our first kiss.” Naruto grinned at him, and a moment later he was gone.

Sasuke was tempted, of course, to go to the training grounds by the lake. The place where their relationship had transformed into something entirely different. Where Sasuke had finally worked up the courage to kiss Naruto, with intent. But he knew that wasn’t where Naruto would be. Their first kiss had been unexpected, completely unplanned, and at the time, unwanted. Sasuke looked back on it fondly.

As predicted, Naruto’s next clone was sitting on a swing outside the academy. He looked a bit lonely until he spotted Sasuke, his eyes lighting up slightly before he tried to feign disinterest. But when Sasuke stepped forward and gave him a light push, his eyes lit up in excitement. Naruto kicked forwards and backwards on the swing for a moment, giggling happily as Sasuke watched. His kimono billowed out at the sides as the wind blew into the fabric, his hair caught on the breeze and flying about his head wildly. As the swinging slowed, Sasuke came to stand before him, placing his hands on the chains as he looked down into his eyes.

“Where to now?”

Naruto leaned his head against the chain and smiled. “The place we became a team,” he said before disappearing into a cloud of smoke. Sasuke gazed at the empty swing, remembering the day Iruka had announced his teammates in their classroom. He’d been so indifferent at the time. It wouldn’t have mattered who he’d ended up with, his reaction would have been the same. Back then, he’d wanted only one thing, and everything and everyone else was little more than a distraction. But Naruto…had been so distracting that he’d actually managed to break through Sasuke’s barriers.  

He glanced towards the school, briefly wondering if Naruto wanted him to actually step inside. But back then, they’d been a team by title alone, and Sasuke was certain it wasn’t what Naruto meant. He sprinted towards the training grounds instead. Sasuke smirked when he spotted Naruto sitting atop the post he’d been bound to by Kakashi after their first test. Sasuke remembered the way he had put on a strong face, pretended to be fine, despite the angry rumbling of his stomach that told otherwise. Sasuke wasn’t sure what made him share his lunch that day. A moment of weakness maybe. Or perhaps his barriers had already begun to crumble away, even then.

“Where are you taking me to?” Sasuke asked, sliding out from between the trees at the outskirts of the grounds, and Naruto glanced towards him and kicked his feet against the wood beneath them.

“You’ll find out,” he teased, his eyes glistening as they reflected the light of the moon. He tilted his head to the side and waited for Sasuke to walk closer before jumping down at his side.

“Where our biggest trial began,” Naruto instructed next, and before he had a chance to disappear Sasuke grabbed at his arm.

“Wait,” he breathed, panicked. “That could be…many places.”

Naruto’s gaze softened, and Sasuke felt his brow scrunch up as the blond shuffled closer and pulled him in for a hug. Sasuke’s eyes widened in recognition as Naruto pushed aside his collar and kissed the side of his neck, just over where his curse mark had once resided. “You’ll figure it out.”

Sasuke stood there alone for several minutes, his fingers touching his skin gently.  He still wondered…how different things would be, had Orochimaru never targeted him in that forest. Would he have been compelled to leave? Would he have sought out power without the curse mark upon his skin? Sometimes he wasn’t sure. But there was one thing for sure. The curse upon him had altered his thoughts of those he held bonds with. It had forced him to look upon Naruto as a mortal enemy instead of a friendly rival. Made him believe him a weakness, instead of a strength.

And though he’d often wished he could reverse time and go back before it all, there was no use dwelling on events of the past. They were irrevocable. A stain upon his memory he must accept, and hope to one day bury.

The Forest of Death was yet another place he’d avoided since returning to Konoha, mainly because it reminded him of everything he hated about himself. But as Sasuke spotted Naruto huddled up against the fence just outside, looking hesitant, and startlingly small, he pushed aside his reservations and strode towards him. Naruto’s clone avoided looking up at him, tightening his hold around his knees as he picked at a blade of grass.

“I’m sorry Sasuke,” Naruto muttered.

Sasuke gaped at him, frozen in place. “For what?”

“I wish I…had been stronger.”

The blade of grass split in Naruto’s fingers, and he scrunched up the pieces before letting them fall to the ground, only to pluck another one soon after. Sasuke watched him toy with it for a few moments before he crouched down in front of him. He stared at Naruto’s downcast eyes, eventually flicking him on the forehead. Naruto startled and looked up, and Sasuke smiled.

“Dobe,” he said fondly. “We were a team. A Genin team. Going up against an S ranked nin and his cohorts on our own.” Thinking back on it, they’d been foolish to even try and fight at all. “We couldn’t have possibly done any better. It’s a miracle all of us survived.”

Sasuke breathed in deeply, remembering how overwhelmed he’d felt in that moment. The ease with which Orochimaru had cornered them, spoken to them, attacked them. He hadn’t had a single second of doubt in his mind. It was that confident power that had lured Sasuke over to his side. “Besides, I’m the one who gave in.”


“Don’t,” Sasuke interrupted, pressing a finger gently over Naruto’s lips. “If it had been you, you absolutely would have fought back, to the very end.” Naruto didn’t even try to argue that. He’d been fighting against the power of another his entire life. A being even more powerful than Orochimaru. And never once had he given in. Never once had Naruto thought of betraying his friends or Konoha. It would have killed him to do so. And in the end, you could argue he’d even tamed the beast inside of him. He was so damn stubborn. So damn…strong.

 “It doesn’t matter now anyway,” Sasuke quietly added. “We’re here now, aren’t we?” Naruto blinked at him, and then his lips morphed into a soft smile as he nodded. Sasuke was relieved to see it. Even on one of Naruto’s clones, he hated seeing expressions of pain.  “Well, get on with it then. I know this wasn’t the end of your little tour.”

Naruto scoffed, but he pushed himself up slightly and pressed his nose against Sasuke’s. “Next, is a place meant for…fonder memories,” he said. “Where I met those you hold dear.”

When the space in front of him emptied, Sasuke’s jaw stiffened and he looked towards the ground pensively. His family memorial site. It had to be. Sasuke had introduced Naruto to his family there, hadn’t he? But Sasuke wouldn’t really describe the memories that place brought him as fond.

But Naruto was right. It was meant for them.

He pushed himself up, glanced one last time out at the Forest of Death, and made his way home. Sure enough, Naruto was in the middle of his family’s plot, standing just before the gravestones of his parents and brother. He had lit the lanterns already, and Sasuke noticed he was just finishing placing an offering and lighting incense at the base. There were fresh flowers in the vases, matching the peonies and primrose Naruto had twisted about his head all evening. Sasuke swallowed and stepped closer, circling around him.

Before he could find his voice Naruto stood, turning and pushing a small bouquet of flowers into his fingers. “The last one is more difficult,” Naruto whispered, holding onto his hands firmly. “Are you ready?”

Sasuke nodded, staring into that blue gaze he’d become so attached to. Naruto loosened his grip, running his fingers up Sasuke’s arms, to his shoulders and along his neck. He encased Sasuke’s face gently, and then pulled him in for a single, unbelievably gentle kiss. After, with their lips still pressed together, Naruto sighed against him and whispered, “Find me, where I lost you.”

When the clone disappeared, it caught Sasuke so off guard that he nearly fell to the ground. His feet staggered forward, and his heartbeat thundered in his chest. He stared at the ground searchingly, realizing there was only one place Naruto could possibly mean, but it would take him time to get there. Nearly a day, if he moved quickly. He breathed in deeply and gazed towards the north. It didn’t really matter how far it was. If Naruto wanted him there, he would go.

He paused only to place the flowers in the single remaining empty vase, and then stepped inside his house to pack a few items for the journey. On a whim he tied his sword about his waist, but didn’t waste time changing, setting out on foot immediately.

He would find Naruto. Of that he was certain. And this time, he would be the one to bring him home.

The sun hadn’t quite set when Sasuke saw the statues lining the falls at the Valley of the End. Even from a distance he could see Naruto’s form sitting atop the giant figure of Hashirama. Sasuke slowed his pace, approaching from the other side, finally pausing atop Madara’s statue as he took a moment to study Naruto carefully.

He was still dressed in his kimono as well, and he had a beautiful fox eye mask tied about his head. Sasuke was glad he’d had the foresight to disguise himself even for this short journey. Though his eyes were closed, Sasuke knew Naruto would recognize his presence, and sure enough he turned his head towards Sasuke shortly after and stood. He untied his mask, tossing it to the side carelessly before meeting Sasuke’s gaze.

“You found me.”

“Of course.”

Naruto smirked, tilting his head to the side as he studied Sasuke from head to toe. “Expecting a fight?”

“I wasn’t sure.”

Naruto stared at him, strangely quiet. Sasuke felt as though he could see right into his soul. That all of his nerves and worries were on display. But he held his stance and waited.

After some time, Naruto voiced, “Taijutsu only. No chakra, no sharingan. I’ll make an exception for kusanagi.” and Sasuke raised his eyebrow in return. It wouldn’t be a fair fight at all. He’d easily win. Although Sasuke would be sacrificing his sharingan, Naruto would be surrendering his greatest asset, pure chakra power, while still granting Sasuke use of one of his strongest skills.

“And you may block with light weapons,” Sasuke insisted. It would hardly be a fight if Naruto was unable to even defend himself. Naruto pursed his lips and hummed in agreement, and Sasuke regarded him curiously before nodding in return.

He didn’t quite understand.  Why would Naruto set himself up for such a loss? He knew Sasuke was a skilled swordsman. He knew that in such a direct traditional style fight, Sasuke would beat him in speed, technique, and strength. It didn’t make any sense.

He jumped across to the other statue then, his haori billowing out behind him as he landed just in front of Naruto. He looked down at him, recalled the last time they had met in such a similar way.  While he was still under Orochimaru’s control. Though this time there were a few slight differences. Like the way Naruto watched him, gaze open and trusting, his posture relaxed, if a bit jittery with excitement. And there was the lightness in Sasuke’s heart. The pure affection he felt, looking down at the man he’d chosen to live out his life with. The urge to protect, to comfort, and to hold. It was so very different from the intense need to destroy that had once consumed Sasuke’s every waking moment.

He drew his sword, and Naruto stepped back and crouched, twisting a kunai between his fingers as he prepared for an attack. The two of them stared at each other, forms thrumming with anticipation and energy only the two of them possessed. Each waiting for the other to make the first move.

Sasuke charged and Naruto reacted instantly.

He chased Naruto backwards, down the slope of Hashirama’s form and across the bumpy terrain surrounding the water. Their footsteps were light as they strode over rocks and grassy soil. Speed was Sasuke’s friend as he caught up to Naruto quickly. He lunged forward, and Naruto dodged to the side, but it gave Sasuke a chance to swing. His blade clashed with Naruto’s kunai, both weapons slicing through the air as they twisted about each other in more of a dance than a battle.

Once upon a time Sasuke had thought Naruto’s fighting to be clumsy and unrefined, but now, after years of training, it was elegant in its own way, while retaining an edge like no other. Sasuke found himself smiling as the two of them swapped blows, kicking out at each other and dodging side to side. Naruto was unpredictable in a way that no other shinobi could hope to achieve. His movements often confused his opponents, and Sasuke was no exception. When Naruto swayed against his body’s natural flow, edging around Sasuke to kick at him with a sandal covered foot, Sasuke gasped and responded quickly, laughing as he reached up to snag Naruto by the ankle. He expected him to twist away, but instead Naruto leaped at him, launching his body up at Sasuke’s torso. The two of them fell to the ground and grappled against each other before regaining their footing.

They panted and grinned as they circled one another like two lions fighting over their territory.  Sasuke twisted the hilt of his sword in sweaty fingers, eager to begin again. It was always a rush. No one else could make him feel this alive, and Sasuke revelled in it. He became a little more reckless, a little less refined.

Naruto bared his teeth tauntingly and egged him on.  A challenge Sasuke was all too willing to face head on. The second time he lunged, Naruto ducked low, attempting to trip him, but Sasuke was ready for it. He jumped in the air, landing behind Naruto as he swung his sword quickly. Naruto blocked it in the nick of time. The blades clanged loudly, and Naruto skirted away, running along the rocks lining the cliff side. Sasuke chased after him, and eventually Naruto was forced to defend once again, the two of them exchanging blows as the waterfall behind them crashed into the river below.

The rocks were slippery, dusted with water from the falls, and Sasuke took care as he parried and swung, making sure his feet landed securely. He watched Naruto’s form stutter a bit, but he was moving as confidently as ever, crouching low to jump from rock to rock. He was no match for Sasuke’s form with a blade however, and eventually it started to show. His blocks became more desperate, his dodges less quick. Sasuke pressed forward, then with a final swing of his sword Naruto staggered back and landed slightly off kilter. His feet flew out from beneath him, and he cried out as his body tilted back over the falls. Sasuke’s heart thundered in his chest, and he reacted instantly, reaching out to tug at Naruto’s robes and hold him firmly in place. The two of them stared at each other in surprise, frozen as one of Naruto’s sandals fell down into the rough waters below, his body hanging precariously over the edge of the falls. Sasuke glanced into wide blue eyes, and then tugged Naruto against his body hurriedly as he pulled him away from the edge.

“Idiot!” he shouted, and his free hand clenched tightly in the fabric bunched against Naruto’s lower back. “You nearly fell to your death!” He could feel Naruto’s heavy intakes of air, the small tremors in his arms as he clung back just as tightly. Sasuke let out a hefty sigh and dragged his fingers through Naruto’s hair. He massaged his scalp for a few minutes, until both of them had calmed down. “You’re too careless,” he muttered, pulling back slightly to meet Naruto’s gaze.

“That’s what I have you for,” Naruto said. He smiled softly, and Sasuke swallowed and tightened his hand at the back of Naruto’s neck as gentle fingers slid beneath the flap of his own kimono. Naruto’s touch felt like electricity across his skin, and Sasuke shivered. He saw the absolute trust in Naruto’s gaze, not a hint of fear, despite the fact that he’d come close to tumbling to his death. They were shinobi, but they weren’t invincible. And yet Naruto didn’t seem worried at all. As though he fully expected Sasuke to protect him in those moments he could not protect himself. Just as Sasuke expected Naruto to be there at his side for every brush with death.

Sasuke sighed, leaning down to touch their noses. His sword was still clenched tightly between his fingers, but his will to fight had long dissipated. “Do you concede?”

At first Naruto looked ready to disagree. His expression darkened, and he glared at Sasuke stubbornly, because of course Naruto would never surrender in a battle. He’d fight Sasuke to the death if needed. Had done so several times before. But he blinked suddenly, expression changing to something more thoughtful in mere seconds. Sasuke frowned when Naruto looked down, pout morphing into a barely there grin. His gaze deepened, and he looked up at Sasuke beneath lowered lashes sultrily. “You win this round teme,” he breathed, lips grazing against the edge of Sasuke’s chin. “So take your prize.”

Sasuke was certain his body went up in flames.

He growled, immediately dropped his sword, and pulled him in.

They kissed deeply, mouths never separating as Sasuke walked Naruto backwards toward softer ground. He kicked off his footwear on the way, yanked at Naruto’s obi, tossing it away from them as he pushed the robe over his shoulders. Those beautiful freckled shoulders. Sasuke kissed them too. He Sucked along Naruto’s collar bone, up the side up his neck and towards the base of his ear. Naruto writhed against him, his garments slowly falling away as Sasuke worked them free of his body.

When Naruto was before him, completely naked, Sasuke just stood and looked at him. He’d seen him like this hundreds of times now, but the sight never failed to take his breath away. Only this time Naruto was his. His husband. His life partner. Forever. Sasuke swallowed against the nerves overtaking him. He suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands. He wanted to touch him, but remained frozen in place, taking in the beautiful sight of Naruto over and over again.

Naruto stepped closer, reaching out his fingers for Sasuke’s robe. It was a hesitant gesture. Sasuke could see that Naruto was just as nervous, the way he fumbled the fabric between shaking hands. But he stood still while Naruto started to untie his clothes. Soon enough his pants were open, shirt hanging loosely about his frame, robe still slumped over his shoulders when Naruto reached to stroke him. He gripped Naruto’s ass in one hand, tugging him close as he moaned at the feeling of Naruto’s fingers wrapped around his cock.

It felt good. Good enough to get off to. But Sasuke had other things in mind. He pushed Naruto’s hands away and yanked him down atop the grass.

“Ah! You didn’t let me finish!”

“I know. Can’t wait anymore,” Sasuke hissed. And then he was all over him. Dragging his fingers over Naruto’s entire body. He kissed his belly, continued a trail of light touches downward, licking at the head of Naruto’s cock as he pushed apart his legs and knelt between them. Sasuke touched his inner thighs, dragged his thumbs up slowly, inching ever closer to his entrance. When they grazed the sensitive skin there he was surprised as his fingers sank into Naruto’s wetness. He was prepped and ready. Already open and waiting for Sasuke to have him.

Sasuke groaned.

He looked up, catching sight of the darkened blush on Naruto’s cheeks. “You never intended to win.”

Naruto huffed, but avoided his gaze, and Sasuke knew he was right. Naruto had planned this. Had planned to challenge Sasuke. Had known he would lose. All so he could give himself to Sasuke as a prize. It was so out of character. So odd for Naruto to premeditatedly give in like that, to completely surrender to him like that. They were both extremely competitive. Both took an incredible amount of pride in their strength and victories. Naruto may have submitted to him sexually more often than not, but to intentionally submit in a sparring match? That was a whole different level of trust.

Sasuke…felt a bit overwhelmed. He clenched his fingers into the ground and swallowed against the burning moisture that threatened to drip from his eyes. Why…why was he so…


“Give me a second,” Sasuke whispered. He ducked his head, gazed at the vast expanse of gorgeous skin laid out before him, even as Naruto eyed him worriedly. His fingers just barely grazed the side of Naruto’s thighs, and he found himself itching with an unbearable urge. He wanted to give Naruto everything. The world, if he could have managed to do so. He wanted to take him anywhere he could dream of, and he supposed in a way he could with the sharingan. But it felt too contrived in that moment. He was with the one he’d hurt the most, in the place he’d hurt him, being offered the greatest gift he could imagine and hadn’t even remotely earned.

“You’re staring,” Naruto mumbled.

“I am.”

Naruto frowned, but instead of questioning it further he sat up and shuffled into Sasuke’s lap. He leaned in close and kissed Sasuke’s nose, reaching up to press his thumb between his brows. “Teme, stop thinking so hard, your face is scrunching up and it looks weird.”

Sasuke couldn’t help but snort. It was impossible to believe that just a few years earlier he had been sitting in a lair, completely controlled by his anger, nothing but hatred in his heart. The pain he had felt then. The sadness, the regret, lying alone in a room, wishing he could turn back time and make a different choice. 

“What?” Naruto wondered.

“I’m…I’m not very good at…,” Sasuke struggled. He sighed and ran his fingers up Naruto’s back, taking in that open blue gaze. “I care for you so very much. Saying…’I love you’, doesn’t feel like enough.” Naruto’s eyes widened, then moistened, and he paused, simply sitting in Sasuke’s lap. “Thank you,” Sasuke quietly added.

“For what?”

“For never giving up on me.”

Naruto pursed his lips then, his face scrunching up as well. He nibbled at his lower lip, and picked at his fingers. “Thank you…for coming back, for choosing me.”

“It’s always been you Naruto. Only ever you.”

Naruto’s eyes teared up again, and he squeezed them shut, trying to stop the droplets from escaping.  He sniffled a bit but smiled, and when he opened his eyes they were watery, and bright, and filled with so much love. Sasuke pulled him even closer. Their bodies slotted together easily, and Sasuke sighed as his cock slid between Naruto’s legs. He kissed his neck, and dragged his fingers down to the crease of his ass, sliding one inside easily. Naruto tensed briefly, before slumping against his shoulder with a moan. It encouraged Sasuke to continue.

If Naruto was his prize, he would enjoy him thoroughly, and make sure he enjoyed everything in return.

His hands roamed all over Naruto’s body. He touched every inch of him, spread apart his ass and kissed him more gently than before. Ever so slowly Sasuke guided Naruto down onto his cock. It was almost too easy, the way Naruto sank down around him, how his body took all of Sasuke inside so well. Like they were destined to be together like that.

Naruto moved atop him, lifting his body languidly as he rode him. It was impossible to think that Naruto hadn’t been some kind of gift from the gods. How else could Sasuke have been allowed such happiness? He looked up at Naruto’s flushed face and body, then to the little crown of flowers around his head. Petals fell from it like raindrops, cascading around him as he rocked up and down, and Sasuke wondered for a brief moment if he was dreaming. It was far too perfect to be reality. He flashed his sharingan just to make sure it wasn’t an illusion, only to find himself even more at a loss when his vision of Naruto became that much clearer.

He knew reality. The pain it so often brought. That this could possibly be real as well, was unbelievable.

He wanted to do more, to give Naruto pleasure, but the bliss filled expression on his face told Sasuke he was more than enjoying it, so he settled for running his hands around the base of Naruto’s hips as he watched. It soon became too much.

“Naruto…tell me what to do,” Sasuke groaned. “What do you need?” Naruto didn’t answer, but he peered at him with dazed eyes and guided Sasuke’s hands across his chest. Sasuke pinched his nipples gently, running the pads of his thumbs over the pointed nubs, and Naruto gasped in response and ground against him. “You like that?”

“J-just touch me,” Naruto breathed.



Sasuke dragged his hands lower in response, across Naruto’s belly, tickling at the tiny baby hairs there. He gripped him firmly, squeezing his thighs and dragging his palms up his sides. His thumbs grazed over his nipples again, and Naruto squeaked and tightened around him. It made Sasuke jerk, and he tensed and tried to ward off his climax. He’d just managed to control the urge when Naruto leaned in close, wet lips brushing against his ear.

“C-cum inside me.”

Sasuke’s entire body went rigid. He felt his throat tighten, and he gritted his teeth and choked out, “Yeah? You wanna feel that?” Naruto whined into his hair, and Sasuke smirked deviously. “You like when I fill you?”  He felt his skin flush at the words coming from his own mouth, but Naruto reacted in such a lovely way he found he didn’t much care.

He pushed Naruto away slightly and manoeuvred him down on the ground. When he thrust inside of him fully, Naruto cried out, his eyes flying open as he stared up at Sasuke in surprise. Sasuke stared right back. He took a few moments to take it all in again, studying Naruto’s body beneath the colours of the setting sun. He was every bit as gorgeous as always. Sasuke touched his cheek and ran a thumb across his lip before he grabbed one of Naruto’s legs, propping it up over his shoulder as he continued thrusting inside him. The angle allowed him to go that much deeper, and Naruto threw his head back as his hands grasped at nothing between them. Sasuke toyed with his nipples again, and then held onto one of his feet, rubbing the arch in a gentle pattern. He turned his head, bit softly at his calf, then kissed atop the red mark left behind in apology. 

“I will…but after you,” he promised, and Naruto scrunched up his brow and let out a strangled pleading noise. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” Sasuke said. He reached down to stroke Naruto slowly, matching the smooth timing of his thrusts. He could tell he was close. He was squirming so desperately, and leaking all over himself. But Sasuke wanted to watch him finish. He wanted to look down into his eyes as the pleasure took over his body. “Go on, let go.”

It took a few more gentle strokes to bring him to completion, and Sasuke thrust inside him slowly as he revelled in the way Naruto squeezed around him so tightly. Naruto cried out loudly, uninhibited, and Sasuke figured someone must have heard it somewhere, despite how far away they were from any of the villages.  He didn’t much care. Right now, the only thing he was concerned with was Naruto. He leaned down and pressed their lips together as he released inside of him, hiding his own moans with the kiss.

After, it was difficult to pull away. His muscles complained, and Naruto groaned as he slid from within him. In the end he chose not to move much at all, instead hovering over Naruto as he kissed across his nose and face. He watched Naruto’s blue eyes blink blearily up at him, stroked the skin just beneath them as they slowly slid shut, and then cradled his head as the tiny muscles in Naruto’s face shifted and relaxed with sleep. He was certain the love he felt in that moment went unmatched, and it struck him again suddenly that he had married this man. He had pledged himself to the serene creature resting so peacefully in his arms. And that same creature had pledged himself to Sasuke in return.

Sasuke shifted only enough so that he wouldn’t crush Naruto in his sleep, and rolled up a discarded garment to place beneath their heads. He watched Naruto well into the night. Up close he could see even the slight movement of his eyelashes on the subtle breeze, and each and every detail of his skin. Eventually Sasuke’s eyes drifted shut, and they dozed together side by side, limbs entangled beneath his kimono with the sound of the falls lulling them into pleasant dreams.

Sasuke’s muscles ached. He was hungry, thirsty, and he missed the comfort of a bed, but he had no intention of quickening his pace. Naruto strolled along at his side, for once not bouncing around or racing to get somewhere. They walked together leisurely, simply enjoying a rare moment of calm and quiet between them.

It was a comfortable silence. Sasuke found himself listening to the soft padding of their feet on the ground and the chirping of birds in the treetops above them. More often than not his attention became drawn towards Naruto. Seeing him there at his side brought him so much peace.

Sasuke had never felt happiness quite like this. He couldn’t pull his gaze away.

Naruto’s fox mask was back in place, but he still looked recently ravished, hair falling out of the braids, kimono sliding down his shoulder. The little bites and nibbles had left marks all across his skin, and Sasuke’s focus dropped slightly, to where he could see the outline of Naruto’s legs moving beneath the fabric. He knew there would be even more marks down there, more evidence of their lovemaking. He followed the vague shape of his legs down to the ground towards Naruto’s bare feet and frowned.


Naruto turned to look at him in a scandalized manner, but Sasuke merely clicked his tongue disapprovingly and whisked him up into his arms. He hoisted Naruto’s legs around his waist and glared at him. “You’ll hurt your feet walking like that.”




Sasuke paused, halfway to another insult as he looked up into Naruto’s eyes. He smiled, annoyance forgotten as he was overcome with fondness. “Hn…I love you,” Sasuke said before stretching his neck to kiss the edge of Naruto’s jaw. He stood still, holding Naruto in his arms and breathing deeply as he pressed his cheek against his collarbone, and Naruto shivered and looked down at him as his shoulders and face reddened in response.

Whether it was the Mokushiroku, or the Akatsuki, or something entirely new. Whatever threats they faced, they would do it together. As a team.

Sasuke had so many regrets. He’d faced so many challenges, suffered so much pain, and pushed aside hundreds of tears in the process. Many others had done the same because of him. And perhaps it was a selfish thought. But he’d do it all a thousand times over if it meant his path always lead back to Naruto. To that specific moment in time. Exhausted and sore, with a hefty journey ahead, and holding the very definition of the sun within his grasp.