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Uzumaki Naruto Should Know Better Than to Listen to Gossip

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Uchiha Sasuke came back to Konohagakure one bright, sunny morning in early September. There was no fuss, no drama or fanfares – he simply walked up to the gate with his Taka team and asked to be taken to Tsunade-sama and Ibiki-san. This is why Naruto had to find out from Sakura.

Naruto was in the kitchen chopping up vegetables. He was amazed they had even survived the night in his kitchen, but there you go. Resilient buggers. Maybe there was something to the stuff Iruka-sensei was always going on about, “healthy eating” and “help you grow up big and strong” and so on for 5 more minutes that Naruto usually tuned out.

That still would not have made a difference to him personally, but Konohamaru was coming over for lunch and Naruto thought he really should take better care of the runt – Konohamaru had no one else to do it for him any more. So – vegetables it was. Konohamaru would moan something rotten, no doubt, but Naruto felt that now that he was almost 17 he should express his maturity in ways other than getting fall-over drunk with Kiba.

That was how it came to pass that Naruto almost chopped his thumb off when Sakura came in through the window. This was such an unusual occurrence that it startled Naruto quite thoroughly. Sakura was such a proper young kunoichi that she always used the door. Naruto shuddered to think that Kakashi-sensei was rubbing off on her (in more ways than one, the old pervert).

“Sasuke is back,” was what she said to him before it all went dark.

***

When Naruto recovered from his fall (he most emphatically did not faint), he tried to sprint off immediately. Only Sakura’s secure hold on his shirt prevented him from running away at top speed to… Oh.

“So? Where is he?” Naruto voiced the issue that had occurred to him.

“He and his companions are with Tsunade-sama and Kakashi-sensei at Ibiki-san’s Interrogation Centre. They are being… what was that term they use in Suna? Debriefed?”

“Never heard of that. Oh my god, is it painful? Sakura-chan, tell me they are not going to hurt him?!”

“Relax, you big baby. They will be fine as long as they answer all Tsunade-sama’s questions.”

Another thing that occurred to Naruto was that there was a remarkable lack of flailing and fangirling coming from Sakura. This confused him. When had Sakura not been excited about seeing her precious Sasuke-kun?

“Uh, Sakura-chan? Are you okay? You’re not ill or anything? Oh my god, I must be in a genjutsu! Kai! Kai! K- OUCH!”

“Naruto!!” He looked over at Sakura to see her growling menacingly at him.

“Sorry, Sakura-chan,~” Naruto managed as he was rubbing the large bump on the back of his head. “But… shouldn’t you be more excited?”

“Oh, I’m excited, alright. I can’t wait to get that pink-haired kunoichi assigned to the hospital so that I can quiz her on her jutsu!”

Sakura looked slightly manic, so Naruto thought it might not be in his best interest to point out he had been talking about the teme.

It was at about this time that the news started to really sink in for Naruto. Sasuke was back within walking distance. What had changed? Why had he decided to come back now of all times? Sure, it had been over 8 months since Pain’s attack and the almost complete demolition of the village, but last time they had met Sasuke had looked as determined as ever. Then Itachi’s death had happened and Madara had got to him first and Naruto, in his heart of hearts, had almost lost hope of getting him back to Konoha in one piece. Now he’s here? Oh his own free will, no less? Naruto had to get to the bottom of that.

“Let’s go, Sakura-chan,” he urged Sakura, eager to lay eyes on the teme and make sure it was all real. At her nod they jumped out of the window of his new flat, lunch forgotten.

They had just reached the village’s Interrogation Centre when they saw Tsunade-sama stalking out of the entrance looking livid, being trailed by Kakashi-sensei and Iruka-sensei.

“…says he’s taken care of Uchiha Madara for the time being so we have a few more years before we have to start worrying about him. Kakashi, arrange for an ANBU squad to be dispatched to the location Sasuke has supplied to confirm this information. Iruka, go into the Sandaime’s records and make sure what he is alleging about the village Elders is true. Trust that old coot to have everything hidden away! Well, it’s time certain information came out into the light, isn’t it?”

The militant glint in Tsunade’s eye was a thing to behold. Naruto felt a pang in his heart at the thought of how much Jiraiya would have enjoyed seeing it.

“What is she talking about?” Sakura muttered at his side, before hurrying off towards her. “Tsunade-sama? Tsunade-sama!”

Naruto watched her go before turning and walking as slowly as he could make himself through the front door and down the corridor to the interrogation facilities. He stopped at a one-way mirror through the wall on the left at the very end of the corridor. He could sense four ANBU chakra signatures, two at the door and two on the roof keeping watch. Ibiki was standing in front of the mirror looking into the room, hands clasped tightly behind his back. At Naruto’s approach, he turned sideways to include him.

“Yes, it’s really him,” he told Naruto, pre-empting the inevitable question. “Interesting story, what he’s had to say for himself.” He grimaced, the scar tissue wrinkling his face. “Tsunade-sama has gone to check the validity of his claims. If they are true… I don’t mind telling you that I for one would be mightily upset about that knowledge being covered up. Being forced to work for those… traitors against my will – and it would have been against my will if I had known about it; forcing an elite ninja like Uchiha Itachi to betray his kin for their political gain…” Ibiki sighed heavily. “I am uneasy, Uzumaki Naruto. The ground has been pulled out from under my feet and I am finding it hard to keep my balance.”

Naruto looked up into the face of the taller man. He could see how shaken Ibiki was because of this new knowledge, whatever the details were. Thinking quickly, Naruto tried to diffuse his tension: “Ibiki-san, not that I don’t appreciate you telling me all this, but is this not classified information?”

Ibiki looked at him approvingly, nodding his head fondly. “You alone of this entire village have kept your faith in Uchiha Sasuke. You deserve to understand his motives and the reason he has come back. He has voiced some serious allegations against the village Elders, accusing them of conspiring to effectively carry out genocide against the Uchiha clan. If this is proven to be true, Uchiha Sasuke will likely be pardoned for his ‘missing-nin’ status. However, because of his time away he will probably be placed under surveillance for 6 to 12 months as well as be confined to the village grounds. He did, after all, train with Orochimaru for some years and spent months working with Uchiha Madara.”

Naruto stayed silent for a time, digesting this information and rearranging the pieces in his head so that the full picture finally, for the first time in over four years, emerged from the mists of Sasuke’s convoluted plans.

“Do you believe him, Ibiki-san?” He asked tentatively.

“I do. He allowed me into his mind using a reverse sharingan jutsu. He is telling the truth as he knows it,” Ibiki’s leaden tones reassured Naruto.

For the first time he allowed himself to look through the one-way mirror. Sasuke sat facing it, his team arranged in a semi-circle behind him. He looked very, very calm sprawling in the interrogation chair with its straps undone, like he was enjoying a rest in the shade of a Fire Country oak tree rather than being questioned, with his future hanging by a thread. As if aware or his gaze (and this was Sasuke, anything was possible), Sasuke’s lips quirked in the familiar smirk.

“Dobe,” his lips formed, and for a moment darkness beckoned again before Naruto managed to settle himself.

“Teme,” he whispered in response, completing the greeting even though he was certain Sasuke could not hear him. Sasuke really was back.

***

Well, he really was back now, Sasuke thought as he reclined in the uncomfortable, straight-backed leather chair. He could sense two chakra signatures beyond the wall, apart from the four ANBU ones. One was Ibiki’s, he had memorized it earlier during his ‘interrogation’, if it could be called that when he had been perfectly willing to talk and answer questions. The other he could recognize in his sleep. Hell, he’d probably recognise it even if he was dead. The dobe had finally got here, as Sasuke had known he would eventually. He supposed Ibiki was briefing him on the situation, as Naruto would no doubt demand to know what was going on.

He felt a slight pressure in the back of his head, like a pair of eyes were boring into him. Which, in all likelihood, there were. He smirked the familiar smirk, the one his face had almost forgotten how to do; the smirk that only one person could call forth.

“Dobe,” he mouthed, certain that Naruto would be able to see him, certain he knew what his response would be.

Some time later, Sasuke thought maybe an hour or so (but of course he couldn’t be certain without seeing the sun), the reinforced door to the room clicked open and Tsunade walked through, followed by Kakashi and Ibiki. Sasuke spied a flash of orange outside before the door was shut again.

“Uchiha Sasuke,” Tsunade began in her most formal tone of address. “Your claims have been validated. The village Elders will stand trial for ordering the genocide of the Uchiha clan and will be convicted before witnesses. You will please refrain from delivering vigilante justice to them yourself. They will be stripped from their office and sentenced to exile from Fire Country. Let them make of the remainder of their lives what they will. They will be forbidden contact with this village and its shinobi. Anyone found out to be consorting with them will be charged with treason and swiftly punished.

“Due to your years as missing-nin and your time spent studying under Orochimaru you will be placed under constant supervision and confined to the village grounds for a period of 6 to 18 months. Depending on your actions within that time period the severity of your confinement may be reconsidered. You are not authorised to enter into positions of power or responsibility for a period of 2 years from this date. Your parole officers will be Hatake Kakashi and Uzumaki Naruto. They will be responsible for your well-being as well as your behaviour in accordance with the rules you have just been informed of. They will face punishment if you are seen to flaunt those rules.

“Your Taka teammates are welcome to make their home in this village, should they wish it, but are also forbidden from taking positions of power or responsibility for a period of 2 years. In the meanwhile they are requested to assist the well-being of Konohagakure with any and all information they may have that threatens the peace, and are requested to offer their help in the understanding of their individual chakra strengths and bloodline limit jutsus.

“Do you, Uchiha Sasuke, accept these terms as I have outlined them?”

“I do,” Sasuke replied in the same even tone.

“Do you, Juugo, Karin, Suigetsu, accept these terms as I have outlined them?”

“We do,” the three chorused from behind Sasuke, awed by this woman’s sheer presence and power.

“Then, Uchiha Sasuke, you have received your sentence and are free to go with your parole officers. Juugo, Karin, Suigetsu, please consult with my aide Shizune in the Hokage tower on any and all issues you should have. Should any of you decide to stay with us, suitable accommodation will be found for you.” With this, Tsunade turned and exited the room without a backwards glance.

Ibiki exhaled heavily; then he offered Sasuke his hand, which Sasuke hesitated only a second before taking and shaking firmly. With a nod conveying understanding, something Sasuke had been certain would take him years to earn, Ibiki turned on his heel and walked out after Tsunade.

Kakashi’s grin scrunched his visible eye into its usual half-moon arch. “Let’s go, kids!” He chirped cheerfully; then, with a sly glance at Sasuke, he led the way out of the interrogation room.

Sasuke braced himself. Here it comes, he thought with a resigned sigh. He could now sense three chakra signatures outside the room – Naruto’s, Sakura’s and third member of the team, his replacement, he thought with a sneer. Who was standing far, far too close to Naruto if he sensed correctly, and he did.

He walked out of the room and faced his former teammates in silence. Sakura was the first to move, but to his surprise there was no fawning and flailing. Instead, she walked slowly over to him and hugged him tightly. Never one for physical contact, Sasuke remained stiff in her arms, but managed to lift an arm and pat her back awkwardly. She let him go after just a moment, which was a pleasant surprise.

“Welcome home, Sasuke-kun,” she greeted in a soft voice, eyes suspiciously shiny. She looked like she wanted to say more, but thought better of it. He was grateful – he was not ready to talk about Itachi just yet.

Next it was Sai who came forward, and shocked Sasuke speechless when he kissed him on both cheeks.

“Welcome back, Sasuke-kun! I am happy for this opportunity to make bonds with you as strong as those of your old teammates and your sensei!”

Sasuke was, for once in his life, frozen to the spot. His eyes wildly searched the others’ expressions for clues: Sakura looked apologetic, cringing slightly; Kakashi looked devilishly gleeful, leaving Sasuke with no doubt as to the instigator of this highly unsettling event; and Naruto looked… well, he actually looked murderous, which was, to Sasuke’s amusement, the same look he had perfected during their rivalry in the early months after the formation of Team 7.

Choosing to ignore this strange person for the time being, he focused on Naruto for the first time. Naruto was still glaring at Sai, but feeling Sasuke’s eyes on him he turned to face him properly. Sasuke noticed to his shock and… displeasure, yes, displeasure, that Naruto was now taller than him by at least an inch and had transformed his short, stringy body of old into a finely-muscled specimen of manhood, and could he hear himself?!

Flushing slightly from his inner disclosures, Sasuke looked into Naruto’s eyes, waiting for his reaction. The warmth there soothed his ruffled feathers; and then Naruto’s face broke into such a happy grin that Sasuke could not help but send a small smile back in return.

“Teme,” Naruto said in his new grown-up husky voice (shut up, shut up brain!), “I told you I’d drag you back eventually!”

Yes, he had, drag me back… wait, what?!

“Dobe,” Sasuke scoffed, “you did nothing of the sort. It was simply logical that I return now, knowing the evidence to exonerate Itachi could be found in the Sandaime Hokage’s records.”

“Teme! I did so, you must have heard of my awesome achievements and come running back to try and defeat me!”

So much for his newfound maturity, Sasuke thought, unaware of how he was echoing Naruto’s thoughts from that morning.

“Dobe, I have heard nothing even resembling such nonsense.”

“Eeeh?! Teme!!”

And so it goes, Kakashi and Sakura thought, sharing a resigned look.

***

In the aftermath of Pain’s attack on Konoha a lot had changed around the village. The newly-rebuilt apartments for the Konoha shinobi had their own section of the village, and a new marketplace had sprung up to cater to the new neighbourhood. Naruto’s beloved Ichiraku Ramen stand was relocated closer to the village centre, and was now only a block away from Naruto’s new apartment. With Tsunade-baa-chan recovering and retaking her position from Danzo, due to the support of every head of a major family, Naruto thought the future looked bright for his beloved village.

His new apartment was a vast improvement on the old one. Tasuna-san and Inari had built the complex where it was situated; they had done an especially fine job when they had learned that Naruto was practically homeless, one of the vast amount of buildings destroyed having been the one where he lived. So in hardly any time passing he had a fantastic new apartment, with spacious, sunny rooms and big windows that opened out to a view of the marketplace and the Hokage monument in the distance. The apartment had a smallish kitchen, since Naruto was not known for his culinary genius, a large living room with soft, comfortable furniture and two bedrooms, one master bedroom and one spare for when Gaara came over to stay for a few days, or when people were in need of crashing for the night. The bathroom was roomy, with actual running hot water, and even had a real bathtub which Naruto thought was the height of luxury after an exhausting mission. The flat was the closest thing to a home that Naruto had ever known, and it was made even better by the fact that Iruka-sensei lived just across the street.

However, when Sasuke had walked grudgingly through the door, the furniture in the living room was buried somewhere underneath the mountain of clothes and training scrolls; a set of kunai knives and shuriken were littered over the coffee table, sorely in need of a good polish; and the carpet was… well, somewhere underneath all the debris that the everyday existence of your average teenager invariably generated.

Faced with Sasuke’s wrinkled nose and lips curved in disgust, Naruto, with much flushing, Kage Bunshin-ed a bunch of clones that set to work immediately. 15 minutes later the flat was restored to its original pristine glory. Sasuke took a proper look around while Naruto bounced into the kitchen to continue his food prep from a few hours ago. Thankfully, the weather was starting to cool, so everything was still fresh. He quickly finished chopping the courgettes, threw everything in a large roasting tin with some olive oil (Iruka-sensei’s idea) and shoved it in the heated oven. He then cut up some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for a salad and put the rice in the steamer before going off to find Sasuke.

“The spare bedroom is over here, teme,” he berated him when he saw him looking around his room. Still, having Sasuke in his bedroom was not at all as unpleasant as he once might have thought. Sasuke just looked at him with those black eyes and raised a mobile eyebrow.

“I know,” was his eloquent answer as he continued to look through Naruto’s reading material crammed in a small bookcase in one corner of the room. They were mostly training textbooks that Kakashi-sensei had helped him collect after he returned from Myobokuzan and his training in the sage arts. The rest were all books that Ero-sennin had left him after his death. A few were a bit pervy, so he had given them to Kakashi-sensei to the other man’s delight, but some were philosophy texts as well as Jiraiya’s personal journals and training records; and one of them was the book from whence came his name.

He observed Sasuke looking through all of them with no real knowledge of which were which. And why would he, Naruto thought bitterly. It was only after he left that Ero-sennin became a big part of Naruto’s life. He sighed. He shouldn’t be delving into those thoughts; he always become a bit morose when he thought about the upcoming anniversary of Jiraiya’s death.

Sasuke turned, sensing the shift in Naruto’s mood; though how a few books could achieve that was beyond him. He had never even seen Naruto read. Registering movement, Naruto turned to him with a wide smile that was only a little forced.

“Come on, teme, let’s get you set up. By the way, Konohamaru is coming to lunch.”

Sasuke cringed internally. His poor eardrums were about to take a beating.

***

The first week was a nightmare. Since Kakashi had refused Sasuke permission to stay at his house, citing “prior engagements”, Sasuke had been stuck with Naruto. ”Prior engagements” my arse, Sasuke fumed privately. He probably has his pack of dogs running free all over the place. That, or he wants to get laid whenever he fancies. Sasuke had heard of this “Yamato-taichou” and had connected the dots.

The first few days of his return had been crammed full of visitors, squealing fangirls and general hellishness. He had tried escaping to the training grounds but people stalked him relentlessly, making flimsy excuses to infiltrate his personal space. Moreover, Naruto was following him everywhere, being all… sociable. It was irritating in the extreme; Sasuke reflected that he had been better off away on his own. He felt grouchy and unsettled, which Naruto only offset more with his incessant talk, about everything that had happened since he’d been gone – about Sakura-chan and Kakashi-sensei and that idiot Sai and Tsunade-baa-chan and his battle with Pain and his awesome new powers, and… at that point Sasuke had tuned him out.

The strange thing was, though, that Naruto’s constant babble actually soothed Sasuke’s battered, grieving soul. Just being back in Konoha, with Naruto trailing after him everywhere, was like the past, simpler times he remembered. Sasuke felt himself start to unwind from the tight ball that had been his everyday existence for the first time since his feet had left the village gate behind him, how many years ago now? Three? Four? Something like that.

By week 4 things had settled into a semblance of a routine. They got up, had a shower, Sasuke sniped at Naruto for using his shampoo or his towel (while trying to stifle a nosebleed behind Naruto’s lithely-muscled naked back), Naruto grumbled sleepily in reply and went to make breakfast. Under Sasuke’s tutelage-by-proxy Naruto’s cooking skills had started developing into something resembling finesse. The meals were still simple, but now the flavours actually mixed and complemented each other. Sasuke smugly patted himself on the back for his minor success.

When one morning Sasuke breached the somewhat explosive subject of training, being fully aware of what an arse he had been the last time they had fought, all he got for his apprehension was a decisive shout of “Yeah! I’m gonna kick your ass, teme! Just wait and see how good I’ve gotten!” After which he was dragged off to the training grounds without even time to finish his breakfast.

Sakura found them around lunchtime, sweaty but determinedly pummelling away at each other. Sasuke was stunned by how good Naruto really had become, but was carefully not letting Naruto see his growing admiration. Sakura was far smarter than the dobe, though, and flashed him a sly smile from her place perched on one of the training stumps. When she invited them both to lunch at the closest sushi place, Naruto’s victory yells could be heard in a two-mile radius.

“You two are getting on really well,” she started carefully while Naruto was busy ogling the menu. Sasuke grunted in reply but the slight flush to the top of his cheekbones belied his casualness. Sakura just smiled knowingly and jabbed at Naruto’s closest arm to pass the soy sauce.

In week 8 the other members of the Rookie 9 decided to throw a party to properly celebrate Sasuke’s return, Naruto’s surprising but continuous not-dying at the hands of his reluctant flatmate, and welcome the newest additions to the village – the other three members of the now-disbanded Taka team. It was at this party that Sasuke had the dubious pleasure of making Sai’s further acquaintance. It was not so much the (highly inappropriate) touching that Sasuke was subject to, it was the frank discussion of the size of Naruto’s penis that finally cracked the shell of unruffled calm around him (How does he bloody know?! Does Naruto go around flashing people?! ). Sasuke was just about to break out the Chidori when an unlikely rescuer arrived in the form of Shikamaru, who was just lazy enough that he did not fancy mopping up all the blood afterwards.

He dragged Sasuke away to the other side of the room and proceeded to explain Sai’s lack of social graces. Sasuke subsided; he could always Chidori his arse later. Like if he ever again so much as breathed a word about Naruto’s appendages, which were private property and all trespassers thereof would be swiftly and violently prosecuted. Sasuke briefly considered the fact that he did not consider himself to be a trespasser, but felt he was unprepared as yet to deal with the consequences of his realisation.

When Sakura found out about his conversation with Sai she laughed and laughed for over 10 minutes straight, then patted his shoulder sympathetically and walked off, still giggling, to tell Ino all about it.

It was at week 16 after his return that all hell broke loose. It started, innocently enough, with concern. Sasuke considered himself a good friend to Naruto, so it was natural for him to notice that Naruto’s mood seemed much more subdued as of late. True, Christmas was approaching, and it was always hardest for those with no families of their own. Naruto had been dragging him to the village orphanage on a regular basis for the past month and Sasuke was now on first-name basis with all the urchins unfortunate enough to live there. Under Tsunade-sama the level and quality of care for the kids had reached an all-time high, helped in no small amount by the village hero’s weekly visits. Naruto-nii-san was universally adored by the kids and helpers alike. Sasuke was fascinated by this playful, caring side of Naruto that he had not been privy to before, what with all the yelling and declarations of rivalry and so forth. Sasuke even allowed the younger kids to climb in his lap and play with his hair while he read them stories, which was tantamount to him declaring his undying love for the instigator.

He actually loved kids. No one ever suspected, which was good – his reputation for being a hardarse was preserved for the time being. Or until someone they knew chanced to pass by and see him act as a human climbing frame, after which point he knew that no amount of glaring and “hn”-s would be enough to salvage it. It was worth it, though, just to see Naruto look at him with such undiluted joy and happiness. For that look alone Sasuke would do practically anything, even maybe get a haircut or (shock! horror!) wear something other than blue or black. He had even given in to some of the older kids’ pestering and started teaching them kunai throwing with the practice kunai Naruto had ‘borrowed’ from Iruka. It reminded him of a more serene life when he had spent hours practicing with Itachi in the same manner. Sasuke was not a shrink, but even he could tell that this last activity in particular was helping him start to heal.

Unfortunately, that particular look of happiness had been absent from Naruto’s face this past week. Sasuke had spent half his time worrying that he had done something to upset the dobe, but could not think of anything besides the yelling and grouching that was their customary way of communicating. He still smiled for the children, but Sasuke could see it was strained even if no one else noticed. Finally, having had enough, he had tried to breach the subject the night before only to be shut down so effectively it had blindsided him and given Naruto a chance to escape the conversation.

When not even his flipping over a two-year old toddler and, to her delighted shrieks, blowing raspberries on her tummy produced a full-blown smile from Naruto, Sasuke knew it was time to bite the bullet and ask for help. Sakura was no use; she had almost shut herself in with Karin trying to analyse her healing jutsu and its applications. They hadn’t seen her in over two weeks. Sai… no. He was not now, not ever going to ask bloody Sai for help with Naruto. The further away Sai stayed from the two of them, the better they would get on in Sasuke’s opinion.

He could try asking Iruka, but he was still slightly unsure of his welcome there. Iruka was kind and patient, but he had a mean temper on him that Sasuke had not yet learned all the triggers for. So that left only one other person he could trust with his concerns – Kakashi.

Sasuke cringed internally. Oh, he was going to pay for that. Kakashi was going to tease him mercilessly about how much he must care for Naruto to ask him for help. It was going to be hellish and uncomfortable and Sasuke had no choice but to go for it. So the next time he saw Kakashi he asked him if they might talk somewhere private. He thought nothing of it when Kakashi suggested they meet at the small, cosy restaurant that had recently opened on the ground floor of one of the buildings in the new district. Uneasy but determined, Sasuke set off for his dinner date.

***

“Naruto-kun! Naruto-kun, I’m so sorry. It’s not your fault, I know. Nature is so cruel when it comes to the size of penises. You are a lovely person and deserve much more than what you have been saddled with!”

Naruto stared at Sai, who had thrown his arm around his neck and was looking at him sadly.

‘Do not blow up. Do. Not. Blow. Up. It’s just Sai, he doesn’t know what he’s saying.’

“Sai. What the fucking hell are you talking about?!” Naruto growled through his teeth, removing Sai’s arm from around his shoulders with a full-body flick.

“Oh, Naruto-kun. There’s no need to pretend you are not upset that your boyfriend left you because your penis is tiny. It is a difficult time for you and you need your friends to support you.”

Naruto’s fingers itched to perform the Kage Bunshin no jutsu and twist a Rasengan. “What. Are. You. Talking. About. Sai?”

“Why, about Sasuke-kun leaving you for Kakashi-san, of course.”

“What?! Leaving… wait, boyfriend? He’s not my… Kakashi-sensei?!? That… that pervert! Taking advantage of Sasuke, he’s his parole officer! He… wait, how do you know this?”

“Oh, I heard Sakura tell Ino that she saw them having dinner in that new restaurant across the square from your flat, the one where she said all the couples go for first dates because the atmosphere is so romantic. She said they were sitting really close together, and Kakashi-san was smiling while Sasuke-kun was blushing prettily. He really does look like a girl, don’t you think? But then again he must be a man because you have such a miniscule penis that he must have been the one to have sex with you. I wonder who is going to have sex with whom then; would it be Kakashi-san or Sasuke-kun on top? Kakashi-san is older and more experienced… Naruto-kun, you have gone a funny colour. Your face being purple really cannot be healthy. Should I call Sakura for you?”

There was only one thought circling in Naruto’s head at that moment: Do not kill Sai. Do. Not. Kill. Sai. There was a strange ringing noise in his ears, which he realized must be because he had forgotten to breathe for the last couple of minutes. He opened his mouth and inhaled greedily. As the ringing receded, a new thought, this one much more bloodthirsty, substituted the previous one. I am going to kill Kakashi-sensei. He felt very calm. The thought of his Sasuke doing unimaginable (or rather, all-too-imaginable) things with no other than Kakashi-bloody-sensei made Naruto’s blood boil.

So it was that Sasuke and Kakashi, quite unsuspecting of their soon-to-be swift and violent demise, were taking a walk by the Memorial Stone while Kakashi was in the process of explaining to Sasuke the role Jiraiya had played in his other young charge’s life, when Naruto found them.

His colour had not improved greatly, but he had regained enough breath to shout, which he proceeded to do at the two of them for quite some time in a voice so loud and going so fast that only individual words were distinguishable here and there.

“Bloody pervert!!… taking advantage… your charge…Yamato-taichou!… younger than you… 14 years!!… eating…sleeping… showering… my bloody flat!!... go to him?!? What am I, chopped liver?!

The last sentence was quite distinct and rang out really very loudly. Kakashi, who had been grinning like a maniac throughout this tirade, now put his not inconsiderable genius to the easy job of deciphering Naruto’s rant.

“Let me see if I have this straight, Naruto. What you are saying is that you believe that Sasuke and I are in a sexual relationship?”

Two flaming blushes faced him with various degrees of outrage, one of them nodding savagely.

“And that you believe that I am taking advantage of Sasuke, him being much younger than me and in my care?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, weren’t you listening? How could you do that to Yamato-taichou, you bastard?!”

“…Yes, I was listening, as it happens. And your final point, made very clearly in high decibels, was that you believe that if Sasuke wanted to have sexual relations with somebody, it was you he should have chosen?”

“Ye- no! No, no, no, no, that wasn’t what I meant!”

But the damage had been done. Kakashi grinned happily at them before waving. “I’ll leave you two to sort that one out between yourselves,” he chirped and was gone in a pouf of smoke and leaves.

Sasuke looked at Naruto, all tall, blushing and flustered, and wanted nothing more than to kiss him senseless right this instant. From the looks of things Naruto would not particularly object, he smirked to himself as he prowled over to him. Naruto, seeing Sasuke move, started backing up immediately until his back was pressed to the unmoving side of the Memorial Stone. Undeterred, Sasuke kept on coming.

“Dobe,” he purred, standing really very close to him. “Who has been putting ideas in your head?”

Naruto, if possible, blushed darker. “But… Sai said… you and Kakashi-sensei having dinner… small penis… blushing…” His stammering mercifully came to an end when a smirking Sasuke pressed two long fingers over his lips.

Sai again? I’ll be dealing with him later, were Sasuke’s vindictive thoughts. For now, he rather thought he would take care of this situation first.

“Dobe, you really should know better than to listen to gossip. First of all, don’t ever believe anything Sai says to you that is unrelated to a mission. Secondly, yes, I was having dinner with Kakashi. To talk about you,” he added when he saw Naruto narrowing his eyes at him. “You have been miserable lately and you wouldn’t talk about it. I thought it was something I had done. So I went to Kakashi for help, who took an inordinate amount of pleasure in teasing me about it, if you must know. That would be the blushing you refer to, yes?”

Naruto nodded slowly, mesmerized by Sasuke’s dark eyes boring into him, his smirking lips, his fingers sliding slowly away from his mouth and along his cheek. Sasuke was looking at him intently, his gentle touches to his face making Naruto’s heart pound frantically in his chest. Sasuke shifted even closer to him, eyes still warm but also weary.

“Was that true? Do you really want to... you know, with me?”

The uncertainty and vulnerability in Sasuke’s eyes had a galvanizing effect on Naruto, quickly slaying his hesitation. Smiling, he lifted his hands to grab two fistfuls of Sasuke’s shirt.

“Teme,” he murmured, holding his gaze. “What will it take for you to realize I have loved you since we were both too young to know what that squirming feeling in our stomachs meant?”

Now he gets eloquent, was Sasuke’s last coherent thought as Naruto drew him close and brushed their lips together. Warmth exploded in Sasuke’s lower belly as the slightly chapped lips caressed his. When a moist tongue licked its way into his mouth Sasuke’s body bucked of its own accord, pinning Naruto to the stone behind him, grinding fiercely into the answering hardness he had to his delight discovered there. At the breathtaking pleasure this invoked Sasuke’s brain gleefully decided to surrender reason for the foreseeable future. Just as he moved to get much better acquainted with the delectably firm body pressed against his, Naruto cruelly pulled his lips away.

Breathing rather heavily, but clearly determined to have his say, Naruto grinned at him. “I mean, was chasing after you half-way across the world not enough of a declaration? Or going against Orochimaru for you? Or begging on my knees in front of the Raikage for your life? Or mmmf!”

“Naruto… Shut up.”

***

When Sakura heard about that one, she laughed until she almost made herself sick. “K-Kakashi…” she managed to gasp in between guffaws. “Sasuke and Kakashi!”

“Okay, okay, so I jumped to conclusions, I get it,” Naruto grumbled. “Sai was very convincing. And he heard all that from you, you know! So it’s at least half your fault!” His grousing would have been much more effective if he hadn’t been blushing, Sasuke having wrapped one arm around his waist and pulled him into his side.

“Leave it be, dobe. I told you not to listen to anything Sai has to say.”

Sakura squealed in delight, then hummed, clearly still amused. “Naruto, I was only telling Ino how cute it was that Sasuke was so concerned about you that he would actually brave Kakashi’s merciless teasing and ask for his help! Anyway, you know what Sai is like!” Sakura broke into a truly evil grin. “But there’s a thought. Sasuke, you could give him first-hand details on Naruto’s bits so that he shuts up about his small penis!”

Even with his face flaming, Sasuke still managed to pull off a proper Uchiha™ glare. “Sai will be breathing underwater before he gets that sort of information from me!”

Naruto, though, was not so easily deterred. To Sakura’s glee, he protested, “No, no, teme, you should definitely tell him it’s so big that I am the one doing the sexing in the bedroom!”

Sasuke managed to hide his smile with some effort. Trust Naruto to see a silver lining! Still, he couldn’t help but give in to his desire to tease him; Naruto flushed so invitingly when he was angry. How had he not noticed that before?! In his flattest Uchiha-conditioned voice, Sasuke delivered his response.

“Dobe, that is called ‘lying’.”

“Eeeh?! Teme!!”

***

Some days later, while lying in bed curled around Sasuke, Naruto finally let himself open up about how much pain the news of Jiraiya’s death had brought him. “He was supposed to be there to see me become Hokage, you know?”

Sasuke brushed his fingers over Naruto’s wet cheek “I know, dobe. It’s okay. But at least now that you’ve brought me back you can tick me off your list of “Things to do before I can become Hokage".”

“But I didn’t bring you back. Itachi did. He is the reason for everything you do.”

“Not everything,” Sasuke whispered and pulled him closer.

It wasn’t long, though, before Naruto’s mischievous smile found its way back on his face.

“Anyway, teme, you’d better hurry up and make everyone trust you again. I can’t be Hokage without having you in my ANBU. You can be my ANBU captain and you will have to kiss me any time I tell you to since I will be your boss!”

Sasuke snorted, but kissed him thoroughly anyway.

***

For Christmas Sasuke took Naruto to the Uchiha compound. It was the first time Sasuke had been there since he came back to Konoha. His parents’ empty house rose silent and looming before them. Sasuke stood outside gazing up at the structure until Naruto took his hand and gently pulled him inside. The rooms were dusty and vacant, all traces of presence long dissolved with the lack of use.

“I’m thinking of handing the compound over to the orphanage,” Sasuke mused as they drifted from room to room. “There is so much space here that I’ll never be able to utilise properly myself.”

Naruto was stunned but ecstatic. “Truly, Sasuke? The kids will love it here; the orphanage’s been so crowded since the battle! But… won’t you want it back when you… decide to have your own family?”

Sasuke took Naruto’s drooping chin in his fingers and raised his head to look him in the eye. “You are my family now, dobe. You always will be. Itachi gave his life so that the Uchiha clan would fade in history. I may have chosen to disregard his wishes before, but this time it is in my own interest to uphold them. I only want you. You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

It was the best Christmas gift Naruto could ask for.