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i. rain

Ame looks as it always does - grey, rain-beaten, a nation of rusting metal and narrow alleys. It should be gloomy, but it isn’t. It’s bustling with life. Teenagers catch buses to the newly established schools, gossiping housewives grab hot, foamy cups of coffee off of street stands, cheerful music drifts by from a nearby cafe.

It would be a lot easier to take in if Sasuke’s team wasn't stupidly lost.

“I’m telling you man, let’s call it a day and let Naruto bail us out. Sato will get over it, we’ll meet her some other time, and we can go eat.” Suigetsu stretches his arms behind his head as he speaks, lazily.

“Did I ask for your opinion?” Sasuke asks, not even looking back at him.

“No, but maybe you should.”

“Oh shut up, Suigetsu. Nobody is making you come,” Karin snaps at him. She’s been in a sour mood all evening. Her and Suigetsu had argued furiously the whole way through about whether they were going in the right direction. Jugo had finally taken the map from them, stared at it for a minute, and calmly announced they were both wrong.

Sasuke decides to diffuse the situation before they become obnoxious again, and turns to smirk at them. “You know, she’s looking to set us up with houses here in Ame if we work with her.” Suigetsu blinks.

“What, really? Dude, you should've started with that. I know you and Jugo like the whole sleeping in the woods thing, but I definitely do not!”

Akane Sato was Ame’s new leader, and had been tirelessly rebuilding now that they were free of Pain’s dictatorial rule. She was soft on Sasuke despite his brief Akatsuki affiliation - Kakashi’s purge of all Danzo sympathizers in the leaf village had been extremely public, and Sato sympathized with Sasuke as a fellow victim of his policies, just as Ame’s peace movements had been corrupted by his intervention.

It was why he felt it necessary to come immediately when she asked for help with rebuilding. Naruto could bail him out if it, sure, but Sasuke would never ask. He wanted to help shoulder Naruto’s burdens, not be one of them.

“Oh! I sense her!” Karin cries out, suddenly, and Sasuke feels his shoulders relax.

“Finally,” Suigetsu mutters, and Jugo readies the pet bird he intends to give her as a show of respect. Sasuke thinks this is a terrible idea, having been woken up more than once by that bird’s incessant pecking, but Jugo is convinced that it is a gift to humanity.

They enter a gleaming white building, a stark contrast to Ame’s usual dark hues, and Sasuke’s breath catches when he sees a familiar outline.

His hair is always such a mess. So golden that it's unreal. Like a sunflower. He turns around to grin at Sasuke, that too wide smile with the sharp canines.

“Sasuke!” Naruto greets him. “I didn’t realize you’d be here!”

“Naruto.” He nods at him in acknowledgement, then smiles at the group of tittering girls in the corner. “I see your cult has new members.”

Naruto blushes, catching sight of them. “It’s not a cult, bastard, they're just - grateful, ya know.” He rubs the back of his head sheepishly. “Anyway, let’s go. Akane’s waiting for us!”

Akane. Of course Naruto would already be on first name basis with the newly appointed leader of a nation that Konoha had destroyed.

Politics suit him, better than anyone had expected them to. Naruto isn’t exactly conventional - he once gave a diplomatic speech comparing various nations to types of ramen - but there was a sincerity and a bizarre understanding of people, of what drove them, present in his words. He had a way of getting people to do exactly what he wanted without lifting a finger.

But there's something about this new, polished Naruto that doesn't sit right with Sasuke. He sees flashes of his old abrasiveness on occasion, but it's not enough for him. He's not impressed by his often artificial cheer, too deeply aware of Naruto's disillusionment to truly buy it. He wants to see that veneer of perfection messed up beyond recognizability. He wants -

Sasuke realizes his thought process is heading into dangerous territory.

The diplomatic proceedings pass by quickly enough. They head to a bar afterwards, celebrating brokering the new alliance between Konoha and Ame.

"Bet you're still a lightweight," Naruto says, settling himself down on the seat next to him.

"He is," Suigetsu confirms from across the tiny bar.

"It's easy to down plenty of drinks when all you get is sugary crap, dobe." Sasuke says, taking a sip. Naruto grins.

"Okay, shot competition! Right now!" Sasuke scoffs but goes along with his nonsense anyway, as he knows he's prone to do.

Naruto is already on his third shot by the time Sasuke makes it to his second - he’s never liked the burn of alcohol - but Sasuke can’t abide his usuratonkachi beating him so easily, so he resorts to drastic measures.

Naruto is on his fourth shot when suddenly, he finds himself sitting on Sasuke’s stool instead. Sasuke takes advantage of his distraction to down two more, while Naruto blinks rapidly in confusion.

“Did you just use your rinnegan switching thing so we’d be tied again?” Naruto asks in mock anger. Sasuke shrugs.

“Should’ve seen it coming.” He replies, unapologetic.

“You asshole!” Naruto cries out, pointing at him with dramatic fervor, but Sasuke can see he’s barely holding back laughter.

They can’t help but grin at each other. It’s always been like this between them. Even during the war after years of conflict and animosity and shifting allegiances between them, they couldn't help but smile when they finally fought side by side. It had been like inhaling fresh air for Sasuke, after being confined far too long.

They don't actually continue drinking - Sasuke already knows Naruto can outdrink him and possibly everyone else in the room, for some unfathomable reason. But their night is cut short by Karin’s sudden screaming. She’s in a bar fight, which Sasuke really should’ve seen coming, and he decides that’s his cue to leave.

"Let me back in there, I'll kick her ass!" Karin shrieks, kicking and flailing in Jugo's arms as he calmly picks her up and walks out.

"Damn, I always forget how loud she is," Naruto mutters.

"Must be an Uzumaki thing," Sasuke replies, and Naruto laughs. Maybe it's because he's buzzed - not enough to be inebriated or unaware, but a pleasant sort of haze clouds his mind - but Naruto's laugh is especially nice tonight.

“I’m going to get her coffee to sober her up. Suigetsu is staying at the bar a bit longer, so why don’t you two head back?” Jugo says, and there’s a certain understanding in his voice that Sasuke pretends not to notice.

He can tell Naruto is slightly tipsy too, from his looping gait as they walk through Ame's streets. Naruto's eyes are a cool, radiant blue under the street lights, and Sasuke is finding it harder and harder to look away.

"So, any of your fangirls catch your eye?" The sentence comes out casual, indifferent, just the way he wants it. Naruto is thrown off anyway.

"It's a bit weird, people acting all obsessed with me...I was so jealous of you back in school, but I'm realizing now it was probably kind of creepy."

"It was." Sasuke says flatly. "But my international criminal status seems to have driven them off a bit."

"Yeah well, that's their loss!" Naruto is oddly argumentative.

"I don't really blame them. Or miss that nonsense, really. And here I thought you wanted me to see the bright side of things," Sasuke deadpans, and Naruto shoves him playfully.

"I just mean - you do so much for the village, and when I'm hokage, I'm gonna make sure no one ever forgets it! You'll basically be the other hokage, ya know." He adds the last part a bit sheepishly, and Sasuke wonders how Naruto is so certain of his goodness after all this time. He wonders if he would still be so certain if he knew how Sasuke wants him sometimes.

"But either way, I'm sure you'll get laid sooner or later, Sasuke. You should know by now you're annoyingly hot."

Sasuke doesn't respond, and Naruto's eyes widen as he realizes what he just admitted to.

"I mean - it's not like - for a guy, you look pretty okay, that's all - "

"So you think I'm good looking, usuratonkachi?" He smirks.

"Teme! You're alright, I suppose. I guess I've seen worse.”

“Of course you have, when you look in the mirror.”

“Dick,” Naruto says, pouting childishly. Then his expression breaks, slipping into something far more mischievous.

“But you know," and Naruto is really leering now, the alcohol loosening his tongue, "you're the one that's been staring at me all night."

Sasuke supposes there's no denying it.

He doesn't mean to lean in, but this - this thing has been building between them for too long, and he can't help himself. Naruto seems to be on the same page, for once.

Their lips meet. It's chaste, a mere shadow of what's to come. And then, just like that, they're grasping at each other as Naruto drags him into an alley. Like everything else between them, it's a competition. Who can elicit a gasp, a moan, a shiver, faster than the other.

Naruto has Sasuke pinned to a wall, lifting his wrists above his head, biting at his lips fiercely. Sasuke pushes back, pins him instead, clutching his hair to force back his head so he has access to his throat. He sucks a bruise into his neck, and Naruto moans.

"Shit, shit," he hisses. "Why didn't we do this sooner?"

"Because we're friends," Sasuke imitates him mockingly, and Naruto lets out a short laugh that dissolves into a gasp once again, when Sasuke nips at his earlobe.

They don't make it much farther than that - it's a bit cold and Naruto has a meeting in the morning and frankly, they both want to be fully aware for when they actually fuck - but every moment is seared into Sasuke's memory, even without the sharingan.

"Oh man, look who finally got some," Suigetsu says over breakfast the next morning, eyeing Sasuke's hickies and disheveled appearance. Karin loudly contemplates which woman at the bar Sasuke could possibly have been interested in. Jugo looks thoughtful but says nothing.

Naruto sees him off towards the end of his trip, knowing Sasuke will be continuing his travels in the wilderness.

"Have fun wiping your ass with leaves, teme." Naruto says, smiling.

"Have fun doing paperwork, dobe." Sasuke retorts.

Neither address what's shifted between them. It's easier that way.
-

ii. stone

They’re in one of Iwa’s canyons, surrounded by red, sun-baked clay. They were offered such an expansive training region because they’ve been known to casually create craters - but today’s regiment is a bit more simple.

Naruto swings a sword, over-enthusiastic, and it barely grazes Sasuke’s chest. He yelps, but Sasuke only steps back fluidly, smirking.

“Was that intentional?” He teases. Naruto looks at the sword in frustration.

“I don’t get it, it looks so cool and easy when you do it, but I just can’t - “ he takes another demonstrative swing of the sword, and Sasuke makes sure to step away just in time “ - get it right! You’d think this would be easy after I mastered things like sage mode! No offense.”

“Just because it’s lower level doesn’t mean your body is accustomed to these specific movements,” Sasuke explains.

Naruto was adamant on learning how to fight with a sword, and Sasuke was more than willing to oblige when it came to teaching him. It’s amusing, in a sense, and has been a great way to pass time in Iwa, as they both prefer to spend as little time with the tsuchikage as possible.

But they were quickly realizing that it had been a very, very long time since Naruto struggled with anything related to being a shinobi.

“Let me show you,” Sasuke says, stepping behind Naruto. He holds up Naruto’s arm with his singular hand, pressing his chest to his back.

“Be firm, but fluid. Think of the sword as an extension of yourself - you’re not moving it so much as it moves with you.”

“Huh. With advice that vague, there’s no way I won’t get it!” Naruto says cheerfully. Sasuke rolls his eyes.

“Just keep trying, usuratonkachi. If you do well, maybe I’ll reward you.” He whispers the last part into his ear, and Naruto presses back against him.

It occurs to Sasuke once again how handsome Naruto is - curling blonde hair, perpetually tanned skin, well developed muscles. Naruto doesn’t miss his staring.

“Checking me out, teme?” His voice is practically dripping with self satisfaction. To his horror, Sasuke can feel himself growing hard against Naruto’s ass.

“Aw, someone’s happy to see me.” Naruto says, laughing. He turns around to face Sasuke and loops his arms around his neck.

“Focus on the sword, Naruto,” Sasuke says, trying to sound stern. Naruto just laughs at him again.

“I think the sword can wait,” Naruto replies lightly, and then they’re kissing vigorously, almost desperate in their desire for each other. They back up against a stone wall and Naruto drops to his knees, looking up at Sasuke expectantly.

“You done this before?” Sasuke asks, honestly curious. Naruto smiles.

“Nope! Congratulations on being my first.” And he begins to undo Sasuke’s training pants, slips down his boxers, and swallows him whole.

Sasuke throws his head back, entranced. He clutches Naruto’s hair, tugs at it, willing him to take him in deeper, and can practically feel the amusement wafting off of him. He fucks into his mouth, abandoning all restraint.

“You can come on my face,” Naruto tells him casually, and that's what finally does Sasuke in.

He comes with a choked gasp, and Naruto really doesn’t seem to mind it at all, grinning and wiping his face with little care.

“Naruto…” Sasuke searches for the right words. “That was…”

“Amazing, incredible, show stopping, I know.” Naruto looks up at him cheerily. Sasuke lifts him up to kiss him breathless, not caring that he can taste himself on his lips.

“Now lean back,” he instructs him, and Naruto just glances at him in confusion.

“Uh, for what?”

“To return the favor, obviously.” And Sasuke drops to his knees, this time, watching smugly as Naruto anticipates his every movement.

-

iii. cloud

The next time they meet is in Kumo, among dark, twisting, bare branches and heavy sheets of snow.

Naruto stops by to train with Killer Bee, and Sasuke stops solely to watch. He’s highly attentive to Killer Bee’s technique, understanding now that he’s likely the greatest swordsman on the face of this earth. Sasuke may have been gifted with power from the Sage of Six Paths himself, but watching Bee’s graceful momentum, he has a feeling the man could probably still kick his ass.

His thought process is broken when Bee calls out, suddenly - “so Naruto, you didn’t tell me you got a boyfriend.”

There is an awkward silence.

“Oh, uh, we’re not dating!” Naruto says, laughing nervously. Bee looks contemplative.

“Huh. You don’t say. I just figured since Sasuke here can’t seem to stop watching you.”

Bee’s grin is absolutely shit eating, and Naruto flushes with embarrassment. Sasuke is deeply grateful for his ability to pull off a poker face despite his intense mortification, though he can feel his face heating anyway.

Training seems to pass by rather quickly after that.

They head back to their inn, later on. It has a massive courtyard and Naruto runs out into the snow flurries, trying to catch flakes on his tongue. He stumbles a bit, on a piece of ice.

“Are you twelve?” Sasuke asks, dry as ever. Naruto gives him the finger. Sasuke smirks, and decides to throw a snowball.

“Hey!” Naruto yelps as it smashes directly into his face. Sasuke has always found that look of exaggerated outrage a little bit funny.

“Should’ve dodged,” he says, and is about to throw another, when he feels a snowball hit the back of his head.

“How the hell,” he mutters before remembering that, oh yeah. Shadow clones.

They run around like they’re little kids again, tripping each other up, rubbing snow into each other’s hair. Naruto’s light brown skin is flushed, the tip of his nose is tinged red, and Sasuke has the oddest impulse to kiss it.

“Let’s go inside,” he says suddenly, and Naruto is too exhilarated and happy from the snowball fight to register Sasuke’s abrupt change in mood.

“Since I won, you owe me ramen!” Naruto says, throwing his coat onto Sasuke’s couch like he owns the place.

“Sure. Once you admit I’m better than Teuchi.” Sasuke is already placing ingredients on the kitchen island, as Naruto hops onto the counter and swings his legs.

“I can't just lie, Sasuke! On a scale of one to Teuchi, you're a solid six. You want a higher rank, you gotta earn it!”

“Maybe you should cook instead, dobe,” Sasuke says, though he’s already taken a mental note to ask Teuchi for his recipe.

Later, as they sit over steaming bowls of ramen, playing some shitty civilian movie that Naruto cries over, Sasuke imagines what it would be like to take Naruto out. But he doesn’t know if he can - if he’s capable. He doesn't regret everything he’s done, but he regrets hurting him. Regrets it enough to have wanted to die over it after they’d fought at the valley of the end.

Well, let’s think of it this way, Kakashi had said. You were fated to fight, and you defied that fate. No more young men will be killing each other in valleys any time soon. That’s a bright side, if you ask me.

And Sasuke knows there were cosmic forces at play, but their history continues to weigh him down. Is it right of him to want this? Is it right to want him?

They take their leave the next day. Bee comes to see them off, and grips Sasuke’s hand in a firm handshake. There’s a pretty woman next to him, and it occurs to Sasuke that Bee has a wife. He feels a familiar sense of self disgust at the person he was at a certain period of time, when he’d stopped avoiding kills, stopped valuing human life in his rage and suffering, stopped considering his targets had people who needed them.

But these thoughts seem to be far from Bee’s mind. He gives Sasuke a knowing look.

“Take what you want, kid.” He says, not unkindly. “Or you’ll come to regret it.”

Sasuke can’t really argue with that.

-

iv. mist

Everything in Kiri is blurred at the edges. The world is visible only through a screen of thick fog, like the steam of tea obscuring a glass cup. Sasuke is grateful when he steps into the gala, warm and twinkling with lights. It's a gathering meant for political figures, but he has been given special access because of his research on the otsutsuki.

He searches the room until his eyes finally rest upon the person he’s been hoping to find.

“You know, we’ve gotta stop meeting like this.” Naruto walks towards him, grinning.

“What, in places where I have a clear and documented criminal history?

“I mean more like in places we can’t fuck.”

He’s always marveling at Naruto’s ability to transition from blushing ditz to leering asshole at a moment’s notice. Luckily, Sasuke can give as good as he gets.

“Who says we can’t fuck in here?” He leans close to whisper in his ear and just like that, the blush is back. It’s a welcome sight.

“What criminal history do you have here, anyway?” Naruto mutters, clearly flustered.

“I fought Terumi Mei,” Sasuke replies, taking a sip of his sake. It had been more like he stood in his susanoo as Terumi Mei fought him, drained as he was from fighting his way through about forty samurai and sawing off the raikage’s arm, but Naruto didn’t need to hear all that.

They do sneak out to fuck, eventually. The mizukage herself leaves early, so Sasuke supposes that Naruto, the unifier of the alliance, has a carte blanche.

It’s far from the first time they’ve done this, but they have never discussed what this means. They’ve relied on touch to communicate their feelings instead. A kiss pressed to the collarbone means I miss you when I’m gone. Nails dragged down the other’s back as they fuck means I don’t think I could stand to share you. When Naruto enters him, or Sasuke enters him in turn, it means this is the best I could possibly have.

Naruto made his home in the precipice of Sasuke’s mind a long time ago, and Sasuke has never been able to extricate him. Has stopped trying to, in fact. Naruto was the only one - his one and only. Sasuke whispers as much into the crook of his neck as Naruto fucks him, and smiles as he comes with a gasp.

They lie tangled in each other afterward, the low light of their lamp creating shadows on their skin.

“So...when are you leaving again?” Naruto asks. There’s no resentment in his voice. It's one of the many things Sasuke appreciates about him - so long as he knows Sasuke is safe and content, he’s willing to be apart.

“Tomorrow morning,” Sasuke replies. And then, hesitantly; “Would you like me to stay?”

“We’re gonna see each other again in a month for that refugee resettlement thing Kaka-sensei is setting up. It’ll pass by in no time!” And then Naruto adds, nervously, “I...always want you to stay. But if you need to go, I’m not gonna stop you.”

“...You know I’ll always come back to you, usuratonkachi.” Sasuke says quietly.

Naruto just smiles. “You know I’ll always wait.”

-

v. sand

If Kiri is blurred at the edges then Suna is its diametric opposite, each crevice thrown into sharp clarity under the harsh light of the sun.

Sasuke makes his way through the dusty roads and daytime festivities to find Naruto exactly where he expects - at a ramen stand with Gaara.

“Well, it’s not Teuchi level obviously, but it’s still pretty good!” Naruto informs the vendor, who is nodding his head sagely as if Naruto is imparting the highest wisdom known to man. Gaara sits next to him, amused.

“Sasuke Uchiha,” he nods at him in acknowledgement. “Interesting choice in clothing.”

Sasuke looks down at his printed poncho and beaded chain. He’d picked them up from some monks he had briefly traveled with. Suigetsu had told him he looked as though he’d been dumpster diving, but he liked to keep pieces of everyone he’d met with him.

The most important object of remembrance is, of course, at his belt at all times. A cracked headband, that he reaches down to touch when he most needs reassurance.

“You do kinda look like you’re wearing a potato sack,” Naruto says, snickering. He pats the seat next to him. “C’mon, sit with us!”

They pass the afternoon away with Gaara, who is always pleasant company. He is thinking of implementing orphanages throughout the hidden villages, and Sasuke volunteers the Uchiha compound as a potential location. He thinks it’s only fitting that the empty corridors he had wasted away in as a child become safe havens for orphans like himself, Naruto and Gaara - alone, and starved of love.

Suna’s annual springtime festival is that night, and the village is more vivid than ever once the sun sets. Colorful fabrics decorate street stands, the smell of fried meat wafts through the air. A vendor hosts a target practice competition in exchange for free kebabs.

“Dobe,” Sasuke calls out. “Think you can beat me at target practice?” He walks over to a slingshot game. Naruto perks up instantly, and Sasuke can't help the way the sight warms him. It’s been this way since they were little kids, if he’s being honest. Before the jealousy, before he realized their competition wasn't a game anymore, it had brought him secret pleasure to earn a smile or look of admiration from Naruto.

“You’re on!” Naruto practically bounces towards him. He’s drunk on sake, and he angles his slingshot sloppily and exuberantly, letting it fly off at a ninety degree angle.

“Watch it,” the guy at the stand ducks to avoid his second attempt.

“That was a fluke! One more time!”

“You’re supposed to launch it while facing forward, usuratonkachi.” His slingshot fires a ball in a smooth arc. Naruto watches, disgruntled.

“That’s - this isn't over!”

They settle into comfortable, playful competition until the stand owner kicks Naruto out for property damage. Sasuke wins enough times to get the free kebab though, which he promptly splits with Naruto as he hears his stomach rumble.

“Nope, no way!” Naruto crosses his arms stubbornly. “I’ll get my own kebab with my own prize! You can just sit back and watch,”

“Tch. Don’t be unreasonable.”

“No offense, Sasuke-chan but I think you lost the right to call anyone unreasonable when you walked into Suna wearing three layers of clothing.”

They settle into playful bickering and make their way to the docks, next to the only body of water near the village - the same body of water bordering Konoha, that Sasuke had spent hours gazing at throughout his long lonely childhood.

It’s late at night now. The moon spills over the water, scattering fragments of light in the deep, endless black. Naruto swings his legs.

“Everyone’s really impressed with your research, you know. You’re doing a lot of good,” Naruto says softly. Sasuke pauses, unsure of how to respond.

“...It’s what’s necessary. They are likely the greatest threat we’ve ever known.” Sasuke replies. Naruto waves his hand like that doesn't particularly interest him.

“Yeah, yeah. We kicked Kaguya’s ass, we’ll get rid of whoever comes afterwards too!”

“If you recall, we barely managed with Kaguya,” Sasuke points out.

“So what? It took us a day to seal her. Next time one of those assholes shows up, we’ll do it in a third of that time!”

“You’re such an idiot,” Sasuke says, affection coursing through him. Naruto grins and continues to swing his legs.

It occurs to Sasuke that Naruto has this unshakeable conviction that absolutely everything can be accomplished, and it can be accomplished without compromise.
He didn't consider limitations - his own, or anyone else’s. He would train until he passed out just as he had cheered on their fellow genin, long past the point anyone else would’ve encouraged them to stop. It was a stupid, indescribably frustrating quality.

He hopes, from the bottom of his heart, that Naruto will never outgrow it.

-

vi. wave

Wave is a nation of contrasts. Calm beaches and white sand, thick greenery and dark forests. Naruto is visiting Tazuna, and Sasuke decides to join him. He’s not sure what he’s searching for.

“I remember when you boys were barely up to my waist. You had an eating competition and threw up all over my living room,” Tazuna informs them, jovially. Naruto laughs.

“I remember that! I totally won that, by the way.”

“In your dreams, usuratonkachi.”

Every place surrounding Tazuna’s home is a precious memory. There’s the forest where team seven had taken their first steps up trees. There’s the clearing where Sasuke had found Naruto, searching for him for hours when he didn’t show up for breakfast. He had worried about him so often back then. It was one thing that had never changed between them, even as bitter enemies. He couldn't help but instinctively protect Naruto throughout the war, whatever excuses he would make to himself to justify it.

Naruto had never bought those excuses.

They head over to the Great Naruto Bridge, where Sasuke had almost lost his life and Naruto had found his very first friend.

“I went crazy when I thought you died, ya know.” Naruto tells him. Sasuke glances at him, shocked. He had never questioned what happened after he passed out, just assumed Kakashi had taken care of Haku.

“The Third Hokage said the seal had a one in a million chance of breaking. For me it broke over you.”

Sasuke doesn’t know what to say.

“I could never stop paying attention to you,” Sasuke tells him, since it seems like the time for confessions. “You...were always on my mind.”

“Well, we’ve got that in common.” Naruto says cheerily, then pauses. “Oh, uh, I mean! I paid attention to you, not that I also paid attention to myself! Ugh, I think I’m ruining the moment - “

“Naruto.”

“What?”

“Shut up.” He presses his lips against his.

They kiss slowly at the bridge, Naruto pressed up against the railing, as the world spins on around them.

-

vii. leaf

It’s a hot, lazy summer, the kind where one day melts seamlessly into the next. They’re in a clearing, team seven training with team Gai.

Gai challenges Kakashi to a spar, and he agrees with obviously feigned reluctance.

“You can do it Gai-sensei!” Lee cries out.

“Yeah, I bet on Gai,” Sasuke says.

“Gai is definitely gonna win,” Sakura nods affirmingly.

“Always the lack of faith in me,” Kakashi sighs, but Sasuke knows he is happiest when they are all together like this, even as they tease him.

“Oh! Afterward, me and you can spar!” Naruto says.

“If you're fine with getting your ass kicked, usuratonkachi.”

Gai does win, though just barely. Sasuke and Sakura both collect money from Naruto, the only one who bet in favor of Kakashi.

“Man, Kaka-sensei, you really need to get in shape.” He grumbles as he hands over the money. Kakashi just smiles. The ennui of having a desk job is surprisingly suited to him, particularly since doing his paperwork quickly so he can read Icha Icha paradise agreed with him far more than a high stakes shinobi life.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Kakashi says glibly.

Sasuke spends the day with his teammates. Sakura is calmer now, more confident, in charge of her very own hospital with Ino at her side. Kakashi seems to finally be at peace. He’s with Gai a lot, and Sasuke thinks he understands why.

Once the sun sets, Sasuke and Naruto make their way to Naruto's apartment alone.

Naruto lives in the same dingy place even now, with its cracked walls and cramped corners. Sasuke sort of gets it. After a full day of being Naruto Uzumaki, everyone’s hero, it might be relieving to come home and remember where he started.

Sasuke hasn’t actually been in Naruto's room since they were children, and even then he was always frantically ushered out into the living room. He spots something curious on the wall - a drawing, if it can even be called that, of himself.

It’s intentionally poorly rendered and has clearly been used for target practice. Sasuke smirks.

“So you spent your time making drawings of me, dobe?”

Naruto follows his line of sight and his eyes widen in alarm. “That’s - that’s obviously super old, I keep forgetting to get rid of it!” He rips it off the wall hurriedly, then add more quietly, “ ‘Sides, I kinda...I kinda made an actual drawing of you. Don’t make fun of it! Or you can, actually, since it probably sucks.” He laughs nervously

Sasuke follows him towards a drawer, as Naruto pulls out the drawing. It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than anything he could have expected from Naruto. The attention to detail is uncanny. Sasuke realizes, with a small degree of embarrassment, that Naruto really did spend a long time watching him.

“Do you like it?” Naruto asks in a hushed voice.

Sasuke swallows. “I...thank you.” He says simply. Naruto beams as though he’s given him a paragraph of praise.

Naruto pulls him onto his bed, and Sasuke complies. He reaches for the lube, but Sasuke stops him.

“No, let me.” He says, laying Naruto down. He wants to be...gentle, for once, even if it doesn’t come easily to him.

He flips Naruto onto his belly, preps him carefully and slides in a finger. Naruto gasps and squirms underneath him, skin hot to the touch.

Sasuke kisses his neck, his shoulders, his back - and he thrusts into him again, marveling at how Naruto arches up into his touch.

"Enjoying yourself?" He asks, smug as ever.

"It's alright," Naruto teases back. 

Sasuke eats him out before he fucks him, wanting to taste him thoroughly. Usually, their sex is reciprocal, but Sasuke is compelled to shift the focus entirely onto Naruto for the night. He licks into him, spreads him open slowly, relishing in Naruto’s moans.

He fucks into him gently. He lacks his usual urgency, wanting to feel Naruto as deeply as he can. He drives him into a frenzy and when they come, it’s together. A single, heated moment that seems to last an eternity.

Sasuke is spooning him from the back later on, when Naruto elbows him suddenly.

“What?” He asks, wincing. Naruto turns to smile at him.

“Let’s cuddle and order ramen!”

"...I've got a better idea," Sasuke says. "Why don't I take you out instead?"

And because Sasuke is now free to do anything he wants, anywhere he wants to, he spends the night treating Naruto to ramen.

-