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The Relic

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Naruto was late. Sasuke could hear heavy footsteps thundering up the main staircase, and he winced as something shattered. The idiot must have knocked a portrait off the wall.

“Sasuke! Where are you, you bastard?” Naruto yelled, and Sasuke schooled his features into practiced impassivity a second before the door to his bedroom burst open. One of the hinges bent dangerously.

“Where is it?” Naruto growled, head whipping around the room. “Give it back.”

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at him and didn’t answer.

“Damn it,” Naruto seethed. “This is the third time this week. What’s wrong with you?”

Naruto started tearing through his belongings like a madman, ripping sheets off his bed, sweeping books off their shelves, opening and slamming drawers with a barely-contained fury. Sasuke’s Spartan room was reduced to shambles within seconds. Naruto finally found what he was looking for, tucked clumsily under Sasuke’s mattress.

Naruto snatched the necklace up and shoved it over his head, glaring the whole time. “It’s not funny,” he said. “It’s not cute, and it’s not yours. Next time I’ll put a Rasengan through your heart, got it?”

Sasuke made a noncommittal noise and turned away – a blatant show of unconcern. Naruto snarled and slammed his way out the room. Sasuke smiled as he tied his hitai-ate tight around his forehead.

*

He wasn’t sure when he’d decided that, by all rights, Naruto’s necklace belonged to him. He was still trying to work out the logic of that in his head, but it went something like this: Naruto had, at some point, laid claim to Sasuke. He never said it – Sasuke wasn’t sure he even knew it – but to Sasuke, and probably to everyone else in Konoha, it was very clear to whom he belonged. Naruto had room for the whole village in his heart, but Sasuke only had enough space for one person. It had been Itachi once, and now it was Naruto, and Sasuke had given up fighting that the day he returned to the village.

It wasn’t a comfortable feeling; it was itchy and suffocating and even humiliating sometimes, and the worst part about it was that Naruto never seemed to be suffering in turn. Naruto actually smiled even more than Sasuke remembered. He seemed so damn content all the time, and if anything in this life was unfair, it was that.

So Sasuke figured he was entitled to something – something that made Naruto’s eyes snap and his hands ball into fists and pulled that husky growl from his throat. The necklace did the trick.

He stole it three more times before Naruto actually followed through on his promise and attacked him with the Rasengan. Sasuke was smiling again as he danced out of the way.

*

“Naruto’s mad at you, you know,” Sakura said. “Breathe slowly.”

He was stretched out on a padded examining table in his boxers. Three years ago, seeing so much of his body would have made Sakura’s face go red, but Sasuke supposed she had witnessed too much during her medical training to care one way or the other at this point.

He flinched when she laid the stethoscope on his chest. “It’s freezing,” he complained.

“Are you telling me,” she said mildly, “that one of Konoha’s most notorious missing-nin can’t handle a routine physical?”

He felt heat creep up his cheeks. “Shut up,” he muttered.

“Anyway,” she said. “He’s really pissed, and if I have to hear about it anymore, I think I’m going to scream. Why do you even want the necklace, anyway?”

He irritably shoved the stethoscope off his chest and started pulling on his clothes.

“Nice,” she said. “The two of you are a pair of idiots.”

“What do you know?” he snapped, suddenly irrationally pissed at her. “All you’d have to do is bat your eyelashes at him and he’d trip over himself to give the damn thing to you.”

She blinked at him. There was hurt playing around the corners of her green eyes, and he felt an unpleasant moment of shame.

But this was the new Sakura, so she shook it off. “You’re the one who walked out,” she said calmly. “You can’t blame him for hanging on to some anger. If you want to be able to talk to him like a normal person, it’s up to you to fix it.”

Sometime Sasuke hated the new Sakura.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said wearily. “Naruto wouldn’t understand anyway.”

“Well,” Sakura said. “Have you tried asking him?”

*

By the time Sasuke arrived back at his apartment, he’d convinced himself that straightforwardly asking was the stupidest idea he’d ever heard. The day Naruto could be reasonable was the day Sasuke admitted Konohamaru was a better ninja than him. Never gonna happen.

He was noiseless as he crept into Naruto’s apartment that night. Naruto was snoring lightly, pale feet hanging off the end of his twin bed. The necklace shone dully in the moonlight, and Sasuke was very careful as he lifted it over Naruto’s tousled head.

The figure sleeping on the bed poofed into nothing just as the lights flicked on.

“Gotcha!”

Sasuke turned to see Naruto leaning against the door, striped pajamas hanging off his frame. His teeth were showing in a smile, but his eyes were fierce as he held out his palm. “Give it,” he said.

Sasuke looked down at the necklace in his hand, and his mouth tightened.

“No.”

“Damn it, I’m sick of this game,” Naruto exploded. “It’s not yours. Can’t you use something else to get your klepto fix? Here.” He hurled a stone frog at Sasuke’s head, and Sasuke dodged. It left a gray mark where it hit the wall.

“Take it,” Naruto said. “Take anything. Just give me the damn necklace.”

Sasuke didn’t want anything else. There wasn’t anything else that Naruto wore so religiously, kept so securely against his skin. God, he was jealous of a fucking necklace.

Sasuke tightened his fingers, wrapping the cord of the necklace more securely in his hand. “This is mine,” he said. “I’m keeping it.”

Naruto threw his hands up. “You’re totally insane. Did Orochimaru drop you down some stairs while you were gone? What don’t you get, here? It’s mine. M-I-N-E. Mine.”

The stone was going to leave an imprint on his palm once Sasuke finally let go of it.

“Look,” he said. “Fight me for it. If you win, I won’t try to take it again.”

Naruto was tempted, he could tell. The blonde bit his lip, eyeing the cord wrapped in Sasuke’s fist. But then he abruptly shook his head. “No. I can’t. I can’t, okay? Why do you want it so much anyway?”

Sasuke opened his mouth to explain, but found he couldn’t. There was a sense of rightness when Naruto’s necklace was in his possession, and lately he couldn’t seem to do anything without it. When the necklace was gone, it was like Naruto was gone, and nothing made his chest tighten like the thought of Naruto disappearing. He craved that necklace, and it was becoming increasingly clear that it was because he just plain craved Naruto.

“Never mind,” Sasuke said abruptly. “I was just testing you. I don’t want it.”

Naruto’s brows snapped together, but Sasuke didn’t like what he saw in the blue eyes: anger and confusion and the tiniest bit of hurt that clawed at Sasuke’s gut.

“Don’t be so careless from now on,” Sasuke said shortly, and pushed himself out of the window.

*

Things were awkward after that.

Naruto watched him, but it wasn’t a look Sasuke had ever seen on the blonde before. There was no anger in it, or resentment, or challenge. Or even distrust. It was just a simple, observing stare. It made prickles rise on the back of Sasuke’s neck. He hated being studied. He’d had enough of it as Orochimaru’s disciple.

He tried to nonchalantly bring up the subject with Sakura, but either she was still hurt from the last time he’d been rude to her, or she was so fed up with the situation that she didn’t care either way.

“You two are like girls,” she said. “Hormonal little girls on their periods. You’re worse than Ino and I ever were. There are people dying in my hospital, and I don’t have time for your drama right now.”

Sasuke assumed he looked as shocked as he felt, because Sakura’s face softened. She sighed and patted him on the head like a dog.

“You’ll figure it out,” she said. “Now, shoo.”

Sasuke tried sparring with Suigetsu on one of the smaller training fields, but that didn’t help much, either.

“This sucks,” Suigetsu complained when Sasuke left a gash across his shoulder. “There are eight billion trees here and not even one little pond. Talk about unfair odds.”

“Somehow I doubt Kisame will be nice enough to let you choose the venue next time you try and take his sword.”

“Yeah,” Suigetsu muttered, “well Kisame also gets to be play supervillain while I’m stuck here with you leaf wimps. Are you sure there’s no one here I can kill?”

Sasuke narrowed his eyes in warning.

Suigetsu called an end to the training session after that by declaring Sasuke a “testy little bitch” and stalking off the field.

Sasuke trained alone for hours, trying to calm his roiling unease.

*

Two days later, he came home to find an intruder in his house.

Sasuke approached carefully, his bare feet sliding over the glossy wooden floor without a whisper. He paused at the door to his room, listening. Someone was muttering under their breath. Someone loud and orange and without a pretense of stealth.

Naruto jumped as Sasuke slid the door open with a bang.

“Damn it.” Naruto gaped at him. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“If you’re going to break in,” Sasuke said in measured tones, “you should at least do a better job of it. It’s insulting.”

Naruto’s face went dark with anger. He slammed the drawer he’d been rifling through. “You,” he said pointing. “I don’t know where you hid it, but I’m sick of this.”

Sasuke had tried; he really had. But he couldn’t fucking sleep without that damn necklace anymore,

 “Give it back to me,” Naruto continued huffily, “and I’ll give it back to Tsunade, and that will be the end of it. I don’t know what your weird fixation is, but I don’t have time for it.”

That stung a little more than it should, so Sasuke leaned against the doorframe and smirked in retaliation. “Couldn’t find it, huh?”

The attack caught him off-guard. Sasuke just managed to duck in time to avoid Naruto’s fist. It went straight through the paper-thin plaster of the bedroom wall.

“You’re paying for that,” Sasuke said blandly, then dodged another blow. He flickered out of Naruto’s reach and re-materialized behind the blonde. He put him in a hold, feeling Naruto shake with anger. Sasuke’s blood was dancing in his veins, and his skin was beginning to itch. He’d been aching for this fight for weeks. The tepid sparring sessions with his team did nothing to relieve the tension that had been spinning his insides into knots.

“Let…go,” Naruto yelled. Naruto broke free and they stood, facing each other. Sasuke was ready to throw another punch when he felt Naruto’s palm smash into his sternum. Naruto shoved him back against the wall, one palm flat against his chest, keeping him at arm’s length. His eyes were a frightening mix of red and blue. Sasuke could feel the electricity between them like a tangible thing, and he watched, fascinated, as Naruto visibly fought to control himself.

“Give it back,” he grated. “Give it back or I swear I’ll – ” Then he stilled. Sasuke realized he’d let the blonde close enough for him to make out the outline of the cord beneath Sasuke’s shirt.

Naruto made a wild grab, and Sasuke tried to block it. He found his wrist very decisively slammed against the wall, and then Naruto’s fingers twisted into his shirt, scoring cloth and skin alike as he got his fist around the stone.

He snarled and yanked, and Sasuke was pulled forward. He lost his footing, and then their faces collided. Or rather, their lips did. Sasuke felt the impact as his mouth hit Naruto’s with bruising force. His teeth smashed against the inside of his lip, and he tasted blood.

“Shit,” he said, rearing back, forgetting that Naruto still had a hold of the necklace. They both stumbled, and Sasuke’s back hit the wall, Naruto’s weight pinning him under a heavy warmth. They stayed there for a moment, breathing hard.

“Shit,” Sasuke said again, because Naruto wasn’t moving, was just leaning his forehead up against the wall, so close to Sasuke’s face. Sasuke would only have to turn his head the tiniest bit for their lips to press together again…

He felt Naruto’s hand creeping up his side, coming to rest gently on his hip.

“Let go,” Sasuke said quietly, and Naruto shook his head violently without raising it.

“I don’t want to.” His voice was completely different than it had been a moment ago.

“Naruto,” Sasuke said, his voice a mix of warning and desperation. Any second now he was going to do something stupid, something idiotic and irreversible, and something he’d been wanting to do ever since he came home.

Naruto shifted the slightest bit, bringing their hips together, and against all good sense, Sasuke moaned. He felt Naruto’s nose behind his ear, nuzzling like cat, and then Naruto’s tongue crept out and touched his skin.

Sasuke struggled, shoving Naruto away. Naruto stood there, mussed and confused and panting, and Sasuke didn’t think he’d ever wanted him more.

“Get out,” he said desperately. “Just go, get out, get the fuck out.”

“Sasuke.” Naruto took a cautious step closer, and Sasuke stepped back, keeping the distance between them. “Are you…scared of me?”

And Sasuke wanted to laugh, because the day he was scared of Naruto was the day he’d pack up his sword and retire to a life of leisure. What terrified him was the odd look in Naruto’s eyes – that fascination that told Sasuke he wasn’t alone in feeling this awful pull between them. And if he kissed Naruto now, that was it. He’d be entirely Naruto’s and he’d lose the last bit of himself and he’d never be able to do anything again without tasting Naruto in it.

“I told you to go,” he said.

“Sasuke,” Naruto said. “Shut up.” And then he twisted his fist in Sasuke’s collar and they were kissing.

Sasuke felt himself falling into darkness, and he knew that was a really fucking poetic way of saying his eyes were closed, but Naruto’s tongue was making it feel like everything was swirling endlessly downward. Naruto had a way of sucking people into him, and Sasuke felt like that now, being pulled gently by a current he’d been swimming against all his life.

Naruto lifted his head and made a face. “Are you still in shock,” he asked, “or do you just really suck at kissing?”

And Sasuke had gone too far to ever, ever stop, so he said, “Shut up, dobe,” curved his hand around Naruto’s blonde head, and pulled him in for another kiss.

Naruto kissed sloppily and enthusiastically, like he did everything else, but for once it was endearing rather than annoying.

“Fuck,” he said when Sasuke sucked at his throat, and his eyes rolled back in his head when Sasuke dragged a nail over his nipple.

“Bed,” he panted. “Or couch. Or table. Or ahh - ”

Sasuke undid Naruto’s fly and sank to his knees.

“Floor,” Naruto said faintly. “Floor’s good, too.”

Sasuke let his tongue wander all over Naruto's body, across his stomach, his hips, tops of his thighs and the head of his cock. There was a triumph riding him, but it was doing battle with fear, too. Because Naruto was his now, but he was even more firmly Naruto’s, and it wasn’t any less humiliating as sex than it was as friendship.

He let his fingers grip the base of Naruto’s cock, moving in short strokes as he licked. He’d never done this before, but fantasies counted as practice, too, and from the way Naruto was moaning, he figured he was doing a passable job. For now. He wouldn’t be opposed to real live practice session in the future.

Just when he was sure Naruto was about to come, the blonde eased him away and kissed him. Sasuke was almost as turned on as Naruto was, and he couldn’t bring himself to protest when Naruto gently pushed him toward the ground. His erection was already wet and slippery from Sasuke’s mouth, and he eased in so slowly…

He felt a sweaty forehead drop against the back of his neck as Naruto thrust, and while the tortured noises Naruto was making were sort of ridiculous, they were also pretty damn sexy.

“Jerk,” Naruto mumbled, when he finally collapsed, lowering his exhausted weight to Sasuke’s back. “Why do you have to do everything the hard way?”

*

They eventually made it to the bed, between kisses and insults and renewed fondling. Sasuke dozed off eventually, but he woke an hour later to the eerie sense that he was being watched.

“What?” he asked without opening his eyes.

Naruto rustled on the bed next to him. “Nothing,” Naruto said. Then, “Why do you really want the necklace?”

Sasuke realized he was still wearing it. Naruto had stripped him of everything else, but he’d left necklace on. Sasuke opened his eyes and saw that Naruto was lying with his arm curled under one cheek, staring. His bare back was an unending stretch of sun-browned skin, and his blue eyes were uncomfortably young.

Sasuke searched inside himself for another excuse, but they were all gone.

“One day you won’t come back from a mission,” he said, “and this will be all that’s left of you.”

Naruto was quiet, but Sasuke could almost see the wheels turning in his brain. Eventually, Naruto snorted and buried his face in the pillow.

“What?” Sasuke asked, annoyed. He’d just left himself wide open, and Naruto was laughing.

“You idiot,” Naruto said. “I searched for you for three years. You didn’t leave a single thing behind, and I never stopped hunting, and do you know how hard that was, you asshole? Why the hell do you need a necklace to remind you of me when I’m right here?”

That wasn’t even close to the point, and Naruto was clearly too thick to understand. “Forget it,” Sasuke muttered, turning his back.

“Hold on,” Naruto said. “Stay here.” He was up in a flash, haphazardly pulling on his clothes. His shirt was twisted and rumpled, and his hair fell into his face in unruly clumps.

Sasuke stared. “You look ridiculous,” he said. “What are you doing?”

Naruto paused in the middle of shoving his foot into a sock and glared. “Yeah, well your hair looks even funnier than usual. Now stay here. I’ll be right back.”

Sasuke self-consciously smoothed down the back of his hair as Naruto vaulted out the window.

He kept his promise. He was back within minutes, and he had something clutched in his fist. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and Sasuke was glad he’d taken a second to pull a shirt on. He already felt  vulnerable enough.

“Look,” Naruto said, sounding frustrated. “You’re an idiot, but I sort of get it, okay? It’s not entirely true that you left nothingbehind.”

He uncurled his fist, and a young boy’s hitai-ate fell out, a deep score cutting the Konoha swirl in half.

Sasuke looked at him. “You’re insane,” he said.

“No,” Naruto said. “Listen. I understand the symbol thing. Because even though you left, and even though you almost killed me in the process” – Sasuke refused to flinch, even though every nerve in his body ached to – “this was what you left behind, and I kept it. It was important, because it was the only tangible thing I had.”

Naruto ran a hand through his messy hair. “I can’t let you have the necklace,” he said, and Sasuke unconsciously reached for it. “I can’t. It was a gift, and I need it. But – ”

His eyes scoured the room, and then he plucked his own discarded hitai-ate off the floor by the bed. He tied the two lengths of cloth together – one old and one new – and handed it to Sasuke.

“Take it,” he said. “I’m not going to die any time soon, and neither are you. But if it will keep your hands off Tsunade-baa-chan’s necklace, then take it.”

Sasuke eyed it. He could already feel the denial springing to his tongue, the millions of reasons why he wanted those forehead protectors far away. Just the sight of his old uniform had him thinking about the Valley of the End, and Naruto’s young face, and it left a dull ache in the back of his throat. If he took it back – that relic – it was all over. He didn’t have a prayer of extricating himself, ever again. He opened his mouth to say no, no way, absolutely not.

“Okay,” he said.

*

“Dude, Suigetsu’s a creepy guy, but he’s totally right,” Naruto complained over the breakfast table. “You’re really cranky in the morning.

He was eating dry ramen noodles – dry ramen noodles – and Sasuke glowered as he crunched obnoxiously.

“So…” Naruto said. “Can I move in?”

Sasuke blinked at him. “Are you on drugs?”

“Come on,” Naruto wheedled. “It could be really fun. I’m a good cook – ”

“Ramen doesn’t count as cooking.”

“ – and I’m a really clean guy – ”

“Your vest smells like feet.”

“ – and think how much more convenient it would be if I didn’t have to keep, like, a toothbrush here, and pajamas, and extra weapons, and – ”

Sasuke held up a hand. “Hold it. Exactly how much time do you think you’ll be spending here?”

Naruto’s blue eyes were cagey. “How much sex do you want to be having?”

Damn it.

“I’ll buy you a toothbrush,” Sasuke said wearily. “Now get out.”