Not for Me after All

BY : Sasunarufan13
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 928
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor make profit of it. Kishimoto owns it.

Author's note: This oneshot is dedicated to one of my dear friends, whose birthday is today. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

When I started writing this story, I didn't anticipate it becoming this long and it became a bit angstier near the end than I expected, but yeah *coughs* The story kind of ran away with me, so I hope the end result isn't too bad!

Warnings: Sasuke's pov; set a couple of years after the war, but doesn't follow the epilogue; foul language; hints of violence; slash; a sprinkle of angst; minor time skips; references to the Uchiha massacre

I hope you'll like it!

Not for Me after All

The soft chirping of birds nearby pricked through his slumber, poking through the faint shreds of a dream he couldn't recall the content of instantly.

He blinked slowly; his eyes adjusting to the faint morning light. The sun was slowly rising in the sky; its light filtered through the green leaves of the trees. His clothes rustled when he rose up and he rolled his shoulders to get the kinks out of them. Sleeping in trees for several nights in a row while remaining half conscious wasn't doing any wonders for his body. He couldn't really risk resting on the ground, though, given the rumours of a rogue shinobi gang travelling through this forest.

After freshening up in a nearby stream, he stood still for a moment and tried to decide which direction he should go to today. The cave yesterday had been a bust. If there had been anything noteworthy, it had disappeared – or been stolen – a long time ago. All he had found there were grooves in the wall from some kind of animal and rotting leaves.

He would go north, he decided, wrapping his cloak tighter around him. North meant more desolate places and desolate places meant more opportunities for information to remain hidden. Somewhere on this earth there had to be information stashed away and he was determined to find it, no matter how long it would take.

It being April the weather was pleasantly cool and the sun not too hot yet, so travelling through the silent forest wasn't a hardship. The serene atmosphere didn't put him less on edge, though. He remained on guard as he quietly made his way north, his senses sharpened in order to pick up even the slightest disturbance. The gang of shinobi gone rogue was rumoured to exist out of ten people at the very least, but they could be travelling with more than that. The eyewitnesses he had overheard talking about it hadn't been very reliable, given how they had been knocked out almost as soon as the gang had entered their village.

He wasn't too worried, however. Having fought against Madara and ultimately Kaguya, with the fate of the world having rested upon their shoulders, a gang of rogue shinobi seemed almost laughable now. If he encountered them and they attacked, he'd be able to stand his ground easily.

That didn't mean he wanted to fight them, though. If he could leave the forest without encountering them, so much the better.

The sun had reached its highest point when he became aware of a presence following him. His shadow hadn't been there for long yet; they had only just tracked him down, most likely coming from the clearing he had passed around an hour ago.

He tapped his fingers against the hilt of his katana and sighed inaudibly. Slowing down to a stop, he turned around and raised an eyebrow. "You're just going to keep following me? Taking up old habits again?" he drawled, resting his hand on his hip.

An orange black blur landed down a couple of feet away from him and straightened out. "I do not appreciate the implication of that, bastard," Naruto sniffed, looking offended.

Nobody else followed, so the Jinchuuriki was here all alone. Sasuke couldn't help but frown at that; it wasn't like Naruto to go on missions on his own.

"How did you find me?" he asked as somewhere above them birds started fighting, rustling the leaves violently.

Naruto scratched the bridge of his nose and shrugged, smiling awkwardly. "Following your chakra; how else would I have found you?"

"You didn't run all the way here," Sasuke remarked flatly. He was too far away from Konoha to just run the distance nonstop. If Naruto had been running towards him, he would have felt him approaching a lot earlier. It was hard to ignore that abundance of bright chakra after all.

"Ah no, Gamabunta dropped me off in a clearing close by," Naruto said, jerking his thumb back.

"Is something wrong?" Sasuke asked sharply, tensing up at the mention of the summoning. If Naruto had used Gamabunta to reach him, it had to be serious.

Blue eyes stared at him confused. "Wrong? No, why would something be wrong?"

"Because you called Gamabunta to bring you here," Sasuke explained and frowned. Why would Naruto use a summoning if whatever brought him here wasn't urgent? Why was he even here?

"Ah, that was just the fastest way to catch up to you," Naruto grinned, clasping his hands behind his head.

"Why are you here?" Sasuke questioned bluntly.

"Jeez, you sure know how to make a guy feel welcome, you know," Naruto complained, pouting slightly. At Sasuke's deadpan look, he relented with a gusty sigh, "I'm on a mission and the place is nearby, so I figured I might as well join you."

"You're on a mission on your own?" Sasuke furrowed his eyebrows. While the world had stabilised somewhat after the war, it still didn't seem like such a good idea to let a Jinchuuriki go on a mission by themselves. He knew Naruto could handle himself – there was no question about that – but it was also a fact that people with nefarious motives would love to get their hands on one of the last remaining Jinchuuriki.

Given that Naruto hadn't even trained as an ANBU, he should normally not be given solo missions either. Any non ANBU shinobi affiliated with a village required a team of at least two people, so why was Naruto here alone?

The blond man gestured around him with a sardonic look on his face. "Do you see anyone else around us?"

"I'd have thought Sakura would insist on going with you," Sasuke mused.

Naruto waved his hand haphazardly. "She, Ino and Sai are away on another mission."

"What's your mission then?"

The other man winked and grinned. "That's a secret," he chirped. "You know we're not allowed to divulge any information about missions, Sasuke." He waggled his finger in a mocking gesture of chiding him.

"And since when do you listen to rules?" Sasuke asked dryly and shook his head. "Fine, you can walk with me then until you're there."

"Again, you really know how to make people feel welcome, bastard," Naruto sighed. "Would it kill you to be a bit more enthusiastic about this? Come on, admit you missed me!"

"Keep up or I leave you behind," Sasuke advised him and turned around, continuing his trek through the forest.

He serenely ignored Naruto's dark mutter, "Still a stick up the arse, I see." and simply snapped his fingers, smirking when that made Naruto curse, but follow hastily. At least it was only Naruto and not other people from Konoha.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to have his friend join him for at least a little while.

He had forgotten one crucial thing after years of not having had Naruto at his side: he wouldn't stop talking.

No matter how difficult the terrain became at times – with its fallen trees and treacherous holes in the ground hidden by leaves and branches – or how quickly Sasuke marched, Naruto just kept on talking. He had the bloody nerve to not even sound the littlest bit out of breath.

He talked about Kakashi and how he was finally learning to ditch his habit of arriving late. About his friends and their missions. About Sakura and how the girl was planning on following into Tsunade's footsteps; at the moment she was putting together a whole new department apparently. One that would help people cope with the mental scars left from battles and the war. That sounded like a good idea actually; he hoped she'd be able to develop it completely and that the new department would be added to the hospital. Even if he couldn't imagine ever seeking help like that, other people would benefit from it.

Naruto talked about the Kages and how every village was working together now. There were still some issues – underlying tension between certain villages – but they were determined to resolve them before they turned into yet another war.

It was progress – more than they had ever before.

"Although Suna and Konoha still work better together than with the other villages," Naruto chattered, ducking underneath a low hanging branch. "I mean, I guess it helps that the villages aren't that far apart compared to the others, but still."

Sasuke side-eyed him. "Ever thought that perhaps it's because the Kazekage is Gaara that both villages are cooperating better?" he asked dryly, recalling the red haired man and the first fight they had had. If Naruto hadn't been there, things would have turned really ugly. Not that Gaara had been any less dangerous during the Kage Summit …

Naruto cocked his head to the right, confused. "Eh, I guess?" he said hesitatingly. "I guess the previous Kazekage wasn't as interested in cooperation as Gaara is." He laughed uncomfortably. It wasn't as if any of the previous Kage had been really interested in cooperation between the various villages.

"Or maybe the previous one didn't have the inspiration or incentive that Gaara has," Sasuke muttered, not really meaning to be overheard.

"Eh? What do you mean?"

"Nothing in particular," Sasuke replied smoothly, stepping neatly out of the way of a bush with thorny branches. A quick look at Naruto's frown, as the man clearly was trying to figure out what his comment meant, had him snorting softly. "Don't hurt your head by thinking too much, idiot."

"Bastard!" was the automatic retort, but the younger man remained silent after that, obviously still attempting to understand Sasuke's remark.

The evening fell without them encountering any of the rogue shinobi and they set up camp underneath a thick, old oak tree, cutting up some dead branches into kindle for a small fire. Even though spring had arrived, the evenings were still rather chilly and the small fire was welcome – especially now that Naruto had joined him. The other man had always been more susceptible to cold and the fire was a pre-emptive measure to stifle any whining that might occur during the night.

They had caught some fish in a stream and were preparing those for their dinner. As they held their fish over the dancing flames, Sasuke mused about Naruto's mission.

"Does your mission have anything to do with the band of rogue shinobi wandering around these parts?" he inquired curiously; his question accompanied by the gentle crackling of the fire.

Naruto stared at him blankly. "Rogue shinobi?" he repeated and yelped when his hand came too close to the flames.

The dark haired man shrugged, turning his fish around so that the other side could get decently cooked. "I've heard rumours that some rogue shinobi are going from one village to the next to plunder them. Supposedly they're around these parts now," he explained and watched amused how the blond hastily shifted out of reach of the fire, barely keeping his own fish above the heat. "But I take it from your reaction that that is not what your mission is about," he added.

Naruto spent a moment glowering at the fire as if it had personally offended him before shaking his head. "Don't know anything about that," he admitted. "Kaka-sensei didn't mention anything about it either. I don't even think he knows about it."

"Well, there's quite some distance between here and Konoha," Sasuke murmured, pulling back the fish to check it. It appeared to be well done and he placed it next to him on a large leaf. He had washed the leaf in the stream to get rid of as much dirt as possible and had it act as a makeshift plate for his fish. As he divided the fish into smaller pieces with the use of some chopsticks, Naruto kept muttering darkly underneath his breath as his fish wasn't done yet.

And it wouldn't be done anytime soon if he kept sitting so far away from the fire, the idiot.

"You know what would help?" he said flatly, picking up a piece of fish with his chopsticks and studying it carefully. "If you sit closer to the fire and actually hold the fish over it."

Blue eyes scowled at him. "I might heal quickly, but that doesn't mean I like getting burnt, bastard," he sniffed, pouting slightly.

"You're hopeless," Sasuke sighed, barely resisting the urge to drag his hand over his face. Placing his chopsticks next to his fish, he turned slightly until he was completely facing Naruto. "Hold out your fish in front of you and away from you," he instructed.

"Eh?" Despite looking stumped, Naruto did as he was told and held the stick with his fish as far away from his body as possible, even going as far as shuffling a bit further back.

Dark eyes narrowed and he nodded brusquely. Yeah, that should work. Quickly forming the seal, he opened his mouth and released a short, but fierce fire ball, which enveloped the fish briefly. The skin of the fish started crackling but before it could turn black, the fire disappeared, leaving the fish steaming gently.

Slowly Naruto pulled the fish closer to him and stared at it dumbfounded. Forgoing his own chopsticks, he teared off a piece with his teeth and made a noise of amazement, his eyes growing wide. "Shit, this tastes good! It doesn't even taste burnt!"

"Of course it doesn't." Sasuke rolled his eyes and returned to his own meal. His skin prickled with the gaze resting upon him and he glanced at the blond man, quirking an eyebrow. "What?"

"I can't believe you used a fire technique to cook my fish," Naruto muttered, sounding torn between being impressed or laughing his arse off.

"I can't believe it took you this long to cook a simple fish," the dark haired man shot back.

"As I said before, I don't fancy getting burnt, okay!"

That started a round of bickering which lasted until Sasuke shoved Naruto's shoulder and the blond man tumbled backwards, yelping when he landed in one of the bushes. Of course that made Naruto whine and pout and curse Sasuke out whilst stuffing his face with the fish while Sasuke calmly ate his own share.

Neither of them remarked on the smiles lingering on their faces throughout the evening.

"Well, if the rumours about the rogue shinobi are true, I guess it's better if one of us stays awake while the other one sleeps," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head.

Darkness had completely fallen over the forest and a light chill had replaced the warmth of the day. Some of the moonlight filtered through the thick foliage, but they had to rely on the fire as their main source of light. Somewhere in the distance an owl hooted and bushes rustled as the nocturnal animals woke up and started foraging for their own food.

Sasuke leant back after feeding some more wood to the flames. "I don't feel any presence near us," he said, watching how Naruto laid out his sleeping bag right next to him.

The blond man shrugged. "Neither do I, but better safe than sorry, right?" He cocked his head to the right and stared at Sasuke with a light frown marring his forehead. "How do you rest at night actually? You were travelling alone before, so what? You slept a few hours and then stayed awake?"

"I never fully sleep," Sasuke explained. "A part of me remains awake and I generally rest in a tree to make it more difficult for anyone to attack me."

Blue eyes stared at him horrified. "You sleep in a tree?" Naruto brought out in a strangled voice. "Man, no wonder you were so cranky this morning!"

"I was not cranky, idiot, I was just - "

"All right then, in that case I'll take the first shift! You can go to sleep; get some decent rest before that stick becomes even more lodged up your arse," Naruto stated determined, plopping down on his sleeping bag and crossing his legs.

"If I could get decent rest these past two years on my own, I can do it now as well, Naruto. I don't need …" he trailed off when the Jinchuuriki leant close to him; his warm breath hitting his cheeks when he exhaled.

"Yeah well, I'm here now, so why not take advantage of that? You get some sleep; I'll stay awake and make sure the fire doesn't go out. Oh, and that nobody attacks us of course," Naruto chattered and pushed down against Sasuke's shoulders until the man reluctantly sank down in his own sleeping bag, which he hadn't used in quite some time.

"Fine," he groused, not happy with basically being mothered by the younger man. "But wake me up in three hours; I'll take over then so you can get some sleep too."

"Yeah, yeah, I will. Now go to sleep, bastard," Naruto huffed, but there was a hint of fondness lingering in his voice as well.

Silence descended between them, only interrupted by the night life going on around them and the gentle crackling of the fire. Naruto was leaning against the tree next to him; his legs resting in his sleeping back, but his arms still free. He started cleaning his kunai and shuriken, the metal gleaming orange in the light of the flames, while his gaze drifted around the area. Despite his relaxed posture, there was no doubt in Sasuke's mind the blond shinobi was ready to jump up and attack in an instant if that need arose.

Naruto's left leg was pressed against Sasuke's arm; his warmth seeping through the layers of fabric separating their skin. The dark haired man didn't think he would catch sleep quickly. It had been nearly three years since he had last slept closely next to somebody else. Certainly he slept in inns whenever his journey brought him across one, but even there he never was able to fully relax, ready to attack the moment he perceived a threat.

The last time he had slept with people nearby had been when he had still been travelling with Team Taka. That had been nearly three years ago and sleeping with Naruto near him had been even longer than that. He trusted Naruto completely, no doubt about that, but he didn't think he could relax to the point where he would fall into a deep sleep – not after years of being wary, of being on his guard in case someone decided to attack him, thinking he was vulnerable.

Even if he was feeling comfortably warm at the moment, surrounded by the fire and Naruto's body heat. He couldn't afford to sleep deeply, though. Who knew what the idiot would get up to in the meantime? Maybe that airhead would burn himself again or accidentally throw too much wood in the flames or …

Or …

Sleep embraced him before he could finish that thought.

He drifted back to awareness slowly, picking up the sounds of birds chirping softly and the wind rustling through the trees. There was a steady breathing close to him and for a few seconds he tensed, his hand already sliding down to grab a kunai, until he remembered that Naruto had joined him yesterday. Right, that was why he wasn't alone right now.

He relaxed again, his eyes still closed; sleep tugging at his consciousness enticingly. But no, he best had to wake up. It would be his shift soon and Naruto would be a nightmare to deal with if he didn't get enough sleep.

His nose twitched when it caught a peculiar smell; a scent he hadn't smelt in quite some time … An aroma that actually shouldn't exist in the forest now that he thought about it. And since when were the birds this active during the night? He had never heard them chirping and singing this loud during the night before, so why the hell …

His eyes snapped open. Instead of darkness, the soft light of dawn breaking surrounded him and the fire had died out to a very small flame; soon it would be extinguished completely.

"Oh, you're awake. Good morning, Sasuke."

He shot up and stared in disbelief at the steaming cup that idiot was holding in his hand. "Are you eating ramen?" he asked in a strangled voice, not really sure whether he had actually woken up. There was no way Naruto would actually eat ramen in the middle of the forest, right?

"Well yeah; it's time for breakfast." Naruto blinked at him owlishly, slurping the noodles obnoxiously loud.

"Where the hell did you get ramen from?"

The blond man rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled sheepishly. "Well, eh, I didn't know how long we're going to travel through the forest, so I might have, you know, stashed some ramen with the toads and had one of them deliver me a cup just now?" He cleared his throat and flushed underneath Sasuke's flat stare. "What? Breakfast is an important meal!" he defended himself, clutching the ramen cup tightly, nearly sloshing the content of it on his lap.

Something about Naruto's forest comment nagged at him, but he chose to focus on something else for the time being. Scrubbing his hand over his face, he muttered, "I can't believe you fucking stashed ramen with the toads." Then he looked up and glared at Naruto. "Didn't I tell you to wake me up after three hours? Why the hell did you let me sleep?"

Naruto huffed, puffing his cheeks out. "It's no big deal. You looked tired, so I figured you could use a complete night's rest." He shrugged and turned back to his ramen.

The dark haired man stared at him, taken aback by the casual remark. He hadn't expected Naruto to stay up the whole night, just so that Sasuke could sleep longer.

"You're feeling better rested now, right?" Naruto asked absentmindedly and started riffling through a bag next to him – a bag which hadn't been there the night before. Probably brought by one of his toads then.

Sasuke hesitated, but nodded silently. He was feeling better actually; not completely refreshed, but he hadn't realised just how tired he had felt from constantly being on his guard and limiting his sleep to only a couple of hours until now. He hadn't expected to sleep so well either, unaccustomed as he had become to sleeping close to someone.

"Here, figured you might want to eat something else than – well, what you usually eat when you're not near a town," Naruto said brightly, pushing a bowl into Sasuke's hand.

A salad with dark red cherry tomatoes, gleaming faintly, greeted him when he peered into the bowl. Silently he looked up and quirked an eyebrow at the younger man, whose cheeks reddened a bit.

"What? You like eating tomatoes, don't you? I stashed some salads with tomatoes at the toads' place too," he muttered, sounding oddly defensive as he twirled his chopsticks inside the noodles. He was refusing to look at Sasuke, keeping his gaze trained at the cup in his hand; the tips of his ears pink. He did shove a new pair of chopsticks onto Sasuke's lap, stubbornly looking away.

Sasuke snorted softly and pulled the chopsticks apart. "Itadakimasu," he murmured, picking up a cherry tomato.

Naruto stilled before grinning widely and nodding. "Yeah, itadakimasu," he said and started slurping his noodles again.

Sasuke plopped a cherry tomato in his mouth and bit down; the flavour instantly coating his tongue. The tomatoes were not bad; not bad at all.

They continued their trek throughout the forest for the next couple of days, taking the occasional break. During one of these breaks, they were resting on the riverbank; the water rippling making for a soothing background. They had pulled off their shoes and had their feet in the cool water while above them the sun shone brightly.

A silence had fallen between the two men after Naruto had finished his tale about a joke Konohamaru had pulled on one of the Jounin, but the quiet wasn't stifling or awkward. It was calming in a way actually. Sasuke hadn't thought Naruto would be able to stand the quiet for a long period of time, but when he sneaked a glance at him, the blond man had a peaceful look on his face. He was leaning back, supporting his weight on his hands, and his head dangled backwards, his face aimed at the sky while his eyes were closed. Sasuke would have suspected him of taking a nap were it not for the way Naruto was lazily moving his right leg back and forth, disturbing the water and creating small ripples.

"Say, think you can teach me how to fight with a katana?" Naruto asked out of the blue, leaning forwards and clasping his hands together, resting them on the ground between his legs. He looked questioningly at the dark haired man; his eyes glittering with vague excitement and hope.

Dark eyes blinked. "You want to learn how to fight with a katana?" he asked slowly, furrowing his eyebrows lightly. His katana was resting next to him on the grass for the moment after having been cleaned. "Why?"

Naruto rolled his shoulders, looking a tad embarrassed as he scratched the bridge of his nose. "Ah, no particular reason. Just thought it would be nice to learn how to fight with it, you know. I've only used shuriken and kunai as weapons so far, but you look - " he abruptly cut himself off, pursing his lips together.

"I look what?" Sasuke questioned lightly, curious what kind of description his friend was holding back.

Naruto waved his hand. "Doesn't matter. So, what do you think? Can you teach me how to fight with a katana?"

Sasuke smirked, amusement flickering up as he replied, "I'm certainly capable of teaching you how to fight with one. The main question, however, is whether I want to teach you."

"Ah, come on, bastard, why wouldn't you want to?" Naruto whined, leaning closer to him; the water splashing, crashing into Sasuke's legs, as the blond pulled his feet out of the water, folding them underneath his arse. "We can use some training; it'll make sparring more interesting! And who knows? Maybe during a fight you lose your katana, but I'll still be there to use it before any of the enemies can pick it up!"

"Why would I lose my katana during a fight?" Sasuke asked bemused. "And do you really think I'd let an enemy use my katana?"

"Semantics," Naruto retorted impatiently and waved his hand wildly in the air; the white bandages seeming even whiter in the sunlight. "Come on, it'll be fun! Just consider it a part of sparring!"

"How likely is it that you're going to end up cutting yourself on it?" Sasuke asked in a deadpan voice, brushing his bangs out of his face when a breeze caused them to block his sight for a moment. "I do not want to explain to anyone how you managed to stab yourself with a katana."

"Oh fuck you, you arsehole," Naruto groaned, smacking his thigh. "I learnt to work with kunai and shuriken just fine, so what's the problem? Besides, even if I accidentally stab myself, I'll heal quickly anyway, so no need for an explanation."

"You know, saying that doesn't actually reassure me," Sasuke riposted dryly.

"Ah, don't be like that. What's the harm?" Blue eyes widened a touch and gleamed with hope; fingers digging into the ground.

Honestly … Uttering a soft sigh, Sasuke looked away, facing the river. "Fine, I'll teach you, but only if you actually follow my instructions and don't start complaining," he grunted, a tad annoyed with himself for giving in this easily.

"YES!" Naruto cheered loudly, throwing his arms up victoriously; way too excited for someone about to learn how to handle a new weapon. "I can do that, I promise! Can we start now?"

"What, you want to start training now?"

"Yeah, why not? Now's as good as any time, right?"

"Fine, get up then. First, I'm going to show you how to hold the katana correctly. Here, hold out your dominant arm and hold your hand like this."

"Like so?"

"Yeah, like that. Now curl your fingers like this and …"

They encountered the band of rogue shinobi at the edge of the forest. There were nine of them, all men with no discernible sign as to which village they belonged to, who attacked them as soon as they laid eyes on the duo.

The ensuing fight was pathetically short and easy; it almost made Sasuke feel ashamed in their place for having their arses handed to them so quickly. Neither of them even had to go full out; Naruto created three extra Kage Bunshin but they barely had to do anything. Sasuke supposed the rogue shinobi had only managed to inspire so much fear and attack those towns, because the inhabitants of those towns hadn't had any shinobi of their own to protect them.

It appeared that the gang had only remained so successful because they had never had to fight against other shinobi, selecting towns they knew were too small or insignificant to have shinobi. That fact only made Sasuke despise them more for being such bloody cowards.

"Don't you think Amaterasu isn't a bit overkill for them?" Naruto mused aloud, coming to stand next to Sasuke. "Pretty sure some rope will be enough to keep them tied up."

The black, eternal flames of his attack surrounded the group completely, leaving no way to escape unless they wanted to set themselves on fire. All men were unconscious at the moment, knocked out, and sporting some nasty bruises and non-lethal cuts. Their weapons had been collected and dumped further away in a bag, ensuring they couldn't try anything to escape once they woke up.

"Perhaps this way they'll think twice before attacking defenceless people," Sasuke sneered and went through the quick motions of creating a Bunshin of his own.

"Ah, scaring the shit out of them." Naruto nodded understandingly, dispelling his own clones. "Well, you'll definitely succeed in that, I think."

"You stay here until the police comes. I've sent them a message and they should be here in a couple of days," Sasuke told his clone, who inclined his head and went to lean against a tree close to the group. "Remove Amaterasu as soon as back-up has arrived."

"I thought none of the towns had any defence forces?" Naruto remarked, slipping his shuriken and kunai back into his pocket.

"Some of them have a small police force, so I told them to gather enough back-up to arrest these men," Sasuke explained.

They left the clone behind to stand guard and stepped out of the cover of the forest, setting foot on a sandy pathway. The presence of a road meant there had to be a town or a village up ahead. Sasuke could stock up food there and Naruto …

Well, maybe Naruto's mission – whatever it was – would take place there? He hadn't mentioned the mission after that first day, but as he kept following Sasuke, the dark haired man assumed his mission was in the same vicinity he was heading to.

Guess he would find out soon.

"We're lucky that they still had one room left," Naruto called out from the bathroom.

They had found the town after a day of walking and the one inn present in this place had had exactly one room left for them. Apparently some kind of festival would be held here next week and people from the surrounding towns had flocked to this inn in order to attend the festivities.

Sasuke sat down on the bed closest to the door and removed his cloak, staring pensively at the bathroom door, which stood ajar. There was the sound of rushing water and off key humming as Naruto took a quick shower. Naruto's weapon bag and cloak were strewn across the other bed in his haste to claim the shower first.

Sasuke was planning to stay a couple of days in this town, check if he could find any valuable information here. He didn't know what Naruto was planning to do now; he hadn't given any indication of saying goodbye to Sasuke in order to commence his mission, so it was probably safe to assume that his mission didn't take place in this town. However, he recalled Naruto stating that the place where he was supposed to fulfil his mission was close by and that was why he had decided to join Sasuke on his trip here. This town was the only place nearby, yet Naruto hadn't mentioning anything.

To be honest, this whole mission thing had been bothering Sasuke for a while now. It just didn't make any sense for Kakashi to let Naruto go on a mission alone, especially not to a remote place as this one. Naruto hadn't been in contact with Konoha either; they had been practically glued to the hip since Naruto had found him, yet Sasuke hadn't seen him exchanging any kind of correspondence with Konoha.

Then there was the fact that the blond man was absolutely refusing to say anything about his mission. What could the mission entail that it would keep the other man so tight-lipped about it? If it was dangerous, wouldn't it make sense to inform Sasuke, so he could offer some help if necessary?

Or had he been forbidden by the Hokage to share the details with Sasuke? And if so, what for?

Things just weren't adding up and it made him restless. He wanted answers and he was tired of Naruto evading his questions.

"So this mission of yours – does it take place in this town?" Sasuke asked, crossing his ankles when the bathroom door opened, a billow of steam escaping as Naruto set foot inside the room.

A towel was tied around his waist and he was rubbing a second smaller towel through his hair, but at Sasuke's question he froze and stared at the dark eyed man with large eyes. "Eh, why do you ask?"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes, disliking the evasive tone creeping into his friend's voice. "You said your mission was close by – this is the closest place where a mission can take place," he pointed out annoyed. "So? Do you have your mission here?"

Cerulean blue eyes glanced away and fingers tightened almost imperceptibly around the towel, dragging it down to drape it around his neck. "Well, eh, that's to say," he fumbled, fidgeting and appearing quite uncomfortable.

The lack of a clear answer irritated Sasuke and he gritted his teeth, asking, "What the hell are you keeping from me, Naruto? Why can't you just tell me what your mission is about? You've never been able to keep your mouth shut before, so why now?"

"Oh ouch, rude," Naruto muttered, pursing his lips together. He was still hovering in the bathroom doorway, shuffling his feet over the white tiles.

"Naruto. What is it that you can't trust me with?" He had meant for that to come out angry, firm so that it would push Naruto to finally give him a straight answer, but to his horror he sounded hurt, small even.

He sounded like the small child he had been once upon a time, wondering why his big brother – the man he had idolised and admired – had killed their entire family.

He fucking hated sounding like this.

Instantly Naruto whipped his head around and stared at him, his mouth falling open in shock. "What? No, Sasuke, this has nothing to do with trust! You know I trust you com- "

"Then why don't you want to tell - "

"There's no mission, okay."

Sasuke blinked, gazing at the blue eyed man bemused. No mission? How could that be? "What do you mean, there's no mission? Why are you here then?"

To keep an eye on him? The unbidden thought shot through his mind, making him feel like he had been punched in the stomach. He knew, okay. He knew that Konoha hadn't been happy to let him go, that if it had been up to the Council, he would have been left rotting in one of their prison cells. Kakashi himself had told him that it was only thanks to Naruto that they had released him; not even the silver haired man had looked happy to let Sasuke leave.

Was that why Naruto was here? Did they think he would go rogue, that he would once again lose himself to the darkness? Was Naruto here to keep an eye on him, to make sure he wouldn't turn on them?

The thought that Naruto was only here on the orders of Konoha, that all the laughing and sparring and talking they had done the past week, was nothing more than a front to make sure Sasuke would be kept in line … It made him sick.

"I know that face. That's your brooding face and I can already tell you to stop thinking whatever it is that you're thinking about it, because you're wrong, bastard." Naruto's voice cut through his thoughts, slashing through it like a kunai through flesh.

He looked up, glaring, and stilled when he noticed Naruto had come closer. He was still only covered with a towel; the look on his face was strangely solemn, but there was resignation in those deep blue eyes as well, as if he had given up on something.

Silence reigned heavily between the two of them, Sasuke refusing to say anything until Naruto explained himself. After a long moment of staring at each other, Naruto exhaled loudly and walked past Sasuke to his bed, slumping down on it. The towel around his neck dropped onto the mattress, but the blond didn't take notice of it.

"There's no mission, because I'm not taking up any missions anymore," he said, grimacing slightly.

Furrowing his eyebrows, Sasuke shifted around on the bed until he faced the younger man. "Explain," he ordered, digging his fingers into the thin bedsheet.

"You know that Kaka-sensei never really wanted to become a Hokage?" At Sasuke's nod, Naruto continued, "Well, he started training me around a year ago, so that I would be prepared once I became Hokage."

A brief spark of amusement lit up inside of him at the notion that Naruto had never doubted he would become Hokage after Kakashi, that he had not even considered there might be another candidate waiting to take up the role. Well, that was Naruto, he supposed. Once he set his sight on something, he wouldn't let go until he had it.

That particular characteristic was the reason why Sasuke was still here after all.

"I started discussing some of the things I wanted to do once I became Hokage and well … We got into quite some arguments about that. Not really between me and Kaka-sensei," Naruto hurried to say, looking a bit chagrined, "but he was telling me what the Council would say and well, let's just say that the Council and I wouldn't see eye to eye apparently."

"What are you talking about?" Sasuke frowned, rubbing his right temple. "What kind of things do you want to do when you become Hokage?"

Naruto looked grim all of a sudden; his cheeks reddening slightly. "Don't be mad, okay?"

"Why would I be mad?"

"I wanted the Council to admit the truth about the Uchiha massacre."

Speechless, Sasuke stared at him, for once not knowing how to react, what to say to that. Naruto wanted the Council to confess what their share in the massacre had been?

"I wanted them to tell the villagers, civilians and shinobi alike, that they were the ones ordering the massacre to happen. That it was on their order that Itachi killed everyone but you. That they chose to kill instead of talk with your clan." Naruto clenched his hands into fists, before unclenching them again and running them through his hair, clearly agitated. "I wanted – Itachi's still considered as a traitor, you know? Even after I informed them about his part in the war, they never changed his status. I wanted his name cleared and make everyone realise that the Uchiha had been unjustifiably murdered. I wanted the Council to step down, because they sure as hell aren't suitable to act as advisors."

He paused and laughed bitterly, shaking his head. "I told Kaka-sensei what I wanted to ask of the Council, but he told me they would never go for it. That they would ban me from becoming Hokage if I demanded them to go through with it. They're only considering me as the next Hokage, because I'm one of the war heroes and because I've got the village's support." He sounded disgusted, even sneering slightly, which was a strange look on his face. Naruto wasn't someone who sneered; that just wasn't him.

He leant back, staring up at the ceiling. "And it pisses me off so much that they're going to get away with that shit, that they're just getting away with murdering your whole family and blaming your brother and that nobody will believe otherwise without their admission to it. It shouldn't be like that, not after everything we've been through. They shouldn't still be allowed to be on the Council after all the bullshit they pulled. But they are and it just …" He slammed his hand against the mattress, his eyes burning with anger.

Something tightened around Sasuke's chest at the knowledge that Naruto had been willing to fight for the Uchiha, for him, for Itachi, to give them the justice they deserved. He knew the Council would never willingly admit to their share in the massacre, though. It was why he had chosen to travel the world instead of remaining in Konoha. The village was stained with his family's blood; it would never be home to him again. He couldn't stay in a village of which the Council managed to get away with genocide, where he would be considered a traitor, where everyone still believed that his older bother had snapped and killed everyone in a fit of insanity.

He hadn't considered Konoha his home since the night of the massacre; his only remaining link to it was Naruto and it was only because of the blond Jinchuuriki that he hadn't cut all ties with the village yet.

Something didn't add up, though. He understood Naruto becoming angry that the Council was already working against him before he could even take up the role as Hokage, but what did that have to do with him not accepting any missions anymore?

"I'm grateful that you wanted to do that for my family, but that doesn't explain why you aren't taking up missions anymore," Sasuke murmured; the bed creaking slightly as he shifted slightly.

Naruto's cheeks reddened some more, but he looked at Sasuke with determination and stated, "I don't want to become Hokage for a village which dares to treat my best friend like that."

Sasuke's ears started ringing as shock settled in and for a moment he was sure he had misheard the blond or that he must be joking. There was no way Naruto was giving up his dream of becoming Hokage – not after all those years of training for it, of proclaiming time and time again that he would become Hokage one day.

"What are you saying?" he managed to bring out; his mouth suddenly as dry as the desert.

"I'm saying that if becoming Hokage means covering up a mass murder, pretending that everything is just okay, then I don't want to be that. I don't want to work for a village which covers up so many dark secrets, so I kind of resigned, I guess," he smiled embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck.

"There's no way the Council will let you go just like that," Sasuke murmured in disbelief. Naruto was giving up his title, his life long dream, because of him. That thought kept bouncing around in his mind, echoing over and over again.

"Ah, they don't exactly know that I'm not working as a shinobi anymore." Naruto wrinkled his nose.

"They're going to question where the hell you are."

"Yeah, probably, but as far as they're concerned, I'm in Suna, working with Gaara to improve the cooperation between the nations," Naruto snorted. "Kaka-sensei created the documents for that and Gaara is willing to back up that lie. I'm not planning on going back to the village until the Council steps down. Might take some years, but well, change will happen somehow."

"What do you want to do then?" His heart started beating quicker for some reason and the room was feeling warmer all of a sudden. "You've been training to become a Hokage for years, so why - "

"I want to be with my best friend." Naruto stared at him frankly, his hands resting on the bed. "I trained for you, to get you back. Becoming Hokage was second place to getting you back. Being Hokage means shit if I can't be with you, you know?" He ducked his head, appearing embarrassed all of a sudden. "I know I shouldn't have lied about a mission and I was going to tell you soon, it's just that … I'm happy to be with you again, but I didn't know how you would react, so I figured using a mission as excuse would make it easier for you to … I get it if you don't want me along on your journey, okay? It's not like I asked you before I showed up unannounced."

He started drawing meaningless patterns on the bedsheet and continued subdued, so unlike his usual self, "So if you don't want me with you, I'll go back to Konoha, but … I've spent years without you and I don't want to experience that again."

The pure, raw emotion in Naruto's voice had the dark haired man freeze up; the grip around his chest tightening oh so slightly. He could only recall one other time that the man in front of him had bared himself like that: their last fight at the Valley of the End.

But even after their fight things had been left unresolved; Sasuke not knowing how to voice what he exactly wanted without sounding selfish, without feeling like he was pushing the younger man. In the end he had left, as much for his sake as for Naruto's, not expecting anything from the blond haired man. Their conversation in the valley had been enough for him, knowing that Naruto shared the same feelings, and yet …

Would the stalemate between them finally end today?

His hand drifted to the forehead protector hooked around his belt.

"I've started using my Kage Bunshin no Jutsu more lately," Naruto said abruptly; his eyes large and luminous.

The comment seemed rather out of the blue, not making any sense in the conversation they had been having, but for Sasuke it made perfect sense; his mind catapulting him back to their final confrontation, the poisonous words he had snapped to get Naruto to react.

Taking a risk, he commented, "Oh yeah? The Reverse Harem no Jutsu too?"

"Yeah, that one too."

Sasuke dared to smirk; his heart feeling like it was going to thump straight through his chest as he leant forwards, decreasing the distance between them. "Not really living up to the real deal, is it?"

"I wouldn't know. I never really had the opportunity to experience the real deal, but I'm hoping to remedy that."

They were both tense, the air between them charged heavily. "You do know what you're asking for, right, Naruto?" Sasuke murmured, just to be sure, to reassure himself he wasn't reading the situation – reading Naruto – wrong.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't know, Sasuke," Naruto replied; their knees brushing against each other when he slid closer.

"You didn't have to leave the village for me."

"You've always been the most important one in my life, bastard. I can visit the village whenever I want, but I won't get these lost years back. If I have to choose between you or the village … That choice's easy. Question is whether you want me here."

Slowly Sasuke shook his head in wonder. "You really are the most unpredictable shinobi."

Naruto grinned; his eyes lightening up. "That's me, all right. But that still doesn't answer my question, you know." He sounded teasingly, but there was also a note of apprehension in his voice.

As if he still wasn't sure of Sasuke's answer.

"You're an idiot," Sasuke sighed and before Naruto could voice a protest, he sealed their lips together, kissing him with real intention this time.

For a couple of seconds the mouth against his remained motionless and then Naruto sighed and returned the kiss clumsily, wrapping his arms around Sasuke's shoulders; one hand coming up to toy with black strands.

"So that means yes, right?" Naruto asked breathlessly when they separated again.

"Usuratonkachi," Sasuke sighed, rolling his eyes, and lightly slapping Naruto's head.

The blond man grinned and then they were kissing again, as the sun made way for the moon outside, the night blanketing them in darkness.

Sasuke didn't think he would travel for his entire life. Maybe one day he would find a place where he could be at ease, where he could settle down and live the rest of his life in peace.

He could find that place in two years maybe, or five or ten or even longer than that. It didn't bother him to wait a while.

A place was still just a place after all. He had already found his home in the form of a hyperactive, loud mouthed, generous, courageous, strong, beautiful blond, who had never given up on him even when the whole world had turned against him.

Naruto was his home and that would never change.

"Just don't think you can get away with eating ramen every day."

"What?! After all I've done for you, this is how you treat me? There's nothing wrong with ramen, you bastard!"


"Oh my god, don't you hn me, you arsehole! … Hey, I know you're still awake; don't think I believe for one second you fell asleep that quickly! Damn it, Sasuke, I know you're – umph."

"Just go to sleep already." His arm tightened around the squirmy blond next to him; his back pressed against his chest and their legs entwined.

"Don't even think for a second you've won this ramen argument, Sasuke! You're going to apologise for - "

A tremor going through the younger man when lips pressed against his naked shoulder. "Shut up and go to sleep."

"Because you asked so nicely," the other one snarked, gripping the arm clutched around his chest.

They fell asleep with a smile, black and blond hair clashing on the pillow.

Peaceful and together.

The End

AN2: This story was surprisingly difficult to finish despite knowing how I wanted to end it; I feel like I word vomited all over the place near the end *winces*

Again I hope it wasn't too bad! Please leave your thoughts behind in a review; should you spot any mistakes, please point them out to me!

I hope to see you all back in my future stories!



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