The Long Run

BY : Sasunarufan13
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 1260
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor make profit of it. Kishimoto owns it.

Author's note: Forget about the previous chapter being the longest, this one holds now the title at a whopping 7K! Thought about cutting it shorter, but nope, I've been waiting to write this one particular scene ever since I started this story (basically one of the main reasons why I started writing this) so I'm keeping it as a whole! Sorry for the long chapter, but it is what it is. I hope you're ready for a dive into Naruto's past!

Warnings: Talk about past character deaths; mentions of gore and violence; diving into Naruto's past

You ready for this? I hope you are!

Chapter 6

They arrived at the compound with barely an hour before sunset to spare. The gates opened as soon as they approached, slamming shut the second he drove inside. Father, Itachi, Shikamaru and Deidara were waiting for them; Deidara mainly looking interested while the other three tried to hide their concern.

Sasuke sighed, knowing that at least Itachi was going to be fussing over him tonight. Not like it was their fault that the dead had decided to start swarming that goddamn town.

"Ran into trouble?" Father questioned; his eyes narrowing when he looked between Sasuke and Naruto, cataloguing the dried blood and gore on their clothes.

Naruto snorted, leaning against the van. "One way of putting it, I suppose. Got a bit side-tracked by some dead fuckers, but hey, we got the stuff at least." He waved at the back of the van. "Knock yourselves out. Lot of shit in there."

"Zombies were overrunning the street we were in," Sasuke explained. "We had to hole up in an apartment for a couple of days before we figured out a way to escape."

"It took you that long to come up with a plan?" Shikamaru questioned bemused.

"Hey, we can't all be genius' like you, smarty pants," Naruto piped up; his smile thin.

"That's not it," Sasuke sighed. "We had to wait a couple of days because – "

"Either of you seriously injured?" Tsunade walked briskly over to them; her brown eyes sharp as she took them in. They honed in like a laser on Naruto, who stiffened. "You love that van that much that you can't stand to be apart from it? Or did you fuck up one of your legs?"

"Nothing's wrong," Naruto huffed and rolled his eyes. "Can't a guy just fucking lean against a car without being questioned about it?"

Sasuke rolled his eyes in return, annoyed with his stubbornness. "Don't listen to him, he twisted his left ankle when we fought those zombies. It's healed somewhat, but I don't think it's a hundred percent yet."

"What the fuck does it even matter, man," Naruto snapped, pushing himself off the van. "I'm good enough to walk around and jump out of a fucking apartment; the hell you're still whining about?"

"Why did you jump out of an apartment, un?" Deidara asked, both confused and somewhat intrigued; his blue eyes regarding the younger man with interest now.

"You can fuck up your ankle beyond repair if you don't get some decent rest," Tsunade warned and beckoned him closer. "Let me take a look at it, see how bad it is."

"You don't need to take a look at it, I'm fine," Naruto refused and scowled. "Mother Hen over there fussed enough to fill the quota for the goddamn year, I don't need your help."

"I wasn't fussing, I was keeping you from fucking up your ankle even more!" Sasuke bit out. "You couldn't even fucking lean on it for the first few days, you idiot!"

"Don't need to lean on my ankle to shoot you," Naruto hissed.

"We sent you away for just a few days," Itachi sighed, shaking his head.

"Okay, let's halt the threats here before things are said that shouldn't be said," Tsunade stated and approached Naruto. "Just let me take a look at it, see how bad it is."

"It's not bad, you don't need to take a look at it," Naruto insisted stubbornly, limping out of her reach. "I'll be good by tomorrow."

"God, you're so fucking stubborn," Tsunade groaned, resting her hands on her hips. She glowered at him. "You remind me of that damn pervert I had the misfortune of calling my friend. Stubborn as hell too; kept claiming he was fine even after every single one of his paramours beat the crap out of him." She looked away with a frown. "That said, would be nice to talk to Jiraiya again, even if it's just to - "

"You know Jiraiya?"

Naruto's abrupt question had the small group staring at him, but he didn't seem to notice, his attention wholly focused on the doctor now. "Tall, broad, long white hair, kept writing those porn books – that Jiraiya?"

Tsunade lit up, a surprised smile brightening her face. "Yeah, him! You know him? Where is he? I tried to get a hold of him when this shit started, but he wouldn't pick up," she said eagerly; her eyes glistening.

"He's my godfather," Naruto murmured.

Sasuke eyed him, getting a bad feeling about this. Naruto had become way too still compared to Tsunade's unusual enthusiasm.

"Your godfather?" she echoed before she chuckled and shook her head. "Oh man, you must be the brat he kept boasting about when we still talked! He just couldn't shut up about you, sometimes I thought you were his son. You know where he is now?"

Naruto cleared his throat and crossed his arms; an uncomfortable look flickering across his face. "Either buried underneath a pile of zombies or torn apart. When our first camp became overrun, he – he held them off. Gave us a chance to get away. Saw him going down. Nothing we could do about it." His eyes shuttered close; his voice becoming quieter and quieter with each word he pushed past his lips.

"Well, shit," Deidara muttered stunned; his eyes widening.

They all looked at Tsunade, saw her crestfallen look before she forced it behind the mask of professionalism she'd been donning ever since they had found her in her previous practice. Grief brimmed in her eyes for just a moment, before that was also pushed down. Just one more person to add to the growing list of losses.

"Well," she cleared her throat; her cheeks a ruddy red that had nothing to do with the harsh wind. "He always said he wanted to go out with a bang. Guess he was stubborn about that too."

"I'm sorry," Naruto said awkwardly, meeting her eyes for a few seconds before he stared at the ground. "He spoke a lot about you. Never mentioned your name, but always called you the 'fair maiden of his heart'. I think he'd made plans to go looking for you before … before it went all to hell."

Her chuckle was watery and father briefly clasped her shoulder. "Idiot always thought he was some kind of amazing poet," she scoffed and took a deep breath. "He wasn't. Far from it. Now come on, let me take a look at your ankle."

Naruto looked ready to protest, but then he looked at her. He must have seen something in her face that swayed him, because instead of continuing his protest, he simply grunted and hobbled over to her.

Right before he reached her side, he said, "He also said you were a nagging hag with a penchant for sake."

Sasuke winced and braced himself for the inevitable explosion that would occur now. Tsunade was the best doctor they could wish for, but she also had a temper shorter than that of Deidara's – and that was saying something – and Naruto was basically begging for a beat down at this point with his comment. He really was a fucking idiot.

Instead of exploding however, Tsunade shocked them all by laughing, throwing her head back as her face filled with sheer joy.

"Never thought I'd say this, un, but a laughing Tsunade terrifies me more than those dead fucktwits," Deidara muttered underneath his breath.

She was still chortling when she brought her arm around Naruto's waist and threw his own arm around her neck in an imitation of how Sasuke had dragged him into the apartment building just a few days ago. Had it been less than a week still since they had left the compound? It felt much longer than that.

"He would know. He was the one who made me drink with his stupidity," she snorted. "Fucker probably didn't want to own up to our last bet and send me the bottle of sake he owned me. Apparently taking down a herd is more preferably than admitting he lost our bet, the arsehole."

Sasuke watched them leave with one eyebrow raised. At least Naruto would finally have his ankle be properly taken care of without needing to knock him out in order to do it.

"Seems like you had quite the eventful trip," Father remarked carefully as Shikamaru and Deidara walked to the back of the van, ready to inspect the supplies.

Sasuke sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You don't know half of it."

He was on his way back home, having finished unloading the van and helping put the supplies away, when the door of Tsunade's practice opened and a shadow stepped out, closing the door behind him quietly. Sasuke paused, watching Naruto carefully make his way down the porch.

"The examination took that long?" he questioned. He hadn't looked at a clock yet, but it had to have been at least a couple of hours since the doctor had pulled Naruto with her to her practice. His empty stomach definitely was certain it had been several hours.

Naruto paused, rolling his shoulders. "Nah, we talked about Jiraiya for a bit," he said idly and jerked his head to the darkened practice. "If we ever need to poison those dead fuckers with alcohol though, the old hag has got it covered, I suppose. Shit, she the local pub or something?"

"Or something," Sasuke snorted. He didn't believe she was an actual alcoholic, but it was also no secret that she loved a good cup of sake once in a while. He eyed the other man. "Sorry about your godfather."

"Mah, guess that's just how the world goes nowadays," Naruto muttered after a pause and scratched his head. "Shit luck and all that. Baa-chan's right, though: old pervert did go out with a bang. He'd raided a military base just a few days before shit hit the fan."

"Hardcore, huh," Sasuke murmured.

"You could say that," Naruto said wryly and stretched his arms.

"Don't let her hear you call her baa-chan, though," Sasuke said amused. "You had a shit ton of luck tonight and got away with it before, but she's not going to let it fly a second time."

"She's going to have to catch me first and she's not that young anymore," Naruto snickered. "If the shoe fits …"

The dark haired man shook his head. "Your funeral," he said lightly.

Naruto started walking away in the direction of his own home. He was still limping a bit, but he seemed more steady on his left foot now. Maybe Tsunade had bandaged it properly.

"You need help getting home?"

Naruto turned around, raising an eyebrow. The corners of his mouth twitched. "What, you going to carry me all bridal style like?" he teased.

"Was thinking more of acting like a human crutch, but it's interesting how your mind instantly goes to that," Sasuke smirked, curling his thumbs around the loops in his jeans. In the house across from him, the light in one of the bedrooms switched on, the brightness muted instantly by the curtains being drawn. Even within the compound, they tried to have as little light as possible just in case.

"The only way you get to carry me is if you're planning on fucking me against the wall," Naruto grinned and winked. "Until then you can only dream of this arse." He smacked the aforementioned arse before ambling away; his arms crossed behind his head.

"God, what an idiot," Sasuke sighed, shaking his head.

He was decidedly not smiling when he went home.

The full van and the news of Mei's pregnancy spreading throughout the compound was enough cause for a celebration according to the Board. It had been quite a while since they had last managed to find that many supplies – and live to bring it with them – that it was enough cause for everyone to unwind for once and have a small party. Good news sometimes felt so far and in between that they grasped every chance to celebrate it when it finally occurred.

A van full of supplies and a new baby was a good enough reason as any apparently.

Sasuke had never been a fan of parties and a zombie apocalypse hadn't changed his mind regarding that matter, but he still attended the party on Friday anyways. Mainly to keep Itachi off his back, because the bastard kept insisting Sasuke should socialise with the others. He wished he'd been put on guard shift tonight, but he didn't have that much luck. Even if he had a guard shift, though, chances were his shift would have been cut short regardless, because that was what would happen to all their shifts tonight, so that everyone had the opportunity to enjoy themselves for at least a little while.

Sipping from his bottle of beer, he looked around the centre of the compound, taking in who was currently present. It didn't surprise him at all that he couldn't spot Naruto, even though the other man would have the chance to attend the party considering that he hadn't been given a guard shift yet. He'd seen him earlier today when Sasuke had returned from checking the vicinity around the compound for stray zombies. Naruto had been walking without a limp, so at least his ankle was better. Maybe he really did have some amazing genes when it came to healing.

"You looking for someone, un?" Deidara popped up at his side; the light flush in his cheeks indicating that he was definitely taking advantage of the offered beer selection.

"Not really," Sasuke mumbled, leaning against the wall of one of the houses. "Don't see Naruto. You think he ever showed up here?"

"Naruto-kun? Yeah, I've seen him," Deidara said to his utter surprise. "He was here a little while ago. Took a beer and left before anyone could talk to him, un. He's even more surly than you, who'd have guessed?" He chortled, tilting his bottle back to get the last sips of beer out of it.

Ignoring the slight jab, Sasuke straightening up, interest piqued. "You saw where he went?"

Deidara started smirking and Sasuke narrowed his eyes in return. "What?"

"Yeah, I saw where he went, un," Deidara said and jerked his head in the direction of the apartment complex where Naruto lived. "He went back, probably to his apartment."

"Thanks, Deidara." Sasuke pushed himself off the wall, intent on going after Naruto.

"You need some supplies, un?" Deidara called out mischievously.

Even though he knew better by now than to entertain Deidara even further, especially when he was in this mood, Sasuke nevertheless halted and turned his head, frowning. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Deidara's smirk grew, swinging the empty bottle idly around. "You know, supplies," he repeated, putting unnecessary stress on the word. "In case you want to have a party of your own with him, un."

Sasuke just barely resisted the urge to throw his bottle at his annoying smirking face. "We're not like that, you fucking idiot," he growled irritated.

"You're not?" Deidara cocked his head to the side, looking confused, before he shrugged and popped his lips. "Whatever, I'm not willing to give up on the bet just yet. Just hurry up and fuck him already, all right, un? I've got an amazing bottle of sake riding on this shit."

"What the fuck?" Sasuke snapped in disbelief. "What kind of sick bet do you have going on there? And with whom?!"

"Mah, nothing to be concerned about, un," Deidara grinned and scuttled back to the beer table. "Go get your man, Sasuke-kun!"

"I'm surrounded by fucking idiots," Sasuke growled and marched away before he would actually give in and punch Deidara in his stupid grinning face. Prick better stay out of his way for the next couple of days. Why the fuck were they even betting on him and Naruto? Didn't they have better shit to do?

The further he got away from the centre, the quieter it became. Most people were at the party right now, with a small group left guarding the walls. Perhaps some people had decided to stay home, but most of them were celebrating, leaving the rest of the streets to be empty and relatively quiet. Even peaceful if one chose to forget the dead lingering outside the walls.

He spotted Naruto the second he turned around the corner. The blond man sat on the grass near a small pond that Shikamaru had been working on with a group for two weeks now. Their hope was to eventually get enough fish in the pond to sustain everyone here without having to constantly go outside and hope for luck at the river.

"Not a fan of the party either, huh?" Sasuke announced his presence, stopping a few feet away from Naruto, unsure of the welcome he would receive.

Naruto wasn't even startled as if he had heard Sasuke's approach. The dark haired man thought he hadn't been that particularly loud, but Naruto had proven before that he had exceptional hearing. He looked up at him with wry smile. He had his knees pulled up, a bottle of beer dangling between his thighs.

"Nah, not really. Too crowded," he replied casually and returned to watching the pond, though there was barely anything to see in the dark, save for the occasional ripple when the wind blew across the water. "You not a fan either?"

"Too crowded," Sasuke echoed and Naruto snorted amused.

Figuring this was as much as a welcome he was going to get, Sasuke sank down next to him, shivering when he felt the cold grass through his jeans. They were both silent for a little while, watching the water ripple, listening to a lonely owl hooting somewhere in the distance.

"You really know how to work with a crossbow?" Sasuke asked curiously. The question had been on his mind the entire time since he'd heard Naruto mention it, but he hadn't found a good moment yet to talk about it. Tonight was probably the best moment he was going to get in a while.

When Naruto eyed him bemused, Sasuke elaborated, "Heard you mentioning it last week when we were trying to get inside that apartment building."

"You heard that, huh?" Naruto huffed amused, shaking his head lightly. "Yeah, I know how to work with a crossbow. You mean to tell me you didn't see it in my bag when I first arrived here?"

"I wasn't in charge of checking your weapons." Sasuke shrugged. "So no, I didn't know. You taught yourself?"

"Nah man, my best friend, Gaara, his older sister, she taught me and him," Naruto replied easily, scratching his cheek.

Sasuke kept himself from quirking an eyebrow at the unexpected piece of information he'd been given. Even after so many weeks of living at the compound, Naruto had been rather reticent about his life before he'd arrived here. He certainly hadn't mentioned his friend since Itachi had interrogated him.

"She was a real badass with it," Naruto continued with a small smile.

Sasuke remained silent, strangely reluctant to speak up now that Naruto was opening up finally.

"Was still a little brat when I begged her to teach me too. I wanted to be just as cool as her." His huff was slightly amused. "She eventually agreed to teach me and Gaara when we were thirteen, said that we were old enough now. Personally, I think she just got sick of our whining. Man, but she came down on our arses hard during those lessons! Was totally worth it, though. It's thanks to her and Gaara that I learnt how to hunt for food. Really saved my arse a lot in the last couple of years."

He shifted slightly, his legs straightening out just a tiny bit while a pensive look slid across his face. "I was with them when all hell broke loose that day. We were out in the woods, got the call from their brother. We first thought it was just a sick joke of him, but then we heard him screaming through the phone."

He paused, looking down at his bottle. "We got out of the woods as fast as we could, but the entire street was already filled to the brim with those nasty fuckers. We loaded as much food and knives in our bags as we could. Plan was to get to my home and leave together. She ended up giving her life to help me and Gaara escape," he continued quietly. "We tried to keep her with us, but she knew already by then that we wouldn't make it out alive if we stuck together. So," he swallowed, "she offered herself up as bait, distracted the zombies so me and Gaara could make a run for it. Gaara and me – we got to my home just in time. She didn't make it. Won't ever forget her lessons, though. She's part of the reason why I'm still standing here."

Shit, but Naruto's life had just been one miserable event after the other since the apocalypse had begun, hadn't it? Worse than either of them had had it so far.

Tentatively, Sasuke questioned, "You mind teaching me how to handle a crossbow?"

Naruto blinked and turned his head to look at him, a crooked smile replacing the melancholy. "What, you're not badass enough yet with your katana?" he teased, raising his bottle to take a sip from it.

Sasuke shrugged, keeping his tone purposely light. "Well, it can never hurt to become even more of a badass, don't you think? Can't think of a better way to achieve that than to learn how to work a crossbow."

"Sure, man, if you really want," Naruto snickered, tapping the bottle against the grass. "No problem for me, though we'll need to go outside the walls for your training. Wouldn't want you to accidentally shoot someone's eye out."

"You think my aim would be that shit?" Sasuke lifted an eyebrow.

"Maybe not your aim," Naruto allowed, still grinning. "But you'd be surprised just how difficult it is to handle a crossbow even with all those muscles you have. Best not to risk anything, unless you want to explain to your dad why one of your people is walking around with one eye less."

Sasuke rolled his eyes, but didn't protest. He had no idea how to handle a crossbow exactly, so it probably would be for the best if they trained outside the walls. He doubted Naruto would lie about that when he had nothing to gain by doing so.

He expected Naruto to get up by now, seeing as he had shared a lot more than he'd ever done before, or let Sasuke know in another subtle way that he'd overstayed his welcome, but Naruto surprised him once more by staying seated, not saying anything else. He seemed content to just sit here with Sasuke and the older man found himself reluctant to get up and leave. Not when the air between them felt so peaceful, so calm; something Sasuke rarely experienced with any of the others. Perhaps with his brother or his father, but definitely not with the rest even when he liked them well enough.

He turned his head to look at Naruto when the other one leant backwards on his hands, his beer discarded to his right. He had his face aimed at the sky, a strange contemplative yet peaceful look gracing it as the stars were reflected in his blue eyes.

"What are you thinking about?" Sasuke prompted, masking his wince when he realised too late that he might be pushing it too far now.

Naruto didn't get annoyed, though. Instead he just sighed softly and answered, "Was thinking that my parents and Gaara – I think they would have liked it here, this compound. Was something we'd been looking for when everything went to shit. Think that was what kept my parents going mostly."

Sasuke licked his lips, trying to decide whether he would be pushing his luck too far tonight and then trying to figure out why he was even trying to push for more when he'd never been really interested in the others. In the end he just decided to say fuck it, and go with his gut instinct. That shit had never failed him before.

"How did it happen?" he asked haltingly, unsure how to ask his question without coming across as utterly heartless. He'd never been good at this; this had always been more mother's or even Itachi's shtick, never his. "Your parents – how did they …"

Naruto pursed his lips for a moment before he lowered his head again, sitting up a bit more straight as he stretched out his legs across the grass. If the cold dampness of it bothered him, he didn't show it. "We'd started out with a relatively large group, but it was like bad luck was following us. One by one we lost everyone. After Jiraiya died, mum and dad decided that driving further inland would be our best bet. They thought that the country would have less people and thus less zombies to deal with."

Which made sense, Sasuke acknowledged. Less populated places tended to carry less risk of zombies wandering about, unless a herd was passing through.

"We loaded everything up in the caravan and just left," Naruto continued and rubbed his forehead. "That went well for a while and we only stopped to get gas or stock up on supplies. I don't know how long we were on the road when we got surprised by this massive storm and with massive, I really mean massive. We couldn't even see anything through all that rain and dad decided to park in a field and we would spend the night there until the worst of the storm had passed."

Sasuke had only encountered such rain once before and it had been rather frightening, not being able to see a single thing throughout the rain. He couldn't imagine being stuck in that with no home as protection.

"We thought we were safe," Naruto said softly. He started pulling some grass blades out of the ground. "We hadn't seen any of the undead in more than a week by then and there was no house around in miles. So we slept, hoping we could continue our trip in the morning." He fell silent; his face half hidden behind his blond hair when he dropped his head down.

"You don't have to continue," Sasuke murmured, but the other man shook his head.

When he continued his voice was eerily flat. "Mum woke us up in the middle of the night. The storm had muffled most of their noise, but she'd waken up regardless. We were completely surrounded by dozens of zombies, if not a hundred. Dad tried to get us out of there, but with the amount of rain that'd fallen down, the entire field had basically become one large mud pool and the tires got stuck. We couldn't stay in the caravan, so we all got out and started stabbing those fuckers in the head. We'd done it so many times by then that I never really thought …"

He trailed off again before shaking his head once more. "I was so fucking naïve, I didn't think anything would go wrong. We kept our backs to the van, just kept stabbing away, and eventually we would manage this like we'd done before. But then my dumb arse slipped in the mud and mum rushed to get me back on my feet before they could get me."

He swallowed, his arms coming up to hug himself around his thick jacket. "One second she's helping me get back up and the next, she – she got pulled down by them," he whispered and only a complete idiot wouldn't be able to hear the anguish lingering like poison in his voice. "Just bam, down like she didn't weigh more than a fucking doll. She started screaming, tried to fight her way out, and dad jumped in to save her, but – but he got pulled down as well and then there was nothing but screaming and I couldn't do shit but watch mum and dad be ripped apart and I just – I just lost it. It was like one second I could still hear everything, all that goddamn fucking screaming and that fucked up moaning, and the next, just nothing."

His hands came up, rubbed roughly across his face. He took a deep breath. Continued. "Gaara got me out of there. He'd been following us on his bike and once my parents were down, he realised we'd never win that fight. So he grabbed whatever bags he could find, grabbed me and then we drove away on his bike with basically nothing but some weapons and some cans of food. He fucking saved my life, man," he said quietly. "And not just in the literal sense. He – he kept me going. I was nothing but a damn shell after that night. Can't even tell you how many days we spent driving around, I was totally out of it. Completely lost in my mind."

He snorted bitterly. "I wasn't much better than a zombie; I wouldn't have even known if Gaara had left me behind to die, so fucking useless was I. But he didn't. He could have left me behind, would have probably been a lot easier for him, but he refused. He drove us around, scouted places for us to spend the night, hunted for our food, defended himself and me from those dead fuckers … And he kept talking."

Naruto smiled a bit now, strangely amused. "I know this is a weird thing to say, because everyone talks, right? But Gaara, he'd never been a fan of talking. 'S why mum kept teasing that we were like yin and yang, because I talked for the both of us and he listened for the both of us. Fucking yin and yang, man. But then … He was the one who talked. Every goddamn day he would tell me that everything was going to be all right, that we were fine, that he was right with me, that he wasn't going to leave me … He'd become my anchor. I don't know how long I was under, can't fucking tell you how many days I was just doing nothing but existing, but I clung to his voice even when I kept hearing mum's screaming and dad's yelling. Kept holding on until I woke up, I guess. I don't think I'll ever forget just how fucking relieved he looked when I woke him up with breakfast – and that guy was never much of a morning person," he laughed softly.

"He sounded like an amazing best friend," Sasuke murmured. To be able to rely so much on each other, knowing the other one wouldn't ever leave you behind … That kind of bond wasn't that widespread in their world anymore.

"Yeah, he really was the most amazing best friend I could have asked for," Naruto smiled sadly. "He's the reason why I'm still here, why I'm even still alive. Without him … I'm not exaggerating when I say that without him I wouldn't even be here anymore. He kept me going even when I was more than ready to give up. I think he would have liked it here, even with so many people around." His smile was a bit crooked now; his eyes softened.

Sasuke was loathe to ask, but from the sounds of it, this Gaara had been incredibly resourceful and strong, able to keep himself and Naruto alive even when Naruto had become lost in grief. If he had kept them alive for so long, only relying on his own skills, how had he died then? Nobody was perfect or untouchable, no, but it sounded like Gaara was the type of person who'd have flourished in the apocalypse.

"You can ask," Naruto startled him with his casual remark. "I don't mind. Get it off your chest, as they say."

Sasuke hesitated for a couple of seconds longer, before finally giving in to his curiosity. "How did he die? He sounded like - "

"Like he should have survived all the way up to here?" Naruto finished wryly. He dipped his head down. "Yeah, that's what I always thought was going to happen. If any of us would be the last man standing, it'd be him, I figured. I mean, I'm not too shabby when it comes to survival skills, bar my freak out period there, but Gaara was on a whole other level."

He fell quiet, seemed to put his thoughts in order. Sasuke kept silent, unwilling to break the fragile peace between them. He'd never heard Naruto talk so much before until tonight and he thought this was long overdue. How long had Naruto been walking around with all this grief, nobody to share these memories with him? Even weeks after arriving here, he kept his guard up around the others, but for some reason, with Sasuke he was willing to at least lower some of his walls, allow Sasuke a peek inside the heavily guarded castle he'd put himself in.

Sasuke made the quiet promise to never betray that small show of trust.

"I've told you before that Gaara and I, we tried to join some groups a couple of times during our time on the road."

At Sasuke's nod, Naruto went on, "Never really worked out, that. People either became too testy or we lost them when one of those herds would come across us. Most of the time it was just him and me and we made it work. Easier to feed two than to feed a whole group after all."

He crossed his legs this time, resting his hands in his lap. "Think it might have been somewhere at the start of autumn or so when we came across another group," he murmured; his eyes gaining a distant sheen as if he was replaying the memory. "We hadn't even seen them at first. We'd found a small supermarket at the side of a highway, figured we'd try our luck there. They had the same idea and we nearly ran into each other in the parking lot."

He huffed, clasping his hands together. "You can imagine that didn't really go over well. We all had our weapons out, trying to decide whether to risk it or not when some zombies came across us. Those zombies ended up being part of a larger group and Gaara and me, we ended up working with the other group to get rid of them all. Guess killing zombies together created some sort of kinship or so, fuck if I know," he snorted.

"The group invited us over to their hideout, told us we could stay because more people meant more protection. At that point, Gaara and I hadn't been able to eat in four days nor drink water in two days, so we were pretty desperate back then and accepted their offer. We kept to ourselves for the most part, but overall the group wasn't so bad." He huffed through his nose. "At the very least they didn't try to kill us or hell, even molest us or fuck it even eat us, and considering those were pretty much our standards back then, Gaara and I decided to try our luck with them."

Naruto started gnawing on the nail of his left thumb; his gaze firmly fixated on the water again. "Shit went well for a little while but with the group being bigger now, the supplies ran out quicker. So the plan was made for me, Gaara, and two girls of the group to make our way to the nearest mall and try to loot that place. We had to use Gaara's bike and another one we'd found, because the only cars we found had all been too busted up to try."

"They let two girls go with you?" Sasuke asked sceptically. That seemed like a weird thing to do considering Naruto and Gaara had been completely unknown to them.

"Yeah, shocked me too back then, but well, these girls weren't the type to mess around," Naruto spoke and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "They definitely wouldn't have hesitated putting a bullet in us if we tried anything funny. We found the mall and we got lucky, because there was still quite some food left. I think because construction had started by the time zombies started popping up, other people thought there wasn't anything left behind. But there was, quite a lot actually."

He paused again; his eyes darkening. "We were making our way back to the ground floor when one of the girls nearly crashed through a step in the stairs. They were wooden and they looked pretty fucked up to begin with, so we'd been careful going upstairs and back down, but she must have missed a step. She got her foot stuck in the wood and it was like that was some kind of go-ahead or so, because of all of a sudden the place was getting absolutely fucking swarmed with dead fuckers. Me and the other girl, we were at the front and I wanted to go back to help the girl stuck in the stairs, but Gaara told me he'd take care of it. Threw me his bag, told me to get our shit back to the bike and get ready to get the hell out of there."

Sasuke was starting to get a really bad feeling.

"I was far from happy with that, but fuck, this was Gaara, the man had kept me alive when I was nothing but a fucking shell, I knew he would be able to handle himself. The zombies weren't that close yet, so I and the other girl ran back to the bikes and got them ready. It took them way too long to follow us, though, so I went back in, because like hell was I going to leave my best friend to deal with all this shit."

He fell silent for a long time now, only stirring when the wind picked up. His eyes somehow seemed pitch black now, no trace of emotion left. "In the time it'd taken me to get back to the bike, Gaara had managed to injure his leg. Think some of the wood might have stabbed him, I don't know. He'd got the girl out of the broken stairs, though, and they were making their way down. I was running to them, because the zombies were getting a hell of a lot closer, and with the girl leaning on him and his fucked leg, Gaara couldn't run as fast as he normally could. He cursed me out, said I should have stayed with the bikes, but fuck it, the least I could do was hit some of those fuckers with my arrows if they got too close."

His voice was flat, completely flat and lifeless, when he said, "The zombies started gaining on them and the girl pushed him off of her – and then shot him in his leg. She shot him in his leg so he would go down, so the zombies would get him and not her, and that fucking bitch ran away. Like it was nothing. Like she hadn't just condemned him to death. She hadn't even had the guts to finish him off quickly, no, she fucking aimed at his leg so that they would all concentrate on him."


Even after all the shit he'd seen, the betrayal that had taken place in their own compound, Sasuke felt sick to his stomach to realise that someone could have been so callous as to condemn someone to their death so easily. A person who'd gone back to help him, who'd risked his own life to save them. It shouldn't shock him, shouldn't disturb him this much, when he knew just how fucked up people could be, but …

It shook him to his core.

And if he felt like this already when he hadn't even witnessed it, but Naruto had … Naruto had watched his own friend go down after saving the girl, the friend who'd kept him going ever since …

How, how had Naruto remained this sane still?

"I tried to save him, got all the way to him while I shot every motherfucker that tried to get to him, but …" Naruto pressed the heels of his palms firmly against his eyes. "They fell on him like goddamn starving lions or some shit. I tried to pull him out of there, tried to get them off of him, but he pushed me away, because he knew it was already too late for him. That goddamn fucker was lying there with his stomach being ripped open and he still smiled at me and told me to run and save myself. I couldn't – I didn't want to, because he was literally the last person I still had left, my fucking best friend, but … There was nothing I could do for him."

He leant back, his eyes staring emptily at the midnight sky. "I got out, got the bike, went to the hideout, but everyone was gone, of course. They'd fucked off with all the supplies, while my best friend was getting eaten by motherfucking zombies. He'd saved her and she thanked him by leaving him behind to die. So that day I made a promise to him and to myself: that I won't rest until I find her and pay her back for everything she did. She killed my friend, she doesn't deserve to get away with it," he said ice cold.

"Revenge won't give you your friend back," Sasuke pointed out quietly.

Not that he could blame him for wanting revenge. He had done the exact same thing when he realised just who was responsible for his mother's death.

"No." Naruto rose up, stretched his arms to the sky. His smile was blood chilling cold when he said, "But it's going to make me feel a hell of a lot better. She took my friend's life, she's going to give up hers. And if you don't think that's a fair trade, well, that seems to be a you problem then."

He saluted him mockingly and walked calmly to his apartment building as if they had had nothing but a small pleasant talk.

Sasuke was left behind on the grass, trying to digest everything he'd been told just now.

Well, he had wanted to know what made Naruto thick. He supposed he had his answer now. The question now was: what was he going to do with all this?

AN2: Rather heavy chapter, I know, but well, couldn't be helped given the theme of this story. Apologies again for the longer length, but I didn't want to cut the last scene in half ^^;

Sneakpeek of the next chapter!

"You want to teach me how to use the crossbow today?" Sasuke asked the second the door opened. "Don't think you've got anything scheduled until later this afternoon, right?"

Naruto squinted at him, bracing his arm against the doorframe. He peered behind Sasuke, as if expecting to see someone else and then turned to look inside to check for something.

"It's eight o'clock," he said; his voice gravelly with sleep.

"Yes, I know, but I was hoping to get some practice in before I have to take up the guard shift this afternoon," Sasuke replied. "So, you still up for teaching me?"

Naruto stared at him befuddled. He crossed his arms, leant his shoulder against the doorframe; his blue eyes, slowly clearing up, travelling from Sasuke's shoes up his legs to his stomach up his chest and finally landing back on his face.

"You still want me to teach you?" he asked sceptically, quirking an eyebrow.

"Yes, that's why I'm here obviously. You agreed last night, remember," Sasuke reminded him just in case he actually had had more beer than that one bottle. He didn't look particularly hangover, though. Just confused for some reason.

"You're serious about this," Naruto muttered, cocking his head to the left.

"Why are you surprised about that?" Sasuke inquired, resting a hand on his hip. "I never make jokes when it comes to learning how to handle new weapons."

"Well, after what I told you last night, I was honestly not expecting you to still want the training," Naruto admitted easily and scratched his cheek. "Hell, when you knocked, I was expecting to be dragged away by some of the Board or so."

"Why would the Board take you away?"

"I figure planning on killing someone when you get the opportunity does not make you quite suitable for this lovely compound," Naruto drawled and while his stance was relaxed, his eyes were sharp as the edge of a knife now. "Thought you'd gone yapping to them by now."

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 the next chapter! Please stay safe and take care of yourselves!



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