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: Do you smell that? That is the scent of oblivious denial. Also this might turn out to be longer than 10 chapters, sorry, guys.

Warnings: Can it be called bonding if it's crossbow training?; description of past character death

I hope you'll like it!

Chapter 7

He went straight to his house, paying Suigetsu no mind when the man called out for him to join them for another beer. His mind wasn't in it anymore and he wanted to be alone now.

Neither Itachi nor father was home, but he hadn't expected them to be. Last time he'd seen Itachi, he'd been with Kisame and father had been talking with Tsunade and a couple of Board members. It'd be at least another hour if not longer before either of them would return.

His window still stood ajar, cold wind occasionally whistling alongside it, before he went over and closed it. He stared out of the glass in the direction of apartment building A, but in the depth of the night he couldn't see anything else but a shapeless mass outlined against the star speckled sky. Some people down in the street made their way to the gates, ready to switch shifts with the ones guarding the wall.

On automatic pilot, Sasuke changed into his pyjamas, did his business in the bathroom and returned silently to his room, because even within the confines of his own home he was forever silent, forever awaiting to hear the hair rising gurgling noise of a zombie, even though aside from the breach back then no zombie had ever stepped foot inside this house. Still, he remained wary and he wondered how Naruto had done it, all those months on the road. How had he rested when his last companion had died a gruesome death? How had he remained this sane, this in control, after witnessing so much bloodshed? Sasuke imagined losing father and Itachi and he didn't think he could get past that loss. Obito's death had cut even if he and his cousin had never been that close; mother's death had been so horrifying it had left him in a daze of rage for days to come after she'd been killed. He still had father and his brother, however. He still had people.

Naruto had gone from having his family and his best friend with him to having nobody at all anymore. He'd been alone for so long … He was so immensely strong, able to carry all that grief with him without collapsing underneath it. Did he even realise just how strong he truly was? How long had it been since he had last talked about his family to someone? How long since he had allowed himself to think about them?

Sasuke sank down on the bed and rubbed his hands over his face. He was all too aware of what this conversation between him and Naruto meant. The other man had kept himself off to the side for weeks, ever since he'd arrived here, barely talking to anyone unless they talked to him first. Even then his answers were polite but clipped, never giving anything away. Some of the Board members had been suspicious about that, deciding it made Naruto suspicious, but father had been quick to point out that if Naruto had been planning on doing something, he would have had plenty of opportunities for it so far.

The latest opportunity having been the supply run with Sasuke.

Sasuke had been aware of the risk he'd taken by taking Naruto with him. If the blond man had wanted it, he could have killed Sasuke and could have taken the van with its supplies and fuck off to the gods knew where. He hadn't. He'd stuck to Sasuke's side the entire time, had killed zombies with him and for him, and never once had he set off Sasuke's alarm bells.

Tonight had Sasuke seeing him in a whole other light, however. To be the only one to have been taken into confidence by Naruto, the only one who knew what made him thick … That knowledge was heavy and he rubbed his stomach absently, as if the knowledge was like a heavy stone in his gut. He could try to figure out why he of all people had been chosen by Naruto, but he wasn't going to. It just was. No point in trying to figure out something that might not even have an answer in the end.

He did have to figure out what he was going to do next. What Naruto had told him wasn't something that could be brushed aside or easily forgotten. It wasn't something as silly as him talking about his favourite food or his hobbies before the apocalypse.

It was wanting revenge, wanting someone else to die. An eye for an eye. Premediated murder, something else entirely than simply stabbing zombies to their final death.

It was Naruto hinting that he might not stay here forever after all.

He laid back in his bed, dragging the blanket over him. He flicked his eyes down in the direction of the window, tried to imagine what Naruto could be doing at this moment. What he could be thinking about after having confessed something so momentously.

Strange, how even after such an intimate talk, Sasuke still felt like he didn't know Naruto that much at all.

"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."

Sasuke had no doubt he'd be able to leap into action in just two seconds flat if he felt threatened. "If you thought I'd go to the Board, why did you tell me then?"

Naruto shrugged; the move fluid and smooth, but his lips were thin. "Guess I was testing you." He smiled humourlessly. "Don't always have to be you guys who do the testing."

It rankled Sasuke's nerves somewhat to hear the verbal distance Naruto was still putting between them, but he took a deep breath. "I'm not planning on telling anyone unless you give me explicit permission to do so."

"Why?" There was that suspicion back in those bright blue eyes. "Can't tell if you're busting my balls now, Sasuke, but are you seriously telling me you're okay with me wanting to take revenge and shit? You're seriously not going to tell anyone about what I said last night? You're expecting me to believe that?" He shook his head in disbelief.

"Yes, I'm expecting you to believe that, because turning you in for wanting revenge would make me a damn hypocrite and a hypocrite I've never been," Sasuke growled.

"Hypocrite for what?" Naruto narrowed his eyes.

Sasuke tsk'd and pushed Naruto back into his apartment, following him inside. He was expecting a punch in the face for that, but Naruto simply stepped backwards, watching like a hawk how Sasuke closed the door behind him.

A quick look showed just how dreadfully impersonal the apartment still was. Even after two months only the weapons against the wall made it clear that someone was actually living here and it made Sasuke frown. Sure, they couldn't exactly go out and leisurely shop for decorations, but everyone found a way to make their space their own.

Except for Naruto apparently.

"I'm not looking at you any differently for wanting to take revenge," Sasuke said and when Naruto scoffed, he shook his head and said vehemently, "I'm not, because I've done the exact same thing you want to do, so I have no right to judge you for it."

Naruto narrowed his eyes again and shifted his weight from his left to his right leg; his crossed arms so tense they had to be aching by now. "Who?" he demanded.

"Those questions Itachi asked you?" Sasuke said abruptly. "About how many people you've killed and why?"

Naruto looked slightly taken aback by the seemingly non-sequitur comment, but nodded slowly.

"We didn't always have those questions," Sasuke sighed and rolled his shoulders, resting his hands on his hips. His katana was a familiar weight on his back. "At the start we took people in if we thought they looked trustworthy. If they vouched for other people, that was fine, the more the better, gave us more chances to survive."

Even after so many months, the vile taste of betrayal was hard to shake and he marched over to the window in a burst of restless energy, watching Shikamaru and a couple of others walk towards the pond to continue their project.

"At one point we took in a guy named Kabuto. He'd been close to getting his doctor's degree before the zombies appeared and we decided that more medical help was always welcome," he muttered, resting his fingers on the windowsill, feeling the cold smooth stone underneath his fingertips. "A while later we ran across an older man during one of our supply runs. Kabuto vouched for him, said he'd been one of his teachers and was one of the best experts."

His breath fogged up the window somewhat. The apartment was colder than his bedroom and he absently made a note to look into the heating system of this building.

"We were fucking naïve," he snorted harshly; fingers curling around the edge of the windowsill. "Barely a week later the compound got overrun by both humans and fucking zombies. The man that piece of shit had vouched for? Orochimaru, he was called, and the arsehole was certifiably mad. He'd been experimenting on the zombies, trying to figure out a way to get control over them. He decided that this compound was the perfect place to test out his theory."

He paused. Above them someone got up, their footsteps audible all the way up to what was probably the kitchen in that apartment. He listened to himself breathe, listened to Naruto's measured breath behind him.

"It was complete chaos," he murmured, staring unseeingly out of the window. "Everywhere you looked, there was a goddamn zombie trying to rip your skin out or a fucker trying to kill you. Orochimaru was apparently not that good, though, because he got caught early on by his little experiments," he sneered.

He turned around, locked eyes with Naruto, who was gazing back calmly. "At one point I was running to the infirmary, because a herd was collecting there. On the way there, I found three undead gnawing on my mother's corpse."

He fell silent, recalling all too vividly the sight of mother's blank face, her black eyes staring dead at the sky; her beautiful long black hair sprawled across the pavement as two undead arseholes were feasting on her insides and a third one was ripping apart her trachea. She'd still been holding her dagger, a fourth undead corpse motionless beside her.

When he looked at Naruto, he found nothing but soft sympathy, an acknowledgement of his grief.

"I lost it," he said simply and stuck his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "By then we'd all realised who was behind the breach and I was seeing red. I wanted to make Kabuto pay, get him back for everything he'd done to us. Because if he hadn't let Orochimaru in, mother would still be alive. If he hadn't orchestrated the breach with Orochimaru, we wouldn't have lost so many good people. So I tracked him down, gutted him from his groin to his collarbone and then threw him right in a group of zombies, letting them eat him and finish him. I stayed to listen to his screams."

The silence between them was long, but not heavy. It felt somehow uplifting in a sense. Father and Itachi had known what he had done of course; it had been hard to deny when Itachi had been the one to find him still on the roof of the shed where he'd caught Kabuto, watching the man be torn limb from limb while he himself had looked like he'd bathed in his blood.

Neither father nor Itachi had ever condemned him for it. All the same he had never talked about it with anyone else either. Not because he was ashamed, but because he knew other people might not understand and he had no patience to deal with them.

Sasuke stirred, breathed out slowly through his mouth. "Like I said last night, revenge doesn't bring them back, but it did feel fucking good," he said ruefully and Naruto let out something that could have been a chuckle or a grunt. "So I know how you feel and I'm not judging you for it. I meant when I said that I'm here for you, Naruto. I'm not going to run off to the Board."

"Not that easily scared away, huh?" Naruto smiled wryly, loosening his crossed arms.

Sasuke offered him a thin lipped smile. "If I was, I wouldn't be standing here anymore. So, about those crossbow lessons."

Naruto snickered and turned around, walking to the kitchen. "Fine, fine, just let me eat something first before you try taking out someone's eye."

"Your confidence in my skills is overwhelming," Sasuke droned.

Naruto halted in the doorway of the kitchen and winked at him. "I know, don't let it get to your head too much."

They left the walls behind, making their way deeper into the small forest bordering on the compound. The sky was heavily overcast, turning the forest even darker than it already was. More than half of the trees had lost their leaves by now; some of them still clung onto them stubbornly.

"Looks like it's going to snow soon," Naruto commented, glancing at the sky briefly.

Sasuke couldn't help but notice how even the dead leaves didn't make any noise when Naruto stepped on them. He was like a ghost in that sense: drifting through the trees, never making a sound or leaving anything of his presence behind. That ability was probably one of the main reasons why he'd survived for so long on his own.

The dead couldn't attack what they couldn't hear.

"Yeah, doesn't really bode well for the game around here," Sasuke murmured, frowning slightly. Maybe it was just his imagination, but it felt as if the winters were growing more severe with each year that passed.

"How's the supply situation?" Naruto inquired. He didn't even pause when he stabbed a straggling zombie in his head. A frayed rope tied its decaying wrist to a tree; either the man had known that he was about to die or someone else had tied him to it.

Sasuke lowered his katana after making sure that there were no other zombies around. "It should tie us over for at least the next two months, but we're not going to stop the weekly supply runs unless the weather makes it impossible," he replied.

The more they could collect, the better, because the weather had shown to be pretty unpredictable in the past two years. If they were stuck inside the compound in case of horrible weather, at least they wouldn't starve to death soon.

"All right," Naruto announced and stepped into a small clearing. "I think this is far away enough that you won't accidentally hit someone."

The clearing itself was nothing but dead grass and rotten leaves; a dead tree stump acting like some sort of beacon in the middle. Sasuke raised an eyebrow when Naruto strode over to a tree and stuck a crudely drawn bullseye onto it. He winked when he caught Sasuke staring.

"You need something as a target. Figured paper was easier than trying to catch a zombie and rope it against a tree," he smirked, lowering the crossbow from his shoulder. "I'd ask if you prefer practicing on a living target, but well, zombies aren't exactly alive anymore."

Sasuke snorted. "No, this is fine."

Naruto went to the middle of the clearing, leaving him nearly twenty feet away from the target. He beckoned Sasuke to stand next to him.

"First, I'm going to show you how to use one and then I'll teach you how," Naruto explained, raising the crossbow, cocking it against his shoulder. "Think this might be the easiest way. You a visual learner by any chance?"

"Somewhat," Sasuke replied and shrugged.

"Well, using it ain't as complicated as trying to cure cancer," Naruto said humorously. "You basically hold it like this, as if you're holding the stock of a long firearm or so. You aim at whatever you have in sight, the bullseye in this case, you pull the string into the lock," as he talked he aimed at the tree and pulled the string slowly into the lock; slow for Sasuke's benefit, he assumed, "and all you have to do then is just push down this lever and …"

A sharp whistling noises and the bolt struck the bullseye right in the middle with a quiet 'thwack'. He lowered the crossbow and waved his hand at the bolt in a vague 'Voilà' gesture.

"It's not terribly complicated as you can see, but it might take a bit before you get used to it and it takes a bit of practice to aim perfectly," he said. "Your shoulders and arms might also ache like a bitch for a little while, but that's completely normal. You ready to try?"

"Yeah." Sasuke accepted the crossbow, testing the weight of it in his arms. It was slightly heavier than it looked and he spent a brief moment studying all the parts, familiarising himself with it.

Naruto let him, retrieving the bolt in the meantime. He had at least twenty of them in his quiver, which was slung across his back.

"All right, let's see how you manage the first time," Naruto smiled.

Sasuke nodded and copying Naruto's earlier pose, he raised his arms and aimed the crossbow at the bullseye. Letting out a slow measured breath, he closed one eye, letting the rest of the world fade away until nothing but the bullseye remained. The string was more stubborn than expected, but he managed to draw it back correctly either way. Shifting his weight a tad, he pressed down on the lever, watching the bolt zoom away instantly.

Right past the tree.

"Fuck," Sasuke said flatly, lowering the crossbow.

"Hey, not bad for a first try!" Naruto said cheerfully, even clapping his hands once. "Honestly, thought you'd do worse than that."

"I didn't hit the bullseye."

"Didn't really expect you to, to be frank. It's always hard to handle the crossbow at the start, but you did a much better job than I expected. I thought it would go way offside."

"It shot right past the tree."

"Exactly," Naruto pointed out obnoxiously. "Right past the tree. Meaning you got pretty damn close to hitting the tree, which again, is a good start! You didn't even jump from the drawback and fall flat on your fine arse," he grinned.

"I thought you were the one with the fine arse?" Sasuke shot back, raising an eyebrow.

"Hey, yours isn't that shabby either." Naruto winked and plucked a new dart from the quiver. "Up for another try? Got enough to try out for a bit before we need to get them back."

"Yes, give it here," Sasuke demanded, feeling fired up. He was going to get a handle on the crossbow before they left the forest again, even if he had to try over and over again.

"Perseverance, I like it," Naruto chuckled and showed him how to load the crossbow.

Right when Sasuke readied himself to take aim once again, hands landed on his hips, making him freeze in response.

"Shift your hips a bit more like this," Naruto muttered; his breath startingly close and warm near Sasuke's ear. "And your arm a bit higher like … Yeah, like that. This will make it easier to aim. Give it a try."

"Right," Sasuke mumbled and cleared his throat softly; the back of his neck pricking oddly hot with Naruto standing so close.

His hands were no longer on Sasuke's hips, the blond man himself hovering just outside of Sasuke's peripheral view, but the imprint of them seemed to last long after Sasuke had pulled the lever again.

It took another two tries before he managed to hit the paper, which he blamed on Naruto's unexpected close presence fucking with his mind for a bit there for some reason and another three before he succeeded in hitting the bullseye. He smiled grimly when the bolt struck the tree with a quiet but firm 'thwack'. A soft whistle had him turning his head, glancing at Naruto, who had his arms loosely crossed.

"Man, you really are a fast learner," Naruto said impressed. "Took me a full week of practice before I could even hit the paper, never mind the bullseye."

"Weren't you thirteen back then?" Sasuke asked unimpressed, lowering the crossbow.

"So?" Naruto lifted an eyebrow. "Gaara was the same age, but he killed it from the start, man, age doesn't mean squat."

"I'll take your word for it," Sasuke murmured, watching Naruto collect the bolts and put them back into the quiver. "Is this the same crossbow you used to practice with?"

Not that it looked that worn; used but well taken care of, even Sasuke could see that and he barely had any knowledge about crossbows. There were only a couple of people proficient with the use of it at the compound and Sasuke had been content to use his katana, a knife or his gun to kill zombies.

Naruto didn't answer at first. He waved Sasuke over to sit with him on a tree stump. It must have broken off quite a while ago, because there was a lot of moss growing across the bark and some tiny mushrooms still clinging to the inside of it.

"That looks like it's going to break any minute now," Sasuke pointed out, but walked over to it regardless, sitting down gingerly. It felt as sturdy as it looked, which was to say, basically not sturdy at all, but somehow it still held both their weight.

"It won't," Naruto reassured him and dug something out of his pocket. "Besides, what's falling through rotten wood compared to nearly being gnawed on by undead bastards? You want one?"

To Sasuke's surprise, Naruto held out a biscuit. He had four of them wrapped in a tissue and Sasuke accepted it bemused.

"That blonde chick with the blue eyes, Ino, think she's called? She gave them to me," Naruto explained. "She made them herself and offered some to me. Don't know why, though, but hey, free food, man."

Sasuke blinked, making a mental note to ask Ino about this, because he hadn't expected this. Not that she was a bitch – not unless you pissed her off majorly – but in all the time he'd known her, she hadn't been the type to bake biscuits for someone. Especially not for someone she barely knew. What was up with that?

"It's not the crossbow I practiced with," Naruto answered Sasuke's earlier question after they'd taken their first bite from the biscuit, crumbs fluttering down to the forest floor. "Lost that one when I ran out of bolts and I had to use it to bash some zombies' heads in. Wasn't much use anymore after that. It did teach me to always make sure I don't run out of bolts, though." He snorted; a quick dark smile darting across his face.

"You found this one on the road then?" Sasuke nodded at the crossbow.

"No, it was Gaara's," Naruto said softly. More crumbs ended up on the ground.

Sasuke winced slightly. "Sorry, didn't mean to - "

"Nah, don't worry about it," Naruto waved off his apology. "I don't mind, it's nice to be able to talk with someone about him. Anyways, told you he'd thrown me his bag back during that run. His crossbow was in there. I'd lost mine a month after that and figured Gaara wouldn't mind if I borrow his," he smiled sadly.

"I don't think he would," Sasuke murmured.

Gaara would probably have been happy to know that his crossbow was keeping his best friend alive.

After they'd finished the homemade biscuits, Naruto rose up, dusting off his jeans. "Guess it might be best if we return now if you want to be on time for your shift."

Sasuke's stomach did a weird roll at that. "Can we continue practicing tomorrow?" he asked, standing up as well. "I want to make sure that the last one wasn't a fluke."

"You mean you aren't confident about your own skills?" Naruto teased; his blue eyes shimmering with amusement. "Sure, man, if you have time to waste with me, I don't mind."

"It's not wasting time," Sasuke bit out, surprising himself by his vigour.

He appeared to have surprised Naruto as well, because the blond man gaped at him for several seconds before he shook his head with a quiet, but amused huff.

"Whatever you say, man," he said; his face unexpectedly soft. "Come on now, you got a guard shift to take on."

Sasuke wondered if the odd feeling in his stomach had something to do with the biscuits he'd eaten just now. Did Ino even know how to bake? He wasn't sure.

They had to kill five zombies on their way back to the compound, but with how decayed they had been, it had been quick and easy work to get rid of them. That was the upside of winter: the cold temperatures tended to make zombies a lot slower than they already were. The only real risk they still posed then was if they banded together in a huge group.

"You got anything planned for this afternoon?" Sasuke asked curiously as the gates closed behind them.

"Nah, think the old hag is keeping them from giving me any decent work," Naruto replied and snorted, rolling his eyes as he kicked out his left foot. "She refused to believe that I'm already healed. You think if I bug her long enough, she'll finally ease up her hold on the balls of whoever is in charge of the roster?"

"You bug her long enough, you might find out just how short her temper really is," Sasuke warned him. "I'm warning you, Naruto, don't piss her off too badly, you don't want to make an enemy of her."

"Psssh!" Naruto scoffed, flapping his hand. "I can charm the hell out of her if I want to, just you watch."

"You're an idiot," Sasuke informed him and smirked. Man, he wished he could be there if Naruto tried to unleash his charms on Tsunade. The busty doctor wasn't exactly easily swayed or even charmed.

"Look, I get that we need the medical supplies, but if you don't find me someone who can handle this motorcycle in that area, you're shit out of luck!"

Anko's unexpected harsh comment had Sasuke slowing down, frowning when he looked at the garage. Anko was there, next to the motorcycle she'd finished fixing last week. Sakura was there as well, carrying several empty bags, together with Suigetsu and Kisame.

"What's up?" Naruto asked when he'd noticed Sasuke had stopped.

Sasuke didn't answer, just walked over to the garage, vaguely aware of Naruto following him.

"What's going on?" he asked curiously, attracting their attention.

Sakura blushed, but her voice was business like when she replied, "We're running low on several medical supplies such as needles and aspirin. You remember the scouting group who went north two weeks ago?"

Sasuke nodded. There had been some discussion about that, because going north meant going a long distance as everything close by had already been completely looted.

"They found a hospital there which looked still to be untouched, so that should give us a good chance at finding more supplies."

"The problem is," Suigetsu took over, pursing his lips, "that the scouting group had to get the hell out of there because there was a huge herd collecting, blocking the road. They said there's no chance of a car getting through there, because the road's already pretty damaged. Probably the army who tried blowing up the road, we don't know."

"So the best shot we have at getting access to the supplies is using a motorcycle," Kisame said and sighed, running a hand through his hair. "If the herd is still there, though, it's going to be a bitch manoeuvring through them with the motorcycle. You'll have to be quick enough to work your way through them, but also keep enough control over the bike without crashing. If the road is really that shit, it doesn't sound easy to keep control yet be fast enough to escape them all."

"Which is why you're not getting the bike," Anko said, scowling. "I'm sorry, Sakura, I know you mean well, but you're shit at handling one."

Sakura flinched, biting down on her lip as she stared at the ground.

"I don't mean to insult you, because honestly, it's just impossible. Several people here would be able to go that fast, but to drive at an impossible speed to keep ahead of the herd and not crash into a road that sounds incredibly fucked up?" Anko shook her head. "Sounds like a suicide mission to me. It's better to wait until we hear from another place where - "

"I can do it."

"There might still be enough – wait, what?" Anko cut herself off, eyes widening. "Sorry, can you repeat that?"

They all turned around to stare at Naruto, who blinked and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

"I can do it," he repeated to their shock. "You need someone to drive that sweet ride? Hell, I'm in."

AN2: We're slowly inching into the SasuNaru goodness, guys, I promise. Also I'll do my best to have more updates ready this weekend. Don't dare to promise anything with trying to work on my master thesis, but I haven't forgotten about them!

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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