Gokujou Naruto

Chapter Eight
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Something of Love: Ai no Koto

Warnings: psychological explanations woven into the text. Angst. Some curse words.


Disclaimer: I don’t own it, I don’t, so leave me be, please. Kishimoto has all rights (I hope), and silly companies get everything else.


Author’s note: this section wasn’t in my original outline (not up to the last scene of this section, anyways).  Taise wanted to see more of Jiraiya, so I wrote the ol’ geezer into it. And then there were some people who were confused about Naruto’s “dreams,” so I decided to give one explanation.

There’s more than this possibility. I’d love to hear any other explanations you can think of, but this is a more “scientific” (psychological) explanation.

Go to my footnotes page to get more information on the disorder discussed.


Thankies to all of you who review!! You give me ideas, you inspire me, and I love hearing from you.


Thankies to Meghan and Pai and Taise and Silver and redjediknight. You guys make my job easier, and you help the readers so much…

Something of Love: Ai no Koto


Chapter Eight


“Sasuke-chan yo!” Naruto seethed as he flipped over the edge of the roof. He’d found Sasuke on the roof again—intent on proving himself. “What the hell were you thinking, earlier?? You fucking ignored me during the whole class period—even when I asked you a question, you bastard! I asked you a question while I answer all of yours and what do you do?!” His voice reached unbelievable heights and Sasuke rolled his eyes.


“Dobe,” Sasuke stood. His lunch was abandoned. “What are you doing?”


“I’m getting you to pay attention to me, ya stupid prick!” Naruto yelled. “You’re always ignoring me and everyone else. So I’m going to make you recognize me—”


“—and your brilliance—” the mockery was clear in Sasuke’s low, smooth voice.


“Shut the fuck up!” Naruto screeched. Sasuke sat down again and resumed his meal. Naruto stared. “Hey—” Sasuke didn’t respond. “Are you even listening to me?”


Quiet laughter. “You hungry,” Sasuke looked up and Naruto winced at the cold arrogance reflected in black eyes, “idiot?”


Naruto closed the distance between the two of them and sat down with a thud. He leaned against the wall Sasuke lounged by and sighed. “...no...” he lied. Kakashi had an early meeting that morning, so he’d left early—though the obento, boxed lunch, was on the table like it always was. But without his guardian, Naruto had a difficult time waking. His dreams did that sometimes. So the obento remained on the table. Still.


Sasuke wordlessly pushed the lunch on Naruto’s lap with a quiet, “...my mother makes too much food, anyways...”


Naruto’s eyes narrowed as he observed the Uchiha boy. “I don’t need your shitty charity,” he complained, but Sasuke wasn’t listening. Without moving his eyes from the horizon, Sasuke used his chopsticks to pick up a piece of broccoli and shove it into Naruto’s unsuspecting mouth.




Sasuke smirked. “Well. I’m certainly not going to eat anything that’s touched your mouth,” he commented, and Naruto’s eyes resumed a slit-like appearance. “And it’s wasteful to let good food,” he turned to look at the blond boy, “go to waste.”  Naruto picked up the chopsticks and looked at Sasuke incredulously. “Besides,” Naruto waited for the blow to fall, “You’re useless to anyone if you can’t move from hunger.”


Naruto chuckled as he ate. He thought of Chouji.


Finally, the blond said, “...listen, Sasuke,” their eyes met. “I’m gonna prove that I’m better ‘n you are.” He said calmly, and Sasuke’s amused smile twitched to a smirk. Before the other could reply, though, Naruto continued. “How do you feel about mountain climbing?”


“...you couldn’t beat me if you tried, idiot,” but there was no sting to the words.


“Saturday. That one,” Naruto pointed to a string of mountains, “Haguro.” Sasuke nodded, and Naruto laughed.


It was decided.


* * * * *


Naruto didn’t see Sasuke until he reached the little town at the foot of Haguro. Sasuke, he noticed, was dressed in casual clothes—black slacks and a thin dress shirt. Naruto wasn’t surprised to find that Sasuke’s opinion of travel clothes were as formal as their uniforms. He’s gotta be uncomfortable...but the pale boy seemed as cool as Naruto was in his bright orange shorts and simple t-shirt.


He grinned at the other boy and waved. Sasuke didn’t acknowledge the action. “Osu!” he called in friendly greeting. From his vantage point, it looked as though Sasuke’s lips twitched at that. But once again, Sasuke didn’t respond noticeably. He just waited for Naruto to catch up.


“I’ve already checked for bus fair,” he greeted, and passed Naruto a handful of coins. Naruto blinked. Bus? He thought. Why are we...? “We need to get to the mountain,” Sasuke explained and Naruto felt his cheeks burn. “And I assume you only brought enough for the train...?”


Naruto stared stupidly.


Sasuke chuckled and closed Naruto’s open palm. Over the coins. “Consider it an...investment.” he smirked again, and Naruto glared.


Neither spoke another word until they made it safely to the mountain, but around them the elderly townsfolk chattered in not-so-quiet voices. The younger kids, naturally, had their conversations as well—probably about Sasuke’s “good looks,” Naruto thought moodily—but they were harder to hear.


“...are you American?” one elderly woman asked cheekily and she laughed to her friend. “Aaa, right, you don’t know what I’m saying, do you?” she chuckled heartily and patted Naruto’s hand. “It’s all right!!”


Naruto felt his cheeks darken. “Um, sorry ma’am, but I’m Japanese...” his smile was strained. “...not—”


“So you’re half?” she laughed and Naruto wished her questions were mean-spirited. Then he’d be able to explain his automatic reaction to the assumption Disappointed, uncomfortable.


Naruto shrugged and laughed a bit. “...I don’t know...I never—”


“Oh, poor dear! One of those, then, hmm?” she clasped his hand in a way only the elderly did and smiled again. Naruto had the distinct impression that she was treating him like a small child, but as he knew no young kids, he couldn’t prove the assumption.


Behind them, the teenagers giggled and Naruto wondered, have they moved on to gossiping over me, yet? And he stared at his hands. “...mhm...” he replied, and the grandmother returned to her previous conversation.


When Naruto risked a glance at Sasuke, he saw the other’s eyes were fixed on him. But neither said anything.


The bus didn’t stop soon enough for Naruto. He and Sasuke walked off the bus, each dropping change into the collector after slipping the tiny slip of paper in. Naruto grinned at Sasuke, and the two of them took off at a quick pace.


The foot of the mountain, Naruto was annoyed to find, was still a good fifteen minute walk from the bus station, and that brief jaunt was as frustrating as the bus ride had been. Naruto clenched his teeth against elementary kids’ curious prattle—but all were too shy, to intimidated to come up to the pair.


When they reached the mountain, the first thing they saw were the weeds and sparse brush any forest might sport. Grass was aplenty, and greens and browns and yellows filled Naruto’s eyes. He winced. The trees, though, he noted with fascination, didn’t begin until they’d walked a few minutes.


But before they were completely surrounded, Naruto found himself wondering why he even challenged Sasuke to the climb...this is just as “hard” as walking home!


Well, he paused to look at the trees and smiled, maybe if home were up a really long hill… he bit his lip and looked where Sasuke stood. “...why’d you come with me?” Naruto asked warily as he frowned. There’s gotta be some kinda catch...he grumbled, but Sasuke only scoffed.


“I wanted to get away from my family,” he said simply.


Naruto stared with amazement. “Your family?” he asked, aghast. “Families are supposed ta be cherished, ya jerk. You don’t ignore ‘em!!”


Sasuke snorted loudly and turned dispassionate eyes on Naruto. “What about family,” his voice was chill and deep, “deserves the slightest bit of my regard?”


Naruto pursed his lips and drew up his shoulders as if to prepare for an attack. “Family, Sasuke,” he stressed the other’s name, “is always there for you.”


Sasuke breathed quietly. “Oh? Then why are you still a—”


“—Kakashi’s always lookin’ out for me an’ helpin’ me when I need it!” Naruto snapped.


Sasuke murmured a quiet, “Hmf.”


Naruto glowered. “Your family’s the ones who hold you—” Sasuke’s eyes were strange when Naruto glanced at him. “The ones who cherish you and...” he trailed off. “Family’s just there. Always.” He drew a line in the path’s leaves with his toe. “...’cause they...”


“Care?” Sasuke laughed dryly, and the wind echoed the mirthless sound. “Only if it affects them.”


Naruto glared and said simply, “Kakashi’s not like that.”


Sasuke’s gently frowning lips eased. He almost smiled. “...well… maybe...” he coughed “...I just don’t have the right family.” He concluded awkwardly. But Naruto knew he disagreed even then.


Naruto paused in his walking, and his breath hitched in his throat. “...what’s that?” and he sped up for a minute to catch sight of it. “It’s a...”


“A shrine.” Sasuke noted, and the two shared a little smile.


Shadows shrouded the structure. It was barely above their heads and crowded with branches and mold as if it had been unnoticed for quite a while. The shrine beneath it had long since gathered dust and fallen leaves. Two incense holders marked the simple god’s statue and a short, raised step on which to leave offerings confirmed their assumption: it was a shrine. Naruto’s eyes fell over the scene with ease, and he wondered about the forgotten monument. But whose is it?


Naruto turned with a wry smile to Sasuke. “D’ya know what this is for?” Sasuke looked at his friend dubiously, and his lips parted—a herald to the rebuke not yet to come.  “Whose it is, I mean.” Naruto clarified hastily.


Sasuke’s lips twitched. “There are over a thousand gods in Japan, and you want me to randomly know this one’s name?” he scoffed lightly, and Naruto bristled with an angry rebuke on his tongue. “I imagine it’s here for the traveler’s protection,” Sasuke cut Naruto off before the dispute could bloom.


Naruto turned again to regard the shrine. An expression half between wonder and disappointment covered the previous look of anger. “...but why here? No one climbs this little hill...” Curiosity enveloped him. “Sasuke, tell me a story,” Naruto bade, but his eyes remained fixed.


When Naruto looked at his travel-companion, he realized Sasuke’s expression was nearly unreadable. Whether the request startled or annoyed him, Naruto couldn’t say. He simply stood there—like a stupid …err…snake!


“A story,” Sasuke breathed. The air shifted with the statement, and Naruto hastily averted his gaze. But Naruto nodded despite his actions, and now the blond could clearly understand his friend’s emotions. He’s bewildered...he is. Sasuke...the guy who pretends to know everything. Weird.  “I don’t know the story—” Sasuke was confused, almost.


He was like a child—at a loss for words. That’s...sweet. Then the words sunk in, and Naruto’s dreamy smile was gone in an instant. He’s avoiding the subject. “So make it up!!” he demanded, and Sasuke quickly regained his composure and glared. Inwardly, Naruto could have grinned. Hah. I won.


The wind stirred, and Naruto felt the kiss of a cherub. But there was no time for dreams.


“There was silence.” Sasuke began. Conversely, noisy forest-life surrounded the pair on the wooded trail. It was as though the mountain would not retain her.


The wind died.


Naruto waited.


“And then came the fox...”


“A spirit-fox?” Naruto’s blue eyes begged confirmation.


“Yes,” there was no irritation between them. It had faded with the wind. “A many tailed—”


“How many?”


A pause, and then a shrug. “I don’t know.”


Naruto thought, and his eyes lit with pleasure. He knew. “Nine,” he clarified, and Sasuke just nodded.


“And then came the nine-tailed fox, who was the one leader of all kitsune.” Spirit-fox. The two looked at the shrine, and Sasuke smiled. Soft. Slow. “This is not the shrine of the kitsune,” he noted, and the smile soured.


Naruto nodded, and smiled—to make up for Sasuke’s loss. “No,” he agreed. “This...was the monk’s.”


For a moment, it was as if a smile lit up Sasuke’s face, but that was only the sun that shone through the leaves. So the words continued. And with them came the old ambiance.  “The fox, who was called not by a human name,” the old patterns of storytelling eased out of the boy’s mouth, and Naruto knew the story would not disappoint. He felt his heart settle into the mood. “And so those who saw her—”


“—him—” Naruto’s smile was biting as he interrupted.


“—those who saw it could not recall the same form. But perhaps that is the magic of kitsune.” Sasuke refused the alteration. And the wind blew and blew, but the two didn’t notice.


Naruto stared at the statue, and ground his foot into the path. Interesting, kinda, but I’m getting bored. “What’s this got to do with the monk? Did he see it??” he demanded.


Sasuke smiled again. “And the fox loved nothing more than to beleaguer intelligent creatures with riddles—”


“—‘s not much of a prank...”


“—in the form of Haiku. It would recite now-famous lines to villagers in times when the poem had yet been written. And so, the fox was known to speak of the future...in riddles.”


Naruto pursed his lips. “So?” Agitated, Sasuke’s black eyes smoldered. Naruto smirked. He knew Sasuke would hate the tilted smile.


The black-haired boy continued, “And so, one day there came a monk—”


“—handsome. Not humble.” Naruto’s suggestion carried weight.


“—who, in the manner of his order, had taken a vow of poverty.” Sasuke didn’t seem to notice the clarification. “The monk traveled from one village to another, but a sacred spirit pulled him away from his intended path, and up into the—”


“—heart of the mountain?”


Sasuke scoffed. “No, idiot. That’s inside the rock, not on it.” Sasuke glared, and Naruto felt his ire. Both boys looked sullenly at the shine. Naruto turned away first, and took himself up the mountain path. The few small stones parted beneath him, and a soft pn, pnnn, could be heard. Behind him, Sasuke turned as well. Pt, ppn. And followed.


Sasuke’s voice was softer by distance, and labored. So Naruto was forced to strain his ears. “...he traveled up the mountain trail in search of enlightenment. While he contemplated higher things, such as divine intervention, and he walked.” Sasuke was barely a step behind Naruto, but he paused, and the two looked together at the fading canopy of leaves.


The trees grow sparse here. “Much as we walk now,” Naruto suggested without a change in his expression.


Sasuke didn’t notice. “Because he walked without worldly purpose, perhaps he did not hear the fox’s approach.” Naruto stopped then and waited. Sasuke soon passed him, but the boy uncharacteristically didn’t make a remark. No jibe, no mocking smile.  Kasa, kase,Trit-trot, “The fox appeared.”


Naruto held his breath.


“‘Hello, monk.’ The fox said with a swish of its tail,” Sasuke’s smile twitched. “‘Tell me. What brings such an esteemed guest to this lowly hill?’” Sasuke’s voice took on an amusing tone.


Sasuke continued, “The monk paused in his steps. He smiled, and said, ‘I journey, gentle Kitsune, to search.’


“‘For what, pray ?’ The fox smiled a small smile, and it leaned forward.


“‘Though it saddens me, I do not know.’


“The fox laughed. It was a sharp and cruel yip...and it cut through the silence without fail. ‘Monk,’ the fox sneered, ‘What does your eye tell you?’


“The monk smiled still. He looked softly at the fox, and replied, ‘I see you as you are.’ And he turned. In the fox’s ears the man’s footsteps went, do, do, do,” the sound of heavy walking. “So the fox frowned at the noise.”


Naruto ran his tongue over his teeth and pressed his lips together. “How’s this lead to a shrine?”


Sasuke’s glare could have mirrored the kitsune’s. “Shut up and listen. You said you wanted a story, didn’t you?”


Naruto sighed, and bit back a tired reply.


Sasuke cleared his throat and took a drink of water. “The kitsune frowned at the monk’s quiet rebuke,” Sasuke repeated. This made Naruto angrily stomp once as he worked to get ahead. “And it tried the question again, ‘but how do you see? What?’ its patience thinning, the fox’s sharp teeth glinted behind a false smile. To kitsune, how humans see them is of utmost importance; it tells the kitsune how much power they have over men. And it tells them what each man or woman desires. To hear a human speak of a kitsune’s true form is unusual indeed.


“‘I see you, a kitsune, in both shapes.’ The monk continued to walk. And the fox snarled.


“‘Oh, how special your eyes must be, with the laughter shining behind them,’ the jibe was bitter and dark with curious irritation. ‘To see so!’ The fox was jealous.


“‘Nay,’ the monk argued, ‘I have very poor sight, to see as things are, and not how they were—or will be.’


“Now the fox laughed—clear, brittle and clean—and he replied, ‘I have a question for you,’




“‘What does it mean?’ There was silence. Laughter, and the fox continued with his riddle:


At dawn

the homeless cat, too

cries for love.”


Naruto turned and caught Sasuke’s eye. “That’s by Issa,” he proclaimed triumphantly, and Sasuke smiled at the childish gesture.


“The monk looked at the trees. The monk reflected on the fox, an animal, who wished to be a man even though nature did not permit. For a while, the monk thought over the riddle, and replied like this: ‘Even the most pitiful creatures desire love.’ He looked then at the fox. ‘Do you?’


“However, the man saw the fox-spirit had disappeared. So the enlightened man continued on his path and eventually took shelter. He meditated—”


“—and basically sat around for a good, long time. Get to the point!” Naruto huffed. Sasuke must have closed his eyes ‘r somethin’ ‘cause I definitely don’t hear him walking…


“Some length of time passed—” Naruto snorted at Sasuke’s wording. “—and the monk heard this: Sa—saku,” step, “and the fox from before came into view. ‘My dear monk,’ there was some cynicism in the tone, but a smile danced behind the being’s eyes. It seemed that the fox had completed some marvelous, terrible task. ‘I have something to tell you,’


“‘But what is it? Your face—it is so pale and filled with dread,’


“‘There is news in the low-lands, monk, that you have brought sorrow and misfortune upon a Lord—never fear,’ the spite returned, ‘it is not I—’


“The monk smiled gently. ‘I have brought misfortune? How? Why do you laugh so?’”


Then Naruto raised one hand, and Sasuke ceased his story. “‘You exist, sweet monk. You, with your so-keen eyes...’ The fox hated those eyes.” Naruto spoke quietly, and behind him, Sasuke swallowed. Sasuke...he’s so close...I can hear him breathe—


 “‘My eyes? Yet you laugh...how does my existing do anything?’” Sasuke paused for a lengthy amount of time.


Naruto realized, with a sigh, that Sasuke intended for him to answer. “‘It keeps the balance. When something good happens to you, something bad must happen elsewhere. And you, idiot,’” Sasuke snorted at Naruto’s inclusion of the word, “‘are blessed. So this certain Lord has been chosen by fate to bear all the ill fortune you should have endured. He is your opposite—and I’  the kitsune stopped quickly and its eyes flickered to the monk. ‘...have heard that...the spirit...spirits...have told him this—’”


Sasuke coughed, and Naruto’s voice stopped. Sasuke continued the thread, “‘I asked you a question about a poem, Lord-monk, and you replied twice. Once, you gave me a statement—all things want love—and you gave me a question—do I—’ the fox cut itself off again.” Sasuke stalled. The wind blew between the two students, and the two looked at each other. “‘The Lord who received the misfortune wishes for peace, love and wealth. He wants your half of fortune, and a spirit told him that for this to occur, you must die. So he has entrusted a certain demon with a task—’


Naruto interrupted again. “The monk looked at the kitsune with sadness in his human eyes. The monk knew. ‘And given me a gift. In my dreams. The gift will lead to my death, and it will lead to the Lord of All Night’s Dreaming.’ The monk stood, and took its hand.” He used Sasuke’s pronoun for the fox—it—and his heart seemed less pained. “‘I have accepted the gift.’” Naruto inhaled sharply, curious about Sasuke’s reaction. What’s he thinking?


The silent question brought no response, so Naruto continued. “The fox withdrew its hand quickly, and the monk might have sworn to have felt a paw between his fingers. But the monk’s eyes knew the truth. ‘Perhaps,’ the monk thought, ‘kitsune are men who wish to be foxes,’” Naruto grinned to himself as he thought, that was pretty clever...people always wanna keep their masks—he looked at Sasuke—so maybe kitsune are the same way.


Sasuke snarled and put his foot down too heavily. Naruto winced at the noise and wondered about the boy—why’s he so loud?


He had no time to ponder the thought, however, as Sasuke picked up the thread. “‘Then you will die, monk, for your worthless ability to trust!’” Sasuke proclaimed. He seems hurt...


Once again, Naruto’s breath interrupted Sasuke. “It’s just a story, Sasuke.” His face was devoid of emotion. “Chill out.” He didn’t smile, and his eyes were sad. And then he continued the story. “‘And you, dear-fox will live without another’s love for your unwillingness to do the same.’ The monk knew that the kitsune lord could have confidence in no one.” Naruto continued, and once again he felt Sasuke’s eyes turn away. “The fox cried out at this statement. A small, kit-like mewl, and it turned away from the man. For the first time in its long life, it felt something stir deep in its heart. Pain. Sadness. Regret.” Naruto’s eyes shifted to observe his classmate.


Sasuke, Naruto noted, regarded the blond coolly. There was no hint of surprise from either boy. Sasuke spoke, “A quiet sigh from the monk, and he gently caressed of the fox’s hair. ‘What have you done, child?’


“Once again, crisp and cold laughter. ‘Nothing, monk...and it has been long indeed since someone has called me a child.’


“The monk smiled, and replied, ‘To the stars, Gentle kitsune, we are but infants.’”


Naruto’s eyebrows raised, but Sasuke took no notice. Of course he wouldn’t notice...stupid...git...so he took the chance to speak, and speed things along. “And so the fox left the monk...left the monk with the memory of a touch too soft and sweet to bear...a touch that lingered on his—” Naruto’s voice was interrupted.


“—its—” Sasuke interjected.


“—his cheek.


Za, za, za...” running on grass, Naruto’s lips strained into a smile against the words. “And the kitsune reached his home in the forest—”


“—of Death—” Sasuke suggested.


“—the Forest of Death.” Naruto agreed. “And it took its people close, and laughed a bright, terrible laugh. ‘I give you myself no longer. You are your own, so leave me, and never call me yours again.’ And it blew through the forest in its fury...taking no time to speak.


“From the tallest of trees, it pulled its treasure.” Naruto paused.


Then it was Sasuke who interrupted. “...an onyx serpent with red rubies for eyes.” Sasuke suggested, and he continued, “He took his leave of the one-time home, and took himself to the Sea. ‘Lord of all Night’s Dreaming,’ it begged with a sharp-toothed smile, ‘I give to you my most precious possession.’”


“The snake.” Naruto clarified.


Sasuke ignored him and said, “‘Grant me a boon!!’ And so he cast it in.”


Sasuke paused for a moment and looked at Naruto. Sasuke’s voice was smooth and low, but not as sweet as others’. “...but the sea continued to crash its waves against he cliff.” Sasuke picked up his pace. “The fox ran quickly. As far from the noisy sea as it could get. Finally, it stopped when it was overcome with exhaustion. With its nine tails tucked close for comfort, the kitsune curled into a ball. It slept. And it dreamed. But when the Dream King listened to its story, and granted the boon, the fox felt hallowed. It felt cheated. Though the Lord would allow him to dream the monk’s death and die, it felt confused. ‘Why?’ it asked, but no answer came.


“Heart-heavy, the fox returned to the mountain. Its footsteps were slow and leaden—dododo don, dodado don,” the sound of many heavy feet, “The monk, it saw, was near dreams at the side of a small, newly-built shrine. It paused. ‘What is this?’ it asked, and the monk stirred from slumber.


“Without opening his eyes, the monk replied, ‘A shrine, fox-kindred...to any god who will listen. It is for the traveler’s good fortune...and it is for safe dreams.’ He smiled, and opened his eyes. ‘I see you,’ he noted, and the fox laughed.


“‘Oh?’” Sasuke’s voice seemed strained.


Naruto laughed at Sasuke’s expression, and stole the fox’s reply. “‘You don’t look as before—both man and animal. You are simply as a man...’” Naruto’s voice was light with mirth as he grinned at the other boy. Who did not share his smile.


“‘Not a fox...your hair is gold—”


“—white, Sasuke, all fox-spirits are white or black.” Naruto laughed. You’d think someone as cultured as him would know.


“—and your eyes blue—” Sasuke’s own breath interrupted the words.


Naruto’s mouth snapped shut.


“‘but as if you are still a fox, you have—”


“He doesn’t have anything on his face!”


Once again, Sasuke ignored him. “The monk stalled himself, and looked away. ‘You have done something.’


“‘I have not,’


“‘My dreams, fox, are my own.’ He warned,” Sasuke’s eyes seemed to speak the same message. “‘I saw you there, but...you should not die with me. My dreams,’ he paused, ‘are mine. And I do not wish to share them with you.’


“‘You say so with such sadness. Spare my eyes, sweet monk,’ teeth flashed. And the two looked at one another. They came together under a tree. And one gave to the other a single blossom… a pure, beautiful flower that bloomed only in the cold.” Sasuke’s voice was quiet.


Naruto sighed, and looked up—to the rest of the path. Sasuke stopped his words. “...and they held one another.” Naruto picked up. “But they didn’t embrace.” Nothing so intimate. “They spoke, but they said nothing.” Nothing so true. “And the monk died despite the fox’s interventions. Because of the shrine...And the monk left the fox to nothing but dreams. So he,” Naruto noticed that Sasuke didn’t correct him, “He dreamed, always, of that death...the death that should have come to it.” Naruto changed the pronoun to suit Sasuke’s story, and hoped the boy wouldn’t think much of it.


There was no laughter in Naruto’s voice, and he met Sasuke’s gaze. They held.


It was Sasuke who looked away first.


When Naruto’s gaze returned to the green canopy above, he felt the wind’s soothing touch on his cheek. I wish it was—but that thought ended soon after it began. “Sasuke,” he murmured and Naruto realized they stood again shoulder-by-shoulder.


Sasuke’s eyes were narrowed and his frown had since returned. “What.”


“...your family still loves you.” He mumbled and looked back to the sky. How couldn’t they? But, to his surprise, Sasuke laughed. And laughed. His eyes were wide and dark and so other than normal...Naruto shuddered at the noise that was completely without beauty.


“Love?” the boy asked, finally. Naruto didn’t reply. “They love me?”


He nodded.


For a few minutes Sasuke’s eerie mirth turned to quiet chuckles, and Naruto was left to ponder other things. They walked in silence for a good time.


Finally, the white archway—a mirror of the red arch that proclaimed holy land—appeared. Naruto grinned and pointed wordlessly. They had neared the top. Sasuke smiled at his partner and quickened his pace. For an instant, Naruto started to chase after the moody youth. But his feet slowed and his mind caught up with him.


He watched as Sasuke leaped over the only steps they’d seen. And he wondered about foxes. Foxes that wanna be human...foxes that hide and play tricks so we’ll notice them. So we’ll...




Sasuke crossed under the archway, and Naruto felt his heart sink.




Sasuke felt the breech between them, and called, “Oi,” confused. The blond simply stood there—a good bit off—and stared like Sasuke was a statue. Like he was something to look at. “We’ve reached our goal,” he commented, but the idiot only smiled—if a slow, cryptic little twitch of lips could be called that.


Dry laughter floated upwards, and Sasuke thought—for an instant—that Naruto’s hair was white. “...it doesn’t really matter,” and with that, his small hands were tucked into large pockets.


And he turned around—away from me...


And walked down the path. Naruto acts like it’s nothing at all. It took a moment for Sasuke to realize that Naruto had left him.




He started to run—swiftly, unheeding of his pounding heart—and his breath caught in his throat. The darkness chased after him—when did it get dark?—and he realized dark storm clouds covered the forest. And he couldn’t find him. Couldn’t see him.


Naruto...you idiot...


And there he was.


A flash of gold in the darkness—and then gone again.


“Naruto!” he screamed—quietly—but nothing returned. “What the fuck are you doing?! Get back on the path!! It’s going to rain.”


And the boy laughed.




When he returned, the first thing Sasuke saw was the almost-glowing gold head of hair. Naruto’s head was bowed...he looked at something tucked close under his arms. Sasuke made a grab for the other, but Naruto danced out of his reach with another grin.


But that time, it was...sweeter...




 They walked in silence, and the rain started to fall in sheets. Naruto didn’t seem to notice—didn’t seem to care about the cold. Sasuke shivered.


When they reached the shrine, Naruto paused. He rushed under the tiny shelter the wooden planks offered, and murmured a few words. Made a few motions. And the tiny thing he’d held so close was pressed forward clumsily. Sasuke’s lips moved in a smile—


—and froze.


A single flower.


Dead white


—snow white—


lay in offering.


A flower...? That...thing that everyone sees as...the thought stalled. Was stopped. But still Naruto didn’t notice the rain, didn’t seem to care about it. He looked up at the canopy with an innocent, blissful expression and Sasuke only scowled. He took Naruto by the shoulders, and forcefully moved him.


And Sasuke was the one who led them home.

Back to Chapter Seven

On to the FOOTnotes


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