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?”
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—”
your brilliance—” the mockery was clear in Sasuke’s low, smooth voice.
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?”
laughter. “You hungry,” Sasuke looked up and Naruto winced at the cold arrogance reflected in black eyes, “idiot?”
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.
pushed the lunch on Naruto’s lap with a quiet, “...my mother makes too much food, anyways...”
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.
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.”
chuckled as he ate. He thought of Chouji.
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?”
couldn’t beat me if you tried, idiot,” but there was no sting to the words.
That one,” Naruto pointed to a string of mountains, “Haguro.” Sasuke nodded, and 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.
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.
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...?”
chuckled and closed Naruto’s open palm. Over the coins. “Consider it an...investment.” he smirked again, and Naruto glared.
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.
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
Naruto felt his
cheeks darken. “Um, sorry ma’am, but I’m Japanese...” his smile was strained. “...not—”
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.
and laughed a bit. “...I don’t know...I never—”
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.
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.
Naruto risked a glance at Sasuke, he saw the other’s eyes were fixed on him. But neither said anything.
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.
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.
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.
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.
wanted to get away from my family,” he said simply.
stared with amazement. “Your family?” he asked, aghast. “Families are supposed ta be cherished,
ya jerk. You don’t ignore ‘em!!”
snorted loudly and turned dispassionate eyes on Naruto. “What about family,” his voice was chill and deep, “deserves
the slightest bit of my regard?”
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.”
breathed quietly. “Oh? Then why are you still a—”
always lookin’ out for me an’ helpin’ me when I need it!” Naruto snapped.
murmured a quiet, “Hmf.”
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.
Sasuke laughed dryly, and the wind echoed the mirthless sound. “Only if it affects them.”
glared and said simply, “Kakashi’s not like that.”
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.
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...”
shrine.” Sasuke noted, and the two shared a little smile.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
wind stirred, and Naruto felt the kiss of a cherub. But there was no time for dreams.
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.
then came the fox...”
spirit-fox?” Naruto’s blue eyes begged confirmation.
there was no irritation between them. It had faded with the wind. “A many tailed—”
pause, and then a shrug. “I don’t know.”
thought, and his eyes lit with pleasure. He knew. “Nine,” he clarified, and Sasuke just nodded.
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
nodded, and smiled—to make up for Sasuke’s loss. “No,” he agreed. “This...was the monk’s.”
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—”
Naruto’s smile was biting as he interrupted.
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.
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.
smiled again. “And the fox loved nothing more than to beleaguer intelligent creatures with riddles—”
not much of a prank...”
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.”
pursed his lips. “So?” Agitated, Sasuke’s black eyes smoldered. Naruto smirked. He knew Sasuke would hate
the tilted smile.
black-haired boy continued, “And so, one day there came a monk—”
Not humble.” Naruto’s suggestion carried weight.
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—”
of the mountain?”
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
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.
trees grow sparse here. “Much as we walk now,” Naruto suggested without a change in his expression.
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
held his breath.
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.
continued, “The monk paused in his steps. He smiled, and said, ‘I journey, gentle Kitsune, to search.’
what, pray ?’ The fox smiled a small smile, and it leaned forward.
it saddens me, I do not know.’
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?’
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
ran his tongue over his teeth and pressed his lips together. “How’s this lead to a shrine?”
glare could have mirrored the kitsune’s. “Shut up and listen. You said you wanted a story, didn’t
sighed, and bit back a tired reply.
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.
see you, a kitsune, in both shapes.’ The monk continued to walk. And the fox snarled.
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.
the monk argued, ‘I have very poor sight, to see as things are, and not how they were—or will be.’
the fox laughed—clear, brittle and clean—and he replied, ‘I have a question for you,’
does it mean?’ There was silence. Laughter, and the fox continued with his riddle:
the homeless cat, too
cries for love.”
turned and caught Sasuke’s eye. “That’s by Issa,” he proclaimed triumphantly, and Sasuke smiled at
the childish gesture.
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?’
the man saw the fox-spirit had disappeared. So the enlightened man continued on his path and eventually took shelter. He meditated—”
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
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,’
what is it? Your face—it is so pale and filled with dread,’
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—’
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.
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—’”
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—’
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?
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.
snarled and put his foot down too heavily. Naruto winced at the noise and wondered about the boy—why’s he so
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...
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.
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?’
again, crisp and cold laughter. ‘Nothing, monk...and it has been long indeed since someone has called me a child.’
monk smiled, and replied, ‘To the stars, Gentle kitsune, we are but infants.’”
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.
za, za...” running on grass, Naruto’s lips strained
into a smile against the words. “And the kitsune reached his home in the forest—”
Death—” Sasuke suggested.
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.
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.’”
snake.” Naruto clarified.
ignored him and said, “‘Grant me a boon!!’ And so he cast it in.”
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.
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.
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.
Sasuke’s voice seemed strained.
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.
a fox...your hair is gold—”
Sasuke, all fox-spirits are white or black.” Naruto laughed. You’d think someone as cultured as
him would know.
your eyes blue—” Sasuke’s own breath interrupted the words.
mouth snapped shut.
as if you are still a fox, you have—”
doesn’t have anything on his face!”
again, Sasuke ignored him. “The monk stalled himself, and looked away. ‘You have done something.’
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
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.
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.
was no laughter in Naruto’s voice, and he met Sasuke’s gaze. They held.
was Sasuke who looked away first.
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
eyes were narrowed and his frown had since returned. “What.”
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.
the boy asked, finally. Naruto didn’t reply. “They love me?”
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.
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...
under the archway, and Naruto felt his heart sink.
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.
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
there he was.
flash of gold in the darkness—and then gone again.
he screamed—quietly—but nothing returned. “What the fuck are you doing?! Get back on the path!! It’s
going to rain.”
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,
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.
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—
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.
Sasuke was the one who led them home.