Naruto Uzumaki grinned widely upon seeing his partner, Sasuke, sleeping on the sofa, his bare feet propped on one arm and his head cushioned by a plush pillow. Naruto had insisted on having orange pillows on the black leather, more so to annoy Sasuke than for any overly powerful love for the color. He liked it as much as any color, but it was not something he would put his foot down to have. It was for a completely different reason that he insisted on orange throw pillows. The look of frustrated defeat on Sasuke's face was enough to make his insistence on the orange pillows all the more sweeter.
Staring at Sasuke's sleeping face, a plethora of ideas spiraled through his brain. Oh the fun to be had with a sleeping Sasuke. There was the classic hand in warm water or drawing on his face with a sharpie. All fun ideas, but not what he wanted. Making Sasuke piss himself would not end well in terms of the end Naruto hoped for.
He was careful not to make a sound as he inched around the sofa and crouched slightly before pouncing. Using his full weight, he slammed into Sasuke. In a riot of arms and legs, Sasuke cried out in the shock of having his body jerked suddenly from sleep with a heavy weight.
"Damn it, Naruto."
Naruto grinned happily after holding on throughout the jolt of Sasuke's waking. Their faces were pressed close enough for their eyes to meet and noses to rub. He could feel the increase of potency in the heated gaze and was not shocked in the least to have lips plastering themselves against his mouth.
A purr of satisfaction rolled from him as Sasuke's tongue pressed forward to dance over every contour of his mouth before withdrawing in a teasing flick of encouragement to follow. Kisses with Sasuke were always wet and hot. Sometimes they were slow and other times fast. The one unchanging aspect was the warmth brought on the instant their lips touched. His most desperate wish was to die while kissing Sasuke.
He grinned when Sasuke moaned into the kiss the instant their tongues twined together. Sasuke was a sucker for a good, long kiss. He was loathe to say their kisses were better than the sex. If they were not better, they were a damn close second.
"I'll take that as a sound that you forgive me for waking you."
Sasuke's hands lifted to Naruto's hips, stroking down to grasp his ass and tug him closer. "It will take more than a kiss to earn my forgiveness."
"Oh, really?" Naruto's grin increased tenfold. "And what more do you want?"
With a slow grinding roll of his hips, Sasuke urged Naruto's hips into motion. "I'll give you one guess."
"Horn dog." Naruto panted a little, feeling the rhythm of his heart pick up pace in its standard uneven rhythm. "Is all you think about sex?"
Leaning down to initiate another kiss, Naruto felt a sense of lightheadedness take over him followed by a painful twinge in his chest. He pulled away, leaving a dazed Sasuke with a disconcerted look on his face and brought a hand to his chest and then to his wrist to measure the beats of his heart. It was fast and the beats seemed even more out of perfect sync than usual. He choked back a cough building in his chest by taking a few deep, controlled breaths.
"Naruto?" Sasuke frowned slightly at the action. "Are you alright?"
Naruto bit his lip at the thready feel of his pulse. He was used to unusual beats and skips, but this was different. "I feel a little weird."
Sasuke immediately switched their positions so that Naruto was laying on the couch. He pushed Naruto's feet into a slightly raised position. "How long have you been feeling weird? Did you take your medication today?"
"Yeah, I took my medicine," Naruto answered. "Don't panic, Sasuke. It's nothing."
Still pressing a hand to his chest, Naruto attempted to sit up only to have Sasuke force him back down. "Idiot. I'm calling Itachi."
"Don't bother Itachi." Naruto rolled his eyes. "You're blowing things out of proportion."
"I'll believe that after Itachi has looked you over."
Naruto nibbled on his lower lip and flopped back against the sofa while Sasuke spoke with a quiet voice to his brother. It was probably a slight conflict of interest to use Itachi as his primary cardiologist, but he really was the best in his field. Sasuke would not allow Naruto to settle for less than that, besides, Itachi was perfect at keeping himself emotionally removed from any ethical issues presented by the arrangement.
"He's an idiot, that's why," barked Sasuke into the phone at some question Itachi posed to him.
Naruto's face softened as his eyes drifted over Sasuke's stiff frame. It was one of the many things he loved about Sasuke. Sasuke would always ensure Naruto received the best care. He was the voice of reason in their relationship.
A small wave of sadness dimmed his usual jubilance. Sasuke deserved so much more. A severe illness in his childhood left Naruto with a badly weakened heart. He was able to maintain his health with diet and medication, but all the drugs in the world would never allow him to go mountain climbing or skydiving. It meant he would be sick often. Even sex had to be controlled. There was no hanging from the chandeliers in his sex life.
He was selfish. If he truly loved Sasuke, he would set him free from the worry that spread over his face whenever Naruto became out of breath from a short walk in the park or was in bed for days. He loved that even if half-way through sex, they had to stop because of Naruto, Sasuke never complained. It made him feel special when arms would simply wrap themselves around him and a flushed face would press into his neck until they both fell asleep. Sasuke gave Naruto his strength.
"Itachi is coming over."
Exasperation spread across Naruto's features. "I'm fine. It was just a twinge."
Sasuke settled on the sofa behind Naruto's head and arranged his head on his lap. "Then I'll cook Itachi dinner and send him on his way. Let him look you over…for me."
Unbidden, a tapered hand lifted to stroke over Sasuke's cheek as an aching pain having nothing to do with the heart as an organ began to spread in Naruto's chest. "I'm really a selfish idiot."
Confusion spread across Sasuke's face. "You got the idiot part right."
Naruto opened his mouth to refute the statement when his lungs contracted and his body spasmed with jarring coughs. He had been trying to hide the cough for the past two weeks, but feeling as he did, he could not stop them from coming. He doubled over from the force of them. Only the gentle rubbing of cool hands on his back provided any relief.
Sasuke paled visibly, only able to cradle and rub Naruto as his body jerked and spasmed before finally settling. "Is today the first you've felt like this?"
"I'm sick, Sasuke." Naruto wiped his mouth on his sleeve and collapsed weakly against Sasuke's thigh. "I always feel bad."
It was evasion. They both knew it. Only Naruto and Itachi knew how sick he was. He had hoped to have a while longer before he worsened enough to show the more dire symptoms of his congestive heart failure. He wanted more time with Sasuke before the end.
"In the living room, Itachi." Sasuke refused to move from Naruto's side as his brother entered the apartment with the aid of his own key. Both had agreed that Itachi should have a key in case of emergencies.
Itachi Uchiha stepped through the foyer and into the living area. The grace he exuded was something to behold. He could easily be a dancer with his sleek form instead of a doctor. Heads turned wherever he went.
In some ways, he and Sasuke were very alike. Both possessed intense dark eyes and quick intellects. Itachi was the shorter of the two, possessing a slender, well-built frame. They were the children of immigrants from Japan, their exotic looks making them all the more desirable. When it came to personalities, there could not be two people more different.
"Sasuke sounded a little nervous when he called." Itachi settled his bag on the table and immediately began palpitating the lymph nodes in Naruto's neck. "Have you been sick? Any fever or chills?"
Itachi's eyes missed nothing, narrowing slightly. "Then why don't you tell me how you've been feeling? You weren't scheduled to come in for another check-up until next month."
"It's nothing, Tachi. I've just been a little more tired than usual."
"Just a little cough." Naruto had the grace to blush despite his pallor. "You guys are worrying."
Itachi lifted Naruto's wrist and glared at him over the rim of his black glasses. "What did I tell you last time you saw me?"
Itachi glared at Naruto, cowing him into a mumbled reply. "Call you immediately if anything changed."
Slender hands lifted from Naruto's wrist. "Your heart isn't well, Naruto. The older you get, the weaker it becomes. Just maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn't going to help you forever. Do you remember what we talked about last time?"
Naruto glanced away at Sasuke's curious gaze on him. His last visit to Itachi had not gone well. There was a marked deterioration in the muscle of his heart. The atrophied muscles of his heart were finally loosing the battle. Soon he would be ill enough to be placed on the list. When that day came, it was essentially saying his time on Earth was at an end. People died waiting for hearts.
"I remember," mumbled Naruto.
Itachi sighed and sat back, sparing only a momentary glance at Sasuke. "Does he know?"
"No!" Naruto sat up, instantly regretting it as his vision grew hazy and his heart began uneven fluttering.
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Sasuke looked between his brother and Naruto. "I feel like I'm only hearing half of a conversation."
Itachi leveled a look on Naruto. "I'm going to have you admitted to the hospital for some tests. I'll call it in while you two talk."
The questioning look in Sasuke's gaze had Naruto flinching. "My heart is getting weaker."
Sasuke visibly paled. "What does that mean?"
"I guess it means we should take that trip to the Bahamas sooner rather than later." Naruto said it jokingly, but wasn't quite able to bring his calm smile to his eyes. God, he was so selfish. He wanted it all. He had a rich boyfriend who worked out of his home so to spend all his spare time with Naruto. Even with all he had, he still wanted more. He wanted a heart that would allow him to eat greasy hamburgers every day, enter in a marathon, and fuck Sasuke's brain's out every night. Instead, he was left with a diseased organ and borrowed time.
"Stop scaring him," growled Itachi from the kitchen with his cell pressed to his ear. "You aren't dead yet."
Sasuke's arms immediately surrounded Naruto and his face buried itself in the flesh of his neck. "You're not going to die."
"Everyone dies, Sasuke."
"Not at twenty-six."
Itachi ended his call. "Come on. I want to get an EKG and a ultrasound of his heart before deciding anything."
"Are you able to stand?" asked Sasuke in a carefully controlled voice.
Naruto's heart ached in a completely different way than usual. The sound of barely hidden anger and painful despair in Sasuke's voice broke his heart. Just the thought of leaving him alone caused enough pain to send him nearly doubling over in agony. "Sasuke…"
"Let's just get you to the hospital," interrupted Sasuke. The look on his face brokered no refusal. There was hurt and anger, but the worst was the fear. He had thought Sasuke not afraid of anything, but now he was proven inexplicably wrong.
Naruto could not stop staring at Sasuke sitting quietly by his bedside. Itachi had performed the tests himself but remained completely silent as to their results. He had left the room, muttering something about speaking with a colleague, leaving the two alone in the room.
"I'm sorry," whispered Naruto, finally breaking the silence between them.
"No, you're not." Sasuke lifted his gaze and stared at Naruto. "But I know why. I just want the truth, Naruto."
Naruto felt a flush of shame spread across his cheeks. He lowered his gaze before finally speaking. "At my last appointment, Itachi said I would need to go on the List soon."
Sasuke paled as white as the pillow beneath Naruto's head. "The List?"
"You know, I always found it funny that they call it a list. It's not a list. It's not first come, first serve. It's just one giant pool of sick people waiting to die." Naruto grinned ruefully at Sasuke. "They should call it the Organ Transplant Pool. OTP. Right, Tachi?"
Naruto glanced at the door to his private room where Itachi stood with another doctor behind him. Red, almost orange, hair spiked wildly. His ears were covered in earrings from the lobes all the way up the shell. He looked less like a doctor and more like a rock star.
"This is Dr. Yakhiko Pein."
"Pein? Your name is Dr. Pain?" Naruto nearly doubled over in laughter. He couldn't stop even when his chest began to ache and tears ran down his cheeks. Even Sasuke joined in on the laughter and Itachi's lips twitched in slight amusement.
"Don't think I haven't heard the joke before." Dr. Pein grinned widely at Naruto. "You should have heard the jokes in medical school."
Naruto met the grin with one of his own. "When I saw you, I thought you looked more like a rock star than a doctor. That could be your stage name. Dr. Pain."
"You can say that because you've never heard him sing," said Itachi with a snort. "I asked Dr. Pein to consult with me on your test results."
"You're a very sick man, Naruto." All amusement left Dr. Pein's face. "Dr. Uchiha and I both agree it's time to put your name into UNOS."
"You're in end stage congestive heart failure."
Naruto watched Sasuke pale. His hand shot out and latched onto Naruto's wrist, the grip almost painful. Sasuke's throat worked wildly as if trying to voice words, but was unable to do so.
Taking a shaky breath, Naruto spoke. "Well, we knew this day was coming. How long do I have? I've got to start composing my bucket list. There are a few sexual positions on there I have been dying to try out."
"I don’t like giving estimates." Itachi narrowed his gaze on Naruto. It was so intense, if it were possible to die from a look, he would have expired then.
"Don't bullshit a bullshiter, Itachi."
Dr. Pein chuckled and Itachi rolled his eyes. "Without a transplant…best case…six months to a year. And that is being very, very liberal with my estimate."
"That bad, huh?" Naruto flopped back against his pillow, unable to even look at Sasuke. He could feel the shaking in the hand wrapped around his wrist. That was enough of a statement.
Dr. Pein glanced between them. "Organs are allotted based on blood type, tissue type, organ size, distance between donor and recipient, and severity of your condition."
"When an organ comes in…" began Itachi.
"If…" interrupted Naruto.
Itachi's gaze narrowed. "When it comes in, Dr. Pein will head the procurement team while I get you set up for surgery."
Sasuke spoke, his deep voice surprisingly steady considering the obvious emotional turmoil coiling through him. "How long before a heart becomes available?"
"It's hard to say," began Itachi. "It could be days, weeks or…"
"Years," finished Naruto.
Itachi sighed and nodded. "I couldn't put you on the list until you reached a certain point. Now you're at that point."
"Well…I guess this is a good thing." Naruto grinned ruefully. "Now maybe Sasuke will let me eat what I want."
"Idiot," whispered Sasuke. He stood and walked stiffly from the room without saying another word.
Naruto brought a hand to his face. This hurt more than any pain brought on by his weak heart.
"When I die, you'll look after Sasuke, won't you?"
Itachi moved to Naruto and slapped him on the back of his head. "Don't even consider dying…because Sasuke won't last long without you."
"That hurt you know." Naruto sent Itachi an annoyed glare. "I'm a sick man."
"You're not that sick, yet." Itachi leveled a glare on Naruto. "If you give up, you're signing Sasuke's death warrant as well. He's weak…when it comes to you. I have no doubt he will be in the grave before you're even cold in the ground."
"You don't know Sasuke," growled Naruto, refusing to believe anything Itachi said.
Itachi's eyes narrowed. "Then, you don't know Sasuke as well as you claim. I'm going to keep you here for a few days to regulate your meds."
Naruto was left alone sitting in a cold hospital room, the only sounds coming from the patter of rain drops beginning to fall against the window panes. He closed his eyes and leaned back on the reclined bed. Dying hurt more than he would have thought.
"I'm sorry I didn't talk to you before about it." Naruto looped his arm around Sasuke's waist and leaned against him, more for comfort than for assistance. "I just didn't want to think about it."
Sasuke remained silent, his eyes blinking rapidly. He led Naruto through the door to their apartment and towards the bedroom. His silence was more painful than if he had ranted and screamed.
Naruto half expected him to leave him alone in the bedroom. It shocked him all the more when Sasuke sunk onto the mattress with him. His head lowered to Naruto's chest with ear pressed firmly to the flesh of his pectoral. His face turned slightly and he began whispering in Japanese against the flesh.
"What are you doing?"
Sasuke nuzzled his face against Naruto. "Telling your heart not to give up."
"You know my heart doesn't speak Japanese, don't you?"
A moment of silence stretched out before a snicker escaped Sasuke. The snicker suddenly morphed into a full laugh. His body shook with the incredulity of the exchange. Naruto easily joined in the amusement.
"I think your laugh was what made me fall in love with you." Naruto ran his hand through Sasuke's hair. "You do it so rarely."
"When you get your new heart, you can make it your goal to make me laugh all the time."
Naruto sucked his lower lip into his mouth. "If I get a heart."
"You'll get a heart," snarled Sasuke. The intensity in his gaze spoke of his belief in the surety of his statement. "I'll make sure you get a heart."
"What are you going to do, Sasuke? Kill someone for their heart?" There was a dark gleam in Sasuke's gaze, making Naruto wonder just how close he was to the truth. "You do realize someone has to die for me to live? Could you live with that?"
"Yes," shouted Sasuke. "I would kill ten people if it meant you wouldn't die."
Pain shot through Naruto's chest and he fought against the urge to reach up and grip his chest. It wasn't an actual pain, but felt real enough all the same. Sasuke was so angry. Both Uchihas were controlling bastards and now Sasuke was being forced to wait for fate. He could do nothing but wait and it was probably eating away at him.
"I'm sorry, Sasuke." Naruto bit his lip hard enough to break the skin. Blood began to dribble down his chin just as tears erupted from his eyes. He tried so hard not to allow his illness get to him, but seeing the hurt and anger and pain in Sasuke's face, broke every defense he possessed.
"I'm sorry you fell in love with me," cried Naruto. "I'm sorry you have to watch this happen."
His face was pressed to Sasuke's chest, the material of his shirt catching all the tears he had promised himself he would never shed. He wanted to live for Sasuke. Someone had to die for him to live and he did not care. If it meant hearing Sasuke laugh more and for the dark shadows taking residence under his eyes to disappear.
"I'm not." Sasuke's arms tightened nearly to the point of being uncomfortable. "I'll never be sorry for that."
Naruto glanced up at Sasuke's face. "Even when I die and you're left alone?"
"Don't act like I'm not dying, Sasuke." Naruto clenched his hands into Sasuke's shirt. "We can't not talk about it. You wanted to be kept in the loop and I'm telling you that the likelihood of me getting a heart is slim. I'm going to die and you need to be prepared."
Sasuke opened his mouth, likely to argue with him. To avoid it, Naruto leaned up and slanted his lips across Sasuke's mouth, silencing him.
Their lips moved together. The warm heat the act created was there, but carefully controlled. Tongues slowly slid over each other, flicking at teeth and lips until they pulled apart. Both were breathing heavily, Naruto slightly more than Sasuke.
"You know," began Naruto, "your kisses should be labeled lethal to normal people."
"You're still here," said Sasuke with a rumble.
Naruto grinned and sucked Sasuke's lower lip between his teeth to place a quick nip. "I'm not normal. I've developed an immunity."
"Oh, really?" Sasuke sifted his fingers through Naruto's hair and pulled their lips together once more.
This kiss was just as amazing, their lips sliding back and forth. There was nothing rushed or desperate. Intensity was kept in check so not to strain Naruto more than necessary. The cut on Naruto's lip was barely noticed under the intimacy created between them.
"I love you, Sasuke."
Sasuke pressed kisses on Naruto's eyes, nose, and lips. "Me, too."
"You're such a bastard," mumbled Naruto as he cuddled closer.
"I know, but you can't live without me."
Naruto snorted. "I think you have that backwards."
There was a tightening on Sasuke's features. If Naruto had seen the look in Sasuke's face, he might have been more worried, but sleep was already tugging his emotionally and physically exhausted body into the oblivion of sleep.
The smell of food wafted under Naruto's eyes. It pulled him from the wonderful dream he was having and into a reality he almost did not want. He stared up to see Sasuke standing over him with a tray in hand.
"Breakfast in bed…have I already died?"
The look Sasuke gave him caused Naruto to giggle before a series of coughs over took him. His hand searched for the box of tissue beside him to keep saliva from flying everywhere. His shoulders shook and red spotted his cheeks despite their deathly pallor. If he looked in the mirror, the dark smudges beneath his eyes looked as if Sasuke had beating up on him.
"Idiot," mumbled Sasuke, the word more of a term of affection than derogatory.
Naruto stared at the bowl of thin soup and cup of Jell-o. "Where's my bacon and eggs?"
"When you get your heart, then I'll make you bacon and eggs."
A pout formed on Naruto's lips. "I bet you had bacon and eggs."
Sasuke smirked and leaned down to kiss Naruto before beginning the opening of each of Naruto's pill bottles beside the bed. "And toast with jelly."
"If you handle this well, I'll give you something better for lunch." Sasuke narrowed a glare on Naruto. "And you better eat all of it."
Naruto stuck out his tongue and took a sip of the soup, wrinkling his nose faintly. "Where's my salt?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes and settled on the bed beside him. "The same place your bacon and eggs are most likely."
It was a game with them. Naruto would request the most fattening and salt filled items he could think of. Sasuke would promptly ignore his requests.
Naruto smiled and continued to eat, more for Sasuke's sake than his own. His appetite had waned in the previous weeks. It was almost eight months since his name was placed on the UNOS List, and he grew progressively worse. Itachi had taken to coming by daily to check on him. He figured it would not be long before he was placed in the hospital permanently.
"You know…I think it's time for that trip we talked about," said Naruto between sips of soup. "I was looking in the mirror yesterday and I think I need some sun."
"I'll make the reservations as soon as your new heart comes in. Apparently it is on back order. I've called the distributor several times, but get the same answer. Be patient." Sasuke smiled at Naruto. "You'll just have to put vacation on hold for a bit."
Naruto sighed comically. "Figures. Damn hearts. Always on backorder."
When silences grew between them, both turned their eyes to the beeper sitting mutely on the bedside table next to the multiple bottles of pills. Until it buzzed, they could do nothing but wait. Itachi had promised a heart would come in soon giving the rapid increase in Naruto's condition. That did not make the wait any easier.
"What are you two still doing in bed?"
Both looked up to see Itachi standing in the doorway. "Eating shitty soup while fussing about back ordered hearts."
"Back ordered hearts?" Itachi arched a brow. "I don't think I've ever heard it referred quite that way."
"Well that's because I thought it up," said Naruto in complete sincerity. "Nice of you to visit. I was beginning to think I might actually have a day without seeing your face. Too much testosterone is bad for my heath you know."
Itachi calmly pulled out his stethoscope. "At least you haven't lost your sense of humor."
"Fat lot of good it will do me when I'm dead."
Sasuke slammed his palm to the bed. "Damn it, Naruto. Stop talking like you are going to die."
Itachi ignored both of them and listened calmly to Naruto's chest. "Hmm."
"Nice diagnostic term. Naruto…I diagnose you with a case of hmm." Naruto gave Itachi a partial grin. "So, what's the verdict?"
"It's time to put you in the hospital, Naruto. I wanted to wait as long as possible and now is the time." Itachi put away his stethoscope and glanced between Naruto and Sasuke. "I'm sorry."
Sasuke closed his eyes. "How long?"
"Without a heart?" Itachi frowned. "It doesn't matter. I told you I don't like estimates."
Naruto sighed heavily. "That's Itachi talk for saying I had better start picking out tombstones."
"No…it means that you're going to be bumped up to the top of the list. A heart could come in any day." Itachi paused long enough to slap the back of Naruto's head. "I swear, I'll be in the ground before you if you keep this shit up."
"Asshole," muttered Naruto as he rubbed the back of his head.
The ride to the hospital was uneventful. Naruto plugged his mp3 player into his ears and closed his eyes while listening to the mellow jazz pouring outward. It was one of the few things he and Sasuke agreed on. Jazz was the best music in the world.
"We're here." Sasuke's warm hand on his knee jarred him from his almost meditative state.
A nurse was waiting at the doors with a wheelchair, Itachi having driven ahead to have things ready for them. The cheery face of the woman wasn't much comfort as he was pushed down halls smelling of strong cleaning products. Sickness was rampant. A few patients walked down the halls pushing their IV poles.
"I can't believe I'm going to die here." Naruto glanced back to see if Sasuke was nearby. "Don't tell him I said that."
The nurse nodded slowly, her smile losing some of its strength. "Don't think like that. Dr. Uchiha won't let you die."
Naruto sighed and allowed the woman to help him into his bed. She set about washing her hands before starting an IV. The stinging prick of the needle caused him to wince.
Sasuke chose that moment to enter the room. "Stop giving that woman a hard time."
"Bastard," muttered Naruto before sticking out his tongue in Sasuke's direction. "I just decided to leave you for her. You missed our whirlwind courtship."
That caused the nurse to chuckle. "Well, you're very good looking, but I already have a husband…and I'm sorry, but he would kick your ass if you ran off with me."
Naruto clucked his tongue. "That's too bad. I'm phenomenal in bed. Ask Sasuke."
Sasuke shook his head and settled into the foldout chair at the bedside before pulling out his laptop. "Ask Itachi if he has any medicine that would curb Naruto's talking. Apparently he's not that sick if he can still crack jokes."
The nurse laughed and left them alone. Looking at the barely shielded terror in Sasuke's face caused the smile to drop from Naruto's face. "It makes it easier…you know…dying. It's easier when I'm happy and laughing."
"I know," whispered Sasuke. "I'm just dreading the day you won't laugh."
Naruto laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "I think it's time we have that talk."
Taking a deep, fortifying breath, Naruto spoke cautiously. "When I'm gone, I want you to move on…after a reasonable mourning time. If you jump into bed with some twink the day after my funeral, I'll haunt you for the rest of your life."
Sasuke slammed his laptop closed. "You're not going to die."
"I'm not leaving this hospital with a heart," Naruto practically shouted. "I'm going to die in this antiseptic smelling hellhole. Get that through your head."
Naruto cringed at the sound of Itachi's voice. "Hey, Tachi."
"I want you to live as long as possible…so that means you will lay there calmly and not make your heart work any harder than it has to." He lifted a small box with electrodes dangling from it. "Now strip."
"Oh, kinky." Naruto sent Sasuke a wink before unbuttoning his shirt and allowing Itachi to place the electrodes on his chest. "I guess this means Sasuke and I can't get down and dirty."
Itachi ignored him as he finished his task and handed Naruto a gown. "Try to rest."
"I'll rest when I'm dead." Naruto sighed and glanced at Sasuke. "Sorry."
Sasuke stood and gripped Naruto's head with his hands, pressing their brows together. "I'm not going to fuck some twink if you die."
Naruto didn't like the sound of Sasuke's voice, but didn't press him. There would be time later to talk with Itachi about his worries about Sasuke. He didn't even want to think about what he had found in Sasuke's desk a few weeks before he became too sick for housework. Receipts for adjoining cemetery plots and a message from his lawyer concerning his will.
"I love you, Sasuke." Naruto whispered, closing his eyes and waiting for the familiar words.
Sasuke jolted awake. "What is it, Naru? Do you need something?"
Naruto smiled, the wattage greatly dimmed in the two weeks since he was admitted to the hospital. "Don't do something stupid."
Before Sasuke could question the statement, the machines around them started going off. Barely twenty seconds passed before Itachi and several nurses burst into the room. Panic washed over him as he realized what was happening. "Naruto!"
"Get him out into the hall," barked Itachi in an authoritative voice.
Sasuke found himself forced into the hall by a nurse and was left uncertain of Naruto's fate. He could barely breath. It came out in rapid gasps and his eyes were forced into a sort of tunnel vision. If he'd had a voice, he probably would have screamed. This could not be happening. He wasn't ready to lose him.
Time slowed to a crawl, making the torture all the worse. If Naruto died, Sasuke vowed to follow him. He was certain he couldn't live without the idiot in his life. It did not matter what sorts of promises that Naruto forced from him. He would set their affairs in order and follow him into the unknown.
He was nearly to the point of insanity when the door to Naruto's room opened and a emotionally exhausted Itachi stepped from inside. "We've stabilized him, but I'm going to be honest with you, Sasuke. If a heart doesn’t become available within the next few days…"
Sasuke's jaw tightened. "Make it happen, Itachi. I don't care who you have to bribe or how much money it costs. Get him a heart."
"You know it doesn’t work like that."
That was not what Sasuke wanted to hear. He shook his head and returned to Naruto's side, taking and cradling Naruto's limp hand against his chest. "Don't die, idiot. You aren't allowed to leave without me."
"Then…call that company…about those…backordered hearts."
Sasuke's gaze shot up to meet tired blue. "Idiot…still cracking jokes."
"I guess…that means I…can't die today."
Leaning forward, Sasuke brushed their lips together before laying his head on the bed. The tears came, disappearing into the sheets where none would know they were there. Silent sobs wracked his body as he was enveloped in the scent of Naruto.
He finally dozed off, only to be shaken awake insistently by Itachi. Fear rippled through him and he looked quickly to Naruto to find hazy blue eyes staring at him. "What time is it?"
"It's four a.m." Itachi stared at Naruto. "We have a heart. It's about a hundred miles south of here. The donor was killed in a motorcycle accident. I've already sent the procurement team."
Sasuke's heart nearly stopped. "Oh God."
Naruto looked at Sasuke. "I think he…might need…a heart transplant too."
"Idiot," panted Sasuke as his head was pushed between his knees by Itachi.
"As soon as Yahiko calls me, we'll have a nurse prep you for surgery."
Sasuke immediately drew Naruto in his arms. "Did you hear that?"
"Looks like my heart is off backorder."
The minutes ticked by until a nurse came in to help prep Naruto for surgery. Sasuke sat in a slight panic as the time came closer. When Itachi stepped into the room with two nurses, he knew it was time.
Naruto turned his gaze to Sasuke and held out a trembling hand. "Sasuke…"
Sasuke moved to take the hand and pressed their lips together. "I'm going to miss your heart."
"Then…you'll need to…learn to love my new one."
Naruto glanced at Itachi and then back to Sasuke. "I love you."
Sasuke pressed another, slightly longer kiss on Naruto's lips. "I love you."
He watched Naruto's face glow with happiness at the words. If the worst happened, he wanted him to have heard the words he felt, but had difficulty vocalizing. "I love you," he whispered again.
A nurse gently pulled Sasuke away before they rolled the bed away towards the OR. He felt Itachi touch his shoulder and turned into his brother's embrace.
"I'll take care of him, little brother. That's a promise."
Sasuke closed his eyes and nodded. He stood stiffly as Itachi pulled away to head towards the OR to scrub in for the surgery.
The wait destroyed him. Hours ticked by slowly. It seemed every five minutes he was looking towards the clock. As the hands reached the five hour mark, panic began to set in. What if there was a problem? What if Naruto didn't make it even with a new heart?
Sasuke's gaze jumped to see Itachi standing before him, looking more tired than he had ever seen him. His face was unreadable and his posture slumped. A sense of dread pooled in his stomach. "Tachi?"
"He's in recovery. It was rough. He took a turn for the worst on the table. We almost lost him, but he hung in there. The heart is strong." Itachi had barely finished speaking as Sasuke wrapped his arms around his brother and began crying. The tears did not want to stop and the sobs wracking his body were nearly shaking him apart.
"He's okay, Sasuke. You can see him once we move him from Recovery to the ICU." Itachi's face creased in one of his rare smiles. "I think he'll want you with him."
Sasuke nodded and followed Itachi to the ICU where Naruto was just being moved into position. Naruto looked so pale laying there, his skin nearly the color of the sheets beneath him. On his chest was a large white bandage hiding the surgical site. Sasuke's eyes turned to the heart monitor, watching the steady beats with something akin to awe.
"Yeah," murmured Itachi. "That is a good heartbeat."
Sasuke smiled. "I can't wait to hear it myself."
Sasuke never looked up from his laptop. "No."
Itachi chose that moment to walk in, smirking at Naruto's look of disdain for his food. "When your heart finishes healing, then you can eat greasy food."
"Not if that bastard has anything to do with it. I can already see being him paranoid about hurting this baby." Naruto tapped his chest to the right of the scar.
"Exactly," growled Sasuke. "I am not going through this again."
Naruto pouted and began eating his Jell-o. "At least this is good."
"Naruto…I have a request."
Looking up from his food, Naruto cocked his head. "What's up, Tachi?"
"The mother and sister of your donor would like to meet you. I told them I would ask."
The food fell from Naruto's hands and spilled across the tray. "Meet me?"
"Sometimes it helps the families of donors to have closure by seeing the people who received the organs of their loved ones." Itachi shrugged. "It's your choice."
"Of course I'll meet them."
Itachi smiled. "You're predictable."
He moved to the door and opened it to reveal two women standing together. With a gesture, he urged them both inside. "Naruto, this is Tsume Inuzuka and her daughter Hana. Ladies, this is Naruto and Sasuke."
Sasuke was on his feet in an instant, extending his hand to Tsume and then Hana. "Thank you for helping my Naruto."
It was obvious they had been crying. Both women sported red, swollen eyes. The pain of their loss only drove into Naruto how precious the heart beating in his chest was. It was the most precious gift he had ever received.
"Sit down," said Naruto. "Tell me about your son."
Tsume took the chair at Naruto's bedside. "Kiba…was a good son. He just turned twenty-six. He was…hit by a drunk driver when driving home from work."
Naruto nibbled on his lower lip. "Would you like to hear his heart?"
Tsume's eyes widened and she looked between Naruto and Sasuke. "Can I?"
Naruto nodded and she rose to her feet, sitting on the edge of his bed and leaning down to press her ear to his chest. Her eyes closed and tears leaked out from beneath her eyelids to trickle down her cheeks. A small sob erupted from her lips, but for some reason, it felt like a good sound--like she was happy to be allowed to hear her son's heart again.
"Thank you," she whispered against his chest, but did not move away. "I think Kiba would be happy it was you who received his heart. I think if things were different, you would have been friends."
Sasuke reached out to stroke Naruto's cheek. "What you and your son have done for us, I will never be able to repay you."
Tsume sat up and reached over to take Sasuke's hand. "Knowing a part of my son is alive, is enough repayment."
After the Inuzukas left, Naruto sat staring at Sasuke. "It felt weird meeting them…as if they were old friends."
"Yeah. My heart recognized them." Naruto laughed lightly. "Wherever he is, I think Kiba Inuzuka is at peace."
Sasuke slid his chair to Naruto's side and threaded their fingers together. "I will always be grateful for his gift."
Naruto smiled and pressed Sasuke's hand to his chest. "Me, too."