The party is loud, music a thrumming background as the people gathered around in the small house are boisterous with their chatter. There is too much alcohol in his drink to taste good, and every time he moves, a dozen sets of eyes turn to look at him, wary and ready for something, what, he's not really sure. For him to explode? Run away? Join in the stupid dancing that's going on in the small space between the living area and the kitchen entrance. This is one of the few houses that have fully survived the War, and from what he understands, it's being shared by five people right now.
Not Sasuke, though, he's still being kept in the hospital for observation and healing. Somehow someone convinced whoever is in charge that letting him go to this stupid celebration party was a good thing.
Well, that's stupid, not someone, everyone knew who did it. It was Naruto who did it, and it was Tsunade and Kakashi who gave permission. Who else.
And it's not really a celebration party. No one is truly full of joy, no one is truly smiling, no one really wants to be here. But they all do, in some way, want to be together again. To be young again. After everything, he's sure a few would give anything to go back to childhoods, to hide in the skirts of their mother's or behind their father's back, and forget that war was a thing, a thing that has killed comrades, loved ones, innocents.
Everyone here is here because of one stupid idiot, Sasuke included.
Naruto is the center of attention, as he always is, bright and charming, smile wide and his voice loud. But that's what everyone wants, and that's what everyone needs right now. They need to watch Naruto nearly break his remaining arm in some stupid dance move, they need hear him yell and shout, they need to believe that he is alive.
After all, where would any of them be if he had died?
Where would Sasuke be if he died?
That's a stupid question. He'd be dead. Sometimes he feels like he already is. Then he looks at Naruto, and he feels like he should be, but by the grace of an idiot, he's still breathing, his heart is still beating. He's still lost and afraid and determined, but he's not sure about what or why. He's given up, he's tired. God, is he tired.
Naruto is a literal sun in the middle of everyone, fully healed except for the missing arm. Despite that, he still stays with Sasuke in the hospital, in a cot because people need his bed, or in a chair sometimes. Sasuke feels like one huge bruise, his healing slow going. Seeming slower with Naruto back to his usual self. Sasuke doesn't feel like he'll ever get that back, his old self. Most of the time, he doesn't want to. Other times, he feels the burn of shame up his spine and wishes he was his old self so he could live behind all this, all this unnecessary trying for the sake of that blond asshole. Or at least, that's what he tells himself.
Naruto sits with him at night when the nightmares keep them both up. Naruto brings in books and reads aloud when Sasuke doesn't feel like talking. Naruto sneaks out and brings him Ichiraku.
Sasuke never thought he'd miss that so much. Never thought he'd been craving fucking ramen, feel nostalgia about broth and noodles, about days eating it after hard training, about the sun in Naruto's hair as it comes through the curtains, the way the owner laughs at Naruto's jokes, about the look of happiness on the blond's face.
But he does, he does so much, and it hurts. He's so tired, eyes aching after only a few hours awake, chakra systems raw and sore, his body mending slowly. He never needs to explain to Naruto why he has to close his eyes, just does and listens to the idiot fill the silence with his chatter, stories about stuff he's missed, speaking as though Sasuke was away on holiday and wasn't plotting to destroy everything Naruto had ever cared about, Sasuke included. It's nice, if frustrating and shaming. Sasuke ignores all those feelings, pays attention to the way Naruto's voice grows in volume as he gets excited, or when it shakes, just a little, when he's reminded of where Sasuke exactly was when all this was happening. Sasuke ignores that his own chest aches in response to the shakes, his heart answering automatically to Naruto's sorrow. He doesn't ignore that he was the cause of the sorrow, will never let him forget what he did to the only person he has left. He doesn't deserve to ever be redeemed of that.
He drifts off in to his thoughts as the party progresses. Sakura sits to his right, guardian for him or for her friends, he's not sure, maybe both. They have spoken less than twenty words to each other, and honestly, Sasuke is fine with that. He recognizes she's grown, but he's not interested in being friends, or anything more than occasional comrades, if that. If she stopped talking to him forever, he'd be fine with that, too, though that would never happen. Not with Naruto around.
The spot to his left is Naruto's, though the man hasn't sat still for longer than a few minutes. The couch is comfy, threadbare, smelling faintly of dog. Sasuke slides more and more in to Naruto's space as time passes, but no one says anything. No one has really spoken to him at all. Ino spared him some greetings, and Sai has stopped by to say some cryptic shit, but that's about it. Shikamaru and Tenten have hardly let him breath with out their eyes on him, and every few seconds, the others slide their gaze across him.
Sasuke should not be here, they all know that. He should be in prison, or killed, or exiled, or something, fitting punishment for a traitor, killer, liar, whatever word they want. Sasuke is always waiting for the shoe to drop, for him to be abducted in the night.
Perhaps Naruto is, too, because he often wakes to find the man staring at the window or the door, sitting at the end of Sasuke's bed like a big, blond guard dog.
Sasuke should not be here, but Naruto invited him, Naruto walked him here, Naruto give him a cup of cheap, horrid beer and every once in a while, looks at him like he's overwhelmed by the sight of Sasuke being ignored by all of his friends, surrounded by the haze of sweat, loud music and fried food. Like he's unsure if this is real life or a genjutsu set up to break his heart once again.
Unlike the others, Sasuke and Naruto do not need to keep looking around the room to make sure they are still there. Sasuke feels Naruto's presence like a shadow, no one checks to make sure their shadow is still there. He's sure Naruto has a similar sense.
It's Naruto who startles Sasuke out of his thoughts, though you'd only notice it by the slight shake of his cup, which he'd blame on Naruto plopping his fat ass in the small space between Sasuke and the couch arm. He is sweaty from dancing, grin bright and flush high on his cheeks. He isn't tipsy, the Kyuubi takes care of that, but he does look a little high. He wraps his arm around Sasuke's shoulder, leaning his body in to his, giving off enough heat Sasuke is convinced he's part dog or something. Sasuke doesn't mind though, he's cold, and he feels better with Naruto near than not.
It's odd, even more tiring than he thought, to have become so dependent on Naruto in such a way. They have always had a bond, something that fueled Sasuke on more than he'd like to admit, but after spending so much time together, healing and just simply living, he's gotten attached to Naruto in new ways. He knows Naruto hates when he can't see Sasuke, and to be honest, Sasuke is loathe to be out of his sight. He finds comfort in hearing the man's voice, his breathing, to feel the heat of his chakra when he concentrates.
One day soon, Sasuke will have to leave again. This is no longer his home, his village, his people, his friends, no matter what Naruto claims. And when that day comes, he doesn't want to think about how hard it will be on either of them, but it's Sasuke's turn to do what is right for his best friend, his feelings on the matter be damned.
As much as he hates it, Naruto deserves the chance to become Hokage, get married, have kids, do whatever he wants with out Sasuke's dark past dragging him back. That's all Sasuke is good for these days, reminding people of all the bad things that have happened recently.
"You look like you're going to pass out, teme." Sasuke tilts his head to hear Naruto better, giving him a look from the side. "Do you want to go back so you can sleep? I could do with some shut eye, too! Kaka-sensei wants to hound me about some stuff tomorrow morning!" Naruto whined, but he sounded more excited than upset. Ah, then it'd about Hokage issues. When Naruto gets up, Sasuke follows, letting Naruto gulp down the rest of his drink. Naruto leads him out, calling goodbyes to all his friends, too loud for Sasuke's liking, right in his ear, but he says nothing, nods when Naruto says he says goodbye too, and then they are in the dark, hushed night. The hospital is only a short walk, but Sasuke wishes he could sprint there on chakra. Instead, they walk side by side, Naruto's shoulder brushing his every step. The blond keeps up inane chatter. Sasuke hums and grunts in response, but he keeps his eyes on the ground.
"Come on, let's go some place else." Naruto decides split second, and Sasuke allows himself to be pulled in some direction despite the lateness and the threat of 'curfew' Tsunade had imposed. He is tired, but that has never stopped him from doing anything before. He realizes where they are going seconds later, and the training field opens up to them after a few minutes of walking. It is illuminated by the moon, the trees looking black in the light. "What do you say? I'm wired up, Sasuke. If you're too tired, I can summon a few clones. Just taijustu only. I'll be careful of your bruises, teme." Naruto's voice is soft, like he's afraid of whatever Sasuke is gonna say. Sasuke merely slips off his shoes and heads out to the main dirt patch. Naruto grins, doing the same.
Sparring is as natural as breathing when it's Naruto. Sasuke doesn't need to think, only react, and Naruto is true to his word, he dials back all his hits if they have the potential to land. They never do, Sasuke glances them away before he can get close.
It takes moments to realize that he is grinning alongside Naruto. He's warmed up, despite the chilly air, and he doesn't feel tired or sore. He feels right for the first time in a long time. After all, this is what they were meant for. Generations of reincarnation led to this, them, to the perfect combination of emotions, power and energy. Naruto can now out match Sasuke, can meet him blow for blow, tactic for tactic, so ingrained are their reflexes in each other that it is no longer about fighting, or winning. It's merely being, together, in what ever context they can have. Naruto breathes in when Sasuke breathes out, Naruto dodges right when Sasuke goes left, Naruto's eyes glimmer bright like clear water while Sasuke's shine with nothingness, the black endless, the depth to Naruto's ocean gaze.
He wishes, again, that he had chakra, just a little extra, just enough to really push Naruto's limits, to open his Sharigan, to do something more than this. Naruto deserves a better challenge than just broken, weak Sasuke. Naruto has always deserved better than Sasuke.
When Sasuke gets so tired he can't stand, he goes and sits down by a tree, and watches Naruto spar with a clone. Eventually, though, even Naruto tires, and he joins him under the tree, laying his head on Sasuke's thigh, staring up at the stars. They are bright in the sky, the village's lights are too few to ruin the show, and Sasuke is reminded of Itachi, of his family, under the stars. Of his mother, showing him constellations, telling him tales of the gods, while his Father and Itachi sip tea and eat snacks. He can still make out a few shapes.
"Hey, Teme?" Naruto murmurs, eyes somewhere far off, distant. "I love you, ya know." Naruto turned his eyes on Sasuke, reflecting the stars and they are stunning. Sasuke drops his gaze, tilting it to brush across Naruto's nose, then his lips, settling on the notch where his neck and shoulder meets.
"I know." Sasuke finally says after a long time and Naruto grins, rolling over and moving up to set facing Sasuke. He cups his cheek, calloused thumb running against Sasuke's skin, under the bags under Sasuke's eyes. They are stark on his face, like bruises against his white skin. No matter how much he sleeps, though, they refuse to go away.
"I know you love me, too." Naruto said, and his voice is gentle, despite his smile, his breath warm on Sasuke's lips.
"I do." Sasuke admitted, knowing it's the right thing to say, because it's the truth. But it is an admission Sasuke has never thought he'd make, so secure in the knowledge that he does not deserve anything from Naruto, most of all this, this closeness and love and this smile. Naruto, as always, gives no shit about what Sasuke believes about them, and kisses him. It's chaste, barely a few seconds, but it is more than enough to get Sasuke's heart hammering in his chest, to get his palm to sweat and his hand to shake. He reaches out, finds Naruto's sweaty shirt and grabs a hold of the fabric, afraid that this is all a dream.
"Sasuke." Naruto sighs, kissing him again and Sasuke reciprocates, there is nothing else that Sasuke could do. It's awkward, Sasuke wishes he could cup Naruto's face in his hands and hold the man there, but he is unstable and he needs his hand on Naruto's side so he doesn't fall. He is still shaking, and he realizes that Naruto is, too. Naruto, his fingers trembling against Sasuke's shoulder, has tears in his eyes, his lips shake when he kisses Sasuke again, and there is nothing sexual about it. It is comfort, and it is love, it's everything they need right now.
Sasuke hadn't realized how much he did need it. There is something grounding about having Naruto so close, right there, his thigh against his, his chest against Sasuke's pining him to the tree. Sasuke leans his weight in to the bark and tangles his hand in Naruto's hair. He doesn't flinch when Naruto drops his head and tucks his head in to his neck, instead pulls him till Naruto is like a big blanket across his body. Naruto wraps his arm around Sasuke's torso, too, so they are as close as can be.
He doesn't know when the tears started fall down his cheeks, but he doesn't think about it. Naruto has dampened his collar with his own tears, and sucks in a shaking sob when he feels Sasuke's fall on his cheek. But they don't talk. Sasuke stares up at the moon and the stars, silent. He's said all that needs to be at this time, and so has Naruto. Their bond has never been about flowing speech or how many words they can fit in between punches. It has always been about what they felt between them, about the ways their chakra curl together when they aren't paying attention, about the way that Sasuke could feel Naruto miles apart even after everything. Their bond has always been stronger than words, or actions or feelings. It has always been natural, instinct. The pull of his breath and the beat of his heart has always been so easy to match to Naruto's, like they are one soul in two bodies, like they are one heart, one breath, meant to be together in whatever context they can get.
He'll never get over that it's this one. That it's this that Naruto wants, him close like this, him to kiss and love like this. It doesn't seem real, but that's fine. Sasuke'd rather spend the rest of his life right here in a dream than anywhere else in real life it that's the case.
It took him awhile to realize it, but Naruto's not the only idiot between them.