Sakura was crying. Sasuke vowed to sort the matter out by himself if he had to, if only so that next time they had a crisis, she could go cry on Naruto. Give him an enemy to get rid of for her, and he would get rid of it, no questions asked. Give him officials to convince, pressure, blackmail -- he would do that, too. But comforting had never been his forte.
He couldn't think of anything to say, so he listened and patted her back gently, and even --surprising himself-- rocked her a little, stiffly, all the while trying not to think. He didn't want to imagine what would be worse, that she would have that baby or that she wouldn't. If she decided not to, it would hurt her and Naruto both; but if she decided to -- there was the villagers' reaction to consider, and the Council, and maybe Naruto and Sakura would have to move in together. And raise the child together.
And he would be an outsider again -- no. Don't think.
"Can I do anything?" he asked when the quiet sobs started coming more slowly.
"Can you bring my mother here?" she asked. She sounded so weary now.
He didn't answer.
"Then no, there's nothing you can do right now. Thanks for asking, though," she added, giving him a weak smile. "I just need to think. Or not think-- maybe that would be best. Maybe I should... nap. Or something. Everything will look better once I'm not so tired. Right?"
She was doing a fine job of convincing herself, so he just nodded in the blanks.
"I'll be fine. It's just-- kind of stressful, you know?"
Sasuke nodded, acutely aware of his arm around her shoulders, her weight against his side, the damp patch on his shirt. Sakura rubbed a hand against her eyes, and tried on a smile.
"You should find Naruto. Make sure he's not doing anything stupid. And... well, we have pretty good proof that it's true; the K-kyuubi can't control him. So... I trust him, okay? I still-- he's still my boy. That won't change. Can you tell him that?"
That seemed like a pretty good plan. She would be safe here; there were traps all around the place and the biggest animals wouldn't be able to climb that high up the slippery bark. And he didn't like the torn, enraged, hurt expression on the idiot's face when he stormed off.
"I will." He loosened his hold, letting her sit up on her own. "You... Things always look better in the morning," he felt compelled to add, feeling a bit silly; she'd just said something like that not a minute ago.
She chuckled in a strange watery way that didn't convince him. Sasuke wondered what Naruto would do... He had an idea, but then Naruto tended to suffer from the "when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail" mentality. Except, in battle, Naruto had two tools, Kage Bunshin and Rasengan. In interpersonal relationships...
Oh, damn it, it wouldn't kill him. Sasuke brushed a quick kiss against her cheek. When she blushed and then smiled at him, in a more sincere way, he decided that it hadn't been all bad an idea... Even though now her eyes showed a little hint of that faraway, dreamy look girls got around him that usually made him feel so uneasy and annoyed. She wasn't trying to latch onto him, though; that made it tolerable.
"You should go now," she told him with a regretful sigh.
He nodded, then got up and jumped off the tree.
There was a red, piercing pain in his chest, and he wondered for a second if his cracked ribs had broken all the way. But he didn't feel them move under his skin, so he kept going, ignoring it. If it wasn't worsening, he was just going to deal with it.
Finding Naruto's tracks wasn't difficult in the least. The forest was littered with broken branches and uprooted grass, the trees were gouged, claw marks all over the bark, and a few times Sasuke even walked past dead animals.
Finally he felt Naruto's chakra, and heard the sound of fists against flesh and bushes crushed as a body landed heavily on them. Naruto was facing a tiger the size of two horses; another one lay in a mangled mass of fur and flesh a few feet away.
Sasuke didn't say anything, just watched as his teammate dispatched the monster easily.
Naruto stood, head bowed, arms gloved in wet red up to his elbows, his breath so harsh it sounded like a growl. Sasuke didn't say anything yet; the blond would acknowledge him in his own time.
When he turned, just a little, to glance at him from beneath his messy bangs, Sasuke wasn't surprised in the least by the red eyes. He arched an eyebrow at the spreading whisker marks, though. He'd always assumed they were scars.
"What do you want, Sasuke?" the blond growled, not bothering to turn toward him all the way.
"I want to talk to the Kyuubi."
The whole forest seemed to freeze.
"You... what?" Naruto asked, finally facing him.
"You heard," he snapped back, the pain in his chest making him impatient. "I want to know why he wants that child so much, if it's not to possess it."
Naruto's mouth opened and closed a few times, and then he bit his lip and looked away.
"Sasuke... He's not... Not nice..."
"And I am?" Sasuke asked dryly, arching an eyebrow.
Naruto laughed nervously. "No, you're the biggest asshole in the history of Konoha."
"So let me talk to him. You can stop him, right?"
"Well, yeah, but... You mean letting him take control? I've never really done that before, I have no idea how..."
Like Sasuke would know. He'd listened to Naruto, but concretely speaking, he didn't have any idea either. "You said sometimes he was... there? Just let him come up and don't do anything."
He'd said it at random, but from the face he was making, Naruto seemed to think it might work. "Sure you don't want me to ask for you?"
Sasuke growled, impatient. "No." A middleman would only muddle things.
He waited as Naruto closed his eyes and his features relaxed slowly, losing their tension and residual anger. For the longest time, though, it just looked as if he'd fallen asleep on the spot.
And then there was a shift. Sasuke couldn't have explained what had changed, but something had.
When the blond opened his eyes, he didn't look quite like Naruto any longer. Something in the narrowed eyes, the arrogant cant of the head...
Sasuke watched him warily, but curiously too. Face to face with what had been one of the biggest enemies of Konoha -- worse even than Orochimaru in terms of sheer damage and body count -- he didn't feel any need to even check he had weapons or drop in a defensive crouch. He felt... well, safe might not be the best word; the Kyuubi was dangerous even to him, but... As safe as one could possibly be around such an unpredictable creature.
Fascinated too. But that was expected. High chakra levels always gave him something of a figurative hard-on.
The creature ignored him. It -- he? -- had dropped into a low, animalistic crouch, leaning some of his weight on his hands, and was taking in big lungfuls of the forest's scents, blood-red eyes taking in every little detail with a raw hunger that made Sasuke grow tense.
Naruto wasn't an undersized twerp anymore; hell, he was almost as tall as Sasuke, and maybe ten pounds heavier, all muscle. But somehow when it was the Kyuubi in control, it felt like he took up three times the space he usually did. Kyuubi had a presence that was nothing short of suffocating.
"What did you want, brat?"
Kyuubi was stretching, like a cat, eyes half-closed in sheer hedonistic pleasure. He didn't seem to even be looking at Sasuke. Even knowing that the demon-fox was probably very aware of his stance and position, it was still mildly annoying; Sasuke disliked nothing more than being considered too negligible a threat to be taken into account.
"I want to know why you want that child."
"What is it to you?" the fox snorted, and rolled in the grass casually, eyes narrowed into slits.
"Sakura and Naruto are my teammates. If it's going to come back and bite them in the ass, I'd rather she abort the brat now."
Kyuubi lifted his head and gave him a burning glare.
"Who says you have a say?"
Sasuke snorted. "You know I can convince her if I decide to do so. Wouldn't take much, she's halfway there."
For a fleeting second, he could see Naruto's hurt, anguished expression on the blond's face as the eyes flitted to blue and back to red, but he forced himself to ignore it. It was for the idiot's own good that he was saying that.
Kyuubi gave him a long, considering look, and then smirked, displaying more fangs than a human mouth ought to possess.
"Who says it's not yours?"
Sasuke stopped moving so utterly that the loud beat filling his ears seemed incongruous. "What?" he whispered; the world was spinning.
Kyuubi snorted, baring his fangs.
"You were there too. We mounted you as you mounted her," he added, illustrating his subject with crude hand gestures. "Then we watched as you mounted her again. Who says the kit's not yours?"
Sasuke spluttered, not even thinking far enough to blush. The--but-- what...?
With a disgusted snort, the fox-demon rolled on all fours and turned away. Sasuke watched him blankly, his brain sluggishly moving through these new revelations.
"But-- it can't be..."
And why not? It was possible. He should have thought of that before! Hell, they should all have thought of that before! He had just assumed-- well, he didn't know what he had assumed. That it was Naruto's ... weird heat-thing, not his own, and he was only an accessory, maybe? That demon-bearers had superpowered semen, or something? That Naruto had nailed Sakura first, so anything happening after that was coincidental? But it wasn't always the case, was it. It wasn't "first come, first served" with reproduction, he did know that much.
There was a chance the baby was his.
There was a chance he wasn't the last Uchiha anymore.
"Still set on convincing her to get rid of it?"
You don't need to sound so fucking smug, Sasuke thought, but he didn't say anything.
The demon in a boy's body laughed, a low, purring, utterly amused sound that made Sasuke want to bury a few kunai in his throat, but the knowledge that it was still Naruto's body as well as the certainty that he'd be dead before finishing his throw stilled his hand.
"You really think it might be mine? Or are you just saying that to fuck with me?"
The fox burst out laughing a second time. It sounded a bit deranged, and way too cruel to be coming from Naruto's throat.
"When I want to fuck with you, you will know it, ice-bitch. I doubt you get on your knees so often that you can mistake the position for anything else."
Against his best efforts, Sasuke's cheeks reddened, but he couldn't say if it was anger or acute embarrassment.
"You know that's not what I mean," he snarled, aggravated.
"How should I? I'm not in your head. Though if you want me in you, there are better parts to use."
"Can't you stop being a pervert for two seconds?!"
Gah! He couldn't believe the damn fox had made him lose his cool. He was usually immune to that sort of jibe, but then he rarely heard them from a male who actually had the power to get away with acting on them.
"I'm kitsune. We like to fuck. Get used to it."
"Stop trying to sidetrack me. Why do you want that child so badly?" Even though it might be mine? he thought, but didn't add. He didn't want the fox to bury him under irrelevant details.
It was unnerving how well Naruto's usually cheerful face could convey a cold threat. Sasuke didn't flinch, though. His brother's eyes were just as red, and they were a lot scarier. Mostly because they promised pain, yet didn't seem to care one way or another for the person they were promising horrible suffering and a messy death to. The Kyuubi's eyes were full of barely contained rage and offense. As long as there was feeling in someone, it was possible to manipulate them into not attacking, or attacking sloppily -- but when they went emotionless...
"Tell me why, and I might believe you and help. But even if it's mine-- if you give no reason, I'll assume it's for something bad." And then I'll get Sakura to abort it, he wanted to add, but he didn't, because he wasn't sure he would be able to use his influence on her that way. He hadn't been sure he could when he had still believed he had no part in the tiny life taking root inside her; and now ...
Kyuubi spat on the grass, hissing in anger, and bared his fangs at him.
"Depends who you ask," he replied snidely. "Your village will find it awful, no doubt about it."
Sasuke didn't say anything, just waited. But that didn't work; the fox just pretended to watch a bird flying through the branches, ignoring him.
"... Can Naruto tell me?"
The fox sent him a quick glare. "No."
"Because he doesn't know?"
"Because he's too stupid to see we have the same fucking reason! Mine just isn't cushioned by layer upon layer of pathetic sentimentalism."
Sasuke just waited patiently, a little while longer. He didn't like being patient, but he had always been better at it than Naruto. He hoped it would be the same with Kyuubi.
"...I want to breed. Is that so difficult to believe? I can't die without leaving something behind."
Sasuke stared at him. The fox wanted a legacy? An heir? "... I see," he whispered finally.
He was just the same about his clan. The need to rebuild it, for the village, for his dead parents, was overwhelming at times; he had just always made himself wait until later, when his brother would be dead and his new clan would be safe, when he would be strong and old and wise enough to really deserve the title and place of patriarch. Right now, he was still a child, still not good enough.
The fox snorted and did another of his catlike full-body stretches. He still looked angry, resentful. Sasuke didn't feel like making an enemy out of him.
"Okay, that's a good reason," he admitted. The fox would die with Naruto. Normally nine-tailed kitsune had centuries of life to look forward to; he wondered how old this one was, how many years he'd lost when the Fourth Hokage locked him inside a human baby. If he was to die before his time, the urge to leave something behind must be even more pressing.
"So why Sakura, then?" She was a pretty, healthy girl, but as far as power went... Well, she was only a second-generation ninja on her father's side, her mother had never held a kunai in her life, and she wasn't that powerful. He wondered what the fox considered worthy of bearing his offspring.
"The boy wants her."
"And you?" Sasuke asked, frowning faintly as he tried to understand how the demon's mind worked.
Kyuubi started making his way in his direction, and Sasuke watched him warily, tensing a little, pushing back the pain in his chest as he went a little more on alert than he'd been.
"A human bitch is a human bitch, pink fur or not. Her or the white-eyed bitch, it was the same to me, but the boy refused the other one. Just as well; she was covered in that mangy dog-boy's scent," he added with a grimace of disdain.
Somehow, Sasuke didn't like the idea that it could have been Hinata instead. Not that he disliked Hinata, but... He didn't particularly like her either. She just didn't register on his radar. She was too weak, too nice, not interesting... And she wasn't part of Team Seven. It was weird that he wasn't all that jealous of Sakura, but would have been jealous of Hinata, or any other girl for that matter. Later, maybe, he would dwell on it, but for now the demon-fox was still approaching, slowly, deliberately, and for a second Sasuke felt like he was being hunted.
"So if you want a child so much," the black-haired boy asked casually as he stepped back out of range, "it doesn't bother you that I may have ..." Shit, there was the tree at his back. "...impregnated someone you chose to bear your kits?" Trapped. And the fox was still closing in slowly, straightening up to walk the last steps on his legs only.
"No." Kyuubi threw him a lazy smirk and then was in his face, without warning. "Because you're mine too. And your cubs will be my cubs."
Sasuke tensed; he didn't fight. It would be useless. Kyuubi couldn't do anything that Naruto would never, ever do -- he trusted the blond to pull out of it if it went too far, to take control again.
If Kyuubi thought for one second that he could keep control indefinitely, he wouldn't be there any longer, he would have gotten back to Sakura-chan, made sure she would stay pregnant maybe, and then gone back to Konoha to finish the job. But the second he threatened anyone seriously, he would be back inside Naruto's mind; that was why he was staying calm and toying with Sasuke's nerves instead of doing anything worthwhile.
Well, that was what the boy had deduced from his attitude and the discussion they'd just had with Naruto and Sakura. He just hoped he was right.
And as a hot breath caressed his neck and sharp canines brushed against his skin, he surprised himself hoping very strongly indeed.
"Stop," he grunted, hands on Kyuubi's shoulders to hold him at bay. The effort made him wince as it pulled on his abdominal muscles, and the demon fox frowned and actually leaned back a little, giving him some space to breathe.
"What do you mean, my cubs will be your cubs?" Sasuke scowled. "If they're mine, then they won't take after Naruto at all. I don't see how that will do anything for you."
The fox smirked at him, leaned forward, resting his forehead against Sasuke's forehead in a gesture that should have been casually affectionate. It was kind of nerve-wracking instead. It was the teeth. They were too white and too sharp.
"Maybe the blood in their veins won't be mine, but the chakra-- ahh, that will be a different matter indeed."
"What the hell does that mean?" the black-haired boy demanded, hands still planted on Kyuubi's shoulders to keep him from pressing against Sasuke's body. "I don't get it. If they're my children, they can't be yours..."
The fox scoffed. "It doesn't matter whose body fathers them."
He would have asked more details, but it was hard to speak with a hand down his pants and teeth biting his ear.
Despite the aggressiveness, maybe even because of it, it would have felt good -- perhaps even good enough to let the damn fox get away with it -- if he hadn't pushed his chest against Sasuke's to back him up against the tree. And then suddenly the black-haired boy couldn't breathe, and it wasn't in the flattering way.
"Stop," he hissed, biting his lip to fight the haze of pain invading him.
Kyuubi snorted and kept going, mouthing the curse seal on his neck hungrily.
"... stop... hurts..."
He couldn't control his legs anymore-- they folded under him as if his muscles had transformed into water. Only the fact that he was pinned to the tree by the demon's weight kept him upright; he dragged in a deep shuddering breath, refusing to let himself utter even one little gasp of pain.
The face in front of him frowned, the expression shifting, and for a few seconds he couldn't say who was looking at him. Then the blond helped him to sit down on the grass, and when he looked up it was into blue eyes, with just a hint of purple strands mixed in.
"Oh hell, Sasuke, I'm sorry! I didn't -- how'd he hurt you?"
Sasuke shook his head. "No... He just -- leaned on my chest. Think I have cracked ribs," he added as he gasped for breath.
Naruto relaxed slowly, apparently relieved that he hadn't lost control as badly as he'd thought, and then scowled at Sasuke. "You idiot! Why are you moving around in that case?"
"It's nothing," Sasuke snapped back. "I can deal with that; we have better things to do than playing nurse right now."
"Like figuring out what we're going to do, moron," he hissed, and then made himself calm down. It wasn't worth it.
Naruto sighed and sat in the grass, facing him. "We can't do anything so long as Sakura-chan hasn't made her decision."
The blond seemed embarrassed, and he was going out of his way to look anywhere but at Sasuke. Sasuke frowned, leaning back against the tree carefully as he thought.
As he had hoped, the casual insult provoked Naruto into glaring at him.
"Do you remember what just happened?" Sasuke asked, staring deep into his eyes.
He saw a flicker of some dark, unhappy emotion -- fear? Regret? Guilt?
"... Yeah. I remember. Wasn't that far down."
Naruto didn't look away, didn't look down. Guilt indeed; and apology too, in the way the blond let Sasuke stare into his eyes so frankly.
"So you heard what he said about the child possibly being mine."
Naruto nodded, eyes flickering down before he made himself meet Sasuke's again, a painfully wide grin on his lips. "It's cool with me. So long as I get to be the godfather."
It was so false that it made Sasuke cringe inwardly, but Naruto so visibly wanted it to be true that he didn't feel like calling him on it.
"Do you know what he meant when he said that the child would be his, even if I was the one who fathered it?"
"Not a clue," answered the blond as he scratched his head quizzically. "But he felt pretty sure of it when he said it."
"He really, honestly believes that the child will be his regardless?"
"But in what sense? Biologically? Or just in spirit? How the hell could it inherit his chakra? That's like inheriting a transplant. It's just as stupid as imagining that Kakashi's kids would be born with a sharingan."
Naruto blinked and scratched his head again. "He didn't say."
The black-haired teen scowled. That wasn't very helpful.
"Can you ask?"
"Uh... he's kind of sulking."
"Sulking?" Sasuke repeated, incredulous.
"Yeah, uh, causehedidn'tgettonailyou."
They looked away at the same time, both pretending that neither was blushing.
"I'm sorry," Naruto finally mumbled, his hands uprooting handfuls of grass nervously.
"I didn't stop him sooner. I'm sorry. I mean-- some of the stuff he said! He really was a jerk. And then he tried to... to..."
Sasuke shrugged. "I can take whatever he says. It's just words."
Naruto looked utterly miserable.
"Idiot. You didn't let him hurt me."
"...Shoulda stopped him sooner..."
Okay, he was firmly decided to wallow in misery. Time to take another route. "Why didn't you?" Sasuke asked neutrally.
The blond ninja's cheeks turned tomato-red in under two seconds.
"I -- uhh-- that is-- I wasn't really myself-- well, I was, but-- it felt like a dream, sorta, where you can do anything and it doesn't matter so long as--as-- as you feel like doing it," he added in a whisper.
"And you felt like jumping me."
It was interesting how may shades of red Naruto's cheeks could come up with.
"Uh. I'm really sorry -- you probably won't trust me to control him anymore, now," Naruto added dejectedly.
Sasuke sighed wearily and took a deep breath. "Naruto... you idiotic, moronic dead-last. When Kyuubi is in control, you shed your inhibitions, but that doesn't make your sense of right and wrong disappear. You stopped, right? That's why," he spat, annoyed, "I'm not going to be scared of your stupid, idiotic, moronic dead-last ass. And if you make me say it again, I swear they'll never find your body."
The smile on Naruto's face was a lot more sincere now.
They fell silent, once again finding nothing to say. This time, though, they kept looking at each other.
"So. D'you still wanna shag?"
"I mean, not now-now, but later. Eventually. If we get a chance. I mean, would you rather it was a one-time thing, or -- err."
Sasuke blinked again.
"...I just wanna know. No pressure."
Sasuke managed to find his composure again. "... Why not. Unless Sakura has a problem with it," he added as an afterthought. They still didn't know how it would all end after all-- maybe she didn't want to be a single mother, would want to get together with one of them. He had a feeling she could be convinced to share if they presented it right, but that would be a delicate matter. Their relationship, the tangle of feelings they had for each other was so complicated. He appreciated her, wanted to keep her safe, hated to see her hurt, but he wanted Naruto -- wanted his power and his passion -- more. She liked Naruto, but Sasuke had a feeling she had never thought of the blond as boyfriend material before. As for Naruto...
... Well, Naruto was an equal opportunity pervert, it seemed.
"Well, of course," Naruto replied, scratching his hair. "But I don't see why she would. I mean, you're Sasuke. It's not like you're Kiba or Chouji," he added with a grimace.
The black-haired boy shrugged. "She's a girl. They're weird about that sometimes."
"Yeah, you'd think they never have urges," the blond grumbled. "Sometimes I think it would be easier to just go with boys -- I mean, they don't get all 'It's undying love or nothing!' -- but well, I'd miss breasts," he added with a chuckle.
Sasuke rolled his eyes. Naruto gave him a long, considering look.
"Say, Sasuke... You wanna learn the Sexy no jutsu?"
"Fuck off and die," he shot back with a nasty glare. It only made Naruto grin wider.
"Bet you'd make a sexy girl. You wouldn't need to change much, the doll face's already-- HA! Missed!"
Sasuke's kunai disappeared in the grass on the other side of the clearing. "Go fetch it," he growled, giving the laughing blond a stern look.
"Oi, I'm not your dog," Naruto protested, but he went anyway.
Sasuke watched him, rubbing his chest distractedly. Throwing that had hurt more than it should have. He had to be careful, but he kept forgetting.
"Who else would you do, if you could?" he asked casually, trying to pretend that he wasn't morbidly curious. "I mean guys."
Naruto gave him back the kunai and sat cross-legged at his side, his face a picture of puzzled concentration.
"Hmm. I dunno. There's not a lot of boys our age, and I'm so not gonna ogle the teachers. And there's not a lot of boys pretty enough for me."
Sasuke elbowed Naruto for calling him pretty. "Huh. You're more difficult with the guys than with the girls."
"Yeah," Naruto said with a little awkward laugh. "Dunno why. So long as a girl is cute, I'll ogle, but most boys, I just don't think of it. Guess overall I'm more straight than not."
Huh. Sasuke didn't think much about who was cute or not either, but that was more a matter of concentrating on other things, like getting stronger. So, who could be considered cute amongst the guys his age... "... Neji?"
"What? No," Naruto replied with a laugh. "Sure, okay, he's pretty to look at, and I like him and all, but my dick would freeze and fall off if it went within a meter of his ass. He's even more of an icy bitch than you are."
"Ack! He's my friend! I'm so not thinking about him like that. He's too... too... And he's straight! And Shika's the same! I'm not thinking about them that way."
"And I'm not your friend?" he shot back, stung.
Naruto blinked at him as if it was obvious. "It's different. You're Sasuke."
It really shouldn't have made sense enough to please him, but it did. "Enough babble," he decided, unwilling to keep questioning Naruto; it made him feel like a schoolgirl playing truth or dare with her crush. "We're going back."
He refused Naruto's help, of course, and the blond pretended not to see him lean against the tree to get up. They made their way back to the big tree, a lot more slowly than they'd left. A few times they walked past scavengers hungrily devouring Naruto's victims, but nothing attacked them. That was a relief; he really didn't feel like fighting.
Climbing the tree, with its slippery bark, was a challenge. He pretended not to notice when Naruto started cutting up slashes in the wood, just deep enough for him to grab with his toes or his fingers, but he used them all the same.
Sakura was dozing off when they arrived. She was curled up against the trunk, knees against her chest, burrowed in Naruto's orange pullover, and he couldn't say if she was searching for warmth or for reassurance more. As he saw her, Sasuke remembered that he had forgotten to give her message to Naruto, and tapped his shoulder, leaning close to whisper in his ear.
"She wanted me to tell you that you're still her boy, regardless."
He watched as Naruto's expression softened and he knelt at her side, caressing her hair gently. "Oi, Sakura-chan," the blond whispered. "Are you cold?"
She blinked her eyes open and shivered, smothering a yawn. "Ah -- yes..."
Naruto bit his lip as he thought. "Sasuke, sit close to her, I'm gonna get more wood for the fire."
Sasuke just happened to be a bit cold as well, so he did. She gave him a shy glance and leaned against his shoulder, just barely. He rolled his eyes and slipped an arm around her to pull her close. He'd thought they were past all that flirtiness.
Blushing, Sakura cuddled up, and he hid a wince as her arm encircled his waist. Ah well, she wasn't moving around; he got used to the slight pressure easily enough. It was just a matter of concentration.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked quietly. When he turned toward her, his nose and lips ended up in her hair. She shivered. Sasuke thought it was a little unnerving to have such an effect on girls without even trying. He rubbed her back, to warm her as much as to warm himself.
"Yes... Thank you. Calmer at least."
"I talked to Kyuubi," he announced, wanting to inform her quickly so they could discuss other things when Naruto came back. "He says he just wants the child for the sake of having one." He didn't add anything, letting her draw her own conclusions. She had a quick mind; he hoped she was calm enough not to let her fear slow it down again because he didn't feel like going into the details.
Sakura stiffened, pulling back slightly, and stared at him. "You talked to..."
"Naruto chose to let him. He didn't have a problem taking control again." Okay, that might not be entirely truthful, but strictly speaking it had been true-- when Naruto wanted to come back, he did. It was just that it had been hard making him want it. "He says -- he says it might be mine."
Sakura's hand rose to her mouth.
He waited, impassible expression hiding his nervousness. It was still Sakura's choice, but it was a lot harder to keep on being the calm, impartial one when there was so much at stake. He hadn't realized before how detached from the whole problem he felt, how out of the loop. Even despite all his talk of team bonds, it had still been 'not his problem'.
"You told her?" Naruto asked as he put an armful of dry wood down and added some into the fire. "So, what do we do now?"
"First, you get your ass here," Sasuke ordered, nodding at Sakura's other side. "Then we review our options."
Naruto gave Sakura a glance, unsure, but after a small hesitation, she nodded. He sat down against the tree, his arm resting around Sakura's shoulders and his hand brushing the back of Sasuke's neck.
"So, uhm. Options," the blond prompted as he tried to find a comfortable position.
Sakura took a deep breath.
"First, worst case scenario: Kyuubi can possess my -- the child, or it will be born a monster, or put my life in danger during the pregnancy."
Sasuke squeezed her waist gently, not knowing how to express his encouragements, then nudged Naruto's side with his fingers to get him to relax a little.
"If he can possess it, then I have to abort. It would put the whole village in danger. It's not a risk I want to take."
The boys nodded together, neither liking the solution but not having a better one to give. They didn't have the know-how to make sure Kyuubi no Youko stayed put.
"If the child is normal -- or normal enough-- then what?" Naruto asked softly.
"I don't know. There will be so many problems if I decide to keep it... The villagers, the Council... "
Sasuke frowned. She was veering toward self-pity again. He understood, but ...
"Sakura. We can find ways to make those problems better, but as better as we make them, they'll never be as good as what you dreamed your life would be. Unless you have an abortion."
Her face hidden by her hair, she sighed, and shrugged quietly. "If I abort, I'll spend my life devoured by guilt and what-ifs. If the child would be normal, then the disturbance it wreaks on my little life is not supposed to be reason enough."
"Supposed by who?" Naruto challenged. He had tensed up and was staring at her, his face a mix of hope and fear.
"... Everyone. If I were from a big town, it might be different-- but I'm from the Hidden Village of Konoha. Intellectually, I know that people only frown on abortion unless strictly necessary because of our high death rate, and it's even worse in the advanced bloodline clans. But in my guts-- well, it's the way I was raised," she admitted, softly. "I would tear myself up if I got rid of the child just because it was more convenient for me. I know it's stupid -- I mean, it's not even a fetus yet, just a little lump of cells, but three days is not enough to come to terms with the decision to never let it grow. And then when I'm older and have other children, I'll probably keep wondering... How much like them it would have been, how different, and why couldn't it live when its siblings did? It would just be unfair for the child to get rid of it," Sakura admitted even more softly.
Naruto nuzzled her hair gently, not saying anything.
"But -- what about what's fair to me?"
Sasuke decided not to reply that life wasn't fair. If Sakura thought she couldn't do it, then the child would be miserable, and all of them with it. And sometimes he thought it might be a mercy not to have to go through life unloved.
But Sakura had decided to keep it if she could, at least, and he had to admit he was relieved. Just like Naruto was. But then, they weren't the ones whose life would get the most fucked up over it.
Sasuke couldn't help with the moral dilemmas, but he knew how to be practical. "You said you wanted to be a chuunin before you became a mother... There's an exam in a couple of months. You won't start to show before the... fourth? Fifth month? We can pass the exam before it becomes a hindrance. Then, as chuunin, we get better pay and some choice in the missions we take. We could stay posted at Konoha as guards for a few years. Then we won't be different from all the ninja who keep working with a family."
"That could work, but... I would feel guilty to leave it behind -- what if something happens to us?"
"All three of us at the same time?" Naruto snorted, as if he wanted to laugh.
"It's always possible, I guess," Sasuke admitted coolly, "but not that likely." It was hard not to scoff at the idea that anything short of Akatsuki or one of the two surviving Sannin could take on both he and Naruto and come out the winner. And he hated to admit it, but Akatsuki had seemed to lose interest in them these last years. The group almost seemed to have disappeared.
"Yes, but --"
"Old hag Tsunade would take care of the kid. And Iruka-sensei. And our friends -- Ino. She wouldn't leave a child of yours alone, right? Just like you wouldn't abandon one of hers."
Sakura relaxed enough to smile. "Right. Ino-pig wouldn't dare abandon my child. Ooh, I want to see her face when I tell her!"
"Tell her what?" Naruto blinked, puzzled.
"Ahh, nothing, girl stuff," Sakura replied, laughing.
Sasuke had a feeling it had something to do with him. Sure, Ino and Sakura had calmed down in the last years, but he still remembered their little wars to impress him and beat the hell out of each other. It wasn't the moment to have an argument with her because he didn't like being thought of as a trophy, though.
"Ah, but you only win points if you don't tell her I came with the package," Naruto replied with a chuckle.
Sakura blinked, for a second pausing in what Sasuke interpreted as wondering if she had or would hurt him, then smiled at the blond, teasing back gently. "That's only so long as she doesn't see you shirtless."
"-- Oh. That's, um. Whoa. You like me shirtless?"
"Don't get undressed now!" Sakura protested, blushing a little. Naruto laughed, and after a few seconds she followed him. Sasuke snorted at their silliness, but let them chuckle at each other. The situation caught up fast and they sobered up on their own.
"So... What other problems will we run across?"
"The Council," Sasuke replied.
"If Tsunade and Jiraiya say the kid's normal, the kid will be normal and they can shut the fuck up," Naruto growled, his nails leaving gouges in the bark.
Sakura shook her head. "I guess... if they can prove it, then the Council will have to leave us alone... But Naruto, they think your seal is failing and no one understands how it works, so we'll still be under suspicion. And they can try to..."
"Pressure you into aborting anyway?" Sasuke replied quietly.
"Not if they think the child is an Uchiha."
Sakura and Naruto blinked at him.
"You know how enamored they all are with the idea of seeing my clan reborn," Sasuke commented coldly, burying his own burning desire to be once again surrounded with people of his blood. "And some of the heads of clans owed my father favors. They think I don't remember because I haven't called onto them yet. But it could help change the odds a little."
"You think it would really help?"
A vicious smirk blossomed on his lips as he thought of the political ramifications. "Hell yes it would. Especially since most of them are from the ancient noble clans like the Hyuuga or the Kagami, and happen to be cousins of the Uchiha to some degree; when they look at me, they see the Uchiha heir a lot more than they see the dubious allegiance from the whole Orochimaru debacle. And for those who are still wary because of that, I can argue that starting to rebuild my clan would tie me to Konoha more strongly than anything else ever would."
Naruto grimaced. "You take care of that side of things then. Should we swear that I didn't get to have sex with Sakura at all?"
"They would know we're lying," Sakura berated him. They had been taught at the Academy that many ninja learned to interpret the unconscious clues people gave when lying; it was useless to even try. "They have ways of knowing. But we can always present the truth in a favorable way."
"Wait, like... I had you first, but Sasuke did you five times and me only three?"
Sakura rapped her knuckles on Naruto's head sharply, blushing.
"Then they would argue that demon seed is probably more potent and once would have been enough," Sasuke commented in a bored tone, trying not to smile at Naruto's childishly dismayed expression.
"Right. Fuckers. But they have no way of knowing before the kid's born, and I bet they wouldn't want to risk an Uchiha spawn unless they REALLY have to, so if old hag Tsunade says Kyuubi's not moving out anytime soon, they should back off. Any other problems?"
"The villagers..." Sakura sighed, tugging on a lock of her pink hair nervously and giving them guilty looks. "My reputation is probably already shot to hell -- they won't care if I get cleared, so long as they can gossip about how I jumped in bed with the Kyuubi's vessel and the traitor."
Naruto's eyes darkened with worry and he forced an insouciant smile on his face.
"But you could always say that it wasn't your fault, I jumped you--"
"I will not pretend that you raped me just to save my reputation!" Sakura snarled at him, green eyes burning with fury. She pulled free from their hold, turned so she was on her knees facing Naruto, fists clenched. "Maybe you started it, and maybe your freaky fox pheromones helped us to relax into it, but I wanted to be there. I LOVED being there. I felt safe and sexy and loved and wanted, and I am not going to dirty that just because telling the truth might make some stupid old hags who haven't gotten any in forever titter about my sex life!"
Sasuke let himself smile. "That's the spirit."
She was deflating already, a frown on her face indicating that she was imagining all the whispers and shunning she would have to endure, but Sasuke touched her shoulder and she relaxed a little.
"Right. They don't matter," she repeated softly as she sat down again.
Sasuke felt a tug on his shirt and looked down to see Naruto's hand emerging from behind her back, pulling to hint that he should lean against Sakura more. So he did. On her other side Naruto was doing the same thing.
"Do you think it will help your reputation and the child's if you're married?" Sasuke asked idly.
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
He swallowed nervously, made sure that his unconcerned expression was still in place, and turned to look at her. A glance Naruto's way showed him nothing beyond surprise in his blue eyes.
"I guess I am."
She stared at him a little while longer, and then a bitter smile twisted her lips and she looked away.
"I used to dream of that, you know. 'Will you marry me, Sakura-chan?' And you would sweep me off my feet and do something outrageously romantic in that darkly handsome and mysterious way of yours."
Sasuke didn't say anything. Naruto was silent too, eyes lost staring at nothing.
Sakura sighed. "It won't help my reputation anyway. We would have to wait until after the birth to know which of you is the father. If the child is an Uchiha I don't intend to prevent you from claiming it, you know, married or not. I know it's important to you."
"It wouldn't be just for your reputation," he objected softly. "But -- if you want to marry the father, we will have to wait until afterwards."
Naruto shook his head and grinned in that way that made Sasuke want to hit him and stand in between him and whatever was making him hurt like that -- but Naruto didn't need comfort or protection. "Nah. I'm not the marriageable sort. You should marry Sasuke. After the exam maybe? That would be fun. I could be best man."
She gave him a wounded look; he wondered for who she was hurting. "Naruto--"
"Honestly? Sasuke is a rich noble with a serious reputation. I'm the troublemaker of the village, and demon-possessed at that. You want to keep your rep, you marry him."
"My reputation isn't that important to me!" she protested.
"It will be for the child. Believe me, he won't want the sort of grief you get from being an Uzumaki."
"And when the baby grows blond hair, I'll get a rep as a cuckolded husband and Sakura as an adulteress," Sasuke replied sarcastically.
"Maybe. But there's always the 'my grandmother had blond hair' excuse. Oh, hell, or we can henge him."
Sakura sighed. "We have a few months to figure that out," she replied, her tone indicating clearly that she was growing weary of the conversation.
Naruto leaned toward her and hugged her quickly. "Ah, it doesn't matter if the child is blond or not. He or she can even have black hair -- like I told Sasuke, I don't care so long as I get to be the godfather. I can, right, Sakura-chan?" he added, giving her the best puppy eyes Sasuke had ever seen him deliver.
"Ahh -- yes, of course," she assured him tiredly.
Naruto stayed curled up around her, both arms encircling her shoulders.
"He'll be beautiful. And we'll love him."
Sasuke was glad he wasn't one who talked a lot, because right now he couldn't have found the words to express what he was feeling if his life had depended on it.
We. Just one simple word, a little word, usually pretty much meaningless.
"And -- you can ask for my help about anything you need -- and I mean anything, Sakura-chan. I'll even learn to change diapers and get up to feed him during the nights and all..."
Sakura choked out a laugh. "Can I have that in writing?"
She sounded like she was crying and grinning like a fool at the same time. Sasuke was relieved that she was busy staring at Naruto and Naruto was busy staring at her; he didn't want them to see his expression right now. But they seemed lost in each other's eyes, with so many things passing between them, gratefulness and protectiveness and a million promises.
"... I'll sign you a contract if you want," Naruto whispered as he leaned even closer, forehead to forehead.
And then they were kissing and he didn't even think of looking away. Because -- because. Because it was soft and tender and beautiful, an acknowledgement of Naruto's simple, stubborn love, the birth of something --unnamed yet-- echoing in Sakura.
He sat, and watched, pretending that the painful tightness in his chest was only from the injury.
"So... Sasuke can cook and do the laundry. And you can train all day, or something."
Sakura blinked and turned to look at him, green eyes bright and open, still a little flushed from the kiss. "You can cook, Sasuke-kun?"
He shrugged, fighting to find his composure again. "Rice. Soup. Other easy stuff. I'm living on my own, I pretty much have to."
"I'm living on my own too, and I can't even do that much," Naruto replied, grinning at him.
"That's because you're a ramen-obsessed idiot." Sasuke wondered how he managed not to choke.
"Yeah, guess so."
"Don't tell me you only eat that! It's bad for your health!" Sakura replied, appalled. "I'm wondering how you didn't get horribly malnourished..."
"Well, until I was twelve I got those care packages for war orphans-- see what I'm talking about, Sasuke? And they pretty much have a little bit of everything a growing boy needs. Of course, most of it tastes like shit, but at least it's healthy shit. And I didn't have to pay for it, and if you really have to, it's not even so bad to eat 'em cold, so I didn't bother trying to cook."
And he looked like it was so normal, too. Sasuke could understand Sakura's horrified expression. At least he'd had money of his own to buy himself treats, and his neighbors regularly checked on him; there had been a granny, who regularly happened to make more pie than she could eat and shoved it at him. Most Konoha orphans were watched over very closely, even though there were too many of them to adopt.
Sasuke would bet that no one had been overly concerned with the Kyuubi's vessel.
"You better learn. I'm not going to cook all the time," he replied, implicitly accepting the offer to share a household, duties and all.
Naruto grimaced, but he didn't look that annoyed. "I will if you take your turn changing diapers."
Sakura caught the dark glare he was sending Naruto's way and started to laugh. "The way you share the chores, I'm going to end up with nothing to do except train and sleep."
"That's going to be a feat in itself, seeing how Naruto snores."
"I don't snore," the blond protested, reaching over the girl to mock-punch his jaw. Sasuke bit him.
"So... Where will we live?" Sakura intervened, asking innocently just as they were going to get up and start fighting.
"Ahh, I'd say my flat, but you've seen it, it's small enough for one guy..."
"That and your futon is only big enough when we sleep in a pile," Sasuke commented snidely. It had been alright, sleeping in a pile. It was warm and comfortable. But that was only after getting tired out and softened by a night of mad sex. Most nights, he liked being able to move around and knowing that if he was attacked, nothing would hinder him and prevent him from defending himself. Unless he was dead tired, he didn't sleep anywhere with no escape route.
"That and after the way I made an Anko-shaped hole in the wall, my landlord is going to kick me out anyway."
Sakura sighed, but didn't berate him for attacking the jounin.
"You can crash at my place," Sasuke offered, rolling his eyes. "It's too small for three, too, but we're going to need a house eventually, anyway."
Naruto's eyes lit up and he beamed at them. Sasuke could feel him bounce from across Sakura.
"A house! A house and a baby and you two... It's -- wow. Just... wow."
Sakura caressed his cheek gently.
"I want a garden," she decided, chin proudly lifted to hide the slight trembling. "With a swing. And maybe a little pond, with pretty fish..."
Naruto nodded. "I want a big couch, and pillows everywhere, so we can sprawl anywhere we want. And a skylight."
They looked at him hopefully.
"A dojo," Sasuke contributed after a few seconds of thought. Naruto rolled his eyes and Sakura sighed with amusement.
Sakura's shoulder looked inviting, so he rested his cheek against it.
"Wind chimes!" Sakura decided. "They're so pretty... and they sound so peaceful..."
"A huge fridge," Naruto went on, practical. The girl laughed and nudged him.
Sasuke yawned, searching for something else to add. Apart from their presence, he could think of nothing he really needed.
He fell asleep before he could find something more tangible to offer.
[The Talk] [The Day That Never Ends]