Twenty Days till Sundown

Chapter 1 T Minus 20 Days

Twenty days left.

Twenty days till the end of this relationship. That was all he could promise himself, for his own sanity. It didn't matter that his chest stung at the thought. He always kept his promises.

In the meantime, he continued dicing the fresh vine-tomatoes to add to the Bolognese sauce simmering on the stove. It would be chicken tagiatelle for dinner tonight.

He liked cooking. It gave his hands something to do and kept away those messy thoughts, though not for long. The fleeting peace of mind would soon slip through his hands. It never stayed long enough these days. Instead, those thoughts would come back, haunt him until he drowned in that dark, depressing abyss.

He was interrupted by the loud click of the door, followed by a familiar "Naruto, you there?" The rustling of cloth and the loud unmistakable thud of a briefcase could be heard.

"Rough day at the office today. Some moron thought it was 'bring your kid to work day' and let his kid roam around the lounge room unsupervised."

The footsteps continued into the kitchen, where Naruto was stirring the sauce into a nicely reddened hue and added the minced chili peppers. At the pause, Naruto grunted to show he was listening.

"Yeah, he thought it was funny when his kid switched the sugar by the espresso machine with salt."

"Seriously?" Naruto gave a weak chuckle.

"He didn't even apologize to the dozen clients who had their coffee ruined. This is why I take my coffee black."

Naruto paused, the knife in his grip halted in its descent. Naruto felt their arms brush as the raconteur leaned on the counter next to where Naruto was chopping red onions for the salad. He suppressed a shiver, painfully aware of their proximity. The intruder leaned even closer, raven black locks brushing the tan skin of Naruto's nape.

A warm breath tickled the back of his neck, as the man whispered lowly, "Are you alright?"

Startled, Naruto jumped back. A mistake on his part. Sharp pain burst from his hand but he didn't make a noise. The knife clattered onto the tiled floor, red drops forming on its surface from where it trickled down from his arm.

"Shit, Naruto!"

Sasuke immediately grabbed his arm and staunched the flow with a nearby cloth.

"Hold onto that. Put pressure on it. I'm going to get the first aid kit."

Dazed from the sight of the bloodied knife, the blond remained shock-still as the other hurried back with his wares. He was pulled to a kitchen stool while the raven pulled out alcohol swabs and gingerly dabbed at the wound. The onion-alcohol mixture stung, but Naruto didn't notice the tears streaming down his face until Sasuke looked up in concern. He sniffed and hastily swiped the sleeve of his good arm over his face.

Sasuke reserved that look of concern for him. Though he hadn't seen it much as of late. Why did Sasuke have to be gentle to him? The bastard constantly gave him mixed signals. It was unfair. It made him unable to help but question if the bastard really took their relationship seriously. Well, 'relationship' is a selective term.

He looked away as Sasuke finished bandaging the cut. Though it ran a couple inches long, thankfully it was only a surface wound and wouldn't need stitches. Naruto murmured his thanks and dried his wet face with the rest of the towel that wasn't tarnished by blood.

But before he could stand from his seat, Sasuke had a firm hold on his shoulder and was staring at him meaningfully. He always was a man of few words.

Naruto sighed. "It's fine. It was the onions. And the alcohol stung." He shrugged absently as if to dismiss the subject, offering a lame, "It hurts."

Just as he'd predicted, Sasuke accepted the explanation with a mute nod. It was their way. Sasuke wouldn't pry any further into such an uncomfortable subject. It wasn't that the bastard didn't care. Sasuke was just emotionally constipated. Probably. Well, that or Sasuke was blind to the obvious lie, which wasn't likely.

Naruto took his time changing out of his henley, being extra careful not to jolt his arm. When he finally turned back to his cooking, he didn't look back at Sasuke but wordlessly accepted his help when the knife was taken from his hands. It seemed almost surreal to be silently cooking side-by-side the bastard. But the rhythmic chop of the knife and the bubbling of the mellowed pasta sauce put his mind at ease. Cooking always did that for him. Maybe he had been a cook in another lifetime.

Leaving the salad to Sasuke, he deemed the noodles to be just past al dente. Finishing with a garnish of grated, well-aged Beaufort cheese, he set aside the pastas as best he could with a stinging hand. The oven timer went off just in time, and he plated the garlic bread as Sasuke set up the table.


"In the grocery bag on the counter."

"Bourgogne Blanc." Sasuke noted. "I don't remember you having such girly tastes."

"Oh shut up!" Naruto laughed. For once, he appreciated Sasuke's ability to ignore things and move on. It made it easier to forget about the embarrassment himself.

They had a quiet dinner with idle chitchat, as per norm. Politics, movies, city construction; never personal lives. Although they knew basic information like where the other worked, they never discussed heavy or personal topics. That wasn't their way.

After cleaning up, Sasuke followed him to bed, taking the lead and pushing the blonde headlong into the pillows. As always, Naruto let him. A flame of passion overtook him and exploded in his chest in a way that was painful. The raven-haired man was frighteningly beautiful. Merely looking into his intense gaze filled Naruto with a deep lust, the pounding of his heart drowning out any other thoughts. But that's all there ever was: lust.

After the fit of passion, his guest would always leave right away. He never stayed.

Naruto sighed as he came down from his high. The quiet click of the door told him all he needed to know. Tonight would be just as lonely as last night. And the night before that. And before that. Resting his forearm on his burning eyes, he willed himself to sleep.

He wouldn't kid himself. What he felt was merely romanticized idolatry, maybe tainted with a little lust. But not love. No, not love.

A/N: Gah. I'm sorry the first publish was so cringe I had to redo it. Story's revamped. Tadah!

P.S. Comment what you'd like to see more of: Naruto kicking names and taking butts, Sasuke on his knees (Oooh kinky!), or Itachi being awesome!