want an answer.” Behind the two boys the other students worked quietly on math. No one noticed Naruto’s
question. “Who the hell was that tall guy?” Naruto demanded. His eyes were sharp with curiosity and his stiff
pose urged a quick explanation. So caught up in his emotions, Naruto missed the other boy’s tense shift of appearance.
Previously lax shoulders straightened, and bored, half-lided eyes snapped open. Like Naruto’s, Sasuke’s dark eyes
focused. They were a harsh, angular and almond-like shape.
Sasuke asked—too quickly. The air between them thickened, but Naruto failed to see the most immediate change.
Sasuke met Naruto’s gaze and held it—almost like he’s trying to keep me from...what?
Naruto’s clear eyes remained focused on Sasuke as the boy shifted in his seat. “From the theater.” Sasuke’s
eyes narrowed further, but Naruto was unfazed. “Well? What’s ‘is name?”
For a moment, Sasuke’s
gaze wavered. But it was so brief Naruto had barely the time to register it. Then Sasuke’s lips parted. Naruto leaned
forward in anticipation.
Sasuke’s voice was firm and strong—as sure as a king of his fortune, “Itachi.” Quiet then,
almost broken. As though the name came unbidden.
Confused by the
mixed reaction, Naruto found himself staring at the pale boy’s hands. What kind of a response was that? Sasuke’s
hands folded in on themselves, and in a daze, Naruto followed the movement. Naruto blinked slowly and let his eyes wander
back to Sasuke’s. “You related?” he asked simply, but his mind remained busy. His question begged an answer
that would clarify nothing.
as always, was simple, curt and rude—bastard, Naruto thought. Sasuke smirked at his partner. The boy’s
expression, Naruto noted uncomfortably, was clearly enough of a rebuke.
identical, same last name...what else could they be but—“You brothers?” His thoughts spun around
the simple conclusion, but his gaze remained fixed.
The other boy rolled
his eyes upwards to break the connection, but he refrained from reply. Clearly Sasuke felt no need to answer such questions.
Naruto pursed his lips, and wondered about the taller, seemingly dangerous Uchiha. What is it with this guy? The
thought flew through his head so quickly Naruto didn’t know of whom he thought. The older or younger brother? Does he not want to be family? Confusion enveloped him. But Sasuke was
Knowing that the
conversation had stalled minutes before, Naruto shifted uneasily. His fault. He never talks to me...Finally, Naruto
picked up his pencil as he glanced at the text. “We were on this one,” he pointed vaguely at the number. He scribbled
a few notes while Sasuke watched. He, Naruto noted, has got to be as bored and uncomfortable as I am...
Naruto looked up
and glared meaningfully. He pointed to Sasuke’s notebook. Earlier in the week, Sasuke—freakin’ anal bastard—had
made a neat—calligraphic and color coded? What the hell’s with that?!— list of the trigonometric
= sin2(x) + cos2(x).
= sin(x)/ cos(x).
would stab at the paper, and Sasuke would jot down, ‘b’ or ‘a’ or something to clarify. He
drives me nuts...
Behind the two boys,
a group that consisted of third-year students complained about cosine being strange. Taro, a cheerful member of the baseball
club, laughed loudly. Naruto barely registered the sound as he wrote on.
He continued the
problem for a few minutes until Sasuke’s loud sigh jerked him back to reality. “What now?!” he practically
Sasuke scowled in
return. “How. Do. You. Do it?” Naruto opened his mouth to reply, but Sasuke beat him to it. “No
one ever mentioned that—you can’t just move the cosine and expect it to—”
About to strangle
his partner, Naruto howled in frustration. He slammed his pencil into the desk and stood. Sasuke’s lips tightened to
a thin line as Naruto scathingly met his eyes. In an instant he was up, and one moment after that Naruto was in front of the
boy. He leaned in to even their eyes. Barely ten centimeters away, Naruto opened
At the same moment,
Taro started to move his chair. Unaware of the commotion behind him, he laughingly pushed away from his desk with a playfully
forceful shove. Much to his surprise, his back met resistance. Unbalanced, Taro could only fall backwards a little more. “Oh,
sorry—” he started to say. He turned around to face the unfortunate student he’d stumbled against. “I
For a minute, no
Sasuke and Naruto
stared at each other in horror with
a girl whispered to her neighbor. “Sasuke??”
Her words triggered
an avalanche of sound as everyone started speaking. Even Asuma threw his voice to the confusion. Sasuke and Naruto lurched
apart. Each boy made loud retching noises as they turned away from the other. I can’t look at that bastard’s
Sasuke growled, “—I’m going to kill you—”
you—” Naruto choked.
down, everyone it’s just—”
A screech of mock
indignation, “—gay pride?!” and laughter so loud it hurt.
mother would—” stricken with anger.
“—kill you, Naruto—” Is that Ino? It…can’t be—
Sakura wailed, “Sasuke’s
first kiss was supposed to be mine, damn it!”
Naruto stood up
straight and thrust his hand into the air. Silence overcame the students as Naruto accusingly pointed at his partner. “You—”
from the audience he heard a whisper. A laugh. And a quiet growl. “—this is your fault!”
“You’re the one who was standing over me like a pervert—”
“A what? Excuse
me, say that again, please?” Sarcasm overcame Naruto’s voice. “You’re the one who—” he
stumbled over his words for a moment as he tried to come up with a good excuse. His eyes flashed white as he blushed. “You’re
the worst fucking kisser I’ve ever—”
Naruto whirled around
and glared furiously at anyone who moved.
you ever say things like that about Sasuke!”
from Taro as he slapped—that hurt— Naruto on the back. “Way ta go, ya pervert!!”
stood. Gathered his things, and left. His expression was blank.
Asuma cleared his
throat, and Naruto realized that a worried expression covered any amusement that might have been present. “Class, settle
down. This class isn’t over with, and I specifically gave you time to work, not gossip—”
One of the girls
giggled. “It’s only gossip if it’s not true!” she hissed, and Naruto felt the blood rush to his face.
talk about what you don’t understand—” Naruto started to say, but Asuma shook his head tightly. Naruto shakily
made his way to his desk. He sat down and gently wiped his lips.
More laughter, but
students pretended to return to studies. Asuma couldn’t make them concentrate, and he couldn’t stop their chatter.
Naruto sat stiffly in his chair. He didn’t look at Sasuke’s desk, but he didn’t cower into his arms, either.
I didn’t do anything wrong—
not like it’s my fault.
they don’t see it like that.
The bell didn’t
ring soon enough for Naruto. Asuma signaled Hyuga to rise before the tones completed, and every student hastily stood. Once
the class officially ended, Naruto took a deep breath. “It wasn’t
my fault.” He said loudly. “It was an accident—” Choked on anger directed at him, Naruto fidgeted.
“And he’s not a good kisser anyway, so you weren’t missing anything—” Shutupshutupshutup...I
can’t keep talking like this, “—so. Don’t get your panties in a twist—”
to stand next to the flustered boy. “Naruto—”
he isn’t even that good-looking—”
he urged quietly. He took Naruto by the elbow and forcefully guided him out of the room.
been younger, Naruto knew he would have been mauled by a flock of angry girls before he escaped. Everyone in the class would
have been screeching insults or death-cries instead of rumors. Somehow, Naruto thought as he walked, this seems
worse...the silence...the looks they give me...If they’d been younger, the girls would have moved on as soon
as their anger was vented.
girls learn to hold grudges?
Sakura and Ino walked
next to Naruto in the hallway. Shikamaru turned to look at them, but Naruto simply closed his eyes in a useless attempt to
appear natural. He jerkily put both hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. Neither girl spoke as much as
When they passed,
Naruto heaved a sigh of relief. He glanced wistfully at Sakura’s long, thick hair.
Naruto back to the latter’s homeroom, and smiled a little before Naruto opened the sliding door. Naruto grinned like
a fox in return. Shikamaru leaned against the wall opposite Naruto.
Naruto opened the
door, and waited for the gossip to start. His grin widened, and he laughed as he walked.
—with your words
And for a moment,
But not even the
strongest of boys can withstand silence.
* * * * *
The sun shone cheerfully
in the blue sky, Naruto noticed. And I’da thought the weather to be crappy, too...he sagged against the fire-escape’s
door. The day had passed in an excruciatingly slow manner. But once lunch had arrived, Naruto had almost flung himself out
of the classroom. Much to his surprise, Ino had fled as well. Soon as the lunch bell rang, the two were on their feet. She
was in search of Sasuke, I’d bet. Naruto knew she wouldn’t find him. Not if the bastard doesn’t
wanna be found...
He smirked. But
I’m not an idiot girl, he thought as his mouth stretched further, and I can find that guy no matter where
Naruto opened the
door to the outside and stepped onto the metal sheet that served as a porch. He climbed as far as the stairs allowed and cheerfully
threw his obento at the wall. As he predicted, a drop ladder slid down—another escape. He smiled again as he
picked up his lunch and ascended as quickly as possible.
Sasuke was standing
when Naruto reached the top. Naruto offered the stoic boy an apologetic grin. “Osu,” hey, he called
in greeting. “Mind giving me a hand up?” The ladder obviously wasn’t supposed to be a way on the
roof. Just off it, Naruto thought. Wordlessly, Sasuke walked forward.
When he felt cement
beneath his feet, Naruto released the other boy’s long, delicate fingers.
The silence between
them was deafening.
Naruto began, and he touched the back of his head. “About earlier...”
Sasuke waited without
Naruto felt blood
rush to his face again. Rage forced his mouth to work quickly. “I didn’t mean to. And it wasn’t my
fault.” Sasuke’s expression didn’t change, and Naruto’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve got to
be the most pathetic person I’ve ever met!” he accused.
“That so?” His expression suggested cool disdain.
The words spilled
out of Naruto’s mouth before he could think. Before he could do much of anything. “Hell yeah!” The angry
flush deepened as Naruto’s eyes flashed white. “You ignore every single kid who practically worships your
sorry ass, all the fucking while acting like you’re better than them!” Images of Sasuke walking down a
crowded hallway filled Naruto’s head. In his mind, the boy looked at the ground, but students left a wide gap between
Sasuke and themselves.
treated like some kinda prince.
Don’t you even care?” – about them? Naruto
finished the question in his head. “Even someone as isolated as you should realize you’re the envy of everyone,”
bitter resentment made his voice tighter and higher than usual, “while I—” he cut himself off, and hastily
began again. “—other people are treated like shit for even trying to talk—”
Sasuke had noticed
the slip. His lips quirked upwards in a tiny smirk that spoke of arrogance Naruto couldn’t even begin to understand.
“So I’m to feel sorry for you.”
not what I said!” Naruto’s voice dropped to a lower register, but the quiet exclamation brought about a change
in Sasuke that Naruto’s screaming hadn’t earned. Sasuke looked at Naruto’s mouth; dumbfounded for a second.
But there was no
heavily as he tried to regain his thoughts. All consideration for the taller boy had fled an age before. “I don’t
care what you say, Uchiha.” A lie. But it had the desired effect. Sasuke winced at the use of his family name,
and he turned to look at the horizon. “I’m gonna be better than all of you, gonna surpass all the losers from
this town and—”
us to recognize your brilliance.” He turned to look at Naruto. “Right?”
“So do it
already—and get out of my life.” Sasuke sat slowly and stretched from that position to a lazy sprawl over the
hot cement. His eyes fluttered once but remained open. Naruto gaped; he was amazed at the boy’s demeanor. Sasuke simply
watched the sky—watched the clouds pass—while Naruto tried to find words.
He stood alone.
Felt the wind tousle his hair—like before. Someone, huge and gold and green and caring and safe, put their
hand in my hair. Someone liked me enough, once.
tightened. His jaw opened, but no sound came out.
Silence for a moment
surpass all of you,” Naruto murmured, and retreated to the side of the wall. He climbed over the barrier with a little
difficulty, and stood. If I jumped, he thought, I could fly for an instant...fly away. He waited for a reaction,
but Sasuke didn’t move.
Slowly, Naruto descended.
* * * * *
Sasuke walked. His hands were shoved into his pockets, and his
school bag was slung casually over his shoulder. The noisy sounds of cars filled his ears, and with each passing vehicle,
his eyelids twitched.
It was twilight. But the rain clouds overshadowed the setting
sun and cast the world in shades of gray. The sky was brilliant and near white, but the shadows fell heavily on the sidewalk.
Sasuke looked up at the sky. He squinted against the almost-white
horizon and thought, it was warm earlier. His eyes moved over the gray globe and he blinked against its harsh brilliance—the
sun’s light even then was painful. A car passed, and his eyes rapidly moved to follow it. Water sprayed at his feet,
and Sasuke felt the moisture seep into his pants. The fabric stuck to his legs.
He raised his eyes again to the horizon, and he thought carefully
about the events that carried the day. In his mind’s eye, he saw Naruto—the blond idiot—standing
on the edge of a concrete roof. What was he trying? Does he think he can trick me into believing he wants to die?
Sasuke scoffed. That kid doesn’t know anything about suffering—
The street faded from gray to black as the sun hid its shining
face. The cars sped by in the quiet, and kept the surroundings from true silence. His feet tapped on the sidewalk.
He saw it. A white spot against the gray that merged with black.
His eyes flickered back to the earth around him. A pale face, so like his own, turned slightly to see him. Sasuke met the
darkened eyes and waited to see something. Two lines across the cheeks—marks of valor, or penance?—and
hair as dark as—Sasuke’s eyes closed. He felt his muscles tighten against his will, and he knew his face was stiff
Itachi remained standing. Even as he stood across the street,
Sasuke saw his brother lift an arm—a car drove on and obscured his vision, but he heard the quiet don...the sound
of a body falling—and Itachi caught the slumped form. The street they shared was not a place for midnight strolls.
The less-than upstanding citizens who inhabited the small houses wouldn’t care what an Uchiha did. Even if it’s
The thought passed.
He’s wearing training clothes...Sasuke noted. He didn’t flinch as Itachi snapped the unfortunate man’s wrist—but his
hand clenched, and his muscles tightened again. Why the change? Why is he wearing half of one and half of the other? Sasuke
wondered, and pushed all thoughts of sympathy from him. Itachi wore the white yukata-like upper garment, but his yoga-style
pants were black...black against skin that was once as white as Sasuke’s.
The only color his brother sported was amidst more black.
A short necklace. The tiny tomoe rocks—rocks in the shape of the English comma—that adorned the simple
black string were a deep red.
Sasuke’s mouth quirked upwards in a tiny smirk. Itachi
dropped the man—another car passed—and Sasuke saw the movement through shaded eyes. A moment of darkness. An instant
of sight—moving pictures with transitional images missing. Dark. Light. His brother moved like an animated robot. Jerking.
Slow. But that...that’s only my eyes.
Sasuke’s thoughts switched abruptly.
Quietly, Sasuke laughed. Konoha isn’t as safe as
they’d have us believe...Itachi’s eyes flashed to Sasuke. Even in the safest village there lies
a wolf—hiding among the ignorant sheep. His eyes flew to the horizon. There was no sign of the golden sun...only
darkness remained. Only grays and blacks.
There was no silence. Only clashing, nauseating noises of life
in a world that would not change from the past. Frrrrhmmnnn...shiiiiiiiiin. There was an old woman talking to her neighbor
who laughed about the exploits of someone’s grandchildren. Quiet sounds of dishes as they were washed. Sasuke’s
There’s nothing for me in this pathetic town. Naruto’s words blazed through his mind. I’ll surpass all of you. Sasuke’s
eyes closed. A child’s promise. He laughed again, but the tone was low and dark and filled with hatred. He’ll
drown in his dreams before he ever leaves this hell-hole...
...because that’s what happens to heroes and idiots
all. That’s what comes about when a child is allowed to dream.
The would-be silence hummed desperately in Sasuke’s ears
as he walked on. The only thing left for me is...but there was another car, and when it passed he saw Itachi. The man
walked without seeming to move—he was still while a person looked directly at him—but look away for an instant
and he’s here...
Footsteps. Next to Sasuke—warm and cold. All the same,
Itachi didn’t hurry the pace Sasuke had set. He wasn’t
Sasuke’s shadow. And neither, Sasuke grimaced, is he mine.
The brothers walked.
Finally, they reached the train station. Itachi nodded to the
ticket man as Sasuke showed his pass. Itachi simply walked through—and waited. There is no silence here, either.
Silence...safe...no. Neither one exists here.
Itachi’s lips quirked upwards, and Sasuke’s eyes
grew larger at the display. “Give me a smile,” he bade, “Sasuke.”
Sasuke turned away, and thought, damn you...you’d take
everything of mine and make it yours.
...I won’t forgive you...
The train pulled in with a screech of hot metal on old tracks.
A jerk, a stall, and the release of air as doors opened could be heard.
Itachi took Sasuke’s hand, and together they boarded the
Sasuke was alone.
* * * * *
girl, you’re so slow!” The laughter exploded like a warning
bell. It was crisp, clear and all too chiding. Sakura cringed against the onslaught. Ino, her acclaimed childhood friend,
stopped. Sakura looked up—her eyes were previously on the cement beneath their feet—and smiled in return. She
wanted her smile to be fierce, wanted it to be cunning and winning, but it was just a smile.
nothing I can say to that, Sakura thought sourly. “You’re one to talk,”
she bit back, and her lips quivered as she spoke. Ino didn’t notice, Sakura was relieved to find, as the other girl
simply flipped her long blonde hair over one shoulder. Ino probably sees that ridiculous flip as some kind of fight
signal, Sakura thought with a grimace. “Are you in such a hurry to get home?”
Ino laughed again,
and Sakura pursed her lips. “Well, Miss Forehead,” Ino grinned maliciously, and Sakura thought her smile was like
a cat’s, “Some of us are going to try and get a date.”
twitched with suppressed irritation. After all, the first girl to openly express such a vulgar emotion lost. “Oh,
so you need to help your mother get ready?” her smile turned to one of triumph as Ino’s step faltered.
“Such a nice girl, aren’t you, little Miss Piggy?”
The cheerful expression
Ino had crafted—so carefully, too—faded. “Oh, and I suppose you’re not concerned about your
grades one bit, Know-It-All?” Malice lit her eyes once again. “I’ve heard that you’ve been
placed at a lower percent—is that true?” bright and tingling laugher filled the air once more.
for a minute, but she couldn’t dispute that. I just...can’t seem to get the Math—not since Naruto
had the nerve to correct me that day...it’s like it won’t stick, she argued silently. But she was
too well bred to utter the excuse. Aloud, she returned the prying question with fire. “I’m still higher
than you are, Ino-pig!” she laughed. With a satisfied smirk, Sakura thought that her mirth could challenge even
Ino’s in hearty pride.
“Oh, she bites.”
Ino smirked to show her white teeth. “But I’m sure I’m ahead now.”
narrowed, but in the safety of her head she growled. Damn it, of course not!! Just because you’re more popular
doesn’t mean anything, all right?! But outwardly she simply smiled and laughed a little—quietly.
got to run—”
do run along now, Piggy-dear—”
I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.” Ino sang as she danced away—damn it, what are you doing?
She seethed quietly and let the grin falter.
She sighed as Ino
disappeared behind the glass doors, and she closed her eyes for an instant against the setting sun. Images of her childhood
darted behind closed eyes, and like the opening of floodgates she felt old emotions. I...I should have forgotten by now,
she fought the wave of loneliness with a stern admonition. I’m not some weak kid anymore, I’ve got friends—Sasuke
twinkled into her thoughts and then out—and I know I’m good at things. I always pass exams with good marks—Naruto’s
grinning face hurried the fading mist faster and her thoughts turned to more important matters.
got a boyfriend.
She bit her lip
and pulled her schoolbag around to rest it on her hip. She saw the small toys—presents from Mother when she went
to Disney World with—she broke the thought off and she slowly dug into the front pocket. She retrieved a small tin,
and opened it up. Small pictures, purikura, smiled up at her from a sticker-sheet. Purikura alone...what was I thinking?
But there were other pictures as well: pictures of her and Kiba—a dare from Ino—and one very surprising
set of pictures that Lee had jumped into.
If only Sasuke
got people looking at her...not just from our grade, either. The third-year students
have noticed her, too—she stopped thinking about that as she played with her pink hair. Ino had the charming excuse
of foreign relatives to blame for her exotic looks. Sakura had only her plain mother, and a father who looked nothing like
her. As a child, her mother told her that her red hair—not pink—was charming—and that occasionally
red-heads showed up in every family. But she neglected to say that Asian families don’t have that excuse.
Sakura smiled bitterly,
and thought, Naruto and me aren’t that different, really...No one knows who our parents are, no one knows why
we’re even in Japan. She
sighed again. They only know that we’re different...and...who wants that?
in her mind’s ear and she turned around wistfully—she hoped someone was there—but the street was empty.
Then it dawned on her; that laughter...it sounded like Naruto’s.
Happy, bright and
lucky—idiot Naruto. Her mouth twisted into a frown as her thoughts rounded on the blond boy. Why does it have
to be him?! Why does he like me??
The wind blew quietly,
and Sakura felt her hair brush against her neck. Sasuke’s supposed to be the one to realize my beauty—she
swallowed and touched her mouth—and take me into his arms—her arms went around her waist just below her
breasts—and kiss—her eyes closed.
In her mind,
the cherry blossoms fell like rain around them, and Sasuke put a pale, slender hand to her hair. He smiled at the loose strands
that fluttered around her face, and whispered sweet words into her ear. He leaned in as the wind blew the blossoms around—
And the vision of
Sasuke grew fainter. Smiling Naruto offered her a hand, a hug, a kiss—to her. Sakura felt the breeze around her ankles
and her eyes snapped open. Damn it!! I don’t like you! She thought furiously. I hate your jokes—“I
hate the way you grin like you know everything! I hate that you follow me and ruin every chance I’ve got
to get Sasuke to notice me—” when she heard her voice cut through the wind’s quiet murmur, Sakura tightly
closed her mouth. Her hands flew to her face and covered her lips.
A faint blush tinged
her pale cheeks, and she winced. I’ve lost.
To him, that stupid fool of a brat—
Sasuke knows Naruto. He doesn’t even care about me.
Sakura wished she
could hear the wind.
* * * * *