NOTES: Ok. Ok ok ok ok. I know this story's marked complete and I said I was done—but several of you asked about a Sasuke bonus chapter and, well, by popular demand here it is, set after the main series' ending, before he leaves Konoha to wander around and all that. Hope you enjoy!
Thank you all so much once more for reading, reviewing, faving, following—everything, even so long after this fic's completion. Thank you.
EXTRA — Sasuke
It was something he'd long since forgotten.
Someone he'd forgotten, being so young, being so…traumatized, bitter, and jaded in the aftermath of what happened to his family and all he'd been through.
If some of the Uchiha compound wasn't still standing, if this one particular concrete wall smudged with the faded remnants of a painted memory hadn't been standing, he might never have remembered her at all.
He couldn't remember how, or if, they were related. Maybe they weren't. But when that devilish grin came up in his mind—the only part of her he could really recall, aside from a bright, dragonfly-shaped barrette clipped onto her bangs—the vague sense of family accompanied it.
That, and a name—Rika.
"Let's go and make a huge mural…!"
Sasuke traced the smudge on the wall with his good hand—his only hand, right now—wondering if maybe, it wasn't paint at all. Not through the several seasons that passed, not through all the rain that washed it clean. It was just a conveniently-placed mark that wiped off easily enough when his finger brushed over it. But the memory remained.
"Look; you missed a spot! Can't have Itachi's eyes looking two different sizes, now can we?"
"She was defacing private property!"
"Rika-nee, what does 'defacing' mean?"
"…You painted it for Itachi?"
Right. It was supposed to be a larger-than-life rendition of his brother. Not that it resembled anything even remotely human when he was done, but…he'd excuse his child self for that. And even if his brother never did get the chance to see it, so would he.
At a time not too long ago, these memories of a happier, carefree time would be bitter. Painful. Now, after so many battles fought, after wars waged, after everything, they were melancholy, with just a twinge of regret.
He wouldn't consider Rika a missing piece of a puzzle, because he may have gone on his entire life not remembering her and never feeling anything out of place, but now that the memories returned, no matter how hazy, it somehow felt right. She belonged there in his memories just like old Teyaki and Uruchi.
She was an Uchiha who had lived within this compound, too.
As the memories of the marks she'd made settled in, he traced a ghost through the district from the starting point at the mural.
There, in the place his home once stood, where she'd been a common fixture—babysitter, probably.
Throughout the market district, and the alleyways between as they tailed another with their amateur espionage skills—Shisui, was it?
"I'm on a super-secret mission right now. Shisui is my target… if you're gonna help…promise me you can keep quiet and stay out of sight, too, Sasuke."
"I can, I can!"
And into the outskirts of the forest, where the notion that they'd hunted stag beetles and bugs during the heat of summer lingered.
"Are you ready, Sasuke? We're lookin' for the really big, horned ones. Stag beetles. Rhinoceros beetles and, uh… those kinds."
"Yeah! I'll find all the best ones! Then I'll give the bestest best one to Itachi."
Of course, the proof was only in his memories, and not in the trees, or the dirt at his feet. The beetles that remained in this season of sticky summer heat among leaves and bark were worlds away from that particular moment, just echoes of the past.
He left the forest behind and returned to the main road, passing so many locations he'd once known. It was pointless nostalgia, really, but he just wanted to see the district once more before going away.
On his way out, though, a light caught his eyes—just a flicker, glinting in sunlight.
Something half-buried in the dirt, once stomped down and forgotten, now unearthed by chance and by recent rains among a space that had at one point been a row of houses. He looked at it, at the tarnished, bent silver of the shape and the dull, dirty purple that couldn't hold up to the test of time completely. Then, he crouched down to pull it free from the dirt and held it in his hand, brushing mud away with his thumb. The shape: four wings, and a long, insect body, revealed itself.
Sasuke held the dragonfly hairpin to the sunlight and admired the way it retained its shape, resilient, even if the clasp had long since snapped away. And in that sunlight, in the dull rays that illuminated the gems set within, he saw Uchiha Rika's bright, roguish grin paired with a friendly, cheery wave, before she turned her back and disappeared. Gone, but no longer forgotten.
At one point, he considered her a sister.