Softer Side
By: FiendisHSerapH

NARUTO'S EXPOSITION

"Naruto, what have you been up to last night? You look so sleepy." Kakashi-sensei interrogated me after hearing me yawn loudly for the fifth time.
"I was just busy---" There went another loud one, "--- busy looking around." My eyes failed to stay up so I blinked them again.
"What were you looking at then?" He further inquired. I dared not to answer. Knowing how to shut up at the right time, I just snapped my mouth shut and let my feet prod on the earthen ground. It's been almost two hours since we walked down this vast forest named Kiokugaishin. Sasuke was leading the way, trailed along by Sakura (she always does anyway), followed by our sensei, and last but not the least, me, the fifth Hokage... or so I call myself. Tee-hee.

It was a sunny morning perfect for eating my favorite ramen, and that's the exact reason why I'm happy today. Kakashi-sensei will cook ramen for all of us after this walk! Let's just hope it'll turn out good, for if it won't... better get his chakra ready. We'll have a one-on-one ma---

"Naruto, look out!"

It was too late when I heard the warning. A loud thump registered on my ears and throbbing pain marked on my forehead. Well, what do you know? I bumped on a tree. Stupid me.
"Naruto, you shouldn't have walked while you're sleeping." the one-eyed ninja placed a hand on his forehead.
"Demo, sensei! I want ramen!" I looked up at them. Sakura again had this "baka..." look on me, adn Sasuke was there... u-uh?
"Get up, dobe." He stretched out his hand, eyeing me impatiently.

Those eyes...
Those hands...

Black orbs fixated on blue ones, locking up with them as movement never ceased. Pale hands carefully cupped a tear-stricken face as his lips set comforting words free.

"Hush now... I just want you to smile for me tonight."

"What are you waiting for?" The lone wolf of our team grunted impatiently. Sasuke's his name, and his call woke me.
"Why would I accept that? I can stand on my own." My so-called self-sufficient side blasted, but those eyes... was it his chakra? There's something unfamiliar about him today, and maybe it's...
"Uh." I nodded and reached out for his hand that was offered freely for me to stand up, but I seemed to be heavy that he fell down as well. There, the arrogant moron landed on top of me, his face stopping less than an inch before me.

ARRGH! GET OFF ME! YOU'RE HEAVY, IN CASE YOU DON'T KNOW!

"Sasuke? What's going on with you?" Kakashi-sensei ruffled his silvery-white hair. "I noticed that you're also out of yourself today. You almost got lost on our path earlier." his chinky eyes then registered wonder and his eyebrows raised about half an inch higher.
"Sasuke-kun, daijoubu ka?" Sakura's green eyes placed worry over our lone wolf's condition, but it seemed to be of no matter for the idiot because... he's still on top of me. Move it, moron! You're suffocating me!

"Sasuke?" My voice grew angry as he stared... still.
"Sa-sasuke?" I repeated, my voice wavering. I felt uneasy.
"Sasuke?"
"Daijoubu ka?" his cold voice murmured.
"Huh?" My eyebrows twitched in question, too.
"Are you hurt?"

"Are you hurt?" a breathy voice broke the silence of the darkness. It accompanied worry and fear.
"Iie... daijoubu." A raspy voice replied, muffled by the sheets underneath him. "I'm alright. I'm not hurt."

"Assure me that you aren't, because I don't want you to be..."

"You two are weird today." My sight drew our sensei's back with his head swaying from side to side in disbelief. I looked back to the place where we had the "pause". Movement beside me... Sasuke's there, looking down at his feet while he walked. I took a moment to have a sideglance at him. Black marks were right below his eyes, signifying that he hadn't slept well last night... too. His raven-black hair was also somewhat tossed and tangled today. Was he too hurried to wake up, or hadn't he combed his hair well? I decided to break the ice between the two of us, so I reached for my pocket and...
"Oi, Sasuke. Hora," I offered a comb. "Better fix your hair. You seemed to have forgotten about your morning rituals." He looked warily at the brown comb, then back at me. Finally, he grabbed it and fixed his hair, one of his best assets, I daresay.

That hair. I've ran my fingers through them, for once...

A plaguing thought rushed up my mind. I shut my eyes tightly to ward it off, but it only became more rampant.

"Assure me you aren't, because I don't want you to be."
"Daijoubu ka?"
"Why are you... crying?"
"Hush now... Shhh."
"I just want you to smile for me tonight."

"Sasuke-kun?" Sakura's mild voice walked in my ears. My eyes flung open as I looked beside me. Sasuke's not there anymore. I turned back to Kakashi-sensei; he seemed to be staring at something somewhere. I followed his gaze until I got at what he's looking at.

And the scene surprised me.

I first saw a wounded leg of a young deer, then a hand holding it in place followed as a blue strip was tightly bandaged over it to stop the profuse bleeding.

Who could have done that?
Don't tell me it's...?
Yes, it was he.

Blank black orbs stared down at the young creature as his right hand patted its small head. I heard Sakura's "Sasuga, Sasuke-kun!" at my right side then sensed Kakashi-sensei's smile at the other. I took a long shot of the scene. If I were a painter, it could be a great subject of art, a best-seller in fact.

That's Uchiha Sasuke and a side they rarely see.
It's rare for them, but not for me.

"Yamero." His baritone voice reached our ears as the deer's pinkish tongue swept on his pallid cheek.
"Y-Yamero kudasai." His hands wanted to push the small animal away, but he didn't because he seemed to enjoy the innocent moment.

A moment where he showed his soft side.

"Sasuke-kun, daisuki!" Sakura, Sasuke's number one fangirl, squealed by our sensei's side. As I've said, she's Sasuke's number one fangirl and she's also the lucky girl who've seen him this way.

As for me, I never grew tired of seeing it, because it's like a panorama I wished to paint given enough skill.

Then, from his mask of perpetual seriousness, something unexpected cracked out...

A smile.

"I think I can't handle this anymore." A sob broke from a raspy-voiced being. "Why can't I be strong just like the two of you? Why do you all underestimate me? Why...?"
"Sssh..." A deep voice silenced, "Can't you see your strength?" Hands ruffled and smoothened untamed blonde fringes. "Your inner strength?"
"Strength? Are you insulting me?" Fists had their take on a clothing's collar, strangling its owner through it.
"Are you making fun of me, you moron?" Tears seeped down a tanned cheek. "You don't know what I'm going-"
A nanosecond later, eyes bulged out as lips claimed his talkative ones... and between the paper-light butterfly kisses, his reply came out;

"I don't, because I've been observing you, and I know just how you feel..."

"Sumimasen."
I turned back and was surprised at who said that.
"May I?" Now the idiot's asking me if he can sit beside me.
"May I?" he asked again. Moron, can I decline?
With that thought, I just moved away and gave him free space beside me. The sun was now slightly high above the sky. After about three hours, minus about thirty minutes for musing over our "hero of the day", we're here, enjoying a hot bowl of ramen. Kakashi-sensei did it well, and I berate him for that.

"Surprised?" his voice questioned. My heart skipped a beat. To tell him frankly, he did just then.
"At where?" Of course I should ask the reason for the sudden interrogation. That's one of the many things I've learned from Kakashi-sensei: Be cautious.
"The deer?" I answered my own question after ten seconds but still hinting a cliffhanger. He nodded as his mouth took some noodles.

Those cheeks again. Given the right time, I could have...

"Surprised I've let them see that side?" he took my time to talk, not allowing me to do so.
"Idiot, of course! It's not the usual you to..."
"So you are surprised, aren't you?" Moron! Give me time to talk! But those eyes... were weird today.

Compared to those blank ones before, it showed expression, and as each second passed, it grew more...

"Uh, yes." I finally answered just to end the insane talk, between two morons, that is.
He straightened himself up, placing his empty bowl by his side and asked again, "Ne, do you know who I was reminded of when I saw that deer?"
Peculiar. The wind blew his raven-black hair, the asset in which I'm mostly fascinated with.
"Uh... no idea, honestly." I muttered just to answer him despite of my mind's preoccupations.
He smiled... again. Geesh, quit that, moron! But my funny and sarcastic side came to a halt when I heard his answer.

"I was reminded of a broken Naruto I saw last night."

I suddenly felt cold despite of the sunny day and the jacket I wore, which was obviously not fitted for the weather. Instantly, a hand was gently placed atop mine, a hand which had touched me many times I can't remember...

... last night.

Then and there, silence ate us.

- TBC -