Secret

The sand and mud felt strange between his bare toes as he walked. It had been quite some time since he'd set aside a moment to be himself, to be at peace, and just ponder what his life was. If he thought about it, he wasn't really the person he had always imagined he would be when he was young. Not that he was a particularly bad person, or he was discontent with his life now, it was just different.

For instance, when he'd been twelve years old and graduating, it had never crossed his mind that he would be saving the world in his spare time. He'd known he would be something spectacular, because there simply hadn't been another path he could foresee for himself, but he hadn't imagined that his name would become notorious. It simply hadn't occurred to him that he would ever be anything more than he was, a person, with wants, and needs, and likes, and dislikes. Which he still was. There was just one thing that set him apart from the others.

A title.

What the hell was a title, anyway?

Just society's way of boxing people into little holes, he told himself. A way to classify one another like animals and feel better about the obvious imperfections and differences in the creation of man. A way to dismiss someone without having to think up a creative, useful reason. A way to come to rely on someone, and expect them to shoulder your burdens because they could, because they were expected to.

Not that he really minded, not much. Helping people made him happy, as long as they were the right sort of people. After all, he was only one man, and he could only take so much before it got to the point where he would rather slam the door in the face of humanity in general than bother answering it.

Funny.

He'd never really been like this before.

The water lapping over his toes was a strange sensation as well. Perhaps he would have to take more time to do this sort of thing, walk, and think. Though, it depressed him.

Here he was, fifty-some years old, and still unmarried. Still going home to a bachelor pad and his own crappy excuses for cooking when he couldn't work up the will to haul himself out for a meal in a restaurant. He supposed that was his own fault. He was a stubborn sort of guy, and once he decided to go and do something stupid like fall in love, there was no helping him.

Many, many times, she'd told him that he was an idiot. If he didn't have his head attached, he'd lose it. If it weren't for her, then he'd never learn anything new, he'd flail, he'd flop, he'd fail.

That was true, somewhat.

He'd never managed to learn to fall out of love. After all, he was trying to go that one alone.

Fifty-some years, and he still hadn't been able to teach himself that one simple, essential thing that would make his life so much easier. Just don't love her. Just marry someone else before you're too old, buddy, just pick someone and have some kids. Too bad he was such a stupid, romantic old fool.

Too bad he wanted to marry for love.

Too bad she wouldn't ever love him.

Oh well. It wasn't like he could have kids with the old she-bitch anyway. If she hadn't gone through menopause yet, then she was doing through it now. He needed kids. He'd be a good dad if he ever got the chance. Problem was, he wanted her kids, wanted her to have his kids, and now that was just impossible, wasn't it?

He hadn't been watching where he was going, and he'd stepped on a prickly seashell. Damn, but that had hurt. If she had been with him, walking alongside him, she would have made fun of him and bitched him out for making her waste her precious chakra healing him.

But she would've done it, even though he would have bitched right back at her, and they would have kept on walking, side by side, enjoying the view, the water, the mood.

She had better things to do, though. Responsibilities and the like that, admittedly, he'd roped her into. Why had he done that, anyway? She was capable, that he knew. He wouldn't have volunteered someone that wasn't worthy of the position. Perhaps a small part of him had wanted to ground her, to keep her in a place where he would always know he could come back and find her. It made it that much easier to walk by and peek in, and see her sleeping with her cheek propped up on her hand, papers stacked to the ceiling, that familiar pout puckering her lips while she slept.

If he'd let her carry on doing whatever she wanted, he wouldn't be able to do that. He'd be left chasing after someone else, and always wondering what she was doing, if she was okay, why she never kept in touch.

Love made people pathetic, he'd come to realize. He was probably the most pathetic of them all. After all, who else pined after one damn woman for fifty years when they could have nearly anyone else they wanted? It was ridiculous, laughable, stupid.

Only, he didn't feel like laughing about it, not tonight.

Sunsets were funny things. He liked them, liked them a lot, but tonight, he didn't appreciate this one. It was yellow and orange, vibrant and alive, and all he could bring himself to do was stare at his feet as he walked. It was such a waste, really. When was he going to have the time to walk along the water and watch a sunset like this again?

It didn't really matter, he supposed. It was time he turned in anyway. There was someone he had to see before he went to bed, and she certainly wasn't going to come running to him. Not unless he managed to sneak in and peep on her in the bath, which if his calculations were correct, she wasn't going to head to for another seven minutes.

It was definitely time to turn in. No matter how many times he liked to tell her that she was a nasty old wench, that she was ugly, and all manner of insults, he never really meant it. What he really meant to say, even though it never came out quite right, even though there was no human on the planet who could possibly derive it from what he said...

What he really wanted to say to her, always, when he saw her...

Well, it was his best kept secret.