Chapter 27: Carpe Diem
AN: I know this may come as a bit of a surprise, but this is the last chapter. I simply don't have the inspiration or interest to come up with another small arc for this, and I'm confident this is the right place to end. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed; you've definitely helped me improve along the way, and I've made some good friends too. I had mentioned a sequel (that wouldn't really be a sequel now, so much as a 'what if' scenario of a mini-fic), and if I have time, it might see the light of day, but probably not.
As usual, all original poetry is mine. Enjoy!
slipping and sliding through
(over my skin and
almost blinding but
my eyes flitter (flutter)
to this new light.
and a sort of warmth
in hues and tones
cup in my hands
– brimming –
and hope it never spills.
"It's about time you got up."
The sound of coffee dripping sharply from the filter filled the kitchen, along with the sound of Itachi's rapid pen scrawls. Sasuke wiped a bit of dust from the corner of his eye, trying to blink the image clear, details having become hazy and almost alike to liquid in the morning light pouring in the window over the sink. There were pieces of paper and textbooks spread out over the kitchen counter still; Itachi had been working there when Sasuke had gotten home the night before and appeared to have been working there for the majority of the night.
"What time is it?" the younger mumbled.
"Almost noon," Itachi told him, frantically flipping through a textbook. "Want some coffee? I think it's about done…"
The exchange was short – quiet and perhaps cautious – but not in the least empty. It was comfortable, welcoming in its own quiet way. It suited them somewhat, much better than the bitter shouting matches and overwhelming barrages of silence ever did, at least. Itachi watched Sasuke from the corner of his eye as he stumbled towards the coffee maker. Some days, he was still a bit surprised that Sasuke ever spoke to him at all after years of acrimony between them.
"Hey, you wan' some?" Sasuke asked, his speech still handicapped by lethargy.
Itachi shook his head. "I'm fine."
Mug pressed between his hands, Sasuke leaned forwards over the sink (still cluttered with unwashed dishes) to rest his elbows on the edge of the windowsill. He sipped his drink slowly, looking out over the streets just five storeys below him. It was the first Sunday in May, now. All the snow had melted a few weeks earlier to give way to the cool spring weather typical of Konoha, though the sun was strong and balanced out the breezes and gentle rain-showers. Grass had turned from a dull yellow to a fresh and vibrant green, while small leaves were dressing the previously bare branches of the small trees lining the streets. Spring had taken over completely.
"I was…," Sasuke started, but paused before beginning again. His fingernails tapped against his mug restlessly. "Is it alright if Naruto comes over a bit later?"
"Sure," said Itachi. "I'll probably be working on my essay for most of the day… oh, well Kisame and I are going out later, but… yeah, that'll be fine."
Sasuke nodded, and it was left at that. Itachi had no mind to ask for anything for than what Sasuke had given him, not wanting to accidentally push beyond the sketchy boundaries set in place between them despite his curiosity surrounding his brother's relationships with the blonde. For a long time, Sasuke hadn't mentioned him at all, but a week ago, it seemed that things had suddenly returned to the way they were before between the two.
And twice now, Itachi had caught Sasuke smiling to himself. But he knew better than to say anything.
Halfway across the city, another set of siblings were enjoying the renewed spirit and ease offered by spring. A pair of slim legs – skin unveiled by a baggy pair of denim shorts – hung down from a low-hanging tree branch of the small park, the majority of the owner's body obscured by leaves and branches unless one looked up from underneath, as her brothers were doing, in which case you could see Temari quite clearly.
"Sure takes a long time to get warm here," Kankurou muttered, glancing at Gaara, who leaned against the dark wooded tree-trunk. Kaleidoscope patterns of light and shadow covered his form, odd shapes cast by the leaves above. His alabaster eyelids had fallen closed, and his head was tilted a little to the side as if he had fallen asleep there, pieces hair swept messily over his forehead by the wind.
"Aren't you cold?"
Gaara's statuesque appearance broke for a second as his eyes flickered open and he shrugged nonchalantly in response.
"Don't be a wimp, Kankurou," Temari's voice came teasingly from above them.
Kankurou scowled. "I'm not a wimp. It's just a Hell of a lot warmer in Suna this time of year."
"I'd rather be here than there," Gaara put in (slightly bitter, a staccato cadence) and his siblings were silent in their agreement. It seemed, sometimes, that an incredibly long time had passed since they first moved to Konoha – though truly it wasn't even a year yet – but even so, traces of their life in Suna would always remain; small, persistent habits and memories that they knew would always remain. However, time was constantly moving forward and would continue on, regardless of whether they wanted it to or not. It did feel strange to think about it; the people they had been and the people they were now, and the gaping distances in between the two, but most changes had ultimately been for the best. None of them could imagine life any other way.
"What time is it?" the redhead asked aloud then, hints of concern peppering his tone.
"Don't worry," Kankurou commented, dismissing his brother's small anxiety. "There's still about five minutes until your boyfriend's supposed to come, so he's not late yet. But hey, speaking of boyfriends…"
He tilted his head back to look up at what he could see of Temari, raising his eyebrows.
She glared right back down at him, hands gripping the branch she sat upon tightly in case she were to lose her balance. "Whatever you're going to ask about Shikamaru, Kankurou, it's none of your business."
"Who said I was going to ask about you? Jeez, self-centered much?" Kankurou shot back. "But hey, I was just wondering how your little double-date thing went last night. And how are Tayuya and Kimimaro doing? I never see them anymore."
A jovial smile spread over Temari's face, though she quickly stifled it.
"It went okay, I guess," she answered. She fixed her grip on the branch and in one quick motion, let herself slide off the branch so that she hung in mid-air, swinging back in forth.
"I mean, Tayuya and Shikamaru pick fights with each other sometimes, but I think they get along okay," she said, adjusting her grip. "And Kimimaro is… well, he's doing alright. His aunt's got him on the best meds they can afford – which are pretty good – and you should see Tayuya…" Temari laughed quietly to herself. "She's gotten really protective of him, and insists on disinfecting everything for him."
"You know, I only ever really got the gist of the situation from Ukon… the sickness and all," said Kankurou. "How did those two get back together again anyways? I thought she was completely pissed."
"Well, you know how impulsive Tayuya can be. One day last month she just got the idea in her head that there no point in moping over it and being angry with him when she had limited time left to spend with him, so she dragged him out for lunch one day. Might as well make the best of the situation, right? Besides," Temari's expression grew slightly wistful, "he didn't get… that sickness behind her back while they were dating. Kimimaro swore that he only cheated on her that one time, and never again."
"I'm guessing you think that's romantic?" Kankurou remarked, ducking as Temari threw one of her legs forward in attempt to kick him.
"Shut up, Kankurou!"
"You and your silly girl poetry nonsense…" he muttered.
Temari ignored him this time, the muscles in her hands sore and close to reach their breaking point as she released her fingers and let gravity suck her back down to earth. A little unsteady in her landing, she soon righted herself and had commenced shaking out her hands to try to rid them of cramps when an approaching figure caught her eye.
"Hey, Gaara," she called to the inattentive redhead. "Neji's here."
Her brother perked up at once. His posture quickly corrected itself, as his body had settled into a slump against the tree while he was drifting in and out of thought.
And indeed, he could see the Hyuuga's figure stepping off the sidewalk and onto the grass, hands casually placed in the pockets of his jeans. Per usual, his hair was tied back at the nape of neck to hang freely down his back, and Gaara could see a camera dangling from thin black straps about his neck, swaying back and forth against his chest as he moved. Neji's pale eyes darted up from the ground, quickly finding and meeting Gaara's own (a small jolt ran through him from the contact, delightfully), and he gave a short nod in greeting.
"Well?" Temari asked, observing her youngest brother's expression with an amused grin. "Don't just sit here; go to him!"
A subtle tint of rose ran across Gaara's cheeks, but he lifted himself to his feet anyways and took Temari's advice. He tried not to walk too fast, but he couldn't help it; he wanted to rush forwards, to move as quickly as he could towards Neji. As they drew closer (and closer, and closer), the feeling only became stronger and more insistent, until finally Gaara felt Neji's arms close around his body in greeting, one arm looping under Gaara's arm to find his back while the other closed around his slender shoulders.
warmth and warmth.
"Hey," Neji said in greeting, tilting his neck downwards a little, so that his mouth was very near to Gaara's ear (so near, yes, that his breath grazed Gaara's scalp; a familiar sensation, and a most welcome one at that). He withdrew a little, but the redhead realized almost immediately this was to allow room for a kiss. He let his eyes close trustingly, his lack of sight giving a small boost to his other senses. Touch became almost electrically sweet as he felt Neji's lips grace his own, pressing in strongly as if to confirm (though by this time, they both knew well just how real it was).
Gaara knew people could see – his brother and sister, of course, but also the young mother of two that was watching her children takes turns on the slide and the older man out gardening on the lawn of the house closest to them. However, it just didn't matter anymore. Any uncertainties had, for the most part, past him by and been abandoned. Let them stare, if they wanted. Let them hate him for who he was and what he did, if they so wished. He simply couldn't find any reason to care now, and was sure to return the bitter stares he caught with one of his own.
will always be doubts,
and nightmares to shackle us,
pull us down to tear at
and choke us.
And it felt (unsurprisingly) refreshing and satisfying to have that confidence. Though he did still slip – and he knew he always would; it was one of those stains, you see, that would never quite leave but could be worked around if you tried – he was always able to recover, and come out of his bouts of depression. Besides, Neji had gotten rather good at snapping him out of them.
those figments and thoughts
can't hurt you.
Not unless you let them.
There was also the fact that Neji himself was now completely free of any sort of drug addiction. It had taken a while, but he had managed to stop relying on it when he wanted to numb himself from anything plaguing his mind. He had become a little shut off about it though, often dodging the conversation topic with even Gaara and getting somewhat agitated if the subject was so much as mentioned. Although it was to be expected, as Gaara could tell Neji felt a certain amount of shame concerning the recklessness and naivety of his younger self.
we move on;
as we need to,
as we must.
A cool spring breeze filled the space between them as they parted temporarily. The sense of togetherness (trust and all those fine words – though so much more than words) did not leave them, though, hanging around them just as thickly as ever. Together, yes, two souls shared. It was together that they were moving forwards, growing and changing, becoming stronger and more capable by the day. Mistakes are a trademark of the young, after all.
the past (and pain);
life will carry us on,
turning around and around
a carousel, shining.
Behind him, Gaara could hear vaguely the sound of Temari's voice, lilting and hovering jubilantly in the air. Whether words or laughter he couldn't distinguish. No, his eyes were focused apprehensively on the lens of Neji's camera as he pulled Gaara close again and raised it with one hand. The sun was marvellous that day, casting long strips of brightness over everything.
the world is alive with colour
and your face
of brilliant light.
"One would think," Gaara mumbled. "That you would have enough pictures of me by now…"
Neji's lips just twitched in vagueness of a grin, and the shutter snapped to capture their images as light created them. A moment memorized, and maintained forever. Even when the photograph would fade and distort with time, in their minds it would be just as vivid as that day. A keepsake, so they wouldn't forget. It was scary to think sometimes, that the moment you just lived through might slip to the back of your mind and be forgotten, and perhaps never retrieved. But this they would keep, yes, they would keep as many of them as they could, each one reminding them just why they were still living.
what is your life
if you are not living it?
Or letting it rot and decay,
and giving up your opportunities?
Is there any point to that?
All in one moment that was theirs, and theirs alone.
while you still have it.
Gaara let his cheek press to the curve of Neji's defined neck, fearlessly.
"I do love you. You know that, right?"