Disclaimer: These characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto ©. The fanfiction belongs to me.
Warning: Yaoi, if this isn't your cup of tea, please by all means, turn back. Flamers are retards, encompassing a really low IQ equivalent that that of a glass of water… less, in fact. The back button exists because Microsoft happened to realize the need for it for specific people.
Fandom: Naruto (manga-verse)
Pairing: Naruto x Sasuke
Summary: Everyone has their own secret garden. It's this garden of dreams that keep hopes going, no matter how bitter things become. Likewise, Sasuke has his own garden; his hopes and dreams buried there—cue in Naruto to unearth it!
Note: Right, slice of angst. :D
The skies were blue that summer day. Everything was vivid and washed by the sun, the foliage a striking green in the fields and patches that littered the village. Naruto might not seem the gardener type, but he did grow one or two types of plants in the small balcony of his apartment. In one pot was a large sunflower, brightly overlooking the village scenery, and in a small trough sprouted a bunch of hydrangeas. They were tinted a light blue, rather like robin's eggs.
So yeah, Naruto did have this soft-spot nature-guy attitude thing going on. Not like he was ever going to admit it, but the blond was tender to his plants. Must be all that Iruka-sensei rubbing off on him.
"Good morning, sunshine!" Naruto grinned at his happy sunflower. He patted the sunflower head as he watered the plant. "And good morning, sky!"
That was for his hydrangeas.
So maybe it was obvious—the others who had been at Naruto's place all noted one thing: the colors of his plants. Of course, the sunshine and sky thing did make sense, but didn't the colors remind them all of two very popular individuals they knew? Sakura had poked the blond to probe for more information, as did Lee, who gave his characteristic blinding smile. Kiba had cracked up, Ino had smacked him hard, and Shikamaru simply couldn't be bothered by something so troublesome.
"Don't be idiots," Naruto had scoffed at them. "Who in hell would wanna think about that bastard while tending to his plants all summer?"
If only he was right. Because he wasn't.
Naruto did think about that bastard. A little too often for his liking too. There was also this one time when he patted the hydrangeas and told them to be happy and not keep secrets from him. Man, was that twisted or what.
Naruto smacked his forehead. He was doomed.
The blond wasn't too much of a thinker. He acted on feelings and whim. He never meant to hurt anyone (of course there were exceptions for bad guys, enemies and attackers) either. It was initially a simple thing. Naruto liked Sasuke. And Sasuke… well… was a tight-assed, stoic, poker-faced jerk. That complicated things and left Naruto stumped. As mentioned before, Naruto wasn't very much of a thinker. In short, he liked Sasuke but couldn't do, and daren't do, anything about it. Sasuke might castrate him. And if there was something Naruto loved more than ramen or becoming a Hokage, they were his balls.
The most he could muster in an effort to show his friend his feelings without losing said beloved balls was, "Oi, jerk, your ramen's getting cold."
And that was it. It was the end of the line for Naruto. No shit.
He so needed to confide in somebody. And that somebody being none other than the understanding Iruka-sensei.
And so, Naruto got up, patted his plants for the last time, downed some milk, and left his home.
Sasuke looked at the unkempt back garden of his old home. Everything had remained the same since the day he left it; it was just overgrown. Over there was the swing he used to sit in with his mother, and occasionally his brother had accompanied him.
He sighed. He didn't understand.
It was looking back at his old garden when he felt that he didn't hate Itachi so much; or the world so much, for that matter. As far as he recalled, Itachi had been very kind towards him. His eyes sparkled with genuine love then. The only hatred and anger his elder brother had ever showed was towards his father, his parents, the council, and the rest of the clan. He never showed any of it to Sasuke.
Not even on the day he slaughtered his kinsmen.
Sasuke sat himself languidly on the swing. It creaked as it was rusty and not oiled at the joints, but still stable. Vines from the nearby asagao were creeping up on the swing and barring a lot of movement.
"—and someday kill—"
He leaned his head against the left chain that held the seat up. Eyes trailing over the small expanse of grass, weeds and choked flowers, Sasuke rocked the swing. It was quiet in the area, the chatter no longer heard for years.
This was his garden, the secret garden he still visited when times were hardest. He had a lot of things to sort out. It had only been revenge till then, but something had changed as time passed. First, Sasuke had been added to a team of people whom he thought were retards. Truth to be told, he'd initially thought his teacher was a retard who couldn't avoid a simple eraser prank. But they'd all proved him wrong. Sasuke learnt friendship and courtesy, and even when he was gruff he never really showed real apathy. He didn't even growl or ignore his fans anymore. In fact, he even nodded to them silently to acknowledge their presence.
Things did change no matter what Sasuke tried to do to stop it. Withdraw, fight, kill and maim enemies, argue, bicker, spat, ignore… it never really worked anymore. Sometimes Sasuke liked to remind himself that he still had a goal and an objective, but it remained empty.
He needed to think this out… one, his goals. And two…
Sasuke nibbled his lip.
"SENSEI!" Naruto banged his fists hard on the front door.
"Coming, coming!" the blond heard the reply. Curious, he stuck his ear to the door. There were a lot of scattering noises of items tossed around, exclamations made by Iruka and some other unknown person, sound of a door slamming shut, before the front door was opened to him and Iruka poked his head out to greet his favorite former student. "Oh, sorry about that. Do come in! And uh, sorry about the mess."
"S'okay," Naruto grinned. "Mine's worse than a tornado-hit district anyway."
"Umm," Iruka bit back a laugh. "So, what brings you here?"
"I need this talk fathers give their sons… I mean; you don't mind, right, sensei? I mean I don't have anyone to go to, and—"
"Of course I don't mind!" Iruka said enthusiastically. He liked it when Naruto confided in him or asked for directions in life. Naruto was his little boy, and as far as he was concerned, nothing mattered more than that. "What do you want to talk about, Naruto?"
"The whole village already knows, Iruka-sensei," Naruto chuckled. "Honestly, I don't mind. I just hate it when our conversation's overheard and not open like it should be… I'm also Kakashi-sensei's student, aren't I?"
"Well, he left. Through a window." He still held a look of embarrassment on his face.
"Spare me the details," the blond waved a hand. He casually plopped onto a chair and draped his arms on the table. "Sensei… what do you think about Sasuke?"
"Hmm," Iruka joined his student at the table. "I can't say much… he's a good, intelligent boy, just very quiet and seemingly depressed. Why, did you get into a fight with him? You two are always fighting."
"We were, but it isn't like that anymore," Naruto said. "I mean, yeah, we still do exchange a few punches, but it's… not the same. I'm holding back a lot of my energy now, when I know I've got that stamina to just go on. But it isn't about fighting… it's about upping him. I'm still trying to up him, but the feeling's different."
There was a short silence as Naruto let the words sink in for his former teacher.
"How so?" Iruka ruffled his hair. "You don't hate him, do you?"
"It's the exact opposite, which is what I'm worried about. It's just… well. Weird. I'm trying to up him, and he hates that. But I'm upping him because I don't wanna be protected or called weak anymore, least of all by Sasuke. I mean, like, yeah. May sound weird to you, Iruka-sensei, but…" he took a deep breath. "What would you think, or say, if I told you that I want to protect Sasuke the way I want to protect Sakura-chan, and you?"
"I'd say you've grown up into a very good young man, Naruto, for loving us all like that," Iruka felt tears forming in his eyes. Naruto was such a compassionate child. If only the village could see what a prized individual he'd grown into.
"I guess… but sensei…" Naruto trailed off. "It's a different way with him.
"I'm trapped. I don't know what to do."
The silence set in once again.
"Are you in love, Naruto?" the hand fell from his golden hair to pat his back soothingly.
"Yes, sensei. And very much so."
Iruka sighed. Naruto was a very honest being who spoke his feelings out loud. He figured that it must be hard for Naruto to express himself to the silent Sasuke, and therefore felt trapped, as he had put it. Sasuke usually brushed off confessions like water rolled off a duck's back. He tended to avoid it like a plague. And if those pretty girls had failed, where did it leave his loudmouthed, careless rival?
"…Should visit the Uchiha residence," Kakashi finished his sentence. He grinned as the two jumped, turning to meet his eye. He lifted a hand in salute, his one visible eye crinkling up good-naturedly. "Yo."
"Aww… and not snuggle-bunny anymore?" Kakashi sounded vaguely disappointed. "Anyway, Naruto, I overheard your conversation. Was too lazy to join in, and decided to read my book instead. But then it got interesting."
"Is that the way to thank me after I gave you some hints?" Kakashi laughed. "Sasuke's at his old home… I think he still is. I don't know, but he seemed to move off in general direction of it this afternoon. If there's one thing an Uchiha is, it's loyal and sentimental to old stuff. Sasuke's probably around, and I think it's your best shot at getting him to realize you care for him."
"Liar," Naruto grinned his thanks.
"My pleasure," Kakashi bowed graciously. Naruto headed to the door, before Iruka stopped him. He patted him on his shoulder, smiling encouragingly.
"Naruto, remember that your feelings are a very important thing for anyone to even think of rejecting them. You're a very special person, and I know that you won't give up."
"Thanks, Iruka-sensei," Naruto gave his former teacher a hug, and left. As he walked down the dirt road the thought a little of the conversation, and how good it felt to let it all out. Maybe Sasuke might feel this way if he had someone to confide in.
He was just about to turn into the Uchiha part of the village when he bumped into Chouji and Shikamaru. Shikamaru lazily waved his hello while Chouji flashed him a bright smile and offered him some chips, which Naruto readily accepted.
"Where're you off to, Naruto?" Chouji asked kindly. "You seem a little distracted."
"Yeah, I do?" Naruto grinned, munching the mouthful of chips.
"He's right," Shikamaru nodded. "What're you doing in these parts anyway? I come here to these quiet parts to take a load off, but I can't see you doing that."
"Me neither. No one's a better slacker than you are, anyway," the blond teased. Shikamaru rolled his eyes in mock irritation, but he couldn't care less about that remark.
"If there ain't anything else, we'll be on our way now."
"Right," Chouji nodded, and smiled his good-natured smile again. "Good luck, Naruto! In whatever you're doing."
"Thanks," Naruto laughed as he walked away. "And bye!"
Evening was setting in. The old, unoccupied houses of the Uchiha were cast with the golden light of the summer sunset, the shadows playing on the grown. Around crickets were beginning to chirp, and Naruto whistled to the imaginary tune he believed the insects to be humming to. He made his way to the old house he knew the family lived in before Sasuke moved out, as he had explored the places before in his little childhood adventures. At that time the children had stories going on about the houses being haunted by the slain Uchiha, and that the murderous Itachi would appear as a specter and ask three questions; and if you failed one, he'd kill you in your sleep. Naruto had proved the other children wrong. But it still freaked most of them out and they hardly ever went there, save some older ninja, like Shikamaru, who loved the peace and quiet there.
And Sasuke of course. No one knew why he went there, but it was common knowledge that that was where he'd disappear to sometimes.
Naruto stopped at the front door. Around the small path was an unkempt lawn, but Sasuke was nowhere to be seen. Stealthily the blond jumped onto the roof and proceeded to the backyard. He held his breath as there he saw Sasuke, leaning against one of the chains of the old swing in his deserted home.
Sasuke started and fell off the swing.
"Hey, you let your guard down," Naruto grinned. He hopped onto the ground from his perch. "So this is where you went to… I figured you might be here instead of the lawn up front."
"You were looking for me?" the raven haired boy seemed surprised. "Whatever for?"
"Uh… well… I just had some things to share with you, if you don't mind," Naruto's whiskers twitched involuntarily. "Look here, can I like, sit down somewhere or something?"
Sasuke grunted as he pushed one of the paper doors open to allow them to lounge at the edge of the main hall which was connected to the backyard. The dark haired boy didn't say that this was where he and his big brother used to sit and watch the sunset together, but his lips twitched a little at the thought of sharing the sunset with Naruto.
"Glorious sunset, eh?" Naruto grinned.
"Sasuke… do you… feel sad when you come here?"
"No… not really."
Wow, that was unexpected, even to Naruto. The blond looked hard at the other boy, drinking in his pale skin and dark eyes. Unconsciously, he licked his lips, readying himself for another Q and A session. Before he was cut off, that is.
"I come here to sort things out, to think. To remind myself of who I used to me, and who I must become."
The two boys shared a strangely comfortable silence and the words sank into Naruto's heart and understanding.
"…you weren't always like this, were you?"
Sasuke looked at his hands. "I don't know. Was I ever like this?"
"You mean an egoistic bastard? Maybe," Naruto patted his back. "Sasuke… have you ever thought about… well, us? I mean, me, Kakashi-sensei and Sakura-chan?"
The boy kept silent. Naruto had already given up hope of getting an answer.
"Yes? Like, you really, really mean it?" Naruto grabbed hold of Sasuke's collar. "I mean, if you are, you need to know we think about you too! I'm sure Sakura-chan does… don't know about the pervert, but I do!"
"Sasuke, you—I…" Naruto stopped short, trailing off. "Do you hate me? Like the other villagers do? Or maybe just in your own way?"
"Dobe, isn't it obvious?"
Naruto heaved a sigh, letting go of his friend's shirt.
"Isn't it obvious that you're not a detestable person?"
"No one can hate you, Naruto, no matter how stupid you are, how dimwitted and how annoying you are sometimes," Sasuke smiled down at his hands, for the first time a genuine one. His long, dark lashes shadowed his eyes. "I know I don't."
The air sat still as Naruto took a deep breath to digest the words. So…?
"Yeah… I'm glad you don't hate me, Sasuke. I wouldn't know what I'd do if you did. I mean yeah, you're my rival and all, but… I guess what I wanted to say is that… I like you, you bastard. You're not very detestable yourself, either. I… I can't help liking you. Man, this sounds so bizarre."
Sasuke kept silent as he regarded the blond under the dimming sunlight. "Naruto, I…
I came here to sort out two things. One was my goal… to seek revenge and revive my clan. And two… two being…" he could say no more, biting his lip and looking away.
"You can tell me, Sasuke. I'll try to help you, the best I can," the blond offered generously. In fact, he knew he would.
"Two being… the possibility of me being the last remaining Uchiha… and to die the last Uchiha."
"What the— why?"
"…Because I can't love any other girl the way I loved someone I always had before."
"I don't get it," Naruto sounded serious, but the look on his face with the twitching whiskers was comical. Sasuke shook his head, flashing a brief, small smile as he changed the subject.
"There's a body of water near here, and every summer there're fireflies there. They've multiplied now that nobody lives here. I bet you want to see them, don't you?"
"No shit?" Naruto jumped to his feet. "Let's get going!"
Sasuke got up and led the way to the tiny pond. There was some thick undergrowth there that silhouetted the otherwise barren, sandy land as the last rays of the sun disappeared beneath the horizon. It was night, but no light shone out of the deserted houses of the lost clan. But it suited them, for Sasuke knew that fireflies preferred to come out in absolute darkness. "Shh… sit here quietly… they'll be coming out soon."
"Right." Naruto waited, looking for all in the world like an enthusiastic baby fox. Sasuke bit back a laugh.
The fireflies were indeed beginning to emerge from the undergrowth, twinkling like bright little stars. They did their mating dance, the signals over the dark, hovering around the boys and illuminating the dark. Naruto watched in wonder, while Sasuke watched the blond enjoy the view. The dark haired boy started a little as he felt a warm hand creeping over his, but he didn't remove it either. He looked away, into the night sky filled with fireflies, blowing a silent whisper into the still air that never was heard by the blond, or anyone else.
"Someday you'll understand."
Monday, September 12, 2005, 5:38 PM