Disclaimer and Warning: I don't own anything (including the mentions of other brands). This fanfiction is rated M for a reason. Full warnings at the prologue chapter :) things in parentheses () are not author's notes.
: Much love and thanks to luzopi for the beta and the suggestions! :3
: Okay, it's been a really long while since I last updated this or any of my other fics. Too caught up with school and real-life and work! :P Also, new fandoms have caught my eye (though SasuNaru shall remain as my OTP4eva LOL) KandaAllen from D.Gray Man, in particular, reminds me of SasuNaru somehow. TieriaSetsuna has also become dear to me :3 And of course, following Code Geass R2 has become an addiction XD;; Okay. Enough babbling! (As if I don't do this enough on my LJ).
I sincerely hope that whatever "writing skills" I had before are still present. D: Large flashback scenes are in italics :D
This chapter
: Focuses more on finishing up this arc and moving on to the next arc/subplot XD NejiHina, InoSaku and ItaSasu (?!) hints, aside from the usual dosage of SasuNaru. Other side-pairings as well. A bit fast-paced, but the previous chapters were rather slow, so this would be a fast one :p

Last Chapter, an accident caused Sasuke to steal his son's first kiss, while a plan-gone-haywire by Sakura caused them to kiss a second time. Will those kisses bring the two of them together? Or will those experiences help in driving them apart?

Each of them has a dream, but not everyone's dreams can be fulfilled.

Sasuke's dream of becoming freed from his loneliness, Itachi's dream of making his beloved brother happy, Sakura's dream of catching her first love, Naruto's dream of—

He kissed the Dark Prince.

Everything was a blur after that.

The last thing Naruto saw before the lights went out, was the surprised expression on the Dark Prince's face. It was understandable though, since the two of them were practically strangers, and if their previous encounter was any basis, their personalities would surely clash.

Naruto admitted to himself that the reason his feet gravitated towards the other male was because he was sharply reminded of his father. Of his loving, caring, very important father—

The whole ballroom was shrouded in darkness for a few moments. Those few seconds however, were all it took for Naruto to lean in close and press his lips firmly to Dark Prince's. In those few moments, the blond remembered his father's face, and promptly pulled back from the kiss he initiated, a mixture of confusion, horror and betrayal displayed upon his usually-friendly visage.

It was ironic that the reason why he gravitated towards the masked man became the reason for him pulling away. Naruto didn't even try to chance a look at the other.

The lights went back on, bright, harsh and glaring. It chased away the darkness in the room; it pushed the shadows back to their corners.

The scene that his classmates saw was thus: the Dark Prince with his pale hand on his lips, expression carefully blank; Hinata, innocent and unknowing about the brief kiss, her eyes confusedly staring at her date; Naruto, with his hands shaking slightly, as he stood rigidly an arm's width away from the Dark Prince.

Nobody mentioned anything about the awkwardness that hung in the air. Nobody mentioned anything about how the host's lips curled into a disgusted sneer beneath her extravagant pink mask. Nobody mentioned anything, because they were unaware of what had happened.

And so, the party continued on, with the emcee cheerfully proclaiming the dance floor open for anyone, for any couple, to enjoy the night.

With the inviting lull of the music playing in the background, Naruto deeply sighed, before pasting a painfully fake smile on his face, apologizing to his date profusely, and walking away from the party, and from the Dark Prince.

Daddy Sasuke : Chapter Seven

Fairytales of Dreamers

Hyuuga Hinata leaned against the balcony railing of the hall their school had rented for the event. Every inch of her was dressed like those fairy tale princesses in fantasy stories: her hair pulled back in an artistically-messy bun, with curled wisps of hair escaping from the bun to frame her feminine face prettily; her pale skin glowing ethereally as it contrasted against her silky navy blue dress; her face painted lightly with dull pink, making her seem like she was blushing, but not too heavily.

Her soft looks, her demure personality, and her status as the heiress of the Hyuuga Clan all made her a dream of many boys in her school. With the way things progressed earlier, however, it seemed that she was the dream of many—but not the one she liked.

She knew that there was something different with Naruto-kun when he asked her out. It was not like he seemed forced into it by a dare or by his classmates' teasing—it was more like he was forcing himself.

But Hinata believed in the blond and his words and she accepted. She accepted despite Neji's calm words of disagreement. Neji had told her that she should have asked Naruto for his reasons for asking her out. Hinata didn't heed Neji's words, because she was not ready for Naruto-kun's answer.

She sighed deeply, feeling a headache forming beneath her closed eyes. She could still hear the music, however faint, and the shy laughter and joyful words of those enjoying the party inside. She sighed again, hoping to chase the headache and those sounds away.

Hinata was too deep in her thoughts, eyes closed and lips pressed into a thin-if not contemplative-line. She didn't notice the firm footsteps that came towards her; she was only jolted back by the warm hand that briefly tapped her bare shoulder. She whirled around, her heart beating loudly and fervently hoping that it was Naruto-kun.

Her eyes widened slightly as she took in the sight of the other. It was not Naruto. Instead, it was Neji, holding out his blazer and gently placing it around Hinata's shoulders. Hinata smiled at her cousin, thankful that he was here with her. Even though she knew that Neji hated her on some level, Neji still accepted the not-so-subtly proposed job of being her bodyguard-of-sorts.

She wondered briefly if Neji was similar to Naruto—a person that she looked up to, but doesn't share her sentiments. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, clearing her throat and asking softly whether Neji is enjoying the party.

It was a dismal attempt at small talk, but she fervently hoped that Neji would—

Neji leaned back against the balcony railing, posture relaxing slightly. Hinata bit back her words—words that would chase Neji away. It was a conflict of feelings—she wanted someone to be there for her as she despaired over her date's disappearance; on the other hand, Neji was the last person that she would want to be there to see her misery.

Her cousin did not speak, did not make any movement, seemingly content with just being there, seemingly unaware that he was making Hinata fidget.

In the end, it was Hinata who broke the silence that stretched between them. Hinata returned to her previous position, hands hugging the warm blazer closer to herself. Her fingers trembled. "I always do s-stupid things," She started, voice breaking at the end. "And everyone else… they d-don't do stupid things. And they leave m-me behind."

Hinata thought that Neji would just stay silent and listen to her words. A part of her wants Neji to comfort her, soothe her. A part of her also wants Neji to contradict her words, tell her that she was being silly and that Naruto-kun has more pressing reasons why he suddenly left, why he felt distant, why he does not love her the way she loves him.

"Yes," Neji spoke, voice firm but without any hint of taunting, "you do stupid things," A brief pause, and Hinata could almost hear the superior smirk decorating those lips, "all the time."

Red-painted lips parted in surprise. While she knew Neji and gentleness did not go well together, she had been hoping that her cousin would be more understanding of the situation. She was about to make an uncharacteristic retort about Neji supposedly comforting and not insulting her, but Neji turned to her, lavender eyes sending a shiver down her spine.

She hated it, when Neji looked at her like that. It was unnerving, uncomfortable, and just—strange. Neji shrugged and went on to continue. "But there are people—your friends, mostly—who also do stupid things along with you."

"Are you insulting Shino-kun and Kiba-kun—" She started, despite the fact that Neji was still staring intently at her.

Neji then turned away from her, walking slowly towards the ballroom hall. "And then," His voice had a nostalgic tone in it. "And then, there are people who go ahead, but wait for you anyway."

Hinata blinked, caught off-guard by those words.

Are you waiting for me, Naruto-kun?

Neji held out a hand. Hinata's heart thudded inside her chest.

"Let's go home, Hinata-sama," Neji said, his hand still held out for her.

Hinata held on to Neji's hand, feeling the comforting warmth. Her heart continued to beat faster.

"Neji-niisan—" He isn't Naruto.

"Let's go."

Will you still be there waiting? Have you ever waited for me, Naruto-kun?

"Okay, Neji-niisan."

Sasuke mindlessly stumbled to his bedroom. His movements felt mechanical and detached. If it were only up to him, he wanted to just collapse onto his comfortable bed, sleep and never wake up. All the lights were switched off, filling the house with complete darkness.

The mask and the suit were haphazardly bundled and left in the backseat of his car. He made a mental note to take it out before he drove Naruto to school tomorrow.


As soon as Sasuke reached the bed, he heard the sound of his bedside lamp being switched open. A soft glow spread inside his bedroom, revealing Itachi's presence. His arms were crossed and his face was set to an unreadable mask.

Sasuke didn't want to talk to his brother -or to anyone else, for that matter- at this moment. He felt at a loss—he knew that going to the masquerade was risky, but it was like he was only realizing a lot of things now. What did he plan to achieve, by going to Naruto's prom? It felt like he only made the situation more complicated by attending the masquerade party.

"Naruto-kun returned two hours ago," His older brother informed him, voice carefully blank.

Sasuke nodded numbly, before a sudden panic seized him. "What did you—"

"I told him you had a company emergency—and that's why you weren't around," Itachi hesitated for a brief moment, "He was looking for you."

Sasuke wanted to ask some more questions. Was Naruto crying? Was he upset? Was he suspicious of Itachi's lie? But Sasuke could not find the words to inquire about his son's well-being. Thankfully, Itachi appeared to have not lost his uncanny ability of reading Sasuke's mind.

"He looked frustrated when he arrived. It seems that he used a taxi to return." Itachi's report of the events sounded mechanical, but it answered Sasuke's foremost concerns. "I think you should leave him be for now, because he might recognize you," He continued, unfolding his arms and walking towards his brother. Sasuke shuddered, from the blast of air-conditioning or from—

Itachi's hands, reliable and capable, held Sasuke's shoulders firmly. It was then that Sasuke realized he's trembling, thanks to the mixture of emotions and thoughts that are whirling incessantly inside his mind.

It was an awkward hug, but Itachi was warm and solid against the cold air of his room, against the problems that plagued him from before, against the consequences of his actions and decisions.

And at that moment, enfolded in Itachi's embrace, Sasuke stopped trembling.

It has been a few months since Naruto's sophomore year prom, and Sasuke had been doing quite well in trying not to spend too much time with his son. It was partly due to Itachi's help; after all, Itachi cooperated with Sasuke's unspoken request of being piled up with more and more work. Their parents opted to tour the world during their elder years, completely leaving the company's workings to the Uchiha brothers.

Of course, Sasuke still did the acts expected of fathers—he still ate dinner with his son, still kept updated records of his son's report card, still helped out with his son's reviewing, still listened to the concerns brought to him by his son. He restrained himself –or Itachi scolded him if he went too far- from becoming too involved in his son's life. It was a painful process, but it seemed that the prom brought a much-needed wake-up call to Sasuke.

They might not be related by blood, but they were still father and son.

It was hard to accept that, and truthfully, Sasuke still felt that he loves his son, much more than what he should rightfully feel as Naruto's father.

Naruto was a bit taken aback by Sasuke's distance during the first few weeks, but he seemed to have adapted to change without much trouble. Sasuke admired and hated Naruto for that—he became an admirable, independent, responsible man; but he also grew out of his dependence on his father too quickly for Sasuke's liking.

It was during their weekly family dinner that Naruto told Sasuke about the year-end retreat of their high school, specially designed for the seniors who were currently submerged in their preparations for the college entrance exams. It was also the first time Itachi was not present on their family dinner; ever since the prom, Itachi has always appeared for dinner, most probably to keep tabs on his younger brother's behavior towards Naruto.

Sasuke was confident that he could handle this dinner without thinking of any irrational thoughts—and more importantly, he's confident that he would not let himself act on said irrational impulses.

The retreat was supposed to introduce a much needed break for the students, Naruto explained to him over the dinner spent with an empty chair between the two of them. The empty chair was Itachi's seat, but it was already late and they could not wait for Itachi's return.

"It also says that it can put our minds in the correct perspective for our future colleges and careers," Naruto added, looking excited about the prospect of a three-day holiday.

Sasuke paused in his slicing of his steak, recalling his parents' wishes for Naruto to join the Uchiha Corporation. It was a wish that Sasuke supported—and he relayed that to his son. Sasuke detailed their company's standing in the world, adding the fact that Naruto was expected to take over the company as soon as he reached the right age.

"You are an Uchiha heir, Naruto," Sasuke said softly, with his heart still skipping a beat as his lips spoke his son's name.

Naruto dropped his fork, the utensil making a sharp clang against the porcelain plate. He hastily picked it up, muttering a quick apology underneath his breath. Sasuke raised an eyebrow at Naruto's sudden change in mood, but did not comment.

"But I don't want to work in a company," The younger one said with a small voice. Sasuke heard it, but he kept quiet, not knowing the words he could reply with to that sentiment.

"Would you like a drink?" Yamanaka Ino asked her friend, worried but not saying anything yet. Since the masquerade prom that they attended, Sakura has been acting more detached, more lifeless. It worried Ino, because while they might not be the most peaceful set of friends—but Sakura was her most important friend.

Her most important person.

…Not that Sakura knew about that. Or maybe Sakura knew all along—after all, would other friends go along with such devilish plans? Would other friends always be there to comfort Sakura when Sasuke was way too busy with company work, when Sasuke was way too busy with Itachi, with Naruto?

Ino had always been the only one to be there for Sakura no matter what—and it would stay that way.

Sakura shook her head, her pink hair swaying with the motion. The pink strands seem so long now—it has been an awfully long time since she last had a haircut. Ino made a mental note to drag her best friend to the hair salon sometime soon.

"Ino—I just… I don't know what to do anymore."

The blonde sighed heavily and went to sit beside her friend in the living room couch. Ino's penthouse suite was big but it seemed that everything was focused here now, in the living room, focused on Sakura and her pained voice.

Sakura has always been a strong woman—determined, smart, and dedicated. During their elementary school years, being pretty and being the top student were her passions. Sakura had been brought up with the thought of 'if you study something thoroughly enough, it will be easy to obtain'. That philosophy had always worked for her—until high school introduced the devilishly-handsome genius, Uchiha Sasuke.

He was the one person, the one dream, which Sakura could not obtain.

"It has been such a long time," Ino commented, trying –and failing- to remember exactly, the first time the two of them sat down and talked about the plan to lure Sasuke into Sakura's hold. The time that Sakura spent pursuing her first love—it was almost comparable to the time that Ino had spent putting her best friend above anything else.

Despite the tears that are now slowly spilling out her green eyes, Sakura wryly smiled. "I've wanted him for so long." She took a shuddering breath, and Ino couldn't help –didn't want to stop…- but allow her pale arms to surround her friend's form, holding Sakura in a tight, comforting embrace.

"I've chased him for so long—that I've already forgotten the reason why I'm doing all of this—"

Ino felt her eyes prickling with tears. She blinked rapidly, not wanting to break down now because if she broke down, then the two of them would just dissolve into bouts of tears—and that was never a pretty situation.

"You love him," Ino reminded her friend, because if Sakura didn't love Sasuke anymore, then what was the point of all those years? What was the point of interfering with Sasuke's own pursuit of his admittedly strange love for his son? Worse, Ino would start to think—

Sakura stiffened at those words. She didn't make any reply.

"You love him," Ino repeated, trembling despite her mind willing her body to stop being such a drama queen. She was supposed to comfort Sakura, to be the logical one, to be the pillar when Sakura could not think. "Don't you?!"

There was a tiny sniffle coming from Sakura's direction. Ino closed her eyes. She knew that this whole let's-get-Sasuke-kun plan would come to an ugly end, but not like this. She didn't want things to end like this—with Sasuke miserable and Sakura guilt-ridden and hurt.

"I don't know what to do anymore," The pink-haired woman murmured again, this time, more softly against Ino's shoulder.

Sakura has spoken such words before, countless times actually, but for years, the blonde always had an answer, a retort, a plan.

This time, Ino found herself hugging Sakura even tighter, her mind and heart racing but not having any answer.

I don't know anything anymore.

"Even though it's you, you're still a better roommate than some random stranger," Naruto remarked with a cheerful grin, poking Shikamaru in the shoulder. The lazy teen did not even waste his energy batting the blond's annoying poking finger away.

Naruto will always be Naruto, despite his sudden withdrawal into himself for the past few months—and it was proven by the occasional sounds of things being dropped. Unpacking seemed to be one of Naruto's weaker suits.

"Do you think this retreat will be fun?" The blond asked after a couple of minutes. Shikamaru glanced at his friend, taking note of the slouched posture, the uncharacteristic droopiness of his eyes, the tired lines on his face. Shikamaru is a genius -no doubt about it- but he was not exactly well-versed with the delicacies of dealing with depressed teenagers. Especially if the topic was romance. And if Shikamaru's hunch was correct, it involved romantic thoughts about his own foster father.

The blond did not look up from his seat at the edge of his bed, hands busy folding clothes. Even from this distance, Shikamaru noticed that his friend's hands are shaking and it seemed that Naruto had not progressed at all from folding that navy blue shirt.

"There's no point wasting your time thinking about that—we're here at this retreat already," The genius chided, knowing that he wanted to comfort Naruto, but also knowing that he has no idea what to say or do.

There was a forced laugh that bubbled from Naruto. Shikamaru heaved a sigh in response. He could feel a headache forming inside his head, and he did not like that prospect. He might be physically lazy, but he tended to overwork his mind—clarifying and observing even the most miniscule puzzles. And Naruto's strange behavior is a gigantic puzzle that has been nagging at the back of his mind since he saw Naruto talk about his private vacation with his father. It had been such a long time ago, but Shikamaru has been so convinced of his conclusion—the same way he has been convinced that he will never let anybody know of that conclusion.

The blond teen opened his mouth, closed it, and reopened it. Hesitation was clearly imprinted in his face. "Ne, Shika—Sasuke… my father wants me to work in the Uchiha Corporation…"

"It is a well-known corporation. It will definitely secure your future," Objective and clear-cut, those were Shikamaru's favored type of answers. It prevented himself from being too involved in a puzzle. But Naruto was his friend, and there was some unwritten social rule that he was supposed to help his friend out. Because Naruto admittedly never possessed the logic that Shikamaru was gifted with—it felt like his responsibility, to represent logic to the blond.

It was not the time for logic, however. Now was the time to feel a bit guilty about the shadowed look in Naruto's face.

"You don't want to work there," It was a statement, to which the blond made no protest.

It's a dangerous path they are treading—Sasuke and Naruto. Shikamaru hoped fervently—even as Naruto had already shrugged off the tense conversation for a more cheerful one—that Naruto knew what turning down the Uchiha Corporation really meant.

Being here in this retreat, spending the last couple of months distancing himself from his father—those were not solid. But, as Shikamaru's mind reasoned, turning down the opportunity to work and ultimately inherit the Uchiha Corporation—everything would become permanent.

It would become a permanent goodbye.

Career talks, reflection talks, good-luck-for-college talks—all those surrounded every moment of their retreat. And after each talk, they performed activities that encouraged everyone to be lively and talkative and friendly. Among such activities was the drawing-by-the-lake activity, something that elicited a huge amount of smitten sighs about the romantic aura of the place.

It was a very beautiful place—lush greenery and flowers of different varieties littered the entire area, decorating the surroundings of the crystal-blue waters of the lake. Naruto breathed in the scent of nature and a contented smile graced his boyish face. It was the perfect end to their retreat—natural scenery to engross themselves in before they were hurled into the chaos of university entrance examinations and final-year tests.

Their retreat instructor –a young, cheerful woman with a bright attitude that instantly made her close to the heart of many students- instructed them to draw their perfect summer vacation scenario—the one they would take just before they set out for the next chapter of their life. Girls chatted amicably with one another as they talked about shopping sprees and vacations abroad. The close-knit groups of boys huddled together and discussed wooing the girl of their dreams, or going for an adventure trip.

Naruto sighed, mind still blank, even though his hands were already poised to draw in his blank art book. He wanted something like those trips abroad—to explore the world and see various landmarks. He wanted something like those adventure trips—the feeling of adrenaline rushing through his veins if he could do something exciting, something like climbing a mountain. He wanted something like this scenario—with his friends surrounding him, their blissful thoughts enveloping the air, the sun sending down a calming light. He wanted something like—

This would be perfect if Sasuke was here.

With those thoughts, Naruto's fingers moved, deftly and artistically over the paper, the pencil brushing against the material in different manners—sometimes light strokes that gave the drawing a sketchy quality, sometimes firm strokes filled with sharp angles that defined important parts of the picture.

By the time the instructor's voice rang out and told them to pack their things and go back to the main hall, Naruto's hand felt tired and slightly numb from the exertion. The blond teen stared at the piece he has created –almost without focus, yet with the full concentration of his feelings- and felt a mixture of pain and happiness.

It was definitely the two of them –Naruto and Sasuke- overlooking a lake, engulfed with the brilliant colors of the flowers and the striking rays of the sun. It is indeed a beautiful picture, something that Naruto would never have expected from himself, and his classmates gave him congratulatory remarks about the well-done drawing. It was slightly embarrassing to know that he was thinking mostly of his father while he drew the picture.

"Eh? Where's your mother in the picture?" One voice commented, and a shock of bitter reality pierced the warm feeling that Naruto carried. Mother. Sakura. My mother—Sasuke's wife.

Where does she stand, in Naruto's life? She is definitely one of the people that Naruto would never want to hurt, as much as possible, but—where is she in his life? She didn't fit in the picture—

Naruto felt a jab of jealousy and wanted to yell that she would never belong in the picture. But the moment of jealousy passed quickly, and like a slowly deflating balloon, Naruto gave a weak smile. It was a surprise –though convenient- to realise that his ability to lie was quite good.

"I haven't finished the drawing yet."

An hour after the activity, Naruto realized that aside from sparking a fire of jealousy towards his adoptive mother, the painting activity brought into light his apparent talent regarding drawing and storytelling.

He showed the painting to his roommate, who, after giving him an appraising gaze, proceeded to clap him briefly on his back. Naruto felt a flash of pride. He had spent most of his high school simply content to let Sasuke guide him, but now, he was thinking for himself, really being independent, and it made him happy.

Naruto had hoped that Sasuke was here, so that he could immediately tell his father about his discovery. He would become a manga artist and he would make stories that could bring all ranges of emotions to his readers.

"I want to be someone who can bring smiles to children, to my friends, to everyone," Naruto wistfully said, blatantly ignoring the raised eyebrow Shikamaru sported at his cheesy declaration.

"Are you sure about that, Naruto?" Shikamaru asked, despite his insistence that he never wanted to be involved in other people's affairs.

The blond simply nodded happily; unaware of the serious look that now covered his friend's face.

"I'm in love with you, Naruto-kun."

Finally! Finally!

If she were the type of person like her crush, she would have pumped her fist in the air, all the while doing a ridiculous-but-still-adorable victory dance. She is Hyuuga Hinata, however, an heiress to the well-established Hyuuga Corporations—she is expected to act in a way befitting her status. Furthermore, it simply was not in her personality to show intense joy.

Hinata settled with fiddling with the hem of her shirt, eagerly awaiting her crush's reply, mind still racing and bewildered that she actually managed to summon her courage to walk up to Naruto and confess. She conceded that maybe her friends were right all along—times of great desperation are reliable sources of bravery. Hinata's friends have not-so-subtly told her that after high school, there was a high chance that she would not be able to attend the same university as her beloved Naruto-kun.

The thought of being denied even the chance of watching Naruto from afar, ultimately pushed Hinata into confessing. This is the last night of the retreat and Hinata knew that chances like this were hard to come by. She was proud of herself—she finally managed to force the words out of her lips without much stuttering.

Naruto has not moved from his spot since she confessed: his face remained in that confused, lost expression, cerulean eyes disbelieving and off-guard. The heiress wondered if her feelings were really that surprising—after all, as much as it embarrassed her to admit, the whole school knows about her crush on the blond. Hinata even felt that Naruto's father knew about her crush—Sasuke-san always sent her extra-cold glares whenever she was within a 5-meter radius of his son.

"Naruto, where are you now? Shika's looking for ya!"

That obnoxious sounding voice came from one of Hinata's classmates, Inuzuka Kiba. Hinata liked him well enough, but his call disrupted the moment that engulfed the two teenagers standing awkwardly just outside of the auditorium.

The blond suddenly whirled into motion, as though Kiba's voice has triggered a switch. Like a mechanical doll, Naruto sheepishly grinned while scratching the side of his face absently. "…That's, ah, nice to hear, Hinata-chan."

The smile didn't quite reach Naruto's eyes. Hinata wanted to ask how many times Naruto-kun has received such confessions. His discomfort was very obvious and Hinata was saddened to discover that her confession was what made Naruto feel that way.

She should have just kept quiet; she should have just let nature run its course. But she did not want to do nothing—that was cowardly, and she might be feeble, but she was willing to fight for the one she loves.

It was sort of amusing, in a very different manner, to watch Naruto act so similar to herself. Naruto's cheeks darkened with a blush, even as he said that he would think about the confession, even as he said goodbye since Kiba and Shikamaru were looking for him, even as he told her that he would see her at school soon enough, even as he wished her luck for the examinations.

Naruto-kun was such a good boy.

Hinata remained standing outside the auditorium, not budging from her spot even as one of the retreat coordinators coaxed her to go inside. She remained there, eyes closed and hands drawn into a loose embrace around her body. Naruto might have said that he would think about it, but she knew what it truly meant.

"He doesn't love me," Hinata murmured into the cold night air, and nobody was there to support or deny her words.

I lost.

Unlike the prom, Naruto did not dash away from Hinata. He simply walked away casually, mind carefully blank, with his facial expression schooled into a neutral visage.

The blond tried to find Kiba and Shikamaru, but he has failed so far; the crowd composed of his batchmates has dispersed from the auditorium into the spacious lawn of the retreat area.

The booths for catered food are at one side, while coordinators giving out freebies (which were probably bought from the fee they paid to participate in the retreat) were in another area. Recreational booths which ranged from low-price sales to magic shows were set up on the far side of yard. It seemed that Naruto's school was not the only one who held their retreat at this time, and students from other high schools mingled with them.

After thirty minutes of running around the field and stuffing his face with food, he finally spotted Kiba. The rowdy teen's hand was wrapped securely around Shikamaru's arm. Naruto raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you two were—"

"This is to prevent him from running away," Kiba supplied helpfully, dragging Shikamaru as the two of them moved forward in the line. Naruto whistled as he noticed the long queue for this particular booth.

"What's this booth for?" The blond inquired his friends, who discreetly let him sneak into the queue as well.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes, looking grumpy because he was unable to sleep early because of this activity. He only wished for one thing during the wish-making activity, and that was to have a peaceful life signified by lots of sleep. It seemed that his wish would remain a far-away dream forever.

Kiba's grin was vulpine; he looked too excited for his own good. "Fortune telling," Kiba said with an air of mysteriousness, while Naruto remained unimpressed, "And I'll ask about my chances with Hinata—"

The blond took a hasty step back, feeling the blood from his face draining rapidly. Naruto's mind reeled. He had not known about Kiba's crush on Hinata. The dog-lover didn't seem to notice the sudden shift in the blond's mood. Shikamaru looked more interested about Naruto's predicament than the fortune teller.

Closet gossip lover, Naruto thought about his 200-plus IQ friend, feeling slightly queasy from the interrogating stare he got from Shikamaru.

A few more minutes filled with aimless chattering passed, before it was finally their group's turn. Naruto volunteered to be the last while Kiba hurriedly went inside the booth. Shikamaru shrugged off his friend's enthusiasm, though his eyes looked interested as he went inside for his turn at the fortune telling booth. As Naruto sat for his reading, he found his friends waiting for him at the couch near the entrance to the booth. It was good to see his friends here; it helped take his mind away from the creepiness of the surroundings.

Candles flickered ominously inside the dark booth, while the air felt stale and old. It was creepy beyond comparison, and Naruto tried his best to sit still and not betray his nervousness.

The voice that told him of his readings sounded familiar but he was unable to pinpoint the exact cause of that familiarity. Naruto did not see the face of the self-proclaimed psychic, but he thought he saw a lock of silver hair that escaped from the mask.

Did he know any silver-haired people…?

As interesting as the psychic's identity was, Naruto's mind was soon sent into a hyperventilating mess when he heard of the predictions of his life. The prediction was a long compilation of sentences that sounded confusing but there was a phrase that stuck, unable to be forgotten.

Forbidden love… forbidden love… forbidden love…

The reading was not finished yet but Naruto hastily excused himself, pushing the chair back abruptly to the point that it made a loud scraping noise and then fell to the floor.

He was sure that his face is paper-white at the moment but he does not give a damn. He wanted to get out of here, he wanted to sleep and never wake up. Maybe it would stop his mind from bombarding him with images of his father, sweetly smiling at him and taking care of him. Maybe it would stop Naruto from feeling these strange emotions; maybe it would turn Naruto back into the way he was before, only loving Sasuke in the rightful way.

"Dude, what did it say?" Kiba pried, the smug grin betraying the contents of his reading, "Mine said that I should try harder and she'll definitely return my feelings!"

Shikamaru ignored the dog-lover in favor of ushering Naruto out of the booth. The blond was trembling, beads of sweat forming at his temples. He was soundlessly muttering something but even with the lack of sound, Shikamaru knew the gist of what Naruto was saying.

Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke.

When Naruto finally calmed down, he noticed that it was already past eleven o'clock. He sat up from his bed, noting that Kiba and Shikamaru had not changed his clothes. He sighed, knowing and dreading the barrage of questions his friends would hurl at him as soon as he stepped out of his room. The others were probably still enjoying the last set of activities of the retreat: partying.

Everybody has been so focused with their studies and applications to top universities, and now, everyone was unwinding by partying hard.

A small smile flitted across Naruto's face. He decided that he could join the party after he washed his face. Nobody would want to ruin the party's atmosphere by asking private questions, right?

"Unless they're drunk," The blond muttered to himself, busying his hands with grabbing his toiletries from his luggage, "Unless they're really, really drunk."

He is half-tempted to tell someone, anyone, about his fortune reading. But what would he say?

"I got a reading about me involved in a forbidden love and I freaked out"—it's not like he could just casually say that and not expect repercussions. They would undoubtedly press for more details—like, is it true, was that why you freaked out?

Naruto did not want to explain things that he was unsure about himself. He was not even sure of the implications of freaking out over a highly-probable-to-be-fake reading. It feels a bit cowardly, true, but Naruto simply was not ready for those things. His mind was still unable to adapt to the changes he had brought upon himself since his disastrous prom. His heart was still aching for Sasuke's presence until now.

He's still delusional about his feelings, about loving—


The abrupt sound of knuckles hitting the door made Naruto clumsily drop his toiletries to the floor. He briefly mourned the fact that he simply stood there like a gaping idiot for fifteen minutes and that he had not washed his face yet and would have to crawl on the floor to retrieve his fallen toiletries. Life really sucks big time, for Uzumaki Naruto.

Wait. It should be Uchiha Naruto.

Naruto opened the door quickly, without yelling anything about opening the door soon, so it was purely bad luck on his part that the visitor's hand already descended to deliver another set of knocks. This time though, instead of hitting the door, Aiko TenTen's hand knocked on Naruto's forehead.

The two of them, surprised at the sudden casualness of their meeting, stepped away from each other. Naruto did not have any more grudges or feelings towards TenTen now. He still could not understand how his ex-girlfriend could do such a thing to him, but he was not the type of person who would harbor ill feelings over a long period of time.

"Naruto—" TenTen's eyes have the color of soothing, warm chocolate. They looked warm—not like the way Sasuke's gazes felt like; not like that searing intensity—but it was warm in a way that Naruto felt calm as she gazed at him. She looked guilty, her hands restless as she fiddled with the doorknob.

"Can we talk?" She finally asked, but declined the offer to go inside the room.

"I just… I just feel that you need to know this. Before you make any major decisions," TenTen spoke slowly and Naruto still could not understand how this kind girl could have broken his heart before. Naruto could not see the traces of the girl who broke his heart by flippantly saying that all the agreement about being his girlfriend was a joke.

She took a deep breath, as if to calm her nerves. Naruto felt that he would not like what she was going to say next.

"Our breakup," She started, her voice trembling and a bit scared, "It was requested by your father, Uchiha-san."

It was fortunate that Naruto's toiletries were already on the floor because it was ten times more embarrassing for that to happen with an audience. Naruto reached out a tanned hand and clutched at the wooden door for support.

Requested by Sasuke?!

"I'm sorry that I was easily swayed by his offer," –a bribe, went unsaid- "and he didn't tell me the reasons why he wanted us to break up."

TenTen's voice has always been sweet-sounding. It was no wonder she was in the school choir. It was no wonder a lot of the sophomores looked up to her. Naruto idly wondered why he hated her voice so damn much at the moment.

The blond teen felt both his heart and his brain break. He would have to choose between two lies: TenTen lying to him by agreeing to be his girlfriend, or Sasuke lying to him by—

Sasuke. The one person Naruto never would have expected to hurt him.

It was all Sasuke's fault.

TenTen said some more things, things that made Naruto want to kneel on the floor and cover his ears. He never wanted to hear these things ever again, but he also wanted to know the truth. Has Sasuke been playing with him –he is not a pawn!- all this time?!

… "Financial crisis" … "Promotion"… "Son's future"…

The blond was only able to hear patches of TenTen's words. Naruto hated that voice, hated it so deeply. She was delivering the most unwanted news and she sounded so calm and warm while Naruto is being stabbed furiously by her words.

"He's too obsessed with you, Naruto," TenTen said at last, a hint of warning in her voice. Obsession. If only Sasuke knew how much Naruto thought about him. If only it were normal. If only they were not father and son.

If only Sasuke had not lied to him.

"It's a dangerous path, Naruto," She said sadly, leaning closer to her ex-boyfriend, delivering a chaste peck on the tanned cheek, "Be careful."

TenTen might have left, but Naruto was still there, standing dazedly, the wheels of his mind turning and turning, refusing to believe the softly spoken words, and refusing to believe that out of all of them, Sasuke was the one who hurt him most.

The morning of their departure from the retreat greeted them with brilliant sunshine. Birds chirped merrily as they danced freely, the wind blowing breezily across the area. Hinata knew that she should be in her room, packing her stuff into her luggage bags. Instead, she opted to be at the lakeside where they had their painting activity yesterday.

She looked on at the still waters, amazed that her silhouette was reflected perfectly by the still waters. Her lavender gaze probed the water's depths, wanting the clearness of the lake to answer her questions about Naruto-kun. She knew that she has lost already—he hasn't replied yet... and she does not expect the blond to give her any favorable reply—but she still questioned the way her crush acted towards her.

He was the one who invited her to the prom, wasn't he? He was the one who kept on encouraging her to join his group of friends, wasn't he? He was the one who kept on being nice to her, giving her cheerful smiles, giving her words of praise whenever she did something good…! He was the one—

But Hinata was the only one in love.

And, Hinata knew, contrary to the more famous love stories, simply loving someone with all your heart, will not guarantee that the person would return your feelings. The heiress knew that she did everything that she could—she swallowed her immense shyness—but it just wasn't enough.

"Hinata-sama," A rich baritone called out to her. Without even turning, Hinata knew who it was: from the sound of the voice, from the formal way he habitually used to address her.

"Which one are you, Neji-niisan?" She resolutely looked at the morning sky, steeling herself, preventing the tears from falling down. Her words trembled slightly. She faintly wondered why her stammering have improved lately—but only when she's around Neji. She supposed it does not matter now, so she let that thought go.

"Are you the one who'll be stupid with me?" Hinata said with a light laugh, amused by the ridiculous notion of Neji being stupid. "Are the one who'll wait up for me?"

There was nothing but silence on her cousin's part. Hinata breathed in deeply, attempting to calm down her racing thoughts. Maybe asking those questions wasn't such a good idea after all. Neji might have shown care for her, but it's most likely due to his duty to the heiress of the company.

"I tried to go ahead and wait up for you, Hinata-sama," Neji said after a long while; Hinata pretended to not be hanging on every word that she could hear. Neji is… has always been a precious person. Even before she met Naruto-kun, she has already known Neji, with his long, straight hair, assertive personality and serious eyes. Maybe that explained why his opinion, why his feelings mattered so much.

Neji paused again, and Hinata could almost see him shaking his head, a cross expression on his stoic face. "But after a while, seeing you like this, I've decided to just do a stupid thing and be stupid with you."

The young heiress felt her heart stop, shiver, then resume its beat. Maybe it was just her imagination, but Neji's voice sounded… more intense than usual. A light blush dusted her fair cheeks; her face felt oddly warm. Not the same type of dizzying warmth that she would feel whenever Naruto-kun's eyes would land on her; this one was more like a comforting blanket of warmth, like an embrace.

Silence reigned between the two Hyuugas once more.

"Let's go, Hinata-sama," Neji said, a hand outstretched, and as Hinata turned around to face her cousin, she could see Neji, with his handsome smirk and calculating eyes, and a person who'd either do a stupid thing to keep up with her pace or do a stupid thing and make her reach his pace.

It was different from her feelings with Naruto, and she still did not fully understand the weight of Neji's words, but for now, the blanket of warmth that her cousin provided was more than enough.

Neji was more than enough.

In soap operas, in plays and in cinemas, confrontational scenes are usually accompanied by a grand swell of the music, by lots of punctuated pauses and stressed words, by tension-pinched expressions and tightly-curled fists.

Naruto's life, however, was far away from a soap opera, from a theatrical play, from a romantic movie. It started off as a bad childhood, lifted up into a pseudo-fairytale, but it is now anti-climaxing to a disappointing part.

When interviewed, all of Naruto's acquaintances would have to agree on a lot of things about the blond; they would say a lot of characteristic things about him, and one of which is his ability to acting impulsively without thinking.

Naruto was certainly not thinking his actions thoroughly, which was why he found himself storming home immediately after his retreat, face eerily calm. Thankfully, Sasuke was in his office—probably waiting for his son's arrival. Any other time, Naruto's heart would have skipped a beat at the affection his father showers him with, but this time—

"Sasuke," The young teen said tightly, not the first time speaking Sasuke's name without honorifics, but it was the first time saying that name with such a dispassionate tone.

The Uchiha looked up from his desk, eyes immediately pulling away from the spreadsheets he was analyzing. He instantly noticed the dark aura that hovered around Naruto, but he did not make a remark about it. It only fueled Naruto's temper—because Sasuke had to know why was he angry, right?!

"Welcome home," Sasuke greeted, a small smile on his aristocratic face, relief inside his dark eyes. It seemed that even with his supposed distancing from his son, Sasuke was still unable to completely mask his more positive emotions towards his son.


Yes, Naruto considered this place his home. A happy, loving family—it was all he could ask for. Sasuke even added an extensive schooling, which opened the door to knowing more people, making more friends. It was everything he could ever want.

He even found somebody he liked. Not to the extent that he'd gladly die for her without a second thought, but he loved her enough.

And Sasuke took it away, without guilt, without remorse, without admitting the truth.

Even now, daysmonthsyears after it has happened, Sasuke still has not told him anything about it.

"I want you to stop messing with my life," Naruto said, feeling the tranquility settling into his words. He refused to acknowledge the way Sasuke's eyes narrowed, lips parted slightly in shock.

If only you told me the truth about it, if only you asked me to break up with her, with my knowledge, I wouldn't hate you this much.

Naruto continued, "I'm not going to take over the Uchiha Corporation." I wanted… I want to be together with you. Forever, if possible.

"And there's nothing you can do about it." Stop me, don't let me leave you, tell me your reasons, please! Sasuke, I don't want to leave like this!

In soap operas and other romantic tales, after such confessions, the other actor would drop everything, and confess his heart to his love interest, telling her everything good and bad that he did, all for the name of love. And the heroine would smile, forgive him deep inside but tell him that he should repent first on the outside. If the heroine threatened to run away, to sever their connections, the leading man would hastily catch up to her, hold her hand, hold her in his strong arms.

But Naruto's life is not a fairytale, so when he decided to yell at Sasuke for being a liar, when he ran out of the office and out of their house—

Sasuke did not follow him.

It has been nearly a week since Itachi found Sasuke staring blankly into space at their house, but Sasuke still possessed the haunted look in his ebony-black eyes, still retained that soulless tone. Despite his unappealing appearance at the moment, despite his protests at not wanting to see anybody, there was a person who insisted to see him.

Orochimaru entered Sasuke's office, gliding seamlessly across the plush carpeting, golden eyes narrowed like a predator eyeing its prey. Sasuke ignored the older man, not in the mood for Orochimaru's usual propositions.

"I want you to be a research fellow in my lab," Orochimaru proposed, using a silky voice that Sasuke would never fall for. Despite that, Sasuke found the idea intriguing. Being a research fellow, especially at Orochimaru's lab, is a great addition to his already-impeccable résumé. Additionally, it would give him an excellent opportunity to leave his house, even temporarily, and maybe have something to occupy his already-tired mind.

It was too perfect, too suspicious to be a coincidence, but Sasuke didn't want to think too deeply about it. Here was Orochimaru, offering him a perfect thing to do so he could try to forget about his actions, about his irresponsible feelings towards his son.

"We can talk more about it over coffee," Orochimaru invited, a corpse-pale hand already beckoning the younger Uchiha to come. There was a touch of an evil smirk in Orochimaru's lips, but Sasuke's mind isn't properly functioning now, so he didn't pay it any mind.

The famous scientist mentally thanked his luck as Itachi was currently not in the vicinity. His plan to lure Sasuke-kun into his hands would have immediately failed if that overprotective brother was around, after all.

"I will not accept the offer yet," Sasuke said, his hands already gathering a memo sheet and a pen, for writing the details about their meeting. Orochimaru smiled, a creepy turn of his lips, because he expected that -even with those words- Sasuke is already within his reach.

"I have gathered circumstantial evidence to prove that you manipulated Uchiha Sasuke into marrying you and continuing to live with you."

"Itachi…! What are you doing here?"

"Sakura-san… You do realize that you're in big trouble, your family's business is in serious trouble if this was suddenly reported to the police—or even worse, the media…?"

"Itachi-san… What exactly are you saying?"

"I'll make a generous deal with you—"

"You're awfully talkative today, aren't you, Itachi?"

"It would serve you well if you shut your mouth, Yamanaka-san."

"What do you want, Itachi-san…?"

"I want you to let go of my brother."

"But… that's…!"

"If you want shares and power in the Uchiha Corporation that badly, if you want to be connected to the Uchiha name that badly… just… marry me. Marry me and let go of my brother."

"Are you crazy?! Sakura loves Sasuke-kun…! That's the only reason—"

"Will you marry me, Sakura?"

To Be Continued

Note: The timing of the events (prom, retreat, graduation party, etc) might be different for other schools. I just used the one we used in my high school…? Haha;;;; Okay, so it seemed that it's a SasuNaru "break-up", but we will see more of Naruto's POV and the start of the next arc in the next installment!

The ending part is rather vague, but I kind of intended it to be like that XD Hopefully I'll see you guys again in the next chapter? I'm a bit slow at replying to reviews, but please know that I treasure your reviews, your thoughts and feelings towards the things I post :)

Next Chapter: What internship is Orochimaru really offering? And what happened to Neji and Hinata afterwards? Is Sakura going to accept Itachi's very unconventional marriage proposal? What would Ino do?! And, Gaara is finally going to play a major role…! All this and more in the next installment of Daddy Sasuke: Start of Arc II Chapter Eight: Memories of Nobody

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