Birthday fic for Sasuke. Because I love Sasuke. 'Nuff said. XD

Today, Naruto will sit alone in his apartment, the shades drawn. Everything is dark, dark, dark, and there is not a sound aside from his breathing and the steady hum of the refrigerator.

As he has done every year on this day, he lights a single candle. White, because white is the purest color he knows. He will watch, unmoving, as the candle flickers, burning lower and lower and lower until the flame consumes itself and dies, and the wax congeals in a puddle on the floor.

"It's so gloomy here, Sasuke. How the hell do you live like this? Open the drapes or something, moron."

To the darkness, the light slayer, he will make a demand.

"Give him back. You've stolen him, and I want him back. He's not yours to manipulate. Give him back."

The wax glistens. His heart beats. The refrigerator hums.

And everything is dark, dark, dark.


Today, Sakura goes to the place where she first saw him. She carries a bucket and a shovel and a heavy heart, and it's the heart that weighs the most.

The box is empty when she gets there, which suits her just fine. He was the only occupant the last time she visited, and it seems fitting she should be the only occupant now.

Taking a seat on the edge of the box, she slips off her sandals and plunges her toes in the sand. It's warm, and she enjoys the feeling for a moment before she puts the bucket in front of her and starts filling it.

"I'll make you a castle, Sasuke-kun," she whispers.

He never had a childhood, never had a castle. The least she can do is build one for him.

"Hey, onee-san."

Sakura blinks, turns her head. "Mm?"

The boy standing behind her wears a grave expression on his mud-spattered face. His hair is blacker than a raven's wing, he has scabs on his knees, and he clutches his own bucket using both hands. As he takes a step closer, she hears its contents slosh.

"Water," he says. "You need water for the sand to stick."

She stares at the boy, and realizes he reminds her of someone. The heaviness in her heart lifts a little, and she smiles.

"Thank you." She pats the spot next to her. "Would you like to help me?"

The boy grins. He's missing his front tooth.



Today, Kakashi sleeps in late. His dogs wake him up when they jump up on the bed and lick him.

"Okay, okay," he groans, "Enough already."

After he slithers out of bed, he feeds the dogs, drags himself into the shower, and stands under scalding water for a half an hour. His body aches in places it shouldn't, signs of age that he'd much rather ignore.

He's not as young as he once was.

Because he plans on staying in, he walks around in his bathrobe the rest of the afternoon. It's more comfortable this way, and he wants to be comfortable while he sifts through his memories, the painful and the pleasurable.

"I'm lucky I had you," he says to the framed picture cradled in his lap. "Otherwise I'd be nothing. Less than nothing." A ghost…

His eyes pass over each frozen image, and he hears their voices as if they are in the room with him.

Yondaime beams. "Come on, Kakashi. Try to look happy for the camera, wouldja? You're gonna regret the scowl later, I promise."

Obito smirks. "Don't waste your breath on him, sensei. He's a jerk. You know that."

Rin, sandwiched between Obito and Kakashi, appears subdued, though her gentle smile does not suggest anything but contentment. "Please stop. It's so silly—Obito! Your eyes are watering! What's the matter?"

"Allergies! That's it! Geesh, Rin…chill…"

Kakashi exhales.

"I'm a terrible mentor," he tells his dogs, who are peering at him intently. Chief, his mutt, places a paw on his thigh and whines. "Well, it's true." He scratches Chief's ears. "I messed up big time."

But he won't make the same mistake twice. He won't fail Naruto the way he's failed Sasuke.

His shoulders cannot bear the burden of any more regret.


Today, Sasuke looks at himself in the mirror and sees an avenger.

He runs his fingers over the nose that is his mother's, the mouth that is his father's, the chin that is his brother's. Parts of a whole, they are. Fragments of a legacy, and he is all that remains. Uchiha…

He is Uchiha. What it was, what it is, and what it will be.

"Find me. Hate me. Kill me, Sasuke."

A candle in its brass holder sputters. He lifts it, shielding the flame with his cupped hand.

There are shadows in his eyes. Hollows. Voids.

"You have the most expressive eyes. They're beautiful, especially when you smile."

How long ago had his mother said that?

"Don't ever let the light leave your eyes, Sasuke."

Too late. Too late…

He blows out the candle.

And everything is dark, dark, dark.