Theme # 1 – look over here
insert same old disclaimer.
Note: slightly AU, if only because of the Rubik's cube.
Sorry for the long wait. The very very long wait.
I wrote this as a sign of my deep obsession with the Rubik's cube.
To be honest, I can't imagine anyone not knowing what a Rubik's cube is, but just in case, our dear friend Wikipedia says, "Rubik's Cube is a mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 by the Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik… each face is covered by nine stickers of one of six solid colours. When the puzzle is solved, each face of the Cube is a solid colour."
I do realize that those who don't know how to solve one will probably be unfamiliar with some of the terms used, though it shouldn't affect your understanding of the story, I hope. I have included some notes at the end that should clear things up and explain a little bit more about the cube.
Enjoy. And go solve a cube.
R U2 R' U' R U' R'
If he was to name one thing he hated about missions, it would be the report due at the end.
No, it wasn't even that; it was wasting a good chunk of his life standing in front of a mountain of paperwork, delivering his report to her. Though she looked eternally youthful, old age made that decrepit hag nosier than ever, especially when it came to matters concerning Sakura and him.
Surprisingly, he could actually see Tsunade sitting at her desk when he entered. The cherry wood desk was free from its usual clutter, and the entire office was astonishingly neat, until he caught glimpse of the back office, swarming with loose-leaf paper.
He surveyed her dozing head on the table and the accompanying puddle of drool with distaste. As he turned to leave, a hand suddenly shot out and gripped his wrist. Hard.
Tsunade looked up with drowsy eyes and outstretched her other hand for his report. "Uchiha, you're late." She motioned for him to take a seat in the plush red armchair, but he remained standing. "Eh, so eager to see Sakura; won't even sit down," she murmured, half to herself but intended to reach his ears.
"Oh." She thumbed through the report, pretending to but not reading anything in particular, and they both knew it. She let go of the pretense, tossed the report to the side, and eagerly leaned forward, a gleam in her eyes. "So tell me, Uchiha. When are you two tying the knot?"
It was a question he had heard countless times before, but its ability to annoy him had yet to cease. He remained silent.
"I saw Sakura looking through wedding magazines earlier this week, but you haven't even popped the question yet." Tsunade sounded put out, laughable as it seemed. It wasn't any of her business, and Sasuke certainly did not appreciate her snoopiness.
His lack of response seemed to put an end to their conversation, if it could even be called that, but as she leaned back, she gave him a slow smirk. "I suggest you act now, before her new love completely erases you."
Now that caught his attention. He glared at her. "What do you mean?" Despite the absurdity of her statement and her duplicitous nature, he could find no lie in her expression.
Tsunade's smile remained smugly plastered on her face, as she smoothed out the wrinkles on her robe.
Tsunade had too much time on her hands. No wonder why she never got any work done.
The castella from the pastry shop down the street was on sale for half-price, so he bought two of them for Sakura before heading back to his flat. The perky teenager at the counter had stared quite unabashedly at his blood-stained clothes, but at least it was dry and no longer dripping.
Sakura wasn't waiting for him outside like usual, but it didn't surprise him. The summer fireflies that Sakura loved to watch had already appeared, and the first of the night stars dotted the sky in whimsical constellations.
It was eerily dark inside, which did surprise him, because Sakura hated the dark with a passion that rivaled his own disgust of cheery pink bedspreads and flowery curtains. However, she was allowed to act on her repulsion, whereas he had to suck it up like a man and shut up. And it didn't even matter that it was his apartment.
Too often, she acted as if she was the one paying the rent for this place. One day, when he was off on a mission, she had simply marched in and burned anything of his that she didn't like to a crisp. Which turned out to be a lot. And she replaced all of it with items of her choosing. Needless to say, he was not pleased when he returned, but to repurchase everything she destroyed was completely out of the question. Sasuke did not have spare money to burn.
Well, he did. Actually, he had quite a lot. But he would never do that; he wasn't Naruto.
Perhaps she was back at her own apartment, though she ought to have known of his return from Sunagakure. Normally at this time, she would be at the stove, preparing his dinner, while he sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor, bandaging his wounds.
He wasn't worried that she wasn't here; it was just odd and her absence strangely overwhelming.
He stood in the darkness for a full minute before soundlessly heading back out into the night.
A single light flickered in the dim, illuminating her pale features, soft and delicate. Too bad her face was scrunched up in that ridiculous expression of concentration, but even so, she managed to capture that air of childlike youthfulness. It was cute. Maybe.
Chewing savagely on her lower lip, her hands were a whirl of motion. A flurry of vibrant colors. One could even describe it as beautiful, if not for the incessant click-clack of rotating plastic.
Could this be the "new love" that Tsunade was referring to?
It was a farcical thought but not an unfounded notion. The idea of Sakura finding another man was impossible, but oddly enough, this wasn't.
For one, she hadn't noticed his presence yet, despite the dramatic increase of chakra in the atmosphere. A bad sign, to be sure. It was his duty, he supposed, to snap her out of this infatuation. In their line of work, such carelessness could prove to be a safety hazard, or so he told himself.
But Sasuke would not compromise his pride. As an Uchiha, certain things were forbidden, like groveling on the floor for attention.
So instead, he simply tipped over the ornate flower vase with his finger.
It fell with a satisfying crash, the fuchsia orchids flimsy in their dying pool of stale water.
And to his pleasure, her head snapped up, eyes slightly dazed.
"Sasuke." She blinked a few times. "You're back." Looking wistfully back down at the cube in her hands, she bypassed the soggy mess on the floor and gestured to the marble counter behind her. "I made soba noodles for dinner. You can heat it up on the stove, if you like."
Wrong, wrong, wrong. This was completely against the natural order of things. She was supposed to notice the broken shards of ceramic pottery first, then see him in all his bloody glory, forget about the vase, proceed to fuss over him, prepare his dinner, and finally, pester him about his mission while he remained silent but content.
Sakura seemed to have forgotten quite a lot in the three weeks he had been gone.
Sullenly, he took a seat across from her. "What is that?"
Beaming, she shoved the puzzle into his line of vision. "It's a Rubik's cube!"
A what? He had heard of these before, but he had assumed they were only for the smallest of children or effeminates that didn't have the potential to become shinobi.
Apparently, he had voiced his thoughts out loud, for she was glaring at him. "That is not true at all." She shook the toy at him. "You can't even solve it, so don't you try and look down on those who can."
"If I can't solve it, then how is it possible for you," he fired back.
She flushed. "I can! I solved it this morning." Fiddling with the cube, she nodded towards the wall behind him.
"Interesting choice of wallpaper," he noted dryly.
"It's not wallpaper," she laughed, her mood changing instantaneously, as she gazed upon the wall with adoration. It was alarming to see such affection for a swarm of papers tacked haphazardly to plaster. And abnormal.
She moved behind him and pointed excitedly to the scrawl of letters and numbers.
R U R' U R U2 R'
F R U R' U' F'
R U2 R' U' R U' R'
M2 U M2 U U M2 U M2
R' U R' U' R' U' R' U R U R2
The list went on and on, each line just as incomprehensible as the first. Had she gone mad? Surely his absence hadn't damaged her psyche to that extent.
She was a bubble of enthusiasm. Not even his blatant apathy could deter her from prattling on about 'sune' and 'cycling edges' and whatever the hell she was talking about.
Thank god two years with her had taught him how to effectively silence her. With one suave motion, he plucked the cube from her and leaned in for a lingering kiss.
He didn't get it.
The instant the cube left her hand, she lunged forward and violently snatched it back, scooting to her seat again.
Reminiscent of her childlike days, she stuck out her tongue at him. "Get your own cube, Sasuke-kun." Her attention returned to the Rubik's cube, but then she looked back up at him. "You're bleeding," she cried, setting the cube aside.
It was about time she forgot about that retarded puzzle and focused on him. Sasuke thought it was rather pathetic how long she took to notice, considering that his face was streaked with dried crusty blood.
"I'll get the bandages." Abruptly, she turned to her cube and kissed it lovingly. "I'll be back, my dearest," she directed towards the blob of plastic.
She really was crazy if she was talking to a child's toy. In any case, that kiss should have been his. Sasuke scowled angrily at the lifeless cube. He too was rather pathetic to be worked up over this. But he had good reason to. Not only did he reek of death and toil, he was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to relax in the softness of her embrace and touch.
Checking to see that she was out of the room, he picked up the cube and pressed the red side, the side that she had kissed a minute ago, to his cheek, transferring her kiss to the cube to him.
Disgusted by his sudden show of sentimentality, he dropped it contemptuously back onto the table. Perhaps he could melt it with a fireball and get rid of it for good. But that was out of the question. He could just picture Sakura's face of fury as she tried to throw him out.
Stupid cube. How dare it interfere with his relationship. How dare it let itself be twisted and caressed by Sakura.
How dare it make him feel so foolish and puerile.
With a swift backhand, he swept it brutally off the table, where it hurtled helplessly through the air and smashed against the wall. He heard a clear popping sound as it hit the ground, defeated and wretched.
Unfortunately, that popping sound was because all its pieces broke apart upon impact, and now, the nylon core lay sadly on the floor, the colored tiles scattered around it.
"Uchiha Sasuke, what did you do to my cube?!í"
A/N: Here are some notes for your reading pleasure.
Castella is a type of Japanese sponge cake, made with sugar, flour, and eggs. The original version is so good, but they also make variations, like honey or green tea, that are also super delicious. Go eat some.
There are a bunch of methods out there for solving a Rubik's cube. But whichever one you're using, there's a set of algorithms to go with it. Algorithms are basically instructions that tell you how to turn certain parts of the cube, for lack of a better definition.
The series of letters on Sakura's wall (and the title of this chapter) are all algorithms. The letters tell you which direction to turn a specific part of the cube. For example, R refers to the side directly to the right of the front, and you would turn it up. If it was R', you'd turn it down. The apostrophe after any letter stands for 'prime' or 'inverted,' meaning you'd turn it counter-clockwise.
Sune refers to a method used to help solve the final layer. (The most common way of solving the cube is layer by layer, which means solving the bottom row first, then the middle, and then the top.) Same with the edge cycle (cycling edges).
Not that anyone cares, but a Rubik's cube is generally made out of two plastics, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and nylon, hence the reference to the nylon core. And you can break the cube apart and put it back together. I pop my cube all the time, haha. But for the sake of the story, Sasuke didn't know that.
Feel free to ask any questions about cubing or this chapter. I know my explanations are probably rather lacking in information. Sorry. On the other hand, I'm so glad to be back. : I'll try and churn out another one soon. School's killing me.