.

epilogue:

later

.

One day, Sasuke will fight again.

One day, Naruto will be hokage and he will wear that funny little hat with so much pride that Sasuke will laugh. Really, honestly, truly laugh. Naruto will only laugh in return, smile as he always has, and light the way. He will give Sasuke mission scrolls that are not dark things of duty and hate, power and money, but of honor and protection. Sasuke will complete the missions, one by one, and when he comes home, through the tall gates, people will smile, wave, and thank him.

One day, Sasuke will wake up and all he'll be able to see will be Sakura. She'll roll over, stretch, yawn, and open green, green eyes. Sleepily, she'll grin and curl in closer. He'll wrap his arms around her and hold on tight. Hold on forever. There will be no lingering darkness, no shadows of past deeds. It will be love and trust and faith and I always believed in you.

One day, Sasuke will have a family. There will be soft little heads of black hair and wide green eyes that spin to red. It will be shouts and screams and yells, hands tugging at his hair in the middle of the night and small voices shouting look what nii-san did to me! And they will drive him mad, he is sure, because they will get that from their mother. But he will love them. He will love them so much it will hurt, hurt everyday, because they will fall and they will bleed and he will not always be there to protect them. But he will love them enough for one crooked, gap-toothed smile to make all the pain go away.

He will tell them stories sometimes, these little pieces of his forever, with their tiny bodies all jumbled around and on him. With lightening monsters and devil-doctors, with beast that roar and rage, he'll make their eyes wide and scared before giving them the happily ever after composed of white knights and princesses that saved the prince.

One day, Sasuke will call Naruto brother and Sakura love.

One day, this blister on his heart finally close, finally release all hold on him.

But not today.

Today, he trains with Naruto – throws his attacks with pride and determination, somehow able to forget the shame in the face of laughing blue – and not-quite trains with Sakura (because he is horrible, desperately afraid of hurting her and no matter how many times she shouts and sends him flying into the ground, he cannot find it in himself to truly fight her). He sits and listens with Kakashi and Sai-he-hates-less-everday in the ramen shop with the people that could have been – that will be – his friends.

And he walks down the street, Naruto at his right and Sakura at his left and thinks that he is ok with waiting.

Because while he hasn't done so yet – the anger, the hate, the sadness, the confusion: they are so hard to let go of – Sasuke knows that someday, he'll be able to forgive the world. Forgive himself.

And maybe it's because they already have.


the note to end all notes:

And there it is. Done-zo.

(Some part of my heart screams in victory while the other curls into a corner and cries with sadness)

Big, massive, painfully huge thanks to the ever-amazing miko-chan and Neon Genesis. Because they rock my world and are better pimps than I could ever truly deserve. And they are just awesome. Trust me. Their level of cool is higher than the rest of us can even imagine.

Also beyond imaginable-cool levels and deserving of a thank you are all my buddies over at LJ. You know who you are.

Finally:

Remember how I said this whole thing started off as a one-shot? Well, for those interested, I am going to post that little sucker on my LJ. Also, related drabbles that have accumulated over the course of writing this piece will be posted. Click on 'homepage' at yonder profile.

Thanks to everyone. You've made this fun 8)