Warnings: There will be OOC (because of the situations, I think it's fitting), overprotective! Itachi and – most of all, Yaoi between Naruto and Sasuke. Rated for some graphic moments and language. Standard disclaimers apply.
AN: If you're wondering what happened to my present tense writing, I'll tell you that I thought a past tense was more suitable. I got the idea in biology class – and yes, the disease described is real.I don't intend on revealing everything in the first chapter, so be patient! Thank you all for waiting patiently. (And please be sure to vote in my new poll)
"Why can't I?" Barely a whisper escaped from his lips. He squeezed his hand urgently, as if he'll fall off a cliff if he released it. Naruto's blue eyes reached Sasuke's, his way of uttering a soundless sentence. Naruto embraced him, although he wasn't aware that the movement will insult him. He felt Sasuke's entire body tremble – immediately, he knew that tears were staining his pillow with sorrow.
"Why can't I feel your warmth?"
September 1st, 1994, Konoha Elementary
Wide, cerulean eyes scanned the swarm, hoping to spy old playmates from the park or a new, fascinating face. Eagerly, he released his father's hand and rushed into the horde of children, the same age as he. Minato chuckled as his young boy, barely a child, yet too old (at least, in his opinion) to be called a toddler, instantaneously introduced himself with a deafening screech.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto!"
Other adults that are parting with their children for the very first time gave Minato uneasy smiles. He grinned in exchange with his pinkie in his ear. "He's loud," he commented to the dark haired woman who just returned from a chat with the teacher. The woman beamed sincerely at Minato, and then knelt down to look her child, who obstinately declined to let go of her hand, in the eye.
"Sasuke, you have to let go, okay?" she rubbed his back soothingly, in a way only mothers are capable of. "Mommy will be back later."
The youngster didn't bawl or throw a tantrum (something new to Minato). He simply clutched onto his mother as if his life depended on it. Even so, his dark eyes looked up at Minato behind his equally dark, unruly hair. The woman pulled away from her son, with the similar reluctance as every other parent in the room.
"Be a good boy, alright?"
The only response from the child was, "My neck is itchy." However, she didn't hear him over the boisterous buzz of everyone else. So, this Sasuke watched his mother abandon him in this strange place with his penetrating, impassive onyx eyes. Then, he turned to the chamber overflowing with children and departing parents. Minato gaped at him for the longest time before turning to leave. That small boy certainly possessed an outlandish aura. The eyes of that child were already telling everyone something...but no one would pay attention.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto, and don't you forget it!"
The boy with the pitch black eyes looked lonely. Leaving someone like that left a bitter taste in the blonde's mouth. Naruto held out his hand.
That was when he saw it.
The boy with the pitch black eyes pivoted to face Naruto. Immediately, he knew something was wrong.
His throat was a bright, bright red – covered in blood that clearly belonged to him. His fingers, coated in the same red liquid, continued on, scratching at his neck as if there something existed there, something disgusting that needed to get out. No tears were streaming down the boy's expressionless face. He paused and gazed at Naruto, then kept scratching on…and on…
Naruto screeched and started howling on the spot. He pointed his finger at the boy and sprinted away, to the other side of the room, where he was safe from the gushing, foreboding scarlet fluid. The aide rushed over to Naruto, to placate him. But the blonde wanted someone to help that friendless child with the pitch black eyes. The teacher was on the boy's side of the room, trying to tug his tiny fingers away from his profusely bleeding throat.
"Stop that, Sasuke!" Her shrill tone caused Sasuke to wince and dart away. The teacher caught up with him effortlessly as the aide phoned the ambulance. "Stop that," she repeated, softer, more motherly this time.
The boy looked up at her with his pitch black eyes. "But…my neck is itchy."
Tears fell like fierce waterfalls down Uchiha Mikoto's eyes as she ushered her nine-year-old into the car. As she sat herself down on the driver's seat and started up the vehicle, Itachi blinked at his mother. "What's wrong?" he inquired. Mikoto's shoulders quivered vehemently while she steadied her hands and feet to drive correctly.
"Mom." Itachi prompted.
Mikoto blinked – it finally dawned upon her that her other son was attempting to attract her attention. "Ah…yes, Itachi?"
She swallowed hard and confessed, mostly to herself. "I don't know."
The boy's face darkened considerably, in the same fashion as his father. Whenever he does that, Mikoto cringed – she never imagined that her first born son would grow up and mature so rapidly…from that slumbering, silent infant to this already brooding child. "Does it have something to do with Sasuke?" Itachi asked tactlessly. Mikoto knew that her son wasn't looking at her, so she just nodded.
Besides, Itachi knew the answer, anyway.
The darkness that had enveloped Sasuke for what seemed to be like an eternity turned into a light gray. The colors grew brighter and brighter, until he opened his eyes to the white light of an angelic, fair hospital. Sasuke would think that he had flown into heaven if it weren't for the doctor and nurse positioned at his bedside, watching him as if he were a lab rat.
Back here again? He used his hands to prop himself up. The movement caused the nurse to recoil in surprise. "Sasuke, you're awake," she exclaimed, her voice light and cheery. Still, even as a four year old, Sasuke recognized that facade. All the people that tended to him whenever he roused in this white building carried that bizarre, yet identifiable expression. He would learn later that it meant pity.
"Sasuke," the concerned doctor, Kakashi, cleared his throat. "Do you remember me?"
He nodded. That was when he touched the bandages, wrapped securely around his neck. Sasuke's hand instinctively flew up to the material. "Did I…" he mumbled, the very first thing he had uttered ever since he passed out, "…do something bad again?" The adults in the snow-white room exchanged apprehensive glances. To poor, puzzled Sasuke, that meant a yes. Protesting, he cried, "But my neck was only itchy! I didn't do anything bad!"
No one currently present in the room answered. Mikoto, Sasuke's mother, burst through the doors, her eyes puffy. She hurried to her son and embraced him, as if she hadn't seen him in months. "Mommy," the boy obscured in his mother's relieved bear hug said. "Why do I always come here?"
Mikoto was struck speechless at that. "Mommy," Sasuke murmured again, his voice quaking vaguely. "Is there something wrong with me?"
During the scene, Itachi situated himself at the doorway, his eyes framed in extensive lashes scrutinizing every movement like an observant scientist. In his pockets, his fists clenched with more force with every word that escaped his brother's mouth. Once his nails penetrated skin a little too severely, his hands relaxed tentatively. Because, after all, Sasuke's fists would keep squeezing tighter…and tighter…
That solitary notion shattered all others as easily as a bat would demolish a mirror. At long last, he moved from the entryway en route for the setting. Mechanically, Sasuke zipped from his mother's grip into his older brother's. Itachi unexpectedly felt cold liquid seep through the fabric of his shirt. He witnessed his younger brother's shoulders trembling as he sobbed into his stomach.
Because, after all, this curse never prohibited him from the feelings of the heart.
September 2nd, 1994
"Why didn't you tell me?"
His voice was always like an expert hunter's gun. Tough and precise, his bullets would always find their way into somebody's heart – whether positive, or negative the result.
"For God's sake, Mikoto, you could have killed him!"
Mikoto had fallen in love with the words that pacified…the words that charmed and moved her. Then, of course, his darker side manifested with matrimony and children and everyday life and troubles together. Even then, she believed that it's unjust to back out of their marriage now. Not while her eldest son transformed into surly and ominous teenager at such a premature age. Not while her youngest son is in such a disastrous condition.
"I wanted him to be like the other children."
Her straightforward, unconditional reasoning was what triggered Fugaku's love for her. Her, the sweetest young lady in the city. He should have known her absurd logic would turn around to bite him in the end. Hell, they were fortunate that their marriage held on for all these ten years. Other couples that retain comparable dilemmas may well have already been divided.
We can and will hold out, was what Fugaku thought. Or rather, wished for.
"Don't be a stupid woman. No kid like him can be like the others."
"Fugaku! You can't do this to him!"
"I will, Mikoto. It's for his own good."
To her, their marriage…their family is collapsing now.
To him, on the other hand, their marriage began falling apart by the fifth anniversary.
By the day Sasuke was born.
July 23rd, 1990
A family of three was present in the snow-white chamber. Soon, in less than a minute, it will transform into a family of four. Their son, Itachi, thought to be sleeping, planned to eavesdrop on everything, just because he felt something was off. Fugaku and Mikoto spoke in hushed yet thrilled whispers, wondering about the name of the infant boy, wondering what he is going to be like, wondering if he'll look more like his father or mother… wondering if he'll be anything like Itachi.
A new, foreign doctor with rowdy silver hair strode into the room, instead of the nurse who should be wheeling the newborn in. The two parents' heads turned simultaneously. Unbeknownst to everyone, the napping five-year-old's eye snapped open and then shut closed. Opportunely for him, nobody glimpsed that brief movement.
The expression on the male's face did not look ecstatic or jovial at all. It was quite the contrary – dark, solemn…foreboding.
Mikoto eventually asked, uncertainly, "Is there...something wrong, doctor?"
A gloomy sigh escaped from the man's lips. "Yes," he announced. "Yes, there actually is."
That was when it all went wrong.
It was surreal. Standing next to the infant lying on the undersized hospital bed was surreal. The fact that the baby was born just a few hours ago was surreal. It has to be a dream. Mikoto reached towards her newborn son and stroked his soft cheek. A tentative smile graced her features for a split second.
"He looks like you." Fugaku's voice struck like lightning. The mother rapidly removed her hand from her babe and pivoted to face him.
"It's only fair," she teased childishly, covering the anguish that squeezed at her delicate heart. "Itachi takes after you." Mikoto turned, again, to her son. "They say that," she murmured faintly, her world transforming into its solemn, adult self, "he won't live for so long."
"I don't understand why…they said it was a one in twenty-five million chance of getting this…" choking on her words, she collapsed to the floor, her tears crashing down onto the suddenly deathly-white hospital floor. "Why him? Why?" Fugaku steeled himself for screaming, for uncontrollable movements and tears. The baby stirred in its sleep – that ceased his mother's tears.
Mikoto wiped the tears from her cheeks herself and stood up straight. She steered past her husband, who had no answer. She dodged her other son, who processed everything in his mind like the silent genius he was. Itachi watched her mother push open the ladies' restroom and disappear from sight, and then stood next to his father, whose eyes never left his new son.
Itachi, who was always a wise little boy, never asked questions. He never asked if his younger brother was okay, or what was going on. Instead, he broke the seemingly inexorable silence with, "What's his name?"
It took Fugaku moment to answer. "Sasuke. Uchiha Sasuke."
Sasuke. The powerful legendary ninja. He can live through this. Itachi told himself this repeatedly, until the idea got old and meaningless.
September 4th, 1994 – July 23rd, 1995
The first year of confinement, Sasuke failed to notice a thing. He didn't like the strange place with noisy children and prying adults with prying eyes. Comfortable in his own home, Sasuke learned through his mother, a seventh grade teacher, whenever she had the time. When she didn't, however, Itachi generously offered to teach his younger brother his ABCs and one, two, threes. Still, the days in the empty house, save the nanny that Sasuke never liked, were dull and seemingly interminable. On the other hand, his injuries and visits to the hospital lessened, and he barely got dizzy again.
It was only until Sasuke turned five that he realized what his parents were doing to him.
"I'm…not allowed to go outside?" Never had he been outside since he scratched his neck. Sasuke assumed that every child couldn't go outside at his age – until he spied a few happy-go-lucky kids playing ball on the street. "Why can't I?"
Fugaku frowned down on his child, his unfortunate child. "Because you can't," he answered simply.
"That's a stupid reply." Sasuke wasn't stupid.
His father shook his head. "You'll learn when you're older."
Sasuke hated that answer, but because he was dealing with his father, he couldn't interrogate him anymore. He trudged back to his room, his castle and his dungeon, and shut the door with a slam. Out of the corner of his eye, Fugaku spotted Itachi rolling his eyes. "What is it?" he asked harshly, thinking that Itachi's civilized, yet somehow rough behavior is rubbing off on Sasuke.
"Nothing, father," came the cultured reply.
May 25th, 2005
Sasuke waited impatiently at home, right in front of the large, elaborate front window. How cruel were his parents, to forbid him from attending Itachi's college graduation ceremony! His elder brother, clearly born a genius, graduated early from law school at a shocking age of twenty. A surge of jealousy had invaded his body whenever Sasuke would hear of Itachi's feats. Surely, Sasuke had the same aptitude for success – there was only one thing holding him down.
That one thing was excellent at holding him down.
His family arrived at the door, sporting bright faces and genuine smiles. Sasuke never saw his parents smile like that, and he knew exactly why.
"Congrats, Itachi," Sasuke mumbled, opening the door for them. His family passed him by, each showing them their own way of acknowledging his presence. Mikoto hugged him, Fugaku simply nodded at him and Itachi gave him a playful poke on the forehead (a childhood habit). After conversing with each other over the events of the ceremony, Itachi left for his room.
When silence descended upon the Uchiha family, Sasuke posed a question. "Father, Mother," he announced, hoping his uncertainty didn't seep into his voice or face. "Will I be able to graduate like that?" Mikoto and Fugaku exchanged glances, their expressions a mix of concern, grief, and (in Fugaku's case) a tint of annoyance.
Neither of them answered his question. Instead, Mikoto hurriedly shut the door that Sasuke forgot to close and Fugaku marched into his study.
Still, their silence was an answer enough for Sasuke.
October 10th, 2008
He should be elated, but the fact remains that he isn't. Uzumaki Naruto drags his fatigued feet along the sidewalks, always using the path most taken by because there isn't any path that isn't used in Konoha. Not in small-town Konoha.
"Okay, Naruto," he said to himself as softly as possible, so the passing mailman wouldn't look at him as if he were crazy. "You're officially eighteen now. What are you going to do?" His cerulean eyes scanned the horizon with one swift movement, until it landed on that house.
The house that would change his life.
But, of course, he doesn't know that quite yet.
The only word that sprinted through Sasuke's mind at the moment was, Idiot. For about five minutes, that boy with blonde hair had been standing in front of their house, gawking at him peculiarly, as if he just grew another head. Even with his restricted knowledge of society, Sasuke understood that nobody in the right mind would stare at a stranger so long. Not sure if he's supposed to be offended or glad for nobody outside of this house had even spared him a glance, Sasuke counterattacked with a glare commonly used by his father.
"Why the hell are you staring at me, dobe?" he shouted out finally, curiosity getting the better of him. Half of him wished that the teen would flinch and power-walk away. The other half prayed to exchange words with him. Perhaps he shall hear a voice that doesn't belong to one of his relatives. Perhaps he can actually tell his parents that he's met an actual friend.
"'Cause whenever I walk by you stare at me!"
Sasuke jumped at his response. He expected him to walk away. "I do not!" Personally, he enjoyed this abnormal experience. Screaming at a total stranger over a front yard.
"Today's my birthday, cut me some slack!"
"And just because it's somebody's birthday I should allow somebody to stare at me so?"
"…You talk weird!"
Luckily, that boy had been situated too far away to see him redden. His parents were of proper folk (and so was his brother, the accomplished, young lawyer of the family), and Sasuke had been reading one too many English classics to pass his time alone in the typically vacant house.
"Well, do you want something from me?" Sasuke asked, his voice already becoming exhausted. Yelling wasn't exactly something he performed everyday – more often than not he spoke in a confident mumble.
The boy's face screwed up in thought. "Yeah. Your name."
Well, Sasuke had anticipated one hundred dollars, but this was…sufficient. No, not sufficient, even better. Bonds initiate in the exchanging of names…at least that's what Sasuke managed to reckon. "Uchiha Sasuke," he replied, his voice much softer than a shout. The boy pointed to his ear. "Uchiha Sasuke!"
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto and don't you forget it!"
My God. That all-too familiar line reverberated internally, like a cry atop mountain ranges. He's that kid. Lady Luck benevolently allowed him a…nice foundation of a connection with the boy he in all probability scarred for life. Sasuke inspected him from afar – he doesn't look scarred at all.
"Can I come over?"
How bold. His parents failed to be around and his brother wasn't to visit home again until a week from now. "Alright, then."
The house looked like none other. In fact, it was quite the opposite of Naruto's scanty residence. "Nice place," he remarked with a grin that reminded him glaringly of his father when he peered at himself in the mirror. "Your parents must be loaded."
"I suppose so." Sasuke had never reflected about it – money, and et cetera. The silence that ensued embarrassed him. If he were to uphold one decent conversation in his life, it would be this one. Sasuke finally chose to spat out whatever lingered in his fluttering mind. "Look…you didn't want to talk to me just to get my name did you?"
"Uh…" Naruto scratched the back of his head, at a loss for words. "I actually don't know," he admitted sheepishly.
What an idiot. It took Sasuke five seconds afterwards to realize that he had uttered those words out loud. Surely, this 'relationship' was ruined now.
"Well then," Naruto responded with a cocky smirk on his face. "At least try to be hospitable!"
"Hospitable? You're the stranger who asked for my name and invited himself into my home!"
"And you're the one who said yes, so I'll just say that we're even," Naruto replied briskly. He located a basket of fruits and bit into one, only to apprehend that they were phony and only for show. His smile faded for a split second – turning into a scowl – as he plopped the counterfeit produce back into its place. "Sheesh, why make fake food?" he groaned, prodding at the other 'fruit' in the basket.
"Because it looks…" Sasuke searched for the right word. "Suitable." Suitable?
Naruto threw him a glance that evidently screamed 'what the heck?'
Oh yes, their friendship was off to an amazing start.
"Oh no what?" Naruto had, without delay, made himself at home after the fruit occurrence. Presently, he was seated at a very plush couch eating popcorn out of a bowl while watching reruns of arbitrary anime shows.
Sasuke turned to face him with an alarmed expression. "My dad's home."
"And you're here."
"We're dead – you've got to get out," Sasuke urged, snatching the bowl of popcorn away from his guest.
"…Why?" Naruto asked through a mouthful of popcorn. It wasn't as if he was a boy visiting a girl without parental permission, was it…? The clichéd over-protective father thing…?
Sasuke turned the bowl upside-down above a trash can. A waste of popcorn. "Just get out through the back door; just don't step on any of the flowers. And you can jump over the fence, you look tall enough." He nodded his head at Naruto hurriedly. "Get a move on!"
"Not until you give me an explanation."
"Later, if you get out of here alive." He sounded dead serious, and Naruto didn't appreciate such a tone. Was his dad a ogre who eats little boys that aren't one of his kin?
"Alright, alright, already…"
Naruto shouldered his backpack and snuck out the back door and vigilantly stepped over the beautifully made garden overflowing with fall flowers. He made a running leap over the fence, scarcely making it over without hitting his knee on the top. Sasuke's father, a tall man with shoulder-length hair and a fierce face had entered Sasuke's house without any suspicions.
Uzumaki Naruto instigated the remainder of his walk to his apartment while gazing back every once and a while, wondering about the mystery of the apparent imprisonment Uchiha Sasuke.