A/N: Again, I apologize for the long wait. The chapter's painfully short, yet the time it took for me to get over writer's block was painfully long, too. Enjoy, because this reveals a little more and entails more of the future events. And, I'm moving the storyline a lot quicker than I initially planned because I lost my outline for this story. Until I find it, I'll be winging it as best as I possibly can.
And, later on in the story, if you're really curious, you're welcome to look up the article too. I can't do anything to stop you, though I advise you against it if you really want to be surprised.
Also, please look at the poll in my homepage. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. ^.^
June 9th, 1998
By his request, Sasuke could breathe the outside air. By his request, he could taste food made by someone outside of the family. Sasuke was delighted and relieved, even if the experience would last for only one night.
"Happy Birthday," he smiled at his elder brother, who, on this day, entered his teenage years. Sasuke felt truly grateful that his brother entreated his parents to allowing him outside for the dinner, but a sense of foreboding enthralled his body. Everyone he knew – his aging parents and his maturing brother, is going to grow up and grow old and leave him behind.
They will, if Sasuke didn't vanish first.
Itachi grinned back at his innocent sibling, who couldn't stop glancing at other customers over his shoulder and eavesdropping on conversations that he had no business in. Fugaku reprimanded him, Mikoto pretended (or not?) to not notice, and Itachi was amused and pleased. His brother finally got what he wanted – a taste of the outside world.
Then, a panicked voice ruined it. "M-mom," Sasuke exclaimed, his hand covering his mouth. Mikoto stood up, alarmed by the tone of voice. Sasuke removed his hand, and in it, laid the tip of his tongue and splotches of blood.
"Sasuke!" Mikoto cried. Fugaku called the hospital as many people in the restaurant stared rudely at the odd sight. In their eyes, it wasn't everyday when you get to see a pitiful seven year old bite his tongue off. Sasuke flushed as he continuously spat out the metallic tasting liquid out of his mouth and into a bloodied napkin. He could just hear them – What a stupid child. Is there something wrong with him? Maybe we should help? No, of course not. I feel bad for the parents.
So this is why. This is why I'm confined. The fog of confusion lifted from his mind as the ambulance's sirens rang in the night. And Sasuke gazed at his brother, continuously saying the words:
October 11th, 2008
Apparently, the tides have turned.
Naruto stood before the Uchiha house, geared for interrogation and prepared for harsh out-of-this-world truths. Perhaps a truth even more shocking than his father dying in a car crash, all because the other driver had one too many beers that night. Perhaps even a truth more fascinating than the lies his foster parents shoved on his plate, crudely crafted and humorously stupid.
Instead, he gripped the straps of his backpack, while observing the uncomfortably familiar silver car parked in the driveway. It appears that Sasuke's enigmatic father returned early today. The only reason that Naruto could dream of was that he became suspicious.
Oh, yes, suspicious. But certainly not as suspicious as Naruto.
A flash of raven hair caught Naruto's eye through the dimly lit window. Sasuke stepped back and noticed his visitor and pressed his hand against the glass, wearing an utterly bewildered expression.
"Go away!" he mouthed. Naruto shook his head vehemently, overdoing the action to get his point across plainly and bluntly. Sasuke made an exasperated face and, in one swift, yet somehow hesitant motion, he shoved his window open. "You idiot!" he whispered/screamed. "My father is home, don't you see?"
"You told me you'd tell me what's going on!"
"I said later." Short pause. "And why would I explain my life story to a complete stranger?"
Such simple logic left the Uzumaki baffled. "Because," he shrugged. "I know I've seen you somewhere before." It was a fake explanation, but lying might work out for him in circumstances such as this.
"…Really?" Sasuke didn't raise his eyebrow or say that sentence in a disbelieving tone. Naruto concealed a grin from his face – the last person he'd presume to be gullible was this guy. On the other hand, the Uchiha's mind clouded with dismay. His hand spontaneously flew up to his neck, where the scars, in spite of everything, embedded themselves onto his skin. Scars from back then.
Naruto, giddy from the unprecedented success, said, "Yeah, I'm positive. I just don't quite remember but…you look familiar. So please, tell me?"
Sasuke's defensives bolstered again, possibly fueled by the blonde's unintelligent curiosity. "There's no way I'm telling you. So you might have seen me on the streets or something. Konoha's not the biggest town out there."
Damn. Well, the first reaction always is the strongest. Luck emerged on Naruto's side when the phone chimed vociferously inside of Sasuke's residence. The other boy hurried away from the window and put a phone to his ear nearby. Naruto took this opportunity to get closer to the house. He vigilantly and rapidly advanced towards the window with arms wide open, so he could listen in to the conversation.
"Itachi, why are you calling?"
"No, I'm not…What? But…Okay." Sasuke rested the phone's receiver on his shoulder. "Father, Itachi wants to speak to you." There was a grunt as a reply, and undoubtedly his father had picked up a different phone.
Naruto poked his head up when Sasuke put the phone back into its place. "Now can I come in?" he asked mischievously, half laughing. The Uchiha's onyx eyes widened in some sort of unidentified understanding. He nodded almost without hesitation. Slightly shocked at the change of heart, Naruto jumped as silently as he could into the room.
"See, nothing bad happened," he declared in a half-whisper, unsure of whether or not Sasuke's father lingered close by. Naruto spotted the other boy's glowering expression. "And you still won't tell me anything?"
Sasuke turned away from him, his expression darkening with tough contemplation. He sure as hell didn't trust the boy, but he didn't want to push him away like this – primarily because this might be his only chance to actually live…
"Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, or CIPA."
His onyx eyes finally met it's polar opposite cerulean eyes. "You heard me," he said, trying to sound as strong as he thought he was. Whenever he uttered those words, his world went spinning. It's like what he imagined it would feel like if somebody punched him hard in the stomach.
Naruto considered his words for a split second, making no sense out of them. "And you expect me to know about this?"
Sasuke turned away, feeling ashamed that he even informed the idiot. "You can get out, now."
A repeated "Huh?" came.
Something about his tone of voice told Naruto to listen. At first, it sounded heated vexed. But as Uzumaki Naruto began walking the sidewalk back to his lonely apartment, his ears perceived those two words over and over again, a message that needs to be understood before it dies away. And, at the moment when he swung open his door, wishing his father sat in front of the television, he knew that Sasuke's anger coated his true emotion.
Sasuke attempted (and failed) at keeping his mind off that Naruto. He waits a few more minutes beside the glass, wondering if the stubborn fool would endeavor to return. Of course, he didn't. Sasuke sighed and left the window and didn't look back.
And then, he recalled that he had a pressing matter to attend to. He rushed over to the phone again.
"Sasuke, I know you're listening in." His elder brother's voice rang out instantaneously, although it sounded rather peaceful and nonchalant. That's how he always sounded, but Sasuke knew that he continuously hid something under that poker face.
However, both brothers could hear their father's scowl through his silence. Fugaku hung up, leaving the two brothers on the phone.
"Itachi, how did you know?"
Sasuke heard a little rustle, and he pictured Itachi shrugging. "It was a gut feeling."
There was no way to deny it, so Sasuke believed him.
October 16, 2008
This kind of day constantly left Sasuke sitting at the edge of his seat, restless instead of motionless. His eyes scanned the roads every few minutes, looking for a black car that was a sign of Uchiha Itachi's excessive success in law. Lawyers were always paid big bucks, but he, probably the youngest prosecutors in Konoha, rapidly became one of the head honchos in the mystifying and exceedingly controversial world of lawyers.
Five minutes until Itachi's set arrival time. Any moment now, and he'd be greeting his older brother again – not only with a smiling face, but unanswered queries that must be answered.
But instead, Sasuke spied a flash of disorderly blonde hair and striking cerulean eyes. That kid. Naruto. Again, that feeling of his world spinning round conquered his internal sense. He thoroughly went to sleep several nights ago, believing in disbelief that he had scared off his one and only golden ticket. But, no. Uzumaki Naruto stood there, his eyes like a clear-blue mirror, signaling that he silently understood everything.
Sasuke's breathless moment lasted only for that one split second until that car that he searched for finally emerged on the road and pulled up in the driveway. He perceived through the windows that Itachi was staring curiously at the trespasser, Naruto. The blonde noticed and darted off like a rabbit, unable to blend with its surroundings, spotted by a wolf. Sasuke's heart felt as if it sunk through the floor with heavy realization. Naruto's probably gone. Again.
Then again, once Itachi opened the door to the house, a weighty burden lifted. "I'm home," he'd say again with a hint of a smile, for sometimes he'd hate it, and sometimes he'd love it.
"Welcome back," Sasuke said, recognizing this all too familiar bittersweet emotion.
"So," Itachi mimicked him, something they got into a habit in before they began talking about something…serious.
"How did you know?" Sasuke tapped his dull fingernails (kept dull for a reason) against the wooden kitchen counter as he cautiously (cautiously, because that's the way his parents taught him to eat) chewed on an Oreo cookie. Every time, he'd twist open the cookie and eat the cream first. Itachi had told him, jokingly, of course, long ago that eating it without opening it means that you're more mature. This offended Sasuke quite a bit, so he tried to stop his Oreo habit. But, eventually, he gave up, thinking that he'll have to live as a child to actually live at this rate.
Itachi eyed his little brother vigilantly, as he relentlessly had. "I told you, gut feeling. Instinct. It never failed me before."
Sasuke scoffed. Itachi seldom used the term gut feeling and instinct as an excuse. Only when it really counted, other than in the court room. "And what will you do if it does fail you?"
"When it does, then I'll pay for the failure with my life."
October 11, 2008
Now, Naruto wasn't the best at school. But in situations such as these, it does him well to remember important things. Things like the many big words that, apparently, were Sasuke's reason for being a sheltered boy. Although it took him five tries to spell the words, Anhidrosis correctly, the page filled with links finally popped up on Google. Naruto selected the first one, from Wikipedia.
Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis.
"Sasuke." The article was horrid, and Sasuke's name, a prayer.