sticks and stones
xiv: epilogue

Just as she was about to fall asleep, her phone vibrated loudly on her bedside table.

Who the hell was in the right mind to text her at this time? Eyes half open, she felt around for her phone until her fingers wrapped around it.

God, the screen was so bright. She couldn't read the name.

Oh. Sasuke. Ugh, Sasuke or not, she hated it when people texted her late at night. She had to get up and actually read it and maybe reply—but if she didn't get up to read it, she'd die of curiosity, and probably not sleep again anyway.

She stared at the message.

How are you feeling?

Aw, that was sweet, coming from Sasuke.

But that didn't make him an exception. He cut into her sleeping time.

Sighing, she fell back into her pillows, fingers moving across the buttons with familiarity.

Pretty sleepy. You?

The screen dimmed as she waited, and eventually, she placed it face down on her pillow, still in her hand. For the next two minutes, she stared absent-mindedly at her phone, until her eyes began to droop shut again.

Until it vibrated again. Loudly. In her hand.

Screw you, Sasuke, she thought with as much menace as her groggy mind could muster.

Look out your window.

Now he wanted her to get out of bed? That guy asked too much of her. Sighing, she pulled herself out of the warm comfort of her bed with much effort, before trudging to the window. She opened it, breathing in the chilly winter air.

Somehow, she felt a little disappointed when Sasuke wasn't there, as she had originally thought he would be.

She received another text.

Look up.

She did as she was told, and stuck her head further out her window so she could look upwards. Much to her surprise, she found a pair of familiar sneakers dangling above her.

"S-Sasuke?" Her eyes widened. "What are you doing up there? Get down! You're going to catch a cold!" Needless to say, she didn't feel very sleepy anymore.

"Come up here." His tone was as demanding as ever, and she began to fear for her own life more than she did his. She was in nothing but her pajamas and slippers—that, and her accident-prone self didn't really call for climbing up on roofs covered in snow in the middle of the night during winter.

"I can't." She shook her head, even though he couldn't see. "I'll fall."

A hand appeared in her line of vision. "I'll help you up."

After a moment of deep contemplation, she reached up, and his warm hand clasped her colder one. She nearly screamed out loud when she almost lost her footing and fell out of the window and down two floors into the snow below.

When she finally made it through the long and treacherous journey upwards onto the roof, she fell onto her backside, on a picnic blanket—or something of the sort. She hoped it was waterproof.

(Just why and how the hell did Sasuke set this up?)

"This is—nice," she said finally, gazing over the rooftop of the houses across the street. "How did you do this?"

She could hear the smirk in his voice. "Uchihas have a way with things." She laughed a little at this, a shiver running through her body. "Are you cold?" It was amusing, how he sounded so indifferent while expressing his concern—if it really could be considered concern.

"Just a little." Despite her words, her teeth were beginning to chatter. Pajamas and the middle of winter didn't go well together.

She felt a thick blanket drape over her shoulders, and she was, in all honesty, quite surprised when Sasuke shifted closer to her. A heavy blanket was wrapped around them, and she pulled her end closer to her. Combined with Sasuke's body heat, it wasn't so bad.

"Better?" Her heart jumped a little at that.


She couldn't help but think that Lee had never done anything like this for her. It had always been the clichéd things; flowers on her birthday, roses for Valentine's Day, picking her up from school whenever possible, calling her just to say hi—it wore out after a while, but still.

But this—this was completely original.

(Well, only Sasuke would consider sitting atop a roof mid-December.)

"Do you regret it?" It was funny, how she knew exactly what he was referring to. She snuggled up closer to him, holding her toes in hopes that they would warm up.

She shook her head lightly. "No." Through it all, she might've disliked her relationship with Lee at points, but there were also points that she wouldn't trade for anything.

"Has Lee given you a bad impression on boyfriends?"

She thought about that for a moment. "I don't think so. He was just…different."

"Hn." He chuckled softly. "Going to die a virgin?"

"That's still highly possible, yes."

Sakura wasn't exactly sure what her relationship with Sasuke was, but she was fine with where it was right now.

After many years of being friends, Ino should've known that Naruto was the most unpredictable person to have ever graced the earth. Despite that fact, though, she still nearly tore his head off when she woke up, finding him sitting on the foot of her bed.

With her bed hair.

"Get out!" she screeched immediately, when she gathered the ability to think coherently. "Get the hell out!" She threw back her covers and nearly killed him, her hands wrapping around his neck in a death grip.

"Getting out!"

Half an hour later, when she finally emerged from the bathroom, hair brushed and makeup done, she found Naruto in the living room, watching the television. "What are you doing here?"

He shrugged. "Waiting for you."

"Why?" She raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "You never come over without Sakura with you."

"If we're going to swap keys to each other's houses, we might as well use them."

She rolled her eyes. "That wasn't what I was asking." The thought of him sitting at the foot of her bed and waiting for her to wake up was kind of…sweet. Creepy, but sweet.

"What were you asking again? I forget." He was being awfully cocky and evasive today, she noted. Her lips curved into a frown as she watched him, his eyes still glued to the television. It must've been the lack of sleep in the last couple of days, she decided. He wouldn't be like that otherwise.

Ino plopped down onto the couch beside him. "I asked what you're doing here."

Suddenly, Naruto perked up. She cocked and eyebrow. "Right! I almost forgot!"

"Forgot what?"

Her blonde friend bent over to his bag, which sat at his feet. She watched the curiosity as he pulled a box from it. A shoe box?

Her jaw dropped when he opened it and showed its contents to her. "Oh. My God." It was those shoes. Those shoes. Those silver strappy heels with the pretty stones embedded into it. The ones she couldn't afford even if she saved up for a year. "What—why—how…?" she finished weakly.

"I…bought them?" Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, pushing the open box into her hands. "Consider them an early birthday present."

She stared at the shoes, entranced. "I think I love you."

He laughed nervously. "I think I love you, too."

They sat for a while; him watching the television, her gazing longingly at her shoes. Finally, she pulled them out of the box, ripped off the tags and slipped her bare feet into them. "My feet are, like…crying with joy."

Naruto wrinkled his nose. "Uh, that's nice." After a pause, he spoke again. "Can I have something in exchange for those?" He gestured towards her feet.

"Naruto, I couldn't repay you even if I tried. So no."

"You don't even know what I want."

She looked at him, an eyebrow raised. He was watching her earnestly—well, the most earnest she had ever seen him, anyway. "What do you want?"

"Just a kiss."

Her heart leapt to her throat at that, and she resisted just throwing herself at him and crashing her mouth onto his. "Just a kiss?" If he asked, she'd probably give him more than that—but let's not go there.

He smiled sheepishly. "Or two. Or three."

Her lips tingled with anticipation. "I don't mind."

Upon passing the kitchen while hanging out at Naruto's house, Sasuke heard Sakura and Ino discussing interesting topics.

"He's such a good kisser," the blonde was saying, practically gushing. "Only groped me once. When I slapped his hand away, he took the hint and didn't do it again."

Sakura laughed. He liked the way she laughed. (No, he wasn't a creeper. Even if he was eavesdropping on their conversation from outside of the door.) "Sasuke hasn't done much of anything…"

"Well, you guys aren't even going out."

"I know." He heard her sigh. "It's a good thing, I guess. I need a break. But at the same time, I really want to be with him. You know?"

There was a pause. "No, I don't know."

"Like, I don't know! I kind of wish he'd do the things Lee never did. Slow dance under the weirdest circumstances, leave a rose on my bed on the special holidays that I don't get to see him—the unique things."

"Sasuke just might not be that kind of person."

"I know. Which is why I'm not really expecting much. What does Naruto do for you?"

"Nothing! It kind of makes me mad, but it kind of doesn't. And that makes me mad." At this point, Sasuke decided that he heard all he needed to hear. And with that, he continued on his way back to the living room was, where Naruto was gaming it up.

"You never told me you were going out with Ino." The words made Naruto's fingers spasm. The red, bolded words of GAME OVER flashed on the screen.

"Teme, you made me lose!" He childishly threw the game controller at Sasuke, and successfully missed. Dammit. "And what's this shit about Ino?"

"You're going out with her," his best friend repeated.

"Yeah, so?"

"You never told me."

After a moment, the blonde grinned. "I know you're in love with me, but that doesn't mean you have to act like a girl to get me, you know."

"Since when were you even remotely attractive to either gender?"

"Hey! Ino thinks I'm hot, okay?"

"Sasuke? What are you doing here?"

"Can I come in?"

Frowning, she stepped back to allow him inside. "Sure, but it's pretty messy. My parents are out though, so you don't have to worry." They were going back to school the next day, and she was still halfway through packing.

"Did you finish your project?"

"Just this afternoon. Did you?" Goosebumps rose on her skin as she closed the door behind him. "Do you want something to drink?"

"It's fine. I plan to finish mine later tonight."

Checking the clock, she frowned. "It's already eight. Shouldn't you start? Why are you here, anyway?"

"We the Kings released a new album not too long ago. Did you know?" Sasuke set down his bag by the couch and pulled something out. "Do you have an outlet anywhere?"

"Um, behind the couch. No, I didn't know—I don't listen to the radio often. Is it good?" She watched in curiosity as he set something up. When he moved out of the way to plug it in, she saw that they were portable iPod speakers. Ever the rich kid.

"I liked their first album more, but this one isn't too bad. There are two songs that are on the radio often." Plugging his iPod in, an upbeat song began playing. She didn't know why he needed speakers when she could've just listened using earphones. Her head bobbed to the beat, but once she caught herself, she tried to hide it. She knew Sasuke liked We the Kings, but these lyrics seemed too sugar-coated and sweet for him.

Here's a song for the one who stole my heart, and ran so far, that cupid couldn't catch her.

Grinning, she asked him, "Are you trying to tell me something?" She expected him to scowl and deny it, or even smirk and play along with her—but he met her gaze evenly, and she couldn't help but swallow.

"Take it how you want."

The next song began playing—slower than the last.

Do you remember the nights we stayed up just laughing, smiling for hours at anything?

"Would you like to dance?" She snapped to attention then, and could do nothing but gape at him. He had his hand out, waiting for her to take it. His expression was devoid of any emotions, and she couldn't tell what he was thinking, if he was playing a joke on her—but when did Sasuke joke? He didn't joke. So he was being serious.

But dancing…?

"I can't dance," she confessed, feeling the blush rising to her cheeks.

"Just slow dancing," he reassured her. "The type of dancing that isn't really considered dancing." She wasn't sure how to feel, what to think of it—his eyes were far from sincere, and she didn't know what would happen if she accepted. But she wanted to, she realized—wanted to feel him breathing, wanting him to be close, wanting him to be there.

So she took his hand.

A/N: The songs by We the Kings, respectively, are Heaven Can Wait and We'll Be A Dream.

And this is the end! I'd like to say thanks to you guys for staying through all of the attitude I've given this fic, all of the long waits for updates and the crappy writing and cliché situations. I would've abandoned this fic if it weren't for you readers.

If any of you follow me on Twitter, you'd know that a while ago, I was talking about some other multi-chaptered fics. I'm working on my plot development, see? But I don't want to give you guys false hope, so for now, just stay tuned for updates on fading away! I finished writing that a couple of weeks ago, so updates should come monthly now, instead of once every two months.