I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. They belong to the beautiful and talented Masashi Kishimoto.
Better Than You Know
It was a Sunday. Sunday May seventeenth, to be exact. It was a day I will never stop reliving. I was in the hallway of his house, leaning against the wall, out of sight. It was dark. I could just barely make out the light breathing of the woman next to me whose shoulder was pressed up against mine in anticipation. I did not mind the contact, but only because it was her. The girl that knew me so well.
I heard a sneeze across the wide open entrance room. I heard her breath catch in her throat. Was he coming? I resisted the urge to peek out from out from behind the wall and catch a glimpse of the front door, the curtained windows and the dim light seeping in from the cracks of the door. I felt her encircle my hand with her own. She was pushing on my bubble of personal space a little too hard, but in the current situation I had no will to reclaim my space. I closed my hand softly around her smaller one and turned my head, painfully aware of the muted sound my hair made as it scratched on the wall. I could barely make out her emerald eyes in the darkness, but she was looking at me and I could see her familiar lips curve into a smile at me.
She leaned up and whispered at a level that was barely audible, "Sasuke." She stopped, listening to the surrounding silence, wary of the possibility that he may be there at any moment. "You are a wonderful friend," she breathed before resting back down on her heels. It wasn't until now I noticed just how much shorter than me she was, I was a little more than a head taller and it astounded me. The last time we had been close enough to tell was years ago in grade six. We were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in gym class according to height and I was barely half an inch taller than her. So much time had passed since then, but I still found myself as close to her as I had ever been. I smiled briefly and squeezed her hand lightly before turning my head the other way, still wishing I could see the door. I breathed cautiously, lending my ears once again to the silence around us. How long had it been that we were like this? Twenty minutes at least.
What was that? We held our breath as the doorknob turned and it opened, spilling sunlight into the stunningly dark room. "Why's it so dark in here?" His voice floated airily through the room. We held our position.
As he flicked on the light switch to his left they jumped out all screaming simultaneously, "Surprise!" She was included, but I lingered around the corner, I was not about to scream with them, fortunately they were loud enough for me and a few others to be silent. When I finally turned the corner, I saw his face. His golden hair was spiked up in random directions like he had just woken up (which he had), but it looked good on him. But that was not what I noticed first. His face. I must admit, was highly amusing. He was wide-eyed and his mouth was agape in shock. I restrained a smile. He stuttered out a, "Wh- What?"
"Happy birthday, Naruto!" She exclaimed, running up and hugging him. I leaned against the opposite wall from where we were now, my hands casually tucked in my pockets as I watched all but three give a hug and a congratulations to him. I was included in that three, the other two being the redhead now standing behind the horseshoe couch and the Hyuuga calmly taking a seat on one of the leather chairs' footrests.
I watched the scene unfold in silence until Naruto asked still shocked, "Who set this up?" I smirked.
"Sasuke did," She answered, turning to me. I didn't budge as he looked at me. I couldn't read his eyes. Shock? Happiness? Thankfulness? It was all hazy. He walked over to me, leaving the mob of our shared friends at the door.
"Thanks," and he held out his arms as if to hug me but as he closed in for the kill I ducked and scooted to my right. When he hit the wall all of us laughed, although I just smirked at him as he turned to glare at me. The glare was pathetic and pouty, but I was not about to allow a hug. It wasn't me. "Teme!"
"You should know better than to try and hug me, dobe. But you're welcome." I did not change my eyes but stopped smirking as I spoke. "Sakura helped out a lot, too. Everyone did." She smiled at me, I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I still faced Naruto.
"Don't be modest, Sasuke. You got everyone together, made sure Naruto was out of the house early in the morning, and even set up the TV outside," Sakura explained.
"TV outside? What TV outside?" Naruto blubbered, instantly looking at me then Sakura and turning to run outside. I smirked as the mob followed the dobe outside.
I wandered slowly along the back of the crowd along with pineapple-boy and Sabaku. I could hear Naruto going crazy outside over the television. It was a stroke of genius, if I did say so myself. The hallway was long leading to the back deck out-looking the lawn. Naruto, despite having lost his parents so long ago, lived a life of luxury with his family's close friend Jiriya, the successful author. The home was nothing to sneeze at, but I still think back to the Uchiha mansion and remember that this is nothing comparatively.
Stepping slowly out onto the deck, Naruto turned to me and everyone parted and let me step to the center of the mob. "Sasuke, did you do this?" He asked me, his blue eyes electrifying.
"Everyone chipped in, I just came up with the idea since you were whining about how you could never watch TV at night because Jiriya-- occupied the one upstairs," I stated curtly, everyone chuckling at my pause before "occupied."
"Thanks, teme," He said to me earnestly, "I can't say that enough." Before long everyone started wondering what we were doing just standing there, barely three feet apart, staring into each others' eyes. He smiled at me through his eyes as he plastered a goofy grin across his lips. I looked back at him with something in my eyes that he must have thought intense because he blinked and turned away, shouting, "Last one in the pool treats the rest of us to ramen!" And dashing away and dive bombing into the oval-shaped pool filled with chlorinated water in the center of the large lawn.
I followed lazily and rolled up my jeans as I watched most of the guys shed their shirts and dive right in, whereas most of the girls took off their tops and shorts revealing their bathing suits before jumping in on the fun. I still adorned my shirt as I sat down next to Shikamaru on the edge of the pool, dangling our feet in the water.
Soon enough Lee had dragged the lazy genius into the the water and they were dunking each other, wrestling in the clear water. Gaara had even walked into the pool and was now conversing lethargically with Neji and Shino by the edge. Hinata, Ino, and Sakura were having a water fight whilst dodging around where Kiba, Choji and Tenten were having a heated argument about what movie they should watch first on the new television. Naruto and Temari lounged on the opposite end from Sabaku and Hyuuga. I couldn't hear what they were talking about. I rested my elbows on my legs and then my head on my hands. I was content to watch the commotion from afar. Before long Temari joined the movie debate and Naruto floated over to me, placing his hands on either side of my legs on the side of the pool to keep himself afloat easier.
"Teme, c'mon, jump in!" He told me urgently.
I resisted the urge to shoot my friend a death glare and simply gave a prompt, "No."
"Teme!" He whined, drawing out the final syllable, his electric blue eyes pleading me to join the group. I had no intention of moving from my spot, but Naruto had asked nicely. I contemplated it, showing no emotion. It would take so long for my jeans to dry off if I did, but I did want to have fun. Incredible concept, I know. But hey, why not? I could always borrow new pants from Naruto. Seeing a change in my eyes, Naruto broke out in a grin and pushed off the side of the pool.
I gave a groan of protest before pushing off from my seat by the side into the deep end of the pool. As I surfaced, my friends were clapping and cheering. I gave a rare smile and combed my hair back from my eyes. I was in for a wild night.
"You're turn, Sasuke-kun!" Ino chirped as the bottle halted, pointing at me. Why had it come to this? Spin the bottle? I guess it's because Ino insisted and Naruto didn't protest the idea. I inwardly sighed and glared mildly at the bottle, willing it to move an inch to the left and land on Shikamaru. No such luck. "Truth or dare?" I had always detested that squeaky voice of hers.
"Truth," I answered cooly.
"Too scared to do a dare, Uchiha?" Kiba asked snottily, smirking at me from across the circle.
"I simply do not desire to be dared to do something dumb like you were, Inuzuka." I was an Uchiha, I had pride unlike the dog-boy. He had been dared to lay one on Shino and, knowing the devious witch that Ino was, I would be dared to do something of a similar nature.
"Tch," He snorted, crossing his arms across his chest and looking away. I smirked.
"Tell us something we don't know you're gonna be doing over summer," Ino ordered me by her divine power of bottle-spinner that round.
I was honestly surprised at the lack of evil put into her choice, but I somehow know that she also knew that I would not spill any gossip-worthy information even if she asked. But I had been hoping to tell everyone later... perhaps after I had already gone, but that seemed to be out of the question now. I wasn't scared of how they would react, just of losing them myself. I, the ice prince himself, admit a soft spot for the group. Even the annoying, manipulative bitch Ino. Now that she wasn't clinging on to me she was actually pretty alright. Was it so hard to tell them? They were only words. It wasn't like it was the end of the world: telling them, but somehow that did not make the frog in my throat go away.
"We're waiting, Sasuke," Ino said, slightly annoyed at me thinking about my response.
I looked up at my friends with a twinge of sadness in my eyes and clearing my throat and speaking clearly despite the tightness there, I told them, "I'm moving back to Kyoto."
Silence ensued the statement. A tense, almost somber silence, not one meant for a birthday party. I looked into her emerald eyes, sitting to my right and found pain. Almost hurt. What was I expecting her to say?
"You must be joking," Kiba laughed it off, looking at me with eyes that said 'this is all a joke, right?'
I slowly shook my head. "My parents are requesting that I move back in with them for my last two years of high school. I leave in three weeks." Three all-too-short weeks.
The tension consumed the conversation and it dimmed to a silence in the burning twilight. It was still hot, despite the decreasing light. The garden lights that lined the deck flickered on, shedding a small amount of fluorescent light across our faces.
Everyone's eyes looked sad as I reached forward to the bottle that created this mess and twisted it quickly, causing the bottle to spin noisily on the wood of the deck. The game must go on.
The game had long-since ended and the group was watching some movie or another on the new flat-screen. I had wandered inside and then out the front door, lingering on the front patio. I sat on the top two steps of the four leading up to the large estate and looked up, the remnants of the sunset fading off the sky. I always had liked twilight because it was a mingling of light and darkness, but somehow it had a negative effect on me that day. I felt betrayed by the incoming darkness because I spent so long planning his party and then ruined it with my unfortunate news. I sighed and looked up at the stars.
Click. Thump, thump, thump, thump. Naruto sat beside me unceremoniously, but didn't say a word. He looked up at the stars with me. There weren't that many left with all the pollution in Tokyo, you could see them a great deal better on the outskirts of Kyoto. But these were nice all the same because they held my memories of my friends.
"So you're really leaving, teme?" He asked me warily.
I was unsure how to reply and keep my mask in place, so I gave a simple, "Hn."
"You must have known for so long, why didn't you tell us?"
I kept my eyes pointed to the sky, even though I could feel his expectant look on my cheeks. "I had not found an opportune moment to tell everyone."
He fell silent, keeping his look on me. I finally broke my sight off of the sky and looked into his burning sapphire orbs. What was going on inside that head of his? I never could tell all that well. A moment later he asked, "Why are your parents making you move back?"
"They say they want to keep a good eye on my grades so I can get into a good university and so that I may become well acquainted with their business partners before I take over the family business."
He looked skeptically at me. "But I thought your parents wanted you to go to Tokyo U.? Wouldn't that be contradictory to bring you back to Kyoto for only two years when you'll be coming back so soon?"
"Hn. I don't know, dobe."
"There must be another reason," He told me confidently, looking back into my onyx eyes. "You're hiding something from me."
I turned to face him, crossing my legs. "Alright, dobe, do you want to know the reason?"
He mimicked me and turned towards me, crossing his legs. Our knees were touching, although he took no notice. I was beginning to mind the closeness between us. "Of course, teme."
"My parents are afraid that I'll like the city life more than the honourable Kyoto lifestyle. They don't want me getting different ideas of what I want to do with my life. They just want me to stay brainwashed under their care and take over the family business." I paused, looking into his azure eyes. "Happy?"
He nodded dumbly and a short silence followed my statement. It was awkward, an awkwardness that I had never felt around my blonde friend before.
"Hey, dobe." I was the first to speak after that. "I haven't given you your birthday present yet." He looked up at me with confused eyes.
"But the TV--"
"Is not just from me. So I thought I'd get you something else." I rummaged in my hoodie that I had grabbed before going outside again and pulled out an envelope. I handed it to my friend and he opened it.
"Tickets to see Akatsuki? These are nearly impossible to get!" He exclaimed with glee.
"Well, considering my brother is good friends with their stage manager I was able to grab some tickets off him when he visited over the winter holidays. I know they're your favorite band."
"Wow. That is amazing, but what's this?" Naruto asked, pulling out a thin strip of orange fabric neatly folded and hemmed.
"It's an arm band," I told him, taking it from his hands and tying it tightly around his upper right bicep. "It's to cover up that nasty scar Akamaru gave you that one time at the park when you refused to relinquish the frisbee. Plus, orange fits you."
He smiled at me, appreciative that I had let my guard down. "Thanks, teme. And it does make me look tough." He flexed his arm, showing off the armband. A hint of a smile ghosted across my lips. A more cheery silence followed our conversation this time, but it was still intense.
Then, out of the blue, he whispered (it was almost a whimper), "I'm going to miss you, teme."
I smiled inwardly and snickered, "I'll miss you too, dobe, as much as I hate to say it."
Naruto leaned forward, resting his forehead against mine. Okay-- serious invasion of my bubble right here. "What are you doing, dobe?"
"I want to remember everything about you, teme, so suck it up," he snapped at me. I was silenced and allowed him to remain sitting in front of me, our knees touching, his forehead rested against mine. He closed his eyes but I kept my charcoal eyes locked on his face. Was that a tear on his cheek?
"Sasuke," -- He almost never used my name -- "I don't want to lose you."
"What are you talking about, dobe? Kyoto isn't the moon."
He stayed silent, our foreheads still touching. I thought of moving away, but the close proximity gave me a strange form of comfort now. I let my eyes drift shut, just as his had. It was a companionable silence we sat in, and on a strange whim I put my hand lightly on his that were folded in his lap as I whispered, "I'm going to keep in touch, don't worry."
But that was more than five years ago. So much time has passed since then, but I still remember the way he touched my forehead with such tenderness, how appreciative he was that I made that party happen... I still remember seeing the tears stream down his face three weeks later when he and Sakura saw me off at the train station. Despite the memories, despite the hurt, I find myself today, exactly where he thought I would be: halfway through my last year at Tokyo U. I hadn't seen him since... or really talked at all. I e-mailed him a few times in the months following my departure for Kyoto, but eventually stopped when I got caught up in the work for grade eleven. Sakura still called every now and then, but university consumed the majority of my time now.
I had, many times, mulled over the idea of going to his house, he probably hadn't moved, but never brought myself to do it. I don't think I ever will see him again. But then again, fate works in mysterious ways. Perhaps I will.
I spare a glare towards my phone as it began to vibrate and scream out "Whispers in the Dark" by Skillet. I set my pen down and ceased finishing my Advanced Statistics homework to pick up the offending article and flip it open sideways, automatically starting on speakerphone so I could continue my homework. (1) I voiced, "Uchiha Sasuke speaking. Who is this?"
"Hey Sasuke!" Her voice sounded distant and full of static, but I could never forget it. I suppressed a smile and allowed my hand to stop half-way to my pen. "It's Sakura." I could almost see her green eyes light up.
"Sakura. What a pleasant surprise." I kept my tone even, but not cold.
"What's up?" She asked rhetorically. "I want to hang out sometime. I haven't talked to you since Summer and we haven't hung out since... Like ever."
I chuckled softly. "Indeed. It has been a long while, but semester exams are next week so I need to study."
"Then what are you doing come semester break?" I could almost see her frustrated eyes glaring at the ground as she walked, a sigh of annoyance hidden behind her words. She would be twisting a strand of hair around her right index finger too.
"My parents are requesting that I return home for the Holidays, but I already told them that I wanted to get a head start on the upcoming semester. Thus, it would be more convenient to remain in Tokyo for the break. What do you have in mind?"
A smile seeped through her words, "I'm having a reunion with a lot of old friends over to Naruto's house for Christmas. I told everyone they could bring their families too, so it's going to be a big affair." Naruto's house? Hm.
"Did you say Naruto's house?" I believe I sounded colder than I should have.
"Is that a problem, Sasuke?" I stared blankly at my open Statistics text book and wondered. Was it a problem? At first I would say of course not. Naruto and I were good friends, but I hadn't seen him in years. Maybe we wouldn't be anymore. People change over the years.
I absentmindedly shook my head, even though she could not see it. "No, it's not a problem."
"Fantastic. Christmas Day, Two P.M. at Naruto's. You still remember how to get there, right?" She asked cheerily, a hop in her step adding to the blurriness of her voice.
"Hn." Of course I did. How could I ever forget?
"Perfect, I'll see you there then, Sasuke!" She giggled.
"Hn." Click. Click. The buzz of the dial-tone stun slightly at my ear. I flipped the phone closed and paused to think.
It had been years since I had seen or heard from Naruto. Maybe he would be different. Knowing how it works, he would be a completely different person. Then again, the dobe would always be a dobe. No matter how much he changed. I smirked. Once a dobe, always a dobe.
I returned to my work, determined for my concentration not to be broken by thoughts of the party. Much to my dismay, I found my mind wandering all too often and went to bed early, my homework unfinished on my desk.
(1) "Whispers In the Dark" is actually my ringtone. And the phone he has is a double-hinged phone like I have. I'm so creative, ne? lol. xD
I know it doesn't look like it now but I swear this IS a romance.... Just let it take it's course. I hope you liked it, and if you did hit the magical review button! Thank you very much! 3