What's the Difference?


He's got black hair and matching dark eyes that almost resemble his own. Almost, that is.

Jagged bangs that might have been cut by a twelve year old—a simple smile, pleasant like a stream, but no more deep—skin pallid like a virgin scalp—a mild countenance of inky expressions, fluid and blurred. Sasuke knew he hated him the first time he saw him.

Then what's the difference?

Sasuke ran the list of Sai's qualities down his mind for the thousandth time. He's strong…nothing exceptional. Eccentric for sure….but not enigmatic or interesting. Noticeable, yes….but not handsome.

So what is it? What's the difference?

Why is it that Sakura can find an excuse every hour of the day to be talking to him instead of Sasuke?

Yeah, yeah he knows why. God. You betray one little village and turn your back on one group of friends, and all of a sudden you're scum. You're worse than scum: you're nothing. You're not even worth a glare over the top of a soup bowl.

Why is it?

Sasuke knows he sounds spoiled. Hell, in a way, he doesn't even think that he deserves Naruto's and Sakura's attention, not after everything that happened. But why won't Sakura look at him? Surely he deserves a privilege as small as that?

Because Sasuke has been trying. He doesn't like to admit it, but he has been. Trying to fix things. He'd like to see what Sai would do if he were in his position—brother dead, mentor dead, goal torn to shreds all over again. Sasuke thought he was holding up well, considering everything. It wasn't like it was easy to crawl back into the skin of his old self that once fit like a warm sock.

Surely he didn't deserve to come home only to have to watch Sakura dote on someone else? And after all, what has Sai got that Sasuke doesn't? What's the difference?

Sai, with his bland smile not mysterious like Sasuke's, his gentle, silky prose not passionate like Sasuke, and his flying illusions blossoming from the point of his paintbrush, not real and vital like a flame of Sasuke's lungs.

Maybe he's just being paranoid. Sasuke's has let this thought cross his mind on numerous occasions, but now more that ever he suspects he might be seeing black where there's only white.

But somehow he doesn't think so.

Because Sai's fingers linger just a millisecond too long when he hands something to Sakura. Sai's smile changes just a little bit when she's around. And Sakura, on her part, prods Sai like an adolescent flirt, but shares her voice and attention with him.

And she won't look at Sasuke.

It's unfair, Sasuke thinks. Hasn't he suffered enough? He gave his life to something that didn't want him, and he still failed. He's suffered and suffered, but it seems like everyone just wants him to go on suffering.

He wonders what Naruto thinks of it all. But Naruto really doesn't seem to care much. He's wrapped up in his own passions and now that Sasuke's back under the belt, teammates only come second. Naruto doesn't even hang around with them as much as he used to.

So it's just Sasuke and Sakura. And Sakura only looks at Sai.

But maybe there's just one difference between him and Sai, Sasuke realizes. Maybe there's only one difference:

Just a while ago, the three of them ate a picnic in the forest as a gesture of goodwill after a grueling practice. And as they were finishing, Sakura produced an apple and a little paring knife from her bag and began to cut the apple into pieces, peeling each one with care.

And when she finished and set the pieces out on a little plate, pushing them towards the boys, Sai's hand didn't so much as shake as he confidently reached for one.


Hope you have a somewhat good memory, or the ending probably didn't make sense. Thanks for reading!