DISCLAIMER: I wish I own Naruto so that 'he' is still with us...


CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

Sasuke knew that Hinata had been in his house again. He didn't have to check the CCTV or ask anyone. He sighed, looking at the couch. Hinata has certain habits. Like how she always, always left her cellphone behind.

"Hinata," muttered Miyuki, clinging at Sasuke's leg.

"I know."

He ignored the cellphone and continued making his way in the house. It has been almost 2 weeks since he stormed out of the Hyuuga residence with Miyuki in tow. According to Gaara (who was in the house every time Hinata dropped by), Hinata seemed to be under the notion that Sasuke broke up with her. Sasuke didn't know where she got that idea however, he was not in any hurry to deny anything. Not yet. He was still feeling a little betrayed by what Hinata did. Despite her best intentions.

"Did you eat dinner already?" he asked the child hanging on his leg as he climbed up the stairs.

"Yes! Panda-chan cook!"

"What did Gaara cook?" After the whole 'Uncle Neji' thing, Sasuke would not allow Miyuki to call anyone uncle until she called him Uncle Sasuke.

"Rice! And pig!"

"Pork," he corrected. "Was it delicious?"

"No!"

Sasuke laughed out loud. All the stress from work and Hinata would disappear every time he and Miyuki spent a little time together. He lifted Miyuki up to his bed. "My cooking is better, right?"

"No!"

His smile vanished in an instant. She's too honest for her own good. Before he could say anything else, Miyuki dashed out of the room. "Where is she going?"

He was taking his shoes off when Miyuki came back. She handed Sasuke a piece of paper and an envelope. The day's lesson was on the piece of paper and it had 5 stars. Perfect score. He patted Miyuki on the head. "Good girl."

Miyuki grinned.

He opened the envelope next. It was an invitation for a class presentation. Sasuke cringed inwardly. Hinata was normally the one who attended anything that would require the presence of a guardian in that school but since they were not exactly friendly these days, Sasuke was apprehensive.

"Another presentation?" he asked, exasperated. "Is that school training you kids for Broadway?"

Miyuki shook her head. "No."

"What are you going to be this time? A grasshopper?"

"No!" she stomped her foot angrily. "What we will grow up!"

"What you will be when you grow up?"

"Yes!"

"That's simple. Tell them you'll be the next CEO of the KONOHA Corp."

"No! I paint! Like Papa!"

Sasuke paused for a moment. Itachi would support his daughter's dream. Fugaku would go ballistic if he found out. Hinata would encourage her to pursue her dream. Sasuke looked at his niece. She's five years old. There's still plenty of time for her to realize other dreams. Sasuke didn't know what to say. But one thing's for sure, he would not let history repeat itself.

"But your drawings suck."

xXx

The next day, Sasuke scowled at the school gate in front of him. He hated participating in this kind of stuff. If it wasn't for the fact that Miyuki might be the only kid who doesn't have anyone to support her, he would have bailed out and let Gaara attend on his behalf. And of course, he would not be in this situation if Hinata was here. She called last night and told Gaara (who told him) that she could not make it today because she was going to see a friend. It's about time she starts seeing other people, Gaara added unhelpfully. Sasuke glared.

What could be more important than watching a bunch of 5-year-olds talk about their future careers? Where's she going? Who's she going to meet? She's not going to meet that poor excuse for a prospective fiancée, right? Before the whole investigation fiasco, Hiashi had been pressing her to meet up with Marechiyo Omaeda and to apologize for the engagement's cancellation. Sasuke was not jealous of course. Why must he be jealous of that big oaf?

"You look like you're about to strangle someone." Gaara remarked impassively. "Thinking about Hinata and her… date?"

"Shut up." Sasuke growled.

"Bad Sasuke!" Miyuki piped happily. She was holding Sasuke and Gaara's hands and been swinging between them.

"Sasuke's a bad boy." Gaara agreed.

By the time the threesome reached Miyuki's classroom, Sasuke was barely hanging on to what remained of his limited patience. Gaara wanted to come along. Sasuke was not sure about that. Gaara wasn't exactly sociable. Sasuke only agreed because Hinata asked the guy to videotape Miyuki. That and the fact that his friend hasn't been out of the house for weeks. Sasuke figured Gaara needed to see the sun once in a while. Before Miyuki called him Dracula-chan.

The door to Miyuki's classroom burst open and out came her boisterous teacher.

"Good morning, Miyuki-chan!" she was looking at Sasuke though, all smiles and fluttery eyes. "Can I just say, Uchiha-san, this is such a pleasant surprise. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw you – and Miyuki-chan, of course – from the windows. You haven't visited us since forever! How are you?"

Trying hard not to puke, Sasuke thought. He glanced inside the classroom. It was already packed of students and their parents. Everyone was busy to notice them. "Are we late?"

"Oh, no! Not at all! They were early," she finally noticed the stoic Gaara. "And who might this be?"

"Miyuki's pet." Sasuke answered dispassionately as Miyuki dashed inside.

Gaara rolled his eyes while the teacher let out a shrill laugh. Without waiting for an invitation, Sasuke stepped inside the classroom. The teacher fussed over him and offered the seat right beside her desk. Sasuke ignored her and chose to sit at the very back of the classroom. It wasn't as crowded. There were only two men, looking like it was their first time being here. Sasuke took the chair at the far corner.

"What a cheerful person." Gaara commented as he sat down beside Sasuke. He watched the teacher usher in more parents who just arrived. "She likes you."

Sasuke scoffed, not taking his eyes away from his niece who was sitting at the very front. Miyuki turned, looked around and when she spotted him, she smiled and waved. Sasuke raised a hand in return. Miyuki then waved at Gaara but he didn't notice her because he was now busy with the camera. Sasuke nudged him.

"What?"

"Miyuki's waving at you." Gaara looked up and waved at Miyuki. Sasuke noticed the two men smiling at them.

"You have a lovely daughter," said the guy with gray hair and spectacles.

"She's not my daughter." Sasuke informed them with a sigh. He was getting tired of people assuming he was the father.

"Oh, I thought because she looks like you, you guys might have had a surrogate." Gray-haired explained. The guy beside him was nodding his head. "I'm Yukito and this is Touya. We just moved in the neighborhood last month with our daughter. That's her over there. It's been awesome so far. People are not judging us or anything. And that's what we want for our daughter, a normal and happy childhood. What about you guys? How has it been for you?"

"We're not gay." Gaara muttered bluntly. Sasuke buried his face in his hand in mortification. Subtlety was never Gaara's thing.

The guy named Yukito gave an awkward chuckle. "You're not? I'm sorry! I thought… oh, gosh! I'm really sorry!"

"It's fine." Sasuke assured. "But no, we're not. I have a girlfriend."

"I don't have a girlfriend." Gaara shared impassively.

"I'm Uchiha Sasuke. This is Sabaku Gaara."

"I live at his house."

"Only because he's too stingy to get his own place."

"Money is not the problem." Gaara muttered. "It is lonely to live alone. Nothing is more fun than sharing a drink with my friends in just our boxers."

Sasuke wanted nothing more than to strangle his friend. However, before he could act out the impulse to do so, the teacher announced the start of the class. All the adults remained quiet as they observe the way their kids behave in class. Miyuki in particular, Sasuke was proud to see, was well-behaved and focused. She never raised a hand to answer a question but she seemed content to just listen and watch her classmates do silly things. There was one kid who could not sit still. He kept turning around, disturbing other kids, and he's very loud. Most of the adults seem to find his antics funny. Sasuke was reminded of Naruto.

As the class progressed, Sasuke was surprised that he was enjoying himself. It was endearing to hear children talk about the future. To them, the world was bright and full of sunshine. These kids don't know how cruel life could be, Sasuke thought wistfully. Miyuki stood up and walked to the front. With a pang, Sasuke realized that his niece already knew what it was like.

Miyuki held up a painting she made. "I want to be a painter. I love to draw… and paint. I will paint to bring hap-happiness to people… and I want my father and mother in heaven to be proud."

Sasuke was surprised to hear his niece talk so fluently. As Gaara took a video, Sasuke was on his feet and clapped the loudest. He was the only one there who knew how far she'd come, how much she improved. At that moment, Sasuke decided that Miyuki's free to be whoever she wanted to be. If that means she's going to be happy from here on – no more post-traumatic stress, no more nightmares. She's fine, Itachi. She's doing fine.

xXx

"When are you going to stop being an asshole and forgive Hinata-chan already?"

Sasuke gave Naruto a cold glance. "Mind your own business."

Naruto jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "YOU –!"

Miyuki sneezed.

He already forgave her. But truth be told, Sasuke was nervous. He didn't know what he should say. He acted like an oversensitive s-o-b that day. He supposed a sorry would suffice but he felt as though he should not be the only one who should apologize. It was a complicated situation.

"Don't pressure him into doing something he's not yet ready to do." Gaara advised calmly. He was uploading the video from the morning's activity on the laptop.

Miyuki sneezed again.

"What's your problem, anyway?" Sasuke asked the fuming blond who arrived in his house in a foul mood.

Naruto sat down again with a pout. "Sakura-chan… she's giving me a hard time these days…"

"Is she pregnant?" Gaara asked out-of-the-blue. Naruto sputtered nervously. Sasuke raised an eyebrow.

"H-how did you know?!"

"So it's true." Gaara smirked.

"Hey! You guys are not supposed to know yet! She's organising this dinner next week and she's going to announce it there. Don't tell her I told you!"

"Idiot," Sasuke said, "you didn't tell us anything."

Naruto blinked owlishly then laughed out loud. "That's right! I didn't! But you guys should pretend you didn't know, ok?"

"Whatever."

"And until then, you have to make things right with Hinata-chan. Sakura-chan expects her to be there."

Miyuki sneezed again. Sasuke frowned as he looked at his niece playing in the middle of the living room. "Miyuki, stop playing with Mr. Fishy. It must be dirty. And cover your mouth when you sneeze."

She sneezed again. Naruto went over to her. "You okay, Miyuki-chan? She must be coming down with something."

Sasuke sat up straight. "You sure? Check if she's hot."

Naruto felt Miyuki's forehead as he gathered the sniffing child in his arms. "Nope… Do you want some tea, Miyuki-chan? Let's go. Let's drink tea."

Gaara got up on his feet. "Take over. When it's done uploading, transfer the video to Hinata's phone."

"Where are you going?"

"I want some tea."

Sasuke watched the three leave the room. Sighing, he glanced at Hinata's phone beside the laptop. It's not like I'm snooping around or anything like that, he told himself as he picked it up. Seriously… she didn't even put a password. He smiled as he browsed through pictures of her and Miyuki. He stared longingly at Hinata's picture but one particular image made his heart flutter – a picture of him sleeping. When did she get this? Is she missing me the way I'm missing her?

"Hey, Sasuke!" Naruto exclaimed from the doorway. "I gotta go. Miyuki-chan doesn't look well."

Sasuke jumped to his feet. "What's wrong?"

"I think it's flu," he answered as Sasuke rushed past him. "She's upstairs! Give her lots of fluids! Call if something happens!"

Sasuke raised a hand to say he heard. Naruto wondered if he should stay. Nah, Sakura-chan's the doctor not me. Besides, Sasuke can handle it.

xXx

By 9pm that night, Miyuki's fever reached 39.5°C and Sasuke was in a panic. He's been trying to lower her temperature with cold compress and gave her tepid sponge bath but still…

"Her fever's not going down." Sasuke said, trying to keep his voice even. "I'm taking her to the hospital."

Gaara nodded. He patted his friend on the shoulder in reassurance. "Stay with her. I'll prepare the car."

Before he could take another step, however, Miyuki started shaking and twitching on the bed. Gaara was shocked still for a second. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He witnessed it happen to adults before. But to see a 5-year old girl shaking and twitching like that was a scary sight.

"What should we do, Sasuke?" he asked worriedly. But Sasuke looked lost. He was pale and shaking too as he stare at his niece. "Sasuke!"

Cursing, Gaara went over to the bed and laid the still shaking Miyuki to her side. He took out his phone from his pocket and called Sakura.

"Come on… answer!"

After 3 rings, Sakura finally answered. "What is it, Gaara?"

"Miyuki's having a seizure."

"WHAT?!"

"Her temperature is 39.5°C and she just started shaking… about a minute ago." Sakura then began shouting instructions on the phone. "She's already lying on her side. No breathing difficulty… she still looks flushed. And the shaking is starting to subside."

"That's good, that's good. Naruto, get the car! I'm dispatching an ambulance there right now. Where's Sasuke, by the way?"

Gaara glanced over the still figure by the bed. Sasuke looked scared as shit. "I think he's in shock."


February 14, 2013 – First of all, Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. Cheers to all the single ladies out there.

Second, I have suffered a massive writer's block for this story (I would stare at the blinking line for 5 minutes) and I AM FREAKING GLAD TO BE BACK! I love it when the creative juices are flowing.

Third, Miyuki's fine. Don't worry. I won't do anything to her that will make the readers of this story want to hunt me down.

Fourth, speaking of readers hunting down the writer, I follow the manga every week and I am still pissed at Kishimoto. I can't even write his name without crying. I mean, who does that a week before Christmas huh? Anyway…

Fifth, THANK YOU SO MUCH! All your reviews are wonderful and always bring a smile to me. It means a lot. ^^

Sixth, these days I'm re-watching Card Captor Sakura after 12 years and I just recently understood the 'real deal' between Touya and Yukito. When I was 15 I didn't know what yaoi is, hahahaha! Ah, innocence…