A/N: It's better to read "Say it Again" first before this, but you can opt to read this one and then the other. This is Sasuke's POV this time. Title and italicized lyrics came from the ending theme of Durarara! A/N 2: I didn't realize it was already December T_T I'm sorry! D: Anyway, I know I should update my other stories but please just understand and hear me out - school and work have been piling up, and I do try to add words and scenes bit by bit in my upcoming chapters - just please stop telling me or messaging me about updating, because really, it's not only getting on my nerves, but it's also killing my mood for writing. I'm sorry. I'm still human, I've got my own life, I can't please everyone, so please... just please let me write at my own pace. It may take months or years, but I'll still update. And I can't just be stuck with the Naruto fandom or the SasuSaku pair for eternity, I've got other pairs and series to explore. I'm an artist and writer, I need to go beyond the world of Naruto too. I need to know where I should go in my life, so again, please... try to understand that updating isn't as easy as it sounds. I'm trying my best to devote some time for my stories. Updating IS still a part of my priorities.
A/N 2: I didn't realize it was already December T_T I'm sorry! D: Anyway, I know I should update my other stories but please just understand and hear me out - school and work have been piling up, and I do try to add words and scenes bit by bit in my upcoming chapters - just please stop telling me or messaging me about updating, because really, it's not only getting on my nerves, but it's also killing my mood for writing. I'm sorry.
I'm still human, I've got my own life, I can't please everyone, so please... just please let me write at my own pace. It may take months or years, but I'll still update. And I can't just be stuck with the Naruto fandom or the SasuSaku pair for eternity, I've got other pairs and series to explore. I'm an artist and writer, I need to go beyond the world of Naruto too. I need to know where I should go in my life, so again, please... try to understand that updating isn't as easy as it sounds.
I'm trying my best to devote some time for my stories. Updating IS still a part of my priorities.
November: A Smile from the Past
I'm here; I'm right next to you.
This sucks. This mission has got to be the worst.
I cursed under my breath as I kept the suspect on the ground. "Ch. Stay down." I hissed, ignoring how the blood that seeped from the injury of my head had started to drip all the way down to my face, stopping at the tip of my nose which made it more irritating.
My wounds weren't fatal, but they were a lot – enough to actually soak my whole attire in blood, despite leaving my military jacket open to cool down after an intense fight with the terrorist I just captured. He put up a pretty good fight, and it was damn annoying on my part, since my subordinates have yet to arrive after my call for back-up.
Not like I really needed it anyway, but I would've preferred my last mission to go smoothly and without having to spill too much blood.
I raised my head and turned to the left, seeing my best friend from my team, Inuzuka Kiba.
"You caught that jackass!"
I could feel a vein throb at the side of my head at how Kiba grinned at me.
"It wasn't easy you ass." I told him, gritting my teeth when the pain of my injuries only got through my brain after seeing the dumbass that arrived a little too late for my liking.
"I'll say." He snorted, looking at me up and down. "You look like shit!"
If I wasn't holding the terrorist down, I would have gotten my rifle and shot his sorry ass.
"Shut the fuck up and help me out here!" I snarled, the idea of shooting the suspect on the head was tempting, since he won't stop struggling from my grip, despite him being sprawled on the ground, face first. I had one of his arms pulled back by my hand, and with my left foot, clad in a combat boot mind you, over his head, and me sitting on him to prevent more chances of him escaping.
"Nah, you can handle it yourself."
"You're a fucking asshole." I grunted, earning a laugh from Kiba.
"Lieutenant Uchiha!" Kiba and I turned to the source of the voice, seeing two more soldiers arrive, and I had to bite back a growl at their tardiness.
Really, in the military, we're supposed to be early at all times, that's what we were trained for.
"Second Lieutenant Inuzuka!" the other one greeted, as Kiba grinned in return, no helmet on his head, which I've only noticed now.
Oh well, it's not like I kept a helmet on either.
So, as soon as the back-up I was demanding earlier finally arrived, and the moment my wounds were treated by the medic of our team, the terrorist I just captured was taken to a jeep and roughly shoved inside by two or more soldiers.
Right, I forgot about introductions.
My name is Uchiha Sasuke, and I'm one of the best soldiers. I'm not bragging or anything, I'm just stating facts. I don't say it to anyone, but people say it for me.
I graduated when I was 22 years old from the Strategic Studies course of the Defense Sciences department at the National Defense Army of Japan, more known as "NDA", or in Japanese: "Bodai", which is short for "Boei Daigakko", right after high school.
I've been ranked as First Lieutenant ever since, and right after this mission, with me being only 26 years old, I'll be promoted to a Captain, especially after serving the country as an outstanding soldier for 4 years, and for completing the 4-year course of NDA.
However, as I've mentioned earlier, this is my last mission...
"Captain!" I heard Kiba say from behind me, so I turned, and saluted.
"You sure are messed up Lieutenant Uchiha." He said with a small grin.
This is Captain Hatake Kakashi. Silver hair that defied gravity, yet his left eye was covered by it, since it sort of slanted towards the left.
"Shut up." I muttered. Even if he was my Captain, I often let my annoyance get the best of me, but my superiors don't seem to mind, because I've already gained their respect, the same way as how I've earned it from my subordinates.
"Heh. He's always messed up after every mission." Kiba chuckled.
Okay, so not all of my subordinates...
It's fine though, since as I've said, this is my last mission.
I'm being promoted to Captain right after this, but-
Well, let's just say I won't be around any longer.
I sighed when Kiba slammed his hands on the table. We were currently at NDA, inside the cafeteria.
"You have got to be kidding me Sasuke!"
I looked up at him, my facial expression remaining blank, as always.
"I just told you I was serious."
"Well, yeah, but-"
"I already informed the General." I added, cutting him off as my eyes narrowed for a bit, some of my bangs hid my left eye from Kiba, but I could see his reaction from the news I just told him. "That is why I'm leaving the position for Captain to you."
We both turned, seeing another non-believer.
"Oh, hey banshee..." Kiba muttered, uninterested. I glanced at my best friend, smirking inwardly at his expression. I knew for a fact that he may not like Karin, plus he calls her a banshee for being so annoyingly loud at times, but he always seems to eye her bust.
And that disturbs me a lot - especially since my mother raised me to respect women. She taught me how to treat them as humans and as equals, instead of looking at them as if they're some kind of sex toy, or someone lower than- you get the point.
"Sasuke, you can't be serious in quitting!" She said, glaring at me.
"As far as I can remember..." I said, closing my eyes. "You were the one who wanted me out of this place years ago."
Karin was once a subordinate of mine, back when I was still a fourth year student. No doubt that I was pretty strict and I did not have any favorites, nor did I show any sympathy. In the military world, being merciful is unacceptable; being practical and a realist is what would help you survive – or so I've been told. Based from experience, I've come up with my own lesson – kill or be killed, but don't take it literally all the time.
"Now that you mentioned it," Kiba muttered. "I do recall how she had this deep hatred towards you for making her do twenty laps as punishment for showing up late for training."
"I rest my case." I murmured, resisting the urge to smirk arrogantly - it's a bad habit.
"Oh come on Karin." Another newcomer arrived, and he goes by the name of Suigetsu.
I watched as he slung an arm around Karin, which caused her to shriek in surprise, but Suigetsu remained calm and had that haughty grin on his face.
"Just admit it, you're gonna miss Sasuke."
"S-Shut your trap Suigetsu!"
After that, I ignored their conversation. It was obvious how Suigetsu has got it bad for Karin, though I'm not sure if it's due to Karin herself, or because of her body.
Even if I do respect a woman's dignity, I'm still a guy. I tend to notice these things, and I restrain myself from turning into a drooling Kiba upon the sight of big breasts; I prevent myself from having this evil glint in my eye when a new issue of Icha Icha Paradise arrives, unlike Kakashi. I stop myself from grabbing every opportunity I can in groping a girl, whereas Suigetsu instantly grabs the opportunity.
And from the way Karin is too preoccupied with defending herself, Suigetsu is already reaching out to touch herchest.
...And I can't stand it; I absolutely hate how guys treat girls as sex objects, no matter how annoying the girl is.
All four of us turned to the voice, and instantly, I got up from my seat, while the three straightened their postures, and at the same time, we all saluted to greet Kakashi.
He nodded once, letting us drop our hands back to our sides.
"General Sarutobi is requesting your presence."
"Understood." I said, before turning to Kiba. I saw how his eyes looked, and immediately, I knew that he knows that my decision is final. "I'll see you later." I said, and he nodded.
"Thank you Captain Hatake, you may go now."
Kakashi nodded and turned, but glanced back at me, and then smiled.
"Say 'hi' to your mom for me."
"...Move on already damn it." I hissed. I was pretty touchy about that subject. I knew of his crush towards my mother back when they were in high school. I knew of Kakashi's past, since he told me his story when he got drunk once, and that was during my batch's graduation.
The moment he knew I was an Uchiha, and when he had confirmed I was Uchiha Mikoto's son, he was being extra friendly towards me, a lot more considerate when I did something unacceptable in the past, and always made sure my wounds would get treated first before any of our teammates.
It was annoying then, since I kept getting glares from a lot of people, except for Kiba, since he always seems to laugh at my misfortune.
After I found out why though, I got a lot more annoyed.
...Still, I found out later, on the same night he told me his past, that he was doing it out of love. He promised my mother, when she wrote to him that I would be attending NDA, that he would take good care of me.
Somehow, I managed to drop my annoyance at Kakashi, yet it still came back from time to time. But I knew that he understood that I've accepted his role as a second father.
I turned back to the General, straightening my posture.
"Are you sure about this?"
I saw how he looked disappointed at my answer.
"May I ask why though?"
"...I'm sorry sir, it's... personal."
"I see." He sighed. "It's too bad... for us to lose a soldier of your status," he looked up at me. "You do know how rare your talents and abilities are as a soldier?"
"Alright then, two weeks." He said. "You have two weeks left here, I have already instructed your Captain of what you will be doing, and so, you can ask him for it."
"Thank you, sir."
"I wish you luck then, Lieutenant."
I nodded my head, gave one final salute, and left.
"So, you've got two weeks to get these kids into shape."
I glanced at Kakashi, raising a brow in question.
What exactly did he mean by kids?
I hate how he smiles. It usually means trouble for me.
And indeed... it was.
Standing right before me was a squad full of kids all wearing their cadet caps, white shirts, military pants, and their combat boots. Their faces were blank, but in their eyes, I could see the fear and admiration they felt when Kakashi and I stepped out to greet them.
"Who... are all these kids?" I asked, not taking my eyes off of them.
"They're originally under my guidance, but since you have a record of shaping up the rookies in just a span of five days, these little tykes ought to turn into real soldiers by the time your two weeks are up."
"I thought we're only taking in High School graduates?"
"Just a new program the General hopes will work for… rowdy children."
I twitched, and placed a gloved hand on my bandaged head, feeling a migraine about to come.
"Oh, and Lieutenant?"
I turned to Kakashi.
"These kids know who you are, so I think it's best to get into your complete uniform for better intimidation."
"My jacket is soaked in blood; the two spares are still in the wash." I murmured. "Why else do you think am I walking around without it?"
"Hm. Well, it's still a uniform; I guess it will have to do." And he left me alone to deal with the kids.
Since I'm already a Lieutenant, I have the privilege of walking in incomplete uniform for a good reason. Right now, I'm stuck with a black shirt, which symbolizes my rank, since white shirts are used for Non-Commissioned Officers, or lower ranks.
I sighed and bent down to tighten the knots of my boots, before standing back up to eye each kid.
"Alright, we'll begin with some warm-up exercises, afterwards," I looked at the wooden rifles they had in one hand. "We'll be doing some rifle activities."
"Sir yes sir!"
I narrowed my eyes. "If any one of you gives me trouble, everyone will deal with the consequences, if you disobey even a small command I give, you and your squad will receive a punishment." I paused in order to let the words sink into their heads. "One's mistake is everyone's mistake, got it?"
"Sir yes sir!"
"Hn. And next time," I lowered my voice a bit and increased the volume: "Answer louder!" I saw them flinch, and I maintained my commanding voice. "There are thirty of you and only one of me, and yet I can speak louder than all of you combined!" I started to walk around, spotting a few rookies' arms shaking, and it's not due to the heavy rifles. "You're standing at attention! You're not allowed to move a muscle!" I said. "You're only allowed to breathe and blink, as well as to speak when needed! Am I understood?"
"Sir yes sir!"
I smirked. "Good." I walked back in front. "I have a record of shaping rookies up in a span of five days, but for all of you," my eyes glinted. "I'll make it three."
"You know, I could have just walked." I muttered, getting out of Kiba's car and grabbing my backpack which contained the few things I had brought with me in NDA. Some of the uniforms I've worn in NDA have already been sent to my new home.
"That wouldn't be right." He told me, stepping out of the driver's seat before eyeing the sign that led to the train I'll be taking to get to Tokyo.
I noticed how his eyes looked pretty down, and I knew that it was because I'm leaving. We did stick together through all those missions, even though most of them would always end up with me having to deal with the target alone, and him arriving just as soon as I've captured the suspect.
"Keep me updated." I said, not looking at him. "I'd at least like to know that you're still alive."
"Heh. Tokyo's pretty far."
"Hn. knowing you, I'll already be receiving a message or two once I get to Tokyo."
"True." He grinned, and I managed a small one of my own. "Make sure you write back, alright?"
"Will do," I knocked my fist onto his, our way of greeting and parting ways. "Don't stop being an ass."
"Heh. Don't stop being a jerk."
And after that, I never looked back, nor did Kiba bother to try to change my mind in leaving.
Tokyo huh? I wonder if I'll be able to last a day not being a soldier...
"You're already there?"
"Yeah mom." I replied, getting up from the floor. I'm nearly done unpacking and fixing everything in my place, and I ought to thank my brother for doing a good job in picking a house for me. It wasn't too big, nor was it too small. "I'm fine on my own, I'll drop by later."
"Your uniforms are there, right?"
"Okay, do you have your brother's address?"
"I do, I'll visit him first though, and we can both go there to see you and dad."
"Alright then, take care."
"Hn. I will." I paused, hesitating slightly, before deciding to get on with it. "Er... mom?"
"...Kakashi said 'hi'." I muttered, sighing deeply as I heard my mother laugh. "That's all."
And we both hung up.
Hmm... Now what?
I glanced at the clock, and decided that taking a walk outside would do me good, at the same time, get that motorcycle that I've been planning to buy as soon as I got here. I've saved enough to actually last me a whole year without a job, if I budgeted everything correctly that is.
So now, here I am, walking, letting my feet taking me wherever it wishes...
I just don't know why I ended up here in an amusement park. Heck, it's a free entrance, might as well take a look what it has to offer.
But it's pretty boring to be walking around and doing nothing. I'm not really fond of these kinds of events, and all I see are kids, families, and couples. I ought to just leave this place and get that bike, as well as visit my brother.
"I… It's over between us, so stop it. Get on with your life."
My ears twitched. I don't really like arguing couples, but I stole a glance, and my eyes widened at the scene before me. It surely did not look like an ordinary lovers' quarrel, since a whole gang was surrounding a single girl, who was being held by her ex, or so I assumed.
"Really, Sakura..? Then tell me, why are you here, all alone?"
I couldn't help but stare at that girl, her eyes were shedding tears, and that guy holding her arm was smirking in a wicked way. Not only that, the glint in his eyes... it's the same eyes I see in some of my subordinates' eyes when they see a girl.
"I'm seeing someone else. I'm meeting him here."
She was lying; it was obvious based from her tone, as well as how she looked away from the guy. But still, I couldn't help but walk over to them. I knew she needed help, and from the moment I looked at her, I suddenly had this urge to save her.
"Whether you're telling the truth or not, this new boyfriend of yours isn't here yet, so I can still have my way with you."
Former soldier or not, I'm not going to stand around doing nothing.
So, I grabbed the guy's arm in a tight hold once I was near.
"What the-?" I glared at him, not intimidated at how he looked at me with a deadly gaze. "Who the hell do you think you are?"
I glanced at Sakura, if I remember her name correctly, and noted how she looked at me. Her eyes felt relieved, and I was determined to get her out of here.
"I'm the guy she's meeting with." I said bluntly, inwardly cursing at what I just said, but I think it's a lot better than having to tell this guy to leave her alone. "You son of a-" I prevented him from completing his insult by gripping his arm tighter, causing him to let go of Sakura's arm.
"I don't think you understand the definition of an ex-boyfriend." From the way my tone sounded, I was pretty sure that these guys understood that they should not mess with me; and since he did not attempt to say anything else, I let him go and turned to the girl, placing a hand on her back to lead her away from this group.
However, I wasn't satisfied with just leaving, so I turned my head back.
"I'd appreciate it if you check the dictionary and understand what the word 'former' means if 'ex' is too much for your brain to process."
And without waiting for a reply, I walked away with Sakura.
As soon as we were out of their sight, I heard her give a sigh of relief.
"Um... thanks, I really owe you one." She bowed down at me and gave a smile, and I felt like I couldn't breathe.
She's just a girl who needed my help earlier. She's just an ordinary girl, with an unusual hair color, striking green eyes – okay, what the hell was that all about?
I gave a nod to signal that I heard her.
Maybe it was her smile...
...It reminded me of someone.
"I'm not one to pry into people's lives, but do you mind telling me why you decided to help me out?"
I was supposed to keep my mouth shut, but I ended up answering her.
"I'm an ex-soldier." I glanced at her since she gaped at me, remaining silent for a moment. "What?" I asked. "Just because I'm no longer a part of the military doesn't mean I ignore a situation wherein my assistance is needed."
Geez. I hate it when I receive stares like the one she's giving me right now. It's like I'm some kind of display in a store that was misplaced.
"Why ex-soldier? I mean... Why did you quit?"
I almost laughed at the reason, but held back.
"My mother worries too much. My father and I have been arguing about my long-distance assignments, and my brother does not want to see me missing a limb or two on his wedding day."
"Don't you… regret it?"
I watch her hang her head for a moment, before turning back to me with a bright smile, and I could feel my heart beat fast again. Sakura looked so much like Takehiko when she smiles, and it was making me feel those unwanted feelings I've tried so hard to get rid of. It took me a year... one whole year, to forget all about it, but she just had to have the same smile as Takehiko had back then, and now, that feeling is back.
"Well, thanks again!" I snapped from my thoughts and looked at her hand that she offered to me, smiling that smile once more. "I'm Haruno Sakura, by the way."
"Hn." Takehiko and Sakura are two different people, despite the resemblance they had with their smiles, they are still two different people. So, I took her hand and shook it. "Uchiha Sasuke, no longer at your service." And out of habit, I smirked.
"Ah, so you do have a sense of humor." She grinned at me, getting what I meant.
"Hn." I gave a shrug. "I'm only human." And then turned back to her. "You should head home."
"Yeah, I should, but he's probably waiting…"
At the idea of her ex-boyfriend attempting to force her into something she won't like, I felt myself twitch in anger.
"I guess I'll just head somewhere else." She smiled again, and from the look on her face, it appeared as if she was debating over something, if she should tell me or not. "I'll… see you around, I guess."
And when she made a move to leave, I had no idea what made me open my mouth to call her back.
My eyes took note of her body suddenly freezing; maybe my voice sounded too demanding. I guess being a soldier for a long period of time has its side effects.
"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" I asked.
Again, she smiled. "Yeah, I should be."
Doubt it. She can't defend herself against a gang of guys on her own, but going with her is like I'm making a move. So, how the hell can I make this seem… professional?
This isn't like the military wherein I can just say I'm escorting her, or could it?
"I don't have anything to do as of the moment; maybe I can walk you home to be sure."
That was stupid. Way to use an excuse…
"Eh? Well, I don't exactly plan on heading home just yet."
So going with her would appear more like we're on a date – not good.
"I'm actually planning to have coffee at Starbucks. Expensive but, it's the holidays." She said with a sheepish grin.
Ah, right. The coffee they serve during this season happens to be the best.
"In that case, maybe I ought to escort you then." I managed to say. Thank goodness I've had a lot of practice in keeping a blank face while talking…
Normally, I don't really like being silent when with someone, because my mother told me it was rude to just ignore your companion. But what the heck am I going to say to Sakura? I only met her today, offered to accompany her, and that's it. It's not like I planned to talk to her or get to know her, but- geez, I never thought I'd find the silence awkward.
"You're not from around here, huh?"
I almost jumped at the sound of her voice. What did she ask me again? Oh, right.
"Yeah, I'm originally from Kanagawa."
My family only moved here to Tokyo after my brother had moved in with his girlfriend. My parents just wanted to try living in Tokyo, and ended up liking it.
"Of course, it's the only place in Japan that has a military school." She smiled again, and I think I felt stupid butterflies in my stomach. "What course did you take there?"
"I graduated from the Defense Sciences department, major in Strategic Studies."
If it weren't for her green eyes and long pink hair, I would have mistaken her as Takehiko just because of that smile.
I blinked at her amazement, and again, out of habit, a smirk grazed my lips.
I didn't need to know her that well to figure out how she can be quite shallow – but not in the bad way. I just think that she easily gets amused in things, and that's not something you see in most girls.
"Was it tough?" She asked me, and I can see the curiosity sparkling in her eyes.
Shit. Did I just say sparkle?
I swear, I'm sounding dumber and dumber.
"I mean," she was stammering – why? I don't know. "Your school… course… was it hard?"
"Sort of." I shrugged. "I enrolled there, so despite how difficult it would be," my gaze hardened for a split second as I recalled the missions I've been through. "I should overcome all the challenges."
"And you're regretting your decision to quit…"
I instantly raised my head to meet her gaze, and I saw how shocked she was from what she just said. Heck, she even covered her mouth with her hands. I don't get it, why should she be sorry for stating something that's true? It's not offending, nor is it an invasion of privacy.
She continued to apologize to me, and I just shook my head at her and glanced outside.
"Yeah, I do, but…" I smirked. "I don't have much of a choice."
I wondered briefly if she was a Psychologist, because she only smiled at my response.
"I see what you mean."
And it amazed me at how she easily understood what I meant.
"When did you move here in Tokyo?"
"Parents." I answered, trying to look elsewhere, but I find that I couldn't stare at anything else other than her eyes. "And my brother's fiancée lives here."
"I see." She leaned back in her seat. "What clubs did you take back then?"
"Archery and English Speaking Society in high school." I replied. "Motor race, astronomy and meteorology in NDA…" I paused for a moment, and then turned to her. "So, miss Haruno, why are you interrogating me?" And I gave her an amused smirk, which turned smug once her cheeks had turned red.
Her laughter, even if it sounded nervous, sounded like bells on Christmas morn…
…Okay, the store must have put something in my coffee.
"I'm not; I'm just… having a conversation…" I watch her sigh and try to calm down.
Hm. I guess this is what Kiba meant about my effect on women.
"I don't really like the silence when I'm with someone."
"Hn. Too awkward for you?"
"I guess I can't blame you then."
Earlier, I felt that time was too slow, yet after conversing with Sakura, I was pretty much surprised at how it was almost five in the afternoon.
I still needed to go see my brother and parents, so when she told me she still didn't feel like going home, I almost felt tempted to ditch seeing my family today and just be with her.
No, don't get the wrong idea – I only find her good… er… company.
"Thanks, hope I'm not troubling you much."
She said she wanted to go see her friend at the flower shop, so I walked her there – it's only polite.
"Don't worry about it." I said while taking out my mobile phone. "All I ask in return is for your contact number."
I hope she didn't think that I might be planning to ask her out, though it did cross my mind. I just wanted to make sure that… well, she'd keep in touch. I gave her my number once I had hers, and decided that I've made my family wait too long.
"I'll be seeing you around then." She said, waving goodbye as I nodded and left with my hands pocketed. I didn't really mind the cold weather much despite only wearing a shirt and a coat, and of course, my gloves.
Now then, motorcycle or Itachi's?
I smirked when my brother whistled in awe at the bike I just bought.
"I've been wanting it for a while." I told him while eyeing the bike. "So, how's Mizuki-ne?"
"Same old Mizuki you've met last Christmas. After she heard you were quitting and moving here in Tokyo, she was as excited as ka-chan, something about having a complete family again."
"Hn. Two Uchiha Mikotos…"
We both thought hard of how life would be like if we had another person who was like our mother…
"Ugh. Embarrassing moments would be off the chart."
I grimaced. "One is enough…"
"Sasuke! Oh my god! It is you!"
I managed a small smile when Mizuki-ne came running towards me, and I prepared myself for one of her bear hugs – trust me, it's worse than dealing with terrorists.
"Mizuki…" my brother called out to his girlfriend. "Let my brother breathe, will you?"
"Oh, sorry!" She immediately let me go, and I had to breathe in and out repeatedly just to get some oxygen back in my lungs.
That hug could kill.
"I'm so sorry! It's just that, well, it's been almost a year since I last saw you!" She looked like she wanted to hug me again, thank goodness she hesitated. "Wow, you've grown taller," she ruffled my hair instead – or at least, what she could reach. "Damn you and your genes," she looked at Itachi. "Honestly, it's so hard to be four inches shorter than you!"
"It's just four inches…"
I smirked at their little squabble, and briefly recalled Sakura being a head shorter than I am.
"Hey, aniki," I took out my phone and attempted to send the girl a message.
"Shouldn't we head to ka-chan and tou-san's now?"
"Oh right," he looked at his girlfriend. "You ready to go?"
"Yep!" She smiled. "Come on, let's go."
"Lead the way." I told them while looking at my bike for them to get the message.
I'll probably text Sakura later…
"Oh my baby!"
I flinched when I received another deadly hug, this time from my mother – it's ten times worse than Mizuki-ne's.
"Ka-chan… I need air…" I managed to mutter as she let go and apologized, but still pulled me in for another embrace.
"It's just that I missed you so much!" She started to cry a bit, but I didn't mind and just gave a small smile and returned the hug.
Really, I did miss my family, even if my mother's hugs were bone crushing, it's fine.
"I missed you too." I murmured, pulling away when she finally let me go. "And…" I sighed. "So does Kakashi…"
She laughed yet again. "That guy never changes…"
"Indeed…" I looked pass her to see my father, and I walked over to him and gave a small bow of greeting. "Tou-san."
It's not because we have this… wall between us, it's more of an issue that hasn't been resolved.
My father feels responsible for something I'm supposed to be guilty of, yet I've already accepted what has happened, yet my father can't let it go.
For that, we've been quite distant with each other, but still, I keep longing for the day when I could go back to being his son again, wherein we talked or laughed at a few things, wherein we could actually… be normal.
"Sasuke," he nodded back as I straightened up. "How is the life of a retired soldier?"
I lowered my gaze. "So far so good…"
"It's best to quit while you're ahead and alive," he said, and I could detect a hint of worry from his tone. "Good to have you here."
I recalled his stories when he was still a soldier, and how he had almost lost his life due to a mission.
He didn't want Itachi and I to follow that path he took, but we come from a long line of soldiers, so it's kind of like in our blood to pursue a similar road. But with my father, he wanted to be sure, so he had Itachi and I quit at a specific time – wherein we're able to keep ourselves alive on our own for at least a year without a job, and sadly on my part, I've reached that.
Don't get me wrong – I mean, it's good to actually be here and worry less about getting killed, but being a soldier has been my dream since I was still a kid; I remember watching every single war movie there is here at home, even documentaries on television.
I remember how I can't wait to get to NDA when I was at the right age, and I couldn't wait to wear my uniform when I received it.
And then when I first called my parents after about a week in NDA, that's when my father told me why my brother quitted and that he wants me to do the same someday.
I remember arguing with him about it, and I recall us having a cold shoulder treatment for almost two months.
If my mother hadn't talked to me, if my brother hadn't explained it to me, I still wouldn't be in speaking terms with my father.
I was told to not tell anyone the real reason, unless he or she was family.
Mizuki-ne still has no idea up until now why my brother quitted, and why I also stopped.
Aniki told me he'd tell her someday, when she becomes an Uchiha like us, but until that day, the reason has to remain a secret.
I asked why we couldn't tell, and my father confessed to me that he was ashamed of his fear, and of it being a reason to crush our dreams.
It was unforgiving on my part at some point, but eventually, I managed to understand my father, and I just accepted it.
Still, right now, I'm kind of… missing the thrill of running after suspects while carrying a gun.
…Don't even think about me becoming a cop – it's a lot different than a soldier's life.
I looked up to see my mother smiling at me.
"We've been calling you for quite some time now, and you're not responding."
I looked around the table, seeing my father, brother, and Mizuki-ne staring at me.
Funny, I've only realized now that we're already having dinner.
"Sorry," I murmured. "I was just… thinking about a few things."
"Oh?" Mizuki-ne grinned. "Like what?"
I knew she spoke to prevent my father from saying something unnecessary.
After being with Itachi for a long time, she gradually knew how my father acts and speaks, and I'm really grateful that she's around to ease the tension.
"Stuff," I murmured, deciding to drink water first. "I was wondering about what job I'd go for now that I'm here and…" I was careful not to say something that would give my father the wrong idea. "I'm just a bit… worried about how Kiba's taking it."
They knew who my best friend was, and of course who Kakashi was. They also knew my teammates who are also considered my friends: Juugo, Suigetsu, and Karin.
Karin was annoying, but she was still a valued member.
"Knowing Kiba," my brother laughed lightly. "He'd be letting his anger out on unfortunate lower ranked soldiers."
I smirked at the thought.
"How did he react anyway?" My mother asked, and I was glad that my father still remained silent.
"He didn't believe me at first but he took it hard, though he accepted it after about four days." I told her. "Even the General wanted me to reconsider, but I told him I've made up my mind."
"Thus the two weeks extension, right?" Itachi smirked.
"Aa." I didn't notice how I was holding onto my mobile which was in my coat's pocket until now.
"How was your day here?" My mother wanted to keep the conversation going.
"Weird," I said. "It's a bit of a relief to actually be not doing anything, after being busy for almost 24/7 back in NDA." I admitted. "And… I didn't think I'd actually put my training to good use today."
"What do you mean?"
My father finally spoke, and judging from how he sounded, I'm guessing he was trying to start another misunderstanding.
"I met a girl." I managed to say, and I heard both my mother and Mizuki-ne squeal at the news. "She was being ganged up by her ex and his friends," my gaze softened for a bit, and I knew my brother's keen eyes would catch it. "Call it instincts, but I marched over there and got her out of that situation."
"Instincts, pfft. Come on Sasuke! Don't lie to us!" Mizuki-ne grinned suggestively at me, and I felt my cheeks turn warm.
Damn. I was blushing.
"So, was she pretty?" She asked.
"Yeah…" I admitted. Sakura wasn't just pretty, she was actually beautiful. And from how I've known her today, she wasn't just some girl who was attractive; she had a heart and a soul too… "But…" I looked at Mizuki-ne's frown when I said 'but'. "She probably just broke up with her ex, so don't expect any romance from me."
"Geez Sasuke! You're like… what, twenty three?"
I raised a brow. "Six."
"Twenty-six, right." She nodded. "When do you plan on getting a girl?"
"I wonder about that too…" my mother added.
I glared at my brother's smirk. "I'm not gay."
"Well, help the girl move on!" Mizuki-ne grinned. "If her ex is a jerk, you could help her out!"
"Hn." I inwardly smirked at the word, immediately remembering Kiba, since our nicknames involved "ass", "asshole", and "jerk".
"So, what's her name?"
I looked at my mother who was eager to find out.
I breathed out a sigh as I picked up my helmet from my bike.
Just when I uttered her name, they started to interrogate me.
Really. I mean, they know that cherry blossoms have this kind of effect on me, as in… I just end up looking at a tree or petal, and I already let my mind wander or at least, I begin to daze off.
Those petals are hypnotizing; they can put me into a trance without me knowing.
It's just because of their beauty and how they seem so welcoming and gentle that I put my guard down each time I see a single petal.
But it's not the same with Sakura.
I mean, I just met her, there's no such thing as love at first sight – that's kind of impossible.
"Ch. Love…" I shook my head.
Love was a foreign feeling to me – save for how you feel towards your family and friends.
The only things I'm aware of are war, hatred, anger, determination, responsibility, discipline, etc.
Heck, if it was a subject, I'd fail.
"Whatever…" I pulled out my mobile and thought about what Mizuki-ne had said.
Help Sakura move on. How?
I had no idea, really, but still, I ended up sending her a message.
To play it safe, I asked where she was.
…Still, that could have held another meaning, and I'm hoping she won't take it the wrong way.
When she replied, I managed a small smirk.
The flower shop wasn't far, and with my new bike, I could get there in less than ten minutes.
I put on my helmet and started the engine, afterwards, took off.
I took a few turns in order to familiarize myself with the area, and soon, I saw the flower shop up ahead.
From the way she looked so surprised, I'm guessing she didn't expect to see me.
Wiping off the smirk on my face, I pulled off my helmet just to let her know it really is me, afterwards, the words just left my mouth.
"Hop on. I'll take you home."
"Eh? But… but…" she stammered. "Sasuke, you've done enough already."
And again, she smiled that smile.
I was in another trance – I knew it, and it only broke when I blinked and noticed how close her face was to me, but I shrugged it off and put my helmet over her head.
"Sasuke right? My name's Yamanaka Ino!"
Apparently, her friend, Ino, just pushed her towards me.
I looked at the hand Ino offered, so I took it and introduced myself properly, before looking back at Sakura. "Get on." And I started the engine and nodded once to both Ino and her mother, whom I've only noticed now.
Damn. I tend to space off lately…
"Is it your first time?"
I had to kick myself inwardly for the double meaning.
"Y-Yeah…" Sakura got behind me. "So…"
"Hang on." I told her, and she quickly wrapped her arms around me.
Already, I could feel my heart beginning to beat faster.
"Don't you need a helmet?"
"I'll be fine." I told her, and then drove off, with her telling me the directions to her place.
I'm just glad that I could hear her over the loud engine.
Once we've arrived at her driveway, I switched off the bike and waited for her to get off.
"Thanks again." She said while removing the helmet. "I really ought to pay you back."
Funny how I had hoped that the way back would take longer…
"No need to." I replied while taking back my helmet. "Just don't run into trouble all the time." I said with a smirk.
"Yeah, yeah." She grinned. "So, bye."
I eyed her, seeing how she didn't move from her spot.
"Sakura," I called.
I couldn't help the smirk on my lips at how innocent she sounded. "Go inside."
"Eh? I'll wait for you to leave."
"No. Go inside, and then I'll leave once you're in."
"If I leave now, there's no telling when that ex of yours will suddenly come out of nowhere."
From the way she looked, I can tell that she knew I was right, so she nodded at me before entering her home.
I lingered for a few more seconds before putting on my helmet.
Maybe I'm attracted to her, who knows? Maybe I'd like to be the guy who would help her move on and forget about her ex…
I started the engine and took off.
"Maybe I like her…"
Call me, I'm here.
Trust me, there's nothing to be afraid of.
To be continued…
December: Warmth of Winter
She smiled. "If a tree would survive winter, what would be the perfect tree to match the season?"
I looked down for a moment, and then up at the sky, letting some of the flakes fall onto my face.
Kiba always told me that we both reflected the seasons of summer and winter - with him being the former and me, the latter.
"Cherry Blossoms." I answered, drowning out whatever conversation Mizuki-ne and Itachi started yet again.
What they didn't know was the meaning behind my chosen tree.
A cherry blossom tree would perfectly match winter - much like how Sakura's attitude seems to fit with mine.
Heh. I guess I'm starting to crush on her.