Title: Twenty-three

Summary:

On regrets, wishful thinking and believing.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. :(

a/n: Happy Birthday, Sasukins! :D


Seven

Sasuke wakes up to the sound of excited murmurs and the smell of something indescribable—sweet but not quite.

'It smells delicious,' he groggily decides as his feet blindly feel the cold morning floor for his slippers. He yawns and rubs his sleepy eyes as he clambers down the stairs, following that strange but pleasant smell.

And before his sluggish mind could register what was happening, his blinking eyes are met with his mother holding what appears to be a cake—'Tomato cake?' he asks incredulously; his brother smirking beside her, amusement shining clearly in his dark eyes; and his aunts, uncles and cousins joyously clapping and singing, "Happy Birthday, Sasuke!"

Shy, he feels heat rising up to his cheeks as he timidly stutters out a, "Thank you."

He is disappointed, however, when his hopeful eyes scan the small crowd before him, realizing that his father was not amongst the said crowd.

.

.

That night, half-awake in his bed, he feels a slight weight on his right shoulder and something warm press down on his forehead and hears a hushed whisper of, "Happy 7th, my boy."

.

When Sasuke wakes up the next day, he wakes up to the sight of a kunai by his bedside table, its handle wrapped with a small red ribbon. He realizes, as he holds the kunai in his small hands, that the Uchiha clan's emblem—a red and white fan, is engraved in the middle of the handle.

With a boyish grin, he hurriedly shuffles down the stairs to show his mother his new kunai—he happily exclaims, "Kaa-chan, Tou-san gave it to me!"

.

.

At seven, Sasuke thinks he is the luckiest boy in the world.


Nine

Sasuke is quietly eating his lunch by the old tree at the school's playground when Iruka starts his trek towards him. When Iruka is finally at arm's length, Sasuke does not look at him; chewing his lunch thoughtfully, he looks at the grassy, dirt-filled ground.

"Sasuke," Iruka smiles as he hands out a small package to him, "this is from the hokage, happy birthday!"

"Thank you, sensei." Sasuke replies politely as he takes the package from Iruka.

.

.

When Sasuke is home—'not home, but house,' he corrects himself. For only blood and death and tears and a little boy's scream for revenge remain in this place; there is no home, he opens the package and he finds that inside the package is a set of kunai and shuriken. As Sasuke takes a kunai from the cluster of weapons, his eyes are drawn immediately to the plain metal handle.

.

At nine, Sasuke cries himself—'this is the last time,' he promises, to sleep.


Thirteen

Sasuke collapsed on top of his bed, rubbing his face with his hands tiredly. His arms, his legs, his back—all of him, ached; Kakashi worked them to the bone today. Deciding to take a warm shower before going off to sleep, he stood, making his way to the bathroom. As he passed by the kitchen, a small gleam catches his eye.

There, on top of the counter, were three parcels; one was an envelope in orange—an orange envelope? he mused; another in blue with a red ribbon and the last one, a small brown paper bag. Already knowing that the orange one was from Naruto, he decided to look through the brown paper bag first. What he saw made him cringe in disgust. 'Definitely from Kakashi.' He thought as he hurriedly shoved the copy of, 'Icha Icha for Teens,' back inside the paper bag.

He opens the orange envelope next. 'I should've known.' Sasuke scoffed as he placed the discount coupon from Ichiraku Ramen on top of the kitchen counter. Hesitantly, he opens the blue package—he finds a framed picture of their team, Team Seven.

Wordlessly, he places it on top of the kitchen counter.

.

.

That night, Sasuke wakes up in a silent scream. Gasping for breath, he makes his way to the kitchen. He tries to calm his raging emotions—his anger, his sadness, his fear. Hands shaking, he places a half-emptied glass of water on top of the counter; as he does so, he finds the framed picture of his team staring up at him.

Gripping the object tightly, he closes his eyes and feels something warm and wet sliding down his cheeks.

.

.

At thirteen, Sasuke believes that—Please. Oh God, please—there may be hope.


Seventeen

Itachi is dead.

Everything was a lie.

Konoha was at fault.

They made him kill his brother. They did this to him. They made him a monster.

'Blood will be shed. I will have my revenge.' Sasuke chants repeatedly—a mantra, in his head. Intently facing Uchiha Madara, Sasuke silently agrees, "War." he murmurs.

Madara smiles darkly.

.

.

At seventeen, Sasuke believes in only one thing: Revenge.


Nineteen

Sasuke does not feel the stinging burns, the bloody wounds, and the ache in his eyes. He only feels the adrenaline coursing through his veins as he plunges his kusanagi into Madara's chest, volts of chidori incapacitating Madara for a moment—a moment that will be enough for Naruto to be able to deliver the final blow.

As Sasuke falls to the ground, coughing out blood, the last thing he sees is a blur of pink and green.

'SASUKE!'

.

.

At nineteen, Sasuke is desperate to feel.


Twenty-one

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" the crowd cheers. At the sound of glass bottles clinking, Sasuke drowns the small bottle of sake; the cheers grew louder as he did so. As Sasuke's eyes scan the crowd, he does not see Naruto, or Kakashi, or Sakura. He only sees the shinobis—nameless, faceless, that the hokage had brought in for a supposed celebration for his birthday.

.

.

Earlier that day, Naruto treats him to ramen.

"Happy Birthday, Sasuke." he says—Sasuke silently wonders where the 'teme' had gone.

The entire meal, it is the only thing that is spoken.

.

Kakashi pats him on the back and says, "Twenty-one. This signifies a coming of age. You are no longer a boy, but a man." And Sasuke wonders if Kakashi truly believes so—in his eyes, Sasuke does not see pride, he sees disappointment.

.

"Happy Birthday," Sakura softly mumbles when they come across each other. Her grip on the basket she is holding is so tight that Sasuke thinks that the handle might break.

As he watches her hurriedly walk away, Sasuke is left with a hollow ache in his chest and the throbbing realization that as she uttered those words, she did not meet his eyes—had refused to even spare him a single glance. She did not look back.

.

.

At twenty-one, Sasuke is no man. He is only a boy. A boy, he thinks, full of regrets.


Twenty-three

Harsh pants, satin-like caresses and breathless cries; to Sasuke, the world was nothing but a blur—a blur of black and white.

He could hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing—nothing, but her. Only her.

Her cries of ecstasy, a sweet melody to his ears; Each touch, a burning sensation—so warm like the burning sun on a hot summer day; each kiss, soft but harsh—passionate, desperate.

She was the only thing that was clear—the only thing that mattered. The only thing that could make him feel. And desperately, he wanted more—he wanted so much more, it hurt.

And as he gave one last thrust, he crashed his lips down on hers; suddenly, everything made sense—light, color, hope and it was beautiful—she was so, so beautiful.

He hoped that as they lay there—tangled in each other, his face buried in the crook of her neck, he hoped that she could hear the 'I'm sorry's," the, 'I'll never leave you's,' and the 'I love you's.'

Desperately, he hoped that he could make her feel too.

Sakura, Sakura, Sakura.

.

.

When Sasuke wakes up the next day, he is met with the sight of pink hair and the smell of something indescribable—sweet, but not quite. He buries his nose deeper in the crook of her neck and tightens his grip around her waist, wanting to engrave the smell, the moment—everything, in his memory.

"Mou, Sasuke-kun! That tickles!" He hears her pout.

He raises his head to meet her eyes and he feels his heart thud-thud-thudding in his chest so fast, it was making him dizzy. She takes his face in her hands, gently caressing the sides, and softly, she presses her lips onto his.

Sasuke thinks that she is the only thing sweet that he does not mind having.

"Happy Birthday, Sasuke-kun."

And unbeknownst to him, the corners of his lips lift up into a smile.

.

.

.

At twenty-three, Sasuke believes that he is not lucky; he is blessed. He believes in hope, in forgiveness, in laughter, in love.

.

At twenty-three, he is feeling, and breathing and living.

.

At twenty-three, Uchiha Sasuke is no longer a boy, but a man.

.

.


a/n: sooo, review? :)