disclaimer: I do not own Naruto~
summary: This is not a love story, but it is a story about love. —Sasuke/Hinata
notes: Guys, I'm not dead, just wanted to show you that.

After that, Sasuke doesn't see Hinata for a while—he's accepted into the Academy, and, after that, he spends most of his time working, studying, determined to be the best just like his brother was—is, he corrects, and feels a little silly. It's hard work; gruelling and unforgiving, and he comes home with bruises all up his arms, blossoming across his knees, and lets his brother rub ointment across his knees, making soft soothing noises to hush his occasional hiss of pain. Itachi doesn't say anything—doesn't congratulate him or console him—but there's pride in his eyes, in his smile, as he ghosts his fingers gently across a bruise on Sasuke's cheek and says, "I was covered in bruises too, you know."

Sasuke doesn't think he was—doesn't remember them, if it's true.

He only remembers his brother being perfect.

"They hurt now," Itachi says, softly, and crouches in front of Sasuke, "But they will be worth it."

Sasuke holds his gaze for a little while, before sniffing and saying, "Who says they hurt at all?"

Itachi laughs, but his eyes are still gentle and soft and so full of pride.