Four Years Later

"Wow, you're really good at this!"

I'd roll my eyes if I wasn't so focused. But this isn't exactly an industry that will forgive you for making a mistake, so I tune out the fawning.

"I mean look at that!" the girl gushes. I've already forgotten her name. The most interesting part about her is the bouquet of flowers I'm tattooing on the side of her arm. "You're amazing. How old are you?"

"21," I say curtly, completely uninterested in the conversation. I'm almost done. I thought about adding some white highlights just because they fucking hurt, but skin breaks will help this age nicely on its own. Not to mention, I want this girl out of my chair. Followed by a discussion with my business partner (and complete asshole burden to the business) Kiba, on scheduling me to tattoo women with nothing better to do than gush over me.

"That young?! Wow, are you…"

"I'm done," I say flatly, sitting back and snatching a paper towel and some Bacteen to soothe the skin. Jesus. One more fucking bouquet.

It's not really her fault. I'm on edge today. I have something to do after I leave and it's not gonna be fun, and…

"It's beautiful!" the girl squeals, but she's barely looking at her new ink. Instead she bats her eyelashes. I bet she thinks she's suave. "Look, I don't know if you're doing anything tonight, but…"

"I'm married," I tell her, voice cool and unaffected, but I can't help the smirk when her eyes go wide in shock and embarrassment.

"Uh…you're…you're married?"

I take off my gloves with a satisfying snap and take my wedding band – plain silver, no adornments, I insisted – from off my desk and slide it pseudo-dramatically back onto my ring finger. The girl watches the entire thing with her mouth open, but no noise coming out. For once.

"Use Aquaphor," I tell her. "And pay Kiba at the front. We're done here."

June 9th is always a hard day for me. I mean yeah, Christmas Eve is harder but June 9th isn't fun either. Because yes, time's moved on and so have I, but on your brother's birthday, whether he's alive or not, you think about him.

If you go to the cemetery in the summer during the daytime, it doesn't really look like a cemetery. There are a lot of flowers – people bring all kinds of shit to their loved ones' gravesites. Flowers mostly, but there are some teddy bears, too, for kids that died young. Intricate wreaths from an elderly husband mourning his late wife. Blankets, toys, vases, things that brighten up the landscape, which this time of year is lush and green and alive.

And June in Konoha is always gorgeous.

Itachi's tombstone is slightly weatherworn, since four going on five years have passed since his accident, and we've had some pretty shit snowstorms in the interim. Plus that hurricane two years back that flooded the entire city. I was scooping water out of the basement at Ink and Iron II for eight fucking hours. Still, it looks good on its own under the tree.

I don't know what to bring him. There's no trinket, no toy that makes me think of him, no flower, nothing sentimental like that that I could justify carrying with me without feeling like a moron. But I figure it's the gesture that means the most, or whatever. So empty-handed, I come to a stop right in front of his gravestone, put my hands in my pockets, and begin to talk like I usually do on my visits.

"Hey, man. It's, uh, your birthday. You'd've been 26."

I pause, because that hurts. Thinking about the would-have-beens. Time passes but some wounds stay with you. Scabbed over and aching dull.

"Just thought I'd stop by. I usually feel like an asshole coming here, talking to you like you're ever gonna respond. Nobody knows I do it. I'm not even sure why I do it."

There's a breeze that comes through then, and it feels great. It's still a bit early for a typical hot Konoha summer and right now I'm just enjoying the nice weather. The sensitive part of me thinks wistfully it's Itachi saying hello.

"Hana had the baby," I tell him, grinning. "Three days ago. A boy. She uh, she named him after you. I bet that makes you happy. She and Iruka are thrilled. They named me godfather."

I detect an unconcealed note of pride in my voice when I tell him that. Itachi Umino is eight pounds, three ounces and he looks like his namesake. I know shit about babies but I already know this one's gonna be fucking cool.

"Hope you don't mind me telling her about…you know. Everything. I thought at first it'd be better of me not to let her know how much you loved her. But…I don't know, man. I guess that when you love somebody…even if it's wrong, even if it's…like, inconvenient or whatever, they should know about it. Even if you can't change anything about anything. When you love someone, they should know."

I told Hana a few years ago about why Itachi left her that money. The real reason, not the bullshit one I gave her when she asked a few weeks after his death. I told her that he loved her, that he'd loved her for years, and that he was on his way to see her when he ran off the road. She was devastated, but in the end, she was glad to know it. No, it didn't bring him back for her, but it gave her closure. Peace. She wasn't just another one of Itachi's passing fancies: she was it for him.

Still, I know he'd be happy for her. Married now, and happy, and a mother. And she'll carry a piece of him with her forever.

"Speaking of," I go on, and I'm feeling a little sheepish now, bashful, even though no one's around to see or hear me talk about this, "I, uh, got married last month. It was quick, really private. We didn't want any paparazzi or reporters there or anything. We went to the beach, just a few of us, really secret. I really wish you could've been there, man. I know you'd've given me that fucking shit-eating grin and told me, 'I told you so.' Because you called it, right? You knew I'd end up marrying her even back then. Even knowing barely anything about her, you knew we'd end up together."

Thinking about her…about my wife…I'm smiling again without realizing it. This visit hasn't been as painful as other visits have. Usually I get angry at Itachi, yell at him for leaving me, bitter that he's gone, but this time, it's all positive. I'm filling him in on some good shit. The business is doing well. Hana had her baby. Naruto's band got signed to a record deal. I'm a husband.

"Anyway, uh…happy birthday man. I miss you." I love you goes unspoken, but I know he gets it. "Gotta get going. She gets back tonight."

I know I'm just imagining his all-knowing laugh on the wind, but I smirk anyway.

I swear, she thinks she's better at camouflaging herself than she is. I can't help but laugh a little when I see her sitting at the counter, wearing oversized sunglasses and a jacket too thick for the balmy weather outside. She's making herself all the more noticeable, all the more recognizable; not to mention, she hasn't bothered to try and hide her hair.

And pink isn't a forgettable color.

Then again, nothing about her is forgettable.

I'm amused at her attempts to blend in; she's famous now, ridiculously so, and it's hard for her to go anywhere without being recognized and hounded by panting fans. The one downside to being married to a celebrity.

She doesn't know I've spotted her yet. She just sits at the counter with a cup of ginger tea in her hands, keeping her head down to avoid attracting attention. So conspicuous. She needs a lesson in incognito.

I stride up behind her, excited that she's here. Haven't seen her since the honeymoon last month, she got called away to start shooting for a movie – a fucking movie – out in Kusa and with things picking up at the shop, I haven't been able to get away to see her. I've missed her. I want her. She's so close I can smell that floral perfume that's been bewitching me since I met her five years ago. I reach out my hands, and…

Abruptly, she hops off the stool, interrupting my reach; she tosses some money for her unfinished tea on the counter and heads briskly to the door of the café. Intrigued by this, since we'd agreed to meet here at Ichiraku's and now she's leaving, I follow her closely, almost on her heels as she opens the door and exits stage left.

"Where are you going?" I start to ask, following, but to my surprise, she's vanished. Frowning, because there's no way I could have missed her, I look around, wondering if this prolonged absence from her is starting to mess with my head, wondering if I miss her hard enough to imagine that she's here when she isn't…

Then, I feel tiny, slim, surprisingly strong fingers around my wrist, followed by a sharp tug that half-leads, half-drags me off the sidewalk and into this grimy, dark side alley.

Then her arms are around my neck and she's laughing happily in my ear.

"You thought I didn't know you were right behind me?" she giggles, and then she's kissing me, desperately, joyfully, hopping up and wrapping her legs around my waist.

Four years of being together and she's still surprising.

"You draw too much attention to yourself," I growl between kisses, locking my hands around her thighs and fighting the temptation to just have her right there, in the alley next to the coffee shop. "Wearing a jacket like this in the middle of June…sunglasses after 9 pm…"

"Damn it!" she laughs, then gasps when I seal my lips to her throat the way she loves. "Sasuke don't stop…oh Jesus. Wait, you really think I was too obvious?"

"You go to all this effort, and still leave that hair on display…"

"Don't you dare! Sasuke Uchiha, I…AGHHHH!"

She's half-screaming, half-laughing as I flip her over my shoulder like a caveman. I haven't seen my wife in a month, haven't touched her or smelled her hair or held her in my arms. We need to get home.


An hour later, I'm spent, lying facedown on our enormous bed, the sheets rumbled and torn in a few places, breathing heavy. She's a fucking animal in bed. I don't know what I'm gonna do when she goes back on set next week.

"You finished it," she breathes from behind me, and I feel her hands traveling tentatively over my back. Hands that clawed and scratched me all over twenty minutes ago are now gentle and curious as they sweep over the fresh tattoo between my shoulderblades. A black-and-gray guitar with Itachi's name emblazoned on it. Kakashi's work. He's the only one I'll let work on me. "Sasuke it's amazing."

I have Sakura's name over my heart because she owns it. It's been hers pretty much since I met her. She's got my heart…

…and Itachi's got my back. Even in death, I know he's looking out for me. This seemed like a fitting tribute to him.

"You damn near tore it right off," I mumble teasingly, rolling over to pin her underneath me. She beams up at me, proud of her handiwork during our first bout of reunion sex, and I take a minute to drink her in. It was hard to see her outside under those sunglasses and I dragged her in the house so quickly that I barely had time to look at her. Now, though, I let my eyes wander.

She's almost illegally beautiful, especially like this, barely covered by what remains of our black cotton sheets, her hair a riot behind her, skin shiny and slick with sweat. Green eyes so bright and so happy look up at me like I'm the best part of her day. Maybe I just missed her so badly that I'm overdramatizing, but she's fucking breathtaking.

And because I'm thinking it anyway, I kiss her forehead and murmur, "You're beautiful." If possible, she smiles even wider.

"I love you," she tells me eagerly, earnestly, like she's been dying to say it for weeks. "I love you," like saying it once doesn't do it justice.

I kiss her soundly, slowly, nothing like the way I threw her on the bed and had my way with her. Because I'll tell her a thousand times in a thousand ways that I love her, but Sakura's the kind of girl – woman – who prefers actions over words. And you can't hide the way you feel about somebody when you kiss them.

"You'll be the death of me, woman," I tell her with a grin, rolling off of her again because we wore each other out, and round two will have to wait a bit. She curls up against my side, fitting like a puzzle piece, and runs her fingers over her name on my chest.

"Tell me about your day, handsome," she implores me, something she says every single day whether we're physically together, or if it's just over the phone. Sakura wants to know, every day, how I'm doing, what I'm thinking, what I'm up to, what I'm feeling, because she cares. And not since Itachi has anybody been so devoted to what's important to me.

"I finished that bouquet on that dumb girl I was telling you about the other day."

"Oh, the one who wanted it on her arm? I know you did her linework last week, she came back for color?"

"Hn. Yeah. Wanted more than that, too."

Sakura cocks an eyebrow. "Is that right."

"Yeah. She wanted that d-"

"And what did you tell her?" she demands icily, all pretense of sweetness gone from her face. She reminds me of a panther, cool, calculating, predatory.

"Nothing much," I say casually, watching her skin pale in anger.

"Really? And it slipped your mind, huh, that you're a married man? You just forgot to mention it? Well, if being single is what you want so badly, Sasuke Uchiha, then you bet your ass I'll cut you loose! And you'll be free to stick it in desperate, thirsty girls like that who…"

I silence her with a sound kiss and laugh against her mouth, feeling her temper cool as she realizes that I'm teasing her.

"I told her I'm married," I say, and she hits me in the shoulder in reprimand.

"Good," she snaps. "God, I wish we could tell people, you know? Then maybe they'd leave you alone."

"You think I like it any better? You know how often I hear guys talking about you? Someone came in the other day wanting Kiba to do a pin-up of you on his ribs."

"Really?" Sakura laughs at the sheer absurdity of it. "And did he do it?"

"No. I kicked him out and said in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself."

"You're gonna give us away with that kind of behavior!" she squeals, but I can tell she's delighted at my caveman-like claim on her and her likeness. She's the same way with me, demanding, possessive, territorial.

"Once we wrap up filming," she goes on, "I'm telling everybody. Like, I'm gonna have a press conference."

I chuckle in amusement, because that's not far off from our actual plan. We want to hang onto our privacy for a little while longer, just until her movie's completed. She made the jump pretty successfully, from professional dancer to actress. She's starring in a movie about a young ballerina in a dance academy (doing all her own dancing, of course), and once that's done, we're gonna reveal our marriage at the red carpet premiere, before she goes back on the road with a dance company.

But if this is the most annoying thing in my life – that we have to work hard at keeping our private lives private – then I have a ton of shit to be grateful for.

"Okay," she says, to change the subject. "What else happened today?"

"Went to see Itachi," I reply, a little gruffly. "It's his birthday."

She kisses my shoulder and says, "I know. That's why I came back today. I know you handle this stuff yourself but I wanted to be here in case you needed me. And I know you'll never say whether or not you do, but I'm your wife and I'm smarter than you."

I'm deeply, deeply touched, and I smirk into her hair, pulling her as tight as I can until she's crushed against me, as close as I can get her.

"Guess I can't argue with that," I say.

Five years ago, I was a stupid, arrogant, self-centered kid terrified of making his own decisions.

I was annoyed by my growing apathy towards music, annoyed by the fact that I wanted more and different. I hated not knowing where my life was going.

Now, things are different.

I like to think I'm a better person these days, a better man, a stronger man. I'm not afraid of uncertainty anymore, and I've let go of apathy. It's easy to do, when you give your heart away. When someone important gives her heart to you. Apathy and marriage don't fit well together, at least not for me.

I have direction now, I'm doing what I love, but the fact that the future isn't mapped out in stone doesn't piss me off anymore. It's exciting. I could open a new shop in a new city. I could travel the world. I could pick up my old guitar and play music again.

Point is, it doesn't matter. I can have it all. I can have none of it. I can pick and choose. Life isn't staying on one course the whole ride, it's adapting to the way the road changes. It's not about following dead passions or living up to expectations that don't appeal to you anymore.

I understand that now in a way I couldn't have back then. Back when Sasuke Uchiha was 17 and frustrated and above all else a fucking idiot. My actions back then nearly cost me everything. I'm lucky I had my friends, and my brother, and one very special girl who glows like she can't do anything else, to help me pull my head out of my ass.

Because now, now I have everything, and there are still surprises, and that's okay.

Adapting. Making the most out of life because we're not here forever.

All of this, I consider as the first rays of sunlight stream through the open windows in our bedroom. Sakura lays quietly next to me, pink hair everywhere, tan skin and blue-painted fingernails clutching over my heart, a smile on sin-red lips and morning sun glittering in shiny green eyes, a wave of color on torn black sheets. Color everywhere, destroying black-and-gray and forcing me to see that everything in front of me is fucking beautiful.

"G'morning," she says sleepily, smiling.

I'm Sasuke Uchiha. I'll be 22 next month. I'm the husband of the strangest, most dazzling woman on Earth. My brother died but he was proud of me. I used to be in a band, now I'm a sick tattoo artist and I love what I do.

And that's pretty fucking awesome.

note.. well, that does it. for this story, and for jinnyskeans :) it was fun. i wish i could've finished everything else, and maybe later on in the future, i'll come back to the rest of my stories. supposing, of course, this site and these people get their shit together. i had a great time with this story and i hope you liked it. if you did, please review one last time and let me know (i swear y'alls stopped reviewing stories.) be nice to the other writers on this site, and appreciate what they do. don't copy. don't harass. don't bitch and moan and complain. either write it yourself, or be grateful that someone's taking time out of their day to be creative.

thank you so much those of you who stuck by me, who listened to my diatribes about how much i hate the ffnet bullshit, who followed me and faved me and reviewed me and encouraged me and tolerated hearing about the phillies (see them sweep this weekend? i was at those games so look for me on tv!) thank you, thank you, thank you. there aren't words for how kind most of you are.

i love you. and for the last time, for the foreseeable future:

xoxo daisy :)