‹ the make believe theory ›

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So you're probably thinking 'what now, Sasuke? Your friends got in a tragic car accident that changed everything and you ran away. So what now? What's the point of this story?'

Well, okay, I'm getting there; you can't rush a goddamn story.

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You know how when you're reading a book and sometimes you get completely turned off by how abruptly things shift around? I never really understood that pet peeve; I actually don't mind it—not that I read too much, but when I do read and something just makes a sharp right turn I actually get more into the book. Like that keeps me on my feet—like an adrenaline shot. Like driving over the speeding limit at three in the morning, down the highway with nothing but the motor going apeshit under the hood, the wind and the music.

But life's like that, that's the thing.

Nothing's gonna smoothly fall into place to the point where you can't even feel it. Life's gonna make U-turns, sharp right turns, wide left turns and it's gonna head into a shitload of bumpy roads and when you get struck by something, it's gonna happen out of nowhere and when you least expect it.

So when I tell you this next part of my story, I want you to keep that in mind. I want you to focus on other things rather than going all 'what the serious fuck, Sasuke, that's so unrealistic; it can't happen all like that, so fast' because I'll shut you up right on the spot. Yes it can happen because it happened to me.

You can call it a badly written story.

I call that shit my life.

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Her name was Sakura and she was the barista at the café Rei and I went to every day.

When people look at me—this five-seven foot dude with messy hair, scruffy clothes, a permanent scowl on his face and a two year old attached to his hip—they assume I'm this antisocial, broody motherfucker that doesn't really go into relationships. And you know what, they're kinda right. The closest thing to a relationship I had was with my neighbor, back in Oto—her name was Kin and the basic thing we did was fuck each other's brains out.

A guy has needs, right? If you think that a dude's gonna preserve himself because he basically dislikes everyone, you're wrong. Dudes have needs—I have needs. And I'm not inwardly dead either; if a chick passes me by and she's attractive I'm gonna stare at her for a second longer than I should. After everything, I'm human, ain't I?

But no, man, Sakura crept up on me in the most obvious way. I just didn't get it.

The first time I went into the café was with Temari—she's the manager of the apartment where I was living—coz she was showing me around and shit like that. We walked up to the counter and she ordered something sweet (I think it was a white chocolate mocha) and I got myself a tea and a buttered bagel for Rei.

I didn't even notice her when I was ordering.

And she had pink hair.

She was short; like four-eleven or five feet on the dot (maybe even five-two, I don't know) and her hair was pink and short, with a side part and side-swooped bangs. And her eyes were these amazing green; all yellow and green and gold and silver framed with dark red-violet lashes and violet eyeliner to make them stand out.

I just accepted my order and moved along.

Temari was the one I tolerated more, out of her and her two brothers. Kankuro always had a shit-eating grin that I was too used to seeing on other people and Gaara reminded me too much of myself to even bother with the kid. But Temari was crude at best and Rei really liked her so she always did the favor in watching her while I searched for a job or something along those lines.

She also didn't ask me for dates.

She made me think of Tenten, actually—spitfire and with no fucks to give about anything. That was why I accepted to go eat breakfast with her at the café whenever she offered.

Anyway, back to Sakura.

I didn't really notice her until this one time when Rei wandered onto the other side of the counter and Sakura picked her up and showed her the register. I had gotten too into the word game I had downloaded for her on my iPad. It wasn't until I finally looked up, that I noticed Sakura was taking someone's order with Rei on her hip and her hands clasped together to keep her there.

I think I noticed her because of her smile.

It was a very nice smile.

I waited until the person she'd been taking care of was gone before I got up and went to get my overly friendly daughter. Rei gave me that little smile of hers that told me she knew she wasn't supposed to be doing what she was caught doing. Sakura laughed when Rei hid her face against her chest and handed her towards me when I reached out for her.

"Sorry," I said, sighing.

"Oh my god, no," she said, fixing her oversized Rolling Stones t-shirt and grinning at me. "Your daughter is so cute."

That was the moment I realized she was very attractive, when her green eyes connected with mine and her smile was still intact and it didn't matter that she was wearing a big band-tee messily tucked into high-waist shorts with black tights underneath because she was really fucking attractive and I felt the tips of my ears burn.

"She's not my daughter," I said automatically. Except she actually was, I reminded myself so I sighed and said, "I mean… She is… But she isn't…"

And I didn't even notice I had gestured at my dick until I watched Sakura's eyes lower down to that area before snapping back up to meet my eyes.

Lame move, man.

"Oh," she said, her lips quirking in this really attractive way, "I see."

I shifted Rei awkwardly, promising I'd pay her back for putting me in this awkward position.

"She's cute nonetheless," she said and reached for Rei's hand. "Come visit me again soon, okay…"

"Rei."

"Rei," she finished up, smiling.

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Now, don't go thinking that I was gonna plunge head first into something with Sakura because I was never that kind of guy and I had other priorities than getting laid. I did think she was pretty fucking attractive and I did like the way she and Rei formed this… weird bond or whatever because every time we'd enter the small coffee shop, Rei would screech a loud and dragged out hi and Sakura would laugh and take her out of my arms, give her a madeleine and let her explore the back room.

Rei didn't talk much, that was the thing.

She was a lazy little girl, like her fucking dad. She knew how to talk, she just refused to because she found it easier to point and demand and throw tantrums. It was worse after Kiba and Ino went out of her life in the way they did. Rei was a little girl, then, but no one ever gives kids the credits they deserve. Sometimes, they know more than adults do and Rei… Rei knew her parents weren't going to come back to her and she kind of just… stopped talking.

So to hear her say hello to Sakura in the way she did… It was something.

Rei's my daughter now, and even before then she was my goddaughter—either way she was my kid and though I'm pretty sure I make a shit dad and a shit-everything because I can never get passed worrying about myself, I did try. I tried in the form of getting Rei a kitty—little thing, it was, gray fur and big blue eyes. Kid fell in love with it instantly.

We went everywhere with the little furball. She wanted to go to the park? Kiri had to come with us. The café? Kiri had to be there, too. We had to restock on some stuff for the apartment, buy some more pull-ups for Rei or anything else, Kiri had to tag along too. I never had the heart to say no to the kid because the look she'd give me would always freeze me to my bones.

It should be illegal to look so much like your parents, the way Rei looked like Ino and Kiba.

Anyway.

That's how Sakura came into my life.

Not for me, not about me, not because of me.

It was Rei.

Because the look of pure excitement in her dark brown eyes made me grin and the way she looked like the same little girl that stole my heart, running around the café and shrieking with giggles when Sakura had time to play with her for at least two minutes made me a bit light headed. At home, she'd sit and watch Disney movies or curl up next to me and watch my every move, like she was scared I was gonna leave too.

So then, I decided we'd go to the café at least once a day, every week, so my kid could be herself again just for a little while.

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Believe it or not, I liked Konoha. It was big and everyone I was forced to talk to were people I'd only see once in my life—unless those people were Temari, Kankuro and Gaara because those assholes were annoying and popped into my apartment whenever I least expected them to freeload off my food and watch the football game off my HD cable (hey man, gonna live, gotta live large) but I only let it slide because Rei would sit next to them, her feet barely reaching the edge of the couch and one of her little hands wrapped around Kankuro's fingers.

But yeah, I liked that I had to go out of the apartment to find a laundry-mat to do my and Rei's laundry, I liked that I had to drive for more than five minutes to reach my job and I liked the annoyance of finding a babysitter if Temari was unavailable to watch Rei while I worked my shift.

It was… Unpredictable, I suppose.

That's what I liked—the fact that everything was unpredictable. Nothing was like the day before.

For example, on the Thursday about a month after leaving Oto. It was laundry day but Temari was out and Kankuro and Gaara were nowhere to be found. I normally don't like taking Rei to the laundry-mat because she sees open space and starts running like crazy and she always ends up hitting herself with the door of a washer that some douche left open. And Rei's tantrums are legit and I hate dealing with them.

Obviously, without my main three babysitters and the obvious inability to find one at the last minute, I had to bring Rei with me to the laundry-mat. S'cool, I carried the basket in between my arm and hip and had Rei hold the middle finger of my free hand. Normally, she liked to be carried because she's a lazy little punk like that—unless we're going to the park, because if I'm moving too slow for her liking, she pulls me until I hurry up.

Anyway.

So we go to the laundry-mat. It's not all that full, thankfully, because when it's full its usually mothers with their snotty kids who coax Rei to play with them and it's a hell of a noise and so goddamn annoying. Rei let go of my hand and ran to the vending machine, just to stare up at the colored wrappers of the candy bars and stuff.

Even if it was just me and Rei, we always filled up at least two big washers and two little ones; Rei changed her clothes constantly especially since she hated having anything touch her ankles or her wrists. And since Konoha's cold-ish in the mornings, I forced her to wear pants and long sleeves, then at noon, she changed into shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and then for dinner she changed one more time. And this happened daily, man.

I load up our washers and go fight with the machines to hand me my washing-card after I filled it up with cash. After all that mess was done and the clothes were lost in water and foam, I sat down on one of the benches and Rei came to hug me by running in between my legs and throwing her upper half against me, legs dangling in the air.

Her eyes had been on the scenery on the other side of the window-wall I was sitting in front of when she suddenly gasped in that way of hers. She pulled away from me, like I was acid and burning to the touch, and ran out the door of the laundry-mat. I was up on my feet but before I could even go after her I heard Rei screeching, "Hiiiiii!" in that way she does to only one person.

Sakura walked in, holding Rei up and looking around, trying to locate me.

"Hey," she said and she was smiling like she was my savior.

I gave her a nod because I legit never knew how to act around her, let alone how to talk to her. She's on this entire different level than me; she's always smiling, knowing how to talk to little kids and adults the same, like she just pulled them into her orbit and everyone was okay with it because she had amazing green eyes and a killer grin.

Rei was hugging her, her little arms around Sakura's neck and her head resting on her shoulder. Sakura sat down on the right side of the bench I was sitting on and Rei's staring up at me with this sly smile because she always felt like she won something when Sakura held her close. I sat down next to them and slouch a bit and I felt really fucking awkward—what the fuck do I even talk to her about?

"It's such a pretty day to be stuck doing laundry," she said, shifting around so she could stare outside, her knee against the side of my thigh. "Isn't that right, Rei?"

Rei's smile just grew wider.

"It's her fault," I said, scoffing and looking away, my arms crossed in front of my chest. "She's the one that changes three times a day."

Sakura laughed, shifting Rei around in her arms and leaning her back against the wall. "It's okay, Rei. Boys don't understand how difficult it is to be a diva; your daddy's one of 'em."

I scoffed, shook my head and rolled my eyes because she didn't even get that I had a sister whose only functions were clothes and boys and I grew up with that, man, and it always drove me insane. I'm practically immune to it… Sorta.

"What are you doing around here, anyway?" I asked because Sakura didn't live around here, Temari once told me.

She stared at me; Sakura's the kind of person that stared when people were talking, like, giving them her undivided attention. And it wasn't creepy, either. You know how sometimes, people stare at you unblinkingly and they have the ugliest, weirdest stare ever that it kinda freaked you out and made you super uncomfortable? Sakura's was the kind that just seemed normal, the kind that didn't even bother you.

"Just got done with my shift," she said. "I was going to head home and take a nap but the day's too pretty for that. Mind if I hang out here with you cool kids?"

I stared at her for a second and the way Rei was playing with the necklace that dangled around her neck and rested on her chest. I snorted, shaking my head one last time and got up to add some softener to the washers.

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Eventually, shit settled down and I made believe that I was okay and that Rei was okay and that everything was okay.

Sometimes, when I wasn't looking, I'd get these weird moods—like anxiety—where I'd wonder how the fuck was I going to raise this little girl on my own, you know? And then those thoughts would warp and I'd start having memories of my douchebag friends, remembering their distinct laugh and the way we'd crowd my room and watch the baseball or football game or we'd just play video games and sometimes Karin and Ino would crash and just… That was all over.

And that's what'd make me sit up at night, sometimes, and watch Rei sleep next to me.

Something that I had been so sure that would be a part of my life until I basically died, was gone.

There was no hanging out anymore, no battle of wits, no glaring at Suigetsu because he'd sneak out of my room and go sneak around with my sister. There was no more street hockey or street baseball or street football.

I made believe that I was okay but that theory wasn't looking too good despite the fact that I—stubbornly—made new friends and met a girl that I could possibly have really strong feelings for, if life kept going this way. And if I was still grieving, how exactly was I supposed to, you know, move on?

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I told Sakura my life story one day when she accompanied me and Rei to the park.

I don't think I remember when exactly she began to be our guest in our outings, but we'd walk with Rei leading the way and holding Kiri close while Sakura and I would walk a few steps behind, talking about something different with each trip. In the time that'd passed, I learned a lot about Sakura; she was about eight months younger than me, she was adopted and had two mothers, and a friend of one of her mothers' was the owner of the café where she worked.

Her favorite color was royal blue—not blue, not navy blue, not baby blue… Royal blue. She was really dead set on pointing out that it was an entirely different shade of blue and that she would not have anyone change it. She had a pet turtle named Lady and on her days off she liked to read books under the sun.

She was a weirdo, too. Like she sometimes talked to herself and sometimes she talked about herself as if she was an entirely different person. But she knew how to cook and whenever she was out early on her shift, she'd drop by our apartment with free pastries and invite us to hang out with her at the park.

And whenever Temari or her idiot brothers were unavailable, she babysat Rei so I could work in peace.

Anyway.

We were walking into the park when she mentioned that I had bags under my eyes and that I looked troubled and more rumpled than usual. And it's been close to two months and a half since I left Oto, since my best friend died—I don't even know the condition of my other two friends and if my other living friends were doing good and if my sister was okay and it's fine because I wanted it this way but… I spilt it all.

I told her that I ran away and that I was a goddamn coward and that sometimes I didn't think I was good enough to raise Rei alone and that Kiba and Ino were stupid to ever think I would be okay doing it on my own and that I wished I could have a re-do and at least tell Kiba he's a fucking idiot one last time because he deserved it and that maybe, if I had a re-do, I could have kept them from getting in the car and they could all be alive and we'd all be in my room spilling beer on my carpet and not giving a fuck about it.

After I finished, taking a deep breath and running a hand through my hair, we went quiet. I didn't want to look at her or the look of pity she was going to offer me. Because I didn't want pity—save that for some other poor fool. I wanted… I don't know. I want to say I wanted comfort, but I have always been too proud to ever accept that, anyway.

But when she did turn towards me, her eyes held everything but pity. She looked sad, like what I was feeling was something she was feeling too, and her lips were set in a sad frown and she paused from walking and wrapped her arms around my torso and said something like, "I'm sorry to hear that, Sasuke. I don't think you're a coward. I think you're trying to adjust."

And I swear to fucking god I think I fell in love with this girl right then, when she pulled away and gave me a quick smile before walking off to play with Rei.

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That was my life. My new life, anyway.

Breakfast at the café early in the morning, walks through the parks, sunbathing on the grass, doing laundry—me and my daughter and this barista named Sakura Haruno. Sometimes, she'd come over and we'd go out for lunch or dinner, or we'd stay in and watch Disney movies with Rei or color in coloring books or other ridiculous things like that.

Time went by coz it never waited for anyone and the seasons changed with it. Soon, it was winter and Rei had to wear pants and jeans and leggings with long-sleeves and jackets and it was a battle every time to the point where I would have to call Sakura and have her coax her into submission.

I was working the night shift, one night. Sakura was with Rei and we'd made a deal that I'd drive her back home; it was raining and on my break I stood in the alley where the supermarket kept the dumpsters. I liked the way the rain felt against my skin; soothing and freezing. My phone had been vibrating a lot since about twenty minutes ago but I hadn't paid much attention to it. Not that I even could, unless I wanted to lose my job.

And I only remembered its insistent vibrating when it began to do so again in my pocket.

It was Sakura and my mind quickly began to wonder what the hell Rei could be doing that not even Sakura could handle.

"What—"

"Sasuke, Kiri is missing."

Well, shit, I had thought. Kiri was still a small furball and it was raining and dark. She could be anywhere.

"Okay," I sighed, "Where's Rei?"

"I managed to get her to sleep. I told her you'd taken Kiri with you to buy her a new toy."

"Huh…"

"I hate lying," she moaned on the line. "This is going to destroy me. We have to find her."

I ran a hand through my damp hair and blew air into my cheeks, trying to search the brick wall in front of me for some answers. "Okay. Let me make a deal with Shino and have him cover for me for the rest of the night. I'll call you when I'm outside. Get Kankuro or one of them to stay with Rei."

"Okay," she whispered and I hung up.

We searched for hours, let me tell you. We went through every nook and cranny in the alleys nearby, circled the block, went through the nearby neighborhoods and looked under the parked cars and everything. We were soaked within the half hour but we kept searching until the rainfall got angrier and we had no other choice but to return home, empty-handed.

We were dripping and Kankuro was sitting on the couch, watching a movie in the HBO channels and… Kiri on his lap.

I felt Sakura tense up next to me and I almost grinned when she pointed at the cat and stage whispered a demand to know where she was.

"She snuck into my apartment at some point," Kankuro explained, chewing on some Doritos. "…Why?"

"Nothing," I sighed out, grinning when Sakura made a shriek of annoyance and threw herself on the couch.

Kankuro shrugged a shoulder and left the apartment shortly after, talking about how weird we were and that the movie was getting good and he was going to miss crucial parts in his transition from my apartment to his. I sat down next to Sakura, not minding that we were messing the grungy couch up with our wet clothes and I chuckled because she was played a fool by a cat.

Sakura glared at me at first and she looked really beautiful when she did that. Her eyes grew brighter and sharper with fire and they glinted in this way that shouldn't be normal. But then she threw her head back and laughed, mentioning how funny I looked all wet, with my nose red and my hair stuck to my forehead.

And that's when I first kissed her.

In that moment, when she's laughing at the whole situation, laughing at me, looking happy and so Sakura with her stupid pink hair and amazing green eyes. Her hair was frizzing up and her clothes were stuck like second skin and I pressed my lips to hers and swallowed some of her laugh and I grinned against her lips because I know she was wide eyed and surprised before I pulled away and walked to my room to get her a change of clothes.

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I bet you're like 'oh yeah now we're talking. Give me the awkward conversations and the dates'.

Nope, none of that happened. I didn't ask her out on dates and she never asked what that kiss was about. We did it more, after that; I kissed her when I'd drive her home after my late shift and I'd kiss her when she'd leave after having lunch with us and, once, I kissed her until we were both breathless and her fingernails scraped my chest and my hands memorized her curves.

But we never talked about it.

It was something that settled in.

Crept up and decided to stay and we were both okay with it.

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We did a Disney marathon, one night weeks later when it was getting close to Christmas. Rei was settled in between us, looking happy and pointing and talking about the parts she remembered in her weird Rei way where she didn't pronounce the 'r'.

We had mac n' cheese for dinner via Rei's request along with a side of apple juice and soda. I never saw my kid look so happy and okay; she'd shift from resting her head against my ribs to resting on Sakura's lap. The only time we ever moved from our positions were to switch DVDs or to get something from the fridge—time flew by because it always did when you were doing things you liked.

It was at least midnight when we came back to the real world. Mulan had just finished and Rei was passed out with her head on Sakura's lap.

"I should get going," she said as I picked Rei up and went to turn the TV and DVD player off.

"Why?"

She stared at me, blinking as if it was obvious.

"Just stay," I said, shrugging a shoulder.

It was quiet and our eyes connected and I wonder if she got what I said.

She didn't say anything, though. But I understood her answer when she led us towards the room.

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Rei looked happier.

It was a new year and she was okay; sometimes she'd drift off and when she'd come to she'd start to cry and I understood it. Because Rei had been old enough to recognize her parents and it's been months since she's seen them and sometimes she would remember it. And when that happened she'd run to me and hug me as if her life depended on it, her arms around my neck and her face against my shoulder and I'd have to shush her in a gentle fatherly way that I didn't even know I could pull off.

Sakura took care of her—of us—in ways we had both missed. Rei had needed a mother and I… I had needed a push on moving on and letting go.

We were a goddamn weird family; sometimes Sakura and I would end up arguing about something trivial or we'd get engrossed in our conversation and looked like best friends trying to catch up before our time was up. Rei liked to walk in between us, holding my middle finger and Sakura's pinky and she'd call her mama to match the way she called me papa.

It was… Weird and terrifying but this was my life, now. I had a family; a girlfriend and a daughter and a sad story to drag around with me.

Sakura said I should go back to Oto to set everything down, bury demons and find the actual closure that I needed and deserved, settle things with my friends and get my mother to stop worrying about me the way she probably still was after all this time.

I didn't know how to reply and I'd always end up angry because I didn't know how to do all that or if I even had a right. It was months—almost a year—since everything and sometimes I realized I would crave to go to Kiba's grave and maybe say ten million awful things and let him in on how Rei was doing and maybe even grow quiet so he'd get that I missed him because I wouldn't ever say it aloud. Not that he'd ever need me to.

That's how I got myself back in Oto, after so much arguing and leaving home to drive around the streets of Konoha to gather myself. That's how I found myself driving down streets I knew by memory towards my childhood home where me and my friends would always hang out.

That's how I got slapped in the face when Karin saw me, angry hot tears in her eyes when she demanded to know what the fuck had my problem been to leave like that and never even give a sign of life. That's how my stupid kid sister threw herself onto me, pride be damned, and cried onto my shoulder and called me all the obnoxious names she would always call me.

That's how my mother ran down the porch and flung herself at me, pulled away and inspected me from head to toe, tears rolling down her cheeks and calling for my dad and turning towards Sakura and Rei.

That's how my dad stared at me with a look that told me things he's never said to me in my life; a truce and an understanding that I had needed space and time just how he had needed space and time when Naruto's dad died from a heart attack years ago when we were still sixteen.

That's how my family met Sakura, how they got to see and know and understand that I had my own family now and that I was okay or as okay as I was ever going to be.

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When I went to the hospital, I had thought I'd be alone.

I never knew what room Suigetsu had been in before but as I walked down the hall, I noticed he was move into his own room, where he was to rest until he finally decided to wake the fuck up. I wondered how many times Karin walked in these halls to check on him and sit at his bedside and silently demand he finally get up and stop being a lazy asshole.

At home, I had asked about them. About him and Ino and my dad had let me know that Ino was never going to wake up but that there was still an infinite amount of hope for Suigetsu.

It made sense—it hurt, but it made sense. Ino had been in the front, with Kiba. Most critical place to get hit in a car accident. Kiba had died in the collision and Ino had gone into vegetative state. Rei's biological parents—my friends—were gone and they were gone for good but there was still a chance for my one stupid friend.

I went into the room and the first thing I took notice was of the moron laying on the bed. His hair had gotten longer, still white and straight and a bit messy. He was still pale and so still, on the bed, just lying there like if he was sleeping and nothing else. I stared at him for a good long time, taking in that all his wounds from the accident were gone and healed and that he was just gone, lost in his head and too lazy to make his way back.

After him, I noticed that he wasn't alone in the room and that Neji and Naruto were already there.

Karin had said they'd come here daily to visit, but I hadn't thought we'd clash and be here at the same time.

I was expecting our reunion to be… A bit different. But this made sense.

Seeing each other after that day at the cemetery after Kiba's funeral, seeing each other here in Suigetsu's hospital room.

It was quiet and we stared at each other for a long time. There were looks of anger and from their part but it's subdued with understanding because the three of us had felt it; the fork roads keeping us away from each other and the endless miles separating us. But I've read in places that people drift off because they have their things to do in life but sometimes they come back together because their roads intertwine again and I guess that's us, huh?

"'sup," Naruto said. He looked older, his hair shaggier and his blue eyes sharper.

"Not much," I replied, walking further into the room until I stood next to Neji and leaned against the wall. "You?"

"Same."

"Where've you been?" Neji asked in a drawl.

"Konoha," I replied and it's like we're playing twenty one questions.

"Cool," he answered.

"Tenten's pregnant," Naruto said, "We came to tell Suigetsu."

I looked down at Neji where he sat on the chair and I kind of smirked in the way that I do only for him because I know it always pissed him off. "Congrats."

"How's Rei?"

"Good," I said, "Great. She's at home with Sakura and my parents."

"Sakura?"

Naruto waggled his eyebrows at me. "You sly dog."

And like that… Just like that… The wall that still threatened to divide us tumbled down and we were the same idiots from months before, from way before the accident where we'd bicker and argue and talk each other down in ways friends do. Naruto clapped me on the back and wrapped an arm around my shoulder, told me about how he and Hinata found a place together but he still always went to visit his mother every single day because he didn't want her to be alone. Neji and Tenten lived together, too, and she was three months pregnant that very day.

At some point, we turned our attention to Suigetsu and reminded him of all the stupid shit we used to do. And at some point we'd laugh and forget about the fact that Neji and me were the two 'stoic' ones and that laughing shouldn't really be our thing. And before we left the hospital we told him he needed to hurry up and wake up.

"Quit being a lazy asshole," I said and I gently pulled at some of his hair. "You need a haircut. You straight up look like a girl."

"You're missing out on a lot of food, man," Naruto added. "We ain't getting any younger so quit making us wait."

We left, then, and we went to catch up—to really catch up—at the old diner we would always go to where we talked about everything and reminisced about. I didn't go to Kiba's grave because I didn't feel like I was ready, especially if Ino's was there—which I never even asked because I didn't want to know the answer—I had just reconciled with my friends, visited another and shit like this should be taken one step at a time, right?

I wasn't ready to go talk to a tombstone in place of my best friend's stupid face.

So I sat there, in a booth with my last two best friends and settled down.

And when I got home, Sakura and Rei were waiting for me at the front porch and when Naruto and Neji met her—and Naruto wrapped her up in a bear hug—and began to plan a reunion of some sort I felt… I felt okay. And I wasn't make-believing anymore. I was okay.

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I had said my story wasn't a love story, right. Not all of it, anyway.

My story was about moving on and letting go. It took me months, I had up and left my life and my family and my remaining friends and it had took me months to let it all settle in and let it all go and even up to this very day I still get lost in thought and depressed because my best friend was dead and the parents of my adoptive daughter are gone.

Suigetsu's awake now and he and Karin are together and sometimes he has breakdowns—survivor's guilt—but he's okay and my sister takes good care of him. We've all kept moving along with life; Neji and Tenten have their son and Naruto and Hinata are finally married and Sakura and I have Rei and a little monster on the way.

Rei is in preschool and she's grown up a lot. I still have trouble doing her pigtails when Sakura has an early morning shift and I'm left to drop her off to school. She still likes to have Disney marathons and when I least expect it, she hugs me and tells me she loves me and refuses to let me go for a good ten minutes.

I didn't go back to Oto because my life was in Konoha with Sakura and Rei and the manager of my apartment and her two brothers. We went and visit a lot and when I finally moved on—really moved on, I visited Kiba's grave and caught him up on everything he missed since he went and got himself killed. Ino is buried next to him and when Rei turned four I took her up there and she kneeled in between their graves and cried and said she was okay and that I was taking good care of her.

Yeah.

My kid and me… We're okay.

Oh, in case you forgot. I'm Sasuke.

It was nice meeting you, I guess.

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fin


If it wasn't clear from that last scene, it's been two years since the story Sasuke was telling. Thank you so much for reading, I feel so accomplished for actually finishing this and shout out to Rhea and Paige for stopping me every time I wanted to quit and scrap it!

Lastly, for the entirety of this fic, I listened to Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnny, just throwing that out there.

Tell me if you liked it, keep the rest to ya self (: