Chapter 18:



If I should live long,
Then perhaps the present days
May be dear to me,
Just as past time filled with grief

Comes quietly back in thought.

-Fujiwara no Kiyosuke





I was watching my funeral...literally.  


Full of pomp and circumstance, Orochimaru had spared no expense making it seem as if he had lost something so…precious to him. It was eerie; a downright out of body experience to see a large blown-up photograph of myself stuck amidst a gazillion flowers. I fully expected to see my coffin with an imposter’s body inside, but luckily, we were spared from that gruesome concept. I could only watch in horrified and disgusted silence as he made a show of bowing before my image, while flanked by several officers (many of whom I recognized as my subordinates) before swishing aside in his flowing black robe to allow a steady stream of mourners (dressed in black as well) to walk past; many of whom left even more flowers, incense or an offering in my honor.


Insane…this is insane…


I was being martyred.


That sick son-of-a-bitch was actually using me - even in ‘death’ - to pull off the next phase of his diabolical plans. I couldn’t believe it! The intense desire to reach into the television screen, to wrap my hands around that pale neck and slowly squeeze the life out of him, had my fingers itching so much so, I practically had to clench them into fists to control myself. I longed to scream to the heavens, or rather to the innocent fools who were falling for Orochimaru’s trap; to tell them that I was still alive and well and that all of this was just a ploy to finish what he had started. I wanted to -


“That is one nice funeral,” came the sudden low drawl from across the room, which broke off my dark thoughts. “Not every day you get to see what that looks like, eh, Sasuke?”


I bristled; wondering if he expected me to respond to that inane observation, but I guess not since he continued with a hard edge now in his voice. “Have to give the guy props for pulling this shit. One minute he’s threatening to have us all killed, the next he’s acting like he just lost his best buddy in the world.”


Naruto snorted in derision and pointed at the screen with his finger. “What’s he trying to do anyhow?”


“It’s obvious,” Itachi replied quietly, causing me to glance at him. His expression gave nothing away, but it was clear from the slight tremble in his tone that he was not exactly too thrilled with what he was seeing either. “With Sasuke now ‘dead’, it gives him free reign to hunt you down and really finish the job without the rest of the world’s knowledge.”


“So he knows we’re alive then,” Haku stated softly; though he looked worried. I had to squash down the sudden urge to comfort him for he looked a bit lost and bemused. I have to confess that it was ‘strange’ to see Haku look this way; not his expression per se, but stuck in western clothing and looking quite out-of-place compared to the others. If it (slightly) annoyed me that he was getting more and more attached to Naruto (I doubt he’s bothered to see me throughout the boat trip), I swallowed it and blamed it all on that girl who seemed intent on smothering my personal space.


“Not surprising,” Shisui replied with a light shrug. The images on screen had now changed to what looked like the outside of a hospital. There was another press conference being held; this time a group of doctors giving an update on Shimura Danzo’s condition. “Kimimaro must have told him we made it out alive.”


“…where the Commissioner is still being treated for a gunshot wound to his right shoulder,” the pretty brunette reporter was saying. “The doctors have just wrapped up a quick news conference and say that they expect him to be released soon, but that they fear his arm will remain permanently paralyzed…”


“Looks like you did some major damage,” Shisui remarked with a low whistle of appreciation while glancing at my brother.


“Not bad enough,” was Itachi’s low reply, and it took all my of my acting skills not to show the surge of pride that filled me at that statement. I know it sounds stupid and cliché, but it really is funny that despite all the years separated, despite just seeing and being with him for barely an entire day, and despite getting a nice reminder of who was actually in charge (see my still stinging cheek as reference), Itachi was still cool to me. He was still the big brother who would always take care of me when things got rough. He could be nice and kind to a fault (reference to his need to comfort Naruto for reasons beyond me), but deep down inside, he wouldn’t hesitate to use force if necessary, and I was sure he was definitely pissed at not having finished the job when it came to assassinating that hypocrite.


“We’re definitely going to have to move more cautiously from now on,” he muttered to himself.


“Well, sitting around here isn’t going to do us any good,” Shisui said impatiently. Why did I get the feeling that he was actually the brains behind the operation? “We have to get moving, Itachi.”


“Right.” My brother turned off the T.V. (thank God for small mercies) and focused on us again. “As I mentioned earlier, there’s a bus waiting to take us to Buk-gu. Shisui and I will only stay for a day or so, just so you can acclimate to your new surroundings before heading back to Japan…”


I opened my mouth to blurt out a plaintive ‘why’? Why did he have to go back now especially after our reunion? There were still some things I wanted to ask share with him, and he was so quick to run away again; though I knew his reasons for doing so. All the same, I was going to be in a foreign land…away from the once safe confines of my home, and thrust into a situation I was not going to be comfortable with. Everything I knew and owned was left behind, and I was already beginning to have horrible flashbacks of the last time I left Byaku-Shinkyou for a significant amount of time and what had transpired then.


Relax...there’s no Orochimaru here anymore, remember? He is no longer watching over your shoulder so...try to relax...breathe...


Either way, my eyes were still suffering the effects of the smoke; a dull burning sensation that had worsened with my cry-fest over Asuma’s death. I did not have my medication with me either, and I was sure that my vision was going to be affected. How the hell was I going to see at this rate? By the time my brother returned (if he returns that is), I might be completely blind. And not for the first time in my life, I cursed the fate that destined me with such a ‘gift’.


“...speak the language?” Itachi was asking, forcing me back into the conversation.


“A little,” Naruto (ever the show off) said with a wave of his hand. “I lived in Korea town for a while and picked up a few things here and there. Should be no problem...I hope.”


“Good. Shikamaru?”


“A little bit,” came the quiet reply. Funny, I have never really noticed him before although I’m sure I must have seen him once or twice around the grounds or with Asuma at some point in time, but other than that, I had no idea why this particular sinner...


(his name is Shikamaru)


...was with us on this journey, and why my brother and everyone else seemed quite comfortable with him.




“Sasuke-sama taught me a few simple sentences,” Haku replied with a warm smile thrown my way. I kicked myself inwardly for feeling my cheeks heat up a little, especially with everyone now looking my way. But Haku, who still has a problem with controlling his mouth when he gets going, kept on going. “Sasuke-sama knows how to speak five different languages and he’s very good at them too! Japanese, Korean, Chinese, English, and French. I think he was even learning Russian too...”


“Haku,” I growled beneath my breath. Normally, I’d be puffing up with pride at my accolades, but seeing the expression on Naruto’s face (a mixture of amusement and disgust?) made me feel a little embarrassed at being called out for being too much of a bookworm. At least if there was one thing I could be thankful for, it was Orochimaru’s need for me to learn as much as I could with the teachers he specifically chose to tutor me.  


/One must always keep the mind active, Sasuke. Remember, knowledge is power. /


Hmph. Like I needed you to tell me that, you bas –


“Well then, maybe Sasuke-sama should teach all of us, since he’s such a master of the languages, eh?” Naruto drawled sarcastically.


Unfortunately, Haku didn’t get it and all but clapped his hands in delight. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure Sasuke-sama wouldn’t mind.”


He looked at me with hope and pure adoration in his eyes, and I swear I hadn’t meant to say this, but it came out anyway. “It’s fine...except that some people might find it a little more difficult to grasp whatever lessons I impart due to their slow mentality.” This said while glaring pointedly at Naruto. Guess I hit a nerve because his eyes immediately flashed with an expression that I found myself welcoming and feeling quite (oddly) comfortable with. His anger and irritation I could deal with. I had no intention of becoming friends with him no matter the situation thrust at us.


“Slow mentality or not,” came the curt interruption from Itachi, just as Naruto was about to open his mouth to probably insult me. “It’s good that you all know a little of the language. Not many Japanese are around the location we’re going to, so you might as well try to get used to the people and their way of life as quickly as possible. Naruto?”




“If I can force you away from homicidal thoughts regarding my obstinate little brother, for just one minute, here’s a little something for you. I’d advice to apply them immediately.”


A small box was thrust the blond’s way, and he opened it to reveal a pair of contact lenses.


“Nice,” he muttered. “I used to wear these a lot know.” He gave a smile that was hard to decipher, but lowered his head to fix them in, then threw it back to make sure they fit. After several blinks to adjust to them, he lifted his lashes to reveal hazel eyes that somehow...


(don’t fit’s not you...I prefer to see the real ones...)


...made him look a little different.  


“What about my hair?” he asked, while running his fingers through it and making it even spikier than it was. “Got any wigs?”


“Don’t think you’ll need them,” Shisui replied with an amused smile. “There are other blonds around. Think it’s a new trend with the youth these days.”


A sudden loud knock on the door – which immediately had us all stiffening and turning at the same time toward it - revealed another weathered face of a fisherman we had not seen before. He nodded towards my brother and asked curtly, “Kahl gah yo?”


Yeh,” Itachi replied immediately in fluent Hangul. “Kahm sa hahm ni da.


Impressive...not that it should have been surprising with the kind of life he’s led all this time. With an exchange of polite bows, Itachi and Shisui began to usher everyone out with instructions on getting directly into the bus and not stopping for anything and -


“You stay,” Shisui commanded curtly as I began to hobble after the others.


I frowned in consternation; leaning heavily on my crutch (God, I hated walking around like an old man). “What is it?” I asked rudely.


Itachi, who was making a show of packing up the rest of the documents, which were not distributed, stopped long enough to reply once he was sure everyone else was out of the room. “Your eyes. How do they feel?”


I blinked and then squeezed them shut for a second before lifting my lashes again. “They still burn a little. Must be from the smoke and all...”


“Asuma mentioned that Orochimaru was giving you some kind of medication to control them,” Shisui said quietly; his gaze was searching and penetrating, and I almost felt he was stripping me down...wanting to see beyond what was presented to him. It was disconcerting to say the least.


“Asuma talked too much,” I grumbled and took a step back because Shisui was coming closer still. What was his problem?


“He just wants to look at them properly,” Itachi explained with a small smile. “Orochimaru’s so-called medication must have really fucked up your eyes. Surely even you must have realized what he was doing.”


Yes, I did know, but I didn’t need them to make it seem like I was that stupid. I opened my mouth to retort but Itachi wasn’t done yet.


“Shisui has something to reverse the effects.”


Shisui smiled and reached into his robe to pull out a small vial, which he waved a little. “However, you might have to wear sunglasses for a while -”


“How long is a while?”


“Twenty-four hours, give or take.”


“And what is this going to do exactly?”


“Stops the burning for one thing,” Shisui stated as he walked to a nearby sink to wash his hands, while Itachi was clearing the small table before patting it lightly. “Secondly, you won’t feel like plucking them out whenever you see people that are ‘evil’. Orochimaru made you overuse them and his medication only enhanced the effects. Besides, the world is so full of evil anyway, if you kept seeing every single person’s aura like won’t last a week on the outside.” He wiped his hands on a rag and pointed to the table. “Lay on it, so I can get started.”




“Just do as he says,” Itachi remarked with a weak smile. “It will be over quickly.” And perhaps sensing my ‘other’ concern, he whispered into my ear as he had always done when we were children. “It won’t hurt a bit. Just think of Mama Tae’s melons.”


The snort of laughter escaped my lips before I could stop it. Itachi’s soft chuckle as he pulled away even had Shisui eyeing us with a raised brow. It was something between brothers, he reckoned as I obediently lay back (with an effort and trying not to wince at my other aches and pains). What were Mama Tae’s melons? Well, though shameful to admit, as a child, I never really liked paying visits to our family doctor especially when he had a penchant for giving me shots like it was going out of style. I hated receiving such injections, and it was always Itachi who would hold my hand and try to make me think of something else to keep my mind off the incoming prick of pain. Mama Tae’s melons were not actual melons at all, but a woman who was quite... let’s just say she was very well-endowed in the bosom and backside department. Whenever she walked, it was like watching rolls of fat waddle down the street, and she didn’t seem to mind that we children literally ogled at her in awe (she must have been about six feet tall with a face like that of a mashed frog wearing garish make-up). It didn’t help that she wasn’t the most cheerful of people, that she smoked like a chimney, and she would literally growl at anyone who sneaked into her compound.


Knowing that she was no longer alive made it all seem bittersweet, but it was still a nice memory and a part of me was glad Itachi had brought it up. Still, Shisui had no needle in his hands and seemed to know what the hell he was doing. He hummed to himself as he tinkered around with the medium-sized black box I had noticed him carrying earlier, and before long, I felt my eyes literally widened and taped down by some kind of material to expose more of my corneas. It was like being forced to see the world in even broader vision; quite an uncomfortable feeling, I can assure you.


All the same, I remained as still as I could; though my hands were gripping the edges of the table tightly. They eventually began to water and the tears ran down my cheeks, which Shisui would dab away absently as he carefully began applying drops of whatever was in the vial into the corner of my eyes. The effect was immediate: a sharp sting that nearly had me jerking off the table before it passed to be replaced with a coolness – as if someone was blowing a soothing wind into them. Problem was, I was literally crying now – no fault of mine – it was probably the effect of the drug, and as before Shisui wiped them away diligently.


“Oy! What’s keeping us?!” came the sudden cry from the outside that was a jarring reminder of exactly where we were. Trust that idiot to be the one to scream like a barbarian.


“Shut him up,” Shisui ordered dryly. He was applying another drop of the medication, and I could vaguely hear Itachi leaving to perhaps tell them I was getting a crude eye operation.


Five more times of this procedure and Shisui finally seemed satisfied. With a light grunt, he finally took off the tapes and made me squeeze my eyes for about a minute, while helping me sit up.


“It’s going to burn for a little while,” he explained even as said sensation began to take effect. It wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t exactly a tolerable feeling either. “But like I said, give it about twenty-four hours and you should be back to normal. Everything’s going to look a little cloudy meanwhile, but try to bear with it as much as possible, okay?”


And hardly waiting for me to respond, he yelled out to the rest, “We’re finished here!”


“Thank God!” came the now all too familiar voice. “Because I’m starving, goddamn it! When are we going to eat?!”


I groaned and ignored the snicker from Shisui as he passed the sunglasses to me, which I slid on and squinted through.


God help and give me the patience to deal with this. It wasn’t even the end of the first day of my new life away from Byaku-Shinkyou, and I already had the feeling this transition was going to be a long and painful one.





“Are you going to finish that, Haku?” came the plea/whine from across the table.




“Koh mahp soom ni da!” Naruto yelled in victory before swiping the last piece of grilled fish off Haku’s plate with his chopsticks.


“You eat too damn much, Naruto,” Karin complained. “Isn’t that your fifth helping already?”


Third actually, I corrected absently (not that I’m keeping track) as I stirred the floating noodles in my bowl, while the delicious smells of samgyeopsal (pork belly meat) being grilled on a hot plate assailed my senses. Shisui was doing the honors of turning the meat over so they wouldn’t char, while Itachi seemed to be in a dazed stupor (or asleep) as he leaned back on his seat...not speaking much.

“Stop it!” came the sharp bark from the girl as she tapped Naruto’s wandering hand with her chopsticks earning a giggle from Haku, a cry of ‘pain’ from Naruto, and Shikamaru chuckling into his meal.


This is...


“But Karin-chaaaaan -”


“I am not Karin-chaaaaaan. It’s just Karin. Can’t you even get that right?”


This is...


“More Itachi?” Shisui asked as he held up a slice of the pork. My brother shook his head and took another sip of his beverage; making me wonder if he was getting drunk. That would be a first.


This is...


(like old times)




Talking...laughing...enjoying a full course meal with people who weren’t really afraid of you. Acting like nothing was wrong, when less than a hundred miles away, a homicidal maniac was in the hunt for our heads. Asuma would have loved this setting and would have relished it with much gusto. I felt the back of my eyes prick with unshed tears. He should have been here...with us.


I scooped some more noodles into my mouth, having to chew carefully because my jaw was still smarting, and besides, I do take my time to savor a meal anyway (well unless I had a duty to attend and was forced to eat fast). Still, it gave me the time to survey our surroundings. Thanks to Naruto’s constant whining about being hungry, Itachi was finally forced to stop at a nearby restaurant which specialized in seafood (obviously) and whose owners were quite welcoming and accommodating to the ‘foreigners’.


Luckily, the chef was quite fluent in Japanese, and we (by ‘we’, I mean Itachi and Shisui) were able to converse for a while before he presented us with the best they had to offer. Our small party occupied a section of the almost claustrophobic eatery, and though we got a few wary glances from some patrons, it really was no different from any other restaurant you might see back home (at least the few that were in Kanei that is). From our vantage point, we could see the chef, his wife and two children working hard behind the counter either cooking, washing dishes or serving their customers. They seemed to know all their customers by name, and would engage in a loud conversation if prodded to do so. All in all, it was a rather cozy atmosphere.


However, something I could not ignore...or rather, something I had noticed before and which only became more obvious as the evening wore on, was a certain man’s ability to attract everyone’s attention. It was akin to watching a human magnet in action; to see how he effortlessly started up conversation with strangers and in mere minutes, they were either warming up to him or becoming friendly –as if they had known him all their lives. Even Karin, who at first wouldn’t give him a second look, was now forced to acknowledge his presence and from the flush on her cheeks, it was clear he was having his effect on her. I couldn’t and didn’t understand it.


Or maybe I did.


It was that ‘thing’ I had seen in him on that day I passed his judgment; that ‘light’ that told of a heart that was inherently good despite his outward behavior or attitude. People like Naruto were indeed a rarity; individuals who tried to see the decency in others even at the expense of getting hurt in return. Perhaps that was why his girlfriend was killed? I wracked my brain to remember the contents of his file while piecing together his ‘confession’ in the dome. It didn’t make sense that he would be so willing to forgive a woman who must have been having an affair with the man he killed. Wasn’t that what happened? Hadn’t Naruto said he ended up killing the man who had shot his girlfriend in cold blood before his eyes? The report had stated both bodies were in the room...both naked...which could only mean...


“Meanie!” Naruto wailed out in mock agony as Shisui had smacked his hand away from trying to steal an extra piece of meat from the grill. “I only had one!”


“The last is for Sasuke,” Shisui explained as he motioned his head toward me.


“But he’s still stuck with his bowl of noodles,” Naruto said with a raised brow as he looked at me. “Guy eats so fucking slow, we’ll be here until tomorrow morning and he’ll still be half-way done.”


“At least I don’t eat like a gluttonous monkey,” I retorted, wishing I could control my natural reaction to prickle whenever he attacked me unnecessarily.


“Better a gluttonous monkey than a giiiirl who eats so slooooowly.” He proceeded to mimic my eating motion while batting his lashes and trying to act feminine. This got the others laughing, even Itachi cracking a smile at the impersonation. I burned at the insinuation; realizing this was the second (or was it third time?) he was referring to me as a goddamn ‘girl’.


“Ah, be nice, Naruto,” Karin said with a playful nudge of the blond’s side. They were sitting beside each other, by the way, with Shikamaru flanking his left. Haku was next to me, he was next to Shisui and him, next to my brother. It was a large round table and everyone was in close proximity, so I really only had to reach over the table to throttle that bastard –


“I am nice,” Naruto complained and then pouted. “It’s just that some people tend to rub me the wrong way...that’s all.”


His quick glance at me spoke volumes, before he turned away to engage Karin’s attention again. “How the hell did a beautiful babe like you get mixed up with these folks by the way?” He waved a hand at Itachi and Shisui.


Shisui raised a brow. Itachi – who had been dozing off again – lifted his lashes wearily. Karin gave the men a quick look as if seeking their permission to begin speaking, and they must have said ‘yes’ (though not aloud) because she cleared her throat, put down her chopsticks and began to speak quietly but clearly.


“Growing up, I only had one goal and dream in mind...and that was to become the first female watchdog in all of Japan.”


“But there are no female watchdogs -”


“Dumbass. She just said she wanted to be the first, Naruto. She knows there are no female officers,” Shikamaru stated with a light tap on Naruto’s head. “Let the girl talk.”


“Anyway, as you pointed out, there was no way for me to get enrolled in the academy because I was a girl, neither would they accept my application to Byaku-Shinkyou guessed it. Hell, I even contemplated pretending to be a boy just so I could get in, but when I really thought about it, I guessed it wouldn’t be worth it.”

“Trust me, you were better off. With the kind of officers they have there...,” Naruto nodded sagely and this time it was a painful kick under the table that had him howling in pain. “Who did that?” he asked as he glared at all of us. I carefully slid my good foot back into position. Served him right.


Karin continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “So I decided to do the next best thing. I enrolled in the new military service school that was opened by Commissioner Danzo. He touted it as the next best thing to breed strong men and women to serve their country.” This part she did as if making an announcement by deepening her voice and puffing out her chest. Going back to her normal voice, she spoke on. “I signed up as quickly as the announcement was made and prepared to go into a lifetime of service. I might not end up being a watchdog, but I was damn well determined to become someone useful in society.” She sighed and propped her chin on a raised arm. “Funny, turns out that we had to do some kind of aptitude test and based on that, they’d put you in a specific department to hone your skills. I was good at thinking pretty quickly and being good with my hands, but that’s only because my parents were in the medical field and I learned a couple of things from them here and there. Anyhoo, the authorities said I’d be best working as a nurse...a nurse!” She spat out the word as if it was a disease. “It was a slap to the face I tell you...”


“But being a nurse is quite important,” Haku said with a warm smile as if to appease the girl. “If the fighters get hurt, who’s going to take care of them and make them all better?”


“True, true,” Naruto agreed. “Without you guys, we’d be dead! You’re the key to keeping a”


“...squad,” I offered with a sigh of exasperation after another minute of Naruto struggling to find the right word. I didn’t expect to get a ‘thank you’ for my answer, and I wasn’t disappointed. He only nodded and turned back to Karin.


“What Slow Poke said.


She gave me a smile that was supposed to be filled with gratitude, though I had really said nothing to warrant the action. “Thank you. I guess now I realize it, but back then, I was so mad that they were not taking me seriously. They would make us learn all these medical battle skills; how to dodge incoming attacks and get to patients quickly...treat them without getting your head blown off or stabbed in the process and all of that. It was exhausting, but not exactly what I had hoped for either. That was when Ino and I decided we would leave the school and set our own path...”


The clatter of something falling had everyone looking in my direction, and it was then that I realized I was the one responsible for the noise. My chopsticks had slid from my fingers at the mention of ‘Ino’. Had Karin really said that or was that a slip of her tongue?


“Is everything all right, Sasuke-sama?” Haku asked with concern.


“You...” I cleared my throat (word had come out sounding so thick) “You mentioned...Ino...?”


Karin lowered her lashes, and I knew then it wasn’t a mistake. She did mean that Ino...the one Orochimaru had taken away from me.


“She was a medic like me,” Karin explained softly. “We were both classmates and left at the same time. She was actually the one who introduced me to your brother; saying she had joined a group of activists who were intent on dealing with corrupt politicians and bringing justice to those who were downtrodden. At first I thought she was simply hallucinating and making up stories, but at that meeting...when I got to see Itachi and Shisui for the first time...I knew this was a place I could make a big difference. They didn’t treat us like mere tools, but made us all feel like we were doing something important and beneficial for society. We wanted to restore Japan back to its glory days, and we were all united in that one goal.” She lowered her head even more and this time we could barely hear her words. “I still can’t believe she’s gone...”


“Did you know her?” came the sudden question obviously directed at me. It was Naruto doing the query, and though a part of me wanted to deny it, I could see them all waiting for my response. Even the older men seemed to want to know whether I’d finally admit my relationship with her.




“How is that possible?” Naruto asked again in genuine bemusement. “Was she a childhood friend or...?”


“She was my lo...” I began angrily, but held back my words as Haku’s eyes widened and even ‘slow’ Naruto seemed to finally get it.


“She was your girlfriend?” he blurted out in a way that made my entire being flush with heat. “Wow...and here I thought...”


“Thought what?” I snapped; waiting for him to say suggest that...


“Weeeeeell, with you being with Snake Dude and all...”


That’s it!


“Relax, Sasuke,” Itachi drawled as he reached out to push me back to my seat. “You know he’s just teasing you.”


“He is trying to insinuate that I...that I’m...I’m...” I couldn’t even finish the words.


“And what’s wrong with that?” came the surprising response that had me blinking stupidly behind my sunglasses. Itachi was clearly drunk. That had to be it. Why else would he ask me such an incomprehensible question? “There’s a whole new world out here, Sasuke. You’re definitely going to meet people like that.”


“I know those kinds of people exist. I lived with Orochimaru for fourteen years, remember?” I replied with as much sarcasm as I could inject into the word.


His visible wince signified that I had hit a sore spot, and he settled back in his seat with a sigh. With an effort, I sat back as well, though my food was now forgotten as I stared pointedly at Naruto; daring him to continue with his false accusation. Of course hell would freeze over before I admitted that I had fallen by the wayside on the night I had thought of him when...that happened.


“Well where is she now?” he asked with a raised brow. “I mean...if you two are both a couple or whatever. Does she know you’re still alive?”


“She’s dead,” I stated flatly; my words descending into the stunned silence like an anvil. I felt a strange calmness come over me; not a soothing one per se, but a strange feeling of detachment, as if it was someone else speaking and telling them about the loss of the one female (besides the mother) who had known me intimately. I looked directly at Naruto; wanting to hold those hazel eyes prisoner as I said the next words. “Orochimaru had her killed. But not just a merciful death...he ruined her completely.”


“Sasuke...” Someone called out gently to me, but I couldn’t stop. I wanted Naruto to see that perhaps I could relate to the pain he went through while he watched his woman die.


“She was raped, probably several times over until she was unconscious, and when she came to, she was whipped and flogged until the skin of her back was ripped to shreds. Oh, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they beat her all over; you could barely see her face anymore. They broke her arms and her legs and when they felt they had done enough damage, they tossed her body into a garbage bag and dumped her into a waste disposal. That is what happened to Ino.”


With my sordid tale told, I reached out (cursing my fingers for trembling slightly) for my cup of water to drink from it. You could hear a pin least on this side of the room before low sniffles, from Karin probably, broke the silence. Naruto hadn’t looked away from me, but I was still unable to read what he was thinking. His gaze was searching and intense; perhaps hoping to see if I was making it all up. Eventually, his lips thinned and he lowered his gaze to fiddle with the edge of his napkin...refusing to say anything else. I felt I ought to have gloated in victory at finally stumping him, but nothing but a sudden weariness overwhelmed me. I was done engaging in this constant verbal spar with least for today.


“Well...I’ve officially lost my appetite,” Shisui announced with a drop of his chopsticks. “Anyone else feel like eating dessert?”


When silence met his question, it was unanimously agreed that we should perhaps better get going. Night was falling fast and I was getting tired and needed my eyes to really rest anyway.


The bus ride was even more solemn, though I could hear Naruto trying to comfort Karin behind me with sweet talk. A cynical part of me assumed he was only doing this to get her to sleep with him, but I did have to mentally kick myself for not being more tactful with my story. Ino had been a close friend to the girl. I really didn’t have to go into that much detail. As for Itachi, he wouldn’t even look at me, though if his gentle squeeze of my shoulder as we were leaving the restaurant was any indication, I knew he wasn’t too upset with my antics.


With a soft sigh, I leaned even closer to the window (though it was slightly grimy and the interior of the bus smelled like dried fish) and tried to enjoy the sights and sounds of my new adopted country. In the fading light, there was really nothing to separate it from the streets of Kyoto (being the only big city I had ever been to in my life). Besides the signs written in Korean, the streets were just as narrow, the homes/buildings just as clustered and the people just as preoccupied with their personal problems as anywhere else. It took a while to maneuver the mini-bus between the people weaving about on their bicycles and rickshaws, but otherwise, it was an uneventful journey.


I could feel my lashes growing heavier, and I struggled to stay awake. However, when something warm and soft fell over my shoulders, which caused me to jerk alert and turn with slight panic at who was bothering me, I was only met with my brother’s kind visage. He had thrown a blanket over me; a small smile on his face.


“We should be there in about an hour,” he whispered. “Try to get as much sleep as you can, okay?”


I opened my mouth to say something else, but for some insane reason, the overwhelming urge to burst into tears (maybe it was the blanket thing or just knowing I had someone who gave a shit about me in general) had me biting my lower lip and simply nodding before turning away and lowering my lashes again.


And this time, when I finally drifted off to fitful sleep, my dreams were filled with images of fish (the largest I had ever seen) with faces that were a mixture of Mama Tae and Orochimaru trying to bite me while everyone else laughed and called me a big for nothing fool.






I couldn’t sleep.


I was tired...exhausted...downright fatigued, and yet my eyes wouldn’t close as I stared out the window of the bus in deep thought.


Karin’s head was heavy on my shoulder; a light snore escaping her lips every now and then. I had to admit it felt good to finally have her warm up to me; though her tears over her friend and having to hear that brutal story from Sasuke had really worked her up more than she would have liked. I had done my best to reassure and comfort her, almost feeling as if I was here to do damage control after Mr. Slow Poke had instigated the whole thing.


Insensitive bastard.


And still...


/ She was raped, probably several times over until she was unconscious, and when she came to, she was whipped and flogged until the skin of her back was ripped to shreds. Oh, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they beat her all over; you could barely see her face anymore. They broke her arms and her legs and when they felt they had done enough damage, they tossed her useless body into a garbage bag and dumped her into a waste disposal. That is what happened to Ino. /


It was brutal. No one should have to go through something like that, and it was something I’d never wish for anyone...not even if he was an insensitive asshole.


I shuddered to think of such a thing happening to Sakura. Hell, what if it had indeed happened to Sakura? Would I be able to keep such a level-head about me? Compared to getting a lone gunshot to end her life quickly, Ino’s suffering and subsequent death seemed ten times worse. Also knowing it was led by the dude you had lived with almost all your life, someone you might have regarded as a friend or a father-figure at some point...


I would have killed him, I thought feverishly unaware of my fingernails digging deep grooves into the palm of my hands. I would have killed the bastard the moment I heard of what happened to my girl. Even if I wasn’t successful, I’d still know I had died trying.


And yet Sasuke had bore it all...suffered through the knowledge that he really couldn’t do anything even if he wanted to. That sucked. Really, really, fucking sucked. If even Itachi and Shisui with all their careful planning hadn’t been able to get Snake Dude...what chance did Sasuke have? Maybe plenty...if he was living that close to the guy; maybe poison his drink or challenge him to a one-on-one duel or something...anything!


I sighed and glanced at the guy in question; only managing to see the top of his head though since he was kinda slumped and leaning closer to the window.


I realized I was beginning to feel sorry for him again, though every fiber in my being told me that the last thing he’d need is my pity. I watched as his brother covered him with a blanket and felt a pang of envy and some other emotion that really tugged my heart. It must be nice at least knowing you had a relative that was alive and who still cared about you. Sasuke wasn’t all alone in the world as he assumed after all.


As for me...though Shisui had teased me about my father’s exploits, and my reaction had not been exactly ideal (I guess it was just the shock of knowing my father had been a member of the Syndicate in the first place), I was still curious to know about him in all honesty. I wanted to know more about the man who brought me into this world as well as my mother. I could vaguely remember what she looked like...


(red hair)


...and knew she must have loved me, otherwise she would have probably killed me before she passed on, just so I wouldn’t suffer all alone. All the same, did I have a family now? Could I call this eclectic group of individuals my new family? Sasuke had Itachi, and if they both survived the next ‘war’, they might decide to move in together or something to start a new life. Shisui might probably join them or wander off on his own to someplace else. Shikamaru – who was currently dozing off as well – would end up with his girlfriend and keep his promise of marrying her and living as far away from Byaku-Shinkyou as possible. Haku, who was sleeping with his head on Karin’s lap, would want to live with his precious Sasuke-sama, if that was possible, and Karin...I didn’t know if her parents were still alive or not, but I doubted she’d want to remain a wanderer with Itachi and his organization for the rest of her life. She’d probably want to settle down with someone who wasn’t wanted for murder and who could take care of her; hand and foot. That pretty much took me out of the picture. Still, I did want to ‘be with her’ if you know what I mean. Hell, just feeling the soft pressure of her breasts against my arm was triggering all sorts of warning bells in my head; a reminder that it has definitely been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of touching the female flesh.


Patience. Patience. Patience.


I could have sworn I had only closed my eyes for a second, but the next thing I knew someone was shaking my shoulder and telling me to “wake the fuck up!”


“We’re here,” Shikamaru all but spat in my face, before I pushed his hand away.


“You’re spraying all over me, man,” I grumbled and struggled to sit up. Karin was already outside, so was everyone else actually.


With legs that felt like jelly and my vision still not all here, I stumbled out of the bus and stood (leaned) against it while rubbing my eyes.


“This...this is where we’re going to be living?” Someone (Sasuke) asked as if unable to believe it himself.


I finally cleared my vision and looked up, fully expecting to see something swanky and neat. Unfortunately, it was nothing more than an ordinary apartment building; just like you’d see in any other major town or city in Japan. This didn’t look too rundown, but it was clear it had been in existence for quite a while. Being nighttime, not many people were up and about, but signs of civilization came in the noises from within the lit rooms; laundry hanging out to dry on clothes line on miniature balconies and piles of junk in some others.


About six other buildings like this made up the street and several more made up its backyard. The only good thing about the neighborhood was that this particular section was directly facing a shallow river which ran straight for about two miles before winding its way into more buildings in the horizon. Across the river was what looked like an ongoing construction site, a baseball field and then the highway. The pungent smell of fish, overflowing trash, chickens (yes, chickens) clucking around this late in the evening and the sweet but sickly smell of tobacco (the kind the old people liked to binge on) filled the air.


I loved it!


This was like a homecoming to me. I fully expected the obaachan (my landlady) to come stomping out of her apartment to wag a finger at me while yelling that I still owed her rent for last month. However, instead of an old lady, it was a man in his late fifties or early sixties who was as tall as my shoulder, shuffling out of one of the lower apartments with a hunched back but still with a somewhat cheerful disposition.


“You’re late,” he accused in Hangul as Itachi bowed before him in apology. “What took you so long? I was about to give up on you.”


“Forgive us,” Itachi replied with a sheepish smile. “We had to get some food for our friends.” With that, he motioned toward us and began to make the introductions. “This is Jae Weong Seo. He is the landlord of this complex and will be showing us our rooms.”


“Nice to meet you,” he said in halting Japanese, though he seemed pleased when we replied back in Hangul. “Ah, so you speak a little, so that’s good. Come, come. We don’t have much time to stand around.”


Ushering us through the front doors, he led us past a foyer that struggled to look as presentable as possible. There was a counter on the right, from which I was sure he conducted his business, though it was now cluttered with tons of paper, magazines, and newspapers. On the large notice board behind it, were tacked flyers and notices for roommates, rent policies, sales, and other knick knacks I couldn’t quite make out. There was a door which led into a small office which looked more like a storage space than an actual work room. There was so much stuff inside, there was barely any room for anyone to sit in, and yet from the half-eaten bowl of noodles sitting on the pile of papers as well as the miniature T.V. screen showing a baseball game, it was clear Mr. Jae had been enjoying his evening before we showed up.


With a grumble, he kicked aside a dirty soccer ball and a box of tools toward the corner of the foyer where a large plant was barely alive in these conditions.


“Sorry about the mess,” Jae was saying as he shook his head and punched the button on the elevator. “My wife was supposed to clean this place today, but she’s still visiting her mother in Ulsan.” His sigh seemed to say it all. Methinks he and the wife must have had a falling out.


Luckily, the elevator was large enough to fit all of us (we had no significant luggage), though it was a somewhat tight fit all the same. Damn! The stench in here was terrible as well. This thing needed to be aired...and fast. Even leaning against the wood paneled wall – with its rather colorful graffiti in some corners – was making me cringe. Poor Karin looked like she was about to throw up. Shikamaru, Itachi, and Shisui must be used to places like this because they weren’t reacting much. Haku was a mixture of curiosity and tolerance because he was trying his best to cover his nose without being too obvious about it, and Sasuke...


I had to stifle a snicker.


The guy looked like he was close to dying, which was a reminder that he had probably never lived in any place outside of his posh living quarters back at Byaku-Shinkyou. His head was lowered, but his already pale visage was whiter still. I just hoped to God he didn’t pass out. He looked like he was close to it.


The chime of the elevator door finally opening was like the choirs of heaven singing. We just about tumbled out of the claustrophobic space, each of us gulping the fresh air like starved men. wasn’t exactly fresh air, considering we were still inside, but it was ten times better than being stuck in there. I made a vow to use the stairs as much as possible...


“We are on the topmost floor,” Jae announced with a flourish.




Well, I’ll try to use the stairs whenever I could.


“I did as you requested and cleared out all the rooms on this floor, so you wouldn’t be bothered,” Jae was saying. It was obvious Itachi and Shisui must have told him about our situation. “You stay in here, Miss.” He motioned to Karin as he whipped out a pile of keys from his pocket and opened Room #631 for her. Thanking him for his kindness, she waved to us with relief and let herself into her abode with a firm click of the door behind her.


I was tempted to take a step toward it, to knock and ask permission to come in but...


Patience. Patience. Patience.


“And here is another room least two people can stay in here,” Jae was saying as he opened Room #632. “Who wants -?”


“I’ll stay with Shikamaru,” I blurted out before he could finish. I smiled at my friend, and he nodded with a shrug. Good. I wasn’t about to share a room with Sasuke, and besides, I was sure he’d rather be with his brother anyway.


“Works for me,” Jae agreed and gave me the keys. “Enjoy your stay.”


“Thank you!”


“And this is for...”


I was just in time to hear them say Sasuke and Haku would be in the room next to us, before I let myself into my new home for goodness knew how long.


Shikamaru flipped on the lights and I dumped the small backpack Itachi had given each of us to the wood floor to whistle


At least it was clean and didn’t smell too bad.


It was just about as big as my last apartment, with just enough room for a living room/bedroom (there were futons in the closet for us to unfurl). A 20 inch T.V. stood on a small chest of drawers, which was adjacent to the sliding doors leading to the balcony. There was also a small desk and a chair for reading in the corner of the room. Two other doors revealed a tiny kitchen – only one person could fit in there at any one time – and the other contained only a toilet with a sink. There was no bath tub, which could only mean -


“Are you kidding me?!” came the bellow from outside which forced Shika and I to poke our heads out to see what the commotion was about.


“What do you mean there’s only one bathroom for the entire floor?” Sasuke was asking with an expression on his face that made me want to laugh. The guy looked absolutely horrified.


“It’s a large bathroom...communal like,” Jae was explaining. “You can wash up and take turns in the tub if you want. Sorry, I couldn’t provide you with personal bathrooms. If you want that, go to Ulsan.”


“I don’t -!”


“We’ll take it like so,” Itachi was saying while trying to control his brother. “Thank you for all your help, sir.” He glared at Sasuke and hissed beneath his breath. “Stop acting up and go to your room. We’ll discuss bathroom problems in the morning.”


“What about laundry?” I asked; unable to control my smirk as Sasuke shot me a dark look. He must be pissed that no one else was sharing in his misery at having to share a bathroom with commoners...or wait...sinners. Brr. Oh the horror! Wouldn’t want to tarnish his blemish-free record.


“There’s a laundromart across the street,” Jae said with a smile. “Cheap to wash your clothes too, though some people like to wash them in their sinks and hang them outside their balconies. For the little things, you know.”


“I’m happy,” I replied with a clap of my hands. I grinned and gave the brothers, Haku, and Shisui a mock salute. “And now, I bid you all goodnight. This Uzumaki Naruto is done for. An nyeong hi ju mu se yo!”


An hour later, after brushing our teeth and making ourselves as comfortable as possible, Shika and I sat in our underwear on our futons, and eyed our only belongings on earth. Our new ID cards, immigration papers and of course the money.


“A total of W2,250,000,” Shikamaru said after he placed the last note in the pile, which caused me to whistle in surprise.


“That’s a lot, eh?”


“Not so much, if we do the conversion,” he replied with his brow furrowed in thought. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s about ¥160,000 in Japan. Should be enough to last us for a couple of months if we are frugal.”


“I guess...” I picked up a wad of the cash and ran them through my fingers. “He did say we could get jobs, right?”


“Not so quick. We have to lay low for a while in know.”


I sighed and dropped the money, before flopping on my back. Luckily, the walls here were sound proof, so there was no risk of our conversation being heard.


“Don’t remind me,” I murmured gloomily. “It’s like being back to square one, you know? I was on the run before I was finally smoked out by the Bakufu and this was the kind of life I led. Having to hide in apartments for weeks on end, only coming out at night...I can’t go through this shit again. I don’t know how I got involved with this anyway. This isn’t really my fight, you know.”


“Unfortunately, until Orochimaru and Danzo are dead, we are all in it now,” Shikamaru replied as he tucked away the stuff and settled beneath his blanket. We remained in companionable silence for a while; neither of us bothering to close the blinds as we had chosen to stare out at the night sky in our new home.


It felt so...weird.


“Strange, isn’t it?” Shikamaru asked quietly.


“Mmm...” I nodded. “I can’t help it though. I can’t really relax. Almost feels like the door will open and some officer will come barging in saying it was all a dream and I have kitchen duty again.”


Shika chuckled weakly. “Yeah...but see...” He pointed toward the twinkling lights in the horizon. “You couldn’t see that from your closet, could you?”

“No...sure couldn’t.” I smiled a little and lowered my lashes. I would no longer see a whole bunch of things actually. I would no longer see my dungeon with its dripping walls and dank smells. I would no longer be made to remain underground; away from the pleasures of the real world, while being tortured for a sin I had committed. I had paid my dues over and over again, and I deserved to be free and happy.


Didn’t I?


I would have drifted off again, but something that had been bothering me a little had me lifting them again and asking. “Hey...”


“What?” came the slow drawl. It was clear my buddy was this close to la-la land.


“How come you never spoke to Sasuke?”


There was a heartbeat of silence before the low reply came. “What have I got to say to him?”


“I thought you and Haku were all gung-ho about me liking the guy -”


“I never forced you to like him,” Shikamaru mumbled and shifted to make himself more comfortable. Did I forget to mention how heavenly this felt against my body? Compared to sleeping on either cold rocky floors, thin mattresses and wooden surfaces, this was pure bliss. “I only said that maybe you should try to see things from his perspective.”




“Guess you got a good dose of that tonight.”


“What do you mean?” I asked sharply; glancing at him or rather his shape beneath the blanket he had covered over his entire body.


“I mean his story about Ino. Even you must have felt sorry for him.”


I did, but Shika didn’t need to know that.


“...was thinking what I’d do if that happened to Temari,” Shikamaru continued softly. “I’d probably go insane. No guy should have to go through life knowing he couldn’t be there to protect the woman he least you got revenge, Naruto. He...he hasn’t had the opportunity yet so the wound has never quite healed.”


Mine hasn’t quite healed either, I wanted to retort, but I couldn’t because I knew what Shikamaru meant. Though it had hurt to do it, and I had suffered nightmares (and still do in a way) over what had transpired, I was still able to exact my revenge by taking Kojima’s life. A part of me could die happy knowing that the bastard who ended hers would no longer be roaming the earth, and yet Sasuke would go to bed tonight knowing that Orochimaru (as well as the fuckers directly responsible) were still alive and well … miles away from here.


“Well, when his leg heals, I’m sure he’ll be on the first boat out of here to finish the job,” I muttered and turn to my good side (had to favor my arm) in an effort to get some sleep. “If I’m lucky, he can get them both and then I can live the rest of my life in peace.”


Shikamaru chuckled wearily. “You and peace were never a tag team, Naruto. You know that. Keep on dreaming.”


“Fuck you too, Shika.”

“And I love you too, asshole. Goodnight and sweet dreams.”


I smiled wanly and snuggled in as best I could. “Yeah...good night to you too...”






I woke up with a scream lodged somewhere in my throat.


I dreamed Itachi and Shisui had taken us on this terrible bus ride to a place that was supposed to be our new home for the rest of my life. It was rat-infested, there was no running water, cockroaches crawled around me and some even sang and danced on my futon, and when I did manage to escape to the bathroom, there was Uzumaki Naruto...about twenty of them for God’s sake! Taking up all the room and saying there was “no more space for me.”


“You’re just going to have to wait your turn, Sasuke,” they began to chant and chant and chant and chant until it felt like the whole world was filled with about a million of them. I guess that was when I woke up to my disastrous reality.


I was no longer in Byaku-Shinkyou.




I rubbed my eyes wearily, glad that the cloudiness Shisui had said I was going to experience was not as bad as it was yesterday. The world was no longer in a perpetual haze and I had an even better view of my abysmal surroundings. Haku was still fast asleep beside me; the closest he has ever been to me since he became my manservant. Up close and personal, he looked like a child, though he was eighteen and even when awake, you’d hardly know it. His long black hair framed his face like a shroud, and he was curled in a fetal position; the blankets nearly thrown off him. Since we were yet to purchase clothes, he had only slept in his underwear and it allowed me to see just how slender he really was as well as some of the bruises he must have sustained while escaping the skirmish.


I sighed heavily and tried to adjust my position as best I could. I had ended up sleeping in the pair of shorts Itachi had given me on the boat, which wasn’t exactly ideal in this situation. The futon wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world either, and my back was now beginning to ache as well as my leg. Remembering we had a doctor’s appointment today, I figured I might as well get up before anyone else and take advantage of the godforsaken communal bath before my nightmare came true.


Having to share a bathroom with Naruto...or any other person for that matter was sickening.


Trying to be as quiet as possible, though my clumsy attempts to be upright still had Haku stirring in his repose, I somehow managed to finally stand without falling flat on my face by balancing against the walls before finding my crutch. Though the blinds had been drawn last night, thin blades of early morning sunlight still managed to peek through; a sign that I really had to get moving before it was too late.


I winced as the door creaked open, but Haku still didn’t awaken (a surprise considering he was a rather light sleeper. Guess he was more tired than he thought). Anyway, there was no one else in the hallway, which was very good. I began to hobble as fast as I could toward the end of it, when it hit me that I had nothing to bathe with. No towel. No soap. Not even a fucking washcloth. What the hell was I planning to do? Just pour water on myself and call that a bath?


With a groan, I began to hobble back toward my room, but had the bright idea to stop by Itachi’s to see if I could swipe some of his things to use. My intention had been to knock on the door as quietly as I could, but I was surprised to find it unlocked when I twisted the handle gently.


Odd. For two people who were quite cautious about everything, you’d think they’d lock up their doors.


“Itachi?” I called out softly as I took a step into the room. It was just as tiny as ours was, with its blinds closed to let in only that sliver of light that was enough to illuminate the gloom. Their robes hung neatly over the lone chair in the room, and from the light snores I heard, it was clear that they were probably still fast asleep.


Leaning my crutch against the wall, I figured I would hop/tiptoe into the toilet to see if I could find his toiletries. Perhaps it would have been best if I had not bothered to peek at the sleeping duo, but I did...and nearly fell to the floor at the sight that beheld me.




There was supposed to be two futons. Yes, there were two futons, but they had been moved close together to make it look much larger. That wasn’t the problem though. The problem was the bodies beneath the blanket. Was it normal for them to be that...that close to each other? To make it worse, it looked like my brother...MY BROTHER...was actually laying his head against Shisui’s chest and Shisui – cold, detached, blunt, practical Shisui – was cradling him like a child. Cradling him...lovingly.


I think this is an illusion...that’s all...


It was then that the smell hit me; not so much the lingering smell of the room (I’m guessing all the rooms had that dusty stench of age), it was the ‘other’ smell that assailed my senses; the smell that I was all too familiar with whenever I shamefully pleasured myself or the night after Ino and I had our passionate encounter. It was the thinly veiled scent of musk...desire...passion, and I could feel my cheeks burning with a heat that seemed to creep from the tips of my toes to the root of my hair. don’t...I don’t believe it!


“Mmm....” came the low groan as the bodies began to stir.


Oh shit! I have to get out of here!


With my head and heart pounding so hard, I was sure it would really awaken them, I reached for my crutch again and as carefully as I could, hobbled out of the room and closed the door behind me with a hand that was still shaking like a leaf.


Not true...not true...not true. It’s not true...nothing happened. Hah..of course not. I was only seeing things, that’s all.


I absently wiped my brow; slightly panicked to realize I was sweating a little. I tried to blame it on my quick attempt to escape, but I knew otherwise. My heart was still racing and that damn image of the two men embracing was still disturbing me in ways I did not want to explore any further. My brother couldn’t be like that, let alone Shisui who looked as if the very concept of being in a relationship with any other human being was a travesty on his person.


Wait a minute...remember? Remember what he said at the restaurant when Naruto had assumed you that?


/And what is wrong with that? There’s a whole new world out here, Sasuke. You’re definitely going to meet people like that./


I slapped a hand over my mouth to control the sudden rise of last night’s dinner in my esophagus. I squeezed my eyes shut and struggled to even my breathing. Itachi wasn’t like one of them. He wasn’t like...Orochimaru. He couldn’t be! He’d ruin every positive image and ideal I’ve had of him since the day I was born! To think that my own brother could find comfort in the arms of Why?!


The sound of a door opening had me looking up quickly, and as if my morning couldn’t be worse already, it was my nemesis shuffling out of his room with a loud yawn and a crude scratching of his private parts. He was only wearing his boxer shorts, giving me a good view of the damage done to his body thanks to our fight – which now seemed to have happened centuries ago.


He hadn’t noticed me yet since he was now stretching his lean build, and I figured I could slink back into the shadows and let him do whatever he wanted, but my damn crutch struck against the tin bucket with a mop, some idiot had left, causing him to turn around sharply with his eyes narrowed in wariness.


Damn it.


He wasn’t wearing his contacts, and I was allowed to see those startling blue eyes again...which were now widening as he recognized and realized it was only me.


My heart...


Why the fuck was it beating so damn fast...again? Is it because of the look in his eyes? And what kind of expression was that anyway? Pity? Surprise? Bemusement?


“Uum...” he began slowly, while scratching the back of his head. “”


What now? I raised a brow at the stuttered conversation unaware I was clutching the crutch so tightly, I could have snapped it in two. What does he want to say to me? What could we possibly have to say to each other? I was really not in the mood to start off my day with him insulting me. Goodness knows I was ready to unleash my frustration on someone right about now.






“What?” I asked in genuine bemusement.


“I said “good morning”, sheesh,” he replied with a scowl. “Can’t someone give you a simple greeting? You don’t have to sound so pissed off already.”


No!’s not that! I just wasn’t expecting...!


“I am not -” I began to explain, but the door beside me suddenly opened to reveal the face of one of the men who had started off my morning on a very wrong foot.


“What’s going on?” Shisui asked as he pulled a t-shirt over his head. “Oh, hey Sasuke...” he added when he noticed me, but it was with an effort that I stifled my scream (or the urge to slap him) before hobbling as fast as I could away from him (them) and into the bathroom with a slam of the door behind me.


I could almost picture them looking at each other in confusion at my behavior, but I needed some time alone to think, and perhaps to reassure myself that I was only imagining things.


Breathe Uchiha Sasuke. Just...fucking...breathe.


And if my mind was still unsure of what it had just seen, then there really was no other choice but to confront Itachi and find out the truth...straight from the horse’s mouth.



Chapter 19

Naruto Home



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