… Five halves times the cosine of pi over two plus i sine pi over two…
The problem was quickly written down in straight, meticulous handwriting. The graphite crumbled slightly as it was pressed down hard onto the off-white paper. Dark eyes flickered over the thick book and the line paper as he completed copying down the equation.
Normally, Sasuke would have already finished his homework and probably walking back home. But not today.
Today, someone was watching him do his work.
Usually, he was fine and dandy when a bunch of girls were staring at him. Most of the times, they kept their distance. Or at least, they stood behind him.
But not this person.
He was sitting right in front of Sasuke and staring at him with those eyes.
Those, “Oh-god-I-need-help-but-I-don’t-want-to-ask-you-because-you’ll-kill-me” eyes.
For the last hour and a half.
He hated those eyes.
Especially from this guy.
He tried to go back to his work, ignoring the slightly burning feeling of those silent, pleading eyes.
After seventeen minutes of doing the problem over three times and getting the wrong answer each time, Sasuke gave up. His paper was smudged to almost shreds. He cursed his inadequate eraser.
“What do you want, idiot?” he snapped ill-humoredly. He snatched the paper up and crumpled it into a ball, making the quiet room crackle loudly.
The other jumped at the sudden demand and outburst. His blue eyes snapped back into attention.
He straightened out immediately and stuck a hand behind his head, rubbing nervously. He lowered his eyes to the table.
“I—uh… Need a favor,” he started awkwardly. The back of his head was starting to fluff up and get tangled with his continual rubbing.
No, duh, he wanted to say sarcastically, but he had more self-control than that. He opted, instead, to raise an eyebrow somewhat ominously and glare at him. “What?”
He swallowed thickly and licked his dry lips.
“Well—” he tried to begin his explanation. He was interrupted by himself when he coughed. Quickly clearing his throat, he tried again this time, his voice higher and more rushed. “I heard that Sakura likes piano players—so I thought that you could teach me. Here!” he barely gave Sasuke any time to decipher what he just said when he suddenly shoved a few sheets of music to him.
They fluttered pathetically onto the paper, scuttling around lifelessly from leftover momentum. The edges were creased and wrinkled and one or two of them were even starting to yellow. A few parts of the song was faded and ‘repaired’ with pen ink obvious, due to the shaky lines and disproportionate notes.
“What’s this?” he asked disdainfully. Sasuke scanned the pages without touching them. They looked like they would crumble into dust if he laid a finger on them.
“Sheet music!” was the overly loud reply.
Sasuke snorted. “I know that, idiot. But what is it? There’s no title.”
“Oh!” he perked up when he realized the actual question. “Oh, the name… Um… I think it’s called ‘Shooting Star’ or something….” He trailed off uncertainly.
He looked at the pages again. “Where’d you get this, Naruto?” he sighed impatiently.
“Uh… Dad composed it before he died. You’ll help me, right?” he asked hopefully.
Quietly, Sasuke examined his friend with scrutinizing eyes. He turned the situation over and over, speculating about it before choosing to answer.
Naruto had said that he heard that Sakura liked music. And now he was asking Sasuke to teach him how to play. In the end, the equation equaled out to no more than a huge headache for Sasuke. Naruto was no easy student and enough years, or even minutes, spent with the blond was enough to reach that genius conclusion.
“No.” He started to pick up his book and shove it into his book bag.
Naruto jolted, as if he was hit. “W-What? Why not! We’re friends, aren’t we? C’mon, Sasuke! Just teach me how to play this!”
“No,” he repeated again, stressing his decision. “You are such an idiot to teach and I don’t want to die prematurely from an aneurysm.”
“But this is important! My life could depend on this!” he complained, standing up and getting ready to follow Sasuke. Naruto picked up the few sheets of music up and tucked them carefully into his own book bag. He certainly wasn’t giving up so easily.
The Uchiha paid no heed to his blond shadow and strode quickly out of the school library with quick efficiency.
“Heeelllp meeee,” Naruto drawled out, getting in front of Sasuke’s face and pulling some weird expression.
Sasuke’s own facial features contorted into one of disgust as he side-stepped him and continued as if nothing happened.
The tap tap tap of their school shoes echoed in the empty and dimming halls. An acrid orange glowed on the usually beige walls of the school. The even rhythm of Sasuke’s unfluctuating stride was harshly contrasted with the stumbling blocks and staccatos of Naruto’s messy gait.
“Why?” Sasuke asked in a flat voice. He stared straight ahead and turned the next corner cleanly, leaving Naruto behind to catch up again.
“B-Because!” he offered uselessly. He realized how faulty the short answer was and chose to exploit it more. “Because if you teach me how to play the piano then I play a song for Sakura on her birthday in a month, and she’ll be impressed with me! Then I can woo her and she’ll fall in love with me! Then we’ll start dating and maybe I could marry her—I’ll even invite you over to our wedding! And then, we’ll have good jobs and kids. And—”
Sasuke rolled his eyes slightly as they reached the shoe racks.
“—then we’ll have really happy lives—I’ll make sure to call you over to our house so that you can be happy too—and everything will be just fine!”
They passed a few rows before Sasuke went into one of them and changed his shoes.
Naruto was still rambling on even as he hopped around to change his own shoes.
“Shut up, idiot.” Sasuke finally said after he had put his shoes on. Neatly, he placed his white school shoes back into the cubby hole and tapped his toe on the ground a few times to get his foot in a comfortable position. He began to walk away from the shoe racks and toward the main exit of the school.
“Hey, wait up!” Naruto yelled as he yanked his shoe on and threw his school shoes back into the cubby hole. He had neglected to tie his shoelaces as he rushed out to catch up with Sasuke again.
He panted lightly when he reached up to Sasuke. “So—will you help me?”
Sasuke gave him a side-long glance before turning away to stare in front of him again.
“No,” he said. He quickened his pace. “Your shoelaces are untied.”
“Oh. Wait—what?” he yelped indignantly as he looked down to the tangle of strings and was ditched. Again.
Oh god, here he comes again, Sasuke grumbled to himself. School hadn’t even started yet and the idiot was on his case again. He walked faster, hoping that he might be able to lose Naruto in the crowds that so frequently jammed up the halls. It was a lost cause, he knew, since he knew exactly which class he was in. There was no way he could ever escape Naruto in school, but he was hell-bent to give it a try anyways.
“Wait up!” Naruto called out, then was muffled by a conveniently passing clique. He was pushed around by them until he had completely lost track of where his soon-to-be savior was at. Obviously Sasuke was trying to avoid him, but Uzumaki Naruto wasn’t that quick a quitter!
He scowled dissatisfiedly but decided that he would seek for Sasuke later. Eventually he would agree. If not, a few days of constant pestering would make Sasuke change his mind.
Now that he had started the request, the rest would be easy.
“Please remember to finish your report by Thursday, typed and stapled,” the teacher reiterated to the class in his slightly monotonic voice. He looked drowsily at the clock when the lunch bell rang.
Promptly, Sasuke stood up and turned to the teacher.
“Everyone, stand up!” he called out to the squirming class. He waited for everyone to rise from their seats and pressed his arms at his sides stiffly.
“Good afternoon, teacher,” the class chanted out as one. A few stragglers finished their goodbyes unceremoniously.
A wave of students rushed out to get in the lines for lunch.
Sasuke had sat back down at his desk and began putting away his textbook and notes. He didn’t have to rush so much. Usually, he was able to cut in line simply because he was a class president. He listened mindlessly around him, his classmates talking about sports or new events, or tests and quizzes in the next period, or general gossip in which he had no interest. Idly, he pondered if that idiot would start bothering him again. He had known Naruto long enough to know that yesterday wasn’t the end of it.
Finally, he was done packing up and started to stand up.
His breath was suddenly knocked out of him as a hand shoved him back down into the wooden chair and two bento boxes were slammed onto his small desk. Sasuke looked up angrily to see who had the nerve to treat him in such a way.
Laughter-glimmering eyes looked back at him. “Not getting away this time, Sasuke,” Naruto grinned at him and let go of his shoulder. He looked behind him at the door. “I’ve got guards.”
Sasuke glared at him momentarily without understanding his words. He, too, glanced at the door and saw what Naruto was talking about. Half a dozen girls, fervent fans of his, were milling around the door. If he wanted to get out of here alive, it would be a hard task indeed.
“Well then!” Naruto said loudly, dragging a nearby chair in front of Sasuke’s desk. “It’s either talk to me, or get fed to the lions,” he stated humorously, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the girls. They batted their eyelashes shyly at Sasuke.
The Uchiha looked between the two evils. There was no better or worse. His scowl deepened as he looked at Naruto. “I think I’ll risk it,” he said dryly and got out of his chair.
The blond grinned at him and leaned back in his chair, making it stand on two legs. “Suit yourself. See you in a few minutes.”
He received a dark glare in return.
Sasuke shoved his hands into his pockets and started to walk for the door. He never got a foot outside before the girls started to cling onto him and start babbling incessantly into his ears.
“Let go!” he growled at them angrily.
“Don’t leave!”—“Stay, Sasuke!”—“Come on, eat lunch with us!”
Sooner rather than later, his crisp white shirt was crumpled and smudged with who-knows-what kind of cosmetics. Sasuke had a vague idea that Naruto probably promised them something grand, or perhaps not so grand, for them to be this persistent and cooperate with him. He glanced back at Naruto.
The blond was watching him suffer with a distinct look of contentment. A half-smile rested on his lips as he tilted his head innocently as if asking him, What did I do?
At that moment, Sasuke wished that murder wasn’t illegal. He gave up and retreated back to his desk and the girls groaned and let go of him, slowly walking back to the classroom’s entrance.
“Bento?” Naruto picked one up and offered it to Sasuke.
He growled loudly and took the box from Naruto’s hand grudgingly.
“Alright, so I’ll just have to memorize this in the next month, for Sakura’s birthday, okay? She has a grand piano in her house, so that’ll be no problem,” Naruto chatted on excitedly, occasionally spitting out some rice. Sasuke chose to ignore the flying bits of food in an attempt to save his dwindling appetite. “It shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’m a fast enough learner.…” he disregarded Sasuke’s sarcastic eyebrow-raise and prattled on, “But I don’t have a piano, so I’ll have to go to your house to practice. That’s fine, isn’t it?”
Sasuke opened his mouth to give the inevitable answer but was cut off.
“Good, good, I like those plans! I’ll just come over whenever it’s convenient for you, Sasuke! Five to six sounds wonderful! Okay, that means that I can stay over for dinner too! How nice of you to offer that! I’ll start coming over tomorrow! Thanks Sasuke, I owe you one! You’re such a nice friend to agree.” Naruto rushed on in a loud voice, not giving Sasuke the slightest chance of objecting.
Whatever Sasuke was about to say after Naruto was finished was drowned out by the bell.
“Oops, look at that! I’d better go back to my own class now, Sasuke! See you tomorrow! I’ll bring the sheet music.”
In record speed, Naruto had cleaned up their lunching area and rushed out of the classroom as if he was escaping a tornado.
Sasuke was left with his mouth hanging open, half a word dangling from his lips.
The poor Uchiha spent the next day grumbling about Naruto’s stupid impromptu and one-sided ‘agreement.’ He didn’t know if he really had the guts to show up at his house or not, but had a pretty concise idea. After all, it was Naruto he was dealing with.
But precisely at five o’clock in the evening, Sasuke got his answer to the already solved question.
He was sitting in his living room with notes spread around the table and a pencil dangling from his fingers when the doorbell rang. He ignored it.
A few seconds passed before it rang again.
Slowly, Sasuke started to rub his forehead and closed his eyes. There was no way he was going to study now. Stubbornly, he stared at his notes without really reading them.
For the next few minutes, Naruto stood outside the door, ringing the doorbell and banging the door. From where Sasuke was sitting at, he could hear a few muffled screams from Naruto.
“Open the freakin’ door, Sasuke! You jerk!” he yelled vulgarly.
Sasuke was sure that his neighbors would complain to him tomorrow. A low throbbing began in his head.
Suddenly everything went quiet outside.
He looked up from his neglected work and instinctively glanced at the phone.
Not three seconds passed before it started to ring.
The Uchiha grumbled and leaned over in his chair to reach the phone. He picked it up and said one word into it.
“No!” and then he promptly hung up. He decided against just leaving the phone there, since he knew that Naruto would only call back. He pressed the ‘ON’ button on the phone and left it ringing with the dial tone.
Fruitlessly, he went back to his notes. He sighed heavily and tapped his pencil on the table top.
Approximately twelve minutes of peace passed by and Sasuke thought that Naruto would have already left, but a sudden bang and crash in his room upstairs made him think otherwise. He pushed his chair back in a slight panic and rushed up the stairs. He only had to reach the hallway to see Naruto walking out of his room with leaves stuck in his hair and some piece of metal in his left hand.
“Hey, Sasuke!” he piped cheerfully, as if walking into someone’s house looking like a tree was perfectly normal.
“How the hell did you get in?” he yelled at the blond.
He glanced at the piece of metal in his hand. “Oh, yeah. About that. Well, I climbed up that tree outside your room window, picked the lock, and crawled in through there. Just like I used to do when we were little, remember?” he grinned.
His countenance paled. “Oh my god, you idiot. Get out of my house!” He started to run over to Naruto.
“Hey—no! It took me forever to get in! And you said you would help me!” he complained.
“No, I did not agree to that,” Sasuke retorted, dragging Naruto down the stairs by the arm. Sasuke barely got Naruto to the front door, literally kicking and screaming, and shoved him outside. “Go away!” he yelled at the blond and slammed the door shut on him.
Naruto stood outside the door gaping stupidly after being thrown out.
Third time’s the charm, Naruto thought to himself as he sat outside of the school library, waiting. He chewed on his lip slightly as he sat there, thinking up of a good way to make Sasuke agree with his request. If begging didn’t work, and forcing him didn’t work, then the only option left was to actually be rational about it. He hated being rational sometimes.
Despondently, he sighed and leaned his head on the wall behind him. He’d been sitting there ever since he watched Sasuke go in, about two hours ago. He should be coming out very soon. Gingerly, he shifted a bit from his stiff position.
Suddenly, the door clattered open and Sasuke stepped out, nearly tripping on Naruto’s outstretched legs. His book bag swung around dangerously for a moment.
“What the—!” he yelled suddenly, barely catching himself and standing up again.
Naruto had scrambled up immediately and looked apologetically at Sasuke. Perhaps he shouldn’t have sat on that particular side of the doorway. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”
Sasuke glared at him silently before he started to walk away very quickly again. “Don’t say anything—you know the answer.”
“No—but Sasuke! I’m sorry about that!” he said desperately and trotted behind him. “I thought that you would help me!”
“Obviously, I’m not going to.” The Uchiha replied coldly.
The blond clenched his jaw momentarily. “Okay, look, let me try again,” he said in a forced, calm voice. “You’re my friend, right? You know I’ve been crushing on Sakura forever now, and I really want to try and impress her this time! Since you know how to play the piano and I don’t, can’t you just teach me? Please? It’s just one little favor!”
Sasuke turned around without warning and made Naruto almost walk into him. For a split second, their faces were dangerously close before Naruto stumbled back out of Sasuke’s personal space.
He began to sputter his apologies again but didn’t make any sense, so Sasuke stopped him with a steely voice.
“I’ll give you one more chance. Give me one good and legit reason why I should really teach you. Then I’ll consider it.” He crossed his arms and looked somewhat condescendingly at his friend.
“I—” Naruto faltered. He looked away from Sasuke’s piercing gaze. “I love her… I just want a chance at being able to be with her…”
Sasuke’s lips pressed into a thin line as he contemplated over the honest answer.
Total silence rang out in the hallways as Sasuke and Naruto stood there. The blond began to fidget slightly after a minute or so.
The Uchiha was the first to stir from their frozen spots. He turned away and began to walk again. Naruto hung his head in defeat and sighed softly.
“Come to my house at five tomorrow. If you’re late, don’t think about coming over ever again,” Sasuke said in his deep voice, already turning the corner.
He startled. It took a few seconds before the information sunk in. “Alright!” Naruto cheered, jumping up in the air and punching his fists upward.
Promptly at five o’clock the next day, Naruto arrived at Sasuke’s house. He was admitted in by a disgruntled looking Sasuke.
“Hey, Sasuke! When do we start playing then?” he asked cheerfully, seemingly immune to Sasuke’s bad mood. Naruto looked around the house jovially before he trotted off to the living room, where he knew the grand piano was located. He had been playing in this house ever since he was very young.
The owner of the house trailed after Naruto at a moodier and slower pace. “You can’t expect to have no experience with the piano and think you can just jump right into playing the song, idiot,” Sasuke stated flatly.
“I only have a month!” the blond frowned.
Sasuke snorted sarcastically and waved him to sit down at the bench while he went off to drag another chair next to the piano. He flicked on the lamp on top of the piano to help illuminate the keys better.
Silently, he passed the music sheets to Sasuke as he waited.
Sasuke took them out of his hands with a slight look of disdain.
Naruto sat on the bench somewhat impatiently as he watched Sasuke move things around and get ready. The wooden surface was still shiny and spotless, just as it had been when they were young. It looked like Sasuke frequently wiped it down and took very good care of it. Maybe a bit too much care.
Eagerly, the blond moved to lift the cover off the keys to start playing.
“Not so fast, idiot. At least sit right,” the brunet slapped his hand off the cover and chided. He opened the cover himself and waited for Naruto to get into the right position.
A short moment of silence passed as Naruto inspected his sitting posture. “I am sitting right!” he proclaimed.
No waste of breath was used as Sasuke began to adjust Naruto’s position. He rapped his knuckles on Naruto’s lower spine and made him sit up straight. “You can’t play when you’re hunched over like that, idiot,” he said through grit teeth, obviously not enjoying the task of being a teacher. With his other hand, he pushed back on the blond’s shoulders and smacked apart his elbows so that they weren’t glued at his sides. “Don’t look like a chicken either. Keep your elbows away from your body.”
Naruto sat there exasperatedly as he was scolded by Sasuke like some mother would to her child.
Sasuke glanced at Naruto’s crossed legs and kicked them apart. “Don’t cross your legs,” he instructed roughly. “Sit up straight! Don’t slouch already!”
“Okay, okay, mother. I get the idea. Can we start yet?” he raised his eyebrow at Sasuke.
His friend’s own eyebrows knitted together in frustration. “Fine,” was all that Sasuke said. “Put your hands on keys.”
There was a slight twitch in Sasuke’s jaw. “Anywhere, I’ll fix it.”
The blond shrugged and put his hands onto the keys, careful to keep his elbows away from his body, lest Sasuke snapped at him again.
“Here,” Sasuke said, taking Naruto’s wrists and moving them down the keys a bit. Where Naruto’s right thumb was, he pressed the key and let the sound ring out. “This is Middle C. You always sit in front of it so you can reach all the other keys easily, okay? Remember it.”
Naruto nodded, his forehead scrunched up in an attempt to remember where ‘Middle C’ was. He pressed his thumb down a few times just to hear the sound.
“Okay, stop it,” he growled angrily and frowned in warning. Naruto immediately stopped. “Look at my hand,” Sasuke demanded as he curled his fingers into a stiff stance in mid-air. “You have to put your hands over the keys like this, like you’re holding an egg, alright? Keep the fingers stiff so that you are able to play the keys.” To emphasize how stiff his own fingers were, Sasuke tapped them firmly and showed Naruto how they didn’t move. Then he relaxed them and tapped them again. This time, his fingers curled in limply. “If they’re like this, you’re holding your hand wrong. Got it?”
“Do it then.”
The Uzumaki tried to imitate what Sasuke had shown him, but it didn’t look right to him.
Sasuke tapped his fingers and they didn’t budge. “Not that stiff, idiot! You can’t play with your fingers locked into position. Relax a bit.”
Naruto’s shoulders slumped at the pickiness of Sasuke’s preferences. He sighed mentally and loosened up his muscles a bit.
“Straighten your shoulders,” dark eyes glanced over at Naruto.
The command was taken immediately.
“Not like a board!”
“Geez, what the heck do you want from me? This is too much, or that is too little! I don’t know how to sit, alright?” Naruto finally snapped back at Sasuke, momentarily forgetting that all of this was desperately depended on. At the moment, he didn’t care if he got Sauske angry and was kicked out of the house. He was just getting on his nerves!
Sasuke narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaws tightly. “Get off the bench,” he barked out sharply and stood up, almost knocking his chair over in the process.
The blond stood up angrily and walked out from in front of the piano. He was about to storm out of the house when Sasuke moved toward the piano.
With a ferocious flourish, Sasuke sat down in front of the piano himself and stared straight ahead, seemingly ignoring his friend. He placed his hands on the keys stiffly and parted his legs slightly so that they were comfortably put.
“Sit,” he began with an obviously forced calm, “like this. Straight back and relaxed shoulders, elbows away from the body, hands curled and fingers firm, legs uncrossed. Always in front of Middle C. When you need to reach the keys at either end of the piano, move on your butt, don’t twist your body,” he demonstrated by playing a few scales up and down the keys and shifting about without twisting his torso. “Your body should always face forward.”
Sasuke sat there and didn’t say anything for a long time, his breaths coming out in long, even intervals.
Standing there, Naruto cooled down after a while and realized that Sasuke was sitting there to demonstrate what he meant.
“Got it?” he asked abrasively after a while.
He grumbled a bit. “Yeah.”
The Uchiha stood up without further explanation and sat back down at his chair next to the piano. He looked as if he was waiting for Naruto to sit back down at the bench. So he did. This time, he was careful to remember all the things that he needed to do.
Truthfully, Sasuke appeared as if he wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with Naruto’s sitting structure but didn’t say anything about it. He spent a few more seconds examining Naruto’s position in silence.
“That’s enough for today,” he said briefly and stood up from his chair and walked away from the room.
Naruto took that as a sign of dismissal and left the house wordlessly.
Only the chair and the lamp were left with the piano.
The black and white keys glimmered sadly in the artificial glare and warmth of the bulb.
Casually, Naruto leaned on the door frame of a classroom. He looked around the room, apparently uninterested at the coming and goings within the classroom. His eyes glazed over, seemingly off in the distance of nowhere.
In reality, he was carefully watching one particular girl with her friends. He smiled lightly as he watched her.
She was so beautiful, with soft, pink hair and those pretty eyes. He really did love her so much.… If only she would stop considering him a friend…. But he really couldn’t blame her. They’d known each other since so long ago. It might have been natural for her to become attached to him in a way that would not initiate anything more.
Sakura was chatting with a few of her classmates with their desks all pushed together. Their lunches were placed out and they were neatly eating lunch. She seemed so happy just sitting there and chatting amiably.
For perhaps the millionth time, Naruto considered himself incredibly lucky to have been invited over to Sakura’s birthday party, even though it was planned a month ahead of time. Truly, he had been surprised when Sakura walked up to him and gave him the invitation with a bright smile and a hint of a blush.
He found his smile twitching slightly until he was frowning. Now that he remembered, he thought about how he was hanging around Sasuke at the time. And Sakura had another envelope in her hand at the time. Perhaps….
Well, whether or not he was given an invitation out of an excuse or not, he was happy.
Naruto sighed and looked at his watch absently.
He noted that it was almost time to go back to class.
Carefully, he placed straightened out inconspicuously and walked away from the classroom. The bell would ring soon and his class was rather far away. He quickened his pace until he was half-running down the halls. A careful speed had to be taken in order for the teachers not to drag them down and chastise them for running in the halls.
There were so many students in the halls, standing outside of their classrooms still chatting, unaware of the inevitable bell, or walking down to the restroom or their own classroom. Some had their book bags or textbooks, a few had notes and papers in their hands. There were large groups to maneuver around.
A particularly lively group walked down the hall and forced Naruto to move to the side in order to avoid colliding with them. He twisted his body awkwardly and sidestepped them, momentarily losing sight of the view directly in front of him.
It was only a few seconds. Just a few seconds and he had already crashed into someone.
“So—” he instinctively began to apologize as he heard the distinctive noise of paper crumpling and fluttering to the clean floor.
It was Sasuke.
He swallowed his apology but bent down to help pick up the papers anyways. In a few seconds, he had picked up several sheets and made a tiny pile. The other body didn’t say anything, but kept his head down. Naruto couldn’t see his eyes, due to the long bangs that hid them away.
He couldn’t help but to glance at the notes and loose papers that he had accidentally knocked out of Sasuke’s hands. There were so many.
Absently, Naruto noted that Sasuke’s handwriting was almost mechanical. They were so perfect and neat. He reached to pick up another paper when he paused slightly. In the margin of one of the pages, Sasuke had scribbled something down. A brief inspection showed a small, miniature grand staff and a few intricate notes with smooth lines drawn over them spanning over the blue lines of the paper.
He blinked. There were some kanji and kana written over the paper.
Shooting Star EDIT.
Naruto reached out to get it, but Sasuke was quicker than he was. He snapped up the paper and stuffed it into his pile before standing up quickly.
The blond opened his mouth to ask about what he saw, but Sasuke didn’t give him a chance as he grabbed the papers out of Naruto’s hands and stalked away.
A rush of air passed by him as Sasuke left.
The bell rang and sent all the students in the hall in a frenzy, causing Naruto to lose track of where Sasuke had gone.
There was a sharp, itching sting in his right hand.
That jerk had given him a paper cut.
That evening, Naruto decided not to pursue the topic of the mysterious notes he had found on Sasuke’s paper.
Regardless of that incident, Naruto realized that Sasuke was still a snappy and short-tempered teacher that evening. It took them another fifteen minutes of bickering until Naruto was sitting the way he was supposed to be and the few sheets of music were placed in front of him.
“I’m not going to bother teaching you all the basic stuff about playing the piano if all you want is to play this, though it would be better if you did know,” Sasuke told him concisely. “See these two marks here?” he pointed to two little things that looked like a ‘b.’ “These are called ‘flats.’ There’s a B flat and a E flat, so that means that when you play B,” he pressed a key on the piano with his pinkie, “or E,” he pressed another one with his thumb, “they get moved to here,” he demonstrated by lifting his fingers off the white keys and pressed the black keys to the left of them. They sounded broken and off-key to Naruto.
“What?” Naruto asked a bit stupidly. He had no idea what all this musical jargon was.
Sasuke blinked slowly at him. “Do you just want to memorize this thing without me teaching you?”
It took another fifteen minutes for them to figure out what they should do. Naruto wasn’t very helpful and Sasuke’s short temper certainly did not aid them.
“Shut up, idiot!” he yelled at the blond. “I’ll at least teach you about the counts and the meter!”
“Okay, geez!” he screamed back, completely pushed to the point where he just wanted to punch Sasuke in the face.
Sasuke looked at the time signature again and started to rub his forehead. “Why in the world isn’t this song just in common time?” he complained to himself more than to Naruto.
It was needless to say that the two of them didn’t make much progress that day.
Two days. Two freakin’ days and Naruto was nowhere closer to memorizing Sakura’s birthday present.
Naruto leaned his head onto his hand and watched as the teacher walked up and down the blackboard, writing something down on it. His book was open but his mind was somewhere else. He didn’t doubt that he would fail the next test that they had.
Slowly, his lips twisted into a scowl. It just had to be Sasuke. It just had to be Sasuke who knew how to play the piano so well. And he just had to be the only one who was even willing to help Naruto out. After all, the only reason Naruto went to Sasuke was because nobody else would help him. And he needed to learn the song fast. But what now? They wasted two days just fighting and bickering.
A less than soft sigh hissed between his teeth as he mussed his hair mindlessly.
Today, he decided, was going to be better. He promised himself that he would stay calm and not make Sasuke mad. A hard task indeed, since the jerk was angry all the time.
He nodded deftly to himself and continued to ignore the rest of the lecture.
Meanwhile, in his own class, Sasuke was also ignoring his teacher. He had nothing to fear though. He had read ahead three chapters and already knew what the teacher was talking about. There was no need to take notes on something that he had already memorized.
Instead, a few blank sheets of paper with empty grand staffs drawn on them were presented to him. In one hand he held an ink pen, and in the other, he held the small stack of papers that Naruto had given to him a few days ago. The sheet music for Shooting Star. He had begun the editing process a while ago, but decided that it was best to get it down on actual sheet music.
He looked between his blank sheets and the old, wrinkled sheets silently and bit his inner lip lightly.
Carefully, he began his task, whatever it might have been, by pressing the tip of his pen to the beginning of the first grand staff. In a swift movement, he dragged the pen in a graceful curve and completed the perfect replica of a treble clef. He moved lower on the paper and drew a bass clef in the same manner.
Now that he had finished that, he examined the sheet music again.
The time signature for this was 4/2. The ideal time signature right now would be 4/4.
At least, Sasuke thought, it would be easier for me to explain to him and for him to understand…
One and two and three and four and.
It wasn’t hard.
Even an idiot like Naruto could count like that.
He sighed softly and shook his head. He had no idea why he was so willing to help that dork out.
His hand stayed over the paper waveringly. Finally, after tapping his foot a few times to test out the time rhythm, he began to write down the first few notes. Mentally, he began to hum the song in his head. Although he wasn’t used to thinking like this, this really was a nice song. Simple, but nice.
Shooting Star, huh? I wonder why it’s called that… Sasuke asked himself mindlessly, his head bobbing minutely to the invisible strain of music he was listening to.
“Mr. Uchiha,” a voice cut through his thoughts.
He looked up quickly without a trace of shame for not paying attention.
The man raised an eyebrow at him in warning and tapped his chalk on the board a few times, next to a problem he had written down. “Please share with the class the answer to this problem, Mr. Uchiha.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied. He looked at the problem and ran his eyes down the columns of work that had already been written. It wasn’t a difficult one, though it was truthfully very monotonous and time-consuming to get through. In the end, ironically, the answer came out to be something that was ridiculously simple. “It’s in the third quadrant and is 178 degrees, sir.”
His teacher nodded a bit stiffly. “Thank you, Mr. Uchiha,” he said, turning back to the board and writing down the answer.
Sasuke waited for a few minutes to check if his teacher would let him off the hook before turning back to the sheets of music waiting to be transferred.
“I simplified it.”
Sasuke had barely opened the door and saw Naruto standing there when he interrupted the blond. His greeting wasn’t even halfway out yet.
“I simplified it,” Sasuke repeated in his dead monotone.
Naruto tilted his head slightly. “Simplified what?”
“What else do you come here for everyday, idiot?” Sasuke rebutted simply and walked away from the door.
The blond made an exasperated expression and walked into the house, closing the door behind him. Carefully, he took off his shoes and placed them next to some of Sasuke’s. “Excuse the intrusion,” he mumbled before running in after Sasuke, who was currently nowhere near the door.
As expected, Sasuke was situated exactly where Naruto knew he would be at—in the chair next to the piano. Sasuke was rifling through several sheets of paper and didn’t seem to acknowledge Naruto’s presence.
“Count.” Sasuke had said without looking up, a simple command neither forceful nor gentle. A simple statement at the best.
“Count?” blond eyebrows scrunched up suspiciously at the word. “What like, one, two, three, four?”
“Good. You can count. I was worried that you wouldn’t be able to.” A corner of Sauske’s mouth twitched into a small smirk. He spread out the sheets onto the holder and examined them silently.
“You—!” Naruto started to insult him, his face flushed with indignation.
The Uchiha looked away from the papers and silently glared at Naruto. “You were saying?”
He growled lowly and swallowed the insult, nearly stomping to the piano bench and sitting down—directly in front of Middle C, so that Sasuke wouldn’t bite his head off.
“Count, ‘one and two and three and four and,’” Sasuke told him, tapping his foot on the floor to reinforce the beats.
Naruto looked at him disbelievingly. Is he trying to make fun of me? he asked himself. “One and two and… three and four and?” he repeated haltingly.
Sasuke looked at him, irritated. “Smoothly. One and two and three and four and,” he reiterated, his face completely straight.
Doesn’t seem like it, Naruto told himself. “Okay. One and two and three and four and.”
“Good, look at these notes,” he gestured vaguely at the paper. “I’m not going to bother explaining everything to you, but just memorize the position and time length of each note for now, okay. All I’ve done is slow down the song and change a few of the beats, so it should be easier for you to keep rhythm. ”
“Okay,” he replied.
“Sit up straight,” Sasuke said without looking at him. He leaned over the piano and grabbed Naruto’s left wrist. “The first notes for the left hand are here,” he told him and dragged his hand over the keys to a specific part near the center. “Press down on your pinkie, middle finger, and thumb,” he said, his hand not letting go of the wrist.
Naruto did so, letting a broken chord hang in the air. He looked uncertainly at Sasuke to see if it was right.
“These notes go for four beats,” he pulled up on Naruto’s wrist, causing him to stop pressing the keys. He brought the wrist down again and Naruto automatically pushed down on the keys. “One and two and three and four and. Got it?”
“Uh, yeah,” he said haltingly. He pressed the keys down again, counting under his breath.
“Okay, keep your thumb where it is and move these fingers down,” Sasuke used his hand to shift Naruto’s fingers a few keys down from where they were. “And press down on the same three fingers,” he murmured almost absently. He almost seemed like he was absorbed in the music, his eyebrows slightly furrowed together but his face otherwise impassive. He moved his hand over Naruto’s and pressed down on his fingernails, effectively making Naruto push the right keys. This time, the chord was less broken. “And count for four beats again.”
Naruto wasn’t quite looking at the page, which he couldn’t read anyways. He just worked on trying to memorize where all the keys were and remembering their positions. It was simple at first, all of the bass clef being blocked chords but once it got to the second page, things got really hard. It began to take up a melody of its own and he was struggling with moving his inept fingers over the keys.
“Alright, just stop here. You aren’t going to remember it all anyways,” Sasuke took down a pencil from on top of the piano and made a small mark to indicate where they had left off at. They had gone through the bass clef a few times and Naruto could now play it, albeit a bit hesitantly and occasionally playing the wrong note.
Sasuke hated to admit it, but Naruto wasn’t too slow at picking up the notes. In the faintest strains of his consciousness, Sasuke regretted the misfortune that Naruto would not be earnestly trying to learn how to play. He would have done quite fine.
“Do you remember most of this?” Sasuke asked Naruto.
The blond nodded slowly. “Yeah, most of where we got to.”
Sasuke stood up from his chair. “Move over,” he commanded.
A confused expression slid over Naruto’s features. Then he scooted over just in time for Sasuke to sit down next to him. “I’ll play the right hand and you can pick up the left. We’ll play slowly. Ready? One, two, three, go.”
For the next half hour or so, the two of them continued practicing the chords and scattered notes together. It didn’t sound that great since Naruto still couldn’t move fast enough to play the next notes smoothly, but it was good enough. Even if Sasuke had to hold notes for longer that they were written for so that the blond could catch up or had to pick up Naruto’s hand and move it to the right position, they made a lot of progress already.
“That’s enough for tonight,” the Uchiha announced after they were done. They had been at it for more than three hours already. He stood up and moved away from the bench.
Naruto yawned and stretched his fingers, making them crack.
“Ugh, that was slow,” he complained, a bit tiredly. He smiled a little to show how proud he was at learning so much.
“Hn,” Sasuke snorted lightly, turning away from the piano and starting to walk away already. He smirked a bit. “See you tomorrow, idiot.”
A playful smile pranced over Naruto’s lip momentarily. He stuck his tongue out at Sasuke’s back.
“I sense that, idiot.”
Naruto quickly pulled his tongue back in.
It was slow business teaching Naruto how to play the piano, but somehow the two of them managed to get it down fairly well within a week and a half. Naruto was even able to memorize most of it, except for a few notes here and there. Admittedly, Sasuke would have liked it better if Naruto could actually play both hands together without looking like he had constipation, but it was still a good enough start.
“Well, idiot, you’re doing fine, but the song is bland and the dynamics in this is next to none. In short, you still suck,” Sasuke said to him straight-forwardly one day.
“What?” he shrieked, jumping up from the bench and nearly knocking it over. “I can play the song already!”
“Yes,” Sasuke agreed with a fraying patience. “But there are no feelings in the song. And you have a few weeks left to get some into it.”
“I think I play fine already though!” he defended himself.
The Uchiha shrugged indifferently. “Not my birthday gift to Sakura,” he stated.
Naruto pressed his lips together thinly and sat back down on the bench.
“No, get back up.”
Sighing impatiently, Naruto got off the bench again and allowed Sasuke to sit down on it.
“This is how you play it,” Sasuke told him, and proceeded to play the song smoothly, but without any undulations in volume or such. “This is how you want to play it,” he said.
This time, he started the song off strongly and moved with the music. His body shifted and leaned into the keys when the notes got soft and he straightened his back when the music swelled. And how it sounded was so much more dramatic and… full of emotion than the first time.
Widened eyes showed Naruto’s surprise and awe. He, for the briefest of moments, doubted whether or not he himself would be able to play something that beautiful. Truly now, he could see how marvelous Shooting Star really was. There were so many emotions in that song that he never picked up. Something jerked within his chest.
And for even a shorter moment, he wondered how someone as frigid and bland as Sasuke could be able to play something that well. He snickered to himself, pondering about what Sasuke even knew about emotions.
Sasuke turned around to look at a still-stunned Naruto. “Hear the difference?”
Numbly, he nodded.
The Uchiha stood up from the bench again and motioned Naruto over. He picked up his pencil again and began to scrawl lines over the papers.
“Just a few terms, remember them so I don’t have to sound stupid telling you what to do. This is a ‘crescendo,’” he pointed to some lines on the paper.
“Sasuke, that looks like an overgrown less-than sign in math,” Naruto reported truthfully.
The brunet smacked him on the head and continued his lesson without halting, “And this is a decrescendo. This is an accent here.”
“Isn’t an accent—”
Sasuke turned to face Naruto with a grim expression. “Do you want to learn or not?”
He curled his lips into a dissatisfied scowl and didn’t say anything else.
“When you see a crescendo, make the song grow louder—but not faster. And for decrescendo, you make the song go softer, but not slower. Accents simply mean that you need to play it extra loud, then return to normal. Try it.”
“… Sasuke, I can’t read the sheet music, remember?”
Sasuke thinned out his lips and moved his hands onto the piano, one octave higher than the notes required. He played out the first few strains of the music, making it grow louder then dim again. “Play that,” he said.
“Alright.” Naruto tried to imitate what Sasuke was doing but was stopped before he could even finish.
“Don’t hit the keys like that. Make it gradually louder,” the Uchiha said through grit teeth.
“I’m trying, you jerk…” The blond played it one more time, with no more success than the last.
Sasuke let out an impatient huff of breath. “Here, have some imagery help. Think a waterfall. If you’re far away from it, it sounds faint, but if you walk towards it, the sound of the water becomes roaring, right? Imitate that smoothly.”
The boy nodded with a bit of understanding and tried again. It went better this time.
“Try not to sit there like a board, Naruto. Move with the music,” Sasuke told him.
When Naruto attempted it, he was scolded again because he looked like a ‘backboneless piece of noodle’ and was ‘flopping around like a drowning fish.’
The evening ended, again, with another scuffle.
Words that—trip and fall.
Notes that swell—twirl and dance.
A crescendo of sounds.
Why is it so irritating? A tickle in the ear becoming a roaring, vicious sound—noise—song.
He can’t help it—he really can’t. Can’t—block—it—out!
He wants to cover his ears, it’s so loud, but his hands won’t move. He wants to thrash his head around to throw the song out of his head, but he can’t!
Such a stentorian song—so familiar.
He’s been listening to the broken, uneven version of this song for weeks now. Almost a month.
You’ll help me, right?
I don’t want to.
I love her… I just want a chance at being able to be with her…
I don’t want to.
Sasuke awoke violently. He bolted upwards his ears still ringing with a silent song. He looked around the room. It was still dark.
Silently, he ran his hands over his forehead, wet with cooling sweat, and rubbed his ears as if trying to soothe their pain.
He heard a laugh—brief and almost harsh. So familiar.
And it disappeared, a wisp of nothing.
He looked around his room and, for an instant, saw nothing but a blur of yellow and a burning blue.
And it disappeared, a wisp of nothing.
What is wrong with me?
He pulled his legs closer to his chest and rested his forehead on them.
He wished that the days would pass quicker. So that he could show Sakura what he had learned. He was so proud of himself for learning the song so quickly.
As for Sasuke…. Well, he couldn’t tell whether or not that jerk had actually helped him or not. It was more like getting yelled at all the time when it came to the bottom line. But still, Naruto mused, he supposed that he owed him a thank you or something of that sort.
Lightly, he smiled at the thought of Sasuke and continued going down the hall to his classroom.
Another day, another brand new start.
Down the hall he went, his elbows obnoxiously jutting out as he laced his hands behind his head. People had to swerve around him in order not to be elbowed in the face.
“Idiot,” a voice chastised him, making Naruto stop in his tracks and lower his arms. “Don’t walk like that unless you want to be beat up.”
Naruto turned around and tilted his head inquiringly, squinting slightly to complete his look of questioning. “What about it, mmn, Sasuke?”
“Hn, idiot,” he said before continuing to walk. He seemed a bit extra stiff and reserved today.
The blond waited on the spot for a short while until Sasuke passed him. Then he decided to follow Sasuke, just for a little.
“Hey, Sasuke,” he called out, a bit too loudly to be conversing with someone right next to him.
The Uchiha’s eyebrows scrunched up together a bit as the annoying voice pierced through his fragile eardrums. “What?”
“I guess I owe you a thanks or something, huh?”
“Teaching me how to play the piano.”
Sasuke glanced at him momentarily. “Don’t thank me for something that I’m not done with.”
“Nyaa, whatever, Sasuke,” the blond teased, grinning childishly at the boy.
He couldn’t help but to smirk just a bit. His eyes fell immediately afterwards and he went quiet.
They ambled down the hallways until the bell rang. Then Sasuke had shooed Naruto away and entered his own classroom rather wordlessly.
Naruto found out that after that day, lessons over at Sasuke’s house became rather awkward. For whatever reasons he could not find out everything was just… awkward.
The last chords of the song resonated beautifully from the back of the grand piano, vibrating the floor underneath their feet. Carefully, Naruto lifted his hands off the keys and looked expectantly at Sasuke.
“How was that? How was that?” he asked excitedly.
“Fine. Play it again,” Sasuke replied blandly.
He couldn’t help but to be a little dampened by Sasuke’s less than enthusiastic response. Before, even if Sasuke wasn’t happy with his results, he wouldn’t be this blank. Naruto wondered worriedly if he had done something wrong to get Sasuke mad, but two seconds’ work of evaluation revealed that he had done absolutely nothing faulty. He just didn’t understand why Sasuke was so spaced out and dull these past few days.
Nonetheless, he shrugged it off and played the song again as he was told to do.
Steadily, steadily, Naruto’s skills and memorization on the song was improving. He was able to put more emotions into the song and it was rather adept now. Soon, he would be performing for Sakura’s birthday.
And win her heart—so he hoped.
So he always hoped.
And so his notes would soar higher—higher still! Louder, more boisterous! Flying on the emotions he felt as he played.
It was almost time. Only a week left.
But the emotions were always hindered by Sasuke’s negative impact. No matter how joyously Naruto played, there was no way he could be fully happy when Sasuke was treating him like this. Like he didn’t want to talk to him. Every question was answered with monosyllabic grunts or vague hand gestures.
He hated this.
It was like Sasuke was trying to put distance between them again.
He hated this so much because he knew Sasuke wasn’t like this.
What was wrong?
“Aren’t you excited, Sasuke?” he bubbled and prattled on, sitting there on the piano bench with his fingers absolutely shaking above the keys. “It’s almost her birthday! And I’m so good at this already! Certainly now, she will be surprised by me! Right, right?” He beamed at the boy.
Sasuke stared back at Naruto, his head tilted slightly up, giving him a minutely superior appearance. He nodded almost imperceptibly. Naruto’s happiness did not affect him.
Suddenly, Naruto took his hands off the keys and tilted his body to face Sasuke. “Stop this—what’s wrong? You suddenly became so detached! Only a week ago you were arguing with me! What did I do to you to make you this—this—frustrating?” he finally exploded. Sasuke’s impassiveness was finally getting on his nerves. “If you’re fed up with me after so long, just tell me! I’ll leave, okay? You’ve taught me enough.”
The Uchiha looked back at him stilly. He had his jaw clenched.
Naruto curled his hands into tight fists. “Say something!”
Sasuke opened his mouth.
I don’t know how to say it.
He stood up smoothly and began to walk away.
There was a jarring screech as the piano bench was pushed back and Naruto took two steps toward Sasuke, grabbing his arm firmly.
Sasuke turned around angrily, yanking his arm away. He snapped. “What do you want from me? You want me to say that you’re annoying? That I don’t want to teach you anymore? Fine—go away then! You are annoying. Get out of my sight! Is that what you want?”
For once, I’d like to say something right.
Naruto’s expression darkened immediately.
“No, you jerk. That’s not what I wanted you to say,” he spat out angrily. Something snapped inside of him. “Why won’t you just answer me, you bastard!”
The following thud! made the house go completely silent. A few seconds passed and all that was heard was the strained breathing of two men.
Sasuke held his jaw gingerly, feeling the wetness of his split lip running down his chin and going to his neck. His bangs had gotten into his face, but he didn’t bother to brush them away.
Naruto shook with residual anger, his fist slowly coming out of its death clench.
“Why are you doing this, Sasuke?”
He didn’t wait for his answer as he turned away to leave the house, leaving Sasuke crumpled on the floor, cradling his sore jaw.
The silence was oppressive, pushing their shoulders down with unimaginable pressure. It felt thick and stupid to even breathe.
Sasuke’s breathing was getting heavier. They could hear it. It was so labored and irregular now. He opened his mouth slowly.
“I think I love you, damn it.”
Naruto’s step jolted to a short stop before he started to sprint out of the house and wrench the door open, fleeing the house.
He didn’t close it.
The week passed quietly. Sasuke and Naruto didn’t speak to each other. In fact, they didn’t even see each other.
Both of them were seen with grim expressions all the time. Sasuke more disgruntled than Naruto, who appeared to be more thoughtful than anything else.
It troubled Naruto’s friends when he frequently dropped out of conversations and blanked out during classes, seemingly mumbling about things all the time. But since Naruto was so stubborn, he would never admit anything was wrong when asked. However, anyone with a higher brain capacity than a slug could have figured out that something was wrong.
Now, every time he glanced at Sakura, his eyebrows would furrow and he would begin to chew on his thumb absentmindedly, a habit that he never had until recently. Or stranger yet, he would place his hands on his desk and start tapping his fingers to an invisible melody and suddenly stop halfway, frozen in his noiseless practice. The seconds following this would be a short moment in which Naruto would appear as if his ties with his soul were cut and he would sit there lifelessly.
“Nothing is wrong.”
Nobody believed him.
As for Sasuke…
He was the same, if only a bit more snappish and easily irritated. And now he was glancing around himself tersely much more often.
A few classmates would ask him what was wrong. Albeit being a bit cold and reserved, Sasuke was still their class president and they were worried about his absentmindedness during class.
“Nothing is wrong.”
Nobody believed him.
Somewhere between that week, Sakura had gotten the courage to give Sasuke his invitational letter to her birthday party. He had agreed to go. He didn’t know why he didn’t reject the offer.
And before you knew it, it was Sakura’s birthday already.
No matter what they said about it, no matter how grand it was described to be, a party, like any other party, was simply that—people standing around talking. Exciting? Not to Sasuke, no.
But perhaps, he pondered, it would be more fun if he made the effort to talk to the other party-goers mingling in the living room. But he didn’t bother to. The couch was fine for him. The couch, a paper cup of punch, and him. It was fine.
His eyes trailed listlessly over the many people here. People he knew and didn’t. Girls that kept looking at him, though from a distance. He could hear their giggles and see their batting eyelashes.
It was a dull murmur of noise, a monotone din in the background. No conversation struck out, except for a few times when people laughed at a particularly well-told joke. The ignored lull of some song on the radio sidled around the people lazily. No variation.
And Sakura? Where is she? He wondered idly. Where was the hostess?
He searched for her for a lack of something else to do. In a moment, he had spotted her. With Naruto.
He watched them impassively for a moment. They seemed to be engaged in a rather lively conversation. Suddenly, Naruto yelled loudly at everyone. Someone switched off the radio.
“Hey everyone! I’ve got a surprise for Sakura here! It’s taken me almost a month to get right, but hey! Wish me luck as I try to woo her, right, guys?” he laughed and glanced at Sakura playfully.
Sasuke saw her laugh and smile back at him, shaking her head jokingly.
As a majority, the party-goers all cheered and wolf-whistled just for the heck of it.
Dramatically, Naruto walked over to Sakura’s grand piano and lifted the cover up. He brushed his fingers over the white keys of the piano and pressed some of them experimentally.
“Alright!” he called out to the group. “This is for you, Sakura! Happy birthday!”
He swallowed, a bit nervous, and started to play.
Sasuke could tell that he hadn’t practiced on a piano for a while. The notes were a bit haltingly played. Then again, he wasn’t used to Sakura’s piano. He continued to watch.
It was weak beginning, the notes not as strong as they should have been, but it rose to a crescendo, louder, stronger. The notes began to blend into each other seamlessly, a string of music unbroken by uncertainty. Naruto was getting bolder now.
He swayed and moved with the music accordingly, caressing the soft notes, dancing with the more lively ones. He was alive with the music. It wasn’t perfect. By all means, no, it wasn’t perfect. But it was good enough. And there was emotion. Enough emotion to make up for the amateurish mistakes.
When he stopped, the last deep chord ringing in the quiet room, cheers erupted and more wolf whistles. Naruto stood up and grinned, taking mock bows and lifting his arms to receive the applause. He caught Sakura’s eye and beamed at her proudly. And she—she was flushed with happiness. Really, truly so—she loved the song so much.
But Sasuke could not hear the applause, or the praise, or the words that Naruto said next.
It was too loud—this ringing in his ear.
A loud crescendo of noise.
It hurt his head so badly, he wanted to clutch at it. It became louder and louder still, no mercy to the pain he was feeling.
His chest ached so badly. And yet…. And yet it was almost a saccharine hurt. It burned his head and chest but it left a sweet lingering taste in his mouth.
So loud—he felt deaf.
And he saw everything but could not hear.
And yet…. He was not afraid.
Had they stopped cheering? Gone back to their conversations? What is Naruto saying to Sakura now?
They were leaning closely with each other and Sakura was giggling. The noise grew louder when Naruto pressed his lips chastely against Sakura’s cheek and she flushed and waved him away, laughing at some silent joke. He backed away and began to rub the back of his head, laughing boisterously as well.
She nodded at him and he nodded back.
Sasuke closed his eyes. It hurt too much, this throbbing in his head. Such a terrible ringing noise. He felt as if he was deaf to the point of hearing.
Suddenly, he felt someone touch his arm. He opened his eyes. It was Naruto.
The blond moved his lips, but Sasuke couldn’t hear what he was saying. His eyebrows furrowed angrily together.
Naruto didn’t seem to notice his agitated expression. Instead, he moved his lips some more and gestured vaguely to the front door. He yanked at Sasuke’s arm and forced him up.
Grudgingly, Sasuke followed him out. At least the noise was starting to ebb away. Just a little.
When they had reached outside, the Uchiha couldn’t tell if it was really so silent outside—or if it was just him. They took a seat on the front door steps, softly illuminated by the light escaping from the front windows. He placed his hands on his thighs.
Sasuke saw rather than heard Naruto talk to him. He couldn’t hear.
A distinctive, low rumble of a voice entered his hearing. It took a while longer before the simple, deep vibrations could be recognized as words.
“… I’ve told her that I really did love her… but I suppose she never saw me as anything other than a brother. Somehow… I think I knew that already…” here, Sasuke saw Naruto smile lightly.
“… And after the song… Well, we agreed to be friends always. Perhaps we would have never really gotten anywhere, Sakura and I. But it was a nice dream, wasn’t it?”
Nothing was hindering Sasuke’s hearing now. He looked away from Naruto’s half visible face and stared out into the darkness of the street ahead of them. He didn’t answer.
“She apologized to me. I told her that it was okay that she didn’t love me back that way.”
Naruto started to hum a song.
Sasuke was almost close enough to him to feel the vibrations. Absently, his fingers began to tap themselves on his lap in recognition of the song.
Shooting Star. I wonder why it’s called that? he asked himself again.
The Uchiha wordlessly turned to face Naruto.
The blond leaned closer.
The crescendo was back, roaring against his skull again.
But this time, he could hear. He could hear as clearly as anything. The words weren’t drowned out. They were clarified. And he heard every breath and sigh in it.
“I think I love you, too.”
He pressed his lips against Sasuke’s and closed his eyes.