By the time he made it home, the sun was beginning to crest over the horizon. The red light of dawn illuminated everything, and the heat was already burning the back of Sasuke’s neck. Hanabi’s words were still ringing in his ears, drowning out the chirping of the lingering cicadas from the night before.
“I know what is inside you. I know you feel it, too.”
He gripped his shirt over his stomach where the deep pit was. Those opal eyes – blank, empty, but piercing – it was no wonder they were touted as one of the strongest clans in existence. The Byakugan even rivaled the Sharingan, though Sasuke would never admit it out loud. He knew what he could see with his eyes, but he couldn’t imagine what they could see with theirs. Could she truly see what was inside him?
Sweat was beading along his forehead at the thought, but another part of Hanabi’s words pulled him out of his fear and settled him back in reality:
“If I find out you hurt Hinata, I’ll kill the last Uchiha myself.”
Of course, he had little doubt that she would follow through with that threatening promise if the opportunity arose, but what was more confounding was the idea that Sasuke would be in a situation to hurt Hinata. What did that mean? He mused inwardly, and as if she could sense herself manifesting in his thoughts, out came Hinata onto the patio of what Sasuke could only assume was her bedroom.
Dark bags framed the bottom of her eyes, which only enhanced their haunting, blank stare. She probably had gotten just as much sleep as Sasuke had with Hanabi’s late-night visit. Those eyes roamed over the horizon, drinking in the harsh rays of the dawning sun until their gaze landed on Sasuke.
She blinked slowly at first, taking in his form. Then she blinked rapidly before wiping at her eyes with the heels of her hands. It was clear his presence outside of her bedroom at dawn was an odd sight. Once she had confirmed he wasn’t just an illusion or a dream, her face grew flush – a perfect match to the red hue of the sunlight. She raised an awkward hand and waved.
Sasuke could feel his own face burning with a blush of his own as he waved in return. It was only then he realized just how odd this second meeting was. There Hinata was, just outside her bedroom at dawn, her frame draped in a gauzy white robe while Sasuke stood maybe a foot away, gloomy and brooding – a dark smudge along the bright horizon, in his all-black pajamas which he had neglected to change out of before going on his midnight mission in the twilight.
It was suddenly clear how starkly different they were – darkness and light, ugly and beauty, anger and sadness. Hanabi’s words rang clear as a bell among the fading call of the cicadas:
“If I find out you hurt Hinata.”
He could eat her alive.
Blood was thrumming in his ears, his heart was racing, and that hole in his stomach was stirring to life again. Everything within him was so loud that he was sure Hinata could hear it. Surely, she would turn and run back into the house. He almost wanted her to. He wanted her to run away from him and never speak to him again. It would be better for her – not for him, but definitely for her. Yet, she didn’t.
Those white eyes seemed to look right through him, seeing everything he tried to hide, and that tried to tear him apart from the inside out. Yet, she only continued to look at him as a soft smile made its way across her face.
“Good morning, Sasuke. Would you like to have breakfast with me?”
He would eat her alive.
Once again, he found himself at her table as she made her way around the kitchen. This time, it seemed it would be a warm breakfast as her back was to him while something loudly fried on the stove.
“So, Sasuke, what had you out so early?”
He swallowed, unsure whether he should lie or not. And if he did choose to lie, would she know? What all could the Byakugan see? Finally, he cleared his throat.
“I couldn’t sleep. So I went for a walk, listened to the cicadas.”
Hinata perked up then, spinning around to smile at him. It was a bold move, one that he didn’t associate with her personality, but clearly, when she was passionate about something, it showed.
“Ah! You like the cicadas, too?”
He hadn’t thought about that before. The cicadas were always loud this time of year, screeching in the evenings, through the night, and into the early morning. They were sometimes the only things around when he was out late on missions. Millions of companions calling out to him in the twilight – a comfort now that he thought about it. He bobbed his head, but Hinata had already turned back around to nurse whatever was cooking on the stove.
“Y-yeah. They’re good company in the evenings.”
Suddenly, other words from a familiar but distant voice rushed forth. Whoever it was spoke in hushed tones, their voice breaking through the silence like a jagged knife and leaving behind a gaping wound.
“You need to be empty. I need to make room.”
That space, that void inside, rumbled to life. The sound of the cicadas filled the silence left behind by that harsh voice, but soon the voice came back, joining the cicada’s screech in a cacophony.
“You’re already empty, Sasuke. Aren’t you? You won’t be lonely for long, Sasuke. We just need to make a little more room.”
He could recall eyes, yellow eyes glittering against the backdrop of twilight. They were focused on Sasuke, but they weren’t looking at him. Instead, they were gazing at something inside, something important.
“Let me become a part of you.”
Sasuke was quickly yanked out from this memory by the clattering of plates on the table in front of him. Hinata hadn’t seemed to notice anything, though Sasuke’s face was burning with fever, and he audibly gasped for breath as if he had just run a marathon. Food was the last thing he wanted, and he would have preferred to just go home and void himself of everything that might have been in his stomach, but then he met Hinata’s gaze.
Her stare was as blank as always, just focused on his face. There was a comfort in it, like a balm that soothed his burning face and calmed his racing heart. Only then did his gaze fall to the bounty prepared before him.
She had made eggs, perfectly folded in little squares. Next to them were thick slices of cut ham, and just below that were roasted cherry tomatoes still on the vine. As he looked, Hinata began to explain.
“I love a big breakfast in the morning, and I finally have an excuse to make roasted tomatoes in the morning. They’re always the prettiest on the plate, even if they’re not my favorite.”
She was right. That pop of red was perfect against the muted shades of the rest of the meal. Suddenly, he wondered if that was why she always invited him over. He was a streak of darkness amid all of her pretty, white things. Was he another pop of color?
As if she could read his mind, she spoke:
“You’re like tomatoes, Sasuke.”
He frowned, then, and as soon as he did, Hinata began waving her hands frantically. Her eyes were so wide and her face so filled with panic; it was almost funny. Sasuke had to force himself to hold the frown just to keep from laughing. Her voice quivered as she spluttered.
“No, no! I don’t mean you’re not my favorite… er, not to say that you are or aren’t. I mean, I am really glad you’re here and all, but… I don’t really like tomatoes, but they are great in their own way! What I mean is, uh…”
Finally, she paused. She closed her eyes, held her hand to her chest, and took in a deep breath. When her eyes opened next, she was much calmer and sure within herself. Her next words came out without any whisper of panic or worry.
“I am glad you’re my friend, Sasuke.”
Sasuke blinked, suddenly at a loss for words himself. Were they friends? How many days had they really known each other? Barely two at this point. Yet, of those two, he had spent a majority of them in her home. He hadn’t even spent that much time with who he had once considered his actual friends. The memory of his meeting with Naruto and Sakura came rushing back. If he could call anyone a friend today, he supposed this was as good as it got.
As such, he smiled in return.
“I am glad, too.”
Noncommittal, but it seemed to be enough to satisfy Hinata as she nodded in response and began working on her plate of food. Sasuke started to work on his own, plucking one of the wrinkled tomatoes off the vine before popping it in his mouth. As usual, a wash of flavor burst forth from the fruit, though with a hint of smoke from the roasting. Even as they silently enjoyed each other’s company and the food they shared, Sasuke couldn’t help thinking of that voice.
He couldn’t help feeling as if somehow, they were being watched.