That had been a great way to start the fall semester. One of the biggest changes was that Sasuke began to come with me and the others out to the courts during lunch. He still wandered up to the rooftop when he didn't want to deal with anyone, but he engaged with the others more than he had ever done. He began to have full conversations with the guys, even with Kiba. Kiba thought it was really weird at first, but he warmed up to Sasuke quickly enough. He even engaged with Sakura. With Ino it was still mostly one-word responses. At random, he and Hinata would talk.
Time had a way of just moving forward. Before I knew it, October was right around the corner. I hadn't talked to Itachi about it yet, but I'd been trying to make plans to visit my parents' graves. I had missed both their birthdays in the past year. In January I had been studying for my entrance exam. In July I got so caught up in thinking about Sasuke's birthday, that my mom's took second place. I had felt bad about it, but things happen, right?
It was Sunday. Itachi was in his study, probably working on some report. Sasuke was...actually I had no idea where the teme was. I decided to look for him later. Itachi was the one who'd give me permission to go to the cemetery.
I knocked at his door and waited. After a few seconds, I heard him tell me to come in. "Hey, Itachi."
"Naruto. Come in, come in. Just let me finish this thought," he said, still writing.
I closed the door, walked over to the chair that stood next to him and sat. I waited until he was done.
"There, now, how can I help?" he asked with a smile.
"Uh, well, I was wondering if you'd let me go to the cemetery to visit my parents."
His smile shifted from joy to sadness. "I see. Of course you can go visit them. When did you want to go?"
"On my birthday. I kind of missed both their birthdays, so I figured mine would be the next best thing," I told him with a nervous grin, scratching the back of my head.
He nodded. "It has been a pretty busy year for you."
"Well, if you really want to go, I suggest you go in the morning. I'll be working that day, but maybe you can take Sasuke with you?"
"Yeah! That'd be great! I'd love for my parents to meet him!" I told him excitedly.
"Then it's settled," he said with a brighter smile. He patted my head. "Go ask Sasuke if he wishes to join you."
"Right! Uh, you wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"
Itachi cupped his chin and looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Well, if he's not in his room or in the living room, my guess would be on the patio."
"All right," I jumped out of my chair. "Thanks, Itachi!"
I ran downstairs and looked for Sasuke. Just as Itachi had said, he was in the backyard on the patio. Sasuke sat at the small table, reading.
He put his book down and looked up at me as I got closer to him. "What?"
"Wanna meet my parents?"
He was silent for a moment, before giving me a small smile. "Sure. When?"
"On my birthday!"
He didn't say anything, but his eyes widened for a fraction of a second. I wasn't sure why he was surprised. He glanced back at his book, absentmindedly flipping through the pages.
"All right, but we should go in the morning to avoid crowds. We can go out to eat afterward."
Itachi had suggested the morning as well. I wondered why both of them thought it was better for this visit to happen early in the day. "Uh, sure!"
"Will Itachi go?"
"No, he said he had to work."
"Hn. Fine, we'll go then."
I was anxiously awaiting my birthday. Neither Sasuke nor Itachi had said anything about having a party for me. Not that I minded. I hadn't had a birthday party in years, so another year without one wasn't going to make a big difference. I was more excited about seeing my parents again than the fact that it'd be my birthday. When I'd told Sakura about my plans, she was a little surprised, but wished me the best. She said she wanted to go with us, but she already had other plans that day. I told her it was okay, and thanked her for the sentiment.
The morning of my birthday, Sasuke came into my room to wake me up. The sun had just barely risen.
"Sasuke, we can sleep a little more."
"Come on, dobe. Get up. Do you even remember what cemetery to go to?"
"Of course I do!"
"Do you know how to get there from here?"
Honestly, I only knew part way. "Sort of."
He chuckled. "Yeah, exactly. Come on. Get up."
"Ugh, fine." I threw the covers back and swung my legs over my bed and yawned. It was too early in the morning to be up. Uzumaki Naruto was not exactly a sunrise person.
Sasuke was already in the kitchen making us oatmeal. After having a bit of breakfast, we finished getting ready and soon, were on our way.
It was good that Sasuke had urged us to go early. We took nearly an hour to get there. We talked to the guard to let us in a little early. He must've recognized me because he gave me a pitying smile. I bought some flowers from the shop on site and headed over to the grave sites. Toward the back, near a tall tree that was losing its leaves stood my parents' tombstones.
"Good morning, Otousan, Okaasan!" I announced as I approached them. I divided the flowers, placing them on either grave in the cups that the cemetery provided with each site. "Sorry I couldn't come on your birthdays. A lot has happened since last year. I'm adopted now! Itachi is great. He's a fantastic cook, and a very caring older brother."
I turned to look up at Sasuke. I stood up and grabbed his arm to pull him closer. "This is Uchiha Sasuke! He's also my adoptive brother." Sasuke bowed. "He's an ass, but he's a really good friend. He doesn't say a whole lot, either, but when he does he means every word he says."
Sasuke kept staring at the graves. There was a smile on his face. "I'm glad to have met Naruto. Your son may be an idiot—"
"—but he means well," he finished. "He also might not be the brightest, but his heart is always in the right place."
"Aww, Sasuke, I didn't know you loved me!" I giggled.
He scoffed. "Don't let it get to your head, dobe."
"See! I told you he was an ass! Even so, I wouldn't want him any other way."
I continued to tell my parents about everything that had happened since the last time I visited them. Sasuke sat next to me between my parents' graves. I told them about my time on the streets, about the day Sasuke found me, the day they took me in, describing home in detail, going to school, how Sasuke always made sure I kept up with my studies, and everything else.
The sun was shining brightly. I took it as a sign that my parents were smiling down on us. Sasuke sat in silence, listening to my chatter. When my stomach grumbled, I knew it was time to go.
"Well, I'll try to come again on New Year's, if not your birthday, Otousan. Ah, Okaasan, sorry for missing your birthday, but it was so close to Sasuke's that preparing his birthday made me forget a little," I laughed nervously. I clapped my hands together and bowed. "I promise it won't happen again, dattebayo!"
"I'll make sure it won't happen again," Sasuke chimed it. "Had I known, I would have urged Naruto to come visit."
"Well, you never asked."
"Hn. Either way, now I know."
"Ah, right. Well, goodbye, Okaasan, Otousan. I promise to come back soon!"
We bowed, and walked away.
"Since we're here, I'd like you to meet my parents," Sasuke suggested.
"Yeah! I'd love to! Where are they?"
Sasuke led me to the northeast side of the lot. There, his parents stood next to a water fountain. He bowed to them. "Kaa-chan, Tou-chan."
"Hey there! I'm Uzumaki Naruto! I'm Sasuke's new brother!" I announced to the tombstones.
Sasuke only smiled. "Please forgive this loud mouth. I promise he's not always this obnoxious."
"What did you say!"
Sasuke continued to stare at them. He was absolutely silent. In that moment I realized it had been a very long time since Sasuke had been here. He broke his silence with another bow. "I'm sorry for not coming. It's been difficult," he whispered.
We stood there in a silence for a few minutes longer. Whatever Sasuke was thinking, he didn't voice it. From the way he kept staring at their portraits, I could tell he was concentrating. He was probably telling them everything in silence, unlike me. I thought about saying something else, but I didn't want to interrupt him. He was finally having a conversation with his parents again. I didn't want to be a jerk and get in the middle of that.
Once Sasuke was done, he bowed and told them goodbye aloud. "I promise to visit more often from now on."
"I'll come, too! That way Sasuke won't be lonely!" I cheerfully added.
"What am I? A stray?"
"Aww, come on, you just admitted you loved me earlier! You know I won't ever turn my back on you now!" I told him happily.
Sasuke glanced away. "Hn."
We said our final goodbyes and left.
"Man, I'm so hungry!" I announced.
"Hn. It is your birthday, why don't we go get ramen?"
I looked over at Sasuke. "You mean it?"
He half smiled. "Yes, at Ichiraku."
"Yes!! Thank you, Sasuke! This is such a good birthday!"
The crowds of people had gotten bigger, so we took a while getting there, but it was worth the wait. As we entered the shop, a crowd of people were there. I couldn't believe it.
"Happy birthday, Naruto!"
I looked over at Sasuke who was smiling at me. "Happy birthday, dobe."
"What? I thought Itachi worked!" he was in the back helping old man Teuchi.
"He did. He was working here all day to set this up," Sasuke explained.
"Naruto! Come on, you need to get into your costume!" Sakura told me, taking my arm and leading me into the back.
Everyone had some sort of costume on. I had no idea why everyone was in costume. I followed Sakura. She gave me a fish cake costume to jump into. I couldn't help but laugh. It was my name and one of my favorite foods. It wasn't until I was out and eating that Sasuke decided to explain everything. He told me that in American culture, they had a tradition called Halloween. On Halloween people would dress up as monsters, or characters, or something, and go from house to house asking for candy. It had originated from the original concept of honoring the dead on that day, October 31st. Sasuke wasn't sure when the candy part of it, or the trick-or-treating, came into play, but he thought it'd be fun to incorporate it for my birthday.
This was amazing. Everyone was in costume! Kiba was dressed as a dog treat, Sasuke and Itachi were vampires, Sakura was a cherry blossom flower, Shino was a beetle, and even Shikamaru had dressed up, though his was much simpler. He dressed up in a lab coat to be a scientist. The rest of the day was spent on eating ramen, playing games and having costume contests.
I had not expected a party that day. Sasuke and Itachi had prepared all this behind my back. Now it made sense why both of them had suggested going to the cemetery in the morning. I was sure it had also served as the perfect distraction.
When everyone was gone, I hugged both Itachi and Sasuke, thanking them. I couldn't thank them enough. This was a birthday I was going to treasure forever.