Written by: [忍] Miki

“Listen, Diep… you have a ton of good qualities. But I know you. You’re a hopeless romantic, and you would expect too much. I don’t think I can reach your expectations.” Itachi sheepishly rubs his neck. “Besides… weren’t you warned to not like me?”

She had told him she wouldn’t expect anything from him.

“But I know you.”

And that was how the first confession had went.

Only a few days after Itachi had left, here Diep was, confessing her love at the brink of the moment.

She really needed to learn how to control these impulsive feelings.

“Liked me? Oi, oi, does that mean that you hate me now?” Naruto frowns, scratching his head and recounting the times he had done something wrong.

“Who knows? Maybe I absolutely despise you.” She shrugs and playfully skips ahead of him. “Come on, Hokage! Catch up would you?”

Perhaps it was the mood, or maybe even her drunken stupor that gave her this giddy feeling. It was the tingling sensation in her stomach which she had come to define as love.

“Yikes… despise.” He mumbles, trudging himself along the cemented path. It’s a new sight, seeing this playful and chivalrous Diep. As funny as it was, he preferred the more serious, work-oriented her.

This one made him feel weird.

Naruto notices they’re close to her home now, but Diep is… for whatever reason, walking slower than usual. She is carefully avoiding the cracks in the cement while thinking of how to reply. She wonders what’ll happen tomorrow, and the day after that and even in the future if she continues with this conversation.

Well, she started so she might as well finish expressing these feelings. Besides, from her past loves and experiences, she knows better than to dwell on answers. A smile tugs at her lips as she turns to face Naruto.

“No, I…” she pauses, twirling around boredly.

“You?” he asks rather hurriedly.

“Love…” Diep pauses again and takes a few steps forward, closer to the entrance of her home.

“Love what? Jeez, hurry up and tell me!” Naruto crosses his arms, sulking because of Diep’s sluggish speaking. What the heck does she love?

“You, Naruto.” She grins. “I really love you, Naruto. The kind of love where I’d want to marry you, if you didn’t get that.”

M-marry…?!

He certainly wasn’t expecting that.

Before Naruto can speak, she enters her home and at the doorstep, turns back to see a red-faced Hokage. Was this the alcohol or her confession? Because his face was really red. Well, whatever it was, she would find out soon enough. With a light chuckle, Diep closes the door and upon reaching her bedroom, falls asleep in only a matter of minutes.

“So how about being in a relationship with me?”

It’s the fifth confession now. Call her shameless, but after the first confession Diep no longer felt shy around Itachi. When she puts her heart into something she was dedicated. No matter how many confessions it took, she would get him to feel mutually about her.

“You still like me?” Itachi exasperatedly sighs, “I applaud you.” he says in a sardonic manner, and then takes a long breath before continuing. “Listen, Diep.”

Oh, not this again… she absently thinks.

“You have a ton of great qualities, you know, like… you’re smart, good-looking, responsible, but it won’t work. I’m always out doing missions, I can’t be there for you. I’m not the type to coddle you, I mean, sure I have my moments, but… I’m not the kind of guy you’re looking for, and you’re not the kind of girl I’m looking for.”

“Then what kind of girl are you looking for?” she asks boldly.

“If I told you it would just hurt you. I don’t want to lead you on, Diep. I like our relationship as it is now, and… I’m just not confident. I can’t be like that with you and you know why.”

A couple of days later he leaves on another mission. It’s one stationed in Mizu no Kuni, a place Itachi often talked about visiting and perhaps vacationing in. This time he’s going to be there for two weeks, which is probably the shortest time he’s had to go for a mission.

In the midst of anticipation and waiting, she ends up finding a letter in her mailbox. She’s excited to see it’s from Itachi, but once she looks at the contents of that letter… her mood is immediately spoiled.

He isn’t coming back.

“Hey, Naruto.”

Diep swallows down a nervous laugh when she walks into the Hokage’s office. He’s looking down and examining documents like every other day, except she can notice drowsiness creeping upon him as his lids shut a bit longer than they were supposed to.

“Oh… hey Diep.” Naruto says, still looking down at his papers… or not. His eyes are shifting in a lot of different and unusual places.

“Are you doing okay?”

Diep asks, trying not to think of yesterday. And while her outer mind asks Naruto not to remember, her inner mind screams: Remember! Remember! Remember! She secretly wants a bit of tension, and to see him flustered over her.

“Hm? Oh yeah, of course I’m okay.” he says quickly. “I mean, I… after drinking yesterday I couldn’t fall asleep and… “ Naruto trails off, and his face is suddenly a scarlet red. “Haha, last night we were both pretty drunk.”

Looks like he did remember.

Diep nods, “we were really drunk.” She stifles a laugh and decides not to delve further into the topic. Now isn’t a good time and hello, it’s work hours. She takes her seat in the usual spot and is immediately met with an awkward air.

Time passes and it feels agonizingly slow until both of their shifts are over.

By the time they’re finished going over the documents and what not, the sky has become a gradation of red and orange hues. Diep doesn’t really feel like dealing with her feelings right now, so she stealthily attempts to creep out of the room while the Hokage changes. She’s halfway to the door and is about to–

“Wait.”

A gulp. Diep slowly turns around and is met with sky-blue eyes that take on a more serious gaze than usual. Of all people, why is she the one running away and not Naruto? She straightens down her skirt and coughs.

“What is it, Nanadaime?”

“I need to reply to your confession.”

After Naruto is dressed, they end up taking a walk to the park. It’s only because Naruto thinks the office isn’t a good setting to talk about it, and that they would feel better in an open space. In other words less awkward, but Naruto was too nice to say that. Not to mention being in the office felt stuffy.

During their walk not a word is exchanged.

Even when they do arrive it’s quiet, until Naruto takes a deep breath. Somehow the beating of Diep’s heart is louder than before and her hands are moist. She wasn’t ready to hear his answer.

Wasn’t it too soon?

“So, about yesterday…” Naruto begins, “I’m… really happy that you feel that way towards me.” he sits at a bench and gestures for Diep to sit next to him. She obliges, and nervously fiddles with the hem of her shirt. “That’s why I think it’s best to reply sooner, than making you wait.”

Diep nods, waiting for his next words.

“…As I am now, I don’t think I’m ready for a relationship.”

Ah, well.

She was used to rejection.

“That, and I’m not looking for one right now. I just became the hokage, Sasuke just came back, and… there’s so much I need to do. I’m really busy, and so I wouldn’t be able to make time for us. And um, right now I don’t see you that way.”

Diep mentally sighs.

She didn’t need to hear his reasons.

She may have been used to rejection, but that didn’t stop each and every moment of heartache, the lingering regret of why she wasted time on a guy that wouldn’t reciprocate her feelings, the embarrassment and the thought of: what the hell do I do now? and the time used to move on. Diep was used to being rejected, but she was definitely not used to the pain that came with it.

Because here it was again: embarrassment, nonexistent pain, and so much more.

“But,” Naruto begins again, “um, maybe if you still like me… you know, maybe I’ll change my mind.” he ruffles his hair. “Sorry, I’m not good with these kind of things… I shouldn’t lead you on. I… I really don’t know.”

“So then what about when you’re ready for a relationship?”

He blushes. “Then, maybe we can try.”

This is… a yes and no?

“Anyways, it’s late.” Naruto avoids eye-contact and looks at the sky. “We should probably head home. Um, I’ll walk you there.” and so, they walk side by side, the Hokage looking everywhere but her.

Diep wasn’t sure whether to be happy or not.

But she was hopeful.

“You know, I hope you consider me during the span of time you aren’t in a relationship.” Diep says teasingly, “You’ll never find someone as good as me.”

He laughs, “there’s no doubt about that.”

And the rest of the way home they’re both able to talk normally. It’s almost as if nothing happened just a moment before… well, aside from Diep’s occasional teasing to remind them. Seeing Naruto flustered was pretty cute.

When they’ve said their goodbyes, at home she notices her mailbox flag is put up. Inside is a small notebook and when she takes a peek into it, the first page is filled with a handwritten note.

To Diep, 

I found this waterproof notebook. It’s pretty cool, you know, you can take showers with it and not worry about it getting wet. You can throw it in a puddle and it’d still be okay. It’s really entertaining. Well, that’s one reason I sent it, but you know, living in Mizu no Kuni is lonely. If you decide to come visit I’ll let you stay over at my place, you chose the furniture after all. Haha.

P.S. Due to certain circumstances I’m unable to visit Konoha. I’m not sure when I’ll come back, but I hope you’ll wait for me.

-From Itachi.

 

~6 Years Later~

“Itachi’s coming to live in Konoha starting today, huh?” Naruto says from his desk. He’s going over documents as usual, while Diep is currently at the bookshelf reorganizing everything.

“Yeah, that’s what I got from his last letter at least. I can’t believe he didn’t bother to message me for the past five years; he must’ve really wanted to make me give up on him.” Diep says as she finishes placing the last book on the shelf.

“That, or he was really busy.” Naruto laughs. “ Let’s not jump to conclusions. That being said, you did give up on him, didn’t you?”

“That’s obvious.” Diep chuckles and puts a stack of paperwork on his desk. “I’ll be going now, Hokage. See you tomorrow.”

“Yoshi! Tell Itachi I said hi!”

A few minutes later Diep arrives at a cafe and immediately sees the familiar shinobi seated near the window. She sits at the seat across from him and smiles. “Long time no see,” and looks down. There’s already two coffees on the table, she takes it, recognizing it. Black coffee for him, and iced coffee for her. “You know me too well, Itachi.”

“I’m glad your tastes haven’t changed.” He grins, “but on a more serous note, I’m sorry I didn’t contact you for…”

“Five years,” Diep intervenes after his slight pause.

“Yeah, five years.” Itachi nods.

“So what happened?”

“I’m getting to explaining that. Just… hold your horses.” He takes a sip of his black coffee and frowns. “Listen, those past five years the reason I didn’t reply to your messages is because I got busy.”

“Busy in what way? And if I didn’t contact you first, would you even be here?”

A forced chuckle. “Like I said I’ll explain… and your second question… actually I would.”

“But you’ve never contacted me first.”

“Just listen to my story, Diep. Jeez, you can get really sassy when you want to be.”

She shrugs.

Honestly Diep wasn’t expecting herself to be so rude either. But when she saw him, she found it difficult to hold back. They had been friends for such a long time now and he thinks it’s okay to move to Mizu no Kuni without notice?

Not only that, but during those couple of years he’s lived there, he suddenly decides to stop messaging her too?

And as if an answer from above, he begins talking.

“I wasn’t living in Mizu no Kuni the entire time. I still had work to do, and life got difficult and I just… I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel like it. I was in a slump and didn’t want to do anything.” he sighs, knowing she would ask for more, he continues. “I met this girl… her name isn’t important but, anyways I liked her. For the first time I decided to go out with a girl despite work and it just, didn’t work out. You can probably guess, but I stopped messaging you around the time I dated her.”

“Is that all?”

“…I also didn’t want to lead you on.”

“And?”

“I was thinking, about a lot of things. In the end I changed my address, and I came to a conclusion.”

“What conclusion?”

“…It’s not important right now.” he changes the subject. “So, how have you been?”

She frowns. Well if he’s going to tell her later… Diep decides to give him a break. Kind of. “Oh, well you know. It’s been without you.”

A laugh. “I’m sure.”

“After you pushed me out of your life… to be honest, a lot of things happened. I fell in love with… a lot of people. And I also lost a lot of people too.” she rests her cheek on her hand while the other circles around the rim of her coffee mug. “I’ll guess I’ll start from that story…”

And just like that, as the two sit face to face, time passes by quickly in the cafe.

The two share stories from love, hate, adventure, friendship, to even the most intimate moments. Anyone who looks at them can tell it’s an unbreakable bond, and an intervenable moment. Their expressions vary from sympathy to joy and laughter… it feels like not much time has passed at all when both have finished catching up on one another.

“Oh, right. Weren’t you going to tell me about your ‘conclusion’?” Diep crosses her arms.

Looks like he wasn’t getting away with this one.

“Yeah, about that…” he begins.

“Actually, wait. Before you say that, there’s actually a really important detail I haven’t told you about.”

“Huh? I thought you told me everything. Another failed love?”

Diep laughs. “No, it was a success, actually!” she shows him her hands and beams. “You probably didn’t notice this, huh? …I’m engaged!”

For a minute he just stares.

It’s really sudden, and he is pretty damn sure every love story he had just listened to had turned out horribly. Except for one… where she had somewhat of a chance, but wait, when did she progress after her failures with any of these guys?

Itachi analyzes the ring and notices it’s a small ruby centered among small diamonds.

“Oh… who did you get engaged to?” It came out more stoically then he had intended.

“Ah, I talked about a lot of guys huh… well, you’ll see at my wedding.” she smiles. “You know what, if you’re trying so hard to not tell me that ‘conclusion’ of yours, you can do it when I’m a married women.” A worker then comes by to tell them that it’s closing hours. “Oh… we’ll leave now.”

They both stand in front of the cafe to say their goodbyes.

“Well I need to go home now, I have a big day coming.” Diep grins. “I’ll give you the wedding invitation later, okay?”

“Oh… yeah, okay.”

She raises a brow. He wasn’t usually so… weak?

Whatever. Diep waves a last goodbye before skipping off to her home. Itachi watches her leave the entire way, until her figure is completely gone. He sighs and reaches in his pocket for a small box.
“I was hoping she would wait…”

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