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Too Clean Slate

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Too Clean Slate

You want a piece of this too?

You're so amazing!

Those were the lines decorating mum's and dad's arms; the very first thing they had ever said to each other, proof that they were each other's soulmate. Mum had been beating the crap out of some bullies who had taunted her about her fire red hair when dad had come across the scene.

After pummelling the last guy into the ground, mum had glared at dad and had snapped, "You want a piece of this too?" She had already raised her fists, more than prepared to beat another guy to the ground.

Dad had been utterly dumbstruck at that time and the only thing that had left his mouth back then had been, "You're so amazing!" Impressed by the sheer strength the red haired girl in front of him possessed, he'd been more in awe than afraid he might get punched next.

At that very moment both their arms bearing the sentences had become warmer than usual: the final confirmation that they had met their soulmate. The second they had both felt their arms warm up, they had excitedly rolled up their sleeves, showing each other the lines etched upon their skin. And from there on it was history as they said. They loved reminiscing about their first meeting, laughing at how utterly ridiculous it had been.

Soul Marks, the lines upon the arms were called. They were the very first sentence your soulmate would utter and once they were spoken the lines would grow warm in response; a sort of failsafe so to speak to make sure that people couldn't trick others if they had managed to catch a glimpse of the Soul Mark.

You weren't born with a Soul Mark; they appeared on your arm somewhere between your seventh and your thirteenth birthday. It was a day everyone looked forward to, some even more than to their actual birthdays. Because it was confirmation that there was someone out there for you, someone who was perfect for you alone, your other half.

Everyone received their Soul Mark eventually.

Everyone, that was, except for Naruto. His seventh birthday went by without a sentence appearing on his arm, but that was okay. Very few people received it already at such a young age and it didn't mean anything in particular if you didn't receive it then. Just meant that you weren't an early bloomer. So Naruto wasn't worried about it. His eight birthday went by without anything special appearing on his arm. Still he wasn't worried, because again, eight years was rather early still.

Then his ninth birthday happened, his tenth, his eleventh, his twelfth, his thirteenth … And never once did the so desired line appear on his arm. While all his classmates and his friends covered their arms once their Soul Mark appeared – because it was private and not many people liked others to know what their mark said – Naruto's arm remain completely bare, not even the smallest of words appearing on it.

His arm remained as blank as the canvasses his mum loved to paint on and it was a sight he came to hate with every year that passed without anything appearing. Mum and dad tried to comfort him, reassure him that his Soul Mark would eventually appear, he was just a late bloomer, they were certain, the age bracket was just a general one, it wasn't meant to be taken literally.

He appreciated how they tried to comfort him, but it was difficult to stay optimistic when the years went by and his friends started finding their soulmates, while he couldn't even get his Soul Mark to appear.

He'd even visited several doctors, fearing there might be something wrong with his skin – though he had never had any specific problems with it – but none of them could find anything wrong. He was as healthy as one could be – he just didn't have a Soul Mark.

And that could only mean one thing, right? Him not having a Soul Mark – that could only mean that he didn't have a soulmate at all. Because if he had a soulmate, then surely by now his Soul Mark would have shown up?

It hadn't, though, and at the age of twenty and in his second year at university, Naruto completely gave up on the notion of having a soulmate. What was the point in hoping for it when it was more than clear it would never happen?

His parents had been lucky enough to find their soulmate; apparently that same luck wasn't meant for him.

"Maybe you should try going out on a date?" Gaara suggested one windy evening in November.

Naruto looked up from his notebook, his bed creaking slightly when he shifted, and he furrowed his eyebrows. "You did not just say what I think you said," he said irritated. "I'd expected more from you, honestly."

He and the redhead had been best friends since they met at the very young age of five years at the local parc in the sandpit. Gaara had comforted him throughout the years whenever Naruto got too down about his lack of Soul Mark and unlike other people – who meant well, but who had no clue what they were talking about – had never needled him about trying to go on a date with someone. He had even acted as a buffer several times before when people started to become too pushy in trying to set him up on a date.

"You know very well why I can't just go on a date," Naruto added, his irritation growing even further.

It wasn't that he couldn't go on a date; nothing forbade people from dating if they hadn't met their soulmate. It was that going on a date would be utterly useless. Everyone had a Soul Mark and him going on a date with any of them meant he would just be setting himself up for disappointment later in life. What was the point of going on a date with someone when you knew very well it would never work out in the long run? Sure, they might come to love him, but the second they met their soulmate …

He'd be left alone, dropped like some hot coals.

There was no point in trying to date someone and get attached to them when it would only lead to heartbreak in the long run.

Gaara raised his hands in the air in surrender. He was sitting on his own bed, his notes of today's classes spread out in front of him. "Temari made me ask," he easily admitted, having no problem whatsoever throwing his older sister under the bus.

"What is her goddamn obsession with my lack of love life?" Naruto growled, hissing annoyed when he saw he'd been writing down the completely wrong thing. He erased the last phrase he'd written down and started again.

"I guess she wants everyone to be happy now that she's found her soulmate," Gaara said idly, but his eyes were sharp and guarded. "I suppose she focuses on you precisely because you don't have a Soul Mark."

Blunt, but true. "Yeah well, tell her she can shove it. I already explained why I'm not going on dates, I haven't changed my mind since the last time she suggested it – which was barely a month ago, mind."

Gaara shrugged. "I had to ask, because otherwise she would keep bugging me about it. But I'll gladly inform her she can shove it."

"You do that," Naruto muttered. "Maybe that'll get her to finally shut up and leave me alone."

"Fat chance of that happening," Gaara scoffed.

And yeah, that was probably true, but he just wanted everyone to stop meddling in his life. Yes, it sucked that he would never be in love, but it wasn't like he had much of a choice in that either. No point in trying to date someone with a Soul Mark. The only way that would ever have a smidgen of a chance to work out was if the person's soulmate had already passed away and that was just, no. Even with the person no longer having a soulmate, it would still mean that Naruto would forever be second choice and he refused to be that.

If that meant being alone for his entire life … Well, so be it then. He still had his friends and his family; that would have to be enough.

"You better have been eating healthy, mister," Mum reprimanded him and he rolled his eyes.

"Mum, this is already my second year at the dorms. Obviously I'm eating well, seeing as I'm still alive," he sighed and adjusted his bag, nodding in thanks at a student who had just entered the library, holding the door open for him.

"There's a difference between eating well and eating healthy," she retorted.

"Please, like you already don't know," he snorted derisively and adjusted his phone better against his ear. "I know you and Gaara are in contact with each other, I'm not stupid."

"Well, someone has to keep me appraised!" she protested. "Seeing as someone doesn't call his poor mum regularly."

"I call you at least three to four times a week, don't start exaggerating," he reminded her, eyeing the grey sky with some consternation. He had forgotten his umbrella back at the dorm, so he could only hope that the rain wouldn't start until he was already inside.

"I can't help it, it's been weeks since you last visited. Am I not allowed to miss my only son?" she snarked.

"The guilt trip, really, mum?" he asked unimpressed and rolled his eyes again. "First of all, it's been three weeks, second of all, fine, I'll come visit you this weekend, how's that sound?"

"That sounds wonderful, hon," she said warmly. "Gaara-kun can visit as well, if he wants; it's been a while since we last saw him and your dad is itching to play chess with someone again."

He snorted amused. "I'll relay the message."

They said their goodbyes then and he hung up, shoving his phone into the front pocket of his bag. He'd stayed longer at the library than he had intended and by now evening was settling in. With it, a chilly breeze sprang up, making him shiver and zip up his jacket higher. He really should remember to start taking his scarf with him, it was definitely inching into winter now and his jacket alone wasn't enough to keep him warm.

The weather being as cold as it was, there weren't many people walking around on the street, so the group of four people lingering in an open space between two closed shops attracted his attention for a short moment. He was ready to dismiss them again, planning on taking up a fast pace in order to reach the dorms sooner, when loud laughter broke the silence in the street and his attention was reluctantly pulled to the group again.

What he saw had him pulling to a stop abruptly. The group of four guys turned out to be more a group of three who were harassing the fourth. As Naruto watched from the other side of the street, one of the guys snatched what appeared to be a phone from the guy, tossing it to one of his buddies when the guy made to grab it back. The guy whose phone had been stolen, launched himself had one of the arseholes but a swift kick to his stomach had him curling up instead, visibly gasping for air.

All right, Naruto had seen enough. He couldn't just keep watching or worse, walk away from this. So these douchebags thought they had the upper hand because they were three against one? Well, Naruto would just have to show them that strength in numbers didn't always mean much when you knew what you were doing.

Striding to the other side of the street, he grabbed a thick book out of his bag, silently sent an apology to the author, and without so much as a "Hello", whacked it straight into the chest of the first guy who turned towards him. The force behind it sent the guy staggering, gasping for air, and Naruto finished him off by punching him in his face, knocking him out at once.

By now, the other two guys realised they weren't alone anymore and immediately launched themselves at him, fury drawing their faces back. Their fury might make their punches harder, but it also made them less in control and it was easy to unbalance them by ducking their fists and slamming his straight into their guts.

One of them still tried to kick him but he simply blocked the kick, grabbed him by his shoulders and slammed his knee into his stomach. His eyes nearly bulged out and a garble left his mouth before he fell down, curling around his stomach and groaning in agony.

Calmly picking up his book and raising it in the air with one hand, Naruto turned towards the remaining guy, who was staring at him shellshocked. "I'm going to give you exactly five seconds to give me that phone. If you don't, you'll find that this book will have another use than reading alone," he stated tonelessly.

"Are you fucking insane?" the guy squeaked, but when Naruto simply lifted the book higher, the guy threw the phone at him and took off running, leaving his buddies behind.

"Guess he's not such a good friend, huh?" Naruto commented mockingly and ignoring the two still groaning on the ground, he made his way to the other guy, who was staring at him wide eyed.

His pale skin stood out against his black hair and equally black eyes and when he slowly straightened up, his arms dropping down, he turned out to be an inch taller than Naruto. Idly, the blond took notice of how handsome the other guy looked like, even while obviously confused, and held out the phone.

"Here, got your phone back. Sorry they were such douchebags," he said sympathetically and quickly ran his eyes over the guy as he reached out his hand to accept his phone. "You okay, man? That kick didn't look so good."

Wordlessly the man nodded and Naruto offered him a quick smile. "All right, glad to hear that. You might want to leave now, though, before these two might start having stupid ideas again."

He threw the two dipshits on the ground one last warning look, waved at the other guy, and then continued his trek to his dorm. As he made his way back, he grimaced, rubbing over his chin. Man, best not to tell his parents about this. Even though it was dad who taught him how to defend himself – courtesy of being a detective, he had decided that his son should know how to protect himself – neither dad nor mum would be happy to hear that he'd got into the middle of a fight with three guys.

He could have hardly just stood by and let it happen, though. Bullying was always a coward's way, especially if they teamed up against one person. They should be glad it had only been him; if Gaara had been with him, they would have had to call an ambulance at the bare minimum once he'd been finished with them.

It was a week later, when he was sitting in the library finishing up his last assignment, that he saw the black haired guy for the second time. It was purely by chance that he noticed him, having looked up from his book to roll his aching shoulders when he spotted the guy making a beeline for him.

To be honest, he had already basically forgotten about the altercation on the street a week ago, his visit to his parents and his classes pushing the memory to the back of his mind, so it took him a couple of seconds to realise why the guy approaching him looked so familiar.

Huh, did this mean that he was a student here as well then? They couldn't be attending the same classes; he was pretty sure he would have seen him before then. The guy had a certain presence that was kind of hard to ignore.

He looked on bemused as the guy halted in front of his table and placed a piece of paper in front of him. Curiosity piqued – was the guy that much of a stickler for the rules that he wouldn't even dare to whisper here? – he picked up the note and read it.

Hello, my name is Uchiha Sasuke.

"Erm, nice to meet you, I'm Uzumaki Naruto," he introduced himself in a whisper. He sat the furthest removed from the librarian so it wasn't like she could hear him.

Uchiha took the paper back and scribbled something else on it. Really, whispering was okay in the library, wouldn't that be easier?

I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to be blunt. You're my soulmate.

Two sentences. Three words. Those were enough to have Naruto seeing red as he slammed the note down on the table and started shoving his stuff into his bag.

"You think this is funny?" he hissed, glaring at Uchiha, who just stood there staring blankly at him. "Think you can just mess around with the guy with no Mark? I don't know who told you about it, but this is a shitty way of paying me back after I saved your butt last week!"

Uchiha started shaking his head, but Naruto had had it. "Get fucked, douchebag!" he snapped and dashed out of the library, ignoring the librarian's scowl when he practically flew past her.

Maybe he was overreacting, but he was completely fed up. Somehow some people had discovered that he didn't have a Soul Mark, even though he made sure to keep his arm covered up at all times, and ever since, he had had to deal with the occasional arsehole who thought it was funny to tease him about his bare arm or worse, the ones who thought they could have some fun with him without any attachment.

Like he was some kind of blow up doll or one of those robotic sex dolls that they could use whenever they pleased. As if him not having a mark meant he didn't have any feelings either, as if that gave them permission to consider him as nothing but a bit of fun to be had on the side while they hadn't met their soulmate yet.

He had no clue how the hell Uchiha had found out about his arm, whether someone had told him or whether he'd found out by asking around, but fuck that guy. This was how he repaid him after Naruto had saved his arse last week? By making fun of him, acting like Naruto was some kind of idiot stupid enough to believe those lies? He might be a natural blond, but that didn't meant he was dumb.

A hand grabbing his upper arm and jerking him back had him nearly losing his balance and he squawked, wheeling his arms through the air to keep himself upright. When he whirled around, he growled when Uchiha stood barely two feet away from him, panting a bit, as if he had run after him.

"What the fuck do you want, arsehole?" Naruto snarled, clenching his hands into fists. "Joke's over before it even started, but I will fucking punch you if you touch me again."

Uchiha shook his head rapidly and practically shoved a piece of paper in Naruto's face, making him curse vehemently.

"Why the fuck do you think I care what you have to - " He cut himself off abruptly as his eyes unwillingly fell on the paper.


"What the fuck?" Naruto muttered bewildered.

When he looked up, Uchiha was holding out another note; the letters jagged and messy looking as if he'd written them down in a hurry.

I was born mute. I can hear, but I can't talk. I communicate through sign language and notes. When you helped me out last week, I realised you're my soulmate

The sentences were haphazardly thrown together, no real line of logic connecting them, and Naruto had barely managed to read the last sentence when the paper was lowered and Uchiha shoved his sleeve back abruptly, baring his arm and holding it out to him.

And there across his inner arm, the words 'Here, got your phone back' were sprawled across the pale skin, the faint pink colour standing out.

"That's what I said to you first," Naruto said dumbly and could only stare there dumbstruck as realisation slowly sank in.

Uchiha had the first words Naruto had said to him written on his arm. Naruto's arm had remained bare all these years because his soulmate was mute. His soulmate couldn't talk and therefore there would never be any words appearing on his arm. His arm was empty because his soulmate was mute.

Holy shit, he had a soulmate!

It was a realisation that shook him to the core and had him feeling abruptly dizzy as if he had stood up too quickly. It had his knees feeling weak like jelly, like they were about to give out any second now. He pinched himself, so certain it was a dream, inhaling sharply when the sting told him he definitely wasn't dreaming.

Uchiha was already scrawling down something else by the time Naruto started regaining his bearings. I know I fucked up by not explaining my muteness immediately, but I was just excited that I had found you again. Nii-san always said my bluntness is going to get me into trouble someday. I've been looking for you for years, I'm sorry I made you think I was making fun of you; that wasn't my intention.

"No, no, it's okay, erm, I probably shouldn't have flown off the handle like that," Naruto said flustered and rubbed the back of his neck, feeling heat creep up in his cheeks. He didn't know where to look now that he was confronted by the soulmate he had thought he would never have. "I should have given you time to explain, sorry." Or at the very least not have assumed the worst immediately and cuss him out. Shit, he hoped the librarian wouldn't ban him next time he entered the building again; he hadn't exactly been subtle.

Uchiha shrugged. It's okay, I shouldn't have been that blunt.

"Well, erm, how about a do-over?" Naruto suggested weakly and smiled embarrassedly. "Hello, I'm Uzumaki Naruto, it's nice to meet my soulmate."

The other man smiled. Hello, I'm Uchiha Sasuke, it's nice to finally meet my soulmate.

"So, guess I should learn sign language, huh? Think you can teach it to me?" Naruto smiled tentatively.

Black eyes glistened and Uchiha – Sasuke – stepped closer, wrapping his fingers loosely around Naruto's wrist. The wrist of the arm where never any writing would appear. He turned Naruto's palm around and drew something in the middle of it.

A couple of repetitions later and it dawned on Naruto that Sasuke was writing in his palm. His smile bloomed into a full blown grin when he realised what Sasuke had said.

Of course. It'll be my pleasure.

As they slowly walked to the nearby coffeeshop, page after page of Sasuke's notebook being filled rapidly, Naruto thought that while his first meeting with his soulmate might not have been as cool as his parents' or as cute as Shikamaru's, he found he didn't care about that.

It was his meeting, something he had never dared to dream of that he would have, and that made it perfect.

When he and Sasuke kissed each other for the first time a month later, over a pile of sign language study books, his lips tingled as if dipped in heat and he imagined that must be how Sasuke's arm had felt like when Naruto had spoken those first words to him.

He thought that their kisses were a much better alternative to feeling an arm heat up anyway.

The End