Kingdom For Two [19-21]

Chapter Nineteen: We’re Crashing, We’re Falling

Happiness is such a fragile thing. It was something mothers had to protect.

Which was why Mikoto Uchiha was for the first time facing the cold, hard eyes of Mebuki Haruno. The same lovely shade she had passed down to her daughter but with none of the warmth. These were tired eyes. Tired and wary.

“I’m against their relationship.”

Mikoto felt as if she had been slapped.  When she had invited Mebuki for some tea and to talk she hadn’t expected for her friend to respond so negatively to her happy news. She had actually thought that Mebuki would respond warmly and be as overjoyed as she was. As she would have been a long time ago.

“Why is that?” Mikoto bit back from hissing out the question. Mebuki was rejecting her son and so of course she took it personally. “And if you’re so against it why don’t you speak to Sakura?”

“Because it’s her life. And she can do with it what she pleases.” Mebuki brushed at her knee that was crossed over her other leg. “It doesn’t mean that I will always agree or be happy with her choices.”

“And what is so wrong about this choice?” Mikoto snapped. She could feel her ears heat up, an odd condition like her youngest son in which they reddened with intense emotions.

For the first time in almost twenty years, Kushina felt like the odd man out. She was the hot headed one and usually in the middle of any of the tiffs that happened amongst the three friends. She felt awkward considering she already was aware of the fact that Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno were dating.

Kushina and Naruto had weekly ramen dates to spend time together as mother and son. Her son talked to her about everything and anything going on his life.

“So they’re now official I guess,” Naruto chirped brightly, slurping up a big helping of noodles.

“Really?” Kushina’s brow wrinkled in confusion. She had once gotten into a small argument, mostly out of an old spark of competitiveness between her and Mikoto, about who was more likely to end up together out of their children. Mikoto was so confident that it would be Sasuke and she thought it would be Naruto.

It was mostly out of love for her son that she defended his crush and wished for his feelings to be reciprocated but someone would have to be blind not to see where Sakura’s affections lied. That and Sakura seemed to take on an older sister role with Naruto. Kushina thought she had the cutest little exasperated look when she was a toddler.

It was a constant look Sakura wore when she was around Naruto but she would smile sweetly at him whenever he did anything particularly commendable. It was an oddly proud look that Kushina could only compare to the look Itachi gave Sasuke.

But still, it was surprising to see Naruto so happy about his friends getting involved considering she was sure he still had feelings for Sakura. He had gone through a depressive episode and she was sure it was due to Sakura rejecting him.

“Yep. It’s kind of hilarious.” Naruto went to wipe his mouth with his sweater sleeve but one sharp look from his mother had him reaching for a napkin. “Sasuke. I mean Sasuke’s hilarious. He’s obviously always had a soft spot for Sakura but now that it’s known why that is it makes me want to laugh whenever I see him doing something for her. He’s such a dork.”

“Naruto…are you─?”

“Ah!” Naruto interrupted her and slid his empty bowl across the table. He crossed his arms on the booth’s countertop and laid his head on the arms. “I know what you’re going to say and the answer is yes. In fact─”

Naruto looked around as if he expected someone to pop out.

“I prefer them together. Sasuke’s less of a gloomy jerk and Sakura’s happy. And they’re my best friends. I want the best for them. I like it better when it’s the three of us but I know it can’t always be like that.”

Naruto’s face heated up, cheeks turning pink.

“Besides. I have someone else I like. That I really like. Like a lot. A lot a lot.”

That was months ago. From the discussion they were having, Kushina was able to conclude that for Mikoto the discovery was around the same time but definitely after Kushina’s talk with Naruto.

Kushina wanted to laugh at the memory of finding out that her son was dating the senator’s daughter. She had noticed her at events sneaking looks at her son but Naruto was oblivious to it all. What an odd case of luck that Naruto started working at one of the only places the sheltered girl could go to on her own.

Laughing wouldn’t be welcomed at the moment so she tried to take on what was usually Mikoto’s role and tried to be the mediator.

“I’m sure Mebuki means no offense Mikoto. She loves Sasuke, you know that.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” Mikoto crossed her arms in front of her chest and sneered in a way that reminded Kushina so much of when she catches Sasuke and Naruto bickering. Even though the sight should have looked familiar because of how much Sasuke looked like his mother, the expression was just odd on Mikoto. Unnatural almost.

“I do love Sasuke. He is a polite, well-mannered boy that anyone would be lucky to have date their daughter.” Mebuki pursed her lips and looked Mikoto straight in the eye. “He’s not the problem with their relationship.”

Mikoto pulled back, calmly analyzing all of her interactions with the Harunos. She was nothing but genuinely pleasant with them. She loved Sakura, helped care for her, why would Mebuki think she didn’t?

“I love your daughter. She is a sweet and─”

“I know you do.” Mebuki cut in and took a deep breath. She uncrossed her legs and leaned on them, resting her forearms. With tired and sad eyes she looked up at Mikoto and said, “But your husband has already hurt my child once.”

Mikoto’s eyes went wide. With complete shock in them, she watched Mebuki drain the rest of her tea and gently laid her tea cup and saucer on Kushina’s coffee table.

“I know Sasuke’s happiness means everything to you, just like Sakura’s happiness means everything to me. She’s my miracle child and I would do anything to make sure she gets what she wants. But I refuse to entertain some fantasy you have constructed in your head of a Sakura Uchiha. We both know that’s not something your husband will accept.”

“Do not speak as if you know my husband better than I do.” Anger flashed in Mikoto’s eyes and Kushina felt sick. This wasn’t a small tiff.

“Ladies,” Kushina laid a hand on Mikoto’s upper harm, trying to ground her to earth, “what are we even fighting about? They’re only eighteen. Sasuke is only seventeen. There is time to come to terms with who your children have chosen to be with if they decide to continue to be with each other.”

“The problem isn’t about who our children have chosen to be with,” Mikoto responded, tone icy. “It’s about who I have chosen to be with, isn’t it Mebuki?”

“Fugaku is a respectable man. I cannot argue with that.” Mebuki rose from her seat and grabbed her purse. “But his prejudices are something I can no longer tolerate, especially since they affect my child. Have a good day.”

Mebuki stormed out, leaving behind a fuming Mikoto and a flustered Kushina. The most Mikoto and Mebuki had ever argued about was differences in recipes and preferences for household cleaners.

“I have errands to run and a meeting to get to,” Mikoto announced, placing her cold tea on the coffee table. “I will call you later.”

She gathered the things she had brought over and stuffed them into her satchel, the only sign that she was anything but calm now that she had slipped on a mask of impassiveness.

This is bad. This is really bad, Kushina groaned inwardly, slumping into her seat.


Sasuke looked at the boxes varying in colors on the shelves and then back at his best friend who was currently bent over, hands on his knees, squinting at all of them.

“Just pick one.”

“Will you be patient!?”

Sasuke sighed and turned on his heels to look at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacist was staring at them, arms crossed in front of her chest and eyebrow raised. When they first walked into the Family Planning aisle she had giggled at their hesitancy but now she no longer looked amused.

Sasuke sighed and turned back to Naruto who was now holding up a purple box and a blue box in his hands. He kept weighing them in his hands like that would help him make his decision.

“Hey Sasuke, what do you think the Fire and Ice ones feel like?”

“Minty.”

“Minty? What the fuck are you talking about?”

“That’s the only word I can think of to describe how they feel. Just pick one already moron. It’s weird enough that you needed me to come in with you and now we’ve been here for an absurd amount of time. Why didn’t you just buy them with your cup ramen at the convenience store? They’re cheaper there. Or do you really think you’re going to need to buy that many?”

“Can’t you just be a supportive friend for once?”

Sasuke scoffed, feeling a bit insulted at Naruto’s comment. He was always a supportive friend even if he didn’t act like Naruto’s cheerleader the way Sakura did. He even held Naruto’s fucking hand when the moron decided to get his large stick and poke tattoo on his stomach.

If he needs me to come with him to buy condoms, no way in hell is he ready to have sex.

“Which ones do you usually get?”

Sasuke took the purple box and put it back on the shelf. He didn’t usually buy condoms. He and Sakura sometimes used them the week leading up to her period but that was very rarely. Not since his father found a package of condoms in his room in one of his Ritalin sweeps.

“I get either of those but knowing you the Fire and Ice ones will probably cause you to freak out. I’m sure that’s not how you want your first time to go.”

“Double Ecstasy. Natural feeling for him, ultimate stimulation for her?” Naruto waggled his eyebrows at Sasuke. “I’m learning a lot about you today.”

“Shut up.” Sasuke glared at him but heat creeped up his neck and settled in his ears. Luckily for him, he was wearing a beanie so his reddened ears wouldn’t expose his embarrassment.

“Buying condoms with your boyfriend?” Sasuke’s eyes widened and he turned around to see his cousin smirking at him. “And I thought it was only the older one that was a complete poufter.”

“Shut up, Taiko.” It was Naruto that confronted him. Sasuke could see there was some confusion in his eyes but Naruto’s loyalty to his friend had him stepping into a fight he knew was coming regardless of him missing some facts.

“How’s your eye?” Sasuke asked, voice soft but laced with dangerous intent.

Taiko scowled at him, the way his face contorted caused him to wince. It had been a week but the skin around his eye was still heavily bruised. Itachi had somehow convinced Taiko to tell his parents that he had run into a door frame.

Shaking off the comment, Taiko straightened up and gave Sasuke an eerie smile.

“Who do you think would be more disappointed? Aunt Mikoto or Uncle Fugaku?” Taiko tapped his forefinger against his chin in mock thoughtfulness. “You still haven’t told me if you think the false Uchiha is a willing beard or not.”

“Izumi is more Uchiha than you,” Sasuke growled, ignoring the question. “She would never turn against a clan member and try to ruin them like you. Itachi is your direct cousin and he’s treated you with nothing but respect. You owe him the respect he’s due.”

Taiko scoffed and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“Typical. You two act so high and mighty all of the time. ‘Respect that he’s due’, yeah right. Still trying to pretend your brother’s so perfect, huh? Guess a druggie would look up to a cripple and a fa─”

“Sasuke!”

Sasuke saw red and he could barely hear Naruto calling out to him over the sound of blood pounding in his ears. He could barely discern the thumping of boxes as they crashed on his body, couldn’t feel them when he was so aware of the stinging of his knuckles as they came in contact with whatever he could reach of Taiko’s body.

“That’s enough!” Naruto hooked his arms under Sasuke’s armpits and pulled him up from the wreck he caused by tackling his cousin into the shelves behind him. “Do you realize how much─ah, fuck.”

Sasuke craned his neck to look at Naruto. Two officers were approaching them. From the armband on their left upper arms it was obvious they were from the Uchiha station.

Ah, fuck indeed.


Shisui was about to end his shift when he saw the bright blonde hair of Naruto Uzumaki and the heather gray geo print beanie he bought for Sasuke peeking from behind the holding cell bars. He shifted his gaze to the other cell and saw Taiko holding up a red spotted rag to his face.

“Why do we have minors in a cell?” Shisui questioned the closest officer available. They usually had them in a room waiting for their guardians. In worse cases, they were handcuffed to a bench in front of a desk.“Why is the chief’s son in a holding cell? Why is the mayor’s son in a holding cell?”

As much of a prankster Naruto was, there was nothing he could have possibly done to get in trouble with the police. There was nothing Sasuke could have done to get in trouble with the police.

“They won’t talk but the pharmacist at the CVS on 9th street says that Sasuke assaulted Taiko but that he appeared to be provoked. Not entirely sure how Uzumaki is involved but he won’t talk either. He tried at first but one look from Sasuke and he shut down. We’re waiting for his father and the chief to arrive.”

Shisui approached Naruto and Sasuke’s cell and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“How are you doing nerd?” Sasuke turned his face away, irritating Shisui. Naruto opened his mouth to say something but Shisui held his hand up to him. “Not yet Uzumaki. You shouldn’t talk until your dad gets here.”

Shisui turned to Taiko who was glaring at him. Shisui just raised an eyebrow at him and then walked away to find his desk. He pulled out his cell phone and texted Itachi.

Ur idiot bro is in a holding cell rite now…

Shisui put his phone down on his desk and almost immediately it started ringing.

“Hello?”

“I’m coming over.”

“You don’t even have a car and your mother is using hers.”

“I will take a fucking taxi.”

“No you will not,” Shisui practically shouted. At the looks of some of his colleagues he lowered his voice. “I’m staying here and I’ll watch over him. I don’t think Fugaku will let me in on their discussion but I’ll keep an eye on things until he gets here.”

Itachi let out a noise of frustration and Shisui ran a hand down his face. He was going to have to call Izumi and have her make her way over to Itachi when her shift ended to make sure he stayed home. His body couldn’t take the stress.

Shisui looked over to the direction of the holding cell and let out a sigh. It looked like it was going to be a long night.


Itachi’s breath came out in quick and haggard puffs against Izumi’s shoulder. He couldn’t sit up anymore but he couldn’t lie down because she was helping him towel dry his hair.

“You were too long in the shower,” Izumi chided him.

She gave his hair a few more rubs and then pulled away. She went to his closet and pulled out some clothes from him to lounge in and her spare clothes she kept in a drawer designated for her things whenever she randomly slept over.

“Do you need your inhaler?”

Itachi shook his head furiously. He laid back on his bed and pulled on his clothes as best as he could while lying down.

“It sounds like your family is back.” Izumi fluffed her hair with the same towel she used for Itachi and then set it into the hamper inside of the bathroom. “Want me to brush your hair?”

“You’re going to do it anyway.” The humor that would usually be in his voice was missing as he gasped out the words.

“I’m getting your rescue inhaler.”

“I said I was fine. You and Shisui are coddling me too much.”

“We do not.”

“You just showered with me. To help me. Nothing sensual, just you assisting your disabled boyfriend.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize you wanted that kind of shower.”

Itachi scoffed and stood up to grab his cardigan. His steps were unsteady and he made to sit on his rocking chair like that was his true intention of getting up.

“I feel so useless.”

Izumi held her elbows, trying to comfort herself. She learned a long time ago that it was pointless to try and argue with Itachi when he was feeling low about himself. Especially in cases involving Sasuke.

“I’m going to go check on your family.”

Izumi left the room and stood by the railing, listening to the voices rising up to the second floor.

What?

“Oh no…” Izumi whispered. She ducked down, gripping onto the bars as she listened to Mikoto pleading with Sasuke to stay. Fugaku was shouting after him but Izumi watched as Sasuke just stormed out the front door, slamming it behind him.

“Did you see how he was dressed? Like one of those skate punks─”

“You went too far Fugaku.”

Izumi couldn’t see Mikoto but she could her speaking clearly as if she was standing right at the opening of the great room.

“You should have told me the reason why you had to suspend Taiko. Mebuki’s my friend and Sakura is her daughter, I─”

“I thought you two weren’t speaking. Weren’t you two fighting last week?”

“It was a disagreement. It doesn’t stop us from being friends.” Mikoto’s voice wavered on ‘friends’. Izumi frowned at that. “You shouldn’t have spoken to Sasuke like that. Not about one of his friends.”

“They’re doing things that friends don’t do, Mikoto.”

There was a pause. Izumi pressed her face against the bars in shock.

He knows!?

“What do you mean?”

Izumi could hear the trepidation she felt in Mikoto’s voice.

“He was found in the Family Planning aisle Mikoto.”

Izumi drew in  a breath. At least he’s using protection.

“Well, so was Naruto. You don’t know who was actually purchasing them.”

Naruto? Huh, never thought he would need them so soon.

“I’ve caught your son with condoms before, Mikoto.”

“He’s your son as well, Fugaku. When did you catch him with them?”

“…Months after we transferred him to KSS.”

“What did you say to him?”

Izumi gulped. There was an icy tone to Mikoto’s voice she only ever heard when she was waiting for one of her children and their friends to confess to something they had done.

“I just reprimanded him and told him that he was too young and that it was improper for him to conduct in such a manner with someone that wasn’t his wife.”

“Fugaku. Preaching abstinence doesn’t stop teenagers from having sex. And I’m sure you weren’t as understanding as you could have been and talked to him in a calm manner.”

“I was calm. At least until your smart ass son said that just because he had a box of condoms it didn’t mean that he was having sex.”

Really Sasuke? Izumi slapped her forehead.

“Well to be fair, he’s right. Better to have them beforehand just in case.”

“The box was almost empty, Mikoto.”

There was an awkward pause. Izumi could almost feel the heat coming off of Mikoto’s face from the embarrassment. She felt bad that Mikoto had to discuss her son’s sex life with her husband.

“Is…is this why Sakura hadn’t been coming around?”

“That was a choice she made on her own.”

“Fugaku what did you do?” Mikoto’s voice came out strained.

“I just explained that the two of them were acting in a manner─”

“You spoke to her!?” Mikoto’s voice rose an octave in her disbelief. “You can’t parent another person’s child! What exactly did you say to her?”

There was a pause. Izumi held her breath, hoping to catch a whisper, anything. A moment later she heard the clicking of Mikoto’s heels against the marble floor and then the slamming of a door.

Itachi isn’t going to like hearing about this.


Sakura went out back to the dumpster to throw away the garbage before the end of her shift. She could feel the night breeze tickle her neck and she touched her nape, sighing forlornly.

She had grown her hair out long ever since it was cut during the assault she faced visiting Sasuke at Oto and she never thought her hair would be short again.

That’s the last time I’ll get drunk with Karin and Ino.

Because the sleepover at Ino’s two weeks back was such a hit with Karin, who never really had that kind of relationship with any girl where she would sleep over at their house, they continued to have sleepovers. They ended up drinking and Sakura woke up with a throbbing headache and one of her low pigtails chopped off right below where her hair tie had been.

The three of them had vague memories of what happened that night but they were sure Karin got into a fight with a catcaller at the convenience store during a snack run, Ino had downed two cans of whipped cream, and that it was definitely Sakura that cut her own hair. That or neither girl wanted to take responsibility for doing it.

Ino had screamed when she saw Sakura’s hair barely skimming her shoulder. She had grumbled and whined all throughout breakfast the following day but got over it by that afternoon. Now it was Sunday and Ino kept sending Sakura photos of what she could do with her hair for Prom now that it was short.

A set of lights beaming right at her and the dumpster caused Sakura to tense up. Technically the back door was opened up a crack with a brick so her father and Marco could hear if she needed help, but it still freaked her out.

The lights and engine were cut off and Sakura had to blink to adjust her eyes to the new darkness. A car door opened and Sakura’s eyes finally adjusted when she saw her frowning boyfriend stalk towards her.

“Sakura we need to─what happened to your hair?”

Sasuke’s hand went straight to Sakura’s hair and he fingered the short locks, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Sakura had last seen him before her sleepover on Friday and she still hadn’t told him about her haircut.

“It’s not long anymore,” Sakura murmured. She was disappointed by how short it was after having grown it out. Sasuke said her short hair was fine before but she always had a sinking suspicion that he preferred her hair long.

“It’s still pink. That’s all that matters.” Sasuke smirked at her and weaved his fingers into her hair. Sakura leaned into his touch, rest her cheek on his palm. “When were you going to tell me that my cousin has been stalking you?”

Sasuke’s voice was so soft that someone else might have missed his anger. Although Sakura could feel the concern, the disappointment was heavy in his tone.

“I didn’t want you to worry about it. You have so much going on.” Sasuke’s eyes softened and he nodded in understanding. “And it stopped months ago. Like after winter break.”

Sasuke pulled her head toward him and rest his lips against her forehead. There was a pause in their conversation and Sakura took advantage of it to look over as much of Sasuke as she could. He was wearing an open purple and black flannel shirt with a white Sublime shirt underneath. She tilted her head up and noticed that he was wearing a light beanie even though it was late Spring.

She slipped her arms around his waist and he patted the top of her head.

“I think Shisui had something to do with it.” Sasuke sighed and scowled lightly. “I’m going to have to thank him later.”

“What makes you say that?”

Sasuke bit his lower lip  and averted his gaze. After another silent moment he turned his attention back to her.

“There’s something I haven’t told you about because it wasn’t any of your business. It’s not up to me to share it because it’s my brother’s secret not mine and, well, Shisui is involved. I think Taiko got mad at Shisui for interfering in whatever the fuck he was thinking with following you around and he shifted his focus on fucking with him and my brother.”

“Okay.” Sakura nodded, still not sure what could have been so bad that it had to be a secret, but understanding nonetheless that that was as much as she was going to be getting out of him.

“I don’t want to go back home.”

Sakura scanned Sasuke’s face, looking for something. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was that she was looking for but she took his hand in hers and rubbed the top of his hand with her thumb.

“Okay. Where do you wanna go?”


Itachi cradled his face on his seatbelt, looking out the window. It had been so long since Sasuke had run away from home that he no longer knew where to look for him.

“We’ll find him, Ita.” Izumi sat forward, on the edge of her seat and rest her chin on the top of Itachi’s chair. Shisui reached over and took his hand in his.

“He’s probably with one of his other friends. Just because Kushina Uzumaki hasn’t seen him tonight doesn’t mean that something has happened to him.”

Itachi ignored him and kept looking out the window. Shisui might have grown up alongside him and Sasuke but he didn’t have the same bond that he and Sasuke had as brothers.

Itachi smiled gently at Sasuke. His face was scratched up from the branches of the bush he had been hiding in and the cutest pout a nine year old could possess graced his features.

“Now what were you thinking, hiding in there?”

Itachi pulled out a pack of tissues he had in his messenger bag and wiped the dirt off of Sasuke’s face. When his mother had called him and told him Sasuke hadn’t come home from school, he left his house immediately, taking his schoolbag with him. Because his brother was only nine he went to all of Sasuke’s favorite places that a child could get to. Which is why it was so easy to find him in Sarutobi Park’s hiking trail.

“I thought maybe…father would come. If I were gone, maybe he would notice.”

Sasuke wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. Itachi noticed how torn up his brother’s turtle neck was and took off his hoodie, slipping Sasuke’s little arms through the sleeves.

“Let’s call Mom. She’s been driving around looking for you. You made her really worried.”

“Do you think she’ll be mad?” Sasuke sniffed. Itachi rubbed the top of his head, ruffling his feathery hair.

“No,” Itachi shook his head, “I think she’ll just be happy that you’re alright. But you’ll definitely be grounded. How did you run away without anyone noticing?”

“Naruto had soccer practice so he went home. And Sakura is hanging out with Ino. So no one could tell Mom where I went to.”

Itachi bit his lip, not wanting to upset his younger brother by laughing. There was so much disgust in his voice when he said ‘soccer’ and ‘Ino’. It was adorable.

“Come on.” Itachi held out his hand and Sasuke took it. It was a pretty long walk back home so they were going to have to wait for their mother to come pick them up. “Are you hungry? I should have some crackers in my bag.”

“I have a sandwich and my water bottle in my backpack.”

“Oh,” Itachi rubbed his knuckles against Sasuke’s scalp, “so you planned this, huh? Good thing it’s only been like thirty minutes since your bus should have dropped you off. A sandwich wasn’t going to last you long.”

Sasuke pouted, looking away from his brother. His ears were pink, displaying his embarrassment. Itachi took out his phone and called his mother, telling her that she could find them at the park and they would wait at the bleachers of the baseball field.

They took a seat and Itachi took out his SAT prep book. He was only in eighth grade but he wasn’t planning to go to high school. He already took most high school courses online through a program provided by the county. His mother wanted him to go to school for the social aspect but he never really got along with other kids.

“Why doesn’t father see me?”

Itachi put his book down and looked at Sasuke who was drawing a line in the sand with his shoe.

“He never comes to my recitals. Or my tournaments.”

Itachi frowned.

“That’s not true─”

“Yes it is. He goes to your tournaments. But he’s always too busy for me.” Sasuke bent his head even lower. “Mom says he talks about me all of the time and that he says he likes my playing but he never shows up. He never goes to my recitals so how can he like it when I play the piano if he’s never there.”

Itachi sighed inwardly. There was not much he could say in his father’s defense that hadn’t been said before.

“What? I’m not good enough? I go to all of your recitals.” Itach feigned hurt and watched as his younger brother sputtered out that he was more than good enough, face flushed bright pink. “You know, Shisui and Izumi want to hear you play.”
“Shisui doesn’t have to come.” Sasuke turned his nose up, looking haughtier than a grade schooler should. “And Izumi would make too much of a fuss. You know she likes when little kids dress up.”

“You’re just annoyed that she likes to play dress up with Sakura Haruno.”

“We were busy!” Sasuke defended himself, ears burning red now. “She can’t judge properly if Izumi keeps pulling her away to mess with her hair and stuff.”

Itachi chuckled and held out his hands in defense as Sasuke pushed him and prattled on his complaints about his older brother’s best friends. He was distracted from his problems with their father, which is what Itachi was hoping for.

He knew his brother so well.

That wasn’t the case anymore. He didn’t even know what was going on with Sasuke and his cousin and why they were fighting. He couldn’t think of a single place that Sasuke would run away to now. Sasuke never came to him with his problems or talked to him nowadays. Itachi still only knew vaguely about Sasuke’s experience in Oto. Itachi stared out at the Konoha night scene, wondering when it was that Sasuke became an enigma.


Chapter Twenty: It’s Always More Complicated

Addicting. Slowly, the taste of watermelon lip gloss was becoming addicting. Sasuke’s eyebrows furrowed, both in confusion of how appealing he found something sweet and from a pleasant kind of frustration kissing Sakura always caused.

Sakura grinded her hips in a circle, causing another sort of frustration.

“No.” Sasuke reprimanded her, holding her hips tight so that she couldn’t move. She lost their race through the woods so she had to go at his pace not hers.

“I want to touch you too.” Sakura had a way of murmuring her complaints that made Sasuke want to give in to her requests.

“Maybe later.” Sasuke lifted her off of his lap so that he was at eye level with her navel and unzipped her short sleeve hoodie. He dipped his head down and pressed hot, open mouthed kisses on her stomach, trailing up her torso.

Sakura gasped when Sasuke pushed her sports bra up and cupped both of her breasts in his hand. They were starting to fill out and weigh heavier in his palms. He slid his hand around her to her back to push her towards him. He kissed the freckle on her right breast, now sitting under the swell. His favorite freckle. A mark on her body only he knew about.

Making sure to keep eye contact, Sasuke twirled his tongue around a pink nipple and sucked gently, watching as Sakura’s face flushed red and her eyes teared up from frustration.

“You’re acting like such an ass right now.”

“Ass?” Sasuke’s hands slid down until he reached her backside and he squeezed, causing Sakura to whimper.

“If you don’t hurry up someone might find us here,” Sakura attempted to get Sasuke to stop with his teasing touches.

“No one’s going to find us.”

Sasuke placed a kiss between Sakura’s breasts. He pressed another kiss a little lower and then lower, lower, and lower more, bunching the waistband of her shorts in his hands and sliding them off. He pressed a kiss to the inside of her right thigh, nipped at it and then sucked the spot. Another mark only he would know about.

“We’re perfectly hidden away.”


“I’m not lying. I really don’t know where they are!”

Itachi narrowed his eyes at Naruto. He stared at him for a while, waiting for Naruto’s resolve to break. Naruto looked down at his feet and rubbed the back of his neck.

“If I knew where they were I would have brought them home already.”

Itachi sighed, knowing that Naruto was probably telling him the truth. Sasuke hadn’t come home last night and hadn’t showed up for school, breaking his perfect attendance. To make matters worse, Sakura was also missing.

Mebuki Haruno had come storming into the Uchiha precinct and banged on his father’s office door. There was a lot of muffled shouting and then she stormed out of the station, her victory rolls falling out of place and red in the face. Itachi entered the office and saw his father’s eye twitching, almost unnoticeably. It was the only detail that proved he wasn’t as calm and composed as he was pretending to be after his encounter with Mebuki.

“I’m surprised that you don’t have a GPS tracker on Sasuke’s Jeep,” Naruto mumbled. “And he said he’s fine and that he’ll come home soon didn’t he?”

During his search of the city, Sasuke texted him hours after he had stormed out of their house telling him that he was fine and that he just didn’t want to be home at the moment. Itachi tried to call him after that, hoping he would finally answer the call, but it went straight to voicemail.

“Yes but he didn’t clarify what soon meant. Our mother is worried sick and my father is fighting with Mrs. Haruno.” Itachi rose from Naruto’s computer chair and made to leave. “We need to find them soon.”

When Itachi entered the hallway it felt as if someone was watching him. He looked down the hall where the door covered with a curtain of gold chains was cracked open a bit. The cinnamon colored hair of Naruto’s cousin could be seen through the spaces of the chains.

“I don’t know anything.” Karin slammed her door shut before Itachi could get the question out of his mouth.

Loyal to a fault these Uzumakis…

Itachi made his way back home. It wasn’t too long of a walk but the cul-de-sac he lived on was uphill.

The hill was perfect for sledding during snow days when no one was likely to be driving around. When Itachi’s parents chose the property at the top of the hill to tear down and rebuild, the hill was never taken into consideration. It wasn’t until Sasuke was old enough to go out and play on his own did Mikoto start to show concern.

“I told Fugaku not to buy him that skateboard!”

His mother had been so livid when Sasuke came home bruised and scratched up from crashing into one of the neighbors down the hill’s pick-up truck. At the age of eleven, Naruto and Sasuke had the smart idea to tie a rope to the back of Naruto’s bike and sort of pull along the person riding the skateboard.

The two hadn’t considered the hill in their plans and Sasuke rolled past Naruto and Naruto panicked and tried to swerve and brake which lead to the both of them getting injured. Sasuke hit a truck and Naruto crashed into a wooden fence with his bike.

Itachi stopped in his tracks and looked down the hill. The house right at the bottom still had a wooden fence, freshly painted white only a few weeks ago. He chuckled remembering that seven years ago Naruto’s punishment had been to paint the part of the fence that had been damaged from his crash.

And Sasuke got his skateboard taken away of course.

Mikoto had confiscated the skateboard and had stowed it away in the garage. She never did want him to have it. She thought they were too dangerous but Fugaku had gifted the skateboard to Sasuke, some type of reward or something. Itachi couldn’t remember what for exactly. Only that it was sitting in Sasuke’s room one day when he got home from school one day.

As quietly as he could move, Itachi snuck upstairs before his mother could corner him and ask him if Naruto had said anything. Mikoto wanted to hunt him down and bring him home. Fugaku was fine with waiting until he got home.

Itachi wasn’t sure why he was so confident that Sasuke would be coming home soon or at all.

Itachi paused in turning his doorknob when he heard music coming from across the hall. Puzzled, he knocked on the study’s door.

“Come in.”

Itachi opened the door and his father shuffled folders on his desk. Pulling his reading glasses on top of his head, Fugaku clasped his hands together and rest his mouth against them. Itachi almost did a double take. Sasuke looked like their mother while he, himself, took after their father but the gesture threw him off.

“Naruto doesn’t know where he is.” Itachi spoke slowly, concentrating more on the light piano music coming from the computer’s speakers.

“I didn’t expect he would.” Fugaku sighed and pulled another folder from his pile to read through. “If Naruto knew where Sasuke and Sakura Haruno were I’m sure he would have led us right to them, intentionally or not. Sasuke would have known better than to share his location.”

Itachi left the doorway, finally entering the room. The closer he got to his father’s desk the more familiar the music started to sound. It was pleasant and cheerful. A gentle piece and yet not something he would expect his father to listen to. Itachi didn’t even know what type of music his father favored. He didn’t seem to be the type to listen to music and form an opinion on it.

“It wouldn’t matter anyway because I know where he is.”

Itachi’s eyes widened as he stared down at his father who had continued to work. When Itachi didn’t respond, Fugaku peered up at him and raised an eyebrow. Itachi’s look of shock melted into a glare and Fugaku once again sighed and removed his reading glasses.

“I just found out. I forgot about the location feature on iPhones and it turns out that Sasuke has turned his phone on momentarily.”

“Why haven’t you said anything?”

“Because he’ll come home when he’s ready to. He’s not that far away. Somewhere in a residential area of WesKo. Where Kakashi Hatake just happens to live.”

“Kakashi Hatake?”

“Yes. Your brother did always like him.” Fugaku made a noise that Itachi could only describe as a snort. “We’ll have to apologize to him when he comes around for your next appointment.”

“Obito checked with Kakashi last night.”

“I’m sure Sasuke wasn’t there last night. Knowing Obito, he would have pushed himself into Hatake’s apartment and would have ended up finding him.” Fugaku ran a hand through his hair and Itachi narrowed his eyes. Yet again, another gesture that reminded him of Sasuke. It was odd how it was much easier to notice now.

And why couldn’t he remember where he had heard the song playing before? It had repeated again. His father was playing it on a loop.

“You don’t work in the study often.”

“Your mother doesn’t like when I bring work into the bedroom.”

Itachi had noticed that his parents were drifting apart again. Ever since Sasuke had started working his mother was in a better mood most days and freer with her affection for his father when they were around the house. It all stopped instantly after Sasuke ran out of the house. Itachi was thrown off when he saw his father brushing his teeth in the joint bathroom between his room and the guest room.

Izumi had told him that they had been fighting. She tried to summarize everything for him but that she wasn’t sure what the final straw was because she didn’t hear Fugaku’s answer.

Itachi knew what the answer was: silence.

His parents were the type for quiet affection. Secret looks and they communicated in a way that made outsider’s think they were communicating telepathically. It would not have surprised Itachi if his mother felt hurt and greatly insulted that his father would do something behind her back and then refuse to talk about it. Especially after finding out about another secret.

But that’s what their family was full of: secrets.

Itachi could observe and come to his own conclusions when it came to his family members and he was usually right. But he was starting to lose the ability to figure out their secrets. And as someone who kept his own secrets, it wasn’t hard to see when others had them.

And Sasuke had them. His father had them. They were piling up and Itachi didn’t even know where to start with cracking them. Maybe with just a simple question, that had been bothering him since he came into the study.

“That’s a nice song.” Itachi nodded toward the computer. “Who’s the artist?”

Fugaku smirked and leaned back in his computer chair.

“You can’t tell? You were there when he performed it.”

Itachi raised an eyebrow to hide how taken aback he was. It made sense now why the piece sounded familiar but he was a little discomforted by the fact that he couldn’t recognize a song that Sasuke had played before.

“When I became police chief, the time demands made it even harder to make it to recitals or to tournaments. I didn’t even have time for a single basketball game.” Fugaku closed his eyes, mouth drawn into a tight line. “I asked Sasuke’s instructor to record his rehearsals and events.”

There. The answer to the CDs in his father’s filing cabinets.

“Your mother use to scold me for spoiling Sasuke too much.” There was twinkle in his father’s eyes when he opened them. “After performances, especially ones he placed in, I would always buy him something I remembered her telling me in passing that he wanted. Usually small things, like CDs for those bands he likes. I got him that record player when he was fourteen. An iPod Classic when he was fifteen. But nothing was worse than getting him that skateboard when he was only eleven. Mikoto hated that thing. I had to take it away. Gave him that video game thing he use to carry around in his pocket all of the time to replace it.”

Now that was a secret Itachi wasn’t prepared for. He felt a little ashamed now, thinking that all of the wonderful things in Sasuke’s room were things their mother had bought him. Ashamed for thinking his father had no interest in his younger brother other than making sure he was a perfect Uchiha son.

“Buying his guitar was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. I don’t know anything about music or instruments. I didn’t know what would be best to get your brother and I wanted it to be a surprise. A gift for for the highest scorer in Oto Prep’s basketball team, and he was only a freshman. I just entered the store and walked around a little, unsure of what I was doing until a sales associate took mercy on me and asked me if I needed help.”

Itachi chuckled along with his father. He could picture his stern father glaring at the rows of hung guitars, trying to figure out exactly which one Sasuke would like.

“Rustles of Spring.” Fugaku got up and opened up the same filing cabinet that Itachi had in his search of blank discs. “It’s the name of the piece that’s playing right now.”

Fugaku handed Itachi a disc. It read Sasuke Uchiha: Spring Recital, age 11.

“There are two other pieces in there that your brother considered. They’re all amazing, but what do I know, I’m clearly just a doting parent. He ended up doing track two, Rustles of Spring. I always wondered why Spring. Seemed too cliché for your brother, a piece about Spring for a Spring recital.”

Fugaku sat back in his plush computer chair with a slight groan.

“The answer was quite clear when he didn’t throw away that bouquet until your mother told him enough was enough and she wouldn’t stand for any more wilted petals making a mess on his bedroom floor. He liked them almost even more than the damn skateboard.”

Itachi frowned. His mother loved gardening and tending to plants but didn’t like bouquets. Maybe that’s what made the bouquet special? It was the first and only one? But that wouldn’t make sense because other people like some of the girls that were in competition with his younger brother, smitten with the quiet dark eyed boy who played piano, would gift him roses.

Roses that he wouldn’t bring home but gave to his instructor. But there was a bouquet that came home. One with flowers like the ones Sasuke asked their mother to help him procure for a certain thirteen year old girl’s birthday.

Flowers that were given back and forth before there even was a Sasuke and Sakura.

“Father? I’m still confused. Why don’t you want Sasuke to date Sakura?”

“Ah.” Fugaku looked down at his silver wristwatch. “I need to be heading to that budget meeting. And I haven’t eaten lunch. I guess that’s what I get for using my lunch break to do work.”

Father.”

Fugaku paused in his packing to look up at Itachi. Itachi just stared at his father, too tired to glare or look upset with him. It felt like they were going around in circles.

“I am running late, Itachi. Now if you’ll excuse me.”

Itachi’s hands tightened into fists. Every time he tried to have a conversation with his father something had to get in the way. His father avoided him every time he tried to bring up the topic.

There had to be a way to get him to stop and talk to him like he just did earlier.


“No.”

Sasuke winced as he got hit on top of his head with the spine of Kakashi’s orange paperback. Sasuke whipped around to glare at him but Kakashi was already turning back to his living room.

“I thought I told you that you’re on the pull out couch. Uchihas get the couch, remember?”

“Not sure I wanna sleep where Obito has been,” Sasuke muttered but followed him into his living room.

A pug was curled up on the couch staring at the television. His head moved back and forth as he watched tennis players return volleys. The way he barked when the audience clapped made it seem like he understood what was going on.

“Come one Pakkun. Teens gotta sleep.”

Reluctantly the pug hopped off the couch and settled himself on a severely chewed on accent chair. Sasuke grimaced, able to picture his mother’s look of horror at the state of most of Kakashi’s furniture.

“You can’t keep him.” Fugaku’s brows were furrowed. It wasn’t his usual angry look, the one that accompanied the pull of his eyebrows. It was more conflicted. But all Sasuke cared about was the words that left his father’s mouth.

“I’ll do all of the work. I can take care of him!” Sasuke pulled the black patched white cat closer to his chest, his small arms wrapping around as much of the cat as he could.

“You can’t always keep an eye on him, Sasuke.” Fugaku gently took the cat from him, cradling it in his arms. “You’re a busy kid. Cats can damage things and you will be held responsible. I’ll find a good home for…?”

“Moo.”

“Moo?” His father looked down at the cat and raised an eyebrow. “I guess that’s fitting. Better than what your mother called him when she found the shards of her crystal vase.”

“Yeah…” Sasuke’s facial muscles quivered, trying to hold back a smile. His mother looked so flustered trying to cover up the fact that she had just cursed in front of him. She wasn’t one to use vulgar language so he knew his mother didn’t appreciate having an animal in her home.

Mikoto didn’t want to disappoint Sasuke but she wasn’t in favor of letting him keep a pet at his age. Fugaku took the role of the bad guy and broke the news to him.

“Okay, so there’s extra blankets in the hall closet.” Kakashi stood up, hands on his hips, staring at the pull out couch. “You can rest for a bit. I’ll wake you up for dinner and then you’ll go home?”

Sasuke grunted in response. He wanted to spend another night away from home but Kakashi had been adamant about him returning, especially since he brought Sakura along with him. He would have waited until it was too late in the day to be turned away but Sakura’s head kept drooping and she had rubbed her eyes a few too many times.

Sasuke was use to going without sleep but his Jeep wasn’t the ideal place to rest. After spending the night talking and curling up in his backseat they decided they didn’t want to go to school and ended up spending the day in River Side. It was a cute little area in River Place right on the river with old timey looking shops where people could go on boat rides or rent canoes. But it was also five minutes away from Shisui’s apartment.

“Really?”

Sasuke looked up and saw Kakashi dash into his kitchen, holding his cell phone to his ear.

“Now’s not the best time.”

Sasuke rolled his eyes. Adults were always trying to get some privacy in the wrong places. When a teenager was out of sight they were out of mind apparently.

“I have two teenagers at my place. I would rather not leave them alone with each other.”

Sasuke scoffed and laid back on the pull out couch. As much as he would like to be lying down by Sakura instead of alone in the living room, it had nothing to do with his hormones. Just silent companionship was all he needed.

Contrary to what his brother had insinuated the evening Sakura had stayed for dinner, it wasn’t as if all he and Sakura did when she came over was fool around. Some nights all they did was curl up together and whisper through the night until they were too tired to talk any longer.

“Looks like one of them already fell asleep.”

Sasuke relaxed his body more. If he continued to appear to be sleeping perhaps Kakashi would stop watching over him.

“Yeah, your cousin is an idiot. Showed up just like you thought he would. Only this time with a girlfriend.”

Sasuke had to refrain from scowling as to not give himself away. He heard Kakashi move about the room and down the hall and then come back to the living room.

“Alright I’ll go see to your mother. If they do anything though you’re paying for the clean up.”

The front door opened up and Sasuke could barely hear Kakashi say something about his dogs being cleaner than Obito before Kakashi’s van was started and then backed out of the driveway.

There was a small creak of a door from down the hall and then there was a weight pushing down on the other side of the pull out couch. A thin arm wrapped around his waist and Sakura sighed contently, snuggling her face between Sasuke’s shoulder blades. Sasuke turned over and pulled Sakura closer to him, tucking her head under his chin.

“I can’t sleep in someone else’s bed…”

“That’s never stopped you before.”

“It’s different when it’s your bed.” Sakura squirmed, trying to get comfortable until Sasuke grunted in annoyance. “I set an alarm on my phone for an hour. Wanna leave before Kakashi comes back?”

Sasuke didn’t want to leave at all. He didn’t want to be at Kakashi’s longer than necessary but he didn’t want to go home.

Didn’t want to go back to listening to the sounds of assisted breathing. Didn’t want to go back to the worried looks from his mother. Didn’t want to see the indifferent look his father gave him when he tried to be the perfect son and then only be met with any change in his father’s expression when he upset him.

Didn’t want to go back to the awkward way everyone in his family tiptoed around each other, trying to keep their secrets secret. Didn’t want to go back to how everything was so disjointed in their family.

“We’re going to have our own place one day.” Sakura brushed his hair out of his face. “Somewhere where we don’t have to hide. Just you and me.”

“Little soon to be proposing don’t you think?”

Sakura’s jaw dropped and her face glowed hot pink. She made a high pitched whining sound and then started to sputter out an unintelligible response. Sasuke let out a quiet laugh that got her clamming up and glaring at him.

“Stop teasing me! You know what I meant.”

“Aa. Just go to sleep.”

They tried to curl up together but then the pug from earlier jumped onto the bed and squashed himself in between the two of them, burying his face into Sakura’s hair and turning his bottom so that it was pressed against Sasuke’s chest. Sakura giggled and patted his small furry body, closing her eyes to finally get some sleep.

A place of their own sounded nice. But it sounded like it meant he had to choose between his family and Sakura. Where was the option where he could have both in his life?


Waking up to Kakashi looming over them and two more dogs having crawled onto the pull out couch was unsettling. In her tired state Sakura had forgotten that she had left her phone charging in the master bedroom and when it rang they had missed it.

Sasuke and Sakura put everything back in order and declined Kakashi’s invitation for dinner. Even though Sasuke wanted to delay his return home, it wasn’t fair to the Harunos to not know where Sakura was.

“You don’t have to come in. Seriously.”

As much as Sasuke would have liked to avoid a run in with Mebuki Haruno, he had to face Sakura’s parents and apologize to them. Partially because he truly did feel sorry for involving Sakura in his personal issues and also because it was what his mother would have expected him to do considering how she raised him.

And it was time to stop hiding away.

“Where have you been?” Mebuki Haruno hissed, she had made her way to them from behind the counter so quickly that if Sasuke hadn’t been watching her he would would have thought that she had jumped  over the counter. “You two had us all worried sick!”

Mebuki gripped Sakura’s face in between her hands and examined her, checking to make sure if anything were wrong. Sasuke’s eyes went wide in panic when Mebuki grabbed his face and pulled him down to meet her eyes and she scanned him the same as Sakura. Once she deemed him alright she exhaled and closed her eyes. Only to open them and start shouting.

“Where have you two been? Did it not occur to you that we might have thought the worst? No phone call, no note. Don’t even get me started on the fact that you kids seem to always have a dead battery and no charger for your cell phones!”

Sasuke took a glance at Sakura from his peripheral. He had purposefully turned his phone off but Sakura was the one that was always letting her phone die. Her face was bright pink from the humiliation of being lectured.

“Mebuki.”

Kizashi had left the kitchen when his wife had started shouting. He nodded his head toward the rest of the café. There were a few patrons having dinner or coffee at tables.

“Maybe you should take Sakura home?” Kizashi held up their car keys. “Make sure she gets something decent to eat and a hot shower. You can yell at her after.”

Mebuki pursed her lips and glared at her husband. She looked like she had a lot more to say but she snatched the keys out of his hands. She pushed Sakura out the front door leaving Sasuke and Kizashi standing in the front of the store among the baskets and shelves of bread.

Sasuke looked up at Kizashi and shifted uncomfortably under his stare.

“I─”

“Take a seat Sasuke.” Kizashi gestured to the bar top at the other side of the counter. Hesitantly Sasuke took a seat on a stool and watched Kizashi enter the kitchen again.

Sasuke sighed and propped his elbows on the counter and cradled his chin on top of his clasped hands. As he waited for whatever it was that Kizashi was doing he stared at the wooden surface. It was now covered with a protective glass but all of the graffiti underneath remained. It took a while but he found Naruto’s initials and a crude drawing of a cup of ramen that smiled up at him. A moment later he found an uchiwa that he had carved into the wood one day while bored.

A plate was placed in front of him carrying a cup of tomato soup and half of a grilled cheese sandwich.

“Thank you but you didn’t have to─”

“It’s Tuesday,” Kizashi cut him off. “It’s the Soup Of The Day.”

Tuesdays. The day that Sasuke had to go to therapy. It also happened to be the day that Sasuke use to drop by the Budding Cherry Blossom after his day at Oto, not wanting to go home quite yet.

Tuesdays had once been the day for french onion soup. Sasuke couldn’t remember when exactly Kizashi had changed the menu but Tuesdays were now tomato soup day.

“Thank you.”

Sasuke ate in silence. The back of his neck felt warm and he felt as if his movements were jerky and awkward now that he was under the scope of Kizashi Haruno’s stare.

“Next time,” Kizashi waited for Sasuke to look up at him, “just crash on our couch. It would save your father from having Mebuki yell at him in his own station.”

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at his girlfriend’s father. What was he playing at?

“You would be fine with having your daughter and her boyfriend under the same roof?”

“So she is your girlfriend!” Kizashi let out a chortle. “I may not be as proper or traditional as you Uchihas but I at least went and introduced myself to Mebuki’s parents when our relationship led into that direction.”

The back of Sasuke’s neck was blazing with heat. Mebuki Haruno might have been one of the scariest women he had ever met but it was Kizashi that always found a way to make him uncomfortable. He wasn’t like any other father he knew.

“You already knew me…” Sasuke muttered. He stuffed a good spoonful of soup into his mouth to give himself something to do in the awkward pause.

“Every year, I send a photo of Sakura to her grandparents.” Kizashi pulled away Sasuke’s empty bowl. “They never respond but they also don’t tell me to stop.”

Sasuke’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Sakura never spoke about her grandparents. There was a shrine in the corner of the Haruno family’s living room that contained photos of Kizashi’s parents and an ultrasound of the baby they had lost. But he had never seen a single photo of her maternal grandparents.

“I don’t think families should live like that.”

No they shouldn’t. Sasuke stared at his hands on the countertop, following the lines of his veins with his eyes. It was getting hard to look at Kizashi.

“I think it’s time for you to go home Sasuke.” Slowly, Sasuke turned his head up to look at Kizashi. “The people who love you are waiting for you to go home.”

The people who love me…

Sasuke slipped his phone out of his pocket and unlocked it. He looked at the red circles with their numbers. A flooding of missed calls and text messages he hadn’t bothered to open.

“Good night Mr. Haruno.”

Time to go home. No more hiding.


Chapter Twenty-One: Hypocrite

There was something so fragile, even more so than other babies, about Sasuke. Fugaku would cradle him in trembling arms, worried that even his breathing could cause his second born to shatter.

Sasuke was such a delicate child. He was always so fussy and particular about how he wanted to be or he would scream with more power than his little lungs should have.

Sasuke slept in his and Mikoto’s room the first year. Fugaku would rise from his bed at the first whimpers. He would place his hand on top of Sasuke’s head and his baby would lean into his touch giving a final whine before settling against him, mewling softly.

There were times when his touch couldn’t settle his child and even if he went to help Sasuke with whatever was ailing him, Sasuke would cry until his mother took hold of him.

It was unsettling and every time Sasuke would wail for his mother, Fugaku felt discouraged. Itachi had never needed him and when Sasuke cried he felt useless.

There was not much he could do for his son.


Silence. For the past twenty-five years Fugaku had woken up to the sounds of his wife pattering around their room getting ready for the day. Today he woke up to silence.

Fighting with his wife wasn’t something that usually happened. It was a rather rare occurrence for them to get into an argument and usually they were settled immediately.

It was strange getting ready for the day alone. Fugaku never really lived the “bachelor life”. He was still living with his parents when he began to court Mikoto. She was the youngest of the girls his grandmother had tried to set him up with but he was smitten the moment he met her. So smitten that he had supported her wishes to go to college instead of getting married after she graduated high school.

Fugaku’s grandparents were against it. They had desired Mikoto to become his housewife and support, but so in love was he that he moved out of his home and got an apartment near the school Mikoto attended. They got married when she was twenty and if the apartment was dirty every now and then or if they had to order out he wouldn’t have minded. But Mikoto had proven to be a menace when it came to cleanliness and disliked take out food.

               “I can do both. Obaa-san will have no complaints.”

And do both she did. She even graduated, belly all round, pregnant with Itachi. She refused to miss a single class even though both her mother and Fugaku’s would have preferred that she stayed home and prepared for motherhood.

Fugaku closed the guest room door, not surprised that the smell of food cooking was missing. Ever since Sasuke had stormed out of the house and Fugaku had angered Mikoto, she had been sleeping in later instead of waking up to prepare breakfast for her husband who was the first to rise and get ready for the day.

Fugaku wouldn’t have minded if Mikoto just needed the rest. But the cold pastry bread and the weak coffee he made, tasted of loneliness.


Sasuke glared at Sakura who was muffling her giggles with her hand. He rubbed his head which was now throbbing from having banged against the window after the bus hit a pothole.

“That woke you up didn’t it?”

“I hate the bus.”

As punishment for running away, Sasuke’s keys to his Jeep were taken away. Originally, Mikoto was going to drive him to and from school but Sakura had convinced him to take the bus with her. Sasuke didn’t mind riding with a bus full of underclassmen but the pick up time was earlier than he would have liked and sleeping on the bus wasn’t an option with how often the bus hit bumps in the road.

“So what’s going on with your job?”

“Naruto…is taking me.”

Sakura burst out laughing at the disgusted face that Sasuke made. Sasuke refused to quit his job despite his father telling him he was no longer allowed to have a part time. Sakura had spent a day helping him navigate public transportation but when he had shifts directly after school it would be impossible to make it on time.

“I still can’t believe he finally got his license.” Sakura’s eyes went wide in horror. Naruto was the worst driver out of all of their friends. He was already one of the youngest so he became eligible for his license after everyone but actually getting his license kept getting pushed back because he kept failing to pass his Behind The Wheel course. “At least he won’t be bugging anyone for rides or taking the bus anymore.”

“I can’t believe his parents actually let him get an orange car.” Sasuke shuddered. The car was an obscene and obnoxious shade of orange. He was dreading having to ride in it later that day.

“I think I’ll take the bus back home. I’m not sure I wanna get in a car if he’s driving.”
“Good call. Wait. Doesn’t Karin usually give you a ride?”

“She’s not going to school today.”

Sasuke nodded in understanding. Karin had been in and out of classes all of last week, much to Suigetsu’s annoyance. Sasuke wasn’t particularly close to Karin so he didn’t know why she was missing and he didn’t have enough interest in the matter to ask Sakura or Naruto if they knew what was going on.

Sasuke was about to nod off again when he felt slim fingers slide down his palm and interlock with his own fingers.

“Just until we get to school?” Sakura cocked her head to the side and smiled softly.

Sasuke just turned his head to the side to look out the window. In response he squeezed Sakura’s hand gently.

Sakura hummed contently. It might have been a loud and noisy bus but at least they were still together.


Fugaku never bragged, but he was so proud of his sons. They were so smart and so talented. So, so, proud of them. Especially of Sasuke. Everything always came so easy to Itachi but Sasuke had to work hard for everything he had. Any praise Sasuke got he deserved for all of his efforts.

Sasuke suffered the fate of being born late in Fugaku’s career so by the time he was ready to enjoy activities outside of his academics his father was unable to be there for him physically to support him. Fugaku had plenty of money to fund Sasuke’s hobbies but it just wasn’t the same.

He had never expected his son to abuse ritalin in order to keep up with his studies. He would never have pushed Sasuke to accept the invitation to attend Oto Prep. The pressure from the school to excel had been too much for his son.

And from him as well.

Fugaku couldn’t deny that he had such high expectations for his sons. He wanted the best for them and knew they had the potential for so much. He didn’t expect them to want to follow in his footsteps and join the force but Itachi had chosen to and Sasuke was on his way to doing so.

He and Mikoto had discovered that Itachi was ill when he was nineteen but at the time it wasn’t as bad as it was now. Itachi got sick more often and his body ached but nothing as severe as now. Or at least the complaints weren’t as obvious as they were now.

A knock on his office door brought Fugaku out of his thoughts. He scowled at his unfinished paperwork and granted his visitor entry. He wasn’t going to get as much work done as he had hoped.

“Hey Uncle.”

Shisui strolled in carrying a white paper bag. He cheerfully placed it on Fugaku’s desk on an empty corner. Fugaku raised an eyebrow in silent question of what his far off relation was up to.

“I brought you something to eat. Sometimes I think you’re worse than Itachi when it comes to feeding yourself.”

“Ah. Thank you. How much do I owe you?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Shisui shook his head. He never accepted money from Itachi’s parents. “I gotta go make sure Itachi has taken a lunch break.”

Always taking care of him…

Fugaku always wondered why Shisui was still single. Some people enjoyed the single life but someone as caring as Shisui would have made a good match for any lucky girl.

Fugaku frowned and dropped his head into his hands. He was starting to sound like his grandmother.

Fugaku had hated all of the meetings his parents gave into, the ones he gave into. Granted it was thanks to them that he was able to meet Mikoto but meeting all of the women that his grandmother approved of and only the ones that she approved of was exhausting. It was the kind of thing he didn’t want for his sons.

But wasn’t that what he is doing to Sasuke?

Fugaku chewed slowly, no longer finding the carry-out Shisui had brought him appetizing. It was already disappointing, nothing ever coming close to Mikoto’s cooking, but now it was like eating sand.

Sakura Haruno. How do you solve a problem like Sakura Haruno? If he separated the young lady from his son she was a marvelous person. If she was his child he would be proud of how smart and ambitious she was and how kind. Sakura had always been such a gentle person and such a charming girl that he was glad that Sasuke had her as a friend.

But she was a pretty━oh so pretty━girl that with a smile that seemed to have his son tripping all over himself and wrapped around her finger. A distraction from Sasuke’s goals is what she was.

Originally Fugaku wasn’t happy with the shift in their relationship because he didn’t believe in dating while so young. Dating was the precursor to marriage and being a teenager Sasuke should not have been thinking of that part of his future. His focus should have been his studies.

Oto Prep was the best school in the region, still was despite the scandal. The school was able to hush up the stories of abusive teachers and the fact that they encouraged students to seek drugs to help them get through the heavy course loads and the weekly exams Oto favored. They made settlements and arranged quick and easy transfers for students that desired them.

Before the scandal came out Sasuke had asked multiple times to be allowed to transfer to the public school. Fugaku had believed that he would receive a better education at the preparatory school despite Sasuke’s claims of it not making a difference, that Sakura Haruno was proof enough that it would not have mattered which school he attended.  That hadn’t sat well with Fugaku who believed Sasuke only wanted to transfer to be closer to the girl. He wasn’t going to allow his son to make such a big decision for a girl, especially not for one he could potentially only have a temporary relationship with.

The Harunos weren’t like the Uchihas. Fugaku had initially looked past the tattoos and wild hair of Kizashi Haruno. He was a kind man, jolly despite being such a burly man. But the way their family operated was unusual for Fugaku and the way he had been brought up. Kizashi and Mebuki were unwed when the Uchihas moved into their newly built home and they hadn’t gotten married until a year after Sakura was born. That was highly improper in Fugaku’s world.

The Harunos were a lot freer than the Uchihas were. They did not care for what society believed was proper. They believed social constructs should not get in the way of the pursuit of happiness.  And that was how they raised their daughter.

If Sakura was one of Fugaku’s children, he would have supported her ambition to be a doctor without hesitation. But as someone that was dating his son it wasn’t completely ideal. She would be busy all of the time and too caught up in her own goals and studies to be able to support Sasuke in his endeavors.

Fugaku didn’t want a temporary distraction for Sasuke. He didn’t want something so fickle for him, especially not with someone who was raised to not care about their reputation and how society would see any possible indiscretions.

But perhaps that wasn’t something he should have ever discussed with a sixteen year old girl that was not his own child.


Mebuki was never one to mince words. She wasn’t typical for what people assumed of a former flower child. She was much more confrontational than her husband who leaned toward punk styles and influences. She didn’t regret shouting at Fugaku in his office and calling him out for daring to tell her child that she was only a temporary aspect of his son’s life. Just a distraction. Essentially calling Sakura a bump in the road of Sasuke’s planned out perfect life.

But she regretted taking it out on Mikoto.

Mebuki should have never taken the fight to the woman who loved her child as if she were her own. Mikoto was overjoyed that her son, whom Mebuki knew was suffering from personal issues alongside dealing with his older brother being ill, had found something that made him happy. Something that gave him some sense of normalcy.

Something that made her own daughter happy as well.

Which was why Mebuki was standing on the front step of the Uchiha’s house holding a strawberry shortcake roulade, listening to the quick footfalls approaching the door.

Mikoto opened the door and the women stared at each other, no words passing between them. Mebuki held out the dessert she and Kizashi had made earlier that day and slid the plastic carton that held it onto Mikoto’s outstretched hands.
“Only because this is my favorite.”

Mikoto’s voice was soft, softer than the small smile she gave Mebuki. She clutched the carton close to her body, as though it were anchoring her.

Mebuki beamed, giving her the smile Mikoto had grown to love after seeing an almost identical one being flashed to her son over the past eighteen years.

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