Sarada never paid any mind to the guests. She would sigh and look a little annoyed if they were in her way but she would go about her day.
She ignored any cooing and the hands that reached out to her. She used to let them fawn over her but over the past few months she had withdrawn in herself.
Most days Sasuke struggled to get any words out of her. She communicated with him nonverbally and would only speak out when she was adamant about something.
“We’re supposed to go now.”
Sasuke looked around the house at all the dark haired guests. He doubted that they would mind if he left but it was only the first day.
“The festival, Papa,” Sarada insisted, frowning. When her eyebrows drew down a wrinkle would appear between them in the same manner it did on her mother, “We left out food. They’ll be fine.”
“Did we miss any of the lanterns?”
Sarada nodded and pointed to the empty engawa. Sasuke scanned the veranda and not a single one was left. They had lit them all earlier and took them to the family plot right before their guests had arrived. Their home was packed but someone was still missing.
Sasuke was forced to look back down at his daughter who was tugging at the hem of his shirt.
She was giving him that look again. It was the one his wife insisted made her look even more like him but all he saw was Sakura’s features.
It was two days and not all of the guests had arrived yet.
Sasuke wondered if something was wrong. They had made sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Sarada had made sure they followed all of the traditions to a tee.
“Mama says we have to do it like this,” she scolded him whenever he deviated from them a little. Sarada had even slapped his hand once when he didn’t do the cleaning in the exact same method as his wife.
Sarada would frown at him and show him how Mama does everything. He had to hide the way the corners of his lips twitched upwards at her behavior.
It reminded him so much of another bossy girl.
Sasuke would have believed he was seeing things if it weren’t for how easy it was to spot her, how easy it had always been to spot her.
His daughter was chatting animatedly, a smile bright on her face at last.
“He always burns the rice a little,” Sasuke heard her complain. “But Papa makes decent miso as long as he isn’t trying anything with tomatoes.”
Sasuke hung back until Sarada scampered off to find something she needed to share.
“You’re late,” he teased, taking her seat on the engawa by their guest. “And I thought I was supposed the be the one that was directionally challenged.”
“I was just a little lost,” Sakura grumbled.
Sasuke slid his hand across the floorboards, resting his pinky on hers.
“At least you’re here now.”
The scent of senko incense clung to their clothing as they walked the path to the river, Sarada insisted that she would be the one to carry her mother’s lantern and Sasuke allowed it.
“You can carry it next year.”
But he wouldn’t mind if she forgot. He just needed to see the flickering flame dancing within the paper lantern.
“Have a safe trip,” Sarada whispered to the flame, gently placing the lantern down on the water.
Sarada stood by her father on the river bank and they watched all of their lanterns painted with their uchiwa float away into the night.
Sasuke kept his eyes on one in particular, tracking its path as it bobbed along with the lanterns that belonged to the rest of their family.
“We have to go watch the fireworks,” Sarada continued to boss him, her little face drawn into a frown once more. “It’s━”
“Mama’s favorite part,” he finished with her. “After the lanterns disappear. We still have time.”
“Okay.” She nodded, agreeing with him.
Sarada took his hand in hers, leaning slightly on his arm as they watched the drifting lights.
“After the lanterns disappear.”