When Sasuke was younger, silence was a home he lived in.
There was silence when he entered the genkan and slipped out of his sandals. There was silence when he walked the halls of his home. There was silence sitting across from him at the dinner table.
His mother filled the space with the sounds of cooking and washing. She was the pleasant voice that filled the lonely air when Itachi left him behind.
It was maddening how similar Sarada’s and his situations were. Absent father, mother filling in the gaps and reassuring them of their love. All that was missing was a beloved sibling.
It felt good to believe that his father spoke about him to his to mother. It felt good when Fugaku took the time to teach him the katon—the family jutsu.
But there was a terrible ache he could not let go when he was left to wonder what would it have been like if Itachi and his father never had a falling out.
Would he still have been invisible with only his mother’s words to placate him?
It was in poor taste to have these ill thoughts when no personal defense could come from one already long buried.
The last time he spent so much time at home Sarada was only tall enough to press her face into the area above his knee. A couple days in a foreign apartment wasn’t enough to make up for years away from home.
A tugging at his heart, a pull at his soul to the life he made with his wife could only get him so far.
He loved her━loved her so much. But there was doubts that Sarada knew exactly how much, that she was sure of his love.
The only parent he spent time with was his mother and he could not do the things she did for him for Sarada. So many years away caused their relationship to differ too greatly from the one he had with his mother.
He never witnessed how his peers interacted with their own parents. He didn’t care enough when he was younger to notice anyone else and when he was assigned to Team Seven, Naruto was an orphan as well and Sakura…Sakura had only mentioned them once and never brought them up again.
That was likely due to his response to her griping and the crass comment she had made at Naruto’s orphan status. A comment that hit too close to home.
Sasuke didn’t meet Sakura’s parents until he was an adult and stood at their doorstep, ready to introduce himself to the family of the only woman he would ever consider spending the rest of his life with.
At the time he wasn’t so sure what he expected.
Haruno Mebuki was a kind faced woman though she had wrinkles on her proud high forehead from often contorting her face into a frown at her husband’s antics and her daughter’s inability to properly care for herself despite caring for everyone else.
Although she was wary at first, protective as a lioness with her cub, Mebuki was a gentle woman. And it showed in the way she served him extra portions and fussed over the sunken look on his face. He had left that evening with a tight feeling on his waistband and enough leftovers to last him the rest of the week.
He’s sure his mother would have made fast friends with Haruno Mebuki.
Kizashi was the opposite of his wife. He was taller than Sasuke, an odd encounter within Konoha, and although he had also had a kind face his size made him look formidable and imposing. He was a large and burly man but with a booming voice welcomed Sasuke into his home with a clap on his shoulder. He was much sunnier in disposition and friendlier than Sasuke had expected.
But the part that threw him off was his demeanor when he was around Sakura.
Sasuke’s relationship with his own father was so much different than the one of Haruno Kizashi and his daughter. Sasuke was always vying for Fugaku’s attention, trying to be like Itachi━better than Itachi━in order to get the recognition he craved.
It was the opposite with Kizashi and Sakura.
Kizashi showered his daughter with all of the attention and affection he could before Sakura grumbled that he was being “too much.”
Kizashi would joke loudly and embarrass Sakura with a large arsenal of puns. The man was quick with words and used his intelligence to attempt to pull out a chuckle from his daughter no matter how small.
Now he used his way with words on his granddaughter. Unlike Sakura, Sarada was more receptive to his jokes, snickering at her mother and grandmother’s expense whenever her Ojiichan said a clever line.
How easily Kizashi spoke with Sarada. How easily words were returned to him.
“I’m not doing anything special,” Kizashi broke the silence between them. The women chatting in the kitchen and Sarada had disappeared down a hall.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow not sure what Kizashi was referring to.
“You were frowning at dinner. There was a nice look on your face whenever Sarada laughed but then you would sort of get this faraway look afterward. You were quiet. Even more than you usually are.”
Sasuke sighed. If his father-in-law had noticed, Sakura had definitely noticed. His wife didn’t miss anything.
“I’m not doing anything special. I’m not acting any differently than I normally would. I’m just being me. And you should just be you.”
Sasuke left the Haruno home more confused than when he had arrived.
Wasn’t the issue that he was too much himself? That he could not act the way other fathers acted with their daughters without coming off as awkward?
“Still haven’t figured it out?” Sakura asked as they lied in their bed, one of her hands scratching curlicues on his scalp.
Sasuke bit the inside of his cheek. There was no escaping how observant his wife was.
“Just talk to her. That’s all you need to do. Wasn’t that all you ever wanted from your own father?”
All Sasuke wanted when he was younger was acknowledgement. He wanted his father to see him.
It wasn’t until his father was gone that Sasuke realized he wanted to know who his father was. To know what made Uchiha Fugaku, Uchiha Fugaku.
He didn’t know anything about him except for what he learned from other people. That wasn’t an ideal way to get to know one’s own parent.
That wasn’t how his child should get to know him.
And then it all made sense what Kizashi had said.
Sasuke did not need to be like anyone else. Sasuke did not need to learn from anyone else. He didn’t need to act any differently.
He loved Sarada because she was Sarada. Just as no matter how much of a mystery his own father had been, Sasuke still loved him just for being him.
And Sarada, no doubt, loved him just because he was who he was—her Papa.
And as much as Sarada was like Sakura, she was still like him as well right down to the absent father.
Formerly absent father.
Sarada was no longer small enough to only reach his knee. And although she would always be his child, his little girl, she was no longer a child and she should be treated as such. She was a genin, an adult by shinobi standards.
But not an adult by Uchiha standards.
And it was time to rectify that. And it was time for her to learn just another part of what it was like to be an Uchiha. Another part of what made her father what he was.
Because Sarada was not just Sakura. She was Sasuke too. And if she was anything like him then what she wanted wasn’t pet names or to be spoiled in public.
She wanted her father, just the way he was.