Kingdom For Two [22-24]

Chapter 22: Always More Going On

Sometimes the combination of pale skin and pale colored hair made it seem like Sakura was capable of just fading away. Even when she was asleep in his bed, rose gold locks all mussed up on his gray sheets, it felt like she would just disappear.

It was like the fear that Itachi would just be gone one morning transfered over to Sakura. And no matter how much he tried to ground her to him there was no way to keep her from disappearing.

College was going to suck.

“What time is your family coming back?” Sakura murmured sleepily. “Hey.”

Sakura’s fingers ghosted across Sasuke’s jawline. A barely there touch that still caused his breath to hitch.

“Probably soon,” Sasuke mumbled, displeased with having to move from the comfort of his bed. “My mother was very specific when she told me her plans for the afternoon.”

Sakura curled up, burying her reddening face into one of his pillows. It wasn’t as if Sasuke’s mother was privy to what exactly the two of them got up to when they snuck around but it was still embarrassing. It was likely that Mikoto Uchiha knew much more than she was comfortable with.

Although the need to sneak around did not change, it felt different knowing that they were going behind the backs of their very aware parents.

Or at least just Fugaku and Mebuki.

There was an acceptance of the fact that two were dating and that nothing their parents said would stop it, but now Sakura couldn’t help but get flustered now that her own mother was cognizant of her sex life.

Avoiding Fugaku was just to avoid the way he would stare at her.

I don’t need another lecture about teenage pregnancy, Sakura groaned into her hands before shuffling around to pick up her clothes from the ground.

“Is Ino still giving you the silent treatment?”

Sakura let out another loud groan and fell backward onto Sasuke’s bed. He just had to remind her.

Sakura’s little excursion was costing her Prom because as soon as she got home she was grounded.

“Yeah. I just told Karin to give my ticket to Suigetsu. Ino thinks I should have fought against my punishment more. Something about it being cruel and unusual punishment to take Prom away from a Senior girl.”

Sasuke snorted and pulled his raglan shirt over his head. The white section was thin and Sakura could make out red lines sloping over his shoulder blades and down his mid back.

“Maybe you should change your shirt?” Sakura mumbled, trailing her fingers over the shadows of the lines.

Sasuke turned to face her, catching the pink dusting across her cheeks and the way she wouldn’t look him directly in the eye.


“Wha—? No? Come on Sasuke!” Sakura’s face turned an even darker shade. “Everyone’s going to see—why do you like messing with me so much?”

Sasuke just gave her a smirk and poked her forehead. Startled, Sakura just blinked as she watched him leave his room.

“Hey! Sasuke Uchiha get back here!”

Mikoto exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding after Sasuke had left the room. It was yet another night of him not speaking to his father. They simply brushed by each other, refusing to look each other in the eye.

As upset as she still was with Fugaku it hurt more to know that there was a divide between her husband and son.

When Sasuke  was younger all he wanted was his father’s acknowledgment and now it seemed as if he didn’t even want to be in the same family.

“This is bad,” she thought out loud. She only caught on to the fact she had spoken aloud when Fugaku had turned to face her. Steeling her face into a blank expression, she attempted to hide her embarrassment from him.

A failed attempt. There was no one who knew her like her husband did. There was only a moment’s hesitation before he rubbed the back of her hand with the back of his own hand. He trailed it up her arm in a comforting manner.

Sighing, Mikoto dropped her head against Fugaku’s shoulder and let him pull her against him.

“I’m still mad at you.”

Fugaku snorted but he continued to rub soothing circular patterns on Mikoto’s back.

“I didn’t expect you to stop.”

Fugaku pulled away and brushed his knuckles against her cheek. Frowning , Mikoto turned away and began to clean her kitchen.

Fugaku looked on forlornly as his wife shuffled around the room, going on with her duties to their house.

“How many more times do I need to—“

“I don’t know,” Mikoto wipes her hands on a rag and set it down only to pick it up again and turn into the laundry room to drop it into one of the hampers.

“We’ve never fought like this before. We never fight.”

“I’ve never been this,” Mikoto wrung her hands into her cardigan for something to do with them, “angry. Not with you.”

Mikoto rubbed the back of her neck. The stress caused pain to build up and it just frustrated her more. A larger hand pulled her hand away and replaced it in it’s rubbing. Fugaku kneaded his thumb in the only manner that ever relieved the tension.

“It’s Sasuke you need to apologize to.”

Fugaku’s hand paused for a moment before continuing its previous action.

“You can’t buy your way out of this one Fugaku.” Mikoto turned to face her husband, resolve in her face she held his gaze. “You can’t swipe your card and stay absent from his life. Be his father. Talk to him.”

Mikoto backed away from him, hands clasped together in front of her.

“And I do mean talking to him. Not at him like you’re prone to doing.”

With that Mikoto exited the kitchen, leaving Fugaku to stand there alone.

The smell of freshly mown grass and the tickling of warm breeze always felt like heartbreak. Spring was supposed to be a time of new beginnings but it felt more like something was coming to an end.

Karin watched as the ash collected at the end of her cigarette. When bored she just let it pile up at the end before tapping it off. She had been doing that for the past half hour as Ino continued to gripe about Sakura ruining their end of the school year plans.

“She better be free after graduation for your birthday party. I don’t care how cross her mom is with her, she is not missing that!”

Karin had been so distracted with balancing the ash so that it wouldn’t fall too soon that she almost missed what Ino had said.

“Birthday party?” Karin asked softly. “For me?”

“Well, yeah.” Ino rolled her eyes as if it was ridiculous that she was even asking. “We didn’t do anything last year and you’re turning eighteen so we have to do something special. Sakura better talk to her parents since it was her idea in the first place.”

Karin just gaped at her. There was an awkward silence and then Ino yelped.

“Oh my God, you didn’t know. It was supposed to be a surprise wasn’t it?” Ino tugged on her hair by the roots. “Forehead is going to be so mad!”

Karin snorted and then let out a burst of giggles. Ino flushed pink in embarrassment and puffed out her cheeks.

“Oh wow, Sakura’s right you do look like a little piggy,” Karin teased her. Ino hooked her arm around Karin’s head and neck, dragging here closer.

“Piggy, huh?” Ino dug her knuckles into Karin’s scalp.

“My hair!”

“Take it back!”



Naruto scooted to the other side of the picnic blanket, resting back on his hands and watched as his cousin and Ino wrestled. He looked over at Sai who was eating his karaage and smiling without a care in the world.

Somehow their study plans had turned into a picnic because of the great weather.

“Anyone know what’s going on with our Prom plans now that━” Naruto was cut off by Sai elbowing him. Naruto glared at him and was about to ask him what the big deal was until Sai pointed at Ino.

Ino had stopped messing around with Karin and her attention was directed right at Naruto. She had narrowed her eyes at him, daring him to continue talking about her Prom.

Naruto crossed his arms in front of his chest and pouted. It wasn’t his fault that Sakura had gotten herself grounded. In his opinion Aunt Mebuki was being unfair. He was sure Mamakoto could convince her to let Sakura, if only because she wanted Sasuke to go to Prom as well.

“I wasn’t planning to go in the first place, moron,” had been Sasuke’s response. The two had gotten into a fight because Naruto believed that Sasuke should have gone because his girlfriend wanted to go.

“Alright, I’m over it. I will pause the melodrama for now. We can talk about our it.” Ino combed her fingers through her hair to smooth it back to perfection. “How did you ask Hinata again?”

“I dressed up as Kyu the Fox and wrote Prom with fish cakes in a bowl of ramen.”

“I could kill you that is so bad. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Hina liked it thanks!”

“Well, not like we didn’t already know how low her standards were,” Karin muttered causing Ino to snicker into her hands.

“You guys suck.”

It wasn’t often that Izumi ran into a member of the Uchiha outside of Itachi and Shisui’s immediate families.

Most of them pretended she didn’t exist. They would just pass by her without a second thought.

Not Taiko.

“Matsui,” he greeted her.

Izumi stopped walking. Every time they met he called her Matsui. She loved her father, with all of her heart, but the way Taiko said his surname made it sound ugly. It was as though he meant to insult her.

She was sure he has meant it as an insult.

“What’s your problem?” Izumi turned on her heel and followed Taiko back toward the public parking area.

Taiko kept walking, ignoring her.

“Hey! I’m talking to you.” Izumi gripped his shoulder and pulled hard to spin him around to face her. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.”

Taiko yanked his arm out of her hold. He looked down his nose at her with cold eyes. Cold, dark eyes. Nothing like the deep, warm brown of Shisui or Itachi’s eyes.


Izumi sucked in a breath to calm herself, never averting her gaze.

“I wanna know what your problem is.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest, resolve in her face. “Why can’t you leave Sasuke and Itachi alone?”

“I don’t have time for this.”

Taiko made to leave but Izumi grabbed his wrist. Taiko shoved her into a car in order to break free from her hold again.

“Piss off Matsui.”

“I’m glad Sasuke got you good,” Izumi muttered, rubbing her upper arm. “Hope your eye hurts as bad as it looks.”

“Wasn’t Sasuke,” Taiko mumbled. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and stormed off.

“What?” Izumi gaped at his retreating back. She took one step toward him when someone grabbed her by her elbow.

“You’re smarter than that Izumi.”

Shisui frowned down at her before loosening his hold. He rubbed soothing circles on her arm where she hit the car.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Aren’t you?” Izumi countered.

“I am working if you haven’t noticed,” Shisui retorted dryly, gesturing to his uniform.

“You always do look really sharp in your uniform.”

“Don’t try to be cute.” Shisui crossed his arms and glared at her. “That was really stupid trying to talk to Taiko on your own like that.”

“I can handle Taiko. I’m so sick of him throwing my dad’s name around like that.”

Shisui sighed and patted her shoulder. He was always keeping up a strictly platonic pretense in public.

“A hug won’t hurt anything you know.” Izumi chewed on her lower lip, holding herself tight by the elbows.

“It probably won’t.”

Shisui didn’t move to embrace her. He was the one that was the most guarded about their relationship. Izumi just let out a defeated sigh and dropped the subject.

“Can you at least walk me to work? It’s only a block away.”

“I can do that.”

Walking side by side down the narrow sidewalk, their fingers brushed against each other. If they seemed to be too close, the city’s environment was excuse enough.

At the edge of the Great Room sat a baby grand piano, untouched except when cleaned for the past 3 years.

Sasuke caressed the Uchiha emblem before lifting up the fall.

“Wow. You’re more gentle with it than with me.”

“Shut up.” Sasuke propped his phone against the fall, turning his face away from the front facing camera to hide the redness that was creeping up his face. He was starting to regret this video call. “What song?”

“You know the one I like,” Sakura giggled.

Sasuke rolled his eyes and let his fingers wander along the keys. It had been so long since he touched the family piano. His piano.

“Bear with me.”

“Oh hush. Modesty does not become you.”

It wasn’t modesty that had him hesitating. He grew up with this piano in the house. It was the piano gifted to him when he began to learn to play.

It was the piano he shunned, fingers refusing to dance across the keys, in his chase to be who he thought his father wanted him to be.

“Quiet during performances,” he teased Sakura who was rushing out of her parents’ café to get somewhere quiet so she could hear him play.

“Just play,” she pouted.

“Gladly,” he whispered, letting his fingers fall on the appropriate keys.

The beauty of the design of their home was that despite being quite open it still had its corners to hide behind.

Corners to hide behind and listen as his son once again played the piano he bought for him all those years ago.

The melody was modern, more suited to Sasuke than the pieces he had to play for recitals. A score that Fugaku did not recognize but found beautiful regardless.

This was something that was all Sasuke’s. A talent that no one else in their family could boast. Not Itachi or Mikoto. Not even himself.

And Fugaku found that he liked it just like that.

Chapter Twenty-Three: And If It’s Crowded All The Better

There were some Thursdays that Sasuke expected Inoichi to snap and demand his words. To reprimand him for wasting his time by remaining silent.

Sometimes Inoichi Yamanaka would just continue other work, like shuffling notes for other patients or check in on his wife when he should have been giving all of his attention to Sasuke.

If Sasuke were honest, he usually preferred it when Dr. Yamanaka was focused on other things. That way he could just sit there until the time was up and then go home.

But that was only on ordinary days.

On bad days Dr. Yamanaka’s indifference grated at his nerves. It was just another tactic to build trust between them, to make it seem like he respected Sasuke’s decision not to speak.

But this was neither a bad day or a plain ordinary day. This was a good day.

“I played the piano the other day.”

“Really?” Dr. Yamanaka asked as he set his papers down, swiveling his chair to face him. “Don’t you play when you instruct?”

“I played it and it wasn’t for work.”

Sasuke wasn’t sure what led him to want to touch his baby grand but all he wanted the other night was to press the keys and hear the sound they made.

There was this peace inside of him he didn’t quite understand. He was still going to his father’s choice of school and he was still in the middle of a fight with him where neither one of them were speaking to other. So why did he feel so…elated?

“I’m glad you’re doing something for you. You’re in a much better mood.”

Sasuke’s brows pulled forward in confusion.

“Everything you do has always been about someone else. You should try to set some time for yourself to do things that are just for you.”

Sasuke looked past him, focusing on the pattern of the wallpaper. That was really it wasn’t it? Sasuke was being defiant and despite being ordered to quit working he continued going to work. And with each shift he felt a little more free. Despite his father’s wishes for him to end his romantic relationship with Sakura the two were still dating.

And even though his father was upset and Sasuke wasn’t getting the acknowledgement that he had always wanted, Sasuke had moments when he was somewhat happier.

He wasn’t overcome with joy all of the time but he was content and there was a subtle peace within him.

“—and I noticed that they have an excellent music program.”

Sasuke’s gaze swung back to Inoichi who had continued talking without realizing that Sasuke had been lost in thought.

“What was that?”

“I was just saying how I looked into Senju University because my daughter is attending in the Fall.” Dr. Yamanaka took a sip of water before continuing. “And also because you had shown interest in the past.”

“I was interested in the Tobirama College of Arts and Sciences for their program on criminal justice.”

“And coincidentally the music program falls under the College of Arts and Sciences.”

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Dr. Yamanaka, not liking how he was trapped into this conversation.

“You knew that HSU had the best music program on this coast outside of Oto Conservatory, didn’t you?”

Sasuke refused to answer. He remained silent for the remainder of their session.

“Don’t you think it’s a little twisted that we’re having Prom the weekend before we have our exams?”

Sakura tapped her pencil on Ino’s binder. It was getting harder to get her to focus on studying. She couldn’t blame her. One could only take so much reviewing.

“I still don’t see why you can’t go.” Ino blew air up into her bangs, making them flop up and then back down.

Sakura smiled fondly at her. Leave it to Ino to keep dragging the topic even on the day of.

The two girls had skipped school to study right before Ino had to run off to the hairdresser.

“Even if I tried to talk my mother into changing her mind, I already gave my ticket away to Suigetsu.”

“Right,” Ino mumbled. She drummed her manicured fingers on top of her binder. “Do you think he and Karin might hook up again? I kind of liked the idea of them together.”

“We should let them do whatever they want. Don’t try to set them up. And besides, not all of us have to date within our friend group. You gotta admit that it’s kind of weird.”

“Yeah, you have a point.”

“As long as we don’t all start having kids at the same time I think we’re good.”

“Oooh lets make some bets.” Ino grinned slyly. “Let’s see…I say Sai and I get married first but Naruto knocks Hinata up before they even get engaged.”

Ino!” Sakura’s face flushed red. Leave it to Ino to talk about their friend that way.

“What? The kid’s an idiot. He’s most likely to forget protection.”

“Sasuke says he’s too stupid to figure out how to get someone pregnant.”

Ino snorted.

“I’m sure you’re the only safe one in the group considering Sasuke’s going away for college.”

“Yeah, only an hour away.” Sakura rolled her eyes and pulled out a set of flash cards.

“You’re so confident that we’re all going to stay together forever.”

“Well, Sai and I are definitely going to be together forever there’s no doubt about that.” Ino crossed her arms in front of her chest and flashed Sakura a smirk. “And then there’s the idiot. He can’t get lucky twice so it would be best if he held on tight to Hinata.”

Sakura couldn’t help the burst of giggles. She took one last look at her her notes before shoving them away.

“Okay I’m done. I can’t keep looking at all of these.”

“Have you finished going over your speech?”

Sakura audibly gulped and smiled sheepishly. As class valedictorian she was meant to be one of the speech givers at graduation. She almost wished she hadn’t worked so hard if it meant she didn’t have to stand in front of the entire graduating class and their families.

It made it worse to know that she was following behind their class president and then also Naruto since he was their student body president. The only reason Naruto was even elected into office was because he did so well with speeches.

“You’re going to do fine,” Ino assured her with a pat on her hand.

“God, I hope so.”

“It’s for family only, Mikoto.”

Itachi sighed and dragged his feet away from the kitchen. He didn’t understand why his father needed to argue. The invitations had been sent out weeks ago and nothing was going to be changed within a week.

The commencement ceremony for Konoha Secondary was in one week. The students just needed to finish up their exams and they could say goodbye to high school.

Itachi was glad that he never had to listen to his parents plan his graduation party. His was for graduating college and he hadn’t bothered to show up to his own party. His parents had been angry but he hadn’t wanted a party.

Hadn’t wanted to be the center of attention yet again.

It frustrated Itachi that he still took attention away from Sasuke when he wasn’t even there. Sasuke had played his piano for all of their guests while their father was on the phone and out looking for him.

“We raised our children together. The Uzumakis and the Harunos are coming to Sasuke’s party. That’s final.”

As amusing as it was to hear his mother stand her ground on something she knew his father was against, it wouldn’t do for them to be upset with each other when the day was for celebrating Sasuke. They needed to focus their attention on their youngest son and his accomplishments.

It was about time Sasuke was the center of attention.

“God I hate white.”

Sakura rolled her eyes and zipped up Karin’s dress. She had been complaining every chance she got and had to be forced into the dressing room with a few dresses.

“I can’t believe you guys waited until the last minute to get a dress for graduation.”

“I don’t know why Ino’s trying on dresses she already has like five at home. Why can’t we wear black or something?”

“I only have three thanks,” Ino snapped. “And it’s tradition.”

Ino twirled in front of the three panel mirror and blew her reflection a kiss.

“Man, I look good in everything!”

“You’re such a pig.” Sakura pushed her nose up so it looked like a pig’s snout. Karin made a few snorting sounds which caused Ino to flash her a rude hand gesture.

“I’m too hungover for this,” Karin grumbled.

“Someone had way too much fun at Prom,” Sakura teased. The two of them had used this shopping trip to fill her in on the events of the previous night.

She was sad she missed seeing her friends having so much fun but in reality she didn’t even want to go to Prom.

Going to Prom and dressing up in a sparkly gown wasn’t her. It was one of those things she only agreed to because Ino wanted to go and Karin had as well. Considering Karin didn’t have many friends who were girls, Sakura figured she had to drag herself to the event.

Her parents had given her an out by grounding her. But she knew she wouldn’t enjoy herself completely just going along with what everyone else wanted her to do.

That’s why she found herself jealous of Sasuke sometimes. He didn’t worry about what everyone else did. If he didn’t want to go out with everyone he had no problem saying so.

She just wished he was the same when it came to his family.

There was a redheaded woman Sasuke had never met before being led by the arm by Kushina Uzumaki. There were streaks of snowy white in her hair and she was all sharp angles but other than that the two of them looked like they could have been sisters.

Looking closely at her petite frame and her hooded eyes, he recognized those traits in another redhead.

“Auntie Mariko!” Naruto shouted, raising his arms up and knocking Sasuke’s cap off of his head. He sprinted over to the small woman and wrapped his arms around her, practically knocking her over.

“Careful idiot!” Karin shrieked. She smacked him with her cap until he finally let her mother go.

Someone’s parent called for pictures and the three of them lined up. When they split up by family Sasuke stiffened, uncomfortable yet pleased.

It was unusual for his father to be around for such a long time. And it was weirder for it to be because of him.

“I want to take a picture with Sakura,” Naruto grumbled after the fifth rotation of poses.

The Harunos were speaking to the Yamanakas and Sai and taking photos together. It was the first time Sasuke had seen Sakura’s parents dressed up so formally but his eyes still narrowed their focus to the short figure between them. Even under her graduation cap, her rose gold hair called out to him like a beacon.

Karin looked up at Naruto and then at Sasuke. Neither boy moved toward their friend.

“Oh geez, I have to do everything.” Karin stomped over to Ino and Sakura, her long red hair swinging behind her.

The two of them watched as Ino squealed and trapped Karin in a hug. Ino whipped her phone out from somewhere underneath her gown and immediately began to take selfies with the two shorter girls. After a few shots Karin pulled the two girls by their hands towards the Uzumaki and Uchiha families.

“Hey Ma,” Karin walked right past Naruto and Sasuke to her mother, “meet Sakura Haruno and Ino Yamanaka.”

“Well aren’t you two a pair of cuties.” Mariko was a lot more forward than her daughter had been when she first met the girls and hugged them both.

“I want a picture with everyone,” Karin announced. She called over Jugo and Suigetsu who were standing off to the side. “Where’s Sai?”

“He stayed with my parents.” Ino palmed her face in her hands. “Honey! Over here, come on. We’re gonna take more pictures.”

They all shuffled around each other until they were all positioned just the way Karin wanted it for her photo. She stood in between Ino and Sakura, Ino having leaned in and plopped a kiss on her cheek during one of the shots.

Sasuke wasn’t going to read too much into her purposefully shoving Sakura in front of him and then staring pointedly at his father. Karin Uzumaki was a brave one, he would give her that.

He raised a brow at her, silently questioning her action and she just rolled her eyes.

“It’s my birthday I can do what I want.”

Try telling that to my dad, Sasuke inwardly grumbled. The day had gone so well so far and he didn’t want to push his luck.

Despite what Dr. Yamanaka had said, he didn’t think too much about what he wanted. He made plans already and he was sticking to them.

Why couldn’t they just realize that what he wanted was just for his father to be proud of him and to acknowledge him? Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? It was his life not theirs. Who cared if he used it to live up to his father’s expectations?

Karin tugged at her cardigan sleeves. She felt like her skin was too tight as she stood amongst the crowd of dark haired Uchiha. She couldn’t wait for her blond cousin to come back from using the restroom so she didn’t stand out so much.

“You look ready to bite someone’s head off.”

Karin jumped at the sound of Sakura’s voice.

“Ugh, finally!” Karin hooked her arm with Sakura’s. “What took you so long? I stand out like a sore thumb and it feels weird being here by myself.”

“You could have hid in the laundry room,” Sakura laughed out. She led the two of them to a table with drinks.

“Auntie Kushina would have noticed.”

“I think she’s too distracted helping Ms. Mikoto.”

“I’ve been wondering about something.” Karin forgoed a plate and picked an hors d’oeuvre straight off a platter and stuck it in her mouth. “Why do you call Mikoto that? Like, you call Auntie, well, Auntie.”

Sakura blushed pink and fiddled with the hem of her skirt.

“Well…she’s my boyfriend’s mother. Shouldn’t I be more respectful with her?”

Karin gagged. She drew the attention of one of Sasuke’s relatives who frowned at her before skulking away.

“God. Sometimes you’re too cute you know that. Makes me sick.”

“I love you too, Karin.”

The two of them walked around the Uchiha’s backyard, trying to keep clear of any of the more uptight relatives. Izumi and Shisui found them and they all moved to the far end, just observing the affair.

“I bet Ryuichi won’t let anyone else talk to Sasuke.” Shisui pointed out the stocky man standing next to Sasuke. “He use to do that all of the time with Itachi too.”

“I don’t like him.” Karin narrowed her eyes at the man.

Karin had trust issues but she was usually on the mark when it came to people with bad personalities. There was something about the man that made her stomach cramp up just looking at him smile.

Shisui laughed and ruffled her hair. Karin’s cheeks warmed up at the gesture. Ryuichi made her stomach cramp up but Shisui━and Izumi too━made her chest feel really warm and a soothing tingle to climb up her spine.

“He’s probably going to bore Sasuke with another one of his work stories,” Izumi grumbled. “He’s so convinced people like━Sakura what’s wrong?”

Karin turned to look at Sakura who had gone pale, her freckles standing out even more sharply on her face. Karin followed her gaze to another stocky man that was scowling at Sasuke and Ryuichi.

It only took a second for Karin to recognize him as the cop that use to stalk Sakura around the mall and harass her.

“He’s not going to do anything here, Sakura,” Shisui tried to assure her, stroking her back to comfort her. “Taiko won’t do anything that could potentially embarrass his father, especially in front of the family.”

“He’s a creep,” Karin growled under her breath.

“Please don’t cause a scene Karin,” Sakura sighed.

“It would be best to reign in your emotions.” A strong grip on her shoulder caused Karin to turn around and face Itachi. “We don’t want to make Sasuke look bad today.”

“I’ll be good. I promise.”

It was unfortunate that no one had asked Sasuke to behave. Because as soon the words left Karin’s mouth, Sasuke and Taiko were shoving at each other.

“Shisui!” Izumi cried out for help as Shisui sprinted across the lawn.

Before Karin could stop her Sakura was already making her way over to the two boys.

Goddammit Sakura, Karin groaned inwardly, chasing after her. Where’s Ino to help when Sakura can’t stay out of it?

As they got closer to the chaos, Karin was finally able to make out what was being said.

“Why would I be jealous of your stupid brother, huh?” Taiko snarled out as a set of cousins dragged him away. “The family cripple? He’s nothing but a fa━”

What he was going to finish saying was anyone’s guess. He was cut off by a fist straight to his nose that no one had expected. No one but Naruto who had finally shown up and scooped Sakura up and tossed her over his shoulder so that she couldn’t cause anymore damage.

“What is going on here!?”

Everyone stopped where they were standing, silent.

On the patio stood Fugaku and Minato, Kizashi just behind them. It looked like they had been talking inside before all of the commotion.

“I think we should go,” Karin whispered to her cousin. She placed a hand on his arm and tried to lead him around everyone but there was no way to escape without notice.

“Your son attacked Taiko.” Ryuichi was livid. He marched straight to the patio where the three men were standing. “Is this how you raised your son Fugaku? To start brawls at parties? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of your son starting fights.”

Fugaku turned his gaze toward his youngest son who was glaring at the grass. Sasuke was fuming but refused to look at up at his father.

“And now I hear that the oldest one prefers the company of━”

“And how strange the trend seems to be that Taiko is in all of these confrontations.” Fugaku’s voice was unsettling soft as he cut Taiko’s father off. “What has your son done this time, Ryuichi? Follow little girls around shopping malls again?”

Ryuichi’s face burned red from the mortification. He took a step back, confidence wavering.

“Tell me, is that what you’ve raised your son to do?” Fugaku took a step forward, his gaze never leaving Ryuichi’s. “Instead of being concerned about my son, the son who graduated with honors this week and was accepted into Otsutsuki College, perhaps you should consider figuring out why it is that your son is so concerned with the affairs of my children.”

“And what of that girl?”

“That girl is my daughter.” Kizashi stepped forward from behind Minato. “And the girl your son has been terrorizing.”

The usual jovial expression on his face gone, he stood by Fugaku with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His figure was so much more imposing without the usual happy-go-lucky grin on his face.

Karin peeked from the corner of her eye and saw that Sakura had stopped flailing around in an attempt to get Naruto to drop her. Sakura has tried to keep the incident secret and it was coming out in the worst way possible.

“What the fuck? Did that seriously happen Sak?”

“Shut up Naruto!” Karin hissed.

“This isn’t the place for this discussion.”

No one had seen Mikoto come outside. She had quietly entered the scene and taken her place by her husband’s side.

“Party’s over.”

Kizashi stood by Fugaku’s side until Ryuichi and Taiko stalked past them and out through the side. Minato and Kushina helped Mikoto usher everyone out of their home.

“What’s going on?” Mebuki whispered to Karin as she brought out the cake she and Kizashi had made for the party. She had missed the entire altercation having been next door trying to bring the cake over. “What is Naruto doing with Sakura? Put my child down.”

Naruto finally set Sakura back down on the ground. She didn’t look at her mother, she was too busy watching the Uchihas as they stood in the middle of their backyard.

“Did we come at a bad time?” Obito had just entered with Kakashi and Rin in tow, carrying a large gift box.

“I think it’s time for us to go home as well.” Minato put a hand on his son’s back and gently pushed him into the house.

“What? No what about━” Naruto protested as he was shoved through the door.

“Learn to mind your own business for once,” Karin snapped at him.

“That means us too, blossom.” Kizashi peered down at his daughter grimly. “We have a lot to talk about too.”

“But…” Sakura trailed off as she saw the look on Itachi’s face.

Itachi was avoiding the stares from his family members as he tried to get Sasuke’s attention. He looked so lost and ashamed that Sakura couldn’t help but find it heartbreaking.

Today was about Sasuke and it ended in disaster because someone had to make it about Itachi.

When was something in Sasuke’s life going to be different?

Chapter Twenty-Four: What Would It Take For Things To Be Quiet?

The silence was deafening and Sasuke stared up at his ceiling struggling to sleep. Sometimes his mind would trick itself into thinking that he could still hear the whirring of the CPAP machine.

And then he remembered that Itachi had moved out a week ago.

Sighing, Sasuke turned on his computer and opened up iTunes. He used to need the music to distract him from the wet coughs and whirring coming from the room next door.

Now he needed it to forget that there wasn’t going to be anymore sounds coming through the wall.

Sakura sighed as she stared out of her bedroom window. Sasuke was on the roof again but he was making a point of not looking in the direction of her house.

They hadn’t spoken properly since his graduation party. He was always busy with “family stuff” and couldn’t hold a conversation for long. And then one day she spotted Shisui and Izumi loading boxes into their cars.

Itachi had followed behind them carrying a few boxes of his own while Sasuke chased after him, voice just loud enough for her to hear his anger from inside her living room.

Although she hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to Sasuke about what had occurred at his party she did have the time to analyze everything she knew about Itachi, his girlfriend, and his best friend.

No━scratch that━not his girlfriend and best friend. His girlfriend and his boyfriend. A boyfriend he shared with his girlfriend.

She couldn’t wrap her head around how that worked. She tried to imagine her and Sasuke in that kind of relationship with either Naruto or Ino and neither scenario seemed to work out beyond imagining Ino bringing Sai into it as well and then making everything even weirder.

A cruder part of her could imagine Sasuke saying something about putting his foot in Naruto or Sai’s ass and nothing more. She would sober up and feel ashamed when she realized that she was thinking too hard about the particulars of Itachi’s intimate relationship with his partners.

It wasn’t any of her business, no matter how curious she was about how it all happened or worked.

But the more her mind wandered to the subject the more it made sense to her when it came to the three of them. They were almost never apart and their relationship never seemed to come to those weird halts like the one she and Sasuke had with Naruto when the latter would awkwardly excuse himself whenever they reached the territory where the three of them as a group became the two of them plus Naruto.

Where as Naruto would chuckle nervously and scratch the back of his neck and try to find where he belonged in the new order of things, Shisui stood bold walking right alongside Itachi and Izumi.

Sakura had thought maybe it had something to do with the three of them being adults, real adults, but with the new information she knew it came with the confidence and security of knowing that what he felt for the both of them was returned to him by both Itachi and Izumi.

They all loved each other equally and for some reason Sakura was imagining a venn diagram made up of the three of them. “Love” sat in the middle where the three of them intersected and it was obviously not that of just friends or family.

Love was a funny thing with the Uchiha she was starting to realize. If she broke down everything they did it seemed to boil down to love.

Sasuke fought and he damaged his own body for the love of his father and because of the love he had for his older brother.

Fugaku Uchiha, even with all of his stoicism and his harsh words, was full of love for a son he didn’t know how to talk to but because of that love he would do anything to make his life easier, better.

She knew first hand how easy the words that hurt her came out of him but she also saw the emotion betrayed by his eyes. A trait he shared with his youngest son. They reflected what was in their heart, and Fugaku’s eyes had softened even as he bluntly stated that she wasn’t from the type of background that his family expected of a girl that would stand by his son.

He was the type to do what was needed. It didn’t matter if he liked it or not.

And then even with Taiko. He was cruel and it was all for the lack of love in his own home. Never feeling adequate enough for his own father that wanted a different son, he lashed out at the ones he was compared to and he thought had everything. The looks, the talent, the brains, and even the love of two parents that he wanted.

Perhaps if his father had been a better one to him he wouldn’t have been envious of what Itachi and Sasuke had.

And maybe then he wouldn’t have tried to break the two of them down and rob them of what he couldn’t have.

Sighing once more, Sakura tapped her finger on the glass of her window willing Sasuke with her thoughts to look her way.

Talk to me talk to me talk to me…

His father never brought up the graduation party fiasco.

Sasuke frowned at his dinner. He grit his teeth as the sound of forks and knives clinked against plates, the only sounds at the table. They took to eating in the sun room, the dining room table too large for the three of them.

Too large and imposing and it made the silence at meals that more prominent with all of the space between them.

Sasuke was tired of all of the silence.

The ball was always in Sasuke’s court. But Sakura wouldn’t be Sakura if she didn’t walk over to his side and asked him to play.

It wouldn’t be the first time that she approached him first and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

She had taken this path hundreds of times over the past few years and yet all she could think about was the first time she did it.

She placed one foot against the metal bars of the fence between her family’s property and his and used her upper body strength to pull herself up and she kept moving until she could climb over the scrolled design at the top of the iron fencing.

Quiet and sticking to the shadows, she made her way to the vine covered lattice wall and made her ascent all the way up to the balcony that connected to Sasuke’s and what used to be Itachi’s bedrooms.

She always used the window except for the first time she climbed up the wall. Because just like now, Itachi wasn’t in his room and no one else was home that day.

Only this time she knew Itachi wasn’t coming back home. Back then it was just a fear. Now it was reality.

“It’s too quiet,” Sasuke said in lieu of greeting. He hadn’t even looked away from his ceiling.

Sakura peered over at his desk. The desktop was on and music was coming through the speakers.

“It’s weird. The house feels bigger when it’s so quiet. So empty.”

Sakura sat down on the edge of his bed and removed her shoes. She lifted the duvet and scooted underneath the covering. Without hesitation this time, she wrapped an arm around Sasuke’s waist.

He adjusted his body so that she could rest her head on his chest. They shifted and molded to one another and Sakura was glad for it.

Glad that after these past few years she didn’t have to tiptoe around him and that they were comfortable with each other.

That she didn’t have to take guesses at what was allowed.

Sakura curled against him and he turned onto his side so they could curl up with their legs tangled.

Sasuke sighed into her hair as she nuzzled her face into his shirt.

“Karin finally decided on going to the community college. She was accepted to Suna but she doesn’t want to be so far away from home.” Sakura clutched at the back of his shirt, twisting it in her grip. “I’m kind of glad she’s going to the community college. It means I can still see her every week.”

Sasuke hummed to let her know that he was listening.

Sakura kept rambling, telling him everything that was going on with their friends that he missed in his self imposed isolation.

Her voice filled the space and slowly, Sasuke drifted off to sleep.

With how many times she had been to Riverside to visit the design district and to go shopping, Mikoto had not once visited Shisui’s apartment.

She considered him family and yet she had to put his address in her car’s navigation system in order to locate where he lived.

She felt a little ashamed of herself for that fact.

Mikoto had made her home the center of all of their interaction. She tried to make it a place her children and all of their friends wanted to be in. She set up a media room and she made sure a pool was built into the backyard. There was a fire pit perfect for roasting marshmallows when they camped out back.

But perhaps she should have focused more on life outside of her home.

Maybe then, her son and his lifestyle wouldn’t confuse her so much. She loved him and she would accept him but she was just so lost.

Itachi was with Izumi but he was also with Shisui. And then Shisui was also with Izumi and they were all together.

There was something right about that but still her mind couldn’t process it.

Did that mean Itachi wouldn’t marry Izumi? Because that wouldn’t be fair to Shisui? What about grandkids? Would Shisui’s kids with Izumi’s be her grandkids or would only the children of Itachi and Izumi be her grandkids? Was she allowed to claim all of them?

And what happened during fights? Did one of them have to choose a side or did they sit back and play referee.

“It’s none of our business,” Fugaku had told her. “It’s their relationship. Not yours. What happens inside the walls of their home doesn’t concern us beyond the fact that they are family. They’ll let us know our place in their lives when they are ready.”

Mikoto still felt out of sorts at how easily Fugaku accepted it all. He just grabbed his thermos from her, pressed a kiss to her hair, and then went off to work. All so easily as if it were just any other day.

The only difference was that he no longer spoke of Ryuichi or any plans for their families to get together like they usually did at least once a month.

She wouldn’t have allowed for any more of those get togethers, she refused to allow it, but it was nice to know that they were both on the same page without having to discuss it.

It was his childhood friend but sometimes friendships didn’t have to last long, ties had to be severed.

Mikoto frowned at the lack of available parking in front of the building. It was all meter parking and not a single spot open. She had to circle around the block before she finally found a public parking garage right across from the side of the building.

It wasn’t a very convenient place for her son and Shisui to live. Although if Izumi planned to move in as well it would probably be easy for her to use public transportation to reach the salon she worked at.

How does that work with three? Do they all share the same bed? Doesn’t it get crowded?

“None of my business,” she muttered to herself, not happy that she could hear her husband’s voice scolding her in her mind. She gathered her purse and the tupperware full of homemade dango she had made earlier.

She had purposefully avoided using a disposable container.

Tupperware had to be returned. Which meant that there would be a next time.

Falling into Sakura was easy. It was an act so practiced that loving her was as simple as breathing.

Connecting the dots of the freckles on her thigh, Sasuke traced random patterns onto her skin with the pads of his fingers. He followed them up to her hip and to the scattering up her ribs. They covered almost every inch of her and just like the night sky he could search for them like stars and discover a new one━one he never noticed before━and just have more of her to love.

He adored those freckles.

When he was sixteen and Sakura first laid completely bare before him there was a part of him that had wanted to just try to put his mouth on every inch of skin that was freckled.

But there was a louder part of him that was stuck on how no one in his family talked to him. How he was always left in the dark.

No one told him then that Itachi was sick. No one told him now that Itachi had planned to leave.

The frustration built in him and he imprinted that frustration onto Sakura’s skin with bruises from too rough handling.

“There’s really no reason why this should be okay,” he muttered, too ashamed to look her in the eyes as he stared at the bruises on her hips and inner thighs.

She always bruised so easily and this wasn’t going to be an exception. He was going to have to throw out the sheets somewhere his family wouldn’t be able to find them if he couldn’t get the blood stain out.

“I love you. And that should be reason enough.” Sakura wrapped his duvet around herself. Shyly she added, “Besides, I kind of liked it.”

Sasuke snorted, not quite believing her. He wasn’t going to pretend that their first time was a great experience. It could have been a lot better for her but he wasn’t exactly thinking straight.

“Are you okay now?” Sakura rubbed at his forearm. “Feel a bit better?”

He didn’t feel better. Not then and not now. But for just a moment there was nothing else. Just soft skin and softer sighs.

And the smell of apples.

Sasuke breathed in Sakura’s scent and pressed a kiss to her hair before ghosting his fingers across the top of her thighs and inward.

As easy as breathing.

Sakura gasped out when he curled his fingers and pumped them at a leisurely pace. She cupped the base of his throat, right where his neck met his shoulders and drew him toward her. She pressed soft kisses to his jawline and down his throat and sighed softly against his ear, mewling as he touched her just the way he knew she liked.

She cried out against his chest, pressing opened mouth kisses to distract herself from making any sounds that were too loud as he thrusted into her. Sasuke dropped to his forearms, bracing himself with them to prop himself up so he didn’t crush her.

This was the way he liked it. As close as possible, breaths puffing out against each other’s faces. Alternating between soft and harsh panting until the sound cushioned his ears and all he saw was Sakura.

There in his bed, it was just them in the world.

And just for a moment, everything was quiet.

Sasuke was always best in the dawn.

Sakura smiled softly to herself, her eyes roaming over his sleeping face. His lashes fluttered like butterfly wings in his sleep and his mouth always fell open, slightly parted. He was so unguarded.

This was how she liked him. None of the tenseness of the day remained and he could be at peace.

The sun was barely peeking through the trees that made the boundary of the property line and the only sounds were of Sasuke’s murmuring and little snores with the occasional early bird chirping from somewhere in the yard.

It was so easy when she was the only one awake to pretend that they were the only ones in the world.

Later on in the day she would have to share Sasuke with the rest of the world. But this. This was just for her.

This moment was just for them.

Sasuke’s nose scrunched up when she scooted away ready to get up and go. The lack of her warmth and pressure against his side causing him to stir a bit.

I shouldn’t but…

Sakura laid back down and relaxed her body. She let the arm that was reaching toward her in his sleep wrap itself around her waist.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and leaned against his chest.

It wouldn’t hurt to let herself enjoy the kingdom built up of his soft sheets and his arms and the breaths that puffed out of his mouth onto the top of her head for just a little longer.

Wouldn’t hurt to stay a little longer in their kingdom built just for two.

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? 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 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.


“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.


“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.”


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.


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?” 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.


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.


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.


“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.

Kingdom For Two [16-18]

Chapter Sixteen: Aren’t Trips For Getting Away From Our Problems?

Itachi scrolled through his news app and sighed. Izumi was going to be running late to pick him up. He hated driving into the more urban area of Konoha and usually stuck to the more suburban parts of his neighborhood and of the center known as J-Town, but unfortunately the hospital and the doctors offices he visited were all located in the urban district.

He and his family had a preference for Konoha Hospital Center which happened to be the affiliated hospital for Hashirama Senju University. His father use to mumble his distaste for it. The Uchiha family were known to dislike the other founding family of Konoha despite the fact that there really was no Senju left, with the exception of Doctor Tsunade Senju, a Professor of Medicine and Division Director for Hematology and Oncology.

If she had taken her late husband’s surname of Kato, Itachi was sure his father wouldn’t even have acknowledged that she was a Senju.

“Waiting for a ride?”

Itachi looked up from his phone and saw his friend, Shin Kondo, smiling down at him with a cup of coffee from the hospital’s coffee stand. Itachi smiled up at him and scooted down the bench to make room for him.


“Girlfriend or boyfriend this time?”

“The girlfriend. She got held up in a session about blunt bangs apparently. She’s been itching to practice that on a real person and I’m sure she’ll convince my mother soon.”

“Those are the kind that go straight across, right?” Shin held up a hand to his forehead and waved a cut across the top of his eyebrows. Itachi nodded and Shin chuckled. “I’ve seen a lot of girls with that type lately. I wonder if Sai’s girlfriend will get them. She’s got this long, covering one eye, kind of thing going on right now. She’s got a helluva lot of hair that girl.”

“How’s the fibro?” Itachi put his phone away to give Shin all of his attention. He rarely got to hang out with him outside of sitting around the hospital as they waited for their appointments.

“Killing me. But the Lyrica is actually helping.” Shin rifled through his messenger bag and pulled out a pill case and a bottle of water. “Speaking of, it’s time for me to take it.”

“Are you still going to the group therapy sessions?”

“Oh, yeah. I feel awful sometimes because it actually helps knowing there are people worse off than I am.”

Itachi had first met Shin Kondo when he attended support meetings for people with chronic illnesses. They were some of the youngest members of their group and eventually would acknowledge each other’s presence with slight head nods and waves. It wasn’t until a little later on that Itachi realized that Shin looked vaguely familiar.

One day when he was in the waiting room for his rheumatology doctor, Shin greeted him excitedly and clasped a hand roughly on his shoulder. It turned out that the two of them had a few of the same doctors and that was why Itachi could remember seeing him elsewhere outside of meetings.

They began to talk and as they became friends they found out that they had younger brothers in the same grade and school. Through talking with Shin, Itachi found out that Sasuke had made friends with Sai.

“Why don’t you go anymore?”

“I don’t think group therapy is for me.”

Itachi didn’t feel as if he fit with his group or any other of the support groups. His family was rich and he had the privilege to have access to great medical care and to afford it all. It made him feel slight guilt to try and share any of his issues when there were people that were worse off than he was. Sure, he was very sick, sometimes more sick than the people that couldn’t afford medication, but he had a better chance while it was likely they would just get worse without the medication they needed.

“Your hair is getting awfully long. Last time I saw you it was only skimming your shoulders. Maybe you should get Izumi to cut it for you.”

“I like it long,” Itachi laughed. “How about you? I noticed you gave up hiding the gray hairs and just dyed it all gray.”

“Yeah I got tired of how streaky it looked. Sai keeps making fun of me. He keeps calling me Old Man.” Itachi chuckled as Shin pouted.

“Do you two have any plans for Spring Break?”

“Nope. He’s ditched me!” Shin slapped at his knee in playful frustration. “He’s going on a camping trip with his friends. I’m actually glad. He use to worry me all of the time that he wouldn’t make any friends.”

“I use to think the same with Sasuke. He gives piano lessons and works in music store now. So it seems like he’s doing better.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment. Shin reminded Itachi of Naruto most of the time but unlike his younger brother’s best friend, Shin was much more mature and knew when his companion needed quiet.

“How’s everything with the loves? It’s been, what, like five years now with the three of you?”

“Yes. And everything’s great. It’s so natural now that I can’t believe how awkward it was in the beginning.”

“Who was the brave soul that made it possible again?”

“Shisui,” Itachi laughed. “And Izumi was the most hesitant. I was mostly confused. I almost ruined our relationships with each other.”

“Heavy.” Shin sighed and slumped lower onto the bench. He became instantly alert at the sound of a car approaching. “Oh, look it’s the girlfriend.”

“I’ll see you later.”

Itachi and Shin stood up from the bench. Itachi frowned in confusion and Shin laughed.

“I drove here. I was just waiting with you. Tell the loves I say hi.”

Itachi chuckled once more and shook his head. It was always easy to talk with Shin. A sort of twisted sense of camaraderie because of their similar situations with being chronically ill and having a younger brother.

“Was that Shin? Nice dye job.” Izumi asked when he slid into the passenger seat. Itachi let out a small sigh. The cushioning of the car’s seat was like heaven after sitting on the hard bench. “You should have waited inside and sat in one of the armchairs.”

“It’s nice out.” It was a cloudy and dry day. The sky was gray and there was a gentle breeze. It was a beautiful day for early April considering it was the rainiest month of the year. It was the kind of day Itachi could be outside and enjoy without risking overexposure to the sun. “Shin says hello to you and Shisui.”

“Oh? And how’s Shin?”

Out of the two, Izumi was more fond of Shin than Shisui was. He liked reigning the title of both significant other and best friend and sometimes got grumpy when Shin was mentioned. Shisui could be supportive but he couldn’t relate to Itachi the way Shin could.

“He’s good. I think his brother might be on that camping trip Sasuke left to this morning.”

“Oh, you mean the one that he almost wasn’t able to go on when your father saw Sakura climbing into his Jeep.”

“Yep. That one,” Itachi grumbled. Luckily his mother got involved and rushed the kids away before his father could say anything. Mikoto had put on a cold demeanor and told Fugaku that there was nothing he could do to stop it since Sasuke was paying for his trip on his own and she had already given him permission as his mother to go and have fun.

Itachi didn’t miss the flustered look on Sasuke’s face when his mother had told Sasuke to have fun but to be safe and careful in all of his activities. Emphasis on the word all. He would have passed it off as her normal teasing if it weren’t for the way she smiled slyly at Sakura who was loading her bags into the back of the Jeep.

The back of Sasuke’s neck had turned bright red and his eye twitched when Mikoto skipped over to Sakura and handed her a carton of washed strawberries with the tops cut off. A road trip snack just for her considering Sasuke didn’t like sweet things. Itachi had to hide on the other side of the Jeep for a moment to compose himself. It seemed as if the Uchiha matriarch had discovered Sasuke’s little secret.

At least it was one that seemed to make her happy.

“He brought up our beginning today.”

“Our beginning?”

“Yeah. The beginning of us. Of how we all got together.”

“Ugh. Don’t bring it up to Shisui,” Izumi muttered. Her pretty brows furrowed in annoyance. “He’ll get all smug about being right that it would work out and it’s annoying. He’s better off when he’s his dorky self.”

“I thought you liked when he was smug,” Itachi teased. Izumi’s cheeks burned hot pink.

“That’s in bed. And so do you!”

Now it was Itachi’s turn to have heat build up on his face. Izumi and Itachi were the sweet and gentle type─although Izumi had her moments, her gift to the two of them, or more to herself, on Valentine’s Day was a good example of that─while Shisui was more assertive. It was at odds with his usual happy-go-lucky, puppy like demeanor but it worked for him.

“I’m still surprised that it doesn’t bother you that he was with other people before us.”

Izumi glanced out of the driver’s side window. They were stopped at a red light and she couldn’t distract herself with the road but Itachi knew there would be a slight mist to her eyes. It was a small insecurity that Itachi never faulted her for. It was something neither of them ever voiced out loud in front of Shisui since their first initial fight that had started their polyamorous relationship.

“But he’s ours now. Remember, he took a big risk confessing to the both of us.”

“You mean to you,” Izumi mumbled. Itachi sighed and grasped her chin between his thumb and index finger and turned her face towards him.

“And then you. Just because it came after doesn’t make it less important. It’s not like you had shown interest in him to begin with.”

“Because he was a flirt, Itachi. How was I supposed to take any of it seriously? I mean yeah, it’s fine now but it was off putting then. I thought he was joking and just making fun of me.”

When Itachi and Izumi had started to date instead of fumbling around each other it had left Shisui out or playing third wheel. Before Itachi and Izumi could put any label on their relationship Shisui had come out and confessed his feelings for Itachi who was already feeling confused as it was with how it would work out for him being in a relationship with someone that was allosexual.

It didn’t help that along with his romantic feelings for Izumi growing throughout the years that there was a weird sort of fuzzy feeling in his chest for Shisui that had nothing to do with being friends or him taking on the “older brother” role he had tried to take when they were younger.

Izumi had caught them kissing and was hurt. Itachi felt guilty for being indecisive but then Shisui had caught them all off guard.

“I love you too!” Shisui had shouted at a heartbroken Izumi before she could run off. In her shock she just stood there, mouth gaping open. “I love you too but you only ever see Itachi.”

And then Itachi was the one left there in shock as the two people he loved had to come to terms with the fact that one of them was in love with the other and the other wasn’t willing to believe it. In the end, Shisui was somehow able to convince Izumi that they could all try to be together.

It was a struggle but after a few months the three of them were able to get into the comfortable and loving relationship they now had. A lot of the work mainly had to do with Shisui wooing Izumi and getting him to make her trust him that he loved her just the same as Itachi and not as some baggage that he came with.

It had turned out that Izumi did have a slight crush on Shisui beforehand. It was just nothing she herself took seriously considering her feelings for Itachi and how she felt they mattered more because they were stronger than the small crush on Shisui.

“But you love him anyway.” Itachi relaxed into his seat and closed his eyes. He was tired from his visit to the city and the doctor.

“Yeah, I do. I really do,” Izumi agreed. “And I love you.”

She reached over and stroked Itachi’s hair. The last thing Itachi remembered before succumbing to sleep was the feel of her fingers running along his scalp and the gentle rolling of the car.

Ino frowned as she looked down at the couch’s occupant snoring gently away. With her hands on her hips she got ready to shout at Shikamaru but was stopped by Sai who brought her a cup of vanilla pudding from one of their coolers.

“He did drive all of the way here.”

“Only because Chouji wouldn’t let me drive his family’s van.” Ino sighed and went to sit down at the other end of the couch.  Shikamaru curled up into a ball as if he sensed her approaching in his sleep. “So have we decided who’s getting the rooms?”

When Sai had told Ino about the camping trip that Naruto had planned she immediately argued that the girls should go as well. Kushina Uzumaki had been on her side because she wanted Karin and Naruto to hang out more. She then went ahead and invited Shikamaru and Chouji and convinced their fathers to let them use the lake cabin that their families shared.

Shikamaru wasn’t interested at first and neither was Chouji but neither one of them were good at saying no to Ino. They could try, but she wasn’t going to take no for answer.

“I’m getting my own bed.” Karin crossed her arms and glared at everyone who was still bringing their belongings from their vehicles.

“Yeah, yeah princess,” Suigetsu mocked her, bringing in the fishing gear that Jugo had supplied for the trip.

“Well, we could split up by gender. There are four rooms, three of which have queen sized beds and the last one has three twins.” Chouji had planted himself on the floor in front of the couch Shikamaru and Ino were sitting on. “The girls can take the Ino-Shika-Cho room and the rest of us can split up and share our parents’ rooms. And this couch is also a pull out.”

“I am not sharing a room with this loser,” Sasuke scowled at Naruto.

Sakura had texted Ino so she knew that the ride had not been a pleasant one. Naruto kept insisting on playing Killer B the entire ride and Sasuke had almost thrown Naruto’s phone out of the window. Sakura had called her later to inform her that they had to pull over because Karin was threatening to strangle Naruto because he kept childishly getting into her personal space.

“We could have the couples take the rooms with the single beds,” Suigetsu suggested. “That adds up pretty well and I guess if the big guy doesn’t mind he can take the pull out.”

“There’s only two couples,” Karin said at the same time as Chouji and Jugo looked at each other and asked, “which big guy?”

“Right.” Suigetsu scowled and headed into the kitchen, presumably for a glass of water. Ino thought it odd that he drank so much water when she first met him, thinking maybe he was possibly diabetic and needed to be checked by a doctor, but it turned out that he used adderall for his ADHD and that left him dry mouthed and dehydrated.

“I actually kind of want to sleep out in a tent tonight,” Sakura chirped up. Ino smiled fondly at her and her excitement. It was Sakura’s first time camping. The closest experience she had confessed to having was when she, Naruto, and Sasuke had camped out in Sasuke’s backyard when they eleven.

Ino was about to offer to set up a tent so that the two of them could camp out by the lake when Sasuke nodded and left the cabin. Sakura beamed and followed. Ino blinked in disbelief. She hadn’t expected Sasuke to just go with whatever Sakura had just said. Or for them to have the quickest and most silent discussion she had ever witnessed.

“We’re going with Suigetsu’s idea.” Everyone to look at Shikamaru who still hadn’t opened his eyes. “You can stop pretending you and Suigetsu aren’t a thing, Karin.”

“I don’t like you,” Karin sneered at him.

“Good thing I don’t care.” Shikamaru sat up and stretched with a groan. “The quicker we split the rooms, the quicker I can go to sleep. Leave one of the rooms for Uchiha and Sakura. It might rain or something. And I can take the pull out if you would rather not Jugo. But I do warn you that it might be the better option because of how tall you are.”

“I don’t mind taking the pull out.” Jugo moved his pack to the side where it would be out of everyone’s way.

Ino had stopped listening to the planning and watched as Naruto disappeared up the stairs to the upper floor where three of the rooms were located. Grabbing her duffel bag she followed him up. She found him unpacking his stuff in the room she shared with Shikamaru and Chouji whenever their families came up to the lake.


Ino knocked on the doorframe to get his attention. Naruto looked up from the nightstand he was stuffing his things into and nodded at her. Taking it as an invitation to come in she sat down at the end of the bed he had chosen.

“Funny how you picked out my bed. Good thing too. Chouji would rather stick to his own bed.”

“Why are you up here talking to me?” Naruto frowned at her. Ino’s pale brows furrowed together.

“What’s wrong with me talking to you?”

“You only really talk to me to scold me or because Sakura is around. With the exception of that time in the library. Which I still count as a scolding.”

Ino sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She patted the spot next to her on the bed and Naruto reluctantly sat down next to her.

“You’re in a mood. It was noticeable from the start of the room discussion. Don’t try to deny it.”

Ino waited patiently for Naruto to finally open up. By the time he was ready to talk Sai had already come for Ino’s bag and left to find out what everyone else was doing.

“It’s just awkward. Knowing that they’re going to use this as a chance to do it. I don’t care if they want to lose their virginity to each other on this trip but I don’t want to hear it.”


Ino had been sure that Naruto was still in his funk about Sasuke and Sakura. He had been doing so well and getting along well with them and she heard from Sai and Sakura that things were going well with his girlfriend. But he was in such a weird mood ever since they started talking about splitting up the rooms.

She hadn’t expected for him to still be in the dark about how far his best friends had gone in their relationship. Ino had to applaud Sasuke for not kissing and telling.

“What’s that face for?” Naruto’s frown deepened. Ino snapped back to focus and noticed him looking at her.

“It’s not my place to say anything. And it shouldn’t bother you what they do.”

“It’s not that they bother me in particular. I don’t wanna hear you either.” Naruto’s face twisted in disgust. “And I don’t want to hear whatever the fuck is going on with Karin and Suigetsu either.”

“Oh.” Ino nodded her head thoughtfully. Maybe Naruto was taking all of this better than she thought. She was just being presumptuous about him needing support. It was completely understandable that he wouldn’t want to hear anyone having sex. Hell, she didn’t like hearing other people have sex. “Wait. What makes you think those two are still virgins?”

Curiosity had gotten the best of her. Ino wanted to know what made the person that should have been closest to Sakura and Sasuke so sure they hadn’t become sexually intimate when that wasn’t the case.

Naruto’s face turned a brilliant shade of red and he coughed.

“Well, there’s no way Sakura would have ever done it with anyone that wasn’t Sasuke.”

Ino nodded her head in agreement. She propped her elbow on her crossed knees and rest her chin on her fist, leaning forward.

“And Sasuke is…Sasuke.” Naruto scratched the top of his head and his face twisted in thought. “He’s never been into girls or interested in porn. Even seeing him kissing her was weird. Like watching a dog walk on his hind legs.”

“God you’re a moron.” Ino patted his knee and stood up. “Well, I have to go and make sure Sai hasn’t started moving furniture around or something.”

“Yeah, you do that. I’m going to rest for a moment.” Naruto lied back on the bed.

“Oh and Naruto.” Naruto opened one eye to look at her. “There should be a pack of earplugs in the bottom drawer. I don’t know about the others but I make no guarantees about Sai and me.”

“I hate you.”

“Love you too!” Ino waved at him and flounced out of the room.

Sakura was cheerfully whistling in the kitchen, pulling out the graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows they had packed for s’mores when a pair of arms wrapped around her middle and squeezed her tight.

“Whatcha doing, Forehead?” Sakura giggled as Ino slurred her words. Ino dropped her head onto Sakura’s shoulder, already too drunk to stand up properly.

“Sasuke just finished making the fire so I came in for some stuff to make s’mores.”

“S’mores!” Ino chirped happily, mumbling against the crook of Sakura’s neck. Sakura patted Ino’s head gently, amused at her behavior. “I would love suma, suma…suma mores. S’mores. Yeah s’mores.”

“I don’t think you should be near any fires right now.”

“I’ll be careful I promise. And you could always feed me.” Ino nuzzled her face against Sakura’s. She became quiet and Sakura though she had settled down or fell asleep standing until Ino let out a squeal. “Shiny!”

Ino yanked clumsily at the thin leather cord around Sakura’s neck until Sakura took pity on her and held the pendant hanging off of it up to her. Ino stared in awe at the thin, inch long silver rectangular prism hanging from the cord.

“Pretty! But kind of masculine at the same time.” Ino squinted at the katakana characters on the prism and started mouthing something to herself. “Fuck I’m drunk. Just had to have this written in Japanese instead of English, huh. I swear that says ‘Sa’ but when I read the whole thing it says Sasuke. Sa-Su-Ke. Sasuke.”

“What about me?”

Sakura carefully shuffled in place until she and Ino were both facing Sasuke who was standing with his arms crossed in front of his chest looking quizzically at the girls.

Ino gaped openly at him, eyes unblinking. Sasuke frowned and raised an eyebrow. When Ino still didn’t blink he waved his hand in front of her face. As soon as he made the movement Ino shot forward, hands going for his neck.

“What the fuck!? Yamanaka, get off.” Sasuke gripped her shoulders hoping to fend her off but she had already pushed forward and grabbed at the thin leather cord around his neck.

“Ino!” Sakura wrapped her arms around her waist and tried to pull her away.

“Stop! Stop, stop, stop.” Sasuke removed his hands from Ino’s shoulders and Sakura quickly dropped her hold on Ino. “Here. You’re just going to strangle me or break it.”

Sasuke pulled the cord over his head and handed it to Ino. Ino snatched it from him and held up an identical pendant to the one Sakura had dangling from her chain. She mouthed to herself and then nodded.

“Here.” Ino attempted to give the necklace to Sakura. Sakura laughed and Ino frowned, thrusting it in her face. “It says Sakura. See. Sa-Ku-Ra. Obviously this one is yours. So switch them back.”

“They’re couple necklaces, Beautiful. They’re meant to have the other person’s name instead of their own.”

They all turned to look at Sai who was sipping nonchalantly from a red cup on the other side of the kitchen.

“You were here the whole time and you didn’t help out?” Sasuke asked, exasperated. He shook his head and took back his necklace from Ino whose brows were furrowed in confusion.

“You two seemed to have a handle on it.” Sai shrugged. Sakura glared at him and he smiled widely at her.

“You should have just written Sa-Su-Sa-Ku on both. Sasusaku. Makes more sense to me.”

“We’re not one of those celebrity couples that mash our names together, Ino.” Sakura helped Ino adjust her clothes after they had gotten twisted up in the scuffle. “They were a birthday gift.”

“Uh, but it makes sense. Think about it. Sasusaku.”

“Sure, hon.”

“Awww!” Ino wrapped her arms around Sakura’s shoulders and squished her cheek against hers. “She called me ‘Hon’. What does she call you Sasuke?”

“I’m going to go grab the idiot and tell him we’re making s’mores.” Sasuke grabbed all of the food Sakura had pulled together and left the kitchen.

“Was it really a birthday gift?” Sai had finally decided to help with Ino and got her a glass of water. Ino downed the glass and then leaned against Sai for support. Because of the camping trip she wasn’t wearing her usual heels and her head was able to rest snugly in the crook of his neck.

“Yep.” Sakura’s cheeks warmed up and she toyed with her pendant bashfully.

“Good idea, bad execution. I would have gone for something less ugly.”

“Shut up, Sai!” Ino snapped out of her sleepy daze and pinched Sai’s cheek. “It’s adorable.”

Sakura rolled her eyes and grabbed a six pack of strawberry ale she had chilling in the fridge. It was the least gross of any of the beers that the group had brought with them. Once she had everything she needed she headed outside to the lakeshore where she and Sasuke had set up a tent and started the fire.

She didn’t take what Sai said about her necklace to heart. He was always saying mean things to rattle her and she knew it wasn’t ugly. Sure, she would rather put the pendant on a delicate silver chain but she wanted it to match Sasuke’s necklace perfectly.

Both of them did originally come together on a chain but she split them so that she and Sasuke could match. He tucked his under his shirt all of the time and she had to reluctantly do the same on occasion but the made Sakura very happy.

“Sakura!” Sakura looked up from poking at the fire to find Naruto and Sasuke heading toward her. Naruto was carrying a portable campfire grill.

“What’s that for?”

“Like Sasuke is going to eat a s’more,” Naruto snorted. “I brought some tomatoes to grill for him.”

“Hn.” Sasuke sat down next to Sakura and she had to guess whether the red of his ears was out of bashfulness or just the glow reflecting from the fire.

“This is fun.” Sakura took one of the prongs and jammed a marshmallow at the end to toast.

Sakura had never gone camping before. She had camped out in Sasuke’s backyard when she was younger but her parents had never been available to actually go camping and as much as Kizashi would have liked to have let her go with the Uchihas and Naruto’s family, Mebuki refused to let her small child have an overnight trip somewhere far away. The farthest she was able to go away from home was to have a sleepover at Ino’s house which when she lived in her single story home and then the flat she was always a ten minute drive from Sakura’s house.

Naruto burped loudly and then collapsed on the blanket they had laid out, his head against Sakura’s shins. Sakura was curled up with her head in Sasuke’s lap. She reached over and slapped the top of Naruto’s head for being gross.

“When are we supposed to get our acceptance letters for HSU again?” Naruto whined through his slurring. He was always the fastest to get drunk but he was also the quickest to recover. It didn’t help that he had been busy playing drinking games earlier.

“Well Mr. Legacy, if you get accepted, your letter should come at the end of the month.” Sakura sighed. She had applied to HSU as well and that was her first choice. She already received her acceptance letter for Suna University which was her second choice. Sakura was also accepted into Iwa State, which was so far it might as well have been clear across the other side of the country, but she refused to go there, so it was a good thing she was already accepted into Suna.

She really wanted to go to HSU but Suna was still a pretty good school and at least she would know Temari and her brothers if she attended. Shikamaru had also been accepted to SU so at least she wouldn’t be lonely four hours away from home.

Sakura still felt as though there was a high probability that she would end up going to KCC, Konoha Community College, if she didn’t get into HSU and then just transfer after she got her Associates Degree.

Two of the scholarships she applied for only worked if she were accepted into Hashirama Senju University. She really wanted to get into the Senju School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Did you apply to HSU, Sasuke?” Naruto tried to pull him into the conversation. Sasuke had gotten even quieter than usual when Naruto brought up college letters.

“My father expects me to go to IOC.” Sasuke ran a hand through his hair. “But yeah, I did.”

Indra Ōtsutsuki College. It was the college that all of the men in Sasuke’s family went to if they went to college, which was a majority of them. It was an hour away from Konoha, closer to where the currently were in the valley.

“You’ve been accepted already.” It wasn’t a question. Sakura saw the defeat in Sasuke’s eyes and knew that Ōtsutsuki had already sent their acceptance letter to Sasuke.

“I hid the packet in my nightstand drawer. I haven’t told anyone yet.”

Meaning he hadn’t told his father yet. Which wouldn’t have mattered. It was likely that Fugaku Uchiha already knew.

“Looks like Naruto fell asleep. Help me move him into the tent.”

“God, he’s heavy,” Sasuke commented although he lifted Naruto with ease. Sakura helped Sasuke tuck Naruto into a sleeping bag. If she let him do it on his own Naruto would probably have been dumped on his head.

“Ready for bed?” Sakura set up the second sleeping bag. Sasuke shook his head and ducked under the flap and left the tent. Sakura followed and tugged on his hoodie’s sleeve. “Hey. Want to go for a short walk?”

“Stay with Naruto. He’ll freak out if he wakes up alone.” Sakura rolled her eyes and held tight to his sleeve.

“He’s going to be knocked out until morning. And then he’ll be the luckiest of all the morons that got shitfaced tonight because he’ll just wake up all hyper and without a hangover like he always does.”

Sakura slid her hand into Sasuke’s and interlocked their fingers. She squeezed his hand and nodded her head towards the lake’s edge. Sasuke rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand and rolled his neck, stretching it. He looked down at Sakura who was smiling up at him encouragingly.

“Just a short walk. Then you gotta go to sleep.”

“We’ll walk until you get sleepy.”

The sun came up before they crawled back into their tent and curled up next to Naruto who was snoring away, unaware that they had been missing.

All Sasuke wanted to do when he got home was crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of Spring Break.

He couldn’t find a moment of peace unless he went on a hike by himself so he was irritated most of the trip. It was a weird camping trip. Most of the time he felt like he was far away from everything whenever they tried to do group activities. Like he wasn’t really there.

Karin and Naruto had gotten into a fight sometime while he was on a hike. He wasn’t sure what it was about but it made them silent the entire trip back. It apparently wasn’t Karin’s week because she was avoiding Suigetsu the entire trip as well. In their case it was weird for Sasuke that those two weren’t fighting.

“What the fuck?” Sasuke rattled his doorknob again, confused as to why his bedroom door was locked.

“Oh. You’re home.” Sasuke looked over toward Itachi’s room. Itachi was standing in the doorway. “Wait a second.”

Sasuke slumped against the wall and waited for his brother to walk into his own room and use the deck they both had access to from their rooms to enter his bedroom and unlock it.

“Why was my room locked?” Sasuke pushed past Itachi as soon as his door opened. He headed straight to his nightstand and pulled open his drawer. His large white envelope from IOC was left untouched.

“I locked it while you were away so that Father couldn’t enter and snoop around again.”

“Again?” Sasuke’s eyes widened and his brother’s mouth drew into a tight line.

“He came in to look for something a while back. He hasn’t in a while but I wanted to be safe.” Itachi closed Sasuke’s door and then took the white envelope from Sasuke. He opened it up and read the first few lines of the acceptance letter before tucking it back inside the envelope. “Why haven’t you said anything about getting into IOC? Congratulations.”

“I don’t want to go there.”

“Really?” Itachi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “It’s a great school.”

“So is Senju University.”

“That’s where you want to go?” Itachi’s voice was soft but Sasuke could hear the concern in his voice.

“They have an amazing Criminal Justice program. I want to be accepted into the Tobirama College of Arts and Sciences and join their program. Is there anything wrong with that?”

Itachi gave him a gentle smile and handed Sasuke his Ōtsutsuki package back. He ruffled Sasuke’s hair and then gripped his shoulder.

“No. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as it’s what you want to do.” Itachi yawned and rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. “I’m tired and I’m sure you are too. I’m going to take a nap.”

As soon as Itachi left Sasuke plopped down on his bed and he stared at the white envelope. He shoved it under his bed, not wanting to see it anymore.

What I want to do, huh?

Sasuke collapsed onto his bed, arms spread wide.

What do I want to do?

Chapter Seventeen: I Guess This Is Growing Up

The e-mail had come in while she was in her Topics class. She had flailed her arms around and gripped onto Ino’s arm to ground herself to reality. Sakura clapped a hand over her mouth to contain her squeal of excitement.

“You’re going to break my arm!” Ino hissed, tugging her arm free of Sakura’s hold. She rubbed her arm, red blooming on her milky skin. “I’m sure you bruised me Forehead.”

“Check your e-mail!” Sakura nudged her arm. Glaring at her, Ino whipped out her phone and opened up her e-mail. After a few seconds of scrolling she found the e-mail from HSU. Ino opened it up and let out a scream.

“Miss Yamanaka!” Their teacher, Ms. Adair, shot up from her desk, her half moon glasses dangerously close to falling off of her face and blonde curls bouncing around her head from the suddenness of the action.

“I got in!” Ino ignored her and continued to squeal. “I got into Senju University!”

“Congratulations, now may we please have silence.” It was a demand, not a request, and Ino rolled her eyes. Ino closed her binder, no longer interested in reading her articles.

Sakura made a tutting noise at her but she too could no longer act as if she were interested in creating her flash cards for their class’s debate coming up. Now that she had her e-mail from Hashirama Senju University all she had to do was wait for her acceptance packet that would be arriving in the mail in the next few days.

Ino and Sakura were the first ones out of their trailer classroom as soon as the teacher dismissed them after the bell. Ino wanted to go tell Sai and Sakura was looking for Sasuke and Naruto so they split up when they entered the building.

Sakura spotted Naruto at his locker stuffing his textbooks into the top shelf. Sakura ran up to him and jumped onto his back.

“What the─!?”

“I got in! I got in!”

Naruto had to grip tightly to her thighs to keep from falling over as he tried to keep balance. He ended up slamming a hand on the lockers in front of him to hold steady.

“Do I even want to know what you guys are up to in the middle of the hallway?”

Sakura and Naruto looked up to see Sasuke attempting to get into his locker. He only tilted his head slightly in their direction and raised an eyebrow. He was always the outwardly calmer of the three. Sakura was seen as the “mom” friend of the group because of her constant nagging and fussing but it was really Sasuke that was the one that watched over the two of them and made sure they kept in line even if it was only to make sure they didn’t embarrass him anymore than they already did sometimes.

“Did you guys check your e-mail?” Sakura hopped off of Naruto’s back and she reached for Sasuke’s phone in his front left side pocket. Sasuke swatted at her hand and gave her a look before pulling his phone out himself. Sakura rolled her eyes and carefully took his phone from him, unlocking it to open his e-mail application.

“E-mail for what?” Naruto scratched the top of his head and then frowned at the judgemental looks from his best friends. “What?”

“The one for Hashirama Senju moron.” Sasuke sighed and hung his messenger bag on the hook in his locker. “Did I get one?”

“Would it really be a surprise that you got in?” Sakura held up his phone so he could see his e-mail announcing the arrival of his acceptance package in the next few days.

“I told Hina I wouldn’t open any college stuff without her. She wanted to share in the excitement considering her father had her apply to Trinity and she’s not looking forward to that letter.”

“You didn’t tell us she was Catholic.” Sakura racked her brain for anything that may have hinted to it. She couldn’t remember a single thing but Naruto did say during their Winter Break that she had spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her family so it was possible.

“She’s not. Trinity is one of the few colleges for women left in the country though. I think guys are only accepted into their School of Education.”

“Ouch.” Sasuke gave Naruto a look full of pity and shook his head. “So you guys aren’t going to go to the same college then.”

“Yeah, but it’s better than her being sent to Japan for school.”

The three of them headed down the hall toward the gymnasium and locker rooms. The boys had to head to the weight training room and Sakura was meandering before she headed off to her Human Anatomy elective. It was that time of the year where even she couldn’t focus on school. All she wanted to do was hang out with her friends and enjoy the weather.

“Senioritis,” Naruto said seriously when Sakura voiced her complaints about going to class.

“That’s not a real thing Naruto.” Sakura playfully pushed his shoulder. “You go through this every year at any moment.”

“It is too a real thing!” Naruto protested causing Sasuke to snort. “Shut up jerk! Watch, even you will start daydreaming and stuff.”

“It wouldn’t be daydreaming. It will be some form of dissociation for me.”

Naruto’s mouth quirked to the side and he tried to exchange a worried look with Sakura who was frowning at Sasuke.

“I’ll see you after school?” Sakura asked, pulling on Sasuke’s cardigan sleeve.

“I have an appointment.”


Sakura pouted but she chose to let it go. She would give him his space especially considering the fact that he was going to need all of his energy to deal with Naruto. There was no doubt that he would use their elective class to complain about how unfair Hinata’s father was. That was sure to drive Sasuke mad and then Naruto would call her later to complain about how unfair Hinata’s father was and how mean Sasuke was to him.

“I’ll see you guys later,” Sakura sighed out and turned to head back down the main hall to head to the science hall.

Sakura watched as Karin took another cigarette and stuck it between her lips. With trembling hands she tried to light it up and when the lighter wouldn’t ignite she threw it into the lake. Sakura sighed and pulled out her own lighter and lit Karin’s cigarette for her.

Although Sakura didn’t smoke she always carried a lighter with her. It was one of those things her father told her she should always carry around in case of emergencies.

“Fuck!” Karin choked out. She sucked in a deep inhale of air and belted out another curse.

After class Sakura had run out in search of Karin. She hadn’t answered any of her texts asking if she had received any e-mails from HSU. Sakura eventually found her storming towards her car, a red faced Suigetsu shouting insults after her.

“I just want to go to sleep,” Karin finally said after breathing out a long trail of smoke. “I want to go to sleep and wake up and find out this day never fucking happened.”

“You got into other schools.” Sakura placed a hand on Karin’s shoulder attempting to comfort her. “And they’re great schools. And being waitlisted isn’t that bad. You could still get in.”

“Sakura. Don’t try to be optimistic. Leave that shit to Naruto. It’s weird when you’re not your usual realist self.”

Sakura’s hand slipped off of Karin’s shoulder. Sakura stretched her arms over her head and let her body fall backward onto the grassy hill overlooking Lake Izuna.

“It’s just so un-fucking-fair. Ino got fucking in and she’s not sure if she’s actually going to go into psychiatry like her father or if she’s going to study floriculture.”

“I think you should leave Ino out of it. And Naruto.” Sakura added the last part when Karin opened her mouth. It was an awful position to be in considering in reality Karin should have been a strong candidate, much stronger than Naruto even if he was a legacy.

“Maybe I should have done more extracurriculars. Or more volunteer work or something, anything, to beef up my chances.” Karin covered her face with her hands and fell back to lie next to Sakura, letting out a long wail of a groan on her way down. “But I was working so much. I needed to work so much.”

Sakura stayed silent, letting Karin gripe. Anything she said would just set Karin off and cause her to get mad at her. She knew Karin worked so many hours because she refused any help from Naruto’s parents. If she had her way, Karin would be paying rent to the Uzumaki-Namikaze household.

“I can’t even afford to go to IOC. It’s a private college and I don’t even know why I applied to go there. I’m just going to have to go to KCC.”

As far as community colleges went, Konoha Community College was an amazing one. Getting an associates degree from there increased the chances of acceptance to any of the state colleges and credits were so easily transferrable. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Karin had to go to KCC and then she could always transfer to HSU.

“But stupid Hozuki is going to KCC to take up welding.” Karin let out another frustrated groan and scrambled for her pack of cigarettes. Sakura had had enough of her chain smoking and snatched it away from her.

“No. What’s going on with you and Suigetsu?”

Karin glared at her. Had it been Naruto or Suigetsu she would have wrestled them for her pack, not holding back at all. Considering Karin had seen what Sakura could do to defend herself she wasn’t willing to take the risk. She kind of liked looking the way she did.

“Nothing’s going on.”


“No, really, nothing is going on.” Karin ran a hand through her hair and then turned to look at Sakura with a small frown on her face. “I had to cut things off. I like fucking Sui, I’m not going to lie about that, but I don’t like him like that. I thought we had an understanding that our relationship was just physical but it should have been obvious that he couldn’t separate sex and feelings. Does that make me a bad person? That I don’t like Suigetsu but I like to have sex with him.”

Sakura took a moment to think about that. It was odd for her to contemplate because she had to push aside her own experience and relationship with sex. She couldn’t picture herself ever being intimate with anyone the way she was with Sasuke. It wasn’t just a physical thing but something she felt all the way down to her bone marrow.

When she came together with Sasuke it wasn’t just a chase for release but a conversation between just them. A somewhat desperate conversation with pleas that their feelings were coming across to each other with every brush of fingertips and lips on each other’s flesh.

But Karin wasn’t Sakura. She was her own person with her own feelings and beliefs. And none of those were hurting Sakura in anyway. Yes she felt bad for Suigetsu but considering how blunt her friend was, she was sure he was made aware of what their relationship was. He had expectations and they were ones that Karin had repeatedly told him that they weren’t going to be met.

“No. That’s just you. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have sex without love. Is that why you’ve been avoiding him since our trip to the valley?”

“Sui doesn’t like me like that either. I think we’ve just been sleeping with each other for too long and he hasn’t slept with anyone else while we’ve been fooling around. And even if he did like me I wouldn’t date him. He’s the only guy I’ve been with and I can’t say it’s because of romantic feelings. I…I’m sure it’s just because I don’t care about what he thinks about my scars, whether they gross him out or if he accepts them. He’s the only guy I can be naked around but it has nothing to do with comfort or trust unfortunately.”

Karin rolled over and brought her knees up to her chest. She tucked herself into a small ball. She was loud and standoffish and harsh like the angles and edges that made up her petite body but in this moment on the grassy knoll with Sakura there was a vulnerability to her that she never showed. There was an exhaustion rolling off of her small frame that made her seem so much older.

“I don’t care about romantic love. Why do people make such a big deal about it?” Karin muttered into her knees. “I love my family and I love my friends. I have a passion for chemistry and I’m a hardworker. Fuck romance. I’m more than that. I’m bigger than that.”

Sakura nodded and patted Karin’s head, stroking her hair. Hair that was always surprisingly soft. Soft like how Karin actually was inside, despite the tough exterior she showed the world.

“Your boyfriend is an asshole, Sak!” Naruto slurped his boba tea angrily and Ino scrunched up her nose in disgust at the sounds he was making.

“Keep it down you moron!” Sakura smacked him with her rag before turning around to wipe down a table. The shop was currently clear of customers but her parents were still there. “And stop calling me that.”

Naruto and Ino were hanging out at her parent’s café while they both waited for Sai and Hinata. He somehow had dragged Ino and Sai into a double date. Sakura was surprised at how willing Ino was to share her precious time with Sai considering he was his busiest since his art showcase was just around the corner.

“Well, he is. He ignored me all throughout weight training the other day and has been ignoring my texts and I really wanted him to hear me out even if he would have been completely useless and have no advice.”

“Advice for what?” Sakura turned around, hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow at him.

“Uh…” Naruto’s cheeks burned red and he leaned across the table and whispered to Ino. Sakura had to lean down in order to hear as well. “When do you think it’s appropriate to, uh, try and make a move? Like that kind of move?”

Ino burst out into a fit of giggles and Sakura gave her an exasperated look. Naruto pouted, his face burning even redder.

“Don’t be mean, you guys. See this is why I wanted to talk to Sasuke. Yeah he would have been a jerk but at least as a guy he probably understands that problem.”

“Did he Sakura? Like have a problem with finding the right moment?” Ino asked, a mischievous smirk on her face. Sakura’s cheeks puffed out in a frustrated pout. It was so typical of Ino to take the opportunity to tease her.

“Wait? Sasuke’s not a virgin!?” Naruto stood up fast, knocking his chair over with a loud clang.

“Naruto Uzumaki!” Mebuki called out from behind the front counter. “Behave yourself in my shop!”

“Sorry Auntie Mebuki,” Naruto grumbled, picking up the chair and straightening it. He groaned in frustration and buried his face into his arms which were crossed on the table. “How the hell did he lose his virginity before me?”

Sakura was going to go back to cleaning up the rest of the tables but was stopped when Naruto peeked up at her from his arms and glared at her.

“I blame you.”

“What?” Sakura’s eyes went wide in confusion. Ino clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle another burst of giggles from coming out.

“You heard me. I bet it was your idea.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sakura narrowed her eyes at him and Naruto sat up, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Oh please, Sasuke is the pure one in your relationship. I should have known you would seduce him as soon as possible.”

“Again, what is that supposed to mean!?

“I should have known you would be a dirty woman the moment I saw that weird comic with two guys in your backpack that one time.”

Ino quickly got up and hooked her arms under Sakura’s armpits to hold her back. As amusing as everything was, she didn’t want to be a witness to her best friend murdering their blond idiot.

“So how did it all go down?”

“Like I’m telling you!” Sakura hissed, kicking and squirming in Ino’s hold.

“Ino.” Naruto turned his attention to Ino, determination in his eyes. “I can get you tickets to that art show that Sai wants to go to. My dad was invited to it and he can ask for as many as he wants.”



“Relax I’m not going to tell him anything.” Ino released Sakura and patted the top of her head. “But I can help him with seducing his girlfriend. I help you get laid and you help me make Sai a very happy guy.”

“Deal.” Naruto went back to calmly drinking his boba tea but after a moment he gripped his hair and groaned in frustration. “Great. I lost my bet to Sai.”

“What bet?”

“I was so sure that Sasuke would be a forty year old virgin and Sai said it was likely that he would have sex before I did.”

“Is that really the kind of stuff you talk to my boyfriend about?” Ino frowned at him before daintily taking another bite of the fruit tart she had ordered. “I hope you’re not teaching him weird things again.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh really? Then what about─” Ino was interrupted by her phone ringing. “It’s Sai. He must be ready to be picked up from the studio.”

“It’s over in River Place right?”

“Yep. So we gotta get going.”

Ino and Naruto started to clean up their things and pack up their stuff when Kizashi came over and gave them each a baggie of cookies.

“Congratulations you two.”

“Aww, sweet!” Naruto pulled out one of them and munched on it. Ino grimaced at his loud chewing and examined the icing on the sugar cookie. A few of them had the Senju crest, the university’s insignia.

“Thank you uncle.” Ino pulled on Naruto’s arm and dragged him out of the shop. They were already running late to pick up their dates.

“Time to clock out, blossom.” Kizashi handed a baggie to Sakura. “For that other friend of yours.”

“But Karin didn’t─” Sakura bit her tongue to stop talking when her father chuckled. “Oh. Right. Thanks, Papa.”

“Now go clock out. You’ve been here all day. I know you’ve been wanting to watch the mail box.”

“The mail truck doesn’t come around until four.”

“It’s five.”

“What!?” Sakura headed to the kitchen, untying her apron as she walked. “I’ve gotta go.”

“Is she finally leaving?” Mebuki teased, poking her head through the serving hatch. “I thought we would be stuck with her all day.”

“Ha!” Sakura stuck her tongue out at her mother and dashed out of the shop, the bell on the door ringing furiously after slamming closed.


“Yes, dear?”

“Why aren’t you shocked that Naruto Uzumaki just implied that your daughter has been sleeping with the Uchiha boy?”

Kizashi looked down at his tiny wife and chuckled nervously at the frown on her face.

“Cookie?” He held up a plate of his flawed HSU sugar cookies.

Kizashi.” Kizashi sighed and placed the plate on the counter.

“Does it really matter?”

“You know what that man thinks of us.” Mebuki ran a hand through her short blond locks. Her frown caused the wrinkles on her wide forehead to deepen and she looked older than she actually was. “I don’t want you encouraging their relationship. Our families are too different.”

“That’s kind of hypocritical don’t you think? Considering our relationship.”

Mebuki threw a rag at him and made a huffing sound.

“You know what I mean. We’ve watched that boy grow up. His family is tight knit and traditional and his father is always calling us hippies. I don’t want my child to be hurt when he eventually chooses his family over her.”

“That won’t happen.”

“I haven’t spoken to my parents in years. Almost twenty-eight years. I don’t see any Uchiha doing that. You know how they are with their filial piety.”

“I still don’t see why they can’t be friends.”

“You know damn well that what they have going on isn’t friendship,” Mebuki snapped at him. She sighed and smoothed the front of her apron to calm down. “This is what we get for working all of the time. I should have stayed home and taken care of Sakura all of these years and─”

“And what? And be miserable as a housewife? Just constantly worrying about our finances and how I’m doing here in the shop?” Kizashi reached over and tweaked his wife’s nose through the serving hatch. “And you staying home wouldn’t have changed the fact that the boy lives next door.”

“No but maybe she wouldn’t have been at his house all of these years. We practically gift wrapped our child and handed her right to him.”

“Right, because she isn’t almost exactly like her mother.” Kizashi grinned broadly. “Like Naruto said, Sasuke Uchiha is such a nice pure boy. It’s most likely that our daughter was the instigator.”

Mebuki’s face flushed pink and she threw her note pad through the serving hatch at him.

Sasuke knew he wasn’t going to make it home when the mail truck visited his neighborhood. His shift at Music & Arts didn’t end until six-thirty and the mail truck would have gone by at four because it was a Saturday.

He had asked Itachi to check the mail and pull out anything addressed to his name but it was most likely that his mother would get to it first.

I am not ready for this conversation, Sasuke groaned inwardly as he kicked off his sneakers into the foyer closet. He still hadn’t brought it up to his parents that he had applied to schools other than IOC.

Sasuke stared at his shoes and then reluctantly straightened them. He might as well try not to get on his mother’s bad side. As he fixed them on the rack he noticed a pair of light blue rain boots with yellow ducks on them.

What the fuck?

“Mom?” Sasuke called out, shuffling across the marble tile toward the great room. “Is Sakura Haruno here?”

“She and Itachi went over to Izumi’s house to visit her mother.” Sakura was in the kitchen turning off the stove. “Your mom asked me to watch over her pot and make sure you ate.”

“Why are you here in the first place?”

“Itachi caught me going through your mail and invited me in for tea. I ended up hanging out with him until they left.”

“You went through my mail?”

“I didn’t realize that Itachi was on the look out for your HSU package as well,” Sakura laughed nervously and started opening cabinets to look for a bowl. Sasuke loomed over her and opened the right one and pulled down two bowls.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know. Don’t be all irritated. Itachi already lectured me about how illegal that was.” Sakura poured the mushroom soup into both of the bowls and placed them on the bar top of the kitchen island. “Now come eat. Your mom insists you have soup today with how the weather is.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“And I wasn’t asking.”

Sasuke glared down at her but Sakura stood her ground and pointed to the barstools.

“I will spoonfeed you.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

Sakura gave him an icy smile and reached for his bowl.

Sakura. I was joking.”

“I thought so. But you really should eat.” Sakura hopped onto a barstool and pulled the bowl she served for herself closer. “Your mother made this yummy soup just for you.”

Sasuke snorted but slid onto the barstool next to her. Because of how tall he was he just needed to pull it under him unlike Sakura who had to literally hop onto hers.

“I’m sure she made it with you in mind as well. Remember she made it that one stormy day when she had to take Itachi to the a follow up appointment? She said she needed to fatten you up because you’re so skinny.”

“I’m not that skinny,” Sakura grumbled.

Sasuke just smiled to himself and took a gulp of soup. He was sure the choice of soup had more to do with Sakura than him. Ever since Sakura had turned vegetarian his mother cooked with vegetable broth and tried to make vegetarian safe dishes. His mother hadn’t needed to prepare food for her in a while but she kept up the habit of preparing a vegetarian option, just in case.

He wondered if it was because she hoped he would bring her around more often now that she knew their secret.

When they finished eating Sakura took their used dishes and washed them.

“My family won’t be back until late I suppose. Want to hang out upstairs for a while?”

Sakura tilted her head up to look at him as he towered over her, trapping her between him and the sink. She bit her lip and averted her gaze.

“I told your mom I would leave after you ate…”

Sasuke sighed and laid his chin on top of her head. Her hair smelled more like rain than her shampoo.

“You can wait until the rain clears up.”

“I live next door, Sasuke…” Sakura shifted so that she could look up at him. Her cheeks and nose were a warm pink. Sasuke was sure if he reached over and touched her nose that it would be cold as ice. “But maybe…I should just stay and warm up a bit…?”

Sasuke grabbed her hand and pulled her along, leading her to the stairs. He paused at the bottom of the stairs and took her rain boots of the closet in the foyer. He took them with him as they continued up to his room.

When they reached his room, Sasuke dropped her hand. He opened up his walk-in closet to hide her boots. Closing the door to both his closet and room he watched as Sakura made her way across his room to the door to the deck that both he and Itachi had access to from their rooms.

While she was busy watching the rain fall, Sasuke logged into his Mac desktop and opened iTunes. It was a habit he was unlikely to ever break. If he was in his room, music had to be playing. Sasuke looked up from his desk and turned to Sakura. She was tracing the droplets of rain running down the window panes of the door.

It was such a nostalgic sight. It had been a long time since Sakura had been in his room on a rainy day.

“Naruto called me a dirty woman today.”

“That’s random.”

“He wanted advice on how to bring up sex to Hinata I think. Ino’s helping him. I don’t think they talk about it but he wants to sleep with her. Guess things are going well between them.”

“Can we not talk about the idiot’s sex life? Or lack of one in this case?”

Sasuke placed a hand on Sakura’s hip, sliding it under her shirt and stroking her stomach. With his other hand he covered the one she had on the door. He placed a slow and soft kiss on the crook of her neck and shoulder.

“He blamed me for you having sex before he did.” Sakura pouted at him as he slid his hand lower, unbuttoning her jeans. Her breath hitched as his hand slid lower, underneath her boyshorts. “It was…it was something about me supposedly seducing you and─ahn!─I’m trying to have a conversation here Sasuke!”

“You can keep talking.”

Sasuke slid his fingers even lower, teasingly stroking her entrance and then sliding back up slightly to play with her clit. He alternated between touching her bundle of nerves and stroking the velvet softness of her nether lips.

“That makes it kind of hard to talk,” Sakura whined. She stood up on her toes and backed up so she was against Sasuke’s crotch and started to grind her rear end, trying to match his pace.

“He’s right though. You are to blame.”

“What!?” Sakura whipped her head up in a tilt to glare at him. Sasuke was smirking down at her, obviously only teasing. He sank his fingers inside her and she let out a high pitched mewl. Sasuke pumped his fingers at a moderate pace, spreading them every so often to stretch her out.

Sakura had to use both of her hands on the door to keep steady. Her legs buckled from his touch, causing a small rumble in Sasuke’s chest, a barely concealed chuckle.

“Maybe we should get in your bed?” Sakura panted as Sasuke picked up the pace in his thrusting. “It would be warmer under the blankets.”

“Yeah…” Sasuke muttered into the crook of her neck. The situation at hand was starting to feel familiar.

“It’s kind of cold,” Sakura murmured, visibly shivering.

“Then stay away from the door.” Sasuke dropped his book on his face. It was difficult to concentrate on his reading assignment when Itachi was out of the house for his doctor visits. If he went to KSS instead of Oto Prep he wouldn’t have had to have started school a whole month earlier than his friends and his mother wouldn’t have told him to stay home to work on his homework instead of joining her as she took Itachi away from the house.

“You guys leave the air conditioning on too high.”

There was a dip in his mattress and he shifted the book off of his face, watching as Sakura curled up under his blankets. He watched her settle in, amused at how at home she was in his bed.

“Don’t go to sleep.”

“I’m just trying to get warm.” Sakura wiggled her body until she was as close to Sasuke as possible. “You’re warm. You should warm me up.”

“I know it wasn’t the first time we had sex but you were the one that asked me to warm you up the following chance we ended up sleeping together.” Sasuke pulled his shirt over his head. He could feel his necklace falling back onto his chest with with a small thud. He only noticed it because he was hyper aware of it at all moments.

“I didn’t mean it that way and you know it.” Sakura glared at him as she shimmied out of her skinny jeans. Sasuke reached over and helped pull them off of her calves. “I was thinking that we could cuddle or something.”

“Do you want to just cuddle or something now?”

“Don’t ask that as you’re pulling down my underwear,” Sakura snapped at him, her skin flushing red all over. It was always such a wonder how she colored so easily.

Sakura was so pale with a light dusting of freckles across her visage, her shoulders, and even her chest. Sasuke reached behind her and unhooked her bra to reveal his favorite freckle, right underneath the bottom swell of her right breast and sucked on it.

“It’s always that one first,” Sakura giggled, pulling Sasuke up by his shoulders so that she could kiss him on the mouth. She moved her mouth languidly over his as he nestled himself between her thighs.

Sasuke could feel her fingers ghosting over his skin, the tips of her nails scraping lightly as she made her way down his chest finally letting the pads of her fingers touch him as she reached his abdomen. When Sakura allowed him to pull away he watched as she ran her fingers up and down his torso, only taking small pauses whenever she reached a birthmark.

“Can you not tease me today?” Sakura peered up at him through rosy lashes. She bit her lip and turned her head to the side. “I just want to feel you today.”

“It’s not teasing,” Sasuke huffed. He slid a hand up and down her side before gripping her thigh. He let go of his hold just to slide his hand further inward and resume stroking her the way he did when they were standing. He lowered his head to her chest and placed kisses up and down her sternum and then flattening his tongue to give her a strong lick between her breasts.

“Fine,” Sakura hummed her approval. “But let me touch you too.”

Sakura pushed against his shoulders to get him off of her and directed him to lie on his back. She straddled his waist and placed kisses along his jaw, working her way down his body. When she reached his right hip she gave him a gentle suck right on a prominent birthmark of his. It was something Sasuke knew she would do right before she took him into her mouth.

Sakura ran her tongue on the underside of his cock before closing her mouth on the head. She pumped him with a small hand as she worked her tongue so that circled tip of his dick before flattening on top of the slit. She let out a giggle when she felt Sasuke’s fingers sink into her hair, massaging her scalp as she bobbed her head up and down trying to get as much of him in her mouth as she could.

Sasuke leaned his head back on his pillow and let out a hiss as Sakura sucked harder. He tried hard not to thrust his hips upward too much, not wanting to hurt her as she sucked him off.

“I don’t want to come like that,” he groaned, reaching to grab Sakura’s upper arm. He tugged gently to coax her into ceasing her actions. Sakura scrambled up so that she was straddling his waist again. He helped Sakura guide him in, pushing the head of his cock to her entrance and then letting her slowly take him in.

“Fuck.” Sakura clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a guttural sound that threatened to escape. She took hold of his hand with her free one and interlocked their fingers. As she lifted herself up and down, Sasuke thrust his hips, matching her rhythm.

Soon enough, Sakura was on her back, Sasuke sat on his knees and pulled her onto his lap spreading her legs over his thighs. He gripped her hips tightly as he thrust into her, using a harsh pace. Sasuke watched as Sakura squeezed her eyes shut, letting out a hiss when she clawed at his forearms.

Sakura’s cries came out in staccato, punctuating into higher octaves the deeper and harder Sasuke pushed into her. Eventually her head flew back and she let out a strangled cry as she hit her release. Sasuke followed soon after, slowing down to a few last pumps. He pulled out, gasping, and collapsed next to Sakura’s body. He lied there watching her chest rise and fall as she tried to catch her breath.

When Sakura finally caught her breath she turned into his side and snuggled against him, throwing his arm over her waist.

“I’m still kind of cold.”

Sasuke sighed and pulled her into his arms. Sakura settled against his body, throwing a leg over his hip. They laid there listening to soft hums of each other’s breathing.

“Don’t fall asleep. We need to shower and possibly light a candle.” Sasuke murmured, his voice muffled by the way his mouth was pressed against the top of Sakura’s head.

“I know. It smells like sex in here.”

“I wonder why,” Sasuke said dryly. Sakura giggled and rubbed his back, moving her hands in soothing circles.

“I love you.”

The words were pressed against his chest but Sakura’s voice was still clear and steady the way it always was when she told him. He answered her by placing a kiss to her forehead, brushing her hair away from her face.

“It will be fine when you go to Otsutsuki College.”

Sasuke’s body tensed up at her words. He hadn’t expected for her to bring up their college decisions. He should have known that she would know what he had already decided before he told her.

“I can always visit you. My parents are getting me a car so I can drive back and forth to school. I can use it to visit you when you move to Shumatsu Valley. Even drag Naruto with me. You know he’ll want to visit you too.” Sakura pressed a kiss to his chest, right over his heart. “And we can video chat any time you want as long as I’m not in class. I can even get more lingerie. Make those video calls more interesting.”

Sasuke snorted, pulling her tighter against him.

“You don’t have to bring Naruto.”

Sakura slapped his arm playfully. She tilted her head up so that she could look him in the eye.

“I mean it. Whether it’s twenty feet or sixty-two point thirty-four miles away, I’m going to come see you.”

“You looked up how far away it was didn’t you?”


“You’re ridiculous.” Sasuke played with the pendant hanging off of Sakura’s necklace, tracing the engraving of his name with his thumb. “But thank you.”

Itachi grumbled as his mother stroked his hair. He felt gross and didn’t want anyone touching him.

“You completely ruined your appetite with those cookies you ate before we left, huh?” Mikoto chided him and handed him a bottle of water. “You shouldn’t have forced yourself to eat. Poor Hazuki didn’t know what to do when you rushed out of the room to throw up. I can’t believe it was her first time seeing you get sick.”

“I try not to visit when I’m flaring up.” Itachi took a long gulp of the water and then took a moment to breathe slowly. “Trust me I was just as surprised as she was that I vomited. It was completely unexpected.”

“At least Izumi was there. It was sweet of her to hold your hair and rub your back.”

Itachi sighed and looked out the window of his mother’s car. Yes it was sweet but he couldn’t help but feel disgusted with himself. He hated when anyone watched him throw up.

“Remember to take the anti-nausea pills when we get home.”


And today was going so well…

“Oh and don’t forget, the physical therapist is coming tomorrow.”

Great. I hope he doesn’t bring his smut novels with him this time.

Chapter Eighteen: I Lo-Lo-Love The Way You Bend It

Sometimes it felt like a stab of needles. Other times like something, some ghost, was grabbing onto a particular spot and decided to just twist sharply. Either way, Itachi was left gasping and crying out in pain.

“What’s wrong?” Shisui murmured sleepily just having been woken up by the way Itachi suddenly jolted.

Whenever he slept over he was suppose to use the guest room but he always ended up sneaking into Itachi’s room to lie next to him. They would FaceTime with Izumi until she fell asleep. She was the type that found it easy to fall asleep and then was early to rise. A heavy sleeper in between.

Shisui reached over to soothe Itachi but Itachi just flinched and tried to create more space between them.

“Don’t touch me!” Itachi hissed. One wrong move and his whole body would feel the shocks of pain again. At the moment he was just riding out the aftermath of the initial jolt. Shisui looked on, concerned but with some hurt in his eyes. He knew that it wasn’t a rejection but it still felt like it was.

Shisui took one more look at Itachi and then rose from bed. He stretched his arms and shuffled over to the desk and found Itachi’s heating pad and plugged it in, carefully sliding it underneath Itachi’s calf and wrapping it around his leg.

After Shisui was done with that, he turned back to the desk and pulled out Itachi’s journal. He flipped to the next blank page and wrote the date and time.

“Where does it hurt? And what kind of pain?”

“Predominantly in my right leg,” Itachi answered through gritted teeth. “Almost like a cramp but more like needles underneath my muscle? I don’t know, it just fucking hurts!”

“On a scale from one to ten?”


“Four? And you practically screamed?”

“My four is like your seven.” Itachi took a deep breath and held it. He let it out in a slow hiss and repeated the action. “You know I don’t have a normal pain scale.”

Dealing with pain almost every moment of his life made it impossible for Itachi to be able to describe the magnitude on a scale like an average person. He walked around with pain and was numb to it, growing accustomed to dealing with it and functioning so that it was just a small irritation.

“Is the heating pad working?”

“A bit.”

“You need to tell Kakashi this. Also maybe you should stretch more? Like you’re suppose to?”

“Fuck off.”

Due to fatigue and pain and swelling in his joints, Itachi was no longer as active as he once was. His doctor had suggested a physical therapist to help him with his joints and muscle conditioning, especially for his legs.

Itachi’s cousin Obito had a friend named Kakashi Hatake who happened to be a physical therapist. He made visits to Itachi’s home for their sessions. Itachi scheduled his appointments on days he didn’t have anything to do considering he and his mother were never sure when he would actually show up.

Itachi mostly found it amusing because he knew Kakashi only did it to mess with Obito who was constantly late whenever they met up. Mikoto would scold Kakashi but would never actually let Obito know of his friend’s behavior because he was the only physical therapist Itachi seemed to like.

“I’m just saying that you should attempt to exercise even when he doesn’t visit,” Shisui muttered. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and pouted. At the half smirk on Itachi’s face he opened his mouth to say something else but instead his eyes widened in shock.

“What’s wrong?”

“Do you hear that?” Shisui moved from the desk and sat on Itachi’s bed, scooting closer to the wall and pressed his ear to it. “Is your brother watching porn at like three in the morning?”

Itachi sighed and sat up to massage his calf. The heating pad had helped a great deal but there was still some soreness.

“Nope! Not porn.” Shisui moved away from the wall. “The headboard just smacked against the wall.”

“They’ve been going at it like rabbits ever since they’ve made their college decisions.” Itachi fell back onto his pillow and bundled himself up in his blankets. “I have no idea how they’re going to deal with going to different colleges if this is how they react to knowing they’ll be away from each other.”

“Teen love is a strange thing,” Shisui grumbled and slid under the blankets. “So this happens a lot doesn’t it? You weren’t surprised at all.”

Itachi nodded and turned onto his side so that he was facing Shisui. He didn’t come closer but he did grab his hand and held onto it, a small apology for being short with him earlier.

“I should tell your parents that I need to crash at your place more often.”  Shisui gave Itachi’s hand a squeeze, accepting his apology. “Just so you don’t have to deal with that on your own.”

“I barely notice them now to be honest. Also, my father will think you’re just trying to get my mother to spoil you as long as possible. He’ll tell you to book a room in a hotel.”

“He’s not that much of a hardass.”

“No, he’s not,” Itachi agreed.

Fugaku was strict but he wasn’t cruel. Considering his treatment of Sasuke and how hard he was on him some would misunderstand. Did Itachi think it was fair? No he did not. But he knew everything his father did was because he cared no matter how misguided Itachi thought he was.

“Izumi said you ran into Taiko the other day.” Shisui stretched out, splaying his body out like a starfish. He always took up the most space.  Cuddling with him was fine but once he fell asleep he was likely to push someone out of bed. It was one of the reasons Izumi preferred sleeping in between them.

“It wasn’t a run in. It was more like we had dinner at his dad’s and he was there.”

“Oh. Was it awkward?”

“Of course it was.”

Taiko was a year Itachi’s junior and was unfortunate enough to be constantly compared to him due to the fact that their fathers were close. It didn’t matter if it was academics or tae kwon do, Taiko fell short of his father’s expectations when Itachi was the bar.

It only got worse when he started getting compared to Sasuke, someone who was four years younger than him. It was one of those things Itachi pushed to the deep recesses of his mind and didn’t care to think on. He was too preoccupied with how Sasuke was compared to himself growing up. Taiko was his father’s cousin’s son and no concern of his.

But now Itachi couldn’t help but feel as if he should have said something or done something when they were teenagers. Just anything to prevent the feelings that caused Taiko to hold such a grudge on him and Sasuke.

“He said something to Sasuke,” Itachi said softly. Shisui’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He hummed, coaxing Itachi to continue. “I mean, he had to have. I caught them in the hallway when I was coming from the restroom and there was…tension.”

“Tension? That doesn’t sound like the full story. I mean tension could mean anything when you’re talking about Sasuke.”

“Sasuke had him pinned to the wall. His arm was pressed against Taiko’s throat.”

“That sounds more like Sasuke.” Itachi rolled his eyes as Shisui smirked at him. Itachi lightly smacked his chest, too weak from his fatigue to do anything but make Shisui snicker. “Do you think it had anything to do with Itty Bitty?”

“Most likely.” Itachi let out a yawn and Shisui’s eyes crinkled around the edges as his lips pulled into a soft smile. “At least I think it had to be.”

“Uh-huh.” Shisui tucked a strand of Itachi’s hair behind his ear. “Your hair is really soft, what the hell.”

“Izumi did a glaze. I think she’s enjoying the fact that I grew my hair back.”

“It’s almost as nice as her’s now.”

“I will ignore the subtle insult thrown in there.”

“Don’t be dramatic.” Shisui laughed out loud. He sighed happily and drummed his fingers on his stomach. “Listen. I think they stopped.”

“You weren’t listening in the entire time were you?”

“Of course not!” Shisui frowned, looking insulted that Itachi would even think that. “I just realized that it’s really quiet now.”

“Go to sleep Shisui.”

“You go to sleep.”

“I can’t.”

Itachi sighed and rolled over to his other side. The pain his back was bothering him and he was having difficulty finding a comfortable position. He felt guilty knowing that Shisui, who was a light sleeper, was going to be kept up by his tossing and turning.

“Do you want a muscle relaxer?”

“I took one at eleven. I can’t have another for two more hours.”

Shisui just sighed and scratched Itachi’s scalp lightly. Itachi hummed contently and leaned into his touch. It was his favorite thing and he loved when Izumi or Shisui did it to help him fall asleep or soothe him.

“Can you just keep doing that?”

“Of course.” Shisui leaned over and kissed Itachi on the back of his neck. He leaned back, lying on his side for better access and scratched circles into Itachi’s scalp. It was such a small thing but it made Itachi happy.

Focusing on her poetry assignment wasn’t easy. Sakura tried her hardest to ignore the feeling of being stared at. She had to suppress the usual tingle and shiver running down her spine when Sasuke was watching her.

I should have just gone home to do my homework on my own.

Sakura took out her highlighter and underlined a line she wanted to focus on in her analysis. She flinched when a hand found it’s way under her black mesh and cotton striped t-shirt dress, stroking her lower back. She frowned at the messy line she drew when she jumped and capped her highlighter. Sakura pulled out her pencil and began writing an annotation.

Sakura broke the lead of her pencil when the hand on her lower back slid downward cupping her ass and then giving it a squeeze. The back of her neck started to feel hot but she decided to let Sasuke figure it out on his own that she wasn’t going to acknowledge what he was doing.

Okay. Let’s do another read through. Some say the world─

“Did you seriously just spank me?” Sakura turned her head to look at Sasuke who was sitting on the floor, his head lolled to the side as his eyes trailed down Sakura’s back and then back to her face. Sakura swallowed the lump in her throat, the heated look Sasuke sent her had heat pooling in her lower stomach.

Sakura turned back to her English notebook, forcing herself to keep her head down and focused on the words on the page. She chewed on her lower lip when she felt the couch cushion sink as Sasuke crawled on top of her. Sasuke pulled her notebook away and set it on the ground.

“I was working on that.”

“Take a break,” Sasuke murmured. Sakura buried her face into the couch cushion when he kissed her between her shoulder blades and down her back. He lifted her hips up, rubbing himself on her bottom.

“I didn’t realize Robert Frost made you hot,” Sakura mumbled against the polyester upholstery. “Maybe I should start reciting some of his poems next time I want to get you in the mood.”

Sakura,” Sasuke breathed out, voice husky. “Stop talking and turn over.”

“So demanding,” Sakura said with a teasing lilt in her voice but complied and settled onto her back. Sasuke braced himself on his forearms and settled between her thighs.

Sakura cupped the back of Sasuke’s neck in her hands, keeping him close as he slanted his lips over hers, dipping his tongue into her mouth, pulling soft moans from her. Sasuke rolled his hips against hers causing Sakura to let out a soft cry.

Sasuke’s eyebrows furrowed together as he received Sakura’s hungry kisses. The harder he rocked into her the more Sakura whimpered into his mouth. Sasuke was so distracted with cupping and massaging her breasts that he almost didn’t notice Sakura removing his belt.

“It jingles a lot when you move,” Sakura answered his unspoken question as she unbuckled and unzipped his jeans.

“What are you doing?”

“Finishing what you started.” Sakura tugged his jeans lower on his hips and pulled out his cock. She gave him two sure pumps before Sasuke removed her hand. He bunched up her dress around her waist and slid her shorties down until she was bare and exposed in only her dress and thigh highs.

“You’re─” Sasuke nipped at her thigh and pressed an open mouth kiss close to her folds without touching them, “─pretty wet─” he gave her a harsh and long lick and gave her clit a little flick, “─already…”

Sasuke groaned against Sakura’s folds and pressed an open mouth kiss to them, refusing to break eye contact with her.

Sakura let out a gasp when Sasuke began to work her heat with his tongue, circling the area around her little nub before dipping down lower. When Sakura began to rock against him he laughed, the rumble making a wonderful vibration. Sakura stuffed the collar of her dress into her mouth to stifle her noises and then her hands found purchase in Sasuke’s hair.

Sakura’s head fell back so that she had an upside down view of the open door of the Uchiha media room. A groan got stuck in her throat when she felt Sasuke curl his fingers inside her.

It wasn’t the first time the two of them had fooled around on the couch in the media room. The first time they had sex in the media room Sasuke had just come home from Oto and hadn’t even bothered fully removing his uniform. Three days later his parents pulled him out of school and started the transfer process so he could attend KSS when classes started after Labor Day.

He wanted to burn his uniform but refrained from doing so when Sakura dropped a hint about wanting to keep it. She had really liked pulling Sasuke down to her with his tie and the way he looked with his uniform shirt unbuttoned and his chest bare.

Although slightly perturbed by the fact, it somewhat excited Sakura when it seemed like they were risking being caught. The smell of food cooking assured her that Sasuke’s mother was too busy in the kitchen to catch them in the act.

Sasuke wouldn’t let up on his control of the situation. Although they had moved so Sakura was straddling his lap, he held her hips down possessively, refusing to let her do any work as he thrust hard and deeply upwards into her. Sakura gripped the back of the couch, her knuckles turning white from how tightly she held on.

“Sa-ah!-suke I’m─” Sakura panted, cut off by her own cry as she hit her second release as Sasuke spilled into her, groaning against her collarbone. As he was coming down from his high he pressed feather light kisses to her neck.

Sakura knocked her forehead against his, letting it rest there as her breathing slowed down. She cupped Sasuke’s face in her hands and stroked his high cheekbones with her thumbs before pressing a loving kiss against his lips. He looked up at her, dark eyes filled with warmth and she kissed him again, more deeply, before climbing off of his lap.

“I’m going to go clean up.” Sakura picked up her shorties from where Sasuke had tossed them onto the ground and balled them into her fist. She looked back at him with his hair all messy and tousled from their love making and cupped his chin in her hand, giving him another kiss.

Sakura made her way to his restroom. She caught sight of her reflection in Sasuke’s mirror before she entered and grimaced. It was a good thing that Mikoto was naive enough to think telling them to keep the door open was all she needed to do and didn’t check up on them. Sakura’s low side ponytail was in disarray, hair falling out of her hair tie, and her lips were red and swollen.


Sakura fingered her clavicle gingerly. A red mark had bloomed on her pale skin. Lifting up her dress and bunching it around her armpits she found more marks. She just sighed and adjusted her clothing. Taking Sasuke’s brush she fixed her hair into the hairstyle she entered the house with and patted her ponytail so that it covered the noticeable hickey.

And now I’m sore. Sakura winced a little as she cleaned up between her thighs. She slid her shorties back on and huffed at her reflection. She was as presentable as she was going to get.

“I’m going home.” Sakura started packing her things into her backpack when she came back from cleaning up.

Sasuke frowned, not moving his head from where it was resting against the back of the couch. He was almost exactly the way she left him, only he had pulled his pants back higher up his hips and zipped them.

“Because I think I’ve distracted you enough.”

Sakura didn’t want to admit it but Fugaku Uchiha had a point. Lately, Sasuke wasn’t doing any of his homework or even his classwork if Sakura was around. He had become more lax after he made his decision to go to IOC and it worried Sakura. She liked that he didn’t seem as stressed as he did before but she also didn’t want him to get on his father’s bad side.

“I would have had a hard time focusing anyway.”

Sasuke ruffled his hair and let out a sigh. Sakura dropped her bag with a loud thud and took a seat by him on the couch. She curled up against his side and rest her head against his shoulder. Sasuke adjusted his body so that he could rest his head on top of hers.

“Have you talked to your therapist about that? Do you talk about anything?”

Sasuke’s body tensed up and he pulled away. Sakura placed her hand gently on his shoulder and coaxed him to settle back on the couch with pleading eyes. Sasuke relaxed and took a breath in, exhaling it slowly.

“We don’t have to talk about it.”

“Sorry,” Sasuke muttered. “I’m just tired of being asked about therapy.”

“I’m curious about one thing though,” Sakura said carefully, waiting for Sasuke to give her a look that said it was okay to continue. “What’s going to happen to your sessions when you go to IOC?”

“Video calls. With occasional office visits on weekends.”


“You know my mom isn’t going to let you go home until you have dinner right?”

“She wouldn’t trap me here.”

Sasuke just stared blankly at her and she groaned, running her hands down her face. He was right. Mikoto looked way too happy when she showed up with Sasuke to work on their poetry projects.

“I’ll sneak out.”

“Good luck.”

Sakura glared at him and picked up her bag. She stuck her tongue out at him and then exited the room with a huff. Sakura crept down the stairs, Sasuke following behind her to watch her attempt to sneak out the front door.

Sakura cringed when the closet door rattled. At home she never put her shoes in the closet, just left them lying at the entrance, but it was Mikoto Uchiha’s pet peeve so she had stuck them in the foyer closet. She hadn’t counted on the closet door being noisy. It was only when you needed to be quiet that everything sound loud.

“And where do you think you’re going?”

Sakura turned to see Mikoto standing in front of the front door. Sakura looked at Sasuke who didn’t show his surprise except for the barely noticeable rise of his eyebrows. Neither one of them had heard or noticed Mikoto approach them.

“I’m heading home before it gets too late.”

“I called your mother and told her you’ll be having dinner with us tonight. She said to make sure you got a second helping.”

Sakura held back the urge to roll her eyes. It was typical of her mother to embarrass her like that. After Sakura got over her dieting phase back in her early teen years she ate generous portions but whenever she was over at someone else’s house she tended to be more reserved and felt awkward about eating even when she was at the Yamanaka residence.

“Come on you two. Go set the table.”

Mikoto gently pushed against Sakura’s back leading her into the kitchen. Sakura could hear Sasuke following behind them.

He’s laughing at me right now isn’t he? She turned back to look at him once Mikoto let her go when they reached the kitchen. He had a smirk on his face. Yeah, he’s laughing at me.

“You grab the glasses,” Sasuke muttered to her before grabbing all of the utensils they were going to need.

Sakura opened up the cabinet she assumed the glasses were in using her memory of where things once were. She smiled to herself when she got it right and pulled out the matching set of glass goblets to the plates Mikoto had on the counter. Two glasses that sat on the shelf above them caught her eye.

Pulling them down, Sakura examined the cherry blossom pattern on one and the frogs on the other.

“I can’t believe they’re still here,” Sakura giggled. Mikoto came up behind her and took the glasses in her hands and smiled softly at them.

“Of course we still have them.”

Mikoto had found the glasses in a gallery store in Riverside when the kids were in fourth grade. She bought them for Naruto and Sakura because they were always either at her house or at the Namikaze-Uzumaki residence.

Sakura looked down at the glasses and felt slightly guilty. They were dust free and looked shiny and bright, as if someone made sure they were constantly ready to be used. She set the frog patterned glass back on the shelf but held onto the cherry blossom one to use herself.

The sound of the front door opening caught her attention. Itachi called out that they he was home and then the door to the foyer closet rattled.

“Something smells good,” came his pleasant voice as he entered the kitchen. Sakura turned around to greet him only to see his father standing behind him.

Oh, fuck me.

Itachi hadn’t expected to find Sakura Haruno in his family’s kitchen. She was standing there, green eyes really wide like a deer caught in headlights when he walked in with his father.

Now she was sitting on his right, across from Sasuke and his mother, looking down at her plate.

“Itachi, what are you doing?” Mikoto frowned as he reached for the bottle of wine she brought out to have with dinner. “You’re not supposed to drink alcohol.”

“Correction Mother: I’m not allowed to drink in excess. But I am allowed a glass of wine.” He poured the wine into his goblet up to the brim. He muttered under his breath, “I’m going to need it.”

“Mikoto?” Fugaku grunted, his eyebrows furrowed at the stuffed mushroom on his plate. He poked lightly at it with his fork.

“Stuffed mushrooms and risotto, dear.”

“No meat?”

“No meat.”

“Still a vegetarian I see.” Itachi offered Sakura a grin which she returned, eyes warm with gratitude. “But there’s cheese?”

“I don’t exclude dairy or eggs from my diet. My dad usually gets his stuff from a local farm for his shop and that’s what we have at home too. Everything is free-range. A good compromise since my mom isn’t vegetarian.”

“Ah.” Itachi nodded his head in interest. “I’ve been contemplating switching to a vegetarian diet. I think a semi-vegetarian one would work for me.”

“You like meat.” Fugaku frowned at him. “Is this really enough for you two?”

“Mushrooms are loaded with protein, Father.”

“It has tomatoes,” Sasuke muttered, taking a decent bite of one of the stuffed caps on his plate. Itachi almost snorted into his goblet at his brother’s response.

Itachi watched as his father sighed and turned to his plate. He found it amusing how his father was poking at the lack of meat on his plate considering the fact that usually he loved anything his wife cooked.

He just wants to be difficult. Itachi recalled how his father had eyed Sakura’s outfit earlier as well. Fugaku just had to find something to pick at all of the time.

“So Sakura,” Mikoto cheerfully turned her attention to her, “I was talking to your mother the other day. She says you got accepted to Senju.”

“Yes,” Sakura replied after she dabbed her mouth with a napkin. “I’ll be going there in the fall.”

“Pre-Med, right?” Itachi asked. A sideways glance at his father informed him that his father had silently scoffed when Senju was mentioned. He turned to Sakura who nodded enthusiastically, eyes bright. Itachi smiled back, mostly because another sideways glance granted him the sight of Sasuke’s small, yet soft smile.

The dinner went on with Itachi asking Sakura questions about her future goals and praising her. Sakura was flustered by all of the attention but Itachi wouldn’t let up. His mother joined  in, more than happy to learn more about Sakura than just what she heard from Mebuki and Kushina in passing. Itachi used the distraction to fill up another goblet of wine which made him loosen up even more.

“By the way Sakura,” Itachi smiled widely, “I’ve been meaning to ask you if you would help me out. I’m interested in yoga but I don’t want to go to a class. It’s just a little embarrassing considering my condition.”

It was true. Itachi did feel uncomfortable being in groups and it made it worse with his chronic illness. He found a studio that had specialized classes for people with chronic illnesses but he still didn’t feel comfortable attending them.

“Would you consider helping me out with some poses? I would really like to work on my flexibility and it would be good for my muscles.”

“Oh, I think I can do that!” Sakura had become more comfortable as the dinner progressed and spoke more brightly and confidently. “Just let me know when you’re free.”

“You should think about it too, Sasuke.” Itachi took a sip of his wine. “Maybe give yourself different exercise options. Much calmer, quieter exercise to do when you can’t sleep at night.”

Sasuke’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion at his brother’s wink. The only person that seemed to have an understanding of what he was implying was Sakura who Itachi could see out of the corner of his eye was slowly sinking into her seat in embarrassment. Sasuke’s eyes widened when he glanced over at Sakura and he started to cough, choking on his risotto.

“Oh, honey.” Mikoto rubbed soothing circles on Sasuke’s back and handed him his goblet of water. “Slow down when you eat.”

“Yeah he has a real problem with that,” Itachi muttered. Sakura fell out of her seat in her attempt to slide out of sight.

“Sakura!” Mikoto cried out in concern.

Shin was so wrong about meds affecting our tolerance. I feel fine.

Sasuke snatched the guitar out of Suigetsu’s hands and hung it back up. His friends had found out where he worked and had decided to drop by for a visit. They were being a nuisance with the exception of Jūgo who was the only one that refrained from touching any of the instruments.

“Don’t you guys have something better to do?”

“No, not really.” Naruto wrapped an arm around Sasuke’s neck and took a selfie. Sasuke shoved him off and Naruto stuck his tongue out at him.

“Well you gotta go before the vocal coach gets here. He tends to be an ass and I don’t want him to complain to my boss.”

“I should get a ukulele.” Naruto sprinted to where one was hanging on the wall and lifted it up. “You’ve got one, Sasuke. You could teach me how to play!”

“No.” Sasuke hadn’t even picked up his own instruments in months, he wasn’t going to teach anyone. He only made an exception with the piano for work.

“Why do you even want to learn?” Suigetsu snorted.

“Just think about how cute I would be strumming it. Girls would love it.”

“You already have a girlfriend, dumbass.” Sasuke snatched the ukulele away from him.

“Yeah and she would love it.”

“She would love it when you learn how to move your fingers right,” Suigetsu joked. Sasuke pinched the bridge of his nose and Naruto turned bright red and spluttered an unintelligible response.

“You’re disgusting.” Sasuke pointed at the front door. “Out. All of you.”

The rest of his shift went uninterrupted but it was also dull. It wasn’t a day he had any lessons to teach so he just manned the counter. He almost ran out of the store at the end of his shift.

When he got home, Sasuke couldn’t park in the driveway. He hadn’t expected to see Izumi’s VW Bug or Shisui’s Dodge Charger alongside Kakashi’s van. The van seemed like an odd choice at first but then Sasuke found out how many dogs the man owned.

“Everyone’s outside,” his mother informed him when he walked into the kitchen for water. She was shuffling back and forth from her room to the laundry room.

Curious he headed out to the backyard, wondering what Kakashi had planned for his brother and why Izumi and Shisui were visiting.

What the fuck?

Out on the grass by the pool, Sakura was guiding his brother and his girlfriend and boyfriend through a series of poses. She was currently helping Shisui with his posture. Sasuke found Kakashi lounging on a lawn chair, reading.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Sasuke approached him, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Kakashi flipped a page and then adjusted his medical mask. He always had an excuse for why he needed to wear one. It was either allergies, a cold, or so that he wasn’t breathing on his patients with autoimmune disorders.

“It’s a pool day for Itachi and when I got here he was already stretching with the tiny pink kid. I’m just waiting for him to be done.”

“Don’t act like you don’t know her name is Sakura.”

“I’ll stop when it stops being entertaining how much it bothers you when I do that.”

Kakashi was a close friend of his cousin Obito. He use to come to a lot of family events with their other friend Rin when they were high schoolers. They still hung out but things got awkward when Obito tried to ask Rin out and found out she was interested in Kakashi. Unfortunately for Rin, Kakashi wasn’t interested in dating or hooking up. He was content with his books and dogs.

The two of them still came to a few family events as Obito’s guests but it wasn’t as often anymore. It was a shame because Sasuke kind of liked Kakashi.

Sasuke watched as Sakura stood with her legs wide apart and her arms outstretched. She was wearing her lycra shorts and a tank top as opposed to just a sports bra he was use to seeing her wear when she exercised in her backyard. His eyes were drawn to her waist and hips as her top rode up when she stretched her arms over her head.

Sakura began explaining something to three of them but Sasuke didn’t catch any of it as he watched her gesture around her hips and slide her hands over her stomach and on her ribs right underneath her breasts. Sakura moved her hands back to her hip bones and then slowly bent forward, her bottom sticking out. She straightened up again and then slowly bent down again.

His eyes followed as she swayed her hips from side to side, telling them something about softening the hold of their knees so that they didn’t lock up their legs.

“It’s rude to stare you know.”


Kakashi gave him a knowing look and then looked over to the group that was now attempting to stand completely bent forward with their heads touching the ground. Sakura was the only one in the complete pose with her hands clasped together and pulled back and straight up. Izumi and Itachi propped themselves up with their hands flat on the ground. Shisui had given up while they were bending and just fell back on his mat.

A moment later, Itachi collapsed as well. Sasuke was about to run over to him when his brother started laughing. He was fine, just a little tired.

“This is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Shisui grumbled. “You’re doing great though Izumi.”

“I knew I would,” Izumi replied smugly. “We should totally do yoga together more often Sakura.”

How about no?

Sasuke’s eyes narrowed at her. He was suddenly reminded of all of the times Izumi took Sakura away to play when they were younger. His eyes widened in shock when after the girls cooled down out of the pose Izumi reached over and cupped Sakura’s bottom with her hand.

“I want this. What more can I do to get this, huh?”

“Your butt’s fine Izumi,” Shisui laughed. He spotted Sasuke standing by Kakashi and grinned widely. “Oh. Look. It’s the Little Uchiha.”

Sasuke scoffed at that. He had grown to be taller than both him and Itachi and Shisui’s comments no longer made sense. He watched as the adults headed inside for a break and walked over to Sakura who was busy rolling up her mat.

“So you’re really helping him learn yoga?”

“Yeah. It’s actually kind of fun.” Sakura bit her lip but then smiled brightly at him. “Besides my sun salutations I haven’t been making time for it so this was a good way to start sneaking it back into my routine.”

“What are you doing later?”

“Ino invited Karin and I to spend the night.” Sakura poked him in the chest. “Which is good because you have been wearing me out. I’m always so sore after─don’t look so proud about that!”

“Are you complaining?”

“Of course not.” Sakura’s face flushed pink. “But we should probably cut back. For both my body’s sake and to avoid any more comments from your brother. That was really awkward the other night.”

“It’s a good thing my parents didn’t catch on at all. My mom knows about us but I’m still not sure how much exactly.”

“Hopefully less than Itachi,” Sakura muttered. Sasuke shuddered, grossed out by the idea of his mother knowing about his sex life. “I’ll talk to you later.”

After Sakura left Sasuke went up to his room, not willing to spend anymore time with Itachi and his lovers or Kakashi.

He opened up his closet and started to rummage through it, pulling out a small case. He unzipped the case and examined the ukulele. Sasuke had bought it after his guitar, intrigued by the different sound it made.

Letting out a sigh, he pulled out his cell phone and looked in his contacts for The Moron. He paused, thumb over the phone icon and thought for a moment. Sakura had looked happy about getting back into one of her favorite hobbies. He pressed the icon and listened to the dialing tone.


“Hey Naruto…”

Kingdom For Two [13-15]

Chapter Thirteen: Cherry Smiles

There was nothing better than Sakura’s smile. For Naruto, seeing her smile was like basking in sunlight on a Summer’s day. It was blazing and glorious but it wasn’t her special smile.

It was the smile when she scored a point with a spike in volleyball. It was the smile when she beat him at Brawl or Mario Kart. It was the smile when she found one of the medical journals she was looking for at the bookstore. It was the smile when Ino and Sai made her laugh. It was her smile for everything.

But there was a smile of hers that was more gentle, a lighter pleasant warmth, like that of sunshine on a Spring day. It was his favorite smile of hers. There was only one way for Naruto to ever see it. He called it Sasuke’s smile.

Usually Naruto ate in the senior courtyard during lunch. He would sit in one of the booths in the cafeteria during inclement weather which meant on days like today when it was snowing he wouldn’t be in the courtyard because everyone else would be hiding out indoors. If the snow was already settled on the ground he could have convinced Kiba and Chouji to have a snowball fight with him.

Naruto wasn’t in the mood to squeeze into a booth with everyone and then get into a fight when someone elbowed him causing him to spill his instant ramen. Ever since they set up the tank of hot water in the salad line in the beginning part of the year he had been bringing more cups to school. He use to have to bring ramen in a thermos and deal with that until he got home and had to sneak ramen behind his mother’s back.

Normally, Naruto didn’t go to the library but it was the one place he could go during his lunch block without a hall pass. He went for school work and he use to go when he was following Sakura around everywhere.

He avoided the library after the incident before their junior year for a while. It was Sakura’s territory in his mind and he felt weird infringing on it the first few weeks after she had turned him down.

Naruto felt his upper thigh vibrate and pulled out his cell phone. The screen read that he had one new message from Hina.

It’s snowing! (*^_^*)

Attached to the text was a picture of Hinata’s bedroom window, a flurry of white falling all around. A second text popped up.

I heard you guys are getting released from school early. I have to finish my day. The joys of being home schooled (_  _”)

Naruto smiled softly. Hinata was a lot more talkative through text. Sakura gave him simple responses and sometimes even forgot to text him back.

Naruto frowned to himself. He needed to stop doing that.

Ever since he first met Hinata at the veterinary office he worked at part-time, thanks to Kiba hooking him up with a job, he had been comparing the two girls. Hinata was a shy girl, like Sakura had been when they were much younger, and although she didn’t speak much she still seemed sweet. And although she wasn’t a stunning beauty, her round face was adorable even if it took a while to get use to her silvery eyes. It amused him when she would turn bright red, red as his mother’s hair, when he squished her face between his hands, causing her round cheeks to distort her face.

If he did that to Sakura, she wouldn’t blush. She would just get irritated at his actions and then they would play fight. Just enough for her to get her revenge but not enough for either of them to get injured.

Naruto thought they were flirting when they did that. He was wrong.

But he was use to it. To being wrong.

Roses. A dozen red roses, seemed only fitting. Everyone knew they were the flower of romantic love. Sakura was turning thirteen and he wanted to give her flowers since she loved them so much. She was always off with Ino learning about arrangements. Although it wasn’t important to know their meanings for flower arrangements, Ino and Sakura learned as much as they could.

Sakura was becoming cuter and cuter and he wanted to show his feelings for her. Kushina said she would give him the money for the bouquet if he helped with chores around the house. He did them all with no complaints.

“What are those?” Naruto asked rudely. Sasuke was standing next to Mikoto holding a bouquet of trumpet shaped flowers, wrapped up all pretty with green tulle and a white satin ribbon. “They look like the highway flowers. You know, the ones that grow everywhere, like in the medians on most streets, in the beginning of Spring.”

“Don’t be rude,” Kushina snapped at him. Naruto winced at the harsh sound of his mother’s voice and looked anywhere but at Sasuke. He knew his mother expected an apology but he wasn’t going to give him one. Naruto was still upset that he took all the credit for helping Sakura when the thugs from his school were the ones that attacked her.

Not that he actually took the credit, it was just him that got all of the thanks from Sakura. Naruto ignored the fact that Sasuke did in fact do most of the actual helping.

“You’re wearing your school uniform?” Naruto raised an eyebrow at Sasuke’s white button shirt and black and purple trimmed sweater vest. The first time he saw Sasuke’s purple necktie he had burst out laughing. Sasuke punched him in the back of the head and they started wrestling.

“I came straight from school, moron. It is Monday.”

“That’s not how we talk to our friends, Sasuke,” Mikoto scolded him, straightening out his collar. Naruto’s eye twitched, realizing that no matter how dorky Oto’s school uniform was, Sasuke still looked like one of those kids they chose to model clothes for fashion magazines.

But that didn’t matter. Sakura was going to love his flowers way more than Sasuke’s weird trumpet flowers that could be found literally popping out of every corner of town.

Mebuki Haruno opened the front door to the Haruno home and smiled brightly at the two boys. She stepped aside and let them all file into her home. They could hear Ino Yamanaka blowing gum bubbles in the kitchen as she gushed to Sakura about how pretty the cake her father had made her.

When they entered the kitchen, Sasuke hid his bouquet behind his back. Naruto smiled smugly to himself. He was sure Sasuke was now regretting his flower choice.

“Wow, Sak. You look so cute.” Naruto practically shouted when he saw Sakura. She had worn a new peter pan collar, light blue knee length dress to school under a soft white cardigan but he never got to say anything since it was the day they didn’t share the same lunch block or had gym class. There was a matching bow in her hair, holding back her new short hair cut away from her face. Naruto ignored the fact that the hair ribbon in Sakura’s hair looked like it was made of the same material and was the same color of the ribbon that Sasuke used to dress his bouquet.

“Thank you,” Ino said proudly. “The outfit was my birthday gift to Forehead. I also helped with makeup. You can’t even see any bruises, right?”

Naruto heard Mikoto gasp behind him. He was positive she wasn’t sure how to respond to the strange nickname the blonde girl had used for Sakura or how easily she spoke about Sakura’s still visible injuries. Sakura didn’t react though so no one said anything.

“Oh, right! For you!” Naruto thrust his roses into Sakura’s arms. Ino giggled and nudged Sakura in the ribs which had Sakura hissing at her to stop.

“Thanks, Naruto.” Sakura beamed at him and handed the bouquet to her mother who had just finished fishing out a vase from one of the cupboards.

“Sasuke. Give her yours.” Mikoto pushed Sasuke forward. Naruto noticed the red tint to Sasuke’s ears and had to hold back from laughing in triumph. There was a small part of him that couldn’t wait to see Sakura’s look of disappointment.

Hesitantly, Sasuke pulled his bouquet out from behind his back. Sakura’s eyes went wide and sparkly. Her mouth formed an ‘O’ shape as she gently took the bouquet from Sasuke.

“Daffodils are the March birth flower,” Sasuke muttered, ears turning even redder.

“That’s not all they mean,” Ino muttered low enough only for Naruto to hear. “Plus, they also just happen to be her favorite.”

“I thought that was cosmos!” Naruto whispered back.

“No. Those are my favorite.” For some reason Ino flushed pink when she said that. She fiddled with the hem of her blouse and snuck a peek at Sakura. “Especially pink ones.”

Naruto barely processed the look on Ino’s face when she admitted her favorite flower to him. He had looked back over to his best friends, a heavy, sick feeling in his stomach.

Sakura cradled the daffodils gently in her arms. She looked up at Sasuke, who was already growing past all of them in height, and gave him a soft smile, cheeks flushed a delicate pink.

‘Thank you,” She said softly. Sasuke nodded, averting his gaze, cheeks now the palest shade of pink ever. Sakura’s smile was gentle and warm.

Naruto’s chest constricted. That was the smile and face he wanted Sakura to make for him, that he was so sure he could get.

It was the first time Naruto realized that it was a smile that was never directed at him.

Naruto turned into an aisle and sighed. He wasn’t that surprised to see Sakura and Sasuke at one of the tables but he had hoped that neither one of them would be in the library. Although he held no feelings of resentment toward Sasuke, it was still weird to see the two of them together.

From an outsider’s perspective he couldn’t help but think that they were well suited for each other. Sakura was a beautiful girl and Sasuke─he hated to admit─was a really good looking guy.  Hinata had even commented on that fact. Knowing them better than most people he had to begrudgingly agree that although they were opposites it worked in their favor. Naruto had always thought that he and Sakura were more suited for each other because they both had sunny dispositions but Sakura disagreed.

“I can’t do it. Can you press send for me? I’m too nervous.”

Naruto looked over at their table from the gaps between the books on the shelves. Sakura had her fists balled into her hair and Sasuke was smirking at her. Naruto frowned. It was highly inappropriate for him to make fun of Sakura when she looked so stressed.

“You’re such a dork. Here.” Sasuke took Sakura’s hand in his own and guided it over the touchpad on the Macbook they were using. Naruto noticed all of the band stickers on it so it had to be Sasuke’s laptop. Using little force, Sasuke pushed down on Sakura’s finger so that she clicked the button for whatever she was trying to submit. “That wasn’t so bad was it?”

Sakura pouted, puffing out her cheeks. She sighed and nodded, muttering a small thank you. Really quickly, she poked Sasuke’s cheek which left him wide eyed and confused.

“You didn’t have to make fun of me though.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“No but you were thinking it.”

Sasuke snorted and Sakura gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then stuck her tongue out at him. Sasuke looked taken aback and Naruto was sure he was going to reprimand her for the sudden display of affection but instead Sasuke stood up and pulled Sakura by the hand behind a set of shelves. Curious, Naruto crept over to the aisle nearby and peeked through the gaps again. The back of his neck heated up when he saw Sasuke cup Sakura’s face in his hands and kiss her deeply.

“Still mad at me?” Sasuke teased.

“I wasn’t mad,” Sakura muttered, cheeks pink. She pulled him down by his collar to give him another kiss.

Naruto felt a hard tug on his ear and had to bite his lip to keep from crying out. He looked down and saw Ino glaring furiously at him. Still holding onto his ear she dragged him away from the aisles towards a more isolated part of the library. On their way there Shikamaru spotted them and shook his head.

Naruto raised his hands in front of his chest in prayer, begging for help but Shikamaru just shrugged and turned away.

“Ino let go!” Naruto hissed. Ino finally let go of his ear and pushed him against the back corner of the library.

“I see you’re still a peeping tom.”

“That was once! Wait. I wasn’t peeping!”

Ino crossed her arms in front of her chest and tossed her long hair over her shoulder. Her right eye was twitching the more she glared at him.

“And what do you call watching your best friends making out from behind a bookcase?”

“I wasn’t─I mean, dammit Ino! That’s not what I was doing.”

“Sure it wasn’t,” Ino scoffed. “You know you need to get over it, right?”

“I am over it!” Naruto could feel the heat creeping up his neck again. “Why do people assume I’m not?’

“Because you don’t act like it. You’re going to hurt someone that way.”

Hinata’s face came to the front of Naruto’s mind and his stomach dropped.

“I mean, Sakura is going to feel like crap all over again and I would like to avoid that.”

“Sakura?” Naruto asked confused. He had momentarily forgotten that she was the subject of the conversation when he felt the guilt over Hinata. It was one of the reasons why Karin hated helping him with work. He got distracted easily.

“Isn’t that why you were spying? Because you’re still into Sakura?”

“No!” Naruto cried out. Shikamaru popped his head out from three aisles away and shushed them. “I mean no. I was just…”

“Just what?”

Naruto sighed and averted his gaze. When he looked back to Ino she was staring at him expectantly

“I wanted to know if I could see them being together without it feeling weird. I miss when it was the three of us.” Naruto clutched his shirt, right over his chest. “I don’t feel the same way for Sakura like before. I really, really, like my girlfriend but it’s just…”

“But it’s still hard because she’s your first love?” Ino gave him a soft smile. It was sad, but filled with the gentleness that Sakura always assured him Ino had. He never believed it because she was always shouting at Chouji, Shikamaru, and him.

“Yeah.” Naruto nodded in agreement. “It’s a kind of bittersweet feeling. I’m sad because it wasn’t me she wanted but I’m happy that she’s happy. That they’re both happy. And I don’t want to be that person by Sak’s side anymore but I can’t help that strange ache in my chest.”

“Don’t call her that. She hates that nickname.” Ino frowned and shook her head. “And don’t worry about that ache. It will go away eventually. You just need time.”

“How are you so sure it will?”

“Because I’ve been in the same boat.”

“Really? You have never even dated anyone but Sai before. I thought he was your first love.”

“No. Sai’s probably my true love. But not my first love.”

“It wasn’t Sasuke was it?” Naruto’s face twisted up in disgust. Just about every girl he knew had a crush on Sasuke at one point. That was part of the original appeal of Hinata. She had never even met Sasuke and wouldn’t compare the two of them to each other.

“I had a crush on him for like a minute but he wasn’t my first love.”

“Shika?” Naruto gagged. There was something about it that seemed really wrong.

“Ew! No. He’s like the brother I never asked for.”

“I wouldn’t ask for you to be my sister either,” Shikamaru called out from the same aisle he was in previously.

“Wait. Then Chouji?” Ino gave him an unimpressed look.

“How heteronormative of you to assume it would have to be one of my guy friends.”

Naruto choked on air and his face flushed deep red. Ino smirked at how flustered he became.

“Sakura?” Naruto’s voice dropped even lower so that only Ino could hear him. She nodded and patted his head for finally coming to the right conclusion. “You like girls too?”

Wow. Of course that’s straight where your brain goes to.” Ino sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Gender isn’t something I care about or that I could help. Sakura just happens to be a girl and she just happens to be the one that I first fell in love with. But yeah occasionally I do find a girl really attractive. And Sai always disagrees heavily with me because we have different tastes. So you could say I’m bi.”

“Does she know?”

“Yes, of course. And I didn’t even have to kiss her against her will to tell her.”

“Of course you would know about that,” Naruto said bitterly. It was the worst moment of his life. Sakura’s face afterward haunted him for the longest time. It was a very bad period of his life and no matter how often he was assured that it was a moment of immaturity he couldn’t forgive himself for it. “Kind of weird to think that you were also my rival in love back then. Does Sai know about Sakura? Like your old feelings for her?”

“Of course he does. I don’t hide anything from him.”

“Really? So you’re going to tell him about cornering me in the library?”

“I don’t need to.” Ino pointed behind him. “He’s right there.”

Naruto turned around and jumped when he saw Sai standing a few feet away holding a book. Sai smiled at him and waved.


“When the fuck did you get here?”

“I was here the whole time.”

“You two really go everywhere together don’t you?” Naruto muttered, slightly frightened by the couple.

“Except the restroom,” Shikamaru said from the next aisle over. “Although he has followed her in a few times.”

“No more comments from the cheap seats,” Ino scolded Shikamaru.

“Whatever. We gotta go. Our lunch block is almost over. Sai? Where are you even supposed to be?”

“I needed to get away from the studio. Too many fumes from the oil paints.”

“I told you to open a window, Sai.”

“But it’s so cold out, Beautiful.”

Naruto walked away from Shikamaru and the weird couple and made his way out through the aisles to reach the exit. If he stuck around he would just be caught up in more Ino and Sai weirdness. He had no idea how Shikamaru and Sakura could handle being around them for long.

On his way out he caught Sakura and Sasuke still cozy in their own aisle. He inwardly thanked God that they were just whispering to each other. There was something weird about watching Sasuke act like a normal teenage boy with hormones.

Looking behind him first to make sure Ino wasn’t anywhere in sight, Naruto took another peek at his best friends. Sasuke had caged Sakura with his arms, hands on the bookcase on either side of her. She was looking at him, smiling all warm and soft. Smiling Naruto’s favorite smile.

Smiling the smile he would forever thank Sasuke for causing.

Looking in the mirror was a hard task. But Karin always managed. It wasn’t as if she was ugly. There was just parts of her she couldn’t help but think were ugly.

She tilted her head from to side, examining her reflection. She frowned at the awkward tan line she still had in even in the middle of winter. Her arms were milky white with scars running up and down them while the skin on her chest and her face was a nice peachy color. The effects of never letting the sun shine on her arms.

“Are you leaving already?”

Karin turned around and saw Suigetsu sitting on his bed, not even bothering to cover up. She rolled her eyes at him and pulled her tank top and then her sweater over head.

“You know I have somewhere to be.” Karin grabbed her peacoat, a really nice black one that her aunt had bought for her, and slipped it on.

“You stay less and less nowadays,” Suigetsu muttered, reaching for his clothes all piled up at the foot of his bed.

“Are we really doing this right now?” Karin glared at him as she grabbed her backpack. “I’m going to miss visiting hours if I don’t leave soon.”

“Just go. Manny will be home soon anyway.”

Karin frowned. That was a lie. Suigetsu’s older brother wasn’t due to come home from work for hours. She clamped her mouth shut, refusing to start arguing with him about the lie like he was fishing for.

“Bye, Sui.”

“Yeah. See ya.”

Karin practically ran down the steps of Suigetsu’s fourth floor walkup. She turned the corner and headed into the area parking garage and as soon as she got to her car she threw her bag into the passenger seat of her car and took a moment to take a deep inhale and exhale.

“I ain’t got time for this shit,” Karin muttered to herself as she started up her Camry. She pulled out of the parking garage.

Karin knew she shouldn’t have wasted time fooling around with Suigetsu but she felt she needed to give him some attention in order to pacify him. She had been busy with her part-time job as a custodian for a law firm and using all of her free time to visit her mother who was receiving palliative care forty-five minutes away in the city of Kusa.

The drive was long and used up a lot of gas which was what most of her money from her part-time went toward but it was worth it. After she had received a scholarship to attend Oto Prep as a boarding student she never had time to visit her mother but after she convinced Minato to get her a car she took trips at least twice a week. She usually had enough money just for those two trips because Minato provided her with gas money as long as she drove Naruto to school and back. When that became not often enough she started working in order to fund her trips.

She never told her Aunt Kushina or Minato about visiting her mother because then they would offer to pay for her trip expenses and that was the last thing she wanted. She already felt like a burden to them and she still felt guilty for being rude to Naruto when she first started living with them. It was common for them to act that way towards each other but what she had told him was uncalled for.

Naruto had been fascinated by her hair and how different it was from Kushina’s hair even though they were related. It wasn’t a vibrant tomato red like his mother’s or her own mother’s hair but a rich and deep cinnamon color and her eyes weren’t grey-blue like most Uzumakis but russet, a red-brown, like her estranged father’s eyes. Karin was insulted, thinking he had implied she was a washed out variation of what an Uzumaki was suppose to look like and snapped at him, telling him he shouldn’t be allowed to be called Uzumaki since he sure didn’t look like one at all.

That fight had established a boundary between the two cousins that neither one of them ever brought up.

The two of them didn’t speak for a few weeks when she first started living with his family which led to a pretty lonely existence at home and at school. Sure she had Suigetsu, Jūgo, and Sasuke, but they weren’t in a majority of her classes or in Sasuke’s case, too quiet to be considered quality company most of the time. It wasn’t a new experience, just the same as when she was in foster care and when she attended Oto Prep. Mostly ignored by everyone else. Karin thought it would be a nice change as long as nothing like what had happened in the dorms happened again.

Everything was going fine until one day after gym class.

“Shit.” Karin scrambled, blind, looking for her glasses. “I’m going to kill you, you little shits.”

“Look at the old lady.” A squeaky high pitched voice cackled. “Guess this is where she heads to after class. Too good to talk to any of us and too good to use the same showers, huh?”

Karin sighed and sat down with her back against one of the plastic dividers of the shower stalls. She had become accustomed to sneaking into the girls team locker room to shower in peace in the more private showers than the communal type in the gym locker room. She didn’t want anyone to see her scars and bite marks from the torment she received from her old roommates, especially not the underclassmen.

“Eww. What’s wrong with her arms?”

“I don’t know but it’s creepy.”

“Come on, let’s go. Just leave her glasses and clothes somewhere high where she can’t find them.”

“She’s so blind I don’t think it would matter.”

Karin sat there for a moment, trying to calm down. She didn’t cry during her abuse and she wasn’t going to cry now. Tears wouldn’t solve anything. There was the pattering of hurried footsteps and giggles and then the lights went out before the door to the locker room slammed shut.

“Overkill, assholes,” Karin muttered to herself.

A moment later there was the sound of shrieks and apologies coming muffled through the walls of the locker room. An incoherent voice was shouting and then the sound of the door opening and the lights flickered back on.

“Hello?” A melodious voice called out. It was the kind of voice Karin hated because it was overly feminine and sweet.

Karin remained silent, not wanting to draw attention to herself. She would just wait until the stranger left.

“There you are.” A pink blob had pulled back the curtain. Karin was about tell her to go away when the stranger wrapped her up in a soft towel that smelled of lavender, covering her shoulders and arms. “You’re going to get sick sitting her in the cold after a shower.”

Why do you care? Karin grumbled inwardly.

“Wait one second.”

The pink blob left her line of sight. All Karin could hear was the sound of metal doors opening and what sounded like rubber soled shoes squeaking against metal, then a triumphant “Aha!”, and then the thump of someone landing on their feet.

“I believe these are yours?” The pink blob came back and placed Karin’s glasses in her hands. Karin immediately placed them on her face to look at the person helping her.

“Holy shit you’re really pink.” Karin had no filter and said the first thing on her mind when everything came back to focus.

“And you’re really red,” the strange pink girl giggled. But she wasn’t really a stranger. Karin knew exactly who this pink haired kid was. The greener than green eyes gave her away. Even if someone dyed their hair pink they couldn’t replicate the color of the eyes of the girl sitting between Sasuke and Naruto in the photo Sasuke used as his phone’s lock screen.

Sasuke didn’t talk much but what he did share always had a common theme: two people. One of them was her own cousin Naruto and the other was a girl named Sakura. Karin thought herself very observant and couldn’t help but notice the pleasant aura around Sasuke whenever he briefly mentioned her.

“I’m going to go guard the door, okay?” Sakura handed Karin her clothes. Karin snatched them away, not completely trusting the pretty girl in front of her.

“What are you even doing here?”

“I play volleyball. I came to store my gym bag away.” Sakura turned back to smile at Karin. It was an easy casual smile that had Karin blinking rapidly in confusion at how calm she felt from seeing it. “Lucky, huh?”

“Yeah. Real lucky,” Karin bit out sarcastically. It wasn’t that she was trying to push her away. It was just something she did instinctively with people. There was something about the calm, familiar feeling settling in her body that made her uncomfortable to be around Sakura.

“Almost done? The bell’s going to ring soon.”

Karin slipped her cardigan on and watched Sakura for a moment. She just realized that Sakura had not once looked at her arms after she had covered her with the towel that Karin assumed was from her own gym bag. Sakura didn’t cringe or ask about them or made any sort of comment.

“You know, I’ve only ever seen one person with hair this red.” Sakura reached over and twirled a strand of Karin’s locks with her index finger. “My friend Naruto. His mother has really, really red hair. It’s so unique.”

“It’s not the same red!” Karin snapped, flustered by the ease Sakura displayed in getting close. Karin usually felt jealous when girls were able to get all touchy in a casual manner. She didn’t have the social skills to do anything like that properly. With Sakura, she just felt embarrassed by the longing feeling in her chest. Like she didn’t want her to go away.

Sakura’s eyes went wide in shock at the outburst but then she burst into a fit of giggles.

“No. Your hair is so much better. Really pretty.” Sakura gave her a wide, toothy smile. “But it is pretty similar. Like you could be related.”

The two girls left the locker room and headed down the hall together in silence. After a while, Karin broke it.

“She’s my cousin. Like three times removed or some shit,” Karin muttered. Sakura’s green eyes became all sparkly at the new information. “But I call her Auntie because she’s, well, much older than I am and she acts like one.”

Your Naruto’s cousin! I’ve been wanting to meet you.” Sakura hooked her arm with Karin’s and Karin gaped, surprised at how happy and easy Sakura was with a stranger. “We should totally hang out after school. Maybe get something to eat. Have you been around town much? I can show you the best shops.”

Karin’s eye twitched. Sakura was just as much a chatterbox as Naruto and Suigetsu were. The only consolation was that although she rambled on and on, her voice wasn’t as annoying as she once thought her type of voice was.



“Okonomiyaki. It’s my favorite but I don’t know the stores around Konoha. Do you have any recommendations?”

Sakura beamed at her and started prattling on about a restaurant near a café her family owned. Karin’s mouth twitched upward on one side as she started to recognize the calm feeling she was getting. She had felt it only once before in the past few years, when Sasuke and the others found a way to get her away from Oto.

It was the sensation of feeling safe.

Visiting her mother always felt awkward. It was her mother and she was only seventeen, she shouldn’t have to visit her. She should have been living with her.

“I should get going, Ma.” Karin packed up her school books and handed her mother the envelope of photos she had recently had developed. Mariko took them with a gentle hold. She would spend her time adding them to her scrapbook the next day. “I need to go talk to the man in finances about the bills.”

“You don’t have to do that.” Mariko took Karin’s hand in her own and stroked the top of it. “The payment has been taken care of for this month already.”

“By who?” Karin frowned. She had been funneling money from her college savings to help pay for her mother’s palliative care, against her mother’s wishes, when Mariko was no longer able to support herself. Her congestive heart failure had only gotten worse over the years and instead of just being unable to care and give the support Karin needed, now she was falling apart on her own.

Karin cursed her father every day. He better pray he never saw her again. If he had only stuck around Karin could be in her own home with her own family.

“Here.” Mariko pulled out a folder from the drawer in her night stand. Karin took it and opened it up. Skimming through all of the billing information she reached the bottom where there was a messy scrawl for a signature. The ‘N’ and the ‘U’ were the only legible letters.


“He’s a very nice boy.”

“He’s visited you?” Karin stared at her mother wide eyed. “And how did he even have access to your account? That’s gotta be illegal or something.”

“I’m not sure. But he does visit sometimes. Whenever he can. I’m surprised you two haven’t crossed paths when you come here.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Karin walked slowly to her car, trying to process everything that had happened during her visitation to her mother.

Naruto. Naruto with his Namikaze blonde hair and blue eyes that she wouldn’t let him forget about had been visiting her mother. Not only had he been spending time with her but he had helped make a payment for her care.

Karin sat in her car, not even bothering to put the key in the ignition, and her head collapsed onto the steering wheel. She did something she hadn’t let herself do in a long time, not since the state terminated her mother’s parental rights for failure to support her. Not since she lost her family.

For the first time since she was fourteen, Karin Uzumaki cried.

Naruto had a goal. He was going to spend more time with Sakura and Sasuke, just like they use to. If Ino could get over her feelings and continue to be Sakura’s best friend without complications, he sure as hell could.

Which is why he proposed a day out in the snow since school was cancelled. They had received seven inches of snow which was just decent enough to play in.

“Care to explain what we’re doing, moron?” Sasuke looked even more like a pissed off cat than usual, arms crossed in annoyance. Sakura stood as close as possible to him, shivering. “It’s cold.”

“You never feel cold,” Naruto scoffed. Sasuke deadpanned and then looked over at Sakura who was bundled up completely, scarf hiding the lower half of her face so that only her eyes could be seen. “Oh. Right.”

“You guys are idiots.” Karin shouted down at them from her bedroom window. Naruto stuck his tongue out at her and Karin shut her window.

“So what do you guys want to do first? I think we should make─”

Naruto was cut off when a snowball hit his face. He looked over at Sasuke, flabbergasted, and saw him smirking. Sasuke raised his gloved hands and showed him how clean they were. Naruto was confused since he thought it had to have been Sasuke. He looked over at Sakura who was already packing another snowball.

“Every man for themselves!” Her cry came out muffled behind the wool scarf and she threw her next snowball at Sasuke who wasn’t expecting her to attack him.

After a few minutes of fighting in Naruto’s backyard, the snowball fight ended up on the street. Sakura and Naruto had teamed up after his short alliance with Sasuke. The two boys had originally needed to gang up on Sakura because of the odd way she easily evaded any snowballs thrown at her, even in all of her extra clothes, but Naruto ended up breaking his alliance when Sasuke dropped his guard.

Sasuke had taken the first opportunity to swiftly hop over Naruto’s waist high fence to avoid anymore hits. Naruto quickly followed and Sakura stumbled in all of her bulky clothes over the fence after them. Tired of chasing and throwing, Naruto tackled Sasuke into one of their neighbors’ snow covered bushes.

“What the hell, Naruto?” Sasuke pushed Naruto off of him. The two of them sat in the bush, stuck. They both squirmed, trying to find a way to free themselves.

“I got caught up in the moment,” Naruto replied, sheepishly. The whole act of tackling Sasuke had been mostly impulsive. There was a need to win that had taken over.

“You’re such a dumbass.”


Their bickering was cut short by the sound of Sakura laughing. Naruto looked over and saw her doubled over, clutching her sides.

“You guys look so stupid.” Sakura wiped at her eyes, a tear from laughter escaping. “Hold on one sec. I’m going to take a picture of you guys.”

“No.” Sasuke gave her a disgruntled look that reminded Naruto of the grumpy black cat that roamed the streets at night and hissed at him whenever he tried to get near it.

“I’m doing it anyway.” Sakura took out her phone from somewhere inside of her parka and prepared to snap a photo. Sasuke kept squirming, not wanting to take any embarrassing photos.

“Hey Sakura.” Naruto got her attention and then he shoved a scoop of snow into Sasuke’s face. The shutter went off and Sakura burst out laughing again.

“I’m going to kill you.” Snow fell from Sasuke’s face with every movement he made as he talked. Sakura’s laughter increased in volume which caused Naruto to burst out laughing even more.

This, Naruto decided, was worth the heartache.

Chapter Fourteen: Lace And Other Things

When Sakura woke up she wasn’t in her own room and she wasn’t in Sasuke’s. The walls weren’t black and lined with posters but there was a quality to it that felt very much like the Uchiha home. The light blue of the walls with the white molding running through the center of them and the plushness of the bed she lay in was such a Mikoto quality that Sakura could only come to the conclusion that she was in the Uchiha guest room.

I was in school. And then I passed out. I woke up and Mikoto was the one that picked me up.

Sakura nodded to herself, catching herself up with what had happened prior to her waking up. She snuggled deeper into the sheets, the smell of the laundry detergent Mikoto used easing her troubled mind.

Sakura had completely forgotten that Mikoto was her emergency contact for when her parents couldn’t be reached. Her mother had listed her as such so long ago it was easy to forget. She never really needed her parents to be contacted except for the rare emergencies in elementary school. She was usually a very healthy person and rarely came down with any sickness.

“Sakura?” Mikoto had entered the room with a cold compress and a bottle of Tylenol. “I called your mother at the café. You were sleeping so I couldn’t ask if I could give you Tylenol for your fever but she says it’s fine so I brought some up. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to keep you here until your mom can come home. I told her I didn’t mind watching over you if it was too busy at the shop.”

Sakura nodded slowly, too tired to speak and too sore to make any big movements. She sat up slowly so that she could take the medicine Mikoto had brought for her.

“Are you fine in your school clothes for now? I can always pick something up from your room if you don’t mind me rifling through your drawers.” Mikoto’s face flushed a dull shade of red. “I’m sorry that I can’t provide you with any of my clothing but I don’t own sweats or bed clothes appropriate for a teenage girl.”

Sakura held back from giggling over how flustered she had made Mikoto Uchiha just by needing a change of clothes. Growing up she had never seen Mikoto dressed in anything as frumpy as sweatpants or cotton shorts and she always had the suspicion that the elegant woman had a more risqué side to her than she let on. It was kind of cute and she hoped when she reached Mikoto’s age that she was completely secure and confident enough in her body to wear satin slips and negligees every night for sleepwear.

But then again she was always complaining about the cold and wouldn’t be able to pull it off for that reason. Sakura guessed that Sasuke wasn’t the only Uchiha with fire in his veins.

“If you need anything I’ll be in the study working on some designs.” Mikoto brushed Sakura’s hair away from her face and made a soft tutting sound. “You shouldn’t overwork yourself. You stressed your body out so much. Remember, our bodies can only handle so much.”

Sakura tried to protest and argue that her body didn’t have limits but her mouth didn’t want to cooperate with her. Mikoto just gave her a knowing look and smirked when Sakura could only pout to voice her disagreement.

“Unfortunately you can’t use the restroom in the guest room because it connects to Itachi’s room. It seemed like a much better idea at the time for his room to be that way because he’s much more agreeable than Sasuke but Itachi can’t come into contact with you or anything you touch right now because of your fever. You can use Sasuke’s bathroom so you don’t have to walk down to the powder room.”

Mikoto waited for Sakura to lie back down so she could pull the sheets and duvet up to underneath her chin. Sakura hid her face underneath the blankets and closed her eyes. She almost didn’t notice the feather light kiss that was placed on her head. As soon as she heard the door close she let out a long sigh.

I’ve really done it now.

On top of overworking herself with her packed work and volunteer schedule, Sakura had been stressing over her recommendation letters. She didn’t want to hound her teachers but some of them were really cutting it close. It was a shame that she needed so many for all of the scholarships she was applying for.

Mama is going to cut back on my work hours now.

Sakura knew she could always apply to work somewhere else but the bonus to working at Budding Cherry Blossom was that she could see her parents more often. Spending time with her parents, especially her father, was something she use to take for granted.

I should just try to sleep…

Sakura woke up two hours later, irritated by how gross she felt. She smelled of sweat and she was soaked. The medicine was working, helping her break her fever but it was disgusting to feel so hot and sweaty. The roots of her hair and the back of her neck was drenched.

Throwing the duvet off of her body, Sakura groaned at how sore she still felt and pulled herself out of bed. Feeling the back of her neck and how wet her scalp was, Sakura made her way out of the room and down the hall. There was a smell of something cooking so she assumed Mikoto was in the kitchen. She turned her head to the left and looked at the installed shelves full of photos and awards.

Sakura nodded to herself, remembering that Mikoto had called this hallway on the upper floor a gallery. It reminded her of art museums but she felt silly bringing it up to a pro. Mikoto was an interior designer and had a heavy influence in the building and then remodelling of her home.

Sakura traced the edge of a middle shelf with her finger and then tapped at a trophy. It was one of Itachi’s for a taekwondo tournament. In the same row were many more of his and Sasuke’s ribbons and medals hanging off of trophies for kendo or taekwondo or basketball in Sasuke’s case.

Sakura smiled as she looked at different framed photographs from different events. Her favorites were from Sasuke’s piano recitals. He was so small and dressed up in tuxedos. In photos with awards, Mikoto was in the photo, beaming brightly with her hands on his shoulders. Looking closely, she could see the pink on Sasuke’s face, the only sign that he was embarrassed by how excitable his mother was. Sakura felt her cheeks heat up when she noticed a photo with Sasuke holding a bouquet of daffodils. He was scowling with red ears, heavily embarrassed. She had asked Mikoto to give him the bouquet after one of his recitals when they were eleven.

She liked plenty of Itachi’s photo’s from when he was a lot younger but that’s because in all of those Sasuke was standing next to him, smiling from ear to ear. He use to smile really big when they were younger.

Sakura frowned when she noticed a significant difference in Sasuke’s and Itachi’s photographs. In almost every single competition photo of Itachi’s, Fugaku was standing next to his son. In Sasuke’s photos, he was either alone or with his mother. In some rare ones Itachi stood next to his younger brother. She knew Fugaku was a busy man but it was frustrating to know that he obviously made time for the eldest son and not the younger one.

With a huff, Sakura marched further down the gallery and opened the linen closet at the end of the hall to grab a towel. She grabbed a fluffy towel and marched into Sasuke’s room to his bathroom to freshen up. She desperately wanted a shower to rid herself of her sweat.

Forgetting that she should have acted more reserved about entering a man’s bedroom, Sakura rifled through the drawers and shelves in Sasuke’s walk in closet for a new set of clothes. Sakura grimaced when she realized she didn’t have an extra set of undergarments and looked for a pair of boxer shorts without an opening up front. She wasn’t going to wear her already used underwear and she wasn’t going to ask Mikoto for a pair or for her to head over to her house to grab some for her. She didn’t want to receive any more shocks from Mikoto’s wardrobe nor did she feel comfortable with her boyfriend’s mother knowing what she wore under her clothes even if most of her undergarments consisted of innocent boyshorts with only a few rare lacy hipster panties.

Would these fit me? Sakura held up a pair of black boxer briefs to her crotch and tried to measure it out. Sasuke is much taller and bigger than I am but I have pretty thick thighs. Hopefully that helps despite the extra room at the waist.

Shrugging her shoulders she added them to the pile of clothes she chose for herself. She wasn’t going to wear them long anyway. Just some fresh clothes so she wouldn’t have to sleep in sweat drenched garments.

After a quick shower Sakura shimmied her body into Sasuke’s baggy clothing. She would usually lather herself up with lotion but there didn’t seem to be any which was fine considering how tired she was after only showering.

I wonder if this is how Itachi feels after his showers. I have no energy left.

When she first found out about Itachi having Lupus she had researched as much as she could, knowing that Sasuke was still out of it because of the initial shock of his brother being hospitalized. She wanted to help him further understand what was going on with his brother but she never got that chance due to him closing himself off and the little incident involving her calls and texts being blocked.

Sakura shook her head and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She wiped the glass when it continued to fog up from the steam and frowned at how splotchy her face looked. She was pale from feeling ill but the shower caused her skin to heat up and she had awkward red patches on her cheeks.

Sakura jumped when there was a knock on the door. Mikoto must have come to check on her. She unlocked the door and Sasuke leaned against the doorway, arms crossed in front of his chest and eyebrow raised.

“Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping because you’re sick, not in my room stealing my clothes?”

“I was sweaty and it was gross.”

“You’re not that gross when you’re sweaty actually. Salty. But not gross.”

Sakura’s face heated up and she pushed past Sasuke who was smirking at her. She slipped on his navy blue Konoha Police Academy hoodie. It was Sasuke’s favorite hoodie that he had originally stolen from Itachi.

“That’s an interesting look for you.”

Sasuke pulled her toward him by the hoodie’s pockets. Sakura could feel his hands groping at her waist and hips through the material of the sweater. His hands slipped out of his pocket to slip under the hoodie so he could place his hands on the small of her back. He bent his head down and leaned his forehead against hers.

“You’re really warm,” he murmured. A shiver ran down Sakura’s spine.

“Of course I am. I’m sick, Sasuke. And your mom’s somewhere in the house.” Sakura pushed lightly against his chest, not really wanting him to pull away from her. “I didn’t realize it would interest you to see me in men’s clothing.”

“Not men’s clothing,” Sasuke scoffed. He pulled on the hem of his Brand New shirt that she was wearing. The hem reached past her waist and settled on top of her legs around mid-thigh. “My clothes. There’s a difference. Why this one?”

“Deja Entendu has my favorite cover art. And it’s not like you wear your band shirts anymore.” Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest. She had picked the shirt from a pile of perfectly folded shirts that looked like they had never been touched. She almost expected the shirt to feel stiff the way some t-shirts felt when they were brand new and never worn before.

“Yeah.” Sasuke pulled slightly back, a frown on his face.

Sasuke use to wear all sorts of band shirts as his casual clothes, most of his clothing leaning towards being punk. His father wasn’t a big fan of it and would make an odd sort of grunting sound when he saw Sasuke dressed in any way he thought wasn’t presentable. Sakura hated it. It was like he was trying to suffocate Sasuke and mold him into just any other Uchiha.

Which made Sakura terribly sad. She loved Sasuke just the way he was, Uchiha having nothing to do with it, and couldn’t see why his father couldn’t accept him the way he was.

“You’re making a face.”

Sakura was pulled away from her thoughts by Sasuke pressing kisses to her throat, his lashes tickling her skin. She hadn’t even noticed that he had sat down on the edge of his bed and pulled her between his legs.

“Sasuke. I’m sick.”

“Yin-yang…taoism…cures sicknesses…” Sasuke murmured on her skin, now pressing open mouth kisses to her stomach. Sakura was tempted to take the shirt she was wearing and put it over his head to cut him off.

“Yes, because I of all people am going to believe that shit works. You don’t even believe that works. We’re not taoists.” Sakura yanked Sasuke’s head away from her stomach and he glared up at her. “And I’m sure in that practice it’s men that are suppose to reap the benefits. You’re not thinking with the right head.”

Sasuke wrapped his arms around her torso and buried his face into her stomach. He mumbled some complaints that Sakura couldn’t hear and she rolled her eyes.

“You smell like me. Minus the deodorant.”

“I’m all minty. I kind of like it.” Sakura giggled and placed a kiss on Sasuke’s head. “I’m going back to the guest room before your mother walks in on us.”

“Naruto’s coming over.”

“You guys had plans?”

Sasuke gave her one of his unimpressed looks and she was overcome with embarrassment when she finally realized why Naruto would be coming over to the Uchiha house.

“It was just a slight fever. All I needed was some sleep. You guys make such a big deal about everything.”

You passed out. And you’re suppose to be a doctor in the future? God help those kids that walk into your clinic.”

Sakura made a clicking sound with her tongue, tossed her hair over her shoulder, and then marched haughtily out of his room. She poked her head back into his doorway and glared at him.

“That was mean. I’m going to be an amazing doctor. And kids are going to love me.”

“Sakura?” Mikoto called up from the bottom of the stairs. Sakura peeked down over the gallery railing to the foyer. Mikoto was smiling up at her. “You seem a lot better. You’re not feeling nauseous are you? I’m going to bring something up for you to eat. You and Sasuke can eat in the media room.”

“Sakura!?” Naruto walked in through the front door and stood next to Mikoto who looked at him with wide eyes. “How are you doing?”

“I forgot to lock the door when I came home,” Sasuke muttered coming to stand next to Sakura. Naruto bounded up the stairs, lugging his backpack with him.

“I guess I’ll bring up food for the three of you,” Mikoto giggled and walked out of view.

Sasuke took Sakura by the hand and led her to the media room. Naruto burst in after them and dumped his backpack on the coffee table. He unzipped it and pulled out different video game cases and a console. He started to plug it into Sasuke’s wall and connect it to the oversized flat screen on the wall.

“Loser. What are you doing?”

“We’re going to play Pokkén. We’re all here and you have a bigger TV. Much bigger TV. It will look awesome.”

“Did you even do your homework?” Sakura asked in a tone that made Naruto grimace. She was sure she sounded motherly and cringed a little. She thought she had grown out of being the “mom friend” of their trio but apparently she hadn’t.

“First Sasuke, now you? I already have parents, guys!” Naruto’s face squished up in the same way it always had when he pouted out of actual frustration instead of when he pouted to act cute.

Sakura raised an eyebrow at Sasuke, silently questioning him about what Naruto had just said.

“I’m his tutor. I’m suppose to ask,” Sasuke grumbled. He left the room for a moment and came back with the pillows and a crocheted throw from the guest room. He fluffed them up on the L of the couch and gestured for Sakura to curl up there. As soon as she lied down he threw the throw over her and tucked it under her legs and feet to trap her body heat in.

Wow.” Naruto gaped at the two of them. “You’re a lot more cutesy than I thought Sasuke.”

“Shut up and hand me the controller.” Sasuke slumped on the couch next to him. Sakura had a good view of the back of his neck and saw the familiar red blush that adorned it whenever he was flustered.

Barely into the first round, Mikoto came in with a tray laden with three bowls of tomato soup and a plate of cheesy bread.

“Pause the game. Time to eat.” Mikoto said sternly to the two boys as she placed the tray on the coffee table. Like a switch had been flipped she smiled softly to Sakura and brought her bowl to her, speaking to her in a gentle tone. “I know you’re a vegetarian like your father so I made tomato soup since it would work for both you and Sasuke. Sorry Naruto. I didn’t know you were coming over.”

“That’s fine Mamakoto. Trust me, your cheesy bread is worth the lack of meat.”

“Alright you three. Be careful not to make a mess. I have to go and call Itachi and see if he’s getting something to eat with Izumi and Shisui. Can you believe he invited Shisui along on what could have been a date? I swear that boy is so clueless sometimes.”

Mikoto shook her head and let out a sigh before leaving them to eat their dinner. Naruto practically inhaled his soup and used his sleeve to wipe his mouth. He looked up at Sasuke and Sakura who gave him identical disgusted faces.


“Do you even taste what you eat?” Sakura handed her bowl to Sasuke who placed it back on the tray. She had eaten quickly too but in a much neater manner. She just remembered that she hadn’t had anything to eat the whole day. There was no way she was going to say that out loud. Not only would Sasuke be upset but Mikoto would be outraged. She was the first one to find out about her dieting when she was in her middle school years and the lecture Sakura received was traumatizing.

“Hey guys,” Naruto went blank in the face and stared into space. “What do you usually do for Valentine’s Day?”

Sakura took a moment to think about it. She was apparently unaware that she was even in a relationship but Sasuke thought they were without even discussing it so she had to wonder if maybe he did something small for the day while she treated it like any other day.

She remembered sneaking out in the middle of the night last year around Valentine’s Day. There was a long hike while they listened to Sasuke’s iPod. She remembered Sasuke putting his jacket on the floor so she wouldn’t scrape her knees while she sat in his lap, riding him. Then they walked back home holding hands.

The year before that, Sasuke convinced her to go stargazing, telling her that it was the perfect time to see Comet Lovejoy with the naked eye. The moon was full on Valentine’s then. They took Itachi’s telescope. It was her idea to go down on him in the middle of their clearing that year.

Sasuke had played her the first song he learned on the guitar the year prior to that. He was embarrassed because he had taught himself and it was the first time he was playing for anyone. Their relationship hadn’t progressed beyond kisses and occasional heavy petting so all she had done was made out with him.

Shit. We did stuff? Wait. Did those count as dates!? I would have counted them! I don’t care about being bought dinner or going anywhere really nice. I’m a cheap date and I am not ashamed about it!

“Why are you asking?” Sakura asked, face flushing pink. There was no way that she was going to explain to Naruto the intimate details of her relationship with Sasuke. For a moment she felt awkward. There’s no way she was going to tell someone she viewed as her younger brother that she was sexually active. If he assumed that would be fine but she wasn’t going to tell him. Sasuke cleared his throat. Sakura looked over at him and saw that he was trying to contain a smirk. From the look on his face she could only assume she was making faces to match her train of thought.

“I was wondering what to do about it this year. Technically, Hina is my first real Valentine.”

“Do you have any ideas?” Sakura leaned forward, taking interest. Sasuke got up and cleared the coffee table. He didn’t even try to mask his disinterest in the subject and took the dirty dishes downstairs.

“Well…yeah. It’s kind of stupid.”

“It can’t be that bad. Tell me!” Sakura clasped her hands together in her lap and waited eagerly.

“Well, apparently she’s a huge Kyu fan. Her cousin has a friend that use to go to KSS─that Lee guy that wore a lot of track suits─and they all went to watch one of our home games for football together and she really liked the mascot.”

Sakura’s brow wrinkled as she tried to figure out for herself why Naruto would bring up their school’s mascot Kyu the Fox.

“I was thinking I could dress up and bring her flowers and balloons, like in costume? Maybe even do my routine for her?”

“That’s so cheesy Naruto. But I love it!” Sakura burst out into laughter. It was such a Naruto thing to do.

“So what’s your plan? What do you even get for Sasuke? It’s not like he eats chocolate.”

“Same as every year? A carton of cherry tomatoes.” Sakura just needed to make sure they lasted until she was able to give them to him. Ino loved cherry tomatoes, not all tomatoes like Sasuke did, but only cherry tomatoes. Sakura was sure the major difference for Ino was because they were bite sized and the texture was different than slices of tomatoes. Either way, Ino was likely to try and snack on them if she found the box like she attempted to do the year before.

“Ugh, you smell even more like Sasuke than usual.” Naruto’s nose wrinkled in disgust as he slid closer to her on the couch.

“Do I usually smell like him?” Sakura knew that it was unavoidable for her to smell like him at the moment but she didn’t realize that she carried his scent around with her all of the time.

“Yeah you do. He smells like you too sometimes. I don’t think other people notice but I’ve always had a pretty strong olfactory senses. Kiba said I could have been a bloodhound in a past life or something.”

“That’s a big word for you. Olfactory.” Sasuke came back in and he sat himself between Naruto and Sakura. Naruto sniffed him and Sasuke pushed him away, palming Naruto’s face in his hand. “Stay away from me.”

“Don’t be a jerk,” Naruto grumbled picking up his Wii U controller. “Come on, let’s play. I could whoop your ass all night.”

“This isn’t a sleepover, idiot.” Sasuke snatched the controller out of his hand, obviously offended by the idea that Naruto could beat him at anything. “It’s a school night. You gotta go home soon. Preferably before Itachi gets here. I don’t want you bothering him.”

“Aww. But that’s not fair, Sakura’s sleeping over!”

“No she isn’t. She’s going home as soon as her mom can come pick her up.”

“Uh-huh, sure. You just want to get rid of me.”

“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t make what I said any less true.”

“Well, I’m not leaving until Aunt Mebuki comes. How do I know if I leave you won’t take advantage of poor, sick Sakura.”

Sasuke stared straight ahead, pressing options on the menu to prepare for their next match. Sakura tried not to give him a look just in case Naruto saw it.

The three of them continued to play for another hour. Sakura started to get sleepy and curled up into a ball. Sasuke grabbed the duvet from the guest room to toss over her body and she was finally able to relax.

“I think that’s Aunt Mebuki.” Naruto paused the game and tilted his head so that he could hear the voices in the foyer better.

Mikoto could be heard giggling and speaking in a gentle, reassuring tone. Sakura could hear her mother sounding haggard and apologetic. She could just picture her, blonde hair falling out of place, worried lines on her forehead.

“I should go put my own pants back on.” Sakura groaned as she pulled herself up from the couch and stretched.

“I’m not getting my stuff back am I?”

“Nope. Well, your underwear but I’ll wash that first.”

“You guys are weird.” Naruto shuddered as he packed up all of his stuff.

Sakura ruffled his hair on her way out to get her stuff. She spotted her mother talking to Mikoto. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest, hugging her body protectively. She had the same problems with the cold that Sakura had. There was a pleasant smile on her mother’s face as she listened to Mikoto’s gossip.

Her mother, Mikoto, and Kushina had been close friends in their children’s early years. Mikoto and Kushina had been friends since childhood but when Mikoto moved in next door after the Uchiha house was finished being built she quickly became friends with Mebuki. The three women had been pregnant at the same time and had bonded through motherhood. Mikoto being the veteran was a big help to the other two since it was the first child for both Mebuki and Kushina.

Mebuki had really needed help after Sakura was born. She and Kizashi were all alone with no family in the country. When Mebuki decided to runaway with Sakura’s father when she was younger she had become estranged from her parents. Kizashi’s parents had passed away. Sakura’s grandfather had died while Kizashi was a teen some time after they moved from Japan and her grandmother passed away some time before Sakura turned two.

Sakura’s parents had never been the traditional sort. Mebuki was seventeen when she ran off with Kizashi. Mebuki’s parents were more traditional and not as accepting of her hippie lifestyle or of her nineteen year old punk boyfriend. Sakura never met her grandparents on her mother’s side because Mebuki ran away from home when she became pregnant out of wedlock as a teenager and her parents demanded she either abort it or give it up for adoption. Unfortunately, Mebuki had a miscarriage and at the time it was believed she wouldn’t be able to conceive again.

Instead of returning to her parents, she continued to live with Kizashi and his mother who had welcomed her into her home. They were happy and years after the loss, they found themselves expecting a child again. Mebuki and Kizashi married later on when Sakura was one. Although they loved each other greatly, a document that stated that they were bound together in marriage was never important to either of Sakura’s parents.

The deciding factor was Kizashi’s mother who wanted to see them officially wed before her time. Mebuki couldn’t deny her wish, especially considering she was more mother to her than her actual mother had been. They had a small intimate ceremony with just the small Haruno family. There were many photos but Mebuki always told Sakura that her favorite was of Sakura standing between her parents, clinging to her mother’s simple white cotton dress, as Kizashi’s friend who was ordained married the two of them.

Sakura’s parents didn’t have a traditional love story but it was one that made her chest feel warm whenever she heard the story. Her mother loved her father and her unborn baby so much that she turned her back on her family. She chose love over blood and she didn’t regret a single day that she didn’t speak to her grandparents.

“Why are you just standing there?” Mebuki asked waspishly. Although she had frown lines on her forehead and her lips were turned down at the corners, her eyes were full of concern. It was a typical look for Sakura’s mother. “Let’s get going. Button your coat all the way up. Thank Mrs. Uchiha before you leave.”

“Thank you Ms. Mikoto.”

“It was no problem at all. I don’t mind looking after her at all. It was really nostalgic.” Mikoto smiled cheerfully and helped Sakura wrap her scarf around her neck and tucked it into her red peacoat.

Mebuki took Sakura’s bag from her and led Sakura by the arm back to their house. As soon as they were safely inside their house, Mebuki felt Sakura’s cheeks with the back of her palm.

“You still look really pale. Even for you.” Mebuki tossed Sakura’s bag into the front hall closet and helped her out of her coat and other warm accessories. “No school for you tomorrow. No arguments Sakura Haruno. And you’re grounded.”

“What!? What for?”

“For being so careless. You’re grounded for two weeks. So that means no working or volunteering at the hospital.” Mebuki pushed Sakura on the small of her back until she turned to march up the stairs. Mebuki followed and continued to hand out Sakura’s unique sort of punishment. “You’re going to come home and rest after school. I’ve already spoken to Mikoto and she would be more than happy to watch over you just like when you were twelve. Is that what you want Sakura? To be treated like a child?”

Sakura groaned in frustration and turned into her bedroom. Her mother followed after her and rifled through her drawers to find a pair of warm pajamas. Mebuki tossed a set of flannel pajamas onto her bed and then searched for socks. Sakura grabbed the socks and stuffed them back in the drawer. If she let her mother continue she was going to end up sleeping in every article of clothing she owned.

“I can get dressed on my own. And I’ll stay home from school tomorrow but I’m not pulling back from volunteering.”

“It’s funny how you think you have an actual choice,” Mebuki laughed sardonically. After a moment she let out a sigh and rubbed her shoulder. She placed her hands on Sakura’s cheeks, cupping her face. “It’s just two weeks. Just give yourself time to relax and only focus on school. Please try and enjoy your last year in high school. You have all of college to be a stressed out student.”

“Fine,” Sakura grumbled. “I’m going to change now. So, uh, can I have some privacy?”

“Pfft!” Mebuki snorted. “Like I haven’t seen all of your bits.”


“Okay, okay.”

As soon as Mebuki left Sakura collapsed on her bed and rubbed her temple. She laid there for a moment until she started to get sleepier. Reluctantly she stripped off her pants and slid on her flannel pajama bottoms. She opted to keep Sasuke’s shirt on and curled up under blankets with her face tucked in the collar.

The smells of the Uchiha house lingered on the fabric and the relaxing smell of the citrus and floral scented fabric softener Mikoto used lulled her to sleep.

The sound of cursing attracted Itachi to his younger brother’s room. He knocked on the door and waited for Sasuke to give him permission to enter. After a long pause Itachi called out to him, telling him who he was. He had forgotten how paranoid Sasuke had become within the last few years and wouldn’t just let anyone in.

“Are you alright?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Sasuke’s eyebrows were furrowed in confusion.

“Well there’s paint splotches on your desk and I believe you called your computer a ‘mother fucker’. So I’m just assuming you’re not alright.”

Sasuke sighed and ruffled his hair. Itachi noted how long it was getting. Soon enough Sasuke was going to be able to tie it back, not in a comfortable low and long ponytail like Itachi himself wore it, but in a small and high do with a little tail. Izumi was right. Sasuke needed a haircut.

Not that Sasuke would ever let Izumi near his head with a pair of scissors. The only thing he allowed was for Izumi to replace his shampoo and conditioner to help keep his hair healthy.

Itachi’s chest lightened when he smelled the slight vanilla and mint scent of Sasuke’s new hair product. It meant that Sasuke was making some attempts at self-care even if they were small and mostly about his looks. It also warmed him to know that Sasuke didn’t completely reject Izumi’s gift or her advice.

“The stupid CD didn’t burn properly and it was my last empty disc.” Sasuke scowled at a blank CD on his disc before taking it and tossing it in the bin by his desk.

“I think there’s some blank ones in the study. I’ll go look for one. You…continue your art project.” Itachi tilted his head, trying to get a better look at what Sasuke was drawing with Sharpie paint pens on a different CD. Catching his brother trying to sneak a peek, Sasuke slid the disc and the sheet of paper it was on out of view.

Itachi rolled his eyes and left him to continue his DIY cover art for whatever he was trying to burn onto CDs. He could only assume that it was his younger brother’s gift to Sakura for Valentine’s Day.

Usually Itachi only ever went into the study to pick out a new book or put one back. Luckily for him, his mother kept the room really neat and everything was easy to find. In one of the cabinets along the wall a box of tapes sat inside right next to a stack of discs. The CDs were already prepackaged in cases. What threw Itachi off was that there were quite a few cases with labels on them already.

Pulling a few out Itachi read the covers. He chuckled to himself as he read the titles. The CDs were the audio to all of Sasuke’s old piano recitals. For a moment Itachi thought his mother had decided to make CDs with his brother’s playing but the handwriting on the cases didn’t match his mother’s delicate and curly script.

The writing almost looked liked Sasuke’s neat but slanted and sharp letters but there was no way Sasuke would put effort into conserving his old compositions when he could redo them and record them as an MP3 file if he ever wanted to record himself. And if Sasuke had been doing the converting he would have known that there were blank discs in the cabinet in the study.

There was only one other person in the house that could have made the CDs and the thought confused Itachi. Fugaku had never gone to any of Sasuke’s recitals that he knew of. Their father was either busy or showed no interest.

So what was he doing with CDs filled with Sasuke’s old competition pieces?

Sakura sat on the bench in the dressing room stall and blew a raspberry at the lingerie hanging on the hook. She hated shopping with Ino because it was so hard not to give in to temptation whenever she found something really pretty. She didn’t want to try on anything and fall in love with how she looked in it knowing it would cost more than she was willing to spend.

Especially if she didn’t know when she would ever get the opportunity to wear it. Or if it was even something that would interest Sasuke to see. He seemed to not care about whatever she wore.

“Fuck it.” Sakura pulled of her garments to toss on the mesh cami and shorts Karin had picked out for her.

“That’s the spirit!” Ino chirped from the stall next to her.

“I kind of hate you Ino,” Karin grumbled. “You could probably wear a sack and look good. Share the boobs.”

“Ugh, don’t even start. I’m going to sag so much when I’m older.”

“Are you guys in the same stall?” Sakura slipped on the camisole and turned to face the mirror. She knew it would leave nothing to the imagination with how sheer it was but it still felt weird to be wearing clothes and still be able to see everything.

“Some of us aren’t complete and total prudes, Forehead. What’s it look like?”

“Really pretty. My wallet hates you guys.” Sakura turned to look at her back and nodded at how her bottom looked in the lace shorts. Even with her panties on underneath them they still looked amazing. “These are going to be the most expensive pair of pajamas I own.”

“Pajamas. Yea, sure. You’re definitely going to use them just to sleep in,” came Karin’s sarcastic retort.

“Trust me. It’s more likely that Sasuke will just ask me if I feel cold.” Sakura giggled just imagining it. When he got the chance to see her new cami and short set he was probably going to end up wrapping her up in her duvet. She would just have to wait until there was no longer ice and snow everywhere to see his reaction.

“So are you going to get it?” Sakura could hear the excitement in Ino’s voice. Sakura rolled her eyes. Ino knew that Sakura was going to give in and make the purchase.

“Yeah I am.” There was a squeal and then a curse shouted by Karin who complained about the volume. “So hurry up. I’m going to go pay now.”

Sakura quickly changed back into her clothes and neatly folded the set she was going to buy. She turned in the other stuff that was picked out to the rack of unwanted or ill fitting clothes in the dressing room area.

She was about to head to the counter when she saw a familiar head of long, silky brown hair. As quietly as she could she snuck up to Izumi and wrapped her arms around her waist and squeezed her into a tight embrace.

“Hello Sakura,” Izumi giggled lightly.

“You knew I was behind you the whole time didn’t you?”

“Yep. How are you?”

“Fine. Just shopping with some friends. You?”

Sakura let go of Izumi and looked at the two lace trimmed silk panties in her hand. They were Valentine’s Day in theme, red with white edging and a single black bow on the front.

“Aren’t those too big?”

Izumi was taller and more willowy in shape in comparison to Sakura who was petite and had a slight, sort of pear shaped figure. The underwear that Izumi was holding onto was at least three times her size.

“Yep. I’m not going to be the one wearing them.” Izumi gave Sakura a sly grin that left her flushing red. She was learning a lot more about the Uchiha family than she needed to know recently. Izumi eyed the sheer garments in Sakura’s hand. “But how are you doing? You’re practicing safe sex, right?”

“Yes. Of course! I’ve definitely learned my lesson.” Sakura felt heat creep up her neck from the shame. Izumi never tried to make her feel bad but Sakura was still embarrassed about the favor she needed to ask Izumi for when she was sixteen.

Izumi didn’t ask any questions. She just went to the pharmacy and asked for Plan B at the counter. She was the only person Sakura knew over the age of eighteen at the time that she trusted to get her the morning after pill. She and Sasuke hadn’t been careful their first time and she panicked. Sasuke couldn’t be reached at all the day after and Sakura never told him about it but Izumi made her promise that she was going to make an appointment to discuss birth control with her OBGYN.

Izumi was exactly what Sakura expected an older sister should be like. She never asked Sakura who she had sex with or made any judgements. She just bought her the Plan B and comforted her through the side effects.

“Good! I’m sorry but I’m in a rush. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?” Izumi hugged Sakura goodbye and made her way to the register.

Why did she get two of the same large panties?

Mikoto let out a deep sigh and placed her knife carefully onto the cutting board. Wiping her hands on her apron she made her way to the the back porch. She usually never had any complaints about either one of her sons but one of her biggest pet peeves was when one of them left the back doors open in winter. A cold draft would enter the home and put out the fire in the great room fireplace.

“Sas─” Mikoto stopped her tirade before it could begin.

She watched curiously as Sasuke squatted by the bushes that lined the fence between the Haruno home and their own. He stood up and examined the bush and nodded to himself seemingly satisfied with whatever it was that he had done. When she saw him turn to come back inside she ducked back into their house and returned to the kitchen.

“I’m heading out Mom.”

“What time does the game start again?” Mikoto asked him, acting as if she never noticed him go outside. “I can’t believe the season is almost over.”

“It should start at five-thirty. There’s only a few games left. Then play offs.”

“I’m going to leave something for you to heat up when you come back, okay? Your father and I have dinner plans tonight so I won’t be coming home after the game is over.”


“Please eat. Not just that carton of cherry tomatoes you brought home after school but real food.”

“I will. Bye Mom.”

Mikoto gave her son a sideways glance and a small cough. She tilted her head to present her cheek to him. Sasuke bent down and kissed his mother on the cheek, his cheeks warmed to a pale shade of pink.

“Bye Sasuke. And good luck!”

Mikoto went back to chopping vegetables and listened carefully to the sound of her son’s Jeep making it’s way down the drive and out of the cul-de-sac. As soon as she was sure he wasn’t coming back she slipped out of her house slippers and into a pair of her warmer fur lined boots.

Curiosity had gotten the best of her and she needed to know what her youngest son had been doing in the backyard. She found the bush Sasuke was squatted at earlier and ducked down to examine it. It appeared empty until she saw the corner of a brown paper envelope sticking out through the fencing in the back, creeping into the Haruno side of the fence.

What is that?

“Okay, I’m in my backyard now.”

Mikoto ducked behind her bush when she heard the back door to the Haruno house swing open and Sakura talking. She sat completely still on the ground in a spot she was sure Sakura wouldn’t be able to see her.

“The bush? Which one exactly?”

Mikoto heard the crunching of the frozen grass underneath Sakura’s feet. The sound came sounded louder as she got closer to her hiding spot and then stopped. There was a rustling sound of something being yanked out of the bush’s branches and then a light giggling sound.

“Sneaky. I like it. Did you find your tomatoes? Yeah I got Naruto to open up your locker.”

There was a pause and then a ripping sound. Mikoto assumed that Sakura was opening the package.

“Aww. You made me mix CDs! That’s so cute. You shut up. I can call you cute and things you do cute if I want to. You’re super cute.”

Mikoto bit her lip to contain the giggle that wanted to escape. She could picture her son’s scowling face on the other line. It was starting to dawn on her that the package was a Valentine’s Day gift. She clapped a hand over her mouth when the urge to squeal almost took over. The cherry tomatoes were his Valentine’s Day gift from Sakura! It was a cute thing that Sakura had done in the past and it made her feel giddy to now know that the tradition had carried on.

“I’ll listen to them later. What kind of music did you put on them?” The sound of crunching frozen grass returned and Sakura’s voice started to sound far away. “I’ll slap you next time I see you if it’s all songs you’ve played while we’ve had sex Sasuke Uchiha. What do you mean some of them!?”

Mikoto started to choke on air and her face flushed with heat. What was originally just a cute moment took a sudden turn on her. As soon as she was sure Sakura was back in her house she stood up and dusted herself off.

She walked back into her house and took off her boots and exchanged them for her house slippers. Mikoto returned to kitchen and washed her hands before resuming her task of chopping vegetables. After a moment of trying to act normal she cracked and let out a squeal and a giggle of joy.

Sasuke has a girlfriend!

Mikoto hid her face in her hands, overwhelmed with how happy she was. She was so worried that Sasuke wasn’t enjoying his high school years and now she had proof that he was experiencing at least a little bit of happiness.

That’s all she wanted for her children. For them to be happy.

Chapter Fifteen: Confrontations And Requests

Out of both of her pregnancies, Itachi was the easiest. Even going into labor was a pleasant and quick experience. Mikoto joked that Itachi had decided that he was going to come out on his own terms. With no effort on her part, Itachi pushed himself out on June 9th in the early hours of the day.

He was a small but healthy baby. He only cried when dirty or hungry but he was fine with being left alone for long periods, never caring if he was being held or not.

Seven months later, Itachi was walking. Proper walking, not the waddling of toddlers with chubby legs, and he was climbing out of his crib, ready to take on the world. Fugaku found it amusing, calling him a little genius. It just made Mikoto sad. She saw it as a premonition. Itachi was ready to escape the confines of his mother’s nurturing and be his own person. He didn’t need anyone nor did he care for them.

Until he was five and Sasuke was born.

Sasuke was the opposite. Mikoto was tired more often and he kicked like crazy, always making his presence known. He was born the evening of July 23rd, after making his mother go through a lengthy labor. He almost didn’t make it. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Sasuke, almost strangling him if it weren’t for the placement of his left arm. The doctor had to dislocate his poor little arm in order to get him out safely.

Mikoto couldn’t put him down unless he was sleeping─if she could get him to sleep─ and it was like he could sense in his sleep if she walked too far from his location. He would wake up screaming until his little face turned red and thrash his arms around and kick his legs out.

Itachi was the biggest help. Sasuke would stop crying the moment he felt his brother pulling him into his arms. He would murmur softly as Itachi hummed to him, unable to sing any of Mikoto’s lullabies. Itachi would rock his brother in his swing as they both sat in a corner of the kitchen, not far from their mother.

Not far from their mother until Itachi grew more confident in the way he could care and watch over his brother. He would wander around the house and yards carrying Sasuke in front of him in a baby wrap carrier, even going as far as visiting the Harunos next door. It always fascinated him how the pink haired baby would chirp as soon as he was nearby and the way she would gurgle happily and her hazy green eyes would twinkle with mirth when he brought Sasuke to her.

Mebuki would lie Sasuke next Sakura and Sasuke would mumble a little and lift hooded sleepy eyes towards his crib mate and then close his eyes in peace. Itachi would watch the babies as he ate whatever sweet treat Mebuki offered him that day until Mikoto picked him and Sasuke up.

Sometimes Sasuke would protest, giving them soft cries of discomfort until Mebuki either packed Sakura’s diaper bag and joined the Uchihas for the rest of the day or handed Sakura off to Mikoto so that the two infants could nap together in the Uchiha home.

It was a nice peaceful first three months with Sasuke. That is until Naruto Uzumaki was born. He joined the other two babies, causing them all to get into shouting matches with his loud random outbursts for attention. Sakura would crawl away or lift herself off the ground with whatever she could reach to try and toddle away from him and his cries. She would fall only a few steps into her attempts, not quite ready for walking yet.

Mikoto wondered if she would have been an early walker like Itachi if Sakura weren’t so attached to Sasuke. She never seemed interested in crawling too far if it meant Sasuke couldn’t follow. Mikoto burst into a fit of giggles once watching a baby Sakura take her first few steps in her home and then look back at Sasuke still on the ground. She dropped to her bottom instantly and then crawled back.

When Sakura was ten months, Mebuki told Mikoto she could walk fine. It was only in the Uchiha house that she didn’t walk. So it didn’t surprise Mikoto that when Sasuke was ten months old and stumbling around that Sakura was walking with a toddler type of grace, leading him by the hand. Sasuke would hold on tight, only letting go when Itachi came home from school or taekwondo.

Mikoto joked to herself that it was too early, much too early for girls. Sakura couldn’t win when it came to Sasuke’s older brother. And she never dared to wonder if one day that would change. It was almost too much of a fantasy, love between neighbors.

Too much of a fantasy but one she wouldn’t have minded if it played out.


Mikoto snuck glances at her youngest son as he sat at the kitchen island, peeking down at his phone every now and then. Sasuke would type out a text, phone cradled protectively in his hands.

She had so many questions but she didn’t know the best way to approach him. How did one talk to their closed off teenage son? Mikoto never had any luck with Itachi and the downside of puberty was how it seemed to take her youngest away from her as well. What would she even address first?

How long have you liked Sakura Haruno?

Is this a recent thing? When did you start dating?

Are you making sure to practice safe sex? Do you use condoms? Please, for the love of all that is holy in the world, please tell me you are nothing but a gentleman and─


Mikoto was brought out of her thoughts by Sasuke’s concerned voice. She looked up from the tomato she was chopping for him, a small reward for finishing his lunch, and saw his eyebrows furrowed in worry and slight confusion.

“Here you go, Sasuke.” Mikoto salted the slices and dumped them into a small bowl before handing them over. Sasuke took the bowl from her reluctantly. Mikoto smiled at his pout as he ate. It was such a small thing but there was always a pleasant warmth around him when he got his favorite snack.

It was what she use to get him to cheer him up. It had the same effectiveness of a bandage. It covered the problem for the moment but it was still there.

Which was exactly what was going on right at this moment. Mikoto needed to say something, anything, to her son.

“How’s school?” Mikoto inwardly cringed at the generic question. “You think you’ll make the honor roll again this quarter?”

Sasuke blinked at her. He stared at her, silent, for what seemed like eons before he finally said anything.

“It’s fine. And yes.”

Short simple answers. Eyes downcast, Mikoto started to clean the island of the mess she had made chopping the tomato.

“My friends─”

Mikoto’s head whipped up fast, eyes wide and pleading for more words.

“─want to go on a trip for Spring Break. Camping. Can I go?”

“Of course!” Mikoto dumped her knife and cutting board into the sink. “Are you going to need anything? Well of course you will, duh! We have sleeping bags, tents, and a cooler in the garage. You’ll have to dust those out. I’ll wash the sleeping bags and the cooler. How much money do you think you’ll need for the trip?”

“About that…”

Sasuke chewed on the corner of his lower lip and looked at his mother with upturned eyes. It was reminiscent to the look he gave her when he was younger and found stray kittens. The look where he wanted something he knew he couldn’t have.

“I want to fund the trip on my own. I want to get a job.”


Mikoto turned her back on him and rinsed the board and knife before sliding them into the dishwasher. It wasn’t that outrageous of a request. What kind of a parent didn’t want their child to become independent and show a sense of responsibility?

Mikoto. Mikoto was that parent. He wouldn’t need her for cash and that was just another way he was slipping away. But a job could be good for Sasuke. He would be out more and he would be making his own money to buy things he wanted.

Pay for dates he might want to go on.

“I would have to talk to your father. You know he has that rule. No work until after graduation and only if it doesn’t affect you when you start college.” And no dating until after graduation. From college even, if Fugaku had his way.


The sound of his disappointment was a knife to her heart. Was she really going to deny this? Was she really going to be complicit in her son’s further downward spiral? It wasn’t as if he was going to use the money to be buying ritalin or adderall. He just wanted to go camping and pay for it on his own.

And maybe even pay for future dates.

“I have a client. With a twelve year old daughter.” Mikoto turned around and gave Sasuke an encouraging smile. “She wants piano lessons,” Sasuke straightened up on his bar stool, “but she’s pretty stubborn and hates all the instructors that go to her house. I could see if they’re willing to give you a shot and how much the pay is. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with giving a few lessons. And in the meantime, I’ll try and convince your father that letting you get a job would be good for you.”


Mikoto sighed. It was a wonder how her son even got a girlfriend with his conversation skills. But then again, Sakura Haruno seemed to have had a soft spot for her son since they were in diapers.

I can’t even tease them about how cute they are.

It was obvious to Mikoto why Sasuke hadn’t said anything. His father was so traditional and didn’t think high schoolers should be pairing off and dating when they should be focusing on their studies. Although Mikoto grew up with parents that were traditional as well─her parents had introduced her to a twenty-one year old Fugaku and his family when she was sixteen in the hopes that the two of them would wed in the future─she didn’t think there was anything wrong with dating when young. She loved her husband and her kids but sometimes she wondered if she and Fugaku would have married when she was so young if their courtship wasn’t so formal.

“So who’s going on the trip?”

“Naruto, his cousin Karin, Sai and his girlfriend, Sakura─”

“Girls are going on the overnight trip?”

“Yes. Sai insisted on bringing Yamanaka and then she insisted on bringing Sakura along. Aunt Kushina wants Karin and Naruto to spend more time together and the only way she would go is if the other two girls went. So it’s kind of unavoidable.”

Mikoto almost smirked at how casually Sasuke gave her the explanation. It was the most he said the entire day which was the only thing that gave him away with how forced his nonchalant attitude was coming across. She expected him to just tell her that it wouldn’t be a big deal and that the conversation would end there.

“Suigetsu is coming because Karin is and Jūgo is going because he likes camping.”

“Jūgo? Jūgo Sakaguchi?”

“It’s the only Jūgo I know.”

“I hope he has fun.”

Mikoto was being honest. She really did hope he enjoyed himself. The poor child had been through so much when they had all gone to Oto. Fugaku had told her that the teacher that had been abusing him by locking him away whenever he had a manic episode had been arrested. Most of the abusive teachers at Oto were terminated and removed from the staff but that was one of the teachers she refused to believe anyone would condone the actions of and just quietly let them go.

She knew that Inoichi Yamanaka offered to help him with his bipolar disorder. He offered his services to all former Oto students, especially the boarding students, that had been neglected and their mental illnesses not taken seriously.

It made Mikoto’s heart ache to think what could have possibly happened if her depressed child wasn’t one of the students that returned home every day.

“Your hair is getting pretty long.” Mikoto changed the subject. She was going to get as much conversation as she could. “It doesn’t stick up anymore.”

She walked around the island and fluffed the end of his short ponytail. He had the habit of tying it up when he was doing something like eating or working out. He had refused to let Izumi cut his hair except to give him long, comb swept bangs. Mikoto didn’t like how Sasuke hid his face but she didn’t argue if he liked the style.

“It’s still pretty thick though.”

Mikoto chuckled as she felt the ends of his ponytail. He was right. The thickness of his hair made his hair feel almost like a paintbrush when she brushed it along her palm. His hair did have a healthy shine to it and was pretty soft when let down though. Izumi had gotten into the habit of bringing in hair products she was becoming fond of at school for the Uchihas to try for themselves.

“Are you going to grow it out as long as Itachi’s hair?”

“No. Just didn’t want it to stick up anymore. And I wasn’t going to buzz my hair short.” Sasuke got up and rinsed his bowl, stuffing it into the dishwasher. “I’m going to my room. I have homework.”


Mikoto stood alone in her kitchen feeling conflicted. She was elated that Sasuke spoke with her, but it just wasn’t enough.

After sitting at his desk doing paperwork for six hours, all Itachi wanted to do was go to sleep. His back hurt, his legs hurt, his ass hurt, and his brain was dead. His eyes were starting to cross from staring at the computer monitor all day.

One more hour. One more hour and I can go home and take a percocet and knock out until tomorrow morning. Maybe I’ll let Mother massage my legs.

Itachi grabbed the reports he was busy transferring into a digital format and filed them away in their boxes. On days that he wasn’t feeling well enough to interact with people, he typed up the written reports of the week. A lot of the older staff members still didn’t work with computers but it made it harder to search for reports if everyone had to rifle through cabinets and boxes.

Itachi grabbed his next box and pulled out officer reports for the day. He looked down and sighed. The only thing he was able to read was the officer’s information at top. He rifled through the rest of the files and noticed the same trend of illegible content. Itachi packed the box up and made his way out of his cubicle to the pod of desks.

As soon as he reached Taiko’s empty desk he dumped the box on top of it. He stared at the desk for a moment. He was in pain and irritated and everything he was feeling had bottled up and couldn’t be contained in his state. He turned away from the desk and headed to the back office, throwing the door open and slamming it shut behind him.

Fugaku looked up, eyes widening a fraction at the intrusion.

“How low will you go Father?”

“I beg pardon?” Fugaku pushed the papers he was looking through away from him and braced his hands on the desk. He looked up at Itachi, giving him his undivided attention.

“What is your problem with the Harunos? What is your problem with Sakura Haruno, a little girl?” Itachi seethed. “Taiko, Father? He’s vile and I am surprised you even allow him to work here.”

“What does Taiko have to do with Sakura Haruno?” Fugaku’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Itachi opened his mouth and then closed it. He was taken aback at how confused his father was.

“He’s been following her around.” Fugaku’s eyes went wide. “Shisui caught him harassing her at the mall. He stalked her and then claimed she was shoplifting when he was confronted. He followed her around for hours. Taiko was targeting her and I want to know why.”

Fugaku was silent for a moment. There was a flash of something across his face that Itachi could only describe as disappointment before his mouth settled into a hard line.

“I was unaware of this,” he said softly. Itachi could hear the honesty in his voice and could see it in his expression. His father wasn’t a liar. But he was too frustrated and continued on.

“I find that hard to believe. You have Sasuke followed.” Itachi watches his father sigh and rub his temple with his index finger and thumb.

“That’s because I’m worried. I wanted him followed by Shisui because he was someone that would steer him away from trouble but cared enough about him to be gentle and not try to arrest your brother if he saw him doing something he shouldn’t be. But Shisui gave him too much leeway and there was time that couldn’t be accounted for. But I didn’t ask for anyone to interfere with Sakura Haruno’s life.”

“Sasuke wants to be a cop when he finishes school. He wants to eventually be a detective. He knows better and you’re being way too hard on him.”

“You’re so soft with your brother.” Fugaku brushed a knuckle on a photo frame on his desk. Itachi couldn’t see what the photo was from where he was standing. “I don’t want him to fall into the same habits he did when he was in Oto.”

“He’s better,” Itachi said firmly. “But you know that it wasn’t completely his fault, right Father?”

Fugaku averted his gaze, narrowing his eyes at a spot on the area rug in his office. Itachi took a moment to breathe deeply as he watched his father’s tense expression. He sometimes forgot that raising his voice and getting angry made him even more tired, made it harder to breathe, and made his heart race painfully.

“He was stressed. He is stressed.” Itachi took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. “He has anxiety and clinical depression and you’re stressing him out. You need to let him be seventeen. That involves fun with friends and getting his first job and falling in─”

“No.” Fugaku snapped out of his daze and stood up, glaring at Itachi. He braced his hands on his desk and leaned forward. “He is too young and he doesn’t know what is good for him yet. We’re not discussing that.”

“Why do you hate her so much? Sakura’s the kindest and brightest─”

“She is.” Fugaku nodded in agreement. “She is a sweet and smart girl. And she doesn’t deserve the mistreatment she’s been receiving from someone of our department but she isn’t the right fit for your younger brother. It’s better if he figures that out now.”

“What does being the right fit mean to you?” Itachi’s throat started to ache. His chest constricted painfully. He had to remind himself that he was talking about Sakura and Sasuke.  “What about feelings? Shouldn’t that matter? Did you marry Mother because she was the ‘right fit’? Did she match your criteria so you made her your wife? Young woman to stay home and care for your house and children?”

“Watch yourself Itachi.” Fugaku’s eyes flashed with anger. Itachi stared deeply into the deep deep brown, almost black, of the eyes that matched his own. “Do not talk about your mother that way.”

“That was uncalled for,” Itachi agreed. He tried to take another calming breath but he ended up gagging on air. Tears welled in the corners of his eyes from the pain of breathing. “I shouldn’t have,” Itachi wheezed, “brought her into this.”

Fugaku’s face softened and he walked around his desk. He placed a hand on his son’s back and rubbed circles. He muttered softly to Itachi, telling him to relax and that he was there, just to breathe, just focus on breathing.

“You should go home. Shisui should be finishing his patrol soon. He’ll take you home.”

Itachi sat down in one of the chairs in his father’s office wheezing and mentally cursing his body.

How was he going to get anything done if his body was fighting against him?

Mentally drained, Sasuke collapsed on his bed. Girls were hard enough to deal with, twelve year old bratty girls that would rather bat their eyelashes at him instead of learning how to play the piano properly were even worse. At least he had job security. He was sure his mother’s client would face hell if they tried to get rid of him.

Sasuke’s cell phone chirped but he refused to move to reach it. He just wanted to lie down and relax for a moment. It chirped two more times but he ignored it. He could deal with whatever the texts were in a moment. He was starting to get sleepy when his ringtone went off.

“What?” Sasuke huffed out in irritation.

“Rude. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Wait, what?” The phone clicked and Sasuke entered his passcode to call Sakura back. Finally looking down at his phone he noticed that the messages were from her. He dialed Sakura’s number and put it on speaker. He walked into his closet to grab clothes to relax in and opened up the text messages. He almost dropped his phone when the images popped up on his screen.

“Are you going to be polite now?”

“Uh…” Sasuke’s eyes were drawn to the bare, lightly freckled shoulders on his phone’s screen. Sakura had sent him a photo of her sitting on her vanity, taking a picture of herself and the reflection of her back. His eyes dropped down to the lower curve of her back. Sheer mesh shorts were the only thing in his way from looking at her lush, lush─

“Sasuke? Are you still there?”

“I think so,” he mumbled. He scrolled down to the next photo. Sakura was lying on her back on her bed, waving at him. The straps were falling off of her shoulders but it made no difference if her top fell loose. It wasn’t as if it were doing anything to preserve her modesty. He didn’t even bother to look at the next photo.

Sasuke turned speaker off and closed his messages.

“You know I can’t keep these on my phone, right?”

“They were more like an invitation. Neither of our parents are home right now. But I’m actually really tired…maybe I should just take a nap.”

“Uh-huh.” Sasuke almost snorted at the teasing lilt in Sakura’s voice. He changed out of his long sleeve shirt and put on a random shirt from his shelf. He then slipped out of his jeans and into a pair of basketball shorts. He went into his bathroom and put on more deodorant and tied his hair up neater. “A nap would be good.”

“A nap would be good for the both of us. We should both take a nap. Maybe even take a nap together?”

“I’ll be there in a sec.”

Sasuke headed down the stairs, taking them two at a time. He sent a text to his mother that he wasn’t going to be home when she came back from her errands because he went for a run. Checking to make sure the coast was clear he made his way to the Haruno’s backdoor and walked into the den. He knew from experience that if both of their families weren’t home that she would leave that door unlocked for him.

Once he was in the safety of the Haruno home he relaxed his posture and moved more casually. Sasuke always acted like that when it came to sex, acted as if he could take it or leave it. He continued to act that way even though Sakura could see right through him because she let him do it. Sasuke was sure she found amusement from they way he so easily came undone when they were alone after acting nonchalant about their activities.

“Hey.” Sasuke found Sakura sitting on the edge of her bed, biting her lower lip through a nervous smile. He sat down next to her, hands in his lap. There was a weird aura around them, almost like how they were after their first sexual encounter.

“Hi.” Sasuke’s neck heated up, embarrassment taking over. He felt sixteen all over again. Sasuke fingered one of Sakura’s straps, hooking his pinky under it. “So what’s up with this?”

“Hm? Oh, I just wanted to do something different.” Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Nervous habit. “Got new pajamas. What do you think?”

Sasuke snorted at the word ‘pajamas’. The flimsy mesh material couldn’t constitute as any sort of sleepwear. He turned to Sakura and easily pulled her onto his lap so that she was straddling him. He pressed a kiss to the hollow of her throat and then down her sternum. With his hands on her back, he pushed her even closer to him, suckling on her breast through the mesh. Sasuke pulled away when Sakura let out sound between a whimper and a whine.

“These aren’t pajamas. I wouldn’t be able to see this if they were.” Sasuke took two fingers and stroked Sakura through the mesh, his actions pushing pale pink hair against the sheer white fabric. “It’s more like…pretty gift wrap? Special occasion? Your birthday’s the only thing close enough and it isn’t even for another two weeks.”

“It’s just been a while and I thought it would be nice,” Sakura murmured. “Don’t I look cute?”

Cute would have been putting it mildly. Cute was a more accurate word to use for her reasoning behind dressing up or dressing down in the case at hand. Sasuke knew she was aiming more for sexy but that still wasn’t the right adjective. It was…too crude of a word in Sasuke’s opinion. The warmth in his chest from how much effort Sakura put into this moment wouldn’t allow for the word.

Beautiful. Sasuke would have to say that Sakura was beautiful. With flushed red cheeks and dusty rose hair tumbling over creamy shoulders, she was the most wondrous sight he ever laid his eyes on. Green, greener than green, eyes staring down at him with complete adoration had everything to do with the feeling of wanting to be closer than their bodies allowed.

Sakura leaned her forehead against his, their eyelashes brushing against each other. Her pouty pink lips parted slightly as she looked into his eyes. She cupped his neck with her hands, rubbing her thumbs along his jawline. Sakura pressed a gentle kiss to his mouth and Sasuke reciprocated, allowing their kisses to remain slow no matter how heated he got with the lazy manner her tongue swirled against his.

Sasuke slid his hands underneath her camisole feeling how her stomach clenched when his fingers ghosted on her skin. Sasuke smiled against her lips and Sakura made a small whining sound. In retaliation she mirrored his actions, her small hands causing his stomach muscles to tense.

“You have way too many clothes on.” Sakura tugged his shirt over his head and then giggled. “Your hair’s a mess now.”

Sakura removed his hair tie and massaged his scalp, gently scraping it with her blunt nails. Sasuke’s hands slid down to the band of her shorts and he snapped at the elastic. Sakura clicked her tongue and stood up to remove the shorts. She got back onto the bed, pulling on Sasuke’s hand to get him to lie down with her.

“Touch me?” Sakura pleaded. She reached over and palmed Sasuke’s crotch rubbing him through his shorts. Sasuke nodded and reached between her thighs to stroke at the velvet softness of her nether lips. He went at a slow pace until Sakura pulled his cock out of his shorts and began to stroke him. He slipped his ring and middle fingers inside of her and thrusted at the same pace she stroked him.

“Enough,” Sasuke panted, pulling Sakura’s hand away from him. She pouted when he stopped her from her fun but gasped when Sasuke fondled her little bundle of nerves with his thumb.

“You’re so unfair,” Sakura sobbed between her moans. She buried her face into his arm, squeezing his bicep with her hands, nails digging into his flesh.

“Deal with it.” Sasuke kissed her again to swallow her cry as she came on his hand. He sat up on his knees and helped Sakura sit up to help her remove her camisole. He got off of the bed to remove his shorts and as soon he got them off, Sakura was sitting on the edge of the bed again, pulling him towards her by the hips.

Sakura gave him a saucy wink and then gripping him with one hand, licked him from the his base all the way up his shaft. She swirled her tongue around his tip and gave it a long suck before letting him go with a loud pop!

“I want you now. How about you?” Sakura scooted back on her bed and beckoned him to join her with a finger.

“You get really impatient.” Sasuke settled himself between her thighs and propped himself up with his forearms on either side of her head. Instead of doing what she wanted, Sasuke grinded his hips against her hips, rubbing his cock against her, and went back to kissing her, tracing his tongue on the parts of her mouth that gave him the most reactions. He dragged his tongue slowly along her frenulum and the roof of her mouth behind her teeth.

Sakura whimpered into his mouth and sank her fingers into his thick hair, tugging on it, trying to pull him closer to her than he already was. She slid her legs up his and wrapped them around his waist.

“You’re being kind of gentle today.” Sakura narrowed her eyes at him in suspicion. Sasuke chuckled inwardly, knowing that it was throwing her off. He was only ever gentle when he was sleepy.

“It’s been a while and I thought it would be nice,” Sasuke teased her. Sakura opened her mouth to retort but let a low moan when he sank into her at that exact moment. He began a slow and steady pace with his thrusts and Sakura let out a frustrated huff.

“It’s going to be like that today isn’t it?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sasuke continued to rock slowly against Sakura. Sakura’s brows furrowed in confusion but soon enough her expression melted into one of pleasure as Sasuke made his thrusts deeper despite the slow pace. It would be easy to take her hard and fast, especially when there was no chance of anyone hearing them no matter how loud they were. But it felt like he needed to be gentle and sweet. Like how Sakura was.

“Let’s just take our time. There’s nothing or anyone for us to worry about right now.” Sasuke snaked his hand down Sakura’s arm, taking her hand in his and interlocked their fingers. Sakura squeezed his hand and nodded.

Sasuke adjusted their position so that he could mold his body with Sakura’s better. Sakura followed his lead and hooked her arms under his and around his back, pulling him down closer to her. There was a slight look of frustration on her face as she clung to him, pushing his body more towards her. She gnawed at her lower lip and looked up at him with eyes full of desperation.

Sasuke guessed he wasn’t the only one frustrated with how that was as close as they physically could be.

He pulled back and sat up. Sakura scrambled to sit on his lap and he helped guide his cock inside of her. She sighed contently when he filled her up again and began to grind down on him. Sasuke helped her move by guiding with his hands on her hips. He slid his hands down to her ass and cupped it, squeezing it and pushing her closer to him so that her breasts rubbed up against his chest.

After a beat, Sakura decided to take the lead, pulling herself up and back down on his length, gradually picking up a faster pace. She gripped onto Sasuke’s shoulder until she no longer could hold back and wrapped her arms around his neck to give him a fierce kiss that was all tongue and teeth.

Thrown off by the new aggressive tone to the act, Sasuke fell onto his back, Sakura falling with him and bumping their heads together.

“Ow…” Sakura frowned and rubbed her forehead. Sasuke grunted and rubbed his jaw. Sakura bit her lip but it did nothing to hide the fact that she was smiling. Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her and she giggled. “My bad?”

“We aren’t in any rush, Sakura.” Sasuke wrapped his arms around her waist and Sakura settled against him, snuggling against his chest. “We can take our time.”


They lied like that for a moment in silence before Sasuke cleared his throat.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t continue.”

“R-right!” Sakura sat up and braced her hands on his chest. She went into the slow grinding pace she enjoyed and Sasuke let her have the lead. “Let’s just take our time. We’re the only ones we have to worry about.”

“Exactly. Just us.”

Sasuke kicked off his tennis shoes and lined them up on the rack in the front hall closet. He was out a lot longer than he intended and didn’t want to do anything that could upset his mother even more.

It was obvious how his mother wanted for him to open up more like how he use to but it was much more difficult now than when he was a pre-teen. There was something that made it harder to talk to her freely. Something that gnawed at Sasuke’s insides. He wasn’t even sure he deserved any of her attention. What in his life was more difficult than what was going on with Itachi? Nothing. So it made more sense for everyone to allocate any care or free time to his older brother.


“That was a long run.”

Sasuke stood up and closed the closet door only to see his mother standing in the middle of the foyer with her hands on her hips. There was a wrinkle between her eyebrows that Sasuke came to associate with her being upset more than any other form of body language.

“I got caught up in the trails and ended up near the Cherrydale neighborhood,” Sasuke supplied, having already come up with a probable distance he could have run. “Got tired and walked most of the way back.”

Mikoto took a few steps towards him until she was close enough to reach over and pinched at the shoulder of Sasuke’s shirt. She plucked something off of it and held it up to him.

Sasuke’s eyes widened as his mother held up a long, pale strand of pink hair in front of his face. His mother’s face was blank but she balled up the hair in her fist.

“You should go wash up for dinner.”

Sasuke swallowed hard and nodded. He started to make his way up the stairs when his mother called out to him.

“I wish you would trust me more. Talked to me more.”

Me too.

Sasuke continued up the stairs, not sure if he wanted to look back and see what kind of expression his mother was wearing on her face.

Mikoto couldn’t help but be jealous of her friend Kushina. Mikoto had two sons and neither one of them had a close relationship with her. There were no secrets between Kushina and Naruto but it seemed like that was all there was between her and her own children.

She knew Fugaku was strict and overbearing at times but did her sons really find it that difficult to separate their parental figures apart from each other? Wasn’t she always the gentle one of the two? The easiest to approach?

In the case of Itachi, he had always been withdrawn, but when he was nineteen and needed to see a doctor for his various ailments he at least confided in his mother.

When Sasuke became withdrawn she had to rifle through pamphlets and books to find out what was going on with her young teen. If it wasn’t for her insistence that he see a therapist, he would have talked to no one.

But what was the likelihood that perhaps he had a confidant in Sakura? Unless she misconstrued the nature of their relationship and it wasn’t as emotionally intimate as she would hope.

Her youngest son being just a hormonal teen was not something she had bothered to contemplate. It would have been out of character. And not a single one of her memories from when the kids were younger led her to believe that Sasuke wouldn’t care for Sakura deeply.

One of her favorite memories was the flustered look on his face when he gave Sakura Haruno a bouquet of daffodils. She thought it was an unusual choice until she saw how brightly Sakura’s face lit up. They were obviously her favorites.

It reminded Mikoto of Fugaku and how he use to bring her potted plants when he was courting her. His mother looked so disappointed when he handed over the first pot of succulents but they made her so happy. Mikoto didn’t like cuts of flowers. Bouquets withered and died but she could continue to nurture any potted plant she received. Different but perfect for her. And obviously a sign of effort in getting to know her.

She wasn’t just a girl introduced to him by his parents. Mikoto felt like so much more than that. So she continued to let him come over to her house and talk to her.

Almost all of the house plants in the Uchiha home were potted plants Fugaku brought home to her or had delivered if they were too large. If he continued to bring her more it would appear as if they were living in a rainforest.

Mikoto sighed and closed her book. She looked over at her husband who was reading over some documents while he sat on the edge of their bed. Smiling to herself, she slid behind him and began to massage his shoulders.

“Mikoto?” Fugaku turned to face her, startled at the sudden act of intimacy.

“You’re doing it again. No work in the bedroom, remember?” She placed a kiss to his nape and he sighed, tossing the forms onto the nightstand on his side of their bed. “A difficult case?”

“That would be easier. I have to suspend Taiko indefinitely.”

“Ryuichi’s son?” Mikoto frowned at the mention of Fugaku’s friend’s son.

“Yes. Him.”

Mikoto could feel his muscles relax under her hands and smiled to herself. Her husband was such a tense man. She wasn’t giving him as much attention as she probably should be but she was so preoccupied with what was going on with her sons. There was a slight drift between the couple after Itachi was hospitalized. They acted like partners more often than husband and wife.

“I feel bad about this but I will have to add to your stress.” Mikoto paused in her massage and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder, willing him to turn to face her. Fugaku removed his reading glasses and covered her hand with his own.

“What is it?”

“Sasuke wants to apply for a job and I think we should let him.” Fugaku sighed and Mikoto quickly spoke up again to cut of whatever retort he had. “It would be good for him! He’s so antisocial and this would help him interact with other people.”

“He should focus on school. He can wait until after graduation.”

“That won’t be for another few months. Please reconsider,” Mikoto implored. Her hand slid off of his shoulder and into her lap. She stared at the lines in her palms and said softly, “He never asks me for anything anymore. This is the first thing he’s wanted that he’s actually voiced in a long time.


“He’ll grow up and move out and his memory of home will be that his mother didn’t care enough to help him with the one thing he asked of her when he was seventeen. How sad would that be, Fugaku?”

A strong hand cupped the side of Mikoto’s neck and she gazed up at her husband. His lips were pursed as he stared off into space, deep in thought. After a beat he sighed in defeat.

“He can apply for jobs but, and this is important, he must first clear where he’s applying to with me and as soon as his grades start slipping he has to quit.”

“Okay.” Mikoto pressed a kiss to the palm of his hand and smiled sweetly at her husband.

“Let’s go to sleep.”

“Yes. Good night, dear.”

“Good night.”

Mikoto pulled up her duvet to her chest and folded her arms beneath her breasts. She blinked away a happy tear, glad that there would be something to discuss with Sasuke about the following day.