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.

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