Around The Dinner Table

He was used to being stared at.

Most of his life was a practice in avoiding the stares of strangers. He played aloof and kept to himself until the staring no longer mattered. Until he could no longer feel the stares as anything more than the buzzing of a gnat.

The stares meant nothing to him. Not until they did.

Not until he realized that he was staring right back at wide, cat-shaped jade eyes.

He was use to being stared at and with decades of knowing━and a brief stint on not knowing what to do about the stares of the prettiest green eyes━ Sasuke found himself at a loss about what to do about wide cat-shaped deep dark brown eyes.

It was easier when Sarada was younger. When the feeling was new and all he had to do was revel in the feeling of being stared at by something, someone, he loved more than life itself. Sasuke could learn, practice, what to do about those eyes and what they held.

Sarada was all his in coloring and there were little quirks like her smirks and her glares━and even her pouting but he wasn’t going to admit that to Sakura━but despite how deep brown her eyes were, she couldn’t run away from how much Sakura she had in her.

Those eyes were as expressive as her mother’s eyes. And after years away despite knowing what emotion was in them, he did not know what to do about them.

When she narrowed them would staring back at her unnervingly make her resolve crack with a burst of giggles?

When they glittered with the beginnings of tears could he still  murmur softly in her ear and hold her close to lessen the fall from storm to a drizzle?

These questions made their way around his mind as he sat in an unfamiliar chair at an unfamiliar table.

“Mama destroyed the house.”

Sasuke blinked in surprise He had been waiting for the bearer of the staring eyes to say something but not for her to provide something in relation to what he was currently thinking about.

“She has a habit of doing that it seems.”

His voice was soft but not soft enough that he went unheard by his wife who was shouting her protests from the kitchen.

“When you were a baby she fell asleep while cleaning bottles in the sink.” Sasuke turned slightly in his chair to better have a look at his eleven year old. “She woke up when her hands slipped into the sink water and the shock caused her to rip the sink from the countertop. She flooded the kitchen.”

“You’re kidding!” Sarada giggled. Her eyes squinted with glee and her mouth spread into a wide smile that showed off her dimples.

“In my defense,” Sakura strolled into the dining area and placed more dishes on the table, “I was having trouble sleeping because of a certain someone.”

She ruffled Sarada’s hair on her way to her seat.

“So Mama has always been strong, huh?”

If Sasuke hadn’t been already looking at her, he would have missed the fact that the question had been directed to him.

“Yes.” He recalled a skinny, long haired version of his wife pounding the head of their best friend. “Always.”

From the corner of his eye he saw Sakura nonchalantly placing helpings on plates for them, a subtle tint of pink on her cheeks.

“And she was usually the smartest but kept letting her emotions get the best of her,” he added to his compliment to tease her. Sakura’s face flushed crimson but she continued with serving as if he she hadn’t heard him. An attempt to disprove that she couldn’t keep her emotions in check.

“That’s right, you guys were on the same genin squad.”

Sasuke took a bite of the first home cooked meal he’s had in over seven years and took a moment to enjoy the nostalgia he felt at finally having food his wife cooked for him. He had expected Sakura to respond to their child but Sarada’s statement still hung in the air.

He looked again, and there was Sarada looking at him expectantly.

“Yes. We were. On Team Seven.”

There was a glimmer in Sarada’s eyes that made Sasuke take pause before taking another bite of food.

These are things she could have heard from Sakura…

And yet, what could it hurt to indulge her?

Sasuke was no stranger to the absence of a parent. Mikoto was loving and stern and she always knew what to say but things she shared that elated him did not hold the same strength as the attention of the father he craved acknowledgement from. At seven all he wanted was to hear his father’s voice, hear words directed at him about him straight from the source.

And here was his own child, wanting the same: words from her father.

And there she was, staring at him with hopeful eyes. Hopeful eyes that he knew what to do about despite years of being away.

Sasuke was used to be stared at.

But nothing could stop the warmth that spread in his chest when he caught himself being stared at by the prettiest cat-shaped, deep dark brown eyes he had the greatest fortune to have ever seen.

“Yes we were on the same genin squad. Did your mother ever tell you about…”

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