Author: Annwyd PM
The past and the future are separate countries. The Lady Uchiha lingers on the bridge between them. [SasuSaku] [Futurefic]Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Romance - Sakura H. & Sasuke U. - Words: 5,832 - Reviews: 63 - Favs: 176 - Follows: 14 - Published: 10-23-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2631730
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: We do not actually know what kanji are involved in the names of Naruto characters, since they're written in katakana. I'm just making things up here. Also note that I don't know Japanese and I don't claim to; I just like playing with languages and rummaging in translation engines.
"The Bow That Changes Ten Times."
"Over here," the boy says. "Look."
He's skipping class with his friends. They do that sometimes; they're kids. The fact that they shouldn't do it only tempts them more. A similar principle of child psychology explains why they're creeping around the edges of the Uchiha estate.
It's a forbidden place, even now, so long after all the deaths inside these walls. They shouldn't be here. That's why they are.
No, that's not entirely why they're here. By itself, the Uchiha estate is just a sadly empty testament to a once-great clan. With the Lady Uchiha inside it, it is a haunted place.
They could, of course, just ask her three children. They could even try befriending them. But nobody tries befriending the Uchiha scions--at least, nobody normal. They are, in their own way, as haunted as their mother.
But not as interesting. Boys from the Academy don't seek out cracks in the walls around the estate for glimpses of those three children. But for the Lady Uchiha--
"Over here," says the ringleader of the group. He wiggles a stone in the wall, nudges it away to form enough of an opening to peek through. "It's a garden. She's picking flowers."
It is, and she is. She walks through the garden in silence, her long hair bound up behind her, leaving the back of her dress--and the Uchiha fan on it--very visible.
"Who do you think she's picking them for?" asks another of the boys in a hushed murmur.
"The Copy Ninja," says a girl who always tags along with them. "Everyone knows she's doing it with him."
Another boy swats her on the side of the head. "She is not."
"Well, that's what my parents say," the girl says.
"Your parents are full of shit," the boy who found the peephole says. "I heard she hasn't touched anyone with her bare hands since her husband died."
"I heard her husband was an asshole," says the last boy.
"Shhh," says the first, but it's too late. She's heard them.
Inside the garden walls, the Lady Uchiha stops, straightens up. She lifts one callused hand in their direction, not saying a word.
The four children nearly stumble over each other in their haste to flee.
"I hear Kimochi is doing well in the Academy," the Hokage says. "He'll be ready to graduate soon."
"So Iruka-sensei says," the Lady Uchiha replies.
The Hokage watches her for a moment. Then she says, "Something wrong, Sakura?" There are not many people left who call the Lady Uchiha by name. She is one of them.
"I hear," Sakura says, "that Takeshi is being held back. Because you can't find someone willing to train him on a team."
Tsunade sighs. "Ino would do it, but she's too busy with missions right now to handle a genin team."
"Hinata," Sakura says.
"Already has a team of her own."
"There must be somebody."
"Not after what happened with Kotoyo," the Hokage says.
"That wasn't her fault," snaps the Lady Uchiha. "Of course she couldn't work as a member of a team, the way they treated her."
Tsunade rubs her head. "Try telling the Council that." She pulls out a scroll and unrolls it. "She is getting better--"
She does not get the chance to finish her sentence. Sakura snatches the scroll from her hands and shakes it violently. "That's not how her name is spelled! You know that!"
"I wasn't the one who wrote this report," Tsunade says. "Besides, it's the way she spells it."
"I told her," Sakura says. "I told her not to use that character. She just--doesn't--listen--"
The Lady Uchiha tosses the scroll back onto the Hokage's desk and storms out the door.
People used to believe that expression meant that Uchiha Kotoyo was a little soft in the head, until she spoke back to them. The only daughter of Uchiha Sakura is eerily brilliant, and by now everyone knows it.
She spends too much time with books, though, and too much time idly wandering the empty halls and streets of the Uchiha compound. Sakura used to hope that this meant her daughter was absorbing the history of the clan she'd help revive, but now she wonders if Kotoyo didn't pick up other ideas from the quiet streets, ideas best not pondered.
Kotoyo doesn't know when it'd be better for her not to ponder something.
"We're going to see the Kojuushiro tapestry," Sakura says.
"I've seen it," Kotoyo says. "I've seen it plenty of times. It has nothing to do with me."
Sakura plants a hand on her daughter's shoulder and shakes her. "You were named after it!"
"That's what you think," Kotoyo says, her voice almost sing-song. "But you're wrong."
Sakura turns her around so that they face each other, even if Kotoyo never quite meets her gaze. "You are Uchiha Kotoyo. You were named for Kojuushiro, the Bow That Changes Ten Times. Legend says it was the weapon with which the first sons of the Uchiha fought back the first demons."
Sakura and Sasuke spent a long time poring through old legends during Sakura's first pregnancy, trying to find the perfect name for their eldest, replete with the history of the clan. It hadn't worked.
Kotoyo smiles. "I am Uchiha Kotoyo. The sin of ten generations..." She lowers her voice. "Since we're having this little talk, Mother..."
"Yes?" Sakura is impatient.
"I've never told you, but I'm the only one of the three of us who remembers Father's face."
Kotoyo wasn't quite three when her father died, but she has always had an excellent memory.
She has one memory of her father's face, pale and troubled, but loved. And she has one memory of him embracing her mother as they prepared for their last mission, his arms a little awkward around her waist, but his lips gentle against hers as they kissed.
She hears the parents of other children say bad things about Uchiha Sasuke, but he seemed like a nice man to her. She doesn't remember all that much from when she was so young, but she thinks he loved her. She knows he loved her mother.
"Wish for a full moon."
The vessel has escaped.
Less than a day later, Kakashi, Naruto, and Sakura set off to find him.
Even now, Sakura remembers that mission in perfect detail. She remembers Kakashi leaning down to ask her, very softly, if she was afraid, and she remembers that she didn't even grace that question with an answer.
It was rather anticlimactic when they found him. He'd hidden himself away like a wounded animal when the curse seal started stabbing agony into him. They found him curled up and shaking in the bushes.
Even in that state, he tried to run. He snarled at them and fled, but before he could get far, Kakashi activated the area seal, just as they'd planned. The three of them were trapped in that one field until they subdued Sasuke or Kakashi's chakra ran out.
When the seal went into effect and the borders of the area it contained went dark and glassily impenetrable, Naruto whirled around and ran to the edge of the field. "Hey! Kakashi-sensei! You closed it too soon, Sakura-chan's still in here!"
She made a note to hit him later, but there was no time for that now. "Naruto! Watch out!"
Another thing Sakura will always remember is the look on Sasuke's face when he realized that she was attacking him.
It didn't take her long to figure out that while he'd put his all into fighting Naruto, when he came at her, it was always to subdue her or knock her out. She had no qualms using that to her advantage.
He went most of the battle not daring to draw upon his curse seal. As relieved as she was, she was also a little curious--Naruto had warned her that bad things happened when Sasuke drew on the power the curse seal gave him. Not that she couldn't have figured that out herself, but she did wonder what was so bad that Naruto would refuse to describe it to her.
When she and Naruto finally cornered Sasuke, she got to find out.
She decided that she'd yell at Naruto later for refusing to describe this to her. It wouldn't have discouraged her in the slightest. Sasuke was disturbing this way, but still beautiful.
"I'll kill you," he was telling Naruto. "No--I'll kill you--I won't--" His hands flew towards each other as he prepared Chidori, but he hesitated before actually using it.
While he was confused, she grabbed the most tender part of his wings and wrenched.
He screamed, as much in anger as in pain, and before he could regain his balance, she reached around him, grabbed his hands by the wrists, and pulled his arms behind him. "Naruto. Now. Hit him."
And Naruto hit him, and she held him, until the demon wings retreated into his back and he sank to his knees shaking and trying not to cry.
"Get away from me," he muttered as she crouched beside him. "Get away." He sounded like a petulant little boy. "I have to do this on my own. Away from you."
She put an arm around his shoulders. "We'll help you take him down." They all knew she didn't mean Orochimaru.
"No," Sasuke said.
Naruto settled a foot on Sasuke's behind. "It wasn't an offer, dumbass."
For all that she remembers, Sakura doesn't remember much about the battle itself. All she remembers clearly is the aftermath, where she bent over her teammates' broken bodies and poured healing chakra into the wounds littering their forms. She knelt between them, blood trickling from a shallow gash in her forehead, with one hand on each boy's chest.
Then she passed out as exhaustion overtook her.
Sasuke was hunched in a chair at her bedside. "Thirteen days," he said.
"What?" She sat up immediately, ignoring the aches this awakened throughout her body. "That's impossible. Non-lethal chakra exhaustion doesn't take that long to recover from."
Sasuke said nothing.
Fortunately, Naruto walked in at that point. He was carrying three boxes of ramen; Sasuke grimaced at the sight. "It almost wasn't non-lethal," Naruto said. "Shizune said she'd never seen--" He stopped abruptly, nearly dropping the ramen in the process. "Sakura-chan! You're awake!"
"Who else did you think was talking?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Didn't think."
Sasuke snorted. "Not a first."
"Aw, man," Naruto said, ignoring Sasuke's comment, "this means I have to go out and get more ramen. I only got enough for me and Sasuke." He handed one box to Sasuke, who gave it a sour stare.
"There are other types of food," Sasuke said.
"You want something else, you can go get the food," Naruto said.
Sasuke sighed and opened the box.
Naruto looked down at the remaining boxes, then mournfully offered them to Sakura.
"I don't need two," she said. "I'm not that--" Actually, she was starving. "You have one."
"You sure?" Naruto said.
"Just have it, dead last," Sasuke said. "I'll get her something more when she finishes the ramen."
There was a stir of motion outside the door. Sakura looked up.
"It's just the ANBU," Sasuke said.
"What?" Sakura stared at the shadows outside the door.
"They're watching me," Sasuke said.
"They follow you everywhere you go, even here?" Sakura asked.
Naruto rolled his eyes. "Like there's anywhere else to go. He hasn't moved from your bedside since we got back." A beat. "Except to go to the bathroom."
"Naruto--" Sasuke began in a warning tone.
"And I think if they gave him a bucket," Naruto continued as if he hadn't heard, "he'd just keep it in here and go in that."
"Ew," Sakura said.
"I don't think I'm going to be allowed near buckets for a very long time," Sasuke said.
"Wait," Sakura said, "did you really..." She straightened up a little, supporting her weight on a bedpost. "Sasuke-kun..."
He averted his eyes.
She sniffed the air. "Please go take a shower?"
They visited him every day, but she often stayed even after Naruto had left.
One day, Sasuke said to her, "You cut your hair again."
"I do that," she said. "It's easier to fight this way."
"You could put it up," he said.
"No," she said, "I like it short." She hesitated. Some part of her wanted to apologize, to say that she was sorry because she knew he liked girls with long hair...but she'd conquered that part of herself years ago.
"I like it," he said abruptly.
He did not repeat himself; he simply looked away.
"I thought you liked long hair on girls," she said.
"Did I?" He stares down at the floor. "I don't remember. This looks better on you."
She was blushing like she was twelve again. "Sasuke-kun..."
"You should go," he said. "You have training to get to, don't you?"
"What about you?" she said.
He blinked and stared at her.
"Well?" she asked.
He laughed. "What do I have to train for now?"
"To protect your precious people," she said. "Isn't that right?"
He blinked again.
"Goodbye, Sasuke-kun," she said. "I'll be back tomorrow."
The next day, he started training under Kakashi again.
A month later, at Kakashi's suggestion but still warily, the Council lifted the house arrest that Uchiha Sasuke had been under for the better part of a year.
He showed up at her house one morning not long afterwards. Her mother answered the door, and he was very serious when he spoke to her. "Is your daughter at home? I'm here to marry her."
"Aren't you worried?" Sakura's mother asked her.
"Worried about what?" Sakura wondered sometimes why she still visited home, even though she knew it was because she loved her parents.
"That--something will happen."
"I'm there with him," Sakura said. "I'm there with both of them."
"This is who we are," Sakura said. "He is as much a shinobi as a husband and father."
"I'm not sure that makes him a very good husband and father," her mother said.
"You'll never say that to me again," Sakura said. "Right, Mother?"
Sometimes she scared her own mother. That was who she was.
"We're passing awfully close to Sound tomorrow," Sasuke said as they set up camp for the night, staring at the map.
"Yeah," Naruto said. He pawed nervously at his hair. "We should be fine, though. There's no reason for them to know we're here."
"I'll take first watch," Sasuke said.
Sakura woke up with a slight start when he dropped onto the bedroll next to her several hours later. "My watch?" she murmured.
"Naruto's," Sasuke said. "Go back to sleep."
She watched him wordlessly as he stripped out of his clothes. The full moon shone through the fabric of their tent, pouring silver down the curves of his neck, the scars scattered about his back and chest.
"I love you," she said.
He looked at her with that lost expression he had sometimes, like he'd been wandering in circles through a dark wood until he heard her voice calling him home. "Are you going to go back to sleep?" he asked.
"No," she said.
He took her by the shoulders and held her down on the blankets as he kissed her. She held him with one hand splayed on his scarred back.
Later he turned over and let her take the top, because it usually worked out better that way.
She didn't notice anything wrong until it was almost time for them to go, when Sasuke screamed.
Naruto awoke instantly, but even then, Sakura was already dashing into the tent. Sasuke was curled up on the blankets, still naked save for a pair of pants. His lack of clothes made the problem all the easier to see.
His curse seal, dormant these past three years since his return to the Leaf, was aglow and spreading. He shuddered as it snaked out over his shoulder.
"Sasuke-kun," Sakura said, "can you stand? Can you walk?"
He pushed himself to his feet and stumbled a few steps forward.
Naruto and Sakura looked at each other for a moment. Sakura nodded. Naruto grabbed Sasuke and hefted him over his shoulders, his eyes going red as he drew strength and endurance from the demon within. Sasuke didn't protest, and that was when Sakura knew it was bad.
They fled back towards Leaf as swiftly as they could, Sakura taking the lead to check the path ahead for dangers. They'd only gone a few miles when she said, "There's someone up ahead."
Naruto grimaced, flashing too-sharp teeth. "Enemy?"
"I don't know--" Sakura began, but before she could finish the sentence, the trees around them were a flurry of activity, and a Sound-nin was trying to grab Sasuke away from Naruto. Then another one was on her, blocking Naruto and Sasuke from view.
They didn't manage to count all their foes until they were in bloody heaps on the ground. Sasuke had revived enough to fight sometime in the middle of all the chaos, but he was still trembling slightly and sweating with pain.
"Orochimaru," Sasuke said. "He's coming--" He cut off with a whimper.
"Take him and go," Naruto said to Sakura.
"No way, dead last," Sasuke snarled through his pain.
"You can't do anything against him like this!" Naruto snapped. He hesitated, then said, "I'll catch up with you two after."
"Naruto--" Sakura said.
The demon fox had faded from his eyes. They were blue now, and very pleading. "Sakura-chan. Please."
Sakura grabbed hold of Sasuke and pulled him until he reluctantly left Naruto behind and ran with her. She would have time to regret her decision later.
"Naruto's still holding up Orochimaru," Sakura said. "It isn't him."
Sasuke grunted, his eyes slitted closed against the pain. It was receding now, but he still stumbled unless she held him up. "Could be Kabuto. We're in trouble if it is." A beat. "It probably is."
"I didn't know he was that..." Sakura trailed off.
Sasuke nodded. "We can handle him, but it won't be easy."
"Let's keep going," she said, and then they didn't waste breath on words. They had never really needed words.
"Where the hell is Naruto?" Sasuke said after a while.
Sakura glanced behind them on reflex, but still there was nobody there. She remembered the only time she'd seen Orochimaru in person, thought of the terror his eyes had held for her.
"Soon," she said. "Soon we'll be far enough into Fire Country that they can't risk following."
"Naruto," Sasuke said, and then he jerked sharply before falling to his knees.
The curse seal flared brightly on his neck, then dwindled until it was just a single black mark. Then that, too, was gone.
"What..." Sakura stared at the bare skin and, heart pounding in her throat, resisted the urge to touch it. They'd barely had time to drag a shirt and shoes onto Sasuke before fleeing; he was wild and disheveled and very beautiful.
"Sakura," he said sharply.
"I'm here," she said.
"Orochimaru is dead."
"Good," she said, rather more vehemently than she'd expected. She found herself feeling sorry that she hadn't been able to help do him in.
Sasuke looked away, then, his eyes going a little glassy. "So is Naruto."
The words hit her harder than any physical blow, all the more so because she knew they were true. "No," she said. "How do you know?"
He shook his head. "You know I'm right."
She looked away for a moment, and then she nodded.
Sasuke got up and started back in the direction that they came from. Sakura didn't bother asking him to keep running away with her; she knew he wouldn't listen. Not with Naruto dead.
"Kabuto won't be coming alone," Sasuke said, his expression going predatory. "He'll have the best Sound-nin with him." He paused, then looked back. "Sakura."
She fell into step beside him. "Sasuke-kun?"
"Why are you following me? Go back to Leaf."
"I don't think so, Sasuke-kun," she said.
He was silent for a moment. Then he scrambled up a tree and peered out over the leaves. Jumping back down to the ground, he said, "They're coming."
"Five," he said. "I can't tell at this distance if Kabuto is one of them, but he probably is."
You won't survive this battle, Sakura thought. It doesn't matter what I do. You won't survive it.
"I'll stay with you," she said.
"You don't have a choice," she told him.
When he looked at her, his eyes were just as pleading as Naruto's had been. "Sakura," he said, "you have to survive this."
She lifted her chin and glared back at him. He hesitated for a moment, then leaned forward and put a hand on her belly. "Both of you."
"How did you know?" she whispered.
He smiled, cool and secretly adoring. "I saw you use your conception jutsu last night."
"Oh," she said. "Yes, that."
In that moment, she wanted to tell him how much she loved him and how much she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But it wouldn't have mattered, and anyway, he already knew.
Sasuke was trying to tell her something, but she was trying too hard to heal him to listen. It didn't work.
She thought of throwing the last of her chakra into the effort anyway so that she could go down with him, but in the end, she walked back to Leaf bloodied and alone.
Through those months, Sakura could not stop thinking of the perfect night sky and the bright full moon on the last night her team had been whole.
"Poetry of the mountains."
The character for "mountain" is the same one that was used in his grandfather Fugaku's name, making him the only child of the three to be named after a specific person.
Takeshi insists upon this, flaunts it like a defensive jutsu, but even he has his moments. When he's absorbed in his art, it's like there's a current running through him, jolting him out of his precious normalcy. This is why he only paints in the company of his siblings. Even if he were truly normal, they'd never believe it.
"Finish up already," Kimochi says. "We should meet Kakashi to train in half an hour."
"That means we have at least an hour and a half," Takeshi says, not looking up from his scroll as he draws the brush across it.
"No," Kimochi says, "I mean we were supposed to be there half an hour ago."
The three Uchiha children have always tried to be later than their teacher for their meetings, but in the months he's been teaching them, somehow Kakashi always manages to get there after they do.
Kotoyo lifts a hand, points at a spot on the scroll. "The angle is wrong there." She traces the correct lines with a finger hovering in the air.
Takeshi glances at a photograph, then back at the scroll. "You're probably right."
"Of course I'm right," she says. "What would you do without us, Takeshi?"
He considers this while staring at the scroll. "I'm pretty sure I'd be in a normal team," he says, "instead of forced to train with my siblings."
"Probably not," Kimochi says.
"Maybe even with Cho," Takeshi says wistfully.
"What is with you and the fat girl?" Kotoyo asks, rolling her eyes.
Takeshi carefully puts his brush down, turns around, and leaps at Kotoyo, his hands scrabbling for her throat. "She's not fat! She's just--round at the edges! That's all! She's chubby and it looks good on her!"
He only stops when he sees that Kotoyo is smiling faintly; she only said anything in the first place to provoke him. He lets go of her in irritation. "You need to stop that." He picks up his brush again and stares at the scroll.
"She'll never approach you first," Kimochi says. "You're Uchiha. It doesn't matter how much like the rest of them you think you are, they think differently."
Takeshi scowls down at the scroll and keeps painting. His eyes are red as he guides the brush along its path; the Sharingan assists him in art as much as in life.
She picks flowers, and she walks over to the Yamanaka flower shop, and she discusses flower arrangements with its proprietor. Flower arrangements, and often other things as well.
"Your son likes my daughter," Ino tells Sakura one day.
"It's good to know they get along with somebody besides each other," Sakura says.
Ino rolls her eyes. "That's not what I meant and you know it."
Sakura stares at the flowers she has brought her friend, and she says nothing for almost a full minute. Then she says, "I suppose you're right."
"You're not happy about it?" Ino asks.
"I don't want my children getting hurt," Sakura says.
"Learn to live with it, Sakura-chan," Ino says. "You're not saying my Cho would hurt someone who likes her, are you?"
"Does she like him back?"
Ino picks up a flower and leans back in her chair. "Give her time. She's a bit like me at that age. Doesn't understand that there's a love beyond recognizing a pretty face." She holds the flower out to Sakura. "Personally, I think they'd make a great couple."
Sakura looks at her best friend and wonders about parenting, and fulfillment through one's children.
The problem is that Ino can read her much better these days. "Don't look at me like that, Sakura-chan. I'm happy with who I am, and I know that I should be. Took me long enough to get here."
"All right," Sakura says, and she feels better than she has in a while. This surprises her. "I trust your judgment here."
"You'd better," Ino says, and she smiles. She's still holding out the flower.
Sakura looks at her for a moment, then takes it. "I'll talk to Takeshi if you think I should."
"I think we should let them figure it out themselves," Ino says.
This is why she is surprised that they know it anyway.
The three Uchiha heirs are waiting at the entrance to the estate when she returns. They always look a little eerie, a little unsettling, when they stand like that so reserved and well-mannered, but there's something endearingly awkward about them this time. Kotoyo wrings her hands a little as she stares off into the distance; Kimochi darts nervous glances at his older siblings. Takeshi, in the middle, is as reserved and stately as a thirteen-year-old can be. He's holding a scroll nearly as big as he is.
"That had better not be anything dangerous," Sakura says as she approaches them.
"Depends on how you define dangerous," Kotoyo says absently.
Sakura gives her a hard look.
Kotoyo relents, rolls her eyes. "It's just a scroll."
Takeshi starts to unroll the thing. "I painted it," he says.
"It was my idea," Kimochi adds.
"And I helped," Kotoyo finishes.
Takeshi glares at them both as he holds up the painting.
The Lady Uchiha doesn't notice. She's too busy catching her breath, because it's her late husband on the scroll, looking as beautiful and as alive as he ever did.
"Mother?" Takeshi asks. "Do you like it?"
She has to close her eyes before she can speak. "Put it in the entrance hall where it belongs."
"It is," she says, "an excellent likeness."
Sakura looks at all the pictures and thinks that they are missing something, something that the scroll now hanging in the hall has.
The air stirs behind her, just that little bit that tells her that someone else has found their way into her personal room. Twelve years ago it would have been Sasuke, and he would have announced his presence officially (knowing, of course, that she already knew he was there) by leaning down to kiss her, maybe on top of her head or on the back of her neck: very awkwardly even to the end, humble about his ignorance of love around her and only her.
But it isn't twelve years ago, and Sasuke is dead. So is Naruto. There's only one person with the nerve to appear unannounced in the bedroom of the Lady Uchiha these days.
She smoothly rises to her feet in a fraction of a second, not even looking at him, and then she has him pinned to the wall with the palm of her hand on his chest. "Kakashi," she says. "What do you want?"
He is silent for a moment. Then he says, "I heard about Takeshi's painting." He presses something into her free hand. "Happy anniversary."
Then he is gone. Sakura looks down at what he left her with. It's a picture of her three children, sulking awkwardly at the camera.
She sits down on her bed and, as she lets down her hair, wonders if she has any pictures of herself and her husband with their children.
The Lady Uchiha brushes out her hair and thinks about the future.