A/N: *Half-dead author* This is crazy. This is madness. This is absolute insanity. I don't know how some authors do this ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME. I'm done guys, I'm done. No more. Never again. The poor abused muse is in a coma. The situation is dire. See you at the bottom *faints away*. Oh, and watch out for the gigantic A/N down there after this gigantic-ass chapter. *Knocks out* You're welcome.

A tense silence reigned over the living room in the main Uchiha household after Sakura's rapid and abrupt departure. The only thing that could be heard was Mikoto's labored breaths as she came down from her raging outburst.

Still feeling the intense jealousy and anger from watching her husband kiss another woman so passionately in front of her, she threw her sons' arms off her and turned to him to give him a slap of his own.


Karin gasped loudly, Sasuke and Itachi froze, at a loss about what to do, Sai turned away as if to give them privacy, and Madara just continued watching quietly.

"How dare you kiss another woman in front of me!" Mikoto shrieked. Knowing her husband had been intimate with another woman was one thing, seeing it happen in front of her very eyes was a completely different experience. The pain in her chest was unbearable.

Sasuke and Itachi, who'd never seen or heard their parents argue, much less see their mother raise her hand against anyone, before today were baffled and unnerved by everything that had unfolded in front of them today. The brothers shared a worried look.

What did this mean for the future of their family?

Mikoto glared right back when she saw Fugaku glaring at her from the corner of his eye, his head still turned from the slap. She wasn't going to back down anymore.

Fugaku slowly turned his head back to face his wife head on, his cheek still smarting from the force of the slap. "That woman is still my wife until I file those papers," he pointed sharply at the documents still spread out on the coffee table, "and I have every right to spend my last moments with her however I want. I may never see her again after the act you pulled."

"Good," Mikoto retorted viciously, the anger still raw in her veins. "As it should be. Or did you already forget? She was the one who served you those papers. She doesn't want you anymore."

Sasuke and Itachi watched their father's building rage wearily and glanced between their parents uncertainly. Their mother's never been considered a harsh woman, she was always the kind, caring woman who tried to see the best in everyone. Hearing this cruelty coming from her mouth was extremely startling and unsettling.

Fugaku clenched his jaw and balled his fists up as tight as humanly possible, he felt his short nails dig into his palm. He's never wanted to hit a woman, much less another person, as much as he wanted to right in this moment.

Madara watched everything quietly, taking note of how much Fugaku actually cared and loved Sakura showing through his barely leashed rage. Madara had known that it would come down to this. As much as his aniki's marriage looked lovely from afar, it was quite hollow underneath the surface.

They got married out of familial obligations, and while Mikoto learned to fall in love with her husband, Fugaku's never been in love with her. Certainly, he loved and appreciated his wife, but he's never been in love with her. Madara wasn't so sure his aniki could ever be in love with someone until he saw him with Sakura.

Madara's eyes narrowed in thought.

On the flip side, while Fugaku may have been in love with Sakura, he would never be able to have her for himself, what with the social conventions him and his aniki had grown up with. It was what Fugaku had known all his life. And he was the type of person that once they were set in their ways, they were set for life.

Mikoto and Fugaku were brought up on old ideals, so even though they might hate each other now, in this very moment, they'll never even contemplate demanding a divorce from each other. Madara may also have been brought up with the same old ideals, but he had also been raised differently. He'd had the freedom to make his own choices. He had been able to focus on his own happiness growing up, all thanks to his aniki, who'd shouldered all the responsibility to let him have such an opportunity.

Madara knew that once this episode of rage passed, both parties were going to fall into a, hopefully, short depression, angry at themselves for what happened. Mikoto would be blaming herself for letting this happen. Fugaku would be blaming himself for letting Sakura go so easily. How long it'll be until they can look at each other without any hatred in their eyes, either towards each other or themselves, would all depend on how much either one was willing to try and make it work again.

He had a strong feeling that it'll be a long time coming for each one to trust the other and to trust themselves enough to even contemplate such a thing. But once they do, maybe then they'll be able to learn how to lean on each other for support and love.

Madara, on the other hand, had some errands to run.

To say she was shocked when she opened the door a week after shit hit the fan to see who it was would be a massive understatement, and an even bigger one when she found out why he was there standing on her doormat.

"What's this?" Sakura asked in an unsure, quiet voice, reaching out to take the offered manila envelope. She was really beginning to fear what they held and what it could mean for her future.

Her guest didn't say anything until she opened it and poured the contents out. He watched her eyes widen in surprise. She looked up at him, questions whizzing by in her eyes.

It was an invitation for an accountant position located near where she was moving to.

"It's not Senju or Uchiha, and definitely not Namikaze-Senju, but it's still something. The owner is a friend of mine and he's been looking for an experienced senior accountant for a while. I only sent him your resume to be considered, you got the job all on your own."

Sakura nodded numbly. "But...why?"

She still couldn't get a grip on what was happening. Why was he helping her, when he was the one who gave her the ultimatum in the first place? She heard him sigh and looked up at him to see him looking behind her.

Sakura turned around to where she knew Rei was playing by himself, drawing portraits of all his new classmates. She felt a harsh squeeze in her chest. She was taking him away from all his new friends, all because of her mistakes and horrible choices. She was such a horrible mother.

On the other hand, Rei was such a sweetheart. He broke his cold shoulder attitude towards her when he saw how upset Sakura had been when she went to pick him up after she fled the Uchiha residence. She did try to hide it, but Rei was just too perceptive. He even thought it was his own attitude that had caused her to be so distraught, immediately apologizing for it, nearly coming to tears himself. But Sakura assured him over and over that it wasn't his fault as she hugged him as close to her heart as could.

Such childish innocence needed to be preserved and bottled and cherished. It was the most pure affection in the world and it was usually unfortunately wasted and ran out too fast. Sakura swore to protect Rei's for as long as she possibly could.

Sakura turned back to Madara when he started talking. "He's still family," his eyes suddenly bore into hers, "and who knows? In another life you could've been my sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, or niece-in-law."

Sakura took a sharp intake of breath, her hand flying to her mouth to try and stop the sudden onslaught of sobs. She closed her eyes and squeezed them tightly, trying to stop her body from convulsing.

"Mommy? What's wrong?"

Sakura gasped and quickly dumped the papers she was holding onto the island counter and wiped away the tears before spinning around to face her baby. She crouched down low and held her arms out for him to come to her.

Once he was securely in her arms, she hugged him to her tightly. "Nothing's wrong, baby. Mommy just got something in her eye."

Rei leaned back and quietly examined his mommy's face, intelligence beyond his years showing in his eyes. "Okay, Mommy."

Sakura pressed a kiss to his temple before looking up behind her at Madara, who was studying them closely. She looked back and forth between the two then made her decision. Standing up, she guided Rei with a hand on his back to stand in front of Madara.

"Rei, baby, meet your Uncle Madara. He's your daddy's otouto."

Rei looked up with wide eyes. Never before has his mommy ever introduced anyone to him in relation to his mysterious daddy. He knew he was different from his playmates at the daycare, his new classmates and friends, and any other kids around him because he didn't have a daddy. But he was fine with that because he never knew any different. Also, his mommy had plenty of friends who were like aunties and uncles to him, and there was Grandma and Grandpa, too, so he never thought much about it.

But now, faced with someone who was actually related to his daddy, he was scared.

Sakura saw the fear in his eyes and cooed down at him, "Baby, it's okay. Say hello."

When Rei continued to stay mute and hid behind her legs, something he hadn't done since he was two, her heart broke even more.

"Sorry, he's not usually this shy." She placed her hand comfortingly on the back of his head, twining her fingers through the dark, silky strands.

"That's alright," Madara started as he knelt down to one knee, closing the distance between him and his youngest nephew, making him look less intimidating. "Hey there, little man," he continued softly, reaching out a hand, "I'm your Uncle Madara, nice to meet you."

Rei ducked behind his mommy's legs once more before peeking out at the strange man who was his new uncle. His real uncle.

Timidly, he reached out and placed his tiny hand in his uncle's large one and watched with fascination as it gently closed round his entire hand, engulfing it. Madara gave it a soft shake, really only moving his wrist, then let go. He held out a fist instead, "Take care of your mommy for me, okay?"

Rei nodded resolutely, bumping his fist firmly against his uncle's.

When Madara looked up at Sakura, he saw her silently crying again. With an indulgent sigh, he stood up and reached out to wipe her tears away with his thumbs before pulling her into him, holding her close.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he heard her mumble brokenly into his shirt through her tears. "I'm so sorry."

Madara rocked them side to side. "Shhh, shhh, it's not all your fault. It's my aniki's fault, too. Remember, it takes two to tango." He rubbed her back and heard her give a choked laugh at his words. "He'll deal with the repercussions at home and you get as far away from any Uchihas as you can; it's been proven, we're not good for your health."

He leaned back and gave her a cheeky smirk when a distressed laugh bubbled up.

Didn't she know that already?!

"You just care about taking care of yourself and your son." Sakura nodded. Madara moved his arms from around her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You can move on from this. You're strong enough and more, I know it," he encouraged her and watched her take a deep, steadying breath, her spine straightening back up on the exhale.

Her eyes fell closed and she took another calming breath before her eyes opened, clear and determined once again. She nodded at him. She can do this.

Madara turned to the door and was about to leave when Sakura spoke up, "Thank you, for everything you've done. And I'm sorry, that you couldn't spend more time with Rei."

He turned back around and leaned in to place a kiss on her head. "You know how to reach me."

Then he reached down and ruffled Rei's hair affectionately. "See you later, little man." He smiled when Rei waved at him, still a tad bit shy.

This time, when he turned to leave, nothing stopped him.

Sakura looked down at Rei after staring at the door for a few more seconds, "Come on, baby, let's finish packing up."

He smiled up at her and nodded, taking her hand to let her guide him back further into the apartment.

They were going to be okay.

Epilogue – 12 Years Later

Shikamru and Naruto talked business while their wives talked about their kids, or at that's what they thought they were talking about. Shikamaru didn't really care what his wife got up to and Naruto was just as oblivious as always.

"Shikadai is too much like his father," Temari rolled her eyes, "a certified genius but too lazy to use it when he doesn't have to. His IQ test results came back the other day and apparently, they're the highest the test center has ever seen since Shikamaru and all Shikadai had to say was nothing! He just shrugged and called it troublesome."

Hinata gave the older blonde a sympathetic smile. "Boruto is a really bright boy, too, but all he wants to do it play pranks right now. He can learn anything if he puts his mind to it, but he just refuses to. He's afraid that Naruto will force him to enter the company when he comes of age."

"Shikadai knows he'll be taking over when Shikamaru retires, but he just doesn't care right now. Exactly how Shikamaru had been, according to my mother-in-law, and I wouldn't've expected otherwise." Temari shook her head, exasperated. "How's Himawari?"

"She's a really good girl. My father absolutely adores her, she has him wrapped around her finger, something I never managed to do when I was younger." Hinata sighed. "She takes after Naruto's parents."

It was Temari's turn to give the raven-haired woman a sympathetic smile. She knew a thing or two about cold, over-bearing fathers.

"They're both with the Uchihas right now. Boruto just adores Sasuke and Himawari gets doted on by Nozomi," Hinata informed.

And like a dog with selective hearing, Naruto piped in, "Eh? The teme? Why are you talking about that sourpuss?"

Hinata smiled at her husband indulgently and said only one word, "Boruto."

Naruto's face changed immediately and he started scowling, pouting, and grumbling.

Boruto came home one day when he was six from hanging out with Rei, singing praises about Sasuke. Surprisingly, or maybe not, Boruto admired the strong, silent type, the complete opposite of his father's and his own personality. The old adage that opposites attract was at it again. It was also mostly likely a form of rebellion against his father to admire his long-time best-friend-slash-rival.

Naruto ranted childishly the whole time after dinner until Hinata finally got him to shut up the good old fashioned way, a bit of ego-stroking and lots of lovey-dovey to follow it up. Ironically, that had been the night Himawari was conceived.

Several thoughts connected in his head before Naruto blurted out, "I still don't know how something as sweet as Rei or as bright as Nozomi came out of the teme and his wife."

Everyone silently agreed. They also all let their thoughts collectively drift back to what happened all those years ago.

While Shikamaru's dad had been the one to help file the divorce, none of them had known why Sakura had left so abruptly until Naruto found out from Shisui. They all knew now and Sakura knew that she still had all their love and support.

Sure, it had been surprising to find out that Rei's father was Uchiha Fugaku, who she'd actively had a brief affair with, but at the same time, it was none of their business.

Did Temari and Naruto wish that she'd told and explained her side of the story before shit hit the fan? Of course. But they understood why she hadn't and couldn't hold it against her. Because, in hindsight, Sakura hadn't been sure what she'd gotten herself into either.

"She can never get rid of that family, can she?" Naruto asked no one in particular and they all knew who he was talking about.

"At least she's happier this time around and for the rest of the foreseeable future. If not, I'll fly up there and give that man a good beating myself!" Temari exclaimed passionately. She still cared about her kouhai very much.

Naruto nodded resolutely in agreement. "And I'll be right behind you!"

While Shikamaru looked bored and Hinata was smiling sweetly, Naruto and Temari knew that their spouses fully backed them up. Though not knowing Sakura as long or as well, she had become an honorary sister-in-law to the both of them by the time everything had come to light.

Sakura will always have the four of them in her corner if she needed them, and even when she didn't, and she knew that. She made sure to keep in contact with them and let them know how much their love and support meant to her.

Especially during the first year after she moved away. That year had been particularly rough and they were with her every step of the way. But there was only so much they could do from across the country and had been grateful when someone else closer was able to step in.

They all sighed.

Sakura'll never be able to de-tangle herself from that family, no matter how hard she tried.

They could only shake their heads at the irony of it all.

And ironic it was.

Not even a month after Sakura left the company, was when Genma met her.

He had been at the historic meeting where Uchiha and Nami-Sen, what they'd re-branded themselves as about a year after the merge, finalized a partnership that both sides were more than happy with. It was so monumental because of the long-standing bad history between Uchiha and Senju. But Genma figured that after Senju merged with Namikaze, they wanted to start with a clean slate and had been willing to give Uchiha another try, especially with Namikaze as a buffer.

Sadly, Sakura hadn't been there to witness it.

It was well known throughout the higher-ups that it was her proposal that had sparked everything and had given the basis to a functional partnership between Uchiha and Nami-Sen to keep Uchiha in the game after the latter was formed.

She stated extenuating circumstances and conflict of personal interests as her reason of departure in her letter of resignation. Genma and the rest of the accounting department had been sad to see her go but they could all see that there was nothing they could do to make her reconsider.

Going back to that fateful meeting full of new beginnings, Genma had bumped into his future wife. Literally. But luckily, this time he didn't have coffee in his hands.

Katou Shizune had been her name. She used to be Senju Tsunade's assistant up until she retired and was now her eyes and ears in the company to keep her informed of everything.

Miraculously, Genma had been able to leave a good enough impression, and when he found her at the announcement dinner, she agreed to go on a date with him.

One date turned into another and another and another. Soon, they became exclusive and were going steady.

Three years after they met, to the day, Genma proposed to her and she said yes. They got married a year later and their first daughter came two years after that and their second daughter came along a year after her older sister.

And now Genma was the happiest man, father, and husband there could be. He adored his wife and both his daughters with all his heart.

He was still working at Uchiha, and his wife was still at Nami-Sen, meeting up with her shishou, as she liked to call her old boss, for bi-monthly updates in business and in life. Genma still saw his old friend Kakashi every now and then for drinks.

The former exec had left Uchiha to create his own company about three years after Sakura left. The old crow was still strong in his bachelorhood and the one time Genma asked if he had any intentions of getting married, and if so, did he have anyone in mind, Kakashi skirted around the whole subject so expertly that Genma didn't realize it until he got home.

Genma shrugged it off. There will always be that one friend who doesn't have the urge to find the love of their life to settle down and have their own family with.

It wasn't a big deal.

Sai looked up from his sketchbook to observe his muse a little more before quickly dropping back down to add more to his sketch.

"Are you drawing me like one of your French girls again, love?"

The corner of Sai's mouth quirked up with a small smile. "You know it," he responded without looking up. He could just feel his wife of seven years looking at him with amusement.

She'll never fail to be amused with his obsession with drawing her and he'll never fail to be obsessed with drawing her. It's been like this since the very beginning of their relationship and everything that had led up to it.

Sai left his home-country to do some soul-searching not too long after Sakura left. First, he backpacked all over Asia, then Africa, hopped over to Australia, flew to South America, made his way up North America, and lastly Europe. He had jumped from Canada to Iceland to the Netherlands, where he proceeded to work a circle around all of the culture-rich European countries. Finally, after three years of country-hopping, he decided to settle down in England for the foreseeable future and that was where he stayed.

Here, he'd easily made himself a name with his new style of art. Backpacking all over the world to experience everything for yourself can do that to you. Before, while his art had been deep and sophisticated, it was now also bright and open. There was a new sense of freedom in it whereas before, looking back now, his art used to feel restrained and leashed. Now it was an explosion of emotions and colors.

His art was even reflected in his different tattooing style. It was now even more refined than before, incorporating the many different styles he saw on his travels.

While he'd been quite successful before, he was extremely successful now, as his audience range had expanded exponentially. He had sponsors from all over the world making sure he stayed inspired. It wasn't unusual for him to spontaneously be flown out somewhere just to experience something. Of course, his sponsors expected an art piece or two in return, but that was more than enough for Sai.

He was living the dream where his job was his passion.

Sai met his wife at the park. It was a rainy morning and for some reason, Sai had suddenly felt the need to walk around outside with his waterproof sketchpad. Looking all around him with fascination, he noted how different everything was in the backdrop of rain.

His feet led him to the park near his studio where he proceeded to pick a bench to sit down and just began sketching everything in sight. He was so into his sketching that he didn't realized that he'd sketched a tall, slim blonde into his drawing until he was done with it.

Taking a double-take to make sure that it wasn't just his imagination, he found the woman sitting on a bench perpendicular and not far from his. She was just sitting there, enjoying her disposable mug of coffee. She didn't even have a jacket on, letting the rain soak into her thin dress.

Her head was tipped back to look straight up into the heavens crying down upon them. Her eyes were closed as she simply lived in the moment.

It was the most beautiful thing Sai had seen in a very long time. And that was saying a lot, given all the things he'd already seen by that point in his life.

Including one Haruno Sakura.

Sakura had always lingered in the back of his mind on his travels and he hadn't minded it. It was like a familiar presence that always kept him company whenever he felt alone.

But in that one moment, he completely forgot about her. It was like she never existed beyond being a friend he occasionally visited, and Sai found that he liked that feeling quite a bit.

Sakura will always have a special place in his heart, but he realized in that very moment that he was finally ready to move on. And if he had anything to say about it, then it would be with that woman in his drawing.

He didn't make his move right away but he found out that that bench was one of her favorite spots to go to and relax whenever she had the chance. So, Sai had made it a habit to take a walk around and near the park to get even a glimpse of her His sketchbook was always on hand to feverishly jot down any and every new detail he could see, ending up with maybe over a hundred mini-sketches.

Soon, as the woman that had caught his attention was deceptively intelligent, she noticed him watching her, and started watching him back without him noticing.

He finally asked her out when she turned up at his art studio one day. To say he was surprised to see her there was an understatement. But he didn't let the opportunity go to waste and asked her out to dinner that night. Everything had gone swimmingly.

He found out that she was a psychotherapist who ran her family-owned flower shop whenever she could. She loved being around nature, it calmed her and helped her clear her mind. She loved the simple yet breathtaking beauty Mother Nature had to offer. She liked to imprint everything on her brain and let it wrap around her like a warm blanket on a clear, sunny day. But she could also be aggressive and assertive when she felt the need to be. She took what she wanted and was completely unapologetic about it. She had sass, confidence, inner beauty, warmth, smarts, and scary intuition all wrapped up in one very pretty package. It was like she had been made for him.

When he told her that, she laughed at him, calling him a silly romantic, and then proceeded to jump his bones.

Even now, after one year of dating, one year of being engaged, seven years of marriage, and five years of being the very proud father of their son, he still felt the same way and he still felt the need to draw her whenever he could.

"Ino, love, come here will you?" Sai asked, still working on his latest sketch. He finally put his sketchbook down when his blonde bombshell of a wife, naked and all, invited herself onto his lap.

"You called?" she asked while smiling mischievously down at him, her baby blue eyes sparkling wickedly.

Sai trailed his hands up and down the back of her bare thighs. "I was just thinking..," he trailed off when Ino bent down and nibbled at his bottom lip.

"About?" Ino asked innocently as she lowered herself into his lap and slowly grinded against him, biting her lip coyly when she heard her husband's low groan of encouragement.

"I was just thinking," Sai repeated when his hips bucked up and his hands found her hips to hold her against him, "that we need to start working on that second baby you always wanted, don't you think?"

Ino's breath shortened when Sai leaned into her neck and started lathering it with kisses and nips. "You think Inojin is ready to be a big brother?"

Sai gripped his wife's bottom and held her against him tightly, standing up from the chair he'd been sprawled in, and walked across the room to dump her back onto their bed where she'd just come from. He followed her onto the bed and crawled over her. "Even if he isn't ready, I feel like the practice will be most enjoyable."

Ino giggled but soon started moaning when Sai ground his clothed, barely restrained erection against her. She was still naked from the night-long love they'd made the night before and he had on the pair of PJ bottoms he'd pulled on to fight off the morning chill when he first woke up and felt the insistent urge to draw his beautiful naked wife.

"We had plenty of practice last night," Ino said even as she reached up and helped pull his pants down.

Sai leaned down and whispered into his wife's ear, "There is no such thing as too much practice. I'm sure you'll agree," and proceeded to enter her in one solid thrust, hitting that special spot inside of her perfectly.

Their moans mixed together as they reconnected for the billionth time but still felt that initial burst of love every single time. Their hips rocked together in practiced synchronization that never failed to bring them to completion together.

They were still very much in love and in tune with each other and Sai absolutely adored that.

Sasuke watched his reflection as he mindlessly did his tie, getting ready for another day of work. He heard his daughter's bright voice, already chattering away even though she only woke up not even an hour ago. How she had that much energy in the morning, he'll never know. Especially when it was noted that both him and Karin had low blood pressures in the morning, making them virtually half-awake zombies.

To be honest, Sasuke never thought he'd ever have a daughter, much less a second child, at least not with Karin. But things changed and he was blessed with a daughter, his princess. She may already be nine years old, but she'll always be his baby girl.

After the shocking revelation that his father'd had an affair with Sakura, of all people, and that Sasuke and Itachi had a little half-brother who'd been right under their noses, things changed drastically for the Uchiha family.

While he still talked to his father at work normally, he still couldn't look at his father the same way he had before, even after his uncle explained everything to him and Itachi, to try and let them see how their father could do such a thing to their mother. Sasuke couldn't say anything without being extremely hypocritical, but he'd held his father above such things as reckless and destructive as having an affair.

He'd always looked to his father for approval and acknowledgment, something he never got as a little kid and even as an adult, but now, he couldn't do that anymore. He only hoped that his own kids never found out about his horrible past behavior towards their mother, or else they'd be similarly disillusioned and that'd break Sasuke harder than anything else. He would do anything to keep them from finding out, at least not until they were much older and the events were so far removed in the past, that his children couldn't deny the love they saw between him and Karin.

Though his parents never ever considered a divorce, his mother did refuse to speak to his father after that fateful day that changed everything. Sasuke couldn't argue when his mother announced that she was moving in with his family for an indefinite amount of time. And truthfully, having her there as he recovered from his drinking problem had been a huge help.

It was painful and it felt like it took longer than it really had, but he'd not only realized that trying to drink himself to an early death wasn't going to fix anything, he also overcame the unbearable urge to drown his sorrows with alcohol. It was hard but Sasuke made it through it, with support from his family and the professional help his mother had found for him, and now he was ten years sober and counting.

Thinking back on it, it was the support that he'd gotten from Karin that made him look at her in a different light and made him reconsider giving her a real chance at making him fall for her. His wife's support shouldn't've surprised him so much, since he knew how much she loved him, but he'd always discounted it as meaningless and empty. His head and heart had been stuck on Sakura for so long, that he'd needed a really rude wake up call to make him realize that Sakura wasn't as perfect as he'd remembered and wanted her to be.

His chest still twinged with the smallest stabs of pain when he thought of Sakura, which thankfully wasn't very often anymore, but Sasuke had learned to accept them as a lesson from his mistakes.

About two years after Sakura left, and almost right after Sasuke had become completely sober, he approached Karin, all on his own after thinking about it for almost a year, and simply said, "I'm sorry."

She'd almost started bawling right then and there, but refreshingly, she had been able to hold her tears back until he was done saying his piece.

While he should've been more explicit with his apology, he knew he didn't have to, Karin understood everything from those two words. He's never been a man of much words when it came to expressing affection or sincerity. When he was angry or frustrated, he always had more than enough to say, but when it came to his feelings, he'd always fallen short with how to express them properly.

All he managed to say next was, "Can we try again?" because that was all he could think of and because Karin had tackled him immediately afterwards.

And that was how his mother had found them a long while later. Karin had cried herself to sleep with extreme relief and joy on his chest, and for the first time since meeting her, Sasuke hadn't wanted to let her go.

Nozomi came about a year later when they mutually decided to try for another child. It not only gave Sasuke the opportunity to do everything over, to do everything he should've done when Karin had been pregnant with Ryuusuke, but it also gave them the opportunity to really bond as a family. Ryuusuke accepted his role as a big brother with open arms, Sasuke had been so proud of him.

While Nozomi was a bright and vibrant child ever since she was a baby, Ryuusuke was more subdued and quiet. He had not an arrogant bone in his body but he carried himself with a subtle confidence that made him very popular. Ryuusuke knew everyone and anyone, and unlike when Sasuke had been younger, Ryuusuke didn't hold people at a distance. He was very approachable and laid-back. He also had a talent to lead and was naturally very intelligent, so Sasuke knew that he'd be a great fit for the company if he wanted to go into the family business.

Sasuke made sure that Ryuusuke knew that he had a choice on whether or not he wanted to follow Sasuke in his footsteps. At only sixteen years old, he had plenty of time to decide.

Sasuke finished dressing and grabbed his blazer before heading down to the kitchen, where the rest of his family had already convened and was eating breakfast made by Karin. His mother had been the one to cook for them when she had lived with them, but she decided to move back to the main house when Nozomi came along, to give them a chance to be a real family on their own, she had said.

The first thing Sasuke did when he reached the kitchen was walk over to his beautiful wife and give her a kiss, smirking when Nozomi exclaimed her childish disgust at seeing her parents showing any sort of affection with each other. Karin giggled against his lips and gave him another kiss before pulling away.

Sasuke gave Nozomi a kiss on the top of her head and Ryuusuke a squeeze on the shoulder and took his seat at the head of the table. Nozomi looked like her mother with her father's coloring. If not for her different hair and eye color, Nozomi was her mother's twin at her age. Karin's parents always remarked on it whenever they came to visit.

Ryuusuke and Nozomi got along very well despite the seven year difference between them, probably attributed to Ryuusuke's infinite patience, where he got that, Sasuke didn't know, but Sasuke was extremely grateful for it. Though when Ryuusuke was angry, he was very angry, rivaling Sasuke's own temper. That, Sasuke knew where he got it from.

Sasuke looked around the kitchen table and, though he didn't show it on his face, something he still struggled with, his heart was exploding with love and joy at seeing his family together and so happy. Karin caught his eye from the end of the table and she smiled at him and for him, because she understood.

Dropping his gaze back down at his food, he allowed his lips to curl into a small smile, finally content and happy with his life.

Rei was packing for his trip when his bedroom door suddenly burst open. Without even turning to see who was responsible, he intoned, "Yuki, what did I say about coming into my room without knocking?"

"Don't. But onii-san, I don't care if you yell at me right now. I just don't want you to leave!" Yuki whined and tugged on the back of his shirt.

"Yuki, I'll only be gone for the weekend. I'm just looking at a few schools and I'll be back before you know it." Rei continued packing as if his eight-year-old sister wasn't violently yanking at the back of his shirt before settling to hug herself like a koala around his leg.

"That's two whole days! That's, like, forever!"

Rei guessed for an eight-year-old it might seem like that. He remembered when their mom had gone on an overseas trip when he was very young for only a week, and that had definitely felt like an eternity before he saw her again.

Taking pity on his baby sister, he abandoned his packing for now and reached down to pry Yuki off his leg before scooping her up into his arms. She promptly wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and smushed her cheek against his. Yuki was tiny for an eight-year-old, obviously taking after their mother, so Rei had no problems cradling her against his chest.

Hearing a knock on his door frame, he turned to see their mom watching them fondly.

"She not letting you pack again?" their mom asked indulgently.

"Nope. This little brat is determined to see that I don't pack on time," Rei said with no heat in his voice, laughing when Yuki nodded unashamedly against his cheek.

This was the third time in as many hours that Yuki had attempted to prevent him from finish packing. The second time, she even threw a real tantrum and had upended his nearly packed duffel bag. After that, their mom had pulled her out by the ear and forbade her from coming back in, but of course that didn't stop her.

"I'm home!" was called from the front of the house.

Yuki, who always perked up whenever their dad announced his arrival home from work, stayed glued to Rei, showing just how upset she was that he was leaving for the weekend.

"We're all up here!" their mom called down the hallway.

All three of them listened as the footsteps of the last member of their family made their way across the house and up the stairs to the second floor. A short while later, he appeared in the doorway next to their mom and his wife.

"Yuki not letting you pack?" he chuckled, already assessing the situation for what it was after giving their mom a greeting kiss.

"Yeah, this is the little brat's third try to stop me from packing," Rei said endearingly.

With another chuckle, their dad stepped forward and held his hands out for Yuki to be passed to him. "Come on, sweet pea, Daddy has something to show you. We got a new project at work!"

Yuki's interest was sufficiently peaked when she peeked an eye out from where her face was still snuggled into her onii-san's neck and pouted with contemplation. Reaching a decision, she chose her onii-san and hid her face again.

"Did I mention I brought cookies home?"

That immediately got her attention and she looked out once more suspiciously.

"It's your favorite, chewy-double-fudge-white-chocolate-with-marshmallows."

She was sold. Everyone laughed when she unwound her arms from her onii-san's neck and reached out for her daddy.

After Yuki was carted away with the promise of sweets, Rei was finally able to finish up packing. His mom just watched him from the doorway. "Do you have everything?" she asked.

Rei double-checked to make sure. "Yup, everything."

"How do you feel about traveling on your own for the first time?"

Rei was taking a plane down to Kyoto, where his grandparents had moved to a few years back after they both finally retired and where he was going to be staying for the weekend. He shrugged. He might be a little nervous but he didn't think too much of it. "I'll be fine."

His mom walked up to him and reached up to cup his face. "I know you'll be fine but I just can't help but worry and be nervous for you. You were my only baby for the longest time."

He smiled down at his mom. "I know, Mom, I know. I'll be careful." He'll always have a soft spot for his mom, no matter how much the boys his age tried to not show any affection towards their moms as a show of being tough and independent. "I'll be fine," he repeated.

His mom looked into his eyes and he returned the look for a little longer before she saw what she was looking for and nodded, dropping her hand from his face. "Come on, we should get going. You have a flight to catch." She turned around and walked out of his room.

Rei grabbed his duffel and followed her down. When they both reached the kitchen where they saw Yuki munching on two cookies at the same time with a big glass of milk beside her, they both laughed and shook their heads.

"You should've only let her have one, she'll spoil her dinner with more than that," their mom said to their dad, who totally ignored the half-hearted reprimand and turned towards Rei, "Ready to go?"

Their mom good-naturedly rolled her eyes at her husband with small smile on her face. Rei held up his finally packed up duffel in response.

"Alrighty, we'll go after the pipsqueak finishes her milk."

Two hours later, Rei was finally on the plane after grabbing dinner with his family before heading to the airport. He settled in for the hour-and-a-half flight from Sapporo to Kyoto.

With his imouto's response to him leaving, he couldn't help but think of when he first saw her after she was born. He had been eight at the time and he couldn't remember ever feeling more excited in his short life. Ever since his mom told him that he was going to be an onii-san, he started counting down the days until he could meet her. He had talked and asked questions non-stop about his new baby sister that was growing inside his mommy's belly.

He asked his mom, his dad, and both his grandparents, through the phone, all the questions he could think of and as many times he could get away with. Thankfully, everyone had thought it adorable and indulged him fully.

After his imouto arrived and he named her, since his parents wanted him to pick the name, he took his onii-san duties seriously. He picked the name Yuki because he loved the snow ever since the first time he saw it after him and his mom moved. Admittedly, he'd been a little too excited to be an onii-san because according to their mom, he tried to share his favorite unagi onigiri with a three-month-old infant Yuki by trying to shove it into her tiny mouth. She started crying and their mom ran into the room just in time to stop Rei from potentially harming her. It was their mom's favorite family-mishap story to tell whoever was willing to listen.

Unsurprisingly, despite loving his new baby sister to death, almost literally..., there had been a short adjustment period when Rei truly realized that having an imouto meant having to share his mommy with someone else. His dad didn't count because Rei had all his attention whenever he wanted. Luckily though, the adjustment period was dealt with and Rei finally fully accepted Yuki into his life and understood that she wasn't going anywhere and that she had as much right to his mommy's attention because she was her mommy, too.

After that period of almost a year, Rei calmed down and continued spending time on his art and looking after his imouto, trying to teach her everything he knew. His art, along with his family, was his everything, it was his whole world. He even entered and won many competitions, much to the pride of his family, without his passion fading away. In fact, it only got stronger and stronger each time it got acknowledged as something beautiful and meaningful by anyone other than his family.

Though, admittedly, Rei had wanted to go into the yakuza life for a little while and had actually joined one of the smaller local gangs for a short stint when he was fifteen. That was, until his mom beat it out of him under the guise of...training...him after she found out about his membership.

"I want to help you," she had said when she questioned him about his possible membership.

"I've been there before, I know what it's like," she had said while luring him to a local dojo.

"You idiot son!" was what she was saying while decimating and wiping the dojo floor with him.

After his mom dragged his sorry ass home, he had foolishly called her a hater in one last shot of rebellion and got smacked for his impertinence. He had yelped and ran back to the safety of his room with his tail between his legs.

"That's right! You ungrateful little brat!" was what had been called after him.

Rei had learned his lesson. He stayed black and bruised for weeks after that lesson, the first day after which, he showed up in front of his gang-mates and told them that he had to shamefully withdraw. After seeing the condition he was in and after finding out who his mom was, they mercifully let him go and issued a gang-wide warning to flee on sight if they ever encountered his mom.

The reason why he had wanted to give it a try was because of all the stories he heard from his grandparents and his aunts and uncles, his mom's friends, who came to visit every now and then. His mom used to be in a gang with Aunt Temari, Aunt Kin, and Aunt Tayuya, and his Uncles Zaku and Kimimaro had even fought alongside them in what sounded like the most epic battle ever.

Looking back on it, Rei could see that the only reason they were able to joke about it even though it was a very important and arguably the most definitive part of their lives, was because they truly accepted it for what it was, learned deeply from it, forgave themselves for it, and moved on.

Rei smiled at his reflection in the plane window. Even though that painful revelation had forcibly come by his mom's fists and kicks only just two years ago, Rei was thankful that he had learned the lesson from his mom and not from almost dying at the hands of a rival gang.

With one last thought on the matter, he shook his head lightly to dislodge the heavy thoughts from his mind. Pulling his sketchbook out, he finished up a drawing he was preparing as a present for the rest of the flight.

Sakura got ready for bed that night after the call from her parents that they had safely picked Rei up from the airport and had gone for dessert before heading back home. She was proud of him, taking the initiative to check out several universities he was interested in, in person. If he wanted to give her own alma mater a try then she would be more than happy to go with him and give him a tour of the campus herself.

Rei said he might take the train down to Tokyo to check out Tokyo U if he was feeling up to it, so Sakura was a proud momma to say the least that he was aiming so high.

Settling into bed beside her husband who was already out for the count, Sakura didn't immediately fall asleep and stared up into the darkness, stuck in her thoughts. Even just looking at this single moment in time, she couldn't help but think how far she has come since that one eventful time in her life.

After Sakura and Rei moved to Sapporo, a city she had picked to be far enough away from the Uchiha family in Tokyo yet still not too far from her parents who lived in the greater Tokyo area, settling in had been hard. She had been able to start immediately at the company that Madara found for her and same with Rei at his new school. Since it was only about two weeks into the school year, Rei had been able to make new friends just the same, something Sakura couldn't be more grateful for.

While they couldn't replace his old friends, his new friends made sure that he wasn't alone.

Unlike Sakura on the other hand. Adults had it so much harder than kids when it came to acclimating to new surroundings. Especially since the company that Madara's friend ran was small and close-knit, the sudden arrival of a single mom with her young son in tow was the most exciting thing to happen in a while. And being the center of attention was the last thing Sakura wanted at the time.

She tried to lay low until her newbie status wore off, working hard to make sure the other employees couldn't say that she was hired only because she had connections. It started out okay until the other employees, her co-workers, started gossiping and speculating about the reason for her sudden arrival. If she had been a local woman, she wouldn't have nearly been as interesting, but since she was an outsider from the capitol, she was the most interesting thing since sliced bread.

Of course, the first thing people thought of was that there must've been a scandal for her to uproot her life and run away to save face. That led to people trying to guess what the scandal consisted of. Being the nosy people they happened to be, they looked up and researched online to see if there had recently been a big scandal in the news. Luckily, there wasn't any trace of Sakura's very real scandal.

The thing that just had to come after the possibility of Sakura being a part of a scandal was that she'd an affair with a very important public figure and was found out by his family, who chased her out of the city by threat of ruining her.

Sakura couldn't tell you how stressed she had been, over-hearing all the rumors going around about her in the break room and even as she worked in her little cubicle. Her only saving grace was that no one asked her straight to her face if the rumors were true, because Sakura wasn't totally sure if she could lie through her teeth to save her life. Especially not in the state Sakura had been in when she first arrived, still recovering from a huge upheaval in her life.

Thankfully, a new employee entered the company all the way from the UK about half a year after she started, so she was no longer everyone's favorite gossip target. It also helped when the man who would unexpectedly become her second husband came into her life and showed that she was still a respectable woman and mother to her son.

Her first relationship after the divorce had started out innocently, he just wanted to be there to support her and help her when she needed it, but soon, they found out all the things they had in common and before they knew they, they had fallen in love hard. After dating for just a year, though a great deal longer than the time she had known her first husband before she married him, they decided to tie the knot.

Not even a year into their marriage, she found that she was pregnant with Yuki. Her baby girl had been a honeymoon baby. At first Sakura was scared because of the ordeal she had gone through with her first pregnancy but her second husband, who actually knew and understood her past, assured her over and over that he wasn't going anywhere and that he was going to stay by her side until death do them part. Because that was what they had vowed to each other. Sakura bawled like baby after hearing him say such words so definitively.

When Sakura told her parents that she was expecting again, they had been overjoyed. Arguably, they had been more concerned about her when she told them she was getting married again and to whom, but they were able to understand that she was truly happy this time and that her groom and husband wasn't going anywhere either.

Her parents knew everything. They knew why she had to move so suddenly. They knew all the secrets she'd kept over the years.

They were very disappointed in her for not ending the marriage as soon as she found out that she was the other woman and for not telling them earlier. Sakura had been so scared to tell them because her parents had always been so supportive and her joining a gang and almost dying because of it hadn't even disappointed them as much as what she had disclosed to them. She was afraid that they wouldn't want to speak to her after they found out.

But this time, Karma felt like she'd had enough and didn't take her parents away from her. After a week of silence, when Sakura thought they didn't want anything to do with her anymore, after everything had sunk in for them and they were able to mull over their thoughts about it, they suddenly appeared in her apartment to help her pack. They told her that although they were extremely disappointed in her, they worried about her even more. She'll always be their little girl, they said, and they would never throw her away and cut her out of their lives just because of a couple of huge mistakes that she'd already resolved all on her own. They were just glad that she was still in the right mind to resolve it all before it truly ruined her life.

Sakura let out a heavy sigh at her heavy thoughts. That woke her husband up and he wordlessly wrapped his arm around her, turned her onto her side, and drew her to his chest.

"You okay?" he asked sleepily.

"Yeah, just thinking," Sakura replied as she ran her finger along his collarbone before leaning in to kiss it.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked, seemingly more awake and aware of what was going on. They both knew what she'd been thinking about. This wasn't the first time she's woken him up with her loud thoughts.

"No, it's okay. I'm okay." Sakura snuggled deeper into his chest and closed her eyes.

"You know I'll always be here."

She smiled against his shoulder. "I know."

"Love you," he said, clearly falling back asleep already.

"Love you, too."


Itachi looked up to see his nephew taking his usual seat across from him in their usual meeting place. A cozy cafe with very good ambiance.

"Ryuusuke," he nodded back at him. "How are you?"

"I've been better," Ryuusuke said and then proceeded to fill his uncle in on his past week.

They started having these one-on-one talks as early as sixth grade for Ryuusuke, when he found out that it was easier to talk to his uncle than his own father. Don't get him wrong, he loved his father, it was just a bit hard to open up to him about everything that was troubling him. Four years later, he wouldn't trade these little chats with his uncle for anything else.

Itachi watched his nephew closely, listening to his story attentively. When his nephew first started coming to him for advice and just to talk, Itachi didn't know what to make of it. He knew his otouto wasn't the most articulate when it came to emotional and supportive matters, so he understood why his nephew looked elsewhere for such a thing. What Itachi didn't understand was, why him?

When Itachi asked Ryuusuku, why him, the answer he got wasn't what he'd been expecting. He had been expecting to hear that it was because he was a familiar face and that since he was male, he would understand him better. But no, that wasn't what Ryuusuke had told him. Ryuusuke told him it was because he felt like Itachi needed someone to talk to and that he seemed really lonely to him.

Itachi had been floored and shocked to silence. He didn't know what to say to that because that was exactly what he felt. Itachi had been lonely for a long time by the time Ryuusuke approached him. That was eight years after Sakura left and that was a long eight years of feeling empty and hollow inside. It wasn't all attributed to Sakura's short-lived but pivotal presence in his life, he would like to tell himself, but there were certainly other parts to it.

If he was truthful with himself, he'd say that he's been lonely for as long as he could remember. Because even as a child, he hadn't been able to make friends with kids his age easily and older kids didn't want to talk to him because he made them fell dumb and they didn't like that. He didn't have friends, he had passing acquaintances.

It wasn't until college that he found some people that he could possibly consider friends but after graduation, they all went their separate ways. He'd had several girlfriends that never worked out for long and plenty of flings because trying to maintain a relationship had seemed so hard, especially when he was always so occupied with his home life and the family business. Then there was the strained relationship with his dad that started when he was only a teenager.

Itachi was very smart and intelligent, a prodigy or genius even, but he would never allow himself to be controlled or what he perceived to be controlled. And so, he argued with his father over almost everything they disagreed on. When he was a teenager, the arguments had been about letting Itachi do what he wanted to do, he may not have known what that was, but he just wanted the chance to actually decide for himself. But to his father, there was no other options for him, because that was what his father had done when he was a teenager himself.

While Itachi ended up following his father into the family company, they still had many disagreements on how things were run or how they should proceed on a project. The arguments were constant, at work and at home, and they only got worse after the whole Orochimaru-debacle that nearly took down the company with him.

Itachi felt like no one understood him.

His mother didn't understand him, she barely tried to step in and stop the arguments between him and his father after seeing it was a useless endeavor after the first few times, though sometimes he desperately wished that she had. He wanted that support but never got it. His otouto could never understand him before because Sasuke actually looked to their father for approval and acknowledgment, unlike Itachi who butted heads with him constantly.

He had gotten some support from Shisui, but his cousin could never fully understand because he grew up being loved and supported by his whole family, and he'd always had the choice of making his own decisions and wasn't reprimanded for them if they weren't the best ones. Shisui's parents and otouto wanted him to be happy and that was all that mattered. Itachi will admit that he's felt jealousy towards his cousin's family for some time before he realized that it wasn't going to change anything in his own life.

So he felt like he was alone almost his entire life, especially after that enormous argument with his father that led up to him walking out on his family and talking to them for almost five years. In that period of his life, he'd felt extra alone living by himself, nowhere near anyone he knew. He felt so isolated that he might've even been depressed for a bit. If he had, then it had been a long time coming.

His homecoming after finding out that he might potentially be a father had been one of the strangest nights in his life. It was the first time he ever felt supported by his family. They wanted to be there for him when he found out if he really had a child out there somewhere in the world or not.

While Itachi always understood in the very back of his mind that his family actually did care about him and love him, he always just pushed it away. He always wondered how he was so unlucky to end up with such a dysfunctional family. With the possibility of having another family somewhere, Itachi vowed that he would never let that happen to the family he might have of his own someday.

Then he met Haruno Sakura.

Oh how he wanted her to be his potential baby momma even though he had no such recollection of even sleeping with, let alone meeting, someone with pink hair and green eyes. After she shot them down at the gala, and after Itachi found out that the sonogram sent to him had been a fraud and a scam, his interest in Sakura skyrocketed even after having just met her not too long ago.

She intrigued him and something about her had made his brain itch, not including the issue of who fathered her son. No, that counted barely a fraction towards Itachi's real fascination towards the pinkhead. He couldn't explain this strong attraction towards her even when he came to the conclusion that she was the woman he wanted to one day start a family with, a family that was nowhere like his own, a family that was happy.

So when he finally figured everything out with the little hints Sakura had dropped without realizing and Itachi's own memories and revelations, he had been truly devastated.

It was made even worse when he forced himself to break the news to his mother before she found out another way. Because even though she might've not been able to support her son fully against her husband, he still loved her dearly and to even think of hurting her made him uneasy.

After everything was said and done, and after it was official that his family was fucked up, Itachi moved back out of his family home. This time though, he stayed in the greater Tokyo area to stay close to his mother who had also moved out to live with Sasuke and his family as fast as she could, not wanting anything to do with his father at the time. He also went back to doing freelance work as he had when he lived away from home those five years, so his interactions with others lessened once more, which only exacerbated the problem.

In those eight years leading up to Ryuusuke approaching him for advice in life, the emptiness and loneliness he'd felt all his life, only grew and grew. He's always hidden his emotions well when it didn't involve his father, so he was very surprised when his nephew noticed it and approached him to help him with it.

Itachi will be forever grateful towards his nephew. He loved his niece, too, but his nephew'll always have a special place in his heart.

The uncle-and-nephew pair talked for over two hours before they parted ways with promises to meet up same time, same place next week.

Itachi was walking back to his apartment a few blocks away when he suddenly ran into someone, knocking the groceries they'd been holding all over the pavement. Apologizing profusely, he set out to helping the person gather everything that could be salvaged. He looked up to offer to replace the eggs that had cracked and the milk that had burst open when time stopped and his breath was stolen from him.

He could swear there was an angel standing in front of him.

In her early thirties, with long dark hair and the warmest brown eyes he's ever seen, his heart raced for the first time in what seemed like forever. "Hi," was all he could come up with when his brain failed him.

She raised an eyebrow and laughed at him before greeting back, "Hi to you, too."

Shaking himself out of his stupor, he was able to apologize one more time before making his offer. "I am so sorry about that, I wasn't looking where I was going. Please allow me to replace anything that was lost."

"No, that's okay, I wasn't looking either. That's fine."

"No!" Itachi protested a bit too enthusiastically when she moved to walk around him. "I mean," he backtracked when she looked at him funny, "please, I insist."

She looked at him suspiciously, her lips pursed in thought before saying slowly, "Okay then, the store's not too far back that way." She turned around and started leading him to where she had gotten her groceries.

Itachi only nodded, all too happy to follow along. He didn't want to let her leave his sight just yet, at least not until he got her name and asked her out on a date. He didn't know how, but he knew she was the one. She felt even more right to him than Sakura had, and that was saying a lot more than Itachi cared to admit.

Maybe it really was never too late to find love.

He's waited forty-two years for her, he wasn't going to let her slip through his fingers. Not if he had anything to do about it.

He only hoped that she was single, if not, then at least not yet married. But even if she did end up being taken, he wasn't going to back down without a fight. It was time to chase his own happiness and live his life the way he's always wanted to.

Fugaku's mind idly wandered back over the events of the past decade or so as he worked. He found that he's been doing more and more of that lately. He didn't mind. The thoughts that circled around were usually consistent, replaying over and over from different angles.

This time it was about his wife. His first wife. His remaining wife. His wife only in name.

They didn't love each other anymore.

Mikoto had fallen out of love with him rapidly after Sakura left, or at least that's what she tried to portray. She, who moved out of the house before the week was even over, was still very much in love with him, even twelve years after learning of his indiscretions and betrayal.

Fugaku, who knew from the beginning that he's never been in love with his wife and never could be, still cared about her in his own way, but it'll never be the same as before. That started even before Sakura left, that started when he first met and slept with Sakura. His ex-wife who he was sill very much in love with.

Love was so strange and hard to understand.

Once it had you in its claws, it never wants to let go, only digging deeper and deeper, before they're wrapped tightly around your soul for eternity. Fugaku believed that he'll still love Sakura just as intensely as he does now when he dies and leaves the physical world. His spirit will live on, and with that, so will his love for Sakura. Just as his wife will forever hold a brightly burning candle for him.

Oh how Fugaku wished he could help free her from such cruel claws, but alas, it was foregone conclusion that he'll fail.

They've gotten better, bit by bit, over the years. But not by much.

Mikoto moved back in when Sasuke's daughter was born, out of respect for the healing family. She never moved back into their bedroom and chose to sleep in the guest room. It was her room now. They didn't have a guest room anymore but that didn't matter, they'll never entertain non-family guests overnight ever again anyways. It mattered not.

For the first few years, they barely even cohabited. They barely saw each other throughout the day. He always got up early to go to work and didn't come home until late after dinner time. She stayed in her room until she heard the front door close behind him. She was generous enough to make two servings for dinner, leaving his under a towel at the dining table for him to come home to while she retired early to her room.

They never ate together until the more recent years. And unsurprisingly, she had been the one to re-initiate contact. She waited up for him one night about five years ago and they ate in complete silence, only the sounds of eating and utensils being used could be heard throughout the house.

The house had essentially been a ghost residence those first few years, each one living together and knowing the other was there but never seeing them. After that olive branch, Fugaku started coming home earlier again so that she wouldn't have to wait so long to eat dinner. They gradually re-established the nightly routine they'd had before everything happened.

After dinner, Mikoto would set about washing up and Fugaku would retired to his study to finish up whatever work he brought home for the day. Two to three hours later, he would join Mikoto in the living room, where she was already situated on the couch reading a book, for fruit and tea, enjoying each others' silent company.

It was at that time of the day when they started talking to each other once more. Conversation, though never flowing between them before, started out stilted and forced, keeping to updates about Sasuke and his family, and about Itachi. It was still a little forced now, but not as stilted. They always kept to safe topics, never breaching the elephant in the room that loomed heavily over their broken relationship.

One topic that always came up was their grandchildren. Ryuusuke has always been such a sweet boy that had them wrapped around his finger, but his imouto, Nozomi, took it to another level. When she first opened her onyx eyes and looked up at them from Mikoto's arms, they were both smitten once again with another babe.

The two spouses even shared a rare, fleeting moment of understanding then. No matter what had happened between them, they were going to protect this little girl from all the bad and scary things in the world. Mikoto and Fugaku were putty in her tiny hands. They were willing to put on a show of being okay for her when she got older and started noticing how Grandma and Grandpa didn't hold hands and kiss like Mommy and Daddy.

Nozomi didn't have to know.

So, Fugaku and Mikoto were willing to endure the painful times when they had to act like nothing was wrong, like Sakura never happened. That thought pained Fugaku just thinking about it. Mikoto was more than happy to play into the illusion. Fugaku could see the love in her eyes no matter how hard she tried to hide it, scared that he was going to break her heart even further if she let it show.

Mikoto was a strong woman, there was never a doubt about that, but Fugaku regrettably never learned to appreciate just how strong she was. He had taken her and everything she gave him for granted and broke them apart to indulge a whim. He didn't regret it, indulging in his desire for Sakura, but he sometimes did regret never giving himself a chance to fall in love with Mikoto. So much unnecessary pain and suffering could've been avoided.

Some would call them growing pains, others would call them torture to the nth degree. Fugaku could only agree with both.

Nowadays, there was better communication between them, much better than at the beginning after Mikoto moved back in. Their conversations were still as short and shallow as ever, but it was better than nothing. They were both determined to ride this out until the end of their days. They were nothing if not stubborn and obstinate in their ways once set.

It was their mutual downfall.

One could say that they were gluttons for punishment and no one could refute it.

Fugaku sighed and pulled himself out of his thoughts and focused back on what was in front of him.

A few hours later, he was working on one of the new proposals from Nami-Sen when there was a knock on his office door.

"Come in," he called out without looking up.

He heard the door open, footsteps of someone walking in, and the door closing behind them. He waited for them to address whatever it was that they came in for.


Ah, it was Sasuke.

Fugaku finished up what he was working on, put his pen down, and looked up, expecting to see his second eldest son waiting to address a business matter with him. But he froze when he saw who it really was.

It wasn't his second eldest, nor was it his once-again estranged eldest. It was his youngest.

Fugaku couldn't believe his eyes.

Even though he never actually met his son with Sakura in person, only having watched him grow up through yearly birthday pictures that Sakura was kind enough to continue to send even after their divorce, nothing could compare to finally seeing him in person.

Father and son stared at each other from across the office pensively, quietly studying the other.

Fugaku was the first to say something, but all he could get out was calling out his son's name for the first time. "Rei."

"Father," was repeated back to him, but this time with less surety and less bravado.

They were both at a loss for words. How does one conversate in a situation like this?

The only thing Fugaku could think of to say first was to ask, "How did you find out? Did your mother tell you?"

Rei shook his head and watched his father's reaction closely to what he said next. "I figured it out myself. It wasn't all that hard, considering who my step-dad is."

Fugaku's hand involuntarily clenched into a fist.

"Ah, yes, my otouto."

Rei nodded slowly, "Yes, your otouto. The man who I met first as my uncle."

Fugaku didn't say anything as they once again studied each other.

"Do you resent him, my dad? For stealing my mom away?"

Fugaku's chest tightened painfully. He measured his next words carefully, "No, I would never be able to resent my otouto. I lost your mother all by myself, because of my own faults. I want the both of them to be happy, and if being together makes them happy, then I'm happy."

Fugaku still remember how he felt when Madara confessed that he had inadvertently fallen in love with Sakura. It took his otouto a year to realize the same thing he had realized overnight.

Madara, after Sakura first moved away, had deemed it his duty to keep an eye on her and to take care of her in place of his aniki. It was his way of repaying his aniki for all that he had sacrificed for Madara's happiness growing up. He hadn't meant to fall in love with Sakura. He had only meant to be a familiar face she could turn to when things got rough. And things had been rough that first year after her move.

Sakura had understandably been weary of Madara at first, because even though he had been the one to help her find a new job very quickly, which she'll forever be grateful for, he had also been the one to issue the ultimatum and to push Sakura into making the decision she'd made. Things started out rocky between them because of their short but strained history.

But when the stress from the situation at work compelled her to lean on Madara's offered shoulder, she slowly let her guard down around him and they soon became good friends. They started talking on the phone more, even when she wasn't stressed and worried about her co-workers finding out that the seemingly baseless and wild rumors about her were actually scarily true and accurate.

They only saw each other in person intermittently, due to Madara's job as a director, but those few times had been enough for Sakura to ensnare Madara with her charms without even trying. It was inevitable really, there was just something about her that attracted Uchiha men like bees to honey. She was their sweet, sweet nectar, their guilty pleasure that made them want to be captured in her web of sin and desire.

Fugaku had known that Madara had kept in contact with Sakura, but it still took him by surprise when his otouto confessed that he had feelings for Sakura and that he was interested in pursuing her seriously and properly.

To give her everything she deserved but never got from Fugaku.

Madara had really gone for the jugular when he said that to him. Fugaku'd had no choice but to give his consent, even if he would not have not given it in the first place. Like he said, he'd give everything up again to make sure his otouto was happy, and if that included Sakura, then so be it. He also knew that he didn't deserve Sakura and that she'd be better off with his otouto anyways. He wanted Sakura to be happy, too, and if that was going to be with his otouto, then so be it.

No matter how much it pained him to say yes. No matter how much he wanted to be selfish again and say no, to tell his otouto to stay away from Sakura, that she was his. Even if she never really was his in the first place. He had no right to her, even when he was her husband. He never treated her properly from the very beginning.

Deep down, he was so ashamed of himself, he could hardly bare it.

And so, in a way to repent, he let Madara have her if she would have him.

It took about half a year after Madara confessed his feelings for Sakura to Fugaku for him to wear her down and to agree to allow him to court her, and in that time, Madara had transitioned his career from directing to producing independent films, a much more stationary career.

While Sakura had only been in love with the idea of Fugaku, she had definitely ended up falling hard for Madara, no matter how hard she tried not to.

In the beginning of exploring the possibility of being more than friends, Sakura had been adamant that she wanted to stay friends, that she didn't want to jump into a relationship with yet another Uchiha, when almost all her experiences with them in the past had been abysmal and gave her cause for aversion. But she stood no chance against Madara when he really turned his charm on, determined to win her fully.

He pulled out all the stops and catered his abilities to something he knew she would appreciate. He was a great male role model for Rei whenever he visited, he supported her in her endeavors, he showed his appreciation for all her efforts in everything she did, he thoroughly wooed her with all his heart, and best of all, he was there by her side as much as he could get away with.

He was just there.

And that, in and of itself, had felt so good to Sakura and that was what had made her appreciate Madara even more before she slowly started to fall for him.

They went steady two years after she moved away and started a new life. They got married a year later, after a short engagement, with a very small ceremony that had less than twenty guests in attendance. Madara's sons had taken their father's second marriage very well, as was their wont to just want each other to be happy, and thankfully by then, Sai had already met the true love of his life and had showed her off proudly at the wedding.

Sakura felt like the real trooper had been Rei. He took the transition of having Madara as an uncle to having him as a his very first father-figure like a champ. The cheeky little boy had even said, when they broke the news to him that they were getting married and that Madara was going to be his dad from now on, "About time, Dad. I was waiting for you forever."

Sakura broke down crying, happy tears and sad tears alike.

Or at least that was what Madara had told Fugaku.

Fugaku had been equal parts devastated, relieved, and happy. He had been devastated to hear the son he never even had the chance to meet call another man "Dad". He had been relieved that the man his son now called "Dad" was someone he could count on to take care of his ex-wife and his son. He was happy for his otouto for finding love and happiness again after Madara's first wife had been so painfully wrenched away from him.

It had been a freak train accident a long time ago, when Shisui and Sai were still in high school. The train had derailed, due to old rusty tracks, right into the oncoming train from the other side, killing almost fifty, Madara's wife and Shisui and Sai's mother, included, and injuring hundreds. The only solace the family had was that she had died on impact and didn't suffer.

Yeah, Fugaku was happy for the both of them, all the while burying his jealousy deep in his heart. He had to bury it deeper when Madara announced that Sakura was expecting, taking both newlyweds by surprise, as they hadn't been planning to have anymore kids. But Yuki had her own plans and had been a honeymoon baby, entering into the world kicking and screaming nine months later.

Madara showed Fugaku pictures of his daughter proudly, the apple of his eye, and Fugaku saw her grow with Rei in his yearly birthday pictures from Sakura. She had the perfect mix of Sakura and Madara's features, just like Rei, but unlike Rei, she had been lucky enough to inherit their mother's shining emerald green eyes. She was definitely going to be a heartbreaker when she grows up, Madara was going to have to beat the boys away with a stick.

Hell, she was a heartbreaker even now.

It broke Fugaku's heart every time he saw a photo of her, knowing that there could've been a chance, if he hadn't messed up so spectacularly, that Yuki could've been his, not Madara's. She was a constant reminder of what could've been.

"Father?" he heard the son he did have with Sakura call out to him uneasily, noticing how deep in thought he was.

Fugaku pulled out of his thoughts and focused on improving what he actually had. "You must be looking at schools now, aren't you? Last year of high school?"

It was such a big jump in conversation topics, but they both allowed the change.

Rei nodded. "I'm staying with my grandparents in Kyoto for the weekend. I've already toured Kyoto U yesterday and Tokyo U today. I figured I'd use the chance to finally meet you while I was in the area."

Fugaku narrowed his eyes in thought. "Does your mother know that you know about me?"

Rei tipped his head from side to side. "I'm pretty sure she does. We've never talked about it, but Mom and Dad sometimes comment on how I resemble you. I see her play with her old necklace sometimes when she thinks no one's looking."

Fugaku's eyes couldn't help but light up, knowing that Sakura still cared about the ring and pendant he had given her.

"She doesn't wear it anymore, hasn't in a very long time, not since we moved, but she keeps it in her bedside drawer to keep it close. Dad knows about it but never says anything about it and Mom never takes it out around Dad. They respect each other like that."

Fugaku nodded and got them back on track, not wanting to think about how much better Sakura worked with Madara than himself. "Which school do you want to attend?"

Rei shrugged. "No real preference, I'll be thankful to get into either of them."

Fugaku nodded again and saw his chance to make up for missed time and opportunities. "Whichever school you get into, please let me know. I would like to get to know you more if you're in the area, if you'd like that."

Rei once again had that look on his face, reminiscent of Fugaku's own expression when concentrating, as he studied his father. "I would like that very much," he said softly.

Rei looked away down at his feet, and jammed his hands into this pockets, before starting softly, "You know, for a short time, after figuring everything out, I hated you." He looked up at his father with the eye color he inherited from him and the shape from his mom. "For what you did to my mom."

Fugaku resisted the urge to look away ashamed. He was going to face this head on, he decided.

"Or, I tried to, at least. It didn't go very well," Rei admitted.

Fugaku let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"It was all circumstantial and it wasn't as if Mom was making the best decisions on her part either. I also remembered how you tried being there without actually being there, when I realized that all the birthday gifts from Mom's friend were from you." Rei reached into the collar of his shirt and pulled out the dog-tag necklace he never took off ever since he got it on his fifth birthday, now fitting him much better than before. "It wasn't as if you ever forgot about me and Mom."

"No, I would never be able to forgot about you or your mother," Fugaku seconded quietly. "I think about the both of you almost every day."

Rei studied his father's face once again. "You still love her, my mom."

Fugaku jaw clenched. "I still love the both of you," he corrected.

"You're still in love with my mom," Rei corrected right back.

Silence reigned over them as Fugaku had nothing to say to that.

Rei looked away to give his father a moment and spotted the painting that hung on its own wall. Walking up to it, he raised his hand and lightly ran his fingers over the acrylic. When he turned back to looked at his father, he saw that he was the one being studied now.

"Do you know what that is?" Fugaku asked carefully, standing up and walking over to join his son. When he was only a few steps away, he realized that Rei was almost as tall as him, and with a few more years to grow, he could possibly be just as tall as him or even taller.

Rei nodded as his eyes trailed over his father's face, memorizing all of his features. "Mom's tattoo. I've seen photos of it and Uncle Sai's painting." Even though Sai was technically his step-brother now, he never got out of the habit of calling him 'Uncle' from when he was still just his mom's friend.

"I painted this," Fugaku admitted as he let his eyes trail over his finest masterpiece. "I designed your mother's tattoo, too."

Rei's eyes snapped back to the painting, really taking every detail and stroke in, before he looked back at his father in awe. He'd always idly wondered where his artistic talent had come from. His mom said it was from his father, but Rei had thought she was just saying that to make him feel a connection to his estranged father. But now, seeing this beauty and finding out that his father had designed his mom's tattoo, too, one of Rei's most favorite designs, he finally believed it.

Then Rei realized this was his opportunity to give his present. It wasn't much, but he'd made it using his passion and he wanted to share that with his father. "I have something for you," Rei said as he slipped off one strap of the backpack he had on and swung it to his front, unzipped it and pulled his sketchbook out. Flipping to his latest piece, he looked it over one last time before tearing it out and holding it out to his father.

Fugaku took it gingerly from him, not knowing what to expect. When he let his eyes drop down to see what it was, his breath hitched. Staring back up at him was the most beautiful sketch of Sakura having the time of her life, laughing her heart out. It took his breath away, and the next thing he knew, he was tearing up. The sketch just struck him where it hurt the most.

Rei didn't know what to do and just stood there, staring at his shoes.

"Thank you," Fugaku finally managed when he pulled himself back together. Wiping at his eyes, he took a deep breath and let it out before saying the thing he'd wanted to say for so long. "I'm sorry, for everything I've done and for everything I haven't done. You and your mother deserved so much better than that. I hope I can still make it up to you."

Rei tensed and tears of his own started gathering in his eyes before he nodded his acceptance. He hadn't realized how much he needed to hear that from his father. He didn't fight it when he felt his father pull him into his arms, holding him tight. Rei wrapped his own arms back around his father and cried into his shoulder.

Fugaku smoothed his hand over the back of Rei's head, intoning softly, "I'm so sorry. I love you so, so much." He pressed a kiss into his son's hair as his own tears came back with a vengeance and leaked out in streams.

Father and son stayed there, in each others' embrace, just reveling in the feel of each others' presence.

Sakura had her arms wrapped around herself as she stared out the window. Just thinking.

She heard Madara walk up behind her before she felt his arms wrap around her securely, holding her tightly to his chest.

They both stayed silent for a moment.

"Do you think Rei's with him right now?"

Sakura, still staring out the window somberly, nodded, "I can feel it."

Madara leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of his wife's head. "It'll be okay. He'll be okay. We'll be okay."

It felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders when she intuitively knew that her baby boy had finally met his father for the first time in his whole life. Sakura sensed that Rei felt a bit of abandonment from his father when he was old enough to think about the hole in his life where his father was supposed to be. While Madara was a wonderful dad to him, nothing could beat knowing that the one who helped make you loved you just as much as you couldn't help but love them.

A child's love for his parents knew no bounds and it is only after irreparable damage is done that it is lost. Sakura prayed that wasn't the case with Rei, that her and Fugaku's actions haven't stolen away his ability to love his father as much as he loved his mom and step-dad. Sakura wanted Fugaku to at least have a chance to get to know his son.

"We'll be okay," Sakura repeated softly.

When an overwhelming sense of relief hit Sakura, she knew it, she just knew it was from her baby boy starting to heal with his father, a smile slowly spread across her lips.

"Everything will be just fine."


A/N #1: It's done. This monstrosity of a fic is finally done! Rejoice! I seriously didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started this story a little over two and a half years ago...

I confess, I originally planned to have Sakura end up with a non-Uchiha *cough*Neji*cough*, then I changed it to have her end up with Itachi. But as I wrote the story, I realized that I didn't know if Itachi would ever be able to get over what Sakura had done to his mother with his father enough to want to still be with her. Then some reviewers started whispering Madara in my ear and I figured that he could take care of Sakura where his aniki couldn't, as a way to pay him back for all the sacrifices he made for him.

I almost went crazy trying to decided between Itachi and Madara, up until the previous chapter was posted. I was seriously contemplating leaving it up to chance with a flip of a coin before reasoning it out and made up my mind. I don't know if I find it ironic or not, for Sakura to end up with the most sane, and sound of heart and mind, Uchiha (discounting Shisui who barely made an appearance in this fic (he actually has a life of his own, apparently)).

Honestly, the epilogue wasn't supposed to be this long...I originally had "brief epilogue, Rei meets Fuga" in my outline before it turned into "updates on everyone, Rei meets Fuga". Then that second-to-last segment with Rei and Fugaku just refused to finish that it alone ended up being twice as long as a normal chapter...*bangs forehead against desk repeatedly*...I. Brought. This. Upon. Myself. Whelp, I did say that I'd let this last chapter go as long as it needed to, and, as you know, I always keep my promises *wink*.

Please let me know know what you thought of the fic as a whole, and if you are so inclined, I'd love to know what your favorite moment(s) or scene(s) were! Also, if you had to describe the story in three words or phrases, what would they be? First time trying this little questionnaire-type blurb so I hope it goes well!

I'm gonna take a break after posting this. Don't know if I'll be working on new story, if I'll go back and proofread the entire story to the best of my abilities, or if I'll finally get to revamping Surrogacy, which has been put on hold because my muse wasn't in it (though it is certainly half-dead and hanging by a thread after this chapter) and because I didn't know how I wanted to change it. But now I do! So hopefully, I'll do something and not just disappear into the abyss again *sweatdrop and smile*. Here's to wishing me luck on my new and/or old endeavors!

Thanks for reading and please review!

Completed – 11/19/2016

P.S. Here's the omake I promised. It completely did not fit with the tone of the previous chapter and it involved Sakura knowing things she shouldn't really know of, but for this omake's sake, she is all-knowing and omniscient. And in all honestly, it's more like an alternate ending/a different way the previous chapter could have gone, but it just didn't work. Like, it was actually a bit OOC for even my characters, lol...

"You should be ashamed of yourself. How are you going to tell your son one day that his father was married to another woman and old enough to be his grandfather? I worry how he's going to grow up having someone like you as a mother. He'll end up no good!"

Fugaku looked like he was about to explode when Mikoto attacked Sakura's integrity as a mother and his youngest son's honor, but Sakura beat him to it.

"Leave my son out of this!" Sakura got right up in the older woman's face. "We may share a husband but that's all. My son is none of your business. So back off!"

The older woman opened her mouth to say something else but Sakura cut her off before she could start, "I won't tell you how to raise your sons, so don't tell me how to raise mine." Sakura followed Mikoto as she took a step back, trying to gain some distance and the upper hand again. "You may try and shame me all you want, call me a whore, a slut, a gold-digger, whatever, but you leave my son out of this."

Even though Sakura was shorter than Mikoto, it was clear that she was looking down her nose at the older woman as she said her next piece, on the attack, "You should be ashamed of yourself, attacking an innocent child like that to try and cut me down. Makes me see you in a whole new light. Not so innocent and perfect after all."

Sakura really wanted to let her have it for trying to bring Rei into this. "Makes you wonder why Fugaku really strayed, doesn't it?"





Sakura stared the other woman down from her still-turned position as the other woman was being wrangled into submission by all the men in the room besides her brother-in-law. The slap had made her bite her tongue and she was extremely tempted to spit the blood out onto Mikoto's pristine white carpet, but refrained because it was Fugaku's as well.

Sakura's neck cracked when she turned her head back to look at Mikoto head on. That slap might've made her bite her tongue, but it had nothing on the horrors she'd had to deal with on almost a daily basis back in her gang days in her prime. Sakura stalked towards the older woman slowly, who was huffing and puffing from exerting herself, trying to free herself.

"Did you yell at Fugaku when he first told you he was having an affair?" Sakura asked lowly. Everyone else but Mikoto and Madara watched her warily. "Did you try to blame all the misgivings of your marriage and family life on him and his inability to fully express himself without his art? Hm?"

Sakura dragged her eyes over Mikoto's rumpled form in blatant disapproval and disgust. "Did you think everyone's been blind to your own shortcomings?"

Mikoto's eyes narrowed when she looked at the faces around her. Sasuke, Itachi, and Sai looked away, ashamed that they shared the same opinion, and Fugaku stared her straight on.

"I've only seen the whole family this one time but even I could see it. How you stood uselessly off to the side as Fugaku struggled to coincide his own strict upbringing and his secret wish for his sons to never experience such a thing. Did you not think of the sacrifices he made to keep his otouto happy and think of a way to bring it back to him? You could've easily tried to coax Fugaku to pick up a pencil or brush and help him try to vent his bottled up anger, a legacy of the way his own father had treated him like a pawn. Instead of expecting him to resolve it by himself or even thinking that was just the way Fugaku was and that he'll be stuck like that for the rest of his life."

Sakura was in Mikoto's face when she uttered the next part for everyone to hear. "You gave up on him before you even tried to help him deal with his own issues and insecurities. Talk about not giving second chances," she sneered out sarcastically.

Sakura danced back a step when Mikoto surged at her but was once again restrained by the arms that still kept a tight hold on her. "You only seem to be able to say your part when you're on the moral high ground. Well, get off your fucking high horse and see the part you've playing in messing this family up! See the damage you've done by not standing up for your sons when it counted!"

She had one final thing to add, "You should be ashamed of how you raised your sons. The only reason they turned out halfway decent was because of the fact that they're their own person and could make decisions for themselves, something you didn't afford my son when you tried to cut me down. I'm done with this family and all your bullshit. You're a disgrace to mothers everywhere, and you know it."

Looking around the living room, looking closely at everyone's faces, when Mikoto broke down crying, she saw painful resignation and revelations in almost all their faces. Karin still looked completely lost and Madara was still watching her intently, betraying no emotions on his face. The fight left Sakura, no matter how much she wanted to hold onto it, when she saw the pain and regret in Fugaku's face.

"Fugaku," Sakua tried softly, taking a step towards him. She'd be lying if she said it didn't break her heart even the tiniest bit when he took a reflexive step back away from her advance, the hurt clear on his face.

Sakura let out a gentle sigh before walking over to her bag on the couch and pulled out the familiar manila envelop she'd brought with her. She looked back up at Fugaku once more to see him fixated on the envelop in her hand, heartbreak deep in his eyes. She placed it onto the coffee table with a sense of finality and left. They had to sort out their problems on their own and Sakura wanted no part in any of it.

She was done with them.

A/N #2: After this scenario, Sakura probably would've stayed a single mother or would've met someone completely different *cough*Neji*cough*. She wouldn't've accepted Madara's help and would've, instead, relied on herself, as she always has. Very, very different outcome.

P.P.S. Shout out to everyone who joined me on this crazy roller coaster ride of a story! You da real MVPs!

EDIT – For those who didn't like the pairings but stayed 'til the end, I count those as major victories. Also, surprising everyone with MadaSaku at the end was the last hoorah from me. Cheers!

Edited – 11/21/2016