"What do you think of Sasuke's teammates?"

Fugaku frowns and suppresses a small wince as he reflects on the dinner they just had. "They did not give a favourable first impression," he says at last. Sasuke had been extremely reluctant to invite his teammates over – at the time, Fugaku had dismissed it as some juvenile possessiveness but now he understood. The Uzumaki boy was Sasuke's opposite in every way – blond, loud and lacking in manners. His rudeness, however unintentional, had Sasuke glaring at him the whole night but their other teammate was the only one who could keep him in line. He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow the first time he saw her reprimand Naruto so violently, an action that was so at odds with her sweet and well-mannered demeanour, but her pink hair and painfully-obvious infatuation with Sasuke indicates to Fugaku her career as a kunoichi would not go far.

Mikoto hums, not quite in agreement. "Naruto-kun certainly takes after Kushina," she offers. "Sakura-san was very sweet, though, and both of them have great potential as shinobi."

"Perhaps," Fugaku says, a hint of scepticism in his voice.

"They make a good team," Mikoto continues. "I think it's good that Sasuke interacts more with his peers."

"Hn." He doesn't agree with that – does it have to be those peers, in particular? – but he's willing to hear her out.

Mikoto gives him a slightly accusing look when she says, "Sasuke is too arrogant." Fugaku raises his eyebrow in return, but she continues with, "He needs to learn with others and accept his flaws, otherwise he cannot improve. I believe his team can help him with that."

"That is true," Fugaku concedes, "but I am concerned his team will not make it past the chūnin exams."

"Perhaps not right now," Mikoto says, smiling faintly. "Give them time. Let them train together, and then we will see."

Fugaku does not really want to see them again, but he knows he is fighting a losing battle – he can tell Sasuke does not completely loathe his team, and it is plain that Mikoto adores Sakura, so he resigns himself to the fact that Team 7 is going to become a part of his life.

A small part, he hopes.

"Sakura-chan is so sweet," Mikoto coos, not for the first time. She has always wanted a daughter and in truth, so has Fugaku, but his two sons are enough work; he doesn't think he can handle a third child.

He doesn't disagree. "Hn."

"It's so nice to see them getting along better," Mikoto continues cheerfully. "And Sakura's crush on Sasuke is adorable!"

Fugaku pauses and gives her an incredulous look. "I do not think adorable is the right word to describe her infatuation," he says dryly, thinking back to her earlier attempts at flirting with his son.

"Well, not in the beginning," Mikoto allows. "But Sasuke seems to like Sakura well enough now – I think, in time, he might grow to return her feelings."

"Aa," Fugaku says, considering her words. Team 7's initial chaos and lack of coordination had smoothed out into something resembling teamwork – the insult of "dead-last" has become a familiar, though still somewhat degrading, nickname for Naruto; Sasuke's complaints of Sakura's uselessness have become half-hearted grumbling.

Their frequent visits to the Uchiha household have made it clear to Fugaku how Sasuke's attitudes to his teammates have changed. Sakura is the only girl that Sasuke tolerates; she is most likely Sasuke's only female friend. No doubt this is due to their close proximity as teammates, but, as Mikoto speculates, this could turn into something more.

"Sakura-san is a good influence on Sasuke," Fugaku says eventually.

"And?" Mikoto prompts, even though she knows exactly what he's trying to say. Her dark eyes glitter with mischief as she smirks at him.

Fugaku sighs, almost imperceptibly, and clears his throat. "I am not…completely adverse to the idea of Sakura-san marrying into our family."

Mikoto beams.

Fugaku will never admit this to anyone but Mikoto, but he misses Sakura's long hair. Her new style suits her very well, of course, and he understands how symbolic her actions were, but her long hair reminds him of their genin days, when they were still Team 7.

After the failed chunin exams, Team 7 began to drift apart – Naruto left Konoha to train with Jiraiya, Sakura was apprenticed to the Godaime Hokage and Sasuke begged Fugaku to train him. With Naruto gone, Team 7 dinners stoped, and eventually, so did Sakura's visits. Fugaku suspects it has something to do with Sasuke, who is surlier without his teammates, and also Sakura herself, who seems to be distancing herself from Sasuke.

Sasuke trains harder than ever when he hears Sakura entered the chunin exams with another team and was promoted; Fugaku witnesses his improvements firsthand. He hears distant tales of Naruto's adventures, but he hears more about Sakura's achievements as a medic-nin. The members of Team 7 are all growing stronger, but he fears their strength comes at the cost of their bonds.

Fugaku will never admit this to anyone, not even Mikoto, but he misses the days of Team 7, when Sakura was in love with Sasuke and Sasuke would-could-should have returned her feelings. And even when Naruto comes home and Team 7 is reunited once more, Fugaku resigns himself to the fact that Sakura will never become his daughter-in-law.

It's late at night when Fugaku receives the news that his eldest son is in hospital. He knows that no ninja is skilled or lucky enough to consistently avoid being majorly injured, although Itachi has enough of both that such news is quite concerning. One of the medics confirms his suspicions, revealing that Itachi's injury was quite severe and would have been fatal, had the medic assigned to his team not been so skilled or quick to act. But, the medic informs them, the injury is almost completely healed, and Itachi will not wake until the next day, at the very least.

When they return to the hospital in the morning, Mikoto sits by Itachi's bedside while Fugaku seeks out the medic who saved his son's life. A doctor passing by directs him to another room, and when Fugaku knocks on the door, he is quite surprised to see Haruno Sakura standing before him. It does not escape his notice that she wears the standard hospital gown instead than the white uniform of a medic-nin, her pink hair loose and messy as if she had woken up recently.

For any other person, in any other circumstance, Fugaku would have been unimpressed, but he knows Sakura well enough to infer the reason for her appearance, and his respect only grows. "Sakura-san," he says. "I would like to speak to you, if you are not too busy."

"Of course," Sakura says, slightly puzzled as she steps back to allow him inside the room. "What's the matter?"

Fugaku begins without preamble. "I understand that you were the medic assigned to Itachi's squad and saved his life. I would like to express my gratitude, on behalf of the Uchiha Clan and also as Itachi's father. We owe you a great debt," he declares.

"I was only doing my job," Sakura says, looking somewhat mortified. "Besides, Itachi was injured protecting me, so thank you, but there is no debt. If anything, I should be thanking you. "

"Itachi was only doing his job," Fugaku points out. "I would also argue that medic-nin usually do not perform such an extensive healing while still in the field, nor do they usually suffer from chakra exhaustion afterwards."

"Even if you were just doing your job, you still saved him," he reminds her, cutting her off before she can protest. "And for that, I am truly thankful."

After a short pause, Sakura bows and murmurs her own gratitude, although she still looks bemused by the thought. Fugaku hides his smile as he bows in return, before excusing himself.

He recounts the incident to Mikoto when he returns to Itachi's room, but his words trail off as Itachi begins to stir. The room is dimly lit by a single lamp; the closed shutters effectively shut out the bright sunlight, something Fugaku is grateful for as his son wakes.

Itachi opens his eyes and blinks a few times, eyes dark and heavy-lidded with exhaustion. The small movement seems to take a great deal of effort, but he manages to speak. "Sakura?"

"She's fine," Fugaku answers, raising an eyebrow at Mikoto. They both watch intently as Itachi relaxes, eyes fluttering shut.

"Aa," Itachi murmurs, before his breathing deepens and evens again.

Fugaku and Mikoto exchanged amused looks as they rise, leaving the room as quietly as possible. Sasuke is surprised to see his mother in such a good mood when she returns from the hospital, but thinks nothing of it. He is, however, slightly concerned to see his father smirking.

"It's nice to see Itachi around the house more often," Mikoto remarks after dinner. Fugaku cannot help but agree – Itachi's presence in the Uchiha household had diminished as he grew older because of the increase in the frequency and duration of his missions; his absences had become more pronounced after he had turned 20, no doubt due to the increasing pressure from Fugaku and the Uchiha elders to consider marriage.

After his injury, however, the Hokage had given Itachi three weeks to rest and recover, during which Itachi had attended every single dinner at home. Fugaku had enjoyed his son's company but hadn't expected it to continue; Itachi returned to active duty two weeks ago but Fugaku continues to see him almost every night.

He doesn't bring up the topic of marriage; although he is wary of the fact that Itachi might begin to withdraw from their family, Fugaku simply does not feel the need to pressure his son. He has a sneaking suspicion that Itachi's near-perfect dinner attendance could be attributed to the presence of Haruno Sakura.

Patience is key, Fugaku tells himself – he's waited and hoped for so many years for Sakura to become his daughter-in-law; he can wait a little longer.

One day, Itachi requests that his mother set an extra place at the dinner table for his girlfriend.

Even though he has seen this coming for months, a small part of Fugaku is still panicked that the girlfriend in question is not Sakura, but his fears are soothed by Sasuke's notable silence and lack of curiosity. Still, it's not until Sakura arrives and Itachi formally introduces her that Fugaku relaxes completely.

Dinner proceeds normally – by now, Fugaku and Mikoto are used to Sakura's presence in their house – although he does sense slight unease on Sakura's behalf. Mikoto cheerfully takes it upon herself to ask the new couple about their relationship, confirming almost everything she and Fugaku had speculated about them.

He's careful to keep his face impassive through the meal – for fear of breaking into a ridiculous and undignified smile – but it seems to make both Itachi and Sakura wary, so Fugaku decides to ease their fears.

"Congratulations!" Mikoto gushes, not for the first time.

Itachi sends his father a narrow look, which he returns evenly. "Yes, congratulations, Itachi," Fugaku says, fighting to keep his voice even, especially for his next words. "And Sakura, welcome to the family."

"Thank you," Sakura says, blushing furiously at his words.

"You are making quite an assumption," Itachi points out wryly, but Fugaku simply raises an eyebrow. He knows his son and he knows Itachi would never announce his relationship to his parents unless he was serious. Itachi smiles faintly, almost ruefully. "Hn."

Mikoto beams at them all, her eyes gleaming triumphantly, and Fugaku cannot help but return it with a tiny smirk.

Deep, deep down inside, Inner Fugaku fistpumps.

Observations and Masked can be read separately, but they are set in the same universe. The fourth snippet-type thing is set a few missions after the one in Masked, if anyone is wondering.

This story was actually a lot harder to write than I thought it would be, but it's finished now and I'm pretty pleased with it. Another companion fic might be happening, probably just something to tie everything together, but I make no promises. As usual, all feedback is appreciated!