Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
We'll Do Our Best
It made nine years today.
Since mama had died, since she had left this world; since she had left her and papa and everyone else who loved her to pick up the broken pieces of their hearts.
They had shed a lot of tears over the years, spent a lot of nights tormented by the hollow pain of heartbreak, but things were better these days. They'd had time to mourn, to cope, to rearrange their lives–to move on, if only little by little. After nine years, they had learned to be okay.
(…most of the time.)
Staring thoughtfully at her father sitting on the back porch of her childhood home, Sarada bit her lip. "Papa?"
Her father shifted, turning his head to meet her gaze, his black eyes duller than usual. Grieving. He always looked older, like this, she thought sadly. At the age of sixty-one, his hair had already started streaking in a dark hue of gray, frown lines scarred on his features as a gift from his turbulent youth, but Sarada thought it was only the sorrow that ever truly made him look old. Her father was a handsome man, and he had always grown well for his age, and that stood true even now.
Cursed with beautiful genes, as mama used to say.
Nodding, her papa acknowledged her presence. "Sarada," he said softly. He patted the spot next to him. "Come here."
Padding quietly to the edge of the porch, she sat beside him, and took care to leave some space between them. In their nine years of mourning, she'd learned quickly that when papa was sad, too much offered comfort often sent him closing himself off or scurrying away. A habit, she knew, one that only mama had ever been able to break through.
Placing her hand beside his, Sarada smiled at her father but said nothing, directing her gaze to the pretty patch of cosmos he had been so mournfully fixing.
Long ago, when she was little and papa was more often at home than he was on missions, the garden had been ten times its size. Filled with vegetables and berries, and a variety of flowers that brought such liveliness to their backyard, it had been one of her parents' most favored hobbies to care for it together. They would work from morning to evening some days, she remembered, side by side and whispering conversation; sharing smiles and quipping teasing remarks.
(they always looked so happy, those days—so in love.)
After mama's death, papa had maintained the habit, a little less heartily, but with fondness all the same—yet the garden diminished in size, little by little. He grew older, developed aches that lessened his mobility, and eventually, his body forced him to retire from gardening; even from his precious tomatoes.
Now, the only thing that remained were the pretty cosmos–her mama's favorite flowers. Sarada knew he only planted them every year to feel close to mama, in some small way; to keep her alive in the backyard of their home. The home where they had made most of their life together in. The home they were both supposed to die in, when they were much older and wrinklier.
Swallowing, she leaned her head against her father's shoulder, seeking to quell the painful thudding of her heart. It always hurt to think about how much papa loved mama, of how much he missed her.
"Today was nice, right?" she said, keeping her tone light and warm, the way mama always did when she sought to cheer him up. "So many people came. The Seventh sure outdoes himself even now, doesn't he?"
"He does," her papa answered simply, staring ahead with that same soft, wistful gaze.
(caught up in his mind, as always; in the memories of the past, the good times that he missed. always on this very day, for the last nine years.)
"I wonder if next year it'll be bigger," she murmured, closing her eyes.
"Probably," her father replied, obvious amusement to his tone. "You know your uncle—he's always been an overachiever. Especially when it comes to your mother."
A long silence settled between them, comfortable but full of somber, quiet longing. Grieving for the same soul they would forever miss.
Sarada listened to her father's soft breathing, the sweet chirping of the birds, and savored in his protective warmth. She was reminded of the time she'd fallen asleep on her papa when she was thirteen, on the night he'd come back from a particularly long mission; of the time those thin, delicate fingers sifted through her hair, whispering hopes of sweet dreams to come. Her heart ached again.
"What do you miss the most about mama?" she asked, then, her voice so incredibly quiet. If she wasn't sitting so close, she doubted her father would have even heard her.
A long, wearied sigh slipped from her father's lips. He was silent, for a while, but Sarada knew he was probably just thinking.
"Her eyes," he finally said, his voice equally soft.
Sarada didn't question his answer. From as far back as she could remember, papa was always particularly taken with mama's eyes; he'd constantly stare at them, in awe of her joy, her crinkles, her shine. He always seemed surprised that she could be this happy—or perhaps, Sarada mused, he was more surprised that he would be the one to make her this happy.
Their past was dark, of that she knew as much, but she suspected that her parents never really told her how dark. It was clear, in moments like these, that her father still thought he didn't deserve mama in some manner—like he'd made too many mistakes when it came to her, like he once thought he'd forever destroyed any real chance for them to be together. Maybe her papa would tell her one day, when she'd gather the courage to finally ask.
(but not today.)
"Mama had really pretty eyes," she agreed, wrapping her arm around his. This wasn't for his sake, she told herself. She needed to hold her father for her own sake, too, sometimes. And papa understood; she knew he knew she needed him just as much as he needed her. Especially today. "And they were really kind, too. Even The Seventh's eyes couldn't never hold as much love and joy as mama's always did."
Gods, she missed her mother's eyes, too.
Papa was quiet again. She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him, finding him staring so thoughtfully at the cosmos again, seemingly reminiscing. Probably something nice, she mused, as she noticed the tiny lift to his mouth. Maybe he was thinking about those times he used to lie down with mama on their bed, staring at her for what was likely hours as they whispered conversation and played with their linked hands.
(they were some of her favorite memories of her parents, intimate moments she stumbled upon in pure accident, coming to witness the true, breathtaking depth of the love her parents shared.)
"…And her smile," her father added, then, snapping her from her own thoughts. He turned to look at her, his black eyes filled with that same fond, paternal tenderness he always had for her. His hand reached to thumb the corner of her mouth. "But I don't miss it as much, because you have the same one, Sarada."
Her eyes teared up then, quicker than she'd imagined they could. Her father was not an overtly sentimental man, always keeping more to himself than to anybody else, and although he always tried his hardest to let his affection come across clearly, he never let things like this slip from him. Hearing him say that she had her mother's smile, that he missed mama a little less when she smiled had her heart squeezing so painfully hard she couldn't help herself from crying.
"Papa…" she whimpered, head falling against him again.
She felt papa's hand reach for her, gently threading through her hair, as if trying to soothe, before his lips pressed to the crown of her hair, warm and comforting.
"I miss her too, Sarada."
"You know what I don't miss about mama?" she asked, eyes still puffy and nose still sniffling. It hadn't been long since she stopped crying, but her heart felt lighter now, less weighted of sorrow and more full with affection. They'd been talking about their best memories, and the feeling of missing mama became more nostalgic than heartbreaking. She had papa to thank for that.
Her father gave a lazy, inquisitive hum in response.
Sarada grinned. "Her cooking."
A snort fell from papa's mouth, and her grin widened. "She wasn't that bad," he said, pushing two fingers teasingly to her forehead. She giggled. "…Her cooking was actually much worse when we were young."
Laughter burst from her lips, and she shook with the force of it. "Oh gods, really? Papa, poor you! The things you had to endure for mama."
"In her defense, I never gave any room for improvement by taking up all the cooking," he said.
When she pulled back, his mouth had a slight curve of a smile, and it made her eyes crinkle. "You did all the cooking? Really? Every day?"
Her father shrugged. "When I couldn't cook, I made sure we got take-out instead."
"And mama never suspected?"
"Oh, she knew. Since the moment I started, she knew exactly why."
"And she never gave you hell for it?"
"She never had a reason to. Your mother always knew her cooking skills weren't exactly great."
Sarada tilted her head. "So how did she get better?"
"Well," papa said, turning to look at her with dark eyes that almost seemed to smile, "we had you."
"Mama got better because of me?"
"Your mother wanted to be a good wife, and an even better mother. She wanted to be there for you and me. To be able to provide everything we'd need; healthy meals, a good home, someone to confide to. You made her determined to better herself."
Somehow, this made Sarada blush, inklings of guilt settling inside her tummy. "…I guess her food was edible," she mumbled.
Papa laughed. "Edible enough."
That made her grin again. "And I guess she got better every year."
They were both smiling now, and somehow that made Sarada feel warm, relieved. Ever since mama died, papa's smiles were always quite rare, most of them only ever offered in the company of his two grandkids that he loved perhaps more than anything in the world. It was a shame, she mused, because her papa's smiles were always so beautiful, so gentle; a comforting sight to see.
Even so, she understood why her father hardly ever smiled these days. He was never going to be as happy as he was when mama was here, because mama took his heart with her when her own gave out, and without it now he would always have a part of him missing. A part of his happiness, the true height of it, would always be with mama.
But he was trying, Sarada knew. Every day, always trying, always fighting—for mama. He lived on for her. Because of her.
(because that's what mama would want, and they both knew that.)
You can hate me forever now, okay? I give you full permission. I'm so very sorry. It had to be written. Omg.
On that note, I AM working on home is where the heart is. Hopefully I can have it out in this upcoming week :)
Leave some love! I have tissues for your tears and hugs for your broken hearts.