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Of Mornings and Sons

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Chores are underestimated; the regularity of running water is the morning background to family life, quite possibly the most peaceful time of the day.

She dries her hands and smiles as Sasuke runs off, all young and eager to prove to the world- his father and her husband- his own worth. The dishes are almost done when her other son surprises her with a gift beyond her hopes.

He pulls away before she can return the embrace, and is already carefully blank when she turns around. She hides her delight well behind her concern.

"What's wrong, Itachi?"

It must say a lot, she muses, that a hug from her own son would merit such a response. But her child was no ordinary son, and she ignores what her regret implies. He shrugs, perhaps already pretending nothing has been done, but doesn't resist when her hands catches his own and draws it between them.

"Are you angry at something?"

His stare is unreadable, expertly expressionless. ((Yes, he is))

"Is it your father?"

He doesn't even stiffen. ((Yes, and no.))

"Is it the Anbu?"

This time, he does tense, and a faintly bitter twist mars the hard line of his mouth. ((No, and he hates it when people think so))

She pauses, then breaks the unwritten rule by reaching up to touch his face tenderly with one hand. For one second the world holds it's breath, but her son doesn't pull back or worse, politely ignore her. He's grown so tall, she wonders sadly, and pretends not to notice him flinch beneath her touch. My precious son. How did I miss him growing up? She smiles wistfully, and he obliges her with a distant one. Only thirteen, yet already older than any jounin and more bitter than most war veterans. Suddenly, she's afraid more than anything else that she'll lose him, even if it's to himself, and the words are said even before she thinks about it.

"I love you."

It must be her imagination, but the words seemed to almost hang comically in the air- a sunlit kitchen in the hum of the early morning- and for an instant, even her son doesn't react. Then he's jerking in surprise, mask slipping enough for him to look amazed for a second, and she's hiding her flush by turning her back on him and fumbling with the dishes. Emotions aren't regarded highly in the family, and brazen proclamations of love even less.

"So, when will you be coming back from your mission?" She asks too cheerfully, and is grateful that the rush of water drowns out the incredulous silence from him. Not once has she ever told her sons that she loved them, and through her embarrassment, she suddenly realizes she wanted to tell Sasuke that too. It's worth it, a defiant voice echoes in her mind. My sons should hear what I've never been told.

She can feel him lingering uncertainly behind her, and his low voice reaches her ears easily. "It starts tonight." A pause. "I'll be seeing you and Father before I leave."

An ungraceful clink finishes the dishes, and she smiles as she turns to him. They both pretend she hasn't said anything. Such is the inane politeness in their family, but her son was never as good as he thought in hiding his thoughts from her, and now his eyes were telling her he is bitter and glad at once. But she's good at pretending too, and so she doesn't ask why.

"That's good. I know there are some... problems with your father and you right now, but he really does have your bests interests at heart." He doesn't answer, and she doesn't sigh. "Perhaps tonight you can talk with him...?"

He interrupts smoothly, "Everything will be resolved tonight. Don't worry about it." She does sigh this time, and he ignores it. "I'm have to prepare for my mission, mother. I'll see you tonight."

The breakfast goes untouched again as he passes it on the way to the door, and she clears the plates, mind already preoccupied with planing the day ahead. He's half way out in the sunlight when she automatically calls out the old words to him.

"Is that your last request?"

The strange note in her son's voice doesn't miss her, but she's busy piling plates high on a shelf and answers distractedly. "What? Oh yes. Don't forget to take care of your younger brother."

She can feel his presence lingering for a moment but by the time she's done, the door only frames empty sunlight and cryptic meanings. Something is troubling her, but Itachi is still her son, no matter how distant he was becoming, and so she brushes off her anxiety from his last words.

I love him, she tells herself, and smiles to herself at the freedom of finally speaking those secret words out. Her son, and nothing could take that away, not even the clan's duties. She hums as she prepares for her own duties, and looks forward to the promised meeting. Call it mother's instinct, but she knew that tonight, there would finally be a new beginning.

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love bears all things/ endures all things/ love never ends

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Uchiha obsession strikes again! I was unsatisfied with this initially, and wrote another take on roughly the same idea. I'll post it up soon, probably, but unsure whether as a second chapt to this or just as a new drabble fic.

Comments and crit very welcome. Well heck, feedback keeps me going.