1Summary:He knows the backs of her hands better than his own. (She is always touching him, wanting to know he is real.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Pairing: Fugaku/Mikoto, Fugaku/Itachi, Fugaku/Sasuke, Mikoto/Sasuke, Mikoto/Itachi, Fugaku/Shisui, Fugaku/Random-Disposable-Character-of-an-OC-MARRIED-Uchiha-Whore-Bitch (who appears for one section)...and whatever else your yaoi/yuri/het senses decide are there.

- - - -

The fact is I'm turning to gold, turning to gold.

It's a long process, they say,

it happens in stages.

This is to inform you that I've already turned to clay-Leonard Cohen, The Cuckold's Song

- - - -

Fugaku carries his back straight against the wind, and tries to sense a remnant of the anything which he has abided by and lived for, perhaps for too long to remember what a different way would be like. In fact, perhaps it has been so long (not tedious years, but brittle ones-, days that have capacity, tangibility, sense of right and wrong) that the difference between living amongst freedom and amongst law remains untouched and never finds it's strain in sorting out certain thoughts from others.

He does not ponder the possibility of different paths, and adorns his Konoha forehead protector as if it was well-earned.

- - - -

He is no prodigy but relies on simplicity, not risking being caught up in the details like too many of others and still not enough of Uchihas. Fugaku finds no dire need thrust upon him since birth in complexity, because he is not a genius, and there has been little expectations melted over him-, he prefers it that way, because it means his success will look larger than it would to a man of many concerns.

They see little of the flames cast over the water or the burnt skin around his mouth from practicing too many times and trying to find his own direction into flawlessness-, after all, he is not a genius, and his practical one-sidedness allows little room for their attentions.

- - - -

She is a tall woman whom he meets, surprised they have never met before, with a bounce in her step he does not have and the mentions of dusty remarks in her words. The moon is fading away into nothing as he catches her stepping in between the houses of the Uchiha district and the old grocery store to the left of them (her hair makes him think it eats the night, a dark, deep black that seems to carry meaning).

They know each other by name and face, but he has not been told of the delicacy in the way she holds herself nor the fact of how easy it is to bring her to smile, just as she has not known of his piteous stiffness or his stern tendencies, although perhaps she had guessed them-, she seems the type to understand him before she has even begun to feel his presence, and Fugaku thinks that that is why he is afraid.

"Do you like the weather today, Fugaku-san?" she asks as she holds her face up to the sun, and he sees the way her hair lightens until it is no longer as consuming and she is no longer the mystery of a woman that clung to her like the brine in a seaman's braid-, there is no difference between the two, strict characterizations that won't let go.

He thinks he likes her, this woman, until she takes a step forward into the horizon and does not wait for anything to sort out the penalties of her actions. She seems to live moment to moment, and he is overwhelmed by the sudden desire to teach her speculation, observation-, so that perhaps one day they can look at each other and know their places together.

- - - -

The old manners of the Uchiha household seems to force itself down to it's knees until Fugaku is uncertain of whether he has simply grown or the ceiling is beginning to bend dangerously close to the top of his head. Instead, he focuses on little else but the unmistakable frown on the quickly developing events-, it's all too clear that boyhood is a small part of most in his clan, and it, like most things, has outgrown him.

(Something in the eyes around you mutters drunken sonnets and praise about the proud man you've become, men stumbling over men and their own feet and balancing themselves with hands clenching your wide shoulders they try to disguise as a rewarding pat; you take offense because you, too, believe for a short while of your coming in to be the man you are now, bent over your future, that you were not the dogs they were.)

It's not until the old man, still young at the time, who runs the sweet rice cracker's shop not far from his house across the street offers to buy him drinks at a near-by tavern that Fugaku realizes, with his ready acceptance and all-knowing arrogance, he differs little from their ground-breaking submissiveness and haughty, false dominance. It too is similar to who he was born as, raised by, raised for and to be, in that he will be nothing but another in a crowd of many (a swarm, which festers and shapes itself into a cobra only really made of dozens and thousands of smaller, insignificant insects-, he can't deny that he fears them, but only in the way one would fear something tainted crawling beneath their skin).

He is drunk for his first time later on that night, something, perhaps the very same thing which makes a man addicted to alcohol (that very same thing which crawls beneath his skin, infected, vile-, the Uchiha clan has contaminated him long before he has the time to suspect the bad intentions which flow naturally in the easy rabidity his family line carries, and he thinks for a moment that, yes, that is the way he will die, unchangeable and cruel, and that is why he drinks and drinks until his vision becomes blurry; not because of some too sweet flavoring in the pink-red-orange-whatever liquid he is gulping, or some satisfaction of acting like a man-, Fugaku has always been a man, he thinks, and there is not one of them who is not born that way to make more men old before they have respectively aged), echoing throughout his head that morphs into the angry amplified sounds the hang over brings when he wakes up the next morning.

The next morning doesn't matter though, because in that small, hopeful obsession swirling in his brain in time with the dizzying spin of his surroundings, he thinks that by drinking enough it will flood any wrongs that have been molded into him away.

-Something makes you think things like that will never go away despite that noble desire that it will, but you silence the voice in favor of one that makes your drunken, frighteningly chipper mode justified, at the least. Suspicion of your unhappiness would not make a difference to anyone but you, and you don't wish to have that confirmed by their careless waving away of your problems.-

- - - -

The house smells of old incense and charcoal, and the child sitting politely at the table in the middle of the room has his hands folded in his lap and his nose wrinkled back (or maybe it is a snarl-, you are born who you are raised to be, because you believe in little else but destiny; this boy of no ulterior significance cannot deny that which you have lived by for so long), so that Fugaku imagines his noble tendencies expands only short distances. He thinks, pausing in the cracks of the silence, that perhaps it is better to be ignorant of justification than ignorant of the basis of humanity.

They say little, but it is unnecessary as a woman comes rushing through the doorway that separates the kitchen from the rest of the house, small fingers wriggling off her hands as if neither her tendencies nor the pieces of her limbs properly fit into her body. Too many people leave quiet overrated, and as he promptly hands her the sliver of an envelope from the Police Force for her husband, he examines the color of her kimono and wonders if, when observing the light pink collar of her under dress rising from above the fabric at her neck, she took the fact in.

She waits until his eyes fall back onto the small child coloring pink circles on a sheet of paper (the house is too color coded, as though he is in the very file cabinets the office he works in has, and they have folded out and expanded into the bloated drooping face of the walls), and ignores how he was looking at her with a smile. "Shisui-chan is already very talented, Fugaku-san. We're hoping for the best from him."

He listens to the echoes of her voice (recognizing the uncanny emptiness of the room with how her voice expands over hollowness) for a moment before turning towards the door as fast as he came and barely bothering with turning his head over his shoulder to speak to her. "I give you my best wishes."

For a moment they are both surprised at the gruffness of his voice, and she fiddles with her sleeve as though she wants to hide behind it, weighing loosely between disappointment or determination that he did not answer with agreeance or praise to the comment she gave on her son. He wonders idly for the briefest moment if that is why she looks as though she is a good mother-, but good mothers do not speak of their sons ascent into murder with pride in their voices.

He shakes his head and continues his way outside of the home and it's loneliness, turning his back on the unhappy faces and clammy hands which he can feel reaching for his sleeve, even if when he turns back, there is no one there.

- - - -

The proposal is short and obligatory, and he wonders how it cannot make sense that he was not the one allowed to place the engagement ring on his bride's finger nor watch her steady hand sign the papers to their marriage. His mother, who is old and looks at him through squinted eyes, tells him that any man should feel like less of one if he was not even the person to propose to his wife. He responds that most cases like that have to do with the man loving the wife-, he tells her he does not love the woman he is going to marry.

"You'll learn to love her." she replies, before closing her eyes the rest of the way and leaning her head back against the cushions of the chair. He has heard it too many times for it to mean anything-, he does not love his wife now and now is most of what he considers, because he is young. He does not tell his mother that she has aged and she would know how to give the ready acceptance she has given and Fugaku has been asked of, but that he has hardly aged at all.

She often treats him like her husband.

- - - -

When he sees his future wife in the training fields, a shuriken held meticulously in between her fingers and aiming for the second left training post, he tells her that that is no longer to be her area of expertise.

He thinks she has grown, but mostly because she straightens her posture and nods before tucking her hands into her pockets, which are cool and calloused even to the time of her death.

- - - -

Letters to the Hokage make him feel like a speck against the wall of his office, mistaken as a man who holds his priorities tight in his fists, but only ever the shy, quivering child who bent to the ideals he had been molded to without remorse. Had he still been a boy, he would have thought that perhaps he was different from the reality of his person.

That is the only reason he is recognizably matured. It is not the deepening wrinkles at the sides of his mouth nor the marriage proposal that will be held in August, on a hot summer day, as most formal marriages are, so that the heat will take away the seriousness and there will be less rejection of the passing ideas.

Fugaku knows they are trying to trick him with weather, but he shuts the sliding door quietly with a resignation only an heir could carry. He watches Mikoto's stricken face stretched out over the mirror in the side of the room, and shuts the window.

He has been told before, after all, that when doors are closed windows are opened, and he would rather be shut in the fine spaces of solitude and duty and no regrets than a path of freedom where he has little resistance to mistakes and even less of a tolerance for them.

Here, he knows he will stutter in his path to wherever he has so been taken.

- - - -

It rains the night before he is married to Mikoto, the sanitary, disposable wife of the shallow man who is to become the patriarch of the Uchiha clan. It is the night of which he sits within the Hyuga household, clutching his tea cup tightly between his knotted hands (like tree trunks, you wonder when they will fail to grow longer and collapse under the realization of their own weight that couldn't be stopped as it happened, their poor foundations, their brittle roots-, nothing supports you here, in the desolate waste of delicate matters; the Hyugas, at the very least, understand frailty and the little willow in the corner of the room has eyes that sparkle of the fact that she is nothing less than that), and avoiding the hungry, hungry eyes of the Hyuga clan matriarch, who watches him twisting the cup's handle as if it she who is about to break.

Fugaku sets the tea cup down, along with the untouched murky green of the liquid, only luke-warm and feeling like his failures (he has made so many mistakes, and they've burned his skin in their respective times but he has learned the ultimate lesson of humanity before he has even neared death-, pain hurts as it will momentarily but soon fades like bad weather, the bad weather that keeps him locked up here, in this house of a thousand words that are as broken as he has been broken into his clan).

"Have you finished the plans of when the marriage will take place?" Hiashi asks, not abruptly, nor out of a long period of silence, perhaps like it should be. Fugaku thinks that implications of insults and hinted dislike, that should be difficult for them to perform, and yet it rises like the bile in their throats, coming out more easily than that.

If it is not derogatory, it is informal, and the small woman who is claimed to be Hiashi's wife, she glances back and forth between them. The bulge from her stomach looks small and unnecessary, as though either she does not deserve to be pregnant or nothing will come from it.

They remain like this, finding odd comfort in each other, because all three, some more than others, understand. And as Fugaku rises from his seated position and Hiashi politely bows before taking his light, dancer-like steps towards the opposite direction, the Hyuga clan matriarch grabs his arm and makes sure he hears what she says before she lets him move out the door.

"Good luck with the wedding, Fugaku-san."

And as she lets go, he is struck by the sensation (years and years of ninja instincts built on the satisfaction of what works where one situation will not-, he knows the expression on her face, knows that she will bear many mistakes and many children but never know the feeling of happiness) that he will never see her again.

He doesn't.

- - - -

It's something in the line of day that makes him feel like no one is coming back for him. Things are simple in a second world-, they don't come, and he is left rolling (over and over again, not knowing when to stop) on the basis for humanity and that, if he wanted to, he could make it, or at least a part of it, go away. Nothing is worse than knowing, and he doesn't wish it on anyone else (it is his weight to bare, and yet it seeps through the coverlets, ever spreading, ever poisoning, into Mikoto-, she breaths it in and as though a substance, it too molds into their child when she becomes pregnant, and the vomiting over the kitchen sink the first periods of her pregnancy doesn't change how their son can kill so easily, because he knew).

- - - -

What both of them speak means little, he thinks, partly amazed, partly lost in the events, and not quite knowing that the woman in front of him was the little wraith hopping between the houses years earlier, or the men, solitary and solid and complete, who stand just beyond him are his fathers and his brothers and are proud of the quiet force of putting the situation into action.

(How long have they planned this, you wonder. Men like them can't be contradicted, or ignored, or walked past. You have taken the place as clan leader of the Uchiha family, because you are weak. Strength is left to ghosts who even, in a supposed, morbid control of your birth line, are invisible to you-, and they slip through your hands like your decisions, because you are weak.)

Old thoughts run through his head-, maybe both of them have stumbled over the finish line, maybe lines are no sort of justice towards time or accomplishment, maybe they can be lost together. Years ago, he might have said 'together' was a blessing. But now, he's not so sure-, sureness is a blank page of paper, and his magnified scribbles can be erased no matter how large, and his faulty tries are filled with mistakes, in the same way a hand style can never correctly form a letter.

(T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R, spelled many times, and still the lines are uneven. What is a line?)

He wants to build a world where he can know his place (but his hands shake as he holds the power, and strength is nothing with an underlining weakness-, without solidity, he is nothing, and that is why he has wasted hours and hours of time clenching his fists tighter or making his frown deeper, trying not to change).

- - - -

The first nights never last long. Fugaku fades, not into another man or a person he once was behind his masks, but into nothing, leaving him no interior and only the collapsing, expendable outside that is bone and blood and skin, and little else. The small, pale hand has a jagged shape against the area of the chalk white pillowcase (she will mold into these designs, erase her existence so that nothing will come of her suffering and nothing will be recognized in her short-lived misery-, the woman you have wanted to marry in character, by her bravery and elegance, but whom you are still not attracted to), and he watches it with an earnest that scares him.

It clenches and he wonders if she is thinking of other men, loosens and he wonders if she is in pain, and he believes each night for many years that the best language second to speaking is hands.

"Sleep," she says, pressing her fingertips on the barest expanse of his face, and he lies awake all night, feeling the brush of her sensation (that which is purely and only his wife, who closes her eyes and is able to sleep, touches his face and is able to demand, looks at him and is able to beg-, despite her sureness of mistakes, she has made no faults, and he cannot sleep when she is next to him, as if there is something he would miss).

- - - -

Fugaku will look at his son and fall in love, eight months after Mikoto has revealed she is pregnant to him, nine after she has conceived-, a neat, even number that swallows him whole, consuming and eating his resolutions. Birth is not his to experience, nor pregnancy, or maternal cares, but as he will so watch his first son (the first, the best-, Sasuke is, later on, much more than seconds; he simply does not exist) he believes he knows him more than she does.

Mikoto is filled with foolish notions of children, and he watches the nursery set up for them grow and expand like the heavy weight in the pit of his stomach, because he can not bring himself to face her and tell her (make her understand) that their son will hold kunai and throw shuriken easier than he can smile at her.

Later on, this is true, but at first she is able to feel Itachi kick the inside of her belly and say he is happy.

Fugaku doesn't understand the ignorance or idiocy, although she is not arrogant and momentarily, that is why he loves her (he does not love her in anything more or greater than moments-, she is an odd woman, filled with secrets and pert breasts like peaches, with a smile that radiates the sun and defines their roots, causing them to grow as plants should and do; he does not understand or know her even on the most basic of levels, and so when he looks at her he focuses in on her merry expressions and tells himself he is in love with her). The width and length of their expanse stretches far and wide into the distance of the horizon, and they are lost in it.

- - - -

Itachi is born on a hot summer where the wind and the rain do not exist and the heat raises their lowered suspicions which were bitten by the frost of late winter into a seething, open wound that radiates the sun. The warmth melts everyone but their son.

Mikoto holds him, squirming, to her breasts, which are pumped of milk and life. Fugaku doesn't want to look at her, nor at his son, but it is to be expected, and he cups his son's face in his hand as he does, equally, later on that night to his wife's breast. She smiles at him in and out of the dizzying distant fog that is clouded out over the room, stretching and consuming.

It is not until he wakes up that night coated in a sheen of sweat that he is able to touch Mikoto in earnest, and he wraps his arm around her waist as though squeezing the sin from them.

- - - -

Itachi has the bad habit (one among many, counting out hours like diaper changes or feedings, and he is restless as though taking care of his son is a war) of waking up late into the night. He bends over the cradle and finds his way to him through the screams that alight his senses-, Fugaku is almost disturbed that he manages his son with shinobi instincts and not those of a father.

Paternity has little place in his home, and it is filled and bursting with the cries of a lonely woman and a child birthed to madness.

- - - -

Men lose their politeness and gentility after sake, hit their women and laugh at the poor. Fugaku would like to say they lose their sympathy, their ability to empathize, but spilling the blood he sees on their hands with distorted, alcoholic images, makes them lose it all. He sees nothing in the jounin, chuunin, and too-old genin gathered around at the table of the bar, laying out cards and acting loud.

He doesn't smoke like the chuunin, Asuma, or indulge in the pleasures of internalness as the early jounin, Kakashi (soon, you think-, that boy has it coming to him, with his bad blood and his stolen measures of intimacy and power; how can he, who does not know the extent of his traits, continue as he is, with the people around him unharmed besides a simple suffering, which was more of an accident than a murder?), still believing he is better than some.

"Oi, Fugaku," Genma is small and a chuunin, with the twiggy build of effeminacy (briefly, Fugaku believes that training would fix him, work away the knots of insincerity in his smile or the lack of masculinity in his form) at his age, and Fugaku remembers that the left-out niceties remain unhung in the air because of the sake, but does not turn his head to face despite.

"You have a son now, right? I hear your wife's a piece of work." He tells himself it's alcohol and not a loss of composure-, it's certainly not out of any sort of love for Mikoto, that he knows for sure, because he is insulted that something associated with him has been insulted.

If Mikoto were here, she would have cried, or straightened her back and given an uneasy smile-, but, although he does not know why, the old Mikoto would have punched right back (even if there are differences, even if there are large spaces between physical hurt and emotional), and so he does.

- - - -

The woman who is nestled in the midst of the crevices squirms uncomfortably against the hollowness. He knows she hears him, and his unhidden footsteps, but she appears so lost in thought it must be purposefully, to give the impression of something she is not (this woman, you know she has waited for many men, many women, many ways-, she can not possibly be unaware of the distinguished sounds of a man's lust for her).

"Fugaku-san," she greets, pale forehead pressing up against the cold floor, and he puts a steady hand to her chin and raises her face from it's position, relishing in the mixture of parts of her features which differ in temperature.

His knees meld themselves to the tatami mat, and she is raised by colorful pillows, a shimmy of gold and blue and pastels. He is her superior, but he bends his back until he fears it's breaking (easily broken people, who slide past your vision while the truly strong stand stick-figure proud, unaware of their delicacy-, strength is often ignorance, or arrogance, or whatever this has become), and presses his lips to her hands.

Her laugh is bright like the sun, and he takes those small fingers one by one into his mouth, grating his teeth against the skin because he wants to swallow that happiness and take it whole inside of him. She holds her chin up high against the air and the wind coming in through the window, and she speaks small and whole as the rest of herself when she whispers, "Close the window, please, Fugaku-san."

He ignores her request because he likes watching her blink back against the blow and he likes feeling her nipples harden under his hands which are buried beneath layers and layers of pink-red cloth. He is in a room he does not know the corners of with his fingers down a woman's kimono, and yet he doesn't care, and nothing matters.

She is a sweet woman, and she tastes like sugar and honey. She is poised and still and unmoved, except for her tiny bobbing head which rolls over her shoulders, back and forth, and he watches as he spreads her legs apart.

He likes the folds of kimono rolled up and pushed aside on her thighs, and the feel of her sleeves drifting over his face in imitation of the curtain of her hair. He slides across her skin (to lay your head against her belly after wards, which is soft and warm and makes you think of sex and Mikoto and your son), slick with sweat, and his cheek is rubbed against hers, flushed and hot. Momentarily there is a moment of shared grace, and you promise her stardom with your fingers possessive across her bare stomach and your nose buried in her hair.

Fugaku smells other men on her, the taste of them in her neck and the pale pink collar of her dress. He rolls it beneath his tongue, trapping her collections, wiping them away in a simple epiphany (you like the feel of her kicking your thighs, like the feel of tiny fists beating against your back and, much later, the angry red stripes that runs down it).

She looks down at him (kneading him into her-, he is reminded she is a mother by her warmth and her radiance; she is not much different from any other woman, not much different from your wife, and that is why you are torn between thinking your view of women in general causes your confusion or she is simply a woman you admire, even if she doesn't make a very good one, and you think you almost hate the feel of her beneath you), and he is swallowed.

- - - -

The dove flutters from each of the corners of the nested cage, wanting to be free, wanting to see the sky once more, until the reality of the tomorrow that doesn't exist will be substituted-, hope for hopelessness, so that one day the cycle will switch again, and freedom can be, at the least, expected. -

- - - -

.II-

I heard of a man

who says words so beautifully

that if he only speaks their name

women give themselves to him.

.

If I am dumb beside your body

while silence blossoms like tumours on our lips

it is because I hear a man climb stairs

and clear his throat outside our door. -Leonard Cohen, "Poem"

- - - -

The early morning sun breeches the gloom that hangs over the too-large house, sprinkles deviousness and sly intentions on the quiet child tucked in to a corner of the bed. Mikoto folds the sheets over her son and begs for him to laugh (she remembers how he used to, small, quiet squeals that differed from the unfriendliness of empty rooms and hollow silences, but now she is met with little other than the same-, too many things that step into the house never come back, and she shifts impatiently with the laundry basket balanced on her hip because she is afraid that, if she stops, she will be sucked into the floorboards).

Fugaku has smelt like other women and other people, and it is a contamination that had spread into the washes of the rest of their clothes, until she began putting his in a separate load.

She doesn't want to watch herself bleach the stains on his trousers or pretend to not know. She closes her eyes and listens to the sounds of Itachi breathing.

- - - -

Fugaku curls his fist around locks of Mikoto's hair as she sleeps, and lets the sensation tell him he's alive.

- - - -

Itachi is four when he first sees Fugaku stumbling through the door of their home, bloody and dirty and hurt (neither of them know where, and that is the only similarity they share at that moment-, all Fugaku knows is the pain, which starts somewhere around his forehead and ends only at his toes, leaving no room for smiles or pretending he is alright, even for the sake of his son). He calmly blinks and calls him father in the words he speaks, few and full of silence in between the sounds.

At his insistence, Itachi is not led out of the room, and drinks tea with his father in his shaky, toddler hands. Mikoto moves like the dead back and forth throughout the house, and they calmly listen to the floorboards creaking under her feet, recognizing her attempt at making the sound for them.

He doesn't know what it is, but looks ahead of him at the clock (seven twenty seven, and you give a half-hearted stutter on the know, displacing your balance in favor of distracting those who hear you speak the time you started telling your son to be a murderer from feeling the guilt in your words) and counts to thirty in between his sips, before looking at Itachi who glances back with little curiosity and only the stern, hard, blameful respect of a man who values self-worth and has been forced into loving and idolizing another who is less than them.

He would offer to kiss Itachi's feet had the situation been suitable (he does that later, when the birds are heard squawking outside of the room windows and the katana is raised with a firm fist above his head).

"You will begin training next week. Bring pride to the Uchiha clan." He doesn't add the silent make your mother proud that he wants to, and instead tells Mikoto to give Itachi the basic scrolls and ushers them both out of the room to sit in his own suffering, because he deserves little else.

- - - -

The fog is high in spirit at night, rising into the dark, and Fugaku feels the sense of deja vu, momentarily, staring into it. He has stared at the sky many, many times, too many to be countable, and either it is remembrance or tediousness that causes familiarity-, he isn't sure, and isn't sure he wants to know (after all, realizations of a reoccurring angst which is more complaint or lack of life creativity, that is not what anyone would like to know, and Fugaku is included into that not-beautiful role of 'anyone', unlike the persons he has known and knows who can simply brush off the phrase, because they are the gift of being individuals-, majorities are overlooked, perhaps more times than he has been able to look at the sky and feel as if he is another one of the underrated).

"Dinner is ready." Mikoto says, folding her elbow into his and turning him to face their home.

With the weather blurry, the house is clear-, the windows freshly washed, the floorboards scrubbed clean, the roof tiles shimmering in the glow of the moon, and he can say that, surely, he does not belong. He has stopped his late night outings and foolish thoughts of thinking he could become someone he liked, stopped his bad intentions and stooping into Itachi's room with whiskey breath.

It hurt people, it hurt his image (is that, too, the explanation of the fear in their eyes when they look at you, or the hot, raw, scratchiness of your throat in the mornings, or the family pulling away from you?), but he has not stopped the peering in through his life's windows and frowning in on the things that rest inside.

He looks at the house, and his wife, and his son stepping out onto the porch stairs to beckon them, and he is not disappointed.

- - - -

Mikoto is again with child when the days have begun disappearing into one another again (it is unfair that salvation comes to boredom only when a mind is on the brink of collapsing into the tediousness until insanity, but Fugaku knows unfairness and can accept it easily). Sasuke is a cursed child.

She tells him this and he decides it, while they are bent over the dining table and there is no other man in the house to disturb their true thoughts on what is going on (they cannot be lonely when they have each other, even when silence is common and long between them and words are few and soft).

There's a certain tinge of blood to the walls and the floorboards and his wife's lips as they bend and shape around her sentences, wet with her tea. He masks his disinterest in her favor, because he is feeling generous, and the food is good and hot on his throat and belly, ragged with words. "With Itachi, I didn't vomit as much-, but I asked the doctor, and he said it's common for some mothers with second pregnancies, that morning sickness will be more likely than in their first."

He nods and asks if she feels well, and she nods her head politely and drains her cup before refilling his. It is a nice gesture.

- - - -

Itachi watches Mikoto's stomach grow and refuses to meet her eyes, thinking he can see his brother beneath layers and layers of skin. There is a wish met with unseen eyes that it would be so, so that perhaps, if the men of their household could make a connection before their newest was born, they might actually care for longer periods of time than when they realize not doing as such would be selfish and uncharacteristic.

Of course, it's a petty hope, and Fugaku disregards it and looks Mikoto in the face, tells her he is there for her.

- - - -

He wants to scream at her, as Mikoto clutches at her abdomen and groans with a wetness sliding down her thighs.

"You're weak." Fugaku says into her ear, and she only cries harder.

- - - -

Sasuke is ripe held in Mikoto's arms after birth, completed and heavy with his contentedness as Fugaku watches him uneasily. The hospital blanket wrapped around him seems less comfortable than Mikoto's breasts he is held to, chained to her until she dies (which does not come for many, many years, after the Kyuubi has destroyed your village and after it has been rebuilt, and after Itachi falls into an endless, desolate pit of wastes and mistakes and annoyingly easy to come by perfection, each of you having hated and loved each other, and understood momentarily), and not knowing the half of it.

There is a possessiveness with Sasuke she has had with Itachi, and Fugaku is reassured Itachi will not be treated differently or pushed aside (perhaps even then you were worried about your child's demise, even if maybe it is more considered your own), and he settles back in his chair.

The kind, maternal nurse that belongs to their ward enters the room and tells them that, tomorrow, they can take their son home, and on her way out she pats Itachi's head and he flinches away from her touch.

- - - -

Situations of the sedimentary rock, stationary, falling in time with the merciless wind. I will let you see my face, and with it, we will enter the path of attraction, and of lust, and of sin. An Armageddon of delicacy, and the root of the forsaken tree, elegant. Must you bypass standards to hold meaning, if still I see you as everything, and as nothing?

- - - -

.III-

Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.

Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.

Another step
And I shall be where I started from. -Irving Layton, There Were No Signs

- - - -

There is a moment in the heat of the summer with the wind on his face and feeling like he has some minor control over his life, that he is able to be consumed and eaten alive, and not feel the sting as much as he feels the whip of the air. With his cheeks flushed by standing over the small valley in a corner of earth, hidden at the back-end of the Uchiha district, he has a yearning to go home.

He flees, and doesn't look over his shoulder, in fear that there will be something demonic and evil looking back at him, as there normally is.

- - - -

Itachi surpasses the rest of his classmates with a certain ease that is their demise and his comfort, cradled tighter than Mikoto's arms wrapped around Sasuke protecting him from the world and it's realisms. Fugaku watches his son grow into a man, and feels no guilty, sideways (backwards, upside down-, directions are lost on those for which it doesn't make a difference, because they are lost in themselves, and the things built around them; bad as a city surrounded by trees, worse than the steady piteousness of destroying all that was signature and once indestructible in mind and body and heart) sorrow of losing him to the world.

He knows losing and the sharp, sudden pain of a kunai, and he knows the feeling of thinking he will die. There is less melancholia or dream scape in his son's adulthood than there is the comforting feel of being able to connect.

(Maybe it is that minute connection that didn't allow Itachi to spare you. Mikoto was selfish and bordering on obsessive, overloving, to her sons, almost unaccepting of the fact that they were also yours, and in that head-butting rudeness she sealed her fate and made many uncomfortable connections, burrowing in her present and not bothering to see the future or the madness of her son. If that is her weakness, what is yours?)

At eight, Itachi has mastered the sharingan and looks upon his father with loosely red eyes, until a few years later his tongue lies like concrete in his mouth and his control is so overwhelmingly solid and complete and holy, that men part for him in the street and think little of their behavior as anything strange. Fugaku does not do this, clinging to his small, ever-unmeaningful (it did not mark you as strong when you were married to Mikoto, or when you had your sons, or when you bent over their cribs and watched them sleep-, you are no stronger now then you were then, except perhaps in the ways you have solidified your graceful and ugly descent into a more whole misery, like silt and organisms building up under the sea and pushing into each other, making resources, and life in their death, and their compound) rank of clan leader, and instead says "As expected of my son."

Sasuke grows up wanting to hear him say it, and still doesn't understand the meanings. Fugaku doesn't tell it to him until the end when Sasuke tries to be his brother and succeeds right past his death.

- - - -

Sasuke spends most of his childhood with feeble eyes and sticky, greedy fingers attached to one of their pant legs. Mikoto would give a shaky, unsure smile, still unfamiliar with children because Itachi was born an adult, and yet Itachi was the most indulgent of them all.

(He promises him tomorrow, gives him touch and comfort and expectancy-, all in all, it is one step above what they have retrieved from another man, and maybe that is what makes him a god.)

"Tomorrow, Sasuke," Itachi murmurs, and Fugaku takes a comfort in the whining that comes almost immediately after from his youngest son, politely ignoring the small hesitance of before that. Ignorance makes him know his family is happy.

- - - -

Sasuke decides when he is still very young, enough so to pretend he is old, that he no longer likes sugars (in fact, he hates them), and they spend a handful of hours in the kitchen getting rid of anything that is sweet.

- - - -

The night the Kyuubi attacks is one where Fugaku stands guard outside the Uchiha gates (too important to fight-, which really means too weak), and watches the sun sink down into the horizon or wherever he supposes it will go and the moon rise from nowhere and appear suddenly.

He tastes the fog and the fear on his tongue and the sweat cools his skin, parches his thirst as he opens his mouth and lets it dribble over his gums and his teeth and the back of his throat, hears the screams that rise like a mermaid in the mist of the ocean, a siren, who attracts the heat and the heat makes him drowsy until he fights sleeping (but isn't what happened that the mermaid was a manatee and it's speechlessness was it's animalistic comprises of nature and it's pretty songs were the wind? The wind captivates the drunken sailors with their swirvy lives, something you could be compared to, you think, and the Kyuubi swinging it's massive tails makes you taste salt on your tongue).

Fugaku catches wild glimpses of ears and ends of tails, big paws slicing through the air. He would rather sleep for ages until he woke up dead than stand pointless for a thing-job-excuse that will never happen and watch himself die slowly and his soul melt to ash. He would rather wash away his worthlessness with a dream world, bright and fresh with balls of peppermint and steps of candy cane, reaching his chocolate lady mist.

But he opens his eyes instead and waits and hates himself (not daring to dream-, he is not a good father, nor a good shinobi, because he only sees he is being lied to and only realizes his existence is useless and only recognizes he is being tricked, even by his most trusted and loved men of his clan for whom he denies his own right to be strong; he loves them and they do not love him back, ironically similar to how much Mikoto and his sons care for him, but for who he feels little.)

- - - -

The light is dim and does not speak, utters not a word in it's large expanse of space and space and emptiness. It is almost lonely listening to Mikoto indulge all the people who were wounded, letting Sasuke apply bandages to small cuts and scrapes she doesn't find the need for her own self to take care of.

Itachi sits perfectly still at the table, silently flickering through scrolls that Fugaku doesn't think even he would understand (things which makes him know his son has no flaws or hidden faults, nothing to scar him or no weaknesses to make a difference-, Fugaku could kill his son's mother or kill his son's brother or kill himself as his father, let their last words be Itachi's name on their lips, but he would do nothing to change the pitter patter of fickle statements inside of him that blow away with the wind and carry out onto silence, all whispering that he doesn't care).

"There is another clan meeting tomorrow night, Itachi. I expect you to be there." He says, more of a murmur, because the room is built of brick and stone and their wills of concrete, but still feel as though they are easily shattered.

"Another, Otou-san?" Itachi's brow raises more out of delicate expression or acceptance in his father's rank, therefore the need to indulge in his statements, than anything else. There isn't a true surprise in the room except for Fugaku's, who shifts uncomfortably in his position, and feels the binds of his clan shift with him (always moving, always sloshing about in your veins like a certain disease you can't put your finger on-, you'd cut off every one of your limbs if you could only figure out where it started and where it will end, although as of late you are not as sure as you used to be that it ever will end).

"You weren't at the last one. It shouldn't make a difference if we double the amount, Itachi, since you seem to be only appearing for half. Your mother and I-," before he can finish he is cut off, and there is a moment of relief, because he wasn't sure if we wanted to be truthful for the first time in his life and tell his son he is disappointed in him-, that would be an experience that isn't suited for a place like this in the claws of something (most likely Itachi) bad, and wrong, that makes him sweat profusely in his chair as though those poisonous areas have been located by his son and cut with an ease that is almost wrong, for he has looked long and hard for a cure or a severance.

"My apologies, Otou-san. ...As captain, ANBU has kept me away from many of my duties." Itachi meets his eye for a moment before moving his concentration back to the scrolls in front of him, and Fugaku realizes that it almost looked as though he was about to smile (but not something pretty or sincere-, something that resembles the men who were once young as you knew them and were bathed in the smell of drink and sake, the sort of unidentified, horrifical insanity which only comes with knowing yourself too much or not knowing yourself at all).

"Make sure you're there for the next meeting, Itachi."

And Fugaku watches Itachi give his nod of confirmation but is still not satisfied.

- - - -

The city is rebuilding, and the council holds a representative on a tall platform in the middle of the town to announce that the third hokage will be input back into office. He is a small, bony man of structure, and he looks complete only in the heavy cloaks and clothes of the Hokage.

Fugaku knows that it is his responsibility to remake all the connections of the past years that broke first with the new Hokage and then with his death (and you were staring out into the distance guarding a place that need not be guarded, and with your weakness and your supposed strength you missed the Yondaime's death, let his cries mingle into all the others, and thought nothing of it).

He tells himself tomorrow and watches the sun go down and the moon highlight his face in the glitter of the river's reflection, thinks that perhaps he will send someone else, or write letters-, because he is sad and he doesn't know why, and he is a selfish man and pretends that Konoha's losses affected no other.

- - - -

Uchiha Shisui smells like poppy seed and gingerbread as he presses his face into his neck. He faintly thinks that the same boy was probably Itachi's lover, probably Mikoto's-, but he is clean and warm and another way to get back at his son.

Shisui looks almost like the little boy he once saw scribbling pink pastels onto a white sheet of paper over a wobbly oak table, but the sounds he makes are not from a child, and his adulthood disgusts Fugaku who watches his swollen lips part in gasps and his stick hands clench the floor. He remembers the nervous woman who laughed too airily and put too many responsibilities in her son's hands-, there are kunai and shuriken and old, dirtied condoms, pressed deeply into Shisui's palms like drying flowers in book pages and watching them decay.

He remembers how Shisui's mother had a face like the dead that only matched her son's, and pointed Fugaku's gaze on him because he was a cute boy with kind eyes and she had high expectations for her son.

Fugaku remembers that Shisui's brokenhearted family has eyes that stray into his back for weeks afterwards, and frigid expectations (perhaps that is what supplies their icy mannerisms, makes his breath come out in a summer frost that burns twice over and extinguishes), so he calls out no particular name and fixes his clothing before saying he will put in a good word to the Uchiha council.

He thinks Shisui almost smiles, almost is disappointed.

- - - -

Shisui is assigned to tracking Itachi two days later, after a clan meeting that his son will miss and Sasuke's inquiring eyes asking him why his wife is crying.

- - - -

Fugaku opens his eyes to the white of the hospital only once a handful of times, so that he can still count the number on his hands. There is a difference, however small, between being so overwhelmingly strong you rarely need medical attention to being unbelievably weak to the point you are not put on high enough level missions to get hurt, and the ones you do go on you are sheltered as a civilian would be or a child.

He knows with an accepted sureness which one he is, with a certainty that never falters, not like his hands on Itachi's shoulders or the rare moments at night in which he will lay his face on Mikoto's breast or lie his cheek in the palm of her hand.

Mikoto has retained her gentle beauty over all the years and child births and suffering, although he has hardened considerably and received his first gray hairs long before he knew her-, he doesn't know if she just has simply not suffered that much or she is a strong enough woman to keep a mask up and not be clearly physically affected.

"Did you hear the little Hyuuga girl was almost kidnaped last night?" Fugaku's aunt is a burly woman with a kind face, who, in a testament to the rest of her stance, holds the tea cup with the Uchiha crest like one would hold a butterfly or a paper crane. It is clasped in between her hands with her fingers folded across the back, and they release and re-fold continually until he finds himself breathing with the rhythm.

"Really? Is she alright?" Mikoto asks, undisturbed, suiting to her world of the shinobi and continuing to merrily wash her dishes in the sink and rotate through stirring the pot on the stove top, while Fugaku visibly blanches.

His aunt nods her head and gives a small smile, and Mikoto glances over her shoulder politely when she senses the movement so the other knows she is paying attention.

"Did her mother react badly?" Fugaku asks, faking casualness, "She seemed the type to do so."

Both women give him a curious look and his aunt's face falters before she answers gently, "Didn't you know, dear? She died a long time ago."

Fugaku pauses to wonder why he didn't sense it (shinobi instincts are prepared for death, and prepared for life, and prepared for defenses, but there is nothing they teach you to prepare for the death in childbirth and a depression so deep a person would collapse and sink into themselves as if their unhappiness was a pit of sticky, unfashionable mud-, you are not prepared for that, not prepared for sacrifices which extend beyond yourself or what you can so see clearly, not prepared for the faces around you to disappear slowly as with the incessant ticking of the clock, or of an invisible time bomb on top of all of your heads chipping away from your life), before giving a grunt of agreeance and leaving out the room.

He takes a comfort in their continued chatter as he has fled, and the fact that he doesn't know what it is they're laughing over.

- - - -

There is not a woman worth crying over, just as it is improper for men to cry. It is enjoyably simple how, in the odd, backwards places, things will fit together in an order and rule that makes sense-, it is suspicious.

When Mikoto buries her head into her hands and cries Fugaku leaves the house and walks three laps around Konoha before going home, asking her to make him tea, and sitting at the table with his wife and telling her with his eyes how sorry he is. He meets Kakashi, who is an ANBU captain instead of the thin-lipped, serious child who's pain was prominent-, had Fugaku not known him before and experienced that unhappiness does not fade with time, he would've mistaken the man for someone who was happy.

Kakashi's hair looks like smoke and his face is a shadow on his body, but Fugaku walks towards him with his hands clenched at his sides and Kakashi meets him halfway with his fists in his pockets (men fall into habits as they fall into step towards temptation or fall into love-, there is no pulling back or running away or holding out their pocket money in feeble fingers with trembling arms and bony elbows, no little boy bones left in their bodies which carry decaying souls that feed on the dead; they are the new vampires and zombies, but most of them are satisfied enough with the blood sprayed across their clothing and having to wash it out with bleach until their hands are callused and weary with a tremble of both trepidation and loss than to pretend they like the taste of death).

"Kakashi-san-, It's been long." Fugaku only speaks to break the silence which isn't quite uncomfortable, isn't quite full of friendship or old memories being dug up from the grave, but is, at the same time, unearthly enough that he doesn't want to listen to the quietness of nothing.

Both of them want to say that it hasn't been long enough, and it hasn't. And Fugaku's too old and Kakashi too young, and while they once shared similarities between having no one left for them at home, there is nothing connecting them together just as once before there was nothing in particular keeping them apart. Despite everything, Kakashi never goes home and Fugaku only has a house and a wife and sons that hate him because they are obliged to love him, and neither has anything.

They want to talk with each other.

"You're going to be so polite then, Fugaku-san?" Kakashi is little, but Fugaku has nothing-, to go back to the tea, or the too-clean house, or the perpetual unhappiness that leans the home over on it's side would be saying otherwise, and Fugaku is a man of structure who wants to get his point across.

So he asks, "Would you like a drink?" and sticks his fingers in his shirt pockets.

- - - -

Sasuke asks him on an unexpected day where the sun is bright and it blinds them, why his brother is so hardened with unhappiness and his perpetual depression. Fugaku tells him, in delicate, childish forms, that people's happiness is judged by their perception of the world and all it's details, and Itachi is cursed and graced with the solid individual perception of a genius, or a not sane man, whichever it has so been described.

Mikoto interrupts him while he tells Sasuke of how he can't understand Itachi either, as if she senses his discomfort at telling the truth to his son (especially Sasuke, who still doesn't know you've lied), or perhaps flustered on her own means, or angered with how freely he speaks, and presses a lunch into Sasuke's hands with a smile that lies.

After all, Sasuke can't understand Itachi if he doesn't even understand his father, who is far less complex in his madness.

- - - -

The clan meeting is empty of his son, and he walks with a firmness and a purpose that he would not have around him. Shisui is dead and there is mourning for the boy today although it disappears tomorrow.

He gave sex for rank (what Fugaku knows doesn't ever mean anything, no matter if Shisui had it wrapped around his fingers, because there are always those who cheat and snicker and play from behind the sidelines of where they sit-, there simply is no true main piece of things, not except for their physical impressions which flicker), and apologized too much like his mother and the bad blood he carried, as bad blooded men and women will do.

By the time the clan could recognize potential there was only hatred, and by the time he was in their reach there was only a small, limited regret that was blinded by manipulated goals pressed into him by his proud family who had big ideals. There was no small child at the kitchen table mimicking his mother or pretending he had nothing.

That would've taken an honorable man, and Shisui was not an honorable man. It makes Fugaku almost understand why no one missed him, except for the sniveling wreck of a woman who moved like a ghost as though becoming one in place would allow her son to come back to her. She locked her doors and was lost in them.

- - - -

Beyond days, or hours, or any restrictive tug of time-telling (like a mysterious child whispering a secret, or a loud-mouthed man ruining a climax, or stopping before there is any real excitement-, time sees no limitations for itself, forever ticking, forever tattling, even if it holds so many for them), Fugaku watches his children grow up.

He watches his house grow up, too, and his wife, and neglects himself because he feels as though there is some divine, unbreakable need which overwhelms him to not miss a moment of what he can see of his family. He does not love them, but they are remarkable in their hatred, disgusting in their truths. Nothing is hidden nor revealed, just a constant storm of flickering lights that they are, which buzz with a dull age and power outage and refuse to turn themselves off or have anyone else do so.

(If you had not drowned yourself with notions, and then with drinks, and then with ignorance, would you have been as insane as your son, or as lonely as your wife, or as piteous as your youngest? Perhaps, though unviewable to you, you are the large shroud of complicated twists and turns of being the combined traits of your family-, you are lonely and angry and unhappy and piteous, and surely, surely you are insane, though perhaps not as openly because what you do have that they don't is shame, as though walking around nude, and they have no overwhelming desire to cover themselves up. And if you are that as you have been, and if there is nothing left for you to become, will you leave yourself into rotting before someone ever kills you?)

Itachi grows steadily more silent, makes less promises of another day, and Mikoto disappears and withers like a plant without sun. Sasuke remains bright like what they do not have, and Fugaku and his wife and his older son all contribute to keep him what they couldn't be.

Fugaku says what Itachi wanted to say, and murmurs, "Don't be like your brother."

And then he says "As expected of my son.", with different meanings but the same just, because Sasuke already is.

There's a poison in his veins which he suffers with alone, that of an Uchiha man and a patriarch and an unrecognized fool who sees it in himself, and he watches his children grow up.

He feels, momentarily, that he will not see them as adults, and he needs to watch them and shower them with attention because he wants to give them memories that weren't just filled with the face of Mikoto.

Fugaku tells himself it is some internal battle which he will not win, in the end, but fights against with weak, old hands that wither to ash when they connect into touch. There is nothing else to do but wait until he burns out.

- - - -

In a small, figment of an imagination or a memory or a vision of the future, there are rows and rows of indecision, of which you will bring someone to gather in their small, childlike hands with a grace you do not have, and present them to you, and nothing will happen until they wilt and decompose in between your fingers. At that point in time, there are no choices, there is no indecision. There is only your blood on the floor and your face pressed against the dead.

- - - -

.IV-

Our anguish is an epidemic,

And it is soothing to know that a vagabond like you

Or I

Can be heard above ocean waves

Lapping tediously at their feet

Even when we shall never see the light of day again -Catgurl2004?

- - - -

There are moments where, frozen, he will still feel certain bouts of insomnia. On those sleepless nights Mikoto, who never changes in her habits or her patterns, a firmness he does not have, depicted by unhappiness and marriage and children who love her too much and whom she loves too much, keeps her hand on the pillow.

Her face is turned from him, and does not accept the truth.

Itachi and Sasuke look so much like her, even when all he sees of them are the backs of their heads and hears their steadily retreating footsteps, farther away from him than he can imagine.

- - - -

Love is merely foolish obligation, Fugaku thinks (realizes it as what he has been trained to think, and years and years of cynicalness, but dismisses it because he still believes it despite it's origins), listening to it in the other room.

(If Itachi's participation in the late nights and the loud noises, of love (, of love)-,...if his compassion shows anything, his general disregard for emotion disregarded itself with the dismissive, flapping hand that has thrown kunai and tied his first laces and palmed your face, had that had anything to do with whatever anything has occurred, then it is known by those unmoved eyes peering through the screen doors, the soft footsteps, the hand shoved down his pants.)

Love is nonexistant in their Uchiha house, floating in between tradition but not lost among it, and hidden in the shadows that consume their home and then creep into them.

(If there is anything disturbing it is lost, lost. 'What big eyes you have!' she exclaims, and is promptly consumed.)

Fugaku wonders that if, could Sasuke not remember his face, would he remember his hands (as he remembers his wife's), or his legs, or his mannerisms? Would he remember a beckoning?:

"Come here, Sasuke."

- - - -

He is lost in the belly of the beast, but he is not lost. He is eaten but has not been submissive to digest. If he were a stronger man, he would admit victory, but instead he pounds his fists against Itachi's walls (the house's, the clan's, the remotely stupid ideas. Whatever exists beyond being completely and wholly swallowed is not a matter of place or keep-, merely the bitter strings of a strained expression, and a strained trying, which is nothing and hope and hope is everything).

Sasuke will forget his face but in the dark so does he, and that ultimate, in-depth crime of lacking father and not remembering him even if his presence was far into almost-puberty, it is forgotten, because there is nothing else.

- - - -

He sees Genma the day before three of the men of the Uchiha council (his brothers, the soilers and contamination of his current state-, once there was a boy who could be great who was pushed until he realized he never had the potential at all, and faded back into the creases of pages stained with ink and blood and everything in between, like the milk of a mother's breast with a bad taste or the hard flow of river water, stronger than rock which it is ebbing away...) come to his house to interrogate his son over Shisui. He is walking along the path naturally, as though there is no gravity or overwhelming, rough state of pushing him over the edge merely by the earth and the wind and the trees.

Fugaku blinks twice before he walks over to Genma, because he swears for a moment that the bruise, made by his own fist (and how of it was your own, really? -, you are a man made of the most putrid, vile combustion, and it could've only been the firm but shaking Mikoto fingers that clenched your hands for you and wiped away your doubts, let you defend your wife because you never would've done it on your own, you despicable man that you are, forever bleeding away into time and mannerisms), was still there, clear like it was after it had expanded and swelled and gone a dark, rich purple of kings.

(Genma was the whipping boy.)

Genma is hard to catch like the branches of the willow tree, and instead he lashes out and strikes, not wanting anyone to see his rotting bark. Externally, he has roots extending far and wide and passing deep, deep down into the core of the world and warming himself, letting himself grow, but internally he decays and like all trees he collapses from there out and then is eaten by the bugs and disappears forever, in a vicious cycle.

Genma is still a small man, with hands that look like they are made to be picking fruits in spring or playing the piano. He looks like he gets drunk too often because he mistakes himself in thinking what Fugaku has grown over, ever the fickle, dry humored man, that distracting himself will make things easier.

Genma will wake up in the morning with a hangover, every morning, and never realize he is rotting inside out.

- - - -

When he next sees a person he used to know, it is the first man he got drunk with, and their being together brings back memories of his old stupidity (and though it has aged, and you watched it decay beneath your fingers, there is still a pit of past things, past foolishness, or liquor, or ignorance-, it is all ultimately about picking poisons, and in the end there was no right choice although you are almost certain yours was the best). Fugaku can see his shadow on the ground, walking in big, exaggerated footsteps, and momentarily he watches himself walk into darkness.

(It's almost fascinating, that you don't step back.)

"Fugaku," his uncle greets (uncle in law, or whatever he is to you-, you know that you are probably related to him somewhere, distantly, if not almost as close as your mother's sister's husband, because Uchiha family lines have a tendency to mix together to the point where you cannot tell where they started, or where you are in them), face tilted in that unbroken smile that is almost irritating, almost depressing, or something as morbid. There are, of course, many cobwebs left in expressions, and though his uncle is begging him to brush them aside, he leaves them there and likes the touch they leave, the afterwards, twisted recognition of future doom.

He likes knowing someone sees reality as clear as he, even if there is some spark of jealousy in the fact that understanding him is easier than he thought-, so ironically simple, that he could let his jaw drop and his mouth hang open and the round, fat raindrops to run through his lips until he chokes on it.

Instead he returns a nod and says, "I haven't seen you in a long while."

"But you've seen my wife." his uncle remarks, rough hand clasping his chin in casual thought-, and his politeness is hidden in freedom, because Fugaku is tempted to smile at how comfortable he appears in his presence, although he does not. "I apologize for her," he laughs, "She must have prolonged her stay and talked about old gossip."

Fugaku is surprised but not shocked that the other man's chuckles were sour by the tips.

(The milk has been spilled and spilled and cried over. They tell you accidents mean nothing in the end, but your hands have grasped the ends of the world and it has scared you how faulty your grip was, how unfulfilled your soul, how sad your eyes in the reflections of the water beneath.)

He shakes his head, and does not know how to answer without being rude. "Would you like to go for a drink?"

His uncle laughs again, a deep rumble that is somehow clear and unburdened by low pitches or sorrow; he says he has to go home, giving a wry smile that burns around the edges like knowing old habits surface-, that or his nephew by marriage (by clan) is so desperate as to run back through his patterns and try to find the knots, the ones he can fix.

Fugaku can feel the grin's ash blow against his face, and float in the direction of the sea on the high current.

- - - -

He thinks he has never been more compulsively tired. It seems right and, for once, within his reach to close his eyes and forget about the day. There is a certain nagging feeling in the back of him that has been there since before time, and Fugaku believes that once time does not matter anymore eternity will mean nothing, and his troubles, which were so neatly accounted for in how long they had been there, would be wiped away.

If he does not know how they existed, they simply will not exist, and it is one of the first thoughts that allows him to sleep.

Mikoto is warm beside his body, and his hands, which have always been frozen as if taking on his internal frigidity, press up against her sides, somewhere between her ribs. He thinks the bone feels solid under his fingers, a solidity that must come from hardship, or evolution, or childbirth-, maybe that old strength of will to survive, whether physically or mentally or how she has shaped it in her arms. Fugaku wishes momentarily she will put them around him, and he will feel all of her suffering and it will let him know and understand with a depth not there before, that his wife did not love him.

That would, after all, be the most comforting thing to hear.

He lays his head on her bare belly, the skin feeling soft under the rough skin of his cheek, whipped by the weather, scarred by things.

Mikoto's eyes are closed but her habits have changed, because that hand that normally lays splayed out on the pillows further down than the reach of her hair (which tangles in a dark mass, still swallowing, adam's apple working furiously inside of it somewhere, as if in great thirst) is resting lightly on his skull.

(She could kill you like this, faster than your eyes could follow in your sleepy, tight-lipped slumber. And there is none of that, still, just her dreamy, ghost face hovering above, unreachable, burning to the touch of your hand. There is no killing intent, just pent-up anger and obligation and respect, which all never reaches its high before you're both extinguished like a tiny flame. Little else she could do besides try stopping liking you, even for these small, rare moments.)

Fugaku is lost numerously.

- - - -

Fugaku feels the looming presence of finality before it begins, and in that notion, he is able to hang his head down and forget about what might have been. That is decidedly something one does out of surprise-, a small, indirect form of emotional procrastination, delaying acceptance of a certain fact or feeling. Itachi is most certainly not a surprise, not since Mikoto casually said over her shoulder while washing dishes that she was pregnant, and his hands shook so badly he almost dropped the cup he was holding.

"Do you dislike me, Fugaku?" Mikoto asks, eyes half-lidded through the lamp light, and he wonders vaguely at the fact that that is the first time she has called him by his name since they met.

"That's an inappropriate question right now." he says, distantly reading and rereading over the same line of a scroll, trying to understand words that've suddenly become foreign, with a desperation that comes from knowing they are the last ones he will read-, somewhere, he knows this.

"I know that-, it's always an inappropriate question." his wife replies, briskly, standing up from her chair and widening her eyes (it is a gesture somewhat reminiscent of a bird spreading it's wings-, they are both well aware that they will not take flight, perhaps never have, but they are lost in the rustle of feathers, the plums of dust and ash and cracking of stretched bone, stiff with age and under use, which is in an irony mocking the same basis of their souls, or their abilities of tolerating one another like they should have, and now it is too late) to adjust to different lighting patterns throughout the room.

The candle burning on the table top melts slowly and dribbles wax down onto the simple white plate beneath it with the Uchiha crest. Little goes without a reminder of their places and their poisons, and he blinks dully at those marked. The flame is almost fascinating, flickering with each of Mikoto's too-fast movements, fluttery like mockingbirds, or the sickening pounding of his heart that feels rebirthed, as if by the truth of her words-, a fetus of something other than lies, and it is killed and crushed under Itachi's solid heel as if nothing (but there is not exactly sadness or regret, just a minimum depression that you can do little, if anything at all-, it is a combined effort, and you almost did better off when you promised yourself you were a good man; that, at least, tempted fate, or whatever small flicker of difference of path was left inside you, like a rebel force crushed under a boot).

"Yes," he whispers, and then says, "Itachi is home.", feeling almost wasted, as though moments comforting his wife were not enough to force the sharp edge of his insolence down to be blunt. Fugaku is not sure of what he wanted to do, in the small seconds before Itachi's footsteps are accessible, before they are led away and torn up and apart and scattered over the room like ashes, except un-cremated, and left alone to rot.

(You were infinitely aware that you thought you would burn-, burn into hollow cylinders of arms and legs and fingers and the round, cherry-cheeked face of your head, and then collapse upon yourself and have nothing to ruin, nothing for your son to twist into something it is not, or something of his own. You are not your son's, and he has yet to realize, in that stubborn way of a prodigy or a genius, that he is nothing but human, nothing but a child birthed from a mother and a father and in a way, that is his separation from you. His severance is cruel and distinguished, but you are glad you see it apart from the rest, and admire the man he has come to be, because in the end, he still did what you had wanted to accomplish but never could, and destroyed the remnants of connections. There are no questions, just the solid, firm fist steadying your body, and a jaw (with an even sharper tongue) latching onto the hand which has fed it, latching on to the remnants of you, and pressing you into your discretion.)

- - - -

He keeps his head down and is vaguely, wryly ashamed of the events. Disclosure is nothing, at least not compared to the blood running in a faulty bathroom sink-faucet pattern into the house, like a plant sucking water into it's roots (your blood is thick enough to be honey-, has that stopped the procession of Itachi severing what you once thought was impossible to destroy? Blood is thicker than water, maybe, but the blade of his katana is ever more, and all that stood in your way is not contemplated, is simply cut down. You roll your eyes painfully up from where your head is positioned on Mikoto's breast (perhaps he had positioned you like that, to make you realize what you had lost, were losing-, but you only realize what you have gained, like the way he is finally taking thought to your convictions, which bubble up in your throat mixed with blood, and your deep throated laugh spews them out onto the floor), and look at your son one last time, while you sigh a choking breath of brewing storm, and you are the lightning (Itachi is thunder, Sasuke is rain, and Mikoto is the hard earth baked by the sun (you will never meet whoever that is).).

Sasuke's scream is a wake-up call, and he is finally coming out of sleep.

- - - -

Author's Note: Since this is a longer fic, I guess it deserves a longer explanation.

The complex might be a little difficult, but not really. Basically, Mikoto loves Sasuke and Itachi in a non-platonic incestual way, and Fugaku loves Sasuke and Itachi in a non-platonic incestual way. Sasuke is more willing (as his character as a child seemed more begging-to-please), although Itachi seems to tolerate it, although secretly hating and plotting and doing what any normal even relatively smart kid his age would do. Sasuke was younger and more willing to please, so I figured he'd hop around like a puppy and kind of know it was wrong, but still do it because he wanted to please that much. Itachi does indeed masturbate to Sasuke getting molested in that one scene. XDD I also figured Fugaku would be that type of selfish, haughty, arrogant man who'd think his own case was justified but Mikoto (or any other incest, blah, blah, blah, but there isn't any other incest in this XD) loving them too much in those dirty incestual non-platonic ways is disgusting and sick and wrong and blah.

Japanese words are hopefully limited to suffixes and family names (like in the latest translation of Albert Camus's 'The Stranger', the translator leaves the French word 'maman' instead of mother or mommy or something else, etc., etc., because that would be taking away from the characterization-, all languages, at least to me, have words with the same basic meaning (maman is the pretty-much equivalent to mommy in English, etc.), but they give a different feel to them. Suffixes also show a wider variety of terms for respect or familiarity or emotion, blah, blah, than the English language options, which is basically two out of two options: 'Miss' and 'Mister' (in their respective forms, but they all seem to me to have a dull type of thing to them...you can say Mrs. versus Miss but it only refers to marriage for the woman, not rank or politeness or respect, and you can say Mister versus Sir, but really, it's pretty much all the same, in my opinion), and so on and so forth. I could argue about this all day, but, onward.

Inspirational go-go juice flowing music for this includes but is not limited to: Blood+ (plus, since websites tend to take away symbols) opening theme, wide selection of Versus, Megaherz, Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, and Zazie songs, also 'The Background' by Third Eye Blind, 'REV 2220' by Puscifer more or less, a few Ed Harcourt songs here and there, Gankutsuou: Count of Monte Cristo opening and end themes, 'Personne' by Pascal Obispo, 'Childlike Wildlife' (?) by Jason Mraz, a few Bloc Party songs, and the Samurai Champloo soundtrack.

I'm not exactly satisfied with a lot of this, somewhat, and the ending gave me a hell of a time and STILL isn't that great, but it's tolerable, at the least. I very much hope you enjoy this, and what I hope makes Fugaku somewhat more likeable for some of ya'll out there. ;D

Reviews, comments, PMs, criticism, constructive criticism, and flames are all greatly welcomed.

P.S. Enjoy the length. :3 About 21 pages on Word not counting the AN (20 and a half of 21).