Written as a warm-up to get my naruto writing muscles back in shape in order to write sasusaku again for ori's go the converse. (Recent manga events have me frothing at the mouth because I do not recognize the characters at all, much less write them in character.) Written also for the prompt at lj comm 31days: july 16 - like a heart that stumbles onto knowledge. (if by prompt, you mean "has no relevance to the story" and, of course, I do.)

Dedicated with much love firstly to the blanket, (who wanted bookstore!fic, but, loser that I am, I can do no better than a 0.08 nanosecond cameo - gomen) because she is ten kinds of win and twenty kinds of awesome - and secondly to dancer of the wind, (who wanted something written to the following quote from 'shade and shadow' - who is the author of that poem, by the way?) because she asked.

I now cease the brain-breaking parentheses.

Lastly - this is by no means my interpretation of canonical Sasuke. This is an interpretation heavily filtered, first through Sakura's eyes, and secondly through her father's, who very much enjoys potty-mouthing, so if rough language offends you, step carefully. Also: unfortunately, I return to my second-person roots. My apologies.

like a heart that stumbles onto knowledge


life if full of greater beauty

than the sweetest out of dreams


At first, you thought nothing of it – girls crushed on boys, girls were rejected by boys, girls developed fantastic vengeance-issues over said scorning but eventually recovered, a little wiser and a little more discriminating for the experience. (Sometimes, if the father was especially lucky, the girl became sufficiently bitter to join a nunnery.) "It's a phase," your wife says knowingly and you nod in agreement, "a phase, an opportunity for growth, a natural rite of passage even." (Wait, wait, wait – you shake your head, holding up a hand, let's backpedal and etcetera – rite of passage? No, no, no. Sakura-chan is never growing up.) "This is an important time in her life," she continues sagely, "Sakura is learning social interaction with the opposite sex. Isn't it romantic?" A sigh, glaze-eyed and dreamy-smiled, nostalgia in her tone.

You puff your cheeks out in annoyance, think – not when you say it like that. But when her hand finds yours, you thread your fingers through hers anyway. "Let's not be sentimental about this," you laugh lightly, the fakest laugh ever, "It's just a phase right? Sakura-chan will grow out of it."


A few months later, you begin to grow worried. It's still "Sasuke-kun, Sasuke-kun" at the dinner table, and you look at the calendar on the wall with badly concealed anxiety. Two months, you count, three, four – can't quite believe that, holding up four fingers in front of your face and wiggling them – four, four, four. "Bad luck number," you say hushed, "four is not a good number." (Your wife laughs at you. She does that often, never unkindly, but there's something still embarrassing about it, though ten years should have acclimated you to this: accountant wife and chef husband, objective and subjective and you want to call it "opposites attract" but she laughs at that as well.) "Sakura-chan is eight," you say heatedly, up to the elbows in soapsuds and still trying to be fierce. "Sakura-chan is eight years old," hissed over your wife's giggling, "and it's not natural to be fixated for so long on one boy."

She rolls her eyes, tells you that you are droll: "Yes, let's have her fall in love with five boys in as many days. That'll say something awfully impressive about her character." (Wait, wait, wait - you shake your head, woah, woah, back up, that's not the way the cookie crumbles at allin love? WHAT THE HELL?)

Your better half always misunderstands you, you think broodingly, but brooding is also rather hard to pull off with soapsuds up to the elbows. "Four months," you repeat, for lack of a better argument.

Your wife exhales like she is trying to hack up a fishbone that lodged itself in her throat. "Yes, four months, and if we wait another month, it will be five. This is all so terrible, dear, I know." You sniff at her, glad that she is taking all this so seriously, but cannot find it within you to be angry; the sarcastic edge in her voice is nulled, voided by the commiserating kindness in her smile.

She is right, of course. She always is. Wives are like that. Five months, five months, and it is five months, and then it is six months, half a year, one hundred and eighty days of "Sasuke-kun."

You don't even know if the boy has a last name.

"This just goes to show," your wife tells you and maybe herself, firmly, "the tenacity of Sakura-chan's character. Our daughter is – is determined. She is not flighty; she sticks to her beliefs because she is a strong girl. Yes. She is a strong person, with a strong will. Hell yes." And so said, your wife nods a final affirmation and departs to scrub the pots. She calls it 'stress management.' You call it 'honey, I'm going to the store to buy some more pots, don't break anymore while I'm out.'

"Well," you say, slightly awkward, but desperate to calm her before she gets to the pressure cooker because that had been expensive, "it's – I think – she – it's not like Sakura-chan is going to marry the boy or anything? Right?"

"Right!" she bellows, and the casualty list you present to the storekeeper later that afternoon is much shorter than it might have been.


When the leaves begin to turn brown and crinkly, like the paper bag covers you wrap around Sakura-chan's books, you finally meet the boy. It is Open House at the Academy and you exchange polite civilities with the other parents, but little more than that. They are shinobi, you are not, and there is very little gray area in between. The Yamanakas smile kindly at you, their pale hair stark in a sea of brown-black, but they know you as Ino's-friend-Sakura-chan's-father-he-must-be-a-nice-man-don't-you-think. Otherwise, you are mostly left alone, which is fine, because you don't have much to say in return.

With Iruka-sensei however, everything is different. He is teacher and you are parent and the only important thing is Sakura-chan. "She is doing well" you presume, but the nervous hesitance in your voice lends it a querying quality.

"Yes, yes," and Iruka-sensei smiles"Yes Sakura-chan is very bright; I expect many great things of her." He pauses a moment, and then, politely, slowly, "Sir, are you going to ask me about Sasuke-kun?" You draw back, horrified, because shinobi really are demonic mind-readers, what the hell. Iruka-sensei continues, delicately, "Several parents have already asked about him, although in relation to their daughters. I have no idea why. Still!" He laughs, and then tells you seriously, "I am happy that so many are concerned about him. His parents passed away quite recently. The community concern for him is quite inspiring."

You have no idea what that has to do with anything.

"If you'd like," Iruka-sensei offers, smiling patiently, "you can meet him later. I've asked him to come today – to demonstrate a little what we're learning this year. He'll be here very soon."

"So," you fumble, "so – he is a… clever student, then?"

"Clever?" Iruka-sensei blinks, and then smiles very kindly. No patronization, no condescension, just that infinite kindness and somehow everything is worse for that. "Oh, yes. Sasuke-kun is very clever. Ranked first in the class – that's also why I asked him to come – but he's an Uchiha, you know."

"I see," you say, not seeing at all. Uchiha means nothing to you. It must be a shinobi thing. "I see," you continue, and wonder if Sakura-chan's intelligence would ever be explained away with a simple 'she's a Haruno.'


He's a serious boy and he walks into the classroom with a somber dignity at odds with the slightness of his build, the young boyishness of his face. A quiet boy, who demonstrates taijutsu and genjutsu and ninjutsu with simple efficiency to no one's admiration. Unimpressive, you hear, the voices overlapping, echoing, but that clan got what was coming, can't expect much especially from the second son, and it is all ripples of disappointment, concentric around the tall stately man with the odd eyes in the back of the room. Not like that Hyuuga last year, mhmm, now he was tensai. This year's class must be somewhat of a failure, don't you think?

What the hell, you think, what the hell. My daughter a failure? Fucking shinobi.

"Whatever," your wife says dismissively, waving a hand, and all your heavy pathos is blown away like dandelion fluff. "Iruka-sensei says Sakura-chan is doing well, so Sakura-chan is doing well. Iruka-sensei says Sasuke is the top student in the class, so Sasuke is the top student in the class. I don't see what the problem is here. I know we never badmouth other people's children, but you can't expect that level of restraint in everyone. Like those cousins of yours – hypocrites with their fiend child –"

"I wanted to hate him," you say abruptly. "I wanted to rip his spine out. But damn boy won't give me an excuse. Such - such a good kid." You don't add that it would be pretty difficult to rip out his spine out anyway, even if the he involved is a short little eight-year-old boy. Fucking shinobi.

"Sweetie," your wife says after a pause, "please don't wave your cleaver around when you talk like that. And Sakura-chan – at least Sakura-chan has good taste. Could have done worse, eh? He won't have a bad influence on her, for which we should be grateful."

"Yes," you reply, despondent, "yes. He's not a bad boy."


Graduation a few years later, and it's still "Sasuke-kun." Genin cell teams form and it's more "Sasuke-kun." Missions and assignments and training and Sakura-chan smiles and cries and pines and rages and worries and always "Sasuke-kun."

"This," you tell your wife, "is not a phase."

She says: "Pish-tosh."

"It's been almost four years. Four! Have I given you my numbers rant yet? Can you comprehend the gravity of the situation? What did I do wrong? Am I a bad father? Does she hate me, do you think? Is that why that damned boy –"

"Maybe it's love, and maybe it isn't," she says, stridently ignoring you. "Sakura-chan is young." She grins, slightly wicked. "In and out, you know?"

"People at our age should not be allowed to make jokes like that," you say, snootily, "Accountants should not be allowed to make jokes like that. You are doing nothing to uphold the time-revered stereotype of a boring –"

"It's because I'm hot," she says, and grinning pulls you down with her onto the bed.

(There is little in and out, but that sort of thing doesn't happen much anymore; more slow and comfortable because this, after all, this, you and her, is home.)


Things happen a few months later. Your daughter wants to go traipsing around in a Jungle of Death (forest, daddy, it's a forest) and then one side of town goes poof in a giant cloud of smoke and the other side goes boom in an explosion of snakes and you stick your head out the kitchen window to see trees flying through the sky.

Fucking shinobi.

A funeral and then: Kakashi-sensei looks tired and Naruto-kun disappears and you've never seen Sakura-chan so sad. "What's wrong?" you ask and she says, "Life."


"My God," you say, hands trembling. You've already broken three dishes and you're fishing around in the soapy dish-detergent water for the broken pieces, but that doesn't work too well with shaky hands. Your wife shoos you away and lets the water drain down the sink, and then collects the pieces of china to drop them in the trash. "Oh," you say, "that'd work better, yeah."

She pats you consolingly on the shoulder; or maybe she's just drying her hands on your shirt.

"My daughter," you say, "already thinks that life is wrong. I am a failure as a parent –"

"Sasuke left," she says, clippedly.

"Left?" (and somehow, there is no triumph in that word. somehow, somehow – somehow, it hurts a little.)

"I don't know. Gone, I heard. Some shinobi thing but – "

"And Sakura-chan? She –"

"Heartbroken, of course," your wife says, "but she'll get over it. First loves are never easy, but they're not forever."

"Hm," you say, trying very hard not to link Sasuke left to life is wrong.

Still, wives are usually right about these things, and yours always is. Soon, it's not so much "Sasuke-kun" at the dinner table as it is "Godaime-sama" or even more frequently "Tsunade-shishou." Soon, it is Never "Sasuke-kun" – the whole village stays pretty quiet on That Issue, and their silence echoes Sakura-chan's. Fucking shinobi, you think, feeling oddly left out, and think you're losing your daughter more to Them as a whole than you ever did when it was just Sasuke-The-(Damned)-One.

Then, there is no more talk of boys at the dinner table at all. Sakura-chan begins to spend nights at the hospital. Dinners she eats with Naruto-kun or Ino-chan or Shikamaru-kun or the Nameless Green One, usually at the ramen stand, but with the latter two, usually skipping the meal altogether in favor of conversations consisting entirely of five-syllable words or countless hours at the training grounds.

"I miss my daughter," you say one day, surprising yourself.

"You're getting sentimental," your wife says, "which is the first sign of senility. Be careful, old man."

"You're getting snarky," you reply, "which is the first sign of – of –" Insanity? Menopause? Being right?

"Of?" she raises an eyebrow in challenge. You promptly wilt.

"I don't know," you say, in reference to a lot of things, and your wife says very honestly, "I miss her too."


More things happen. Kakashi-sensei looks haggard and Naruto looks grim and Sakura-chan looks overworked. Explosions in the distance rocks the house at night, and you squeeze your eyes close, tight, and try not to wonder what this means, what is happening, where your daughter is because she isn't home. Business is bad for a while at the restaurant, and the hospital overflows with patients. They begin to line the streets with litters; the hospital is reserved for surgeries, class critical condition or some shit. The baker's street is for the more stabilized; the butcher's street is for the internally injured; the spice merchant's street is for the poisoned – they've got it all classified, down to gangrene and malnutrition and exposure – and the vegetable vendor's square is for the corpses. There's not enough room, says Sakura-chan. Grounds are frozen, can't bury them – no one to oversee cremation and there's not enough room and she is amputating limbs with shuriken and one day you step out the door of the restaurant into a puddle of blood and you don't know your daughter anymore.


Then it all stops. Konoha goes about reconstruction with a shrug of good-natured resignation (fucking shinobi) and Naruto-san is elevated to Jounin and Sakura comes home for dinner. She announces, grinning and eyes bright like before, "Sasuke-kun's back."

Ah, you think, cold in your heart, dread in your stomach, lead in your limbs. Sasuke. Sasuke. Sasuke again, and there is that old expression on Sakura's face, light, happy, more subtle and subdued perhaps, but present, familiar.



A few days later, early in the morning, while you are making breakfast, someone knocks on the front door. A tall thin young man stands on the porch, not exactly relaxed but trying very hard to look so. He is dark, handsome – slim pale face with large sooty eyes, tired and weary-looking. There is an air of calm tragedy about him. Brittle. You do not recognize him, but you know who he is. The quiet somberness of his expression is familiar too.

"Hello," he says, low and polite, voice slightly rasping but not entirely unpleasant. "My name is Uchiha Sasuke. I've come to marry your daughter."

You slam the door in his face.

"Who was it?" Sakura asks, thumping down the stairs, struggling into a jacket. She grabs an onigiri, slings her bag over her shoulder, turns as if heading for the door, then thinks better of it, and seats herself at the table. You observe this with a bit of surprise and a lot of delight, because it's been far too long since she's eaten a meal at home.

"Ah – nobody," you say, sitting down as well. Overhead, you can hear water running as your wife goes about her morning toilette that somehow involves obscenely long showers. "Some crazy guy. Salesperson. Tupperware, I think."

"Huh," says Sakura, and chews thoughtfully. A few wonderful moments of quality time and then: "Oh, daddy? I'm getting married today."

"LIKE HELL YOU ARE!" you shout, slamming your bowl on the table. "FIRST THAT CRAZY BOY AND NOW YOU – "

"Eh? Crazy boy?" she squints at you. "Was that Sasuke-kun at the door just now?"

"NO! CERTAINLY NOT!" you bellow, an exercise in futility and laryngitis because she's already out the door. You slump over the table and for the first time in almost thirty years, reflect very gravely that your life sucks.


She comes home for dinner that night. Sasuke walks her to the front porch steps, sees you, bows the most exquisitely correct bow you've ever seen, looks a moment at – your daughter? his wife? – and melts back into the darkness.

"Fucking shinobi," you growl. "I'll fucking rip his fucking spine out."

"Hmm," says Sakura, bending low to take off her shoes. "What's for dinner today, Daddy?"

"Eh?" You blink, flustered, surprised, and then delight bubbles over in a supernova beam, "You're eating dinner at home today? Daddy is making halibut, Sakura-chan! How does that sound?"

"Lovely," she replies, and smiles back.

It's been a long time.

So you wait until after dessert (nothing is ruining this meal) to ask, exchanging sidelong glances with your wife, "You didn't really get married, did you?"

"Kind of," she says, and your wife does her odd fish-in-throat-hacking-cough thing that is not subtle at all. "Legally. Ish."

"Ish," you say, weakly, "I – " don't understand at all, what the hell?

"But," says Sakura, briskly cheerful, "Sasuke-kun invited us for dinner tomorrow at his house. Manor. Compound. Place-of-dwelling-thing. He will explain."


Uchiha Sasuke lives in a large empty house in a large empty compound in a large empty section of town. (He owns a section of town, fucking shinobi.) "Have you no family?" you blurt, unable to stop yourself.

For a moment, the setting sun shines weirdly in his eyes; pinpricks of red shift in your direction. He tilts his head slightly, and for a moment the entire world shifts. For a moment, you hear something like babbling conversation and pattering footsteps and children shouting and pots clattering in numerous kitchens as all the wives go about preparing dinner – you see, translucent and surreal, a laughing little boy and a kind taller boy, a stout elderly woman and an old man with tomatoes, you see clean swept streets and freshly painted clan emblems, you see a blue sky and golden sun and sakura trees– for a moment there is life and then you blink and then there is only Uchiha Sasuke, thin and pale, before you, saying in his soft husky voice, "No."

"I'm sorry," you say, compelled, awkward and you might want to rip out this boy's spine but you've never hated him.

"Aa," says Sasuke, mildly.

Sakura sighs as if a minor catastrophe has been averted and takes her mother by the hand to show her around the house. Sasuke watches them go with a furrow between his brows, like anxiety or nervousness, but then his expression clears into its usual impassivity. He turns and goes into the house as well. You wonder if you are supposed to follow.


"There will be a wedding," Sasuke says, gravely, "whenever you like." He pours tea with a stiff sort of ceremony; a little boy who has had proper etiquette and aristocratic breeding laboriously beaten into him. You run fingers over the aged tatami mats; an old house, this, and an ancient family. This is a strange, different kind of home, but upstairs, you hear feet thumping and Sakura's merry laughter echoing dustily. That is familiar. Sasuke hears too, and he looks up with an odd expression in those black eyes. Some sharp, paternal instinct raise its hackles in your chest.

"A wedding," you prompt, sipping too hot tea that scalds your tongue.

"Yes. To formalize things," Sasuke says. "Yesterday with the Hokage – circumstances, for me, being what they are – you understand."

"No," you say. "No."

"Aa," he sighs, patient with great effort. "I am involved in a – rather dangerous profession. This is – standard procedure for certain shinobi."

"Certain shinobi?" You raise an eyebrow. Faded memories resurface; leaving the village and missing-nin and second son of that clan and all the whispered gossip you heard that never meant anything but probably should have.

"And hazards of the occupation," he replies in a not-answer. "But it pays well."

"Yes," you say, the word falling out of your mouth like a chunk of ice. The boy does own a section of town. "You are well off."

"I can provide for Sakura," he says, a not-answer again. "She will be comfortable."

"And happy?" You ask him, sharply. That is the most important thing, after all – though only barely topping 'her continued existence as Haruno Sakura.' "You will make her happy," and it is less a question than a command.

"Sakura," says Sasuke, "has a great disposition for happiness." Another not-answer, and you wonder if this is a clan thing, or a missing-nin thing, or a shinobi thing, or just a Sasuke thing. Side effects, perhaps, of training to withstand torture? A need to be politically correct even outside of clan politics? Being told often that he was ugly as a child?

Whatever the reason, it's pissing you off. "But you," you press, "You will make her happy?"

"I do my best to avoid making people feel contrary to what they wish to feel," he says, slow and thoughtful. "Minds are – personal. But – I will never endeavor to make her unhappy." He looks at you, quiet and solemn and somehow terribly young.

"You are a difficult boy," you growl and then throw the teacup at his head.


"Why didn't you duck?" shrieks Sakura afterwards, armed with bandages and antiseptic and aloe lotion. "Why are you such a big, freaking idiot? Why couldn't you have at least blocked and spared your face? Your face, Sasuke-kun – do you know how many girls in Konoha would turn their faces to the wall and die of despair if anything were to happen your face? Do you understand the repercussions of - "

"I did not think the tea would be so hot," says Sasuke, sedately, as she dabs lotion on his cheek with a tenderness that belies the vehemence of her words, "It does not hurt very much."

"LIKE HELL IT DOESN'T!" Sakura shouts, and kicks him in the head. Sasuke topples onto his back from the force of the blow, and stays in the position, looking at the ceiling, placidly long suffering. He plays 'aggrieved victim' very well.

"Ah, Sakura-chan," says your wife, somehow managing to sound delicate while she glowers at you with impressive fury. "Your temper, please."

Sakura inhales deeply before turning to face her mother. In doing so, however, she also looks at you. There is a sickening moment of silence. Very clearly, you are aware of Sasuke on the floor, who turns his head to look at you with frighteningly perspicacious eyes. You wonder if this is why he had not ducked that throw; perhaps this is what he had planned the entire time. Perhaps suffering second-degree burns was worth inflicting the wrath of two women on –



"I'm sorry," you murmur, each word a bitter defeat, and Sasuke inclines his head very regally.

Fucking shinobi.


It is your wife who brings up the subject of living arrangements. "I'll move in with Sasuke-kun after the wedding," says Sakura through a half-mouthful of rice. "Whenever that is." She has good etiquette, you've always thought, polite and kind and well mannered. But Sasuke kneels beside her, back straight and feet neatly tucked under him, holding his chopsticks with long, thin fingers, eating in small bites, chewing somehow without really moving his mouth. My God, you think, looking at him, and then: We're like savages. I eat like a barbarian.

"We thought not for a while yet, the wedding," says Sasuke, quietly, not looking up. "I have – debts to be repaid, and Sakura has her own things to accomplish. I don't want her to – that is – she and I, we're not – not quite ready for a family."

Peripherally, Sakura melts into a pile of gooey sap. This is peripheral however because you are shrieking, "Debts? Debts?" Is he insolvent? Is he marrying Sakura for her dowry? Does Sakura even have a dowry? Would he –

"Not necessarily pecuniary, but yes," says Sasuke. A pause, and then he adds: "I also have to make someone Hokage. I owe him that much, at least."

"Sasuke-kun," says Sakura, "please. Let's not angst at the dinner table. There will be much indigestion." He looks at her, steady and impassive, not amused. She ignores him, continues, "Besides, you've already saved his ass so many times, I don't know why you still call it a 'debt' at all. By this point, a few visits to Ichiraku should really balance it all out and – "

"Wait. What I don't understand," says your wife, "is why you got married if you're not ready for a family."

"Legalities of the estate," says Sasuke.

"True love," says Sakura.

They stare at each other, and then Sakura says flintily, with an edge of steel, "True love."

"That," agrees Sasuke.


After dinner, The Wife begins her own interrogation.

"How big is the Uchiha Estate?" she ponders aloud. It roughly translates to: How rich are you?

"Big," states Sasuke, looking morose.

"And you live here all by yourself?" she continues, ignoring Sakura's Death Glares with an ease born only of long practice. "That's a lot of maintenance and upkeep, isn't it?" You going to make my baby-girl slave her ass off cleaning up after you?

"Is that a rhetorical question?"

"And all of this left to you – how strange. Were you the sole inheritor?" No random long-lost relation popping up to kill you for the inheritance?

"Obviously," he says flatly.

"No siblings?" Who's next in line after you die? No evil uncles for my grandchildren?

"No. Dead," even flatter, and Sakura looking purple around the edges.

"Oh. That's unfortunate." Very tragic.

"No. I kil – "



"I think they look cute together," you wife says softly. A few steps ahead, not quite within earshot, Sakura is chattering animatedly, gesticulating with fluttering hands. Sasuke, beside her, strolls with a loping sort of gait, hands stuffed in pockets, head lowered slightly to better hear her. (He'd insisted on walking her home, though you'd bristled and blustered and who the hell does the kid think he is? Like you're not perfectly capable to walk your own daughter home and he may have saved her life and blah blah blah but you'd changed her diapers so who the hell does he think he is? Fucking shinobi. Who the hell, really.)

"I think he'd look better without a spine."

"Mm," says your wife, absently. Then: "It was him from the beginning, wasn't it?"

"Eh?" You look at her sharply. "Sasuke? No. No, it – "

"It really wasn't a phase," she smiles, a little nostalgic and a little melancholy. "You were right."

"Eh?" You bleat again.

"She'll be happy, I think."

You watch the two of them for a moment. Sakura has seen something in a bookstore window. She presses a hand against the glass, and you catch a glimpse of her reflection – bright and happy and so alive. Then she turns her head, and the look is directed at him, that boy-man who walks up silently behind her, not quite looming and not quite hovering, a serious, steady presence. A few words from Sakura in a low voice, made audible by a fitful wind: "… great writer … not Jiraiyalove stories – and … could use a bit of coaching yourself … unromantic like granite … chocolates? Roses? … not complaining, mind – … and banana-angst."

"You want courtship," says Sasuke, very distinctly. "And I do not angst."

"Normal people call it dating," Sakura replies loudly. "And sure you do. With great style too: dark, brooding. Very sexy."

"Courtship," repeats Sasuke.

"You are so weird," her voice raises, teasing. Flirting. "Oh, hey. There's that book on psychoanalysis I've been wanting. You'll buy that for me tomorrow, right? Right? 'Cause I'm your wife now?"

"Tomorrow," says Sasuke, turning away. Sakura starts and then hurries after him.

"Hey now. You're not thinking about giving me any of your tomorrow never comes and one is the loneliest number angsty shit, are you? Because that would be so unfunny – "

They pass under a streetlight. Sakura is laughing at something and then Sasuke reaches out, more of a hand-twitch than anything, but his right hand brushes Sakura's left, and as they pass the ring of light, you see that he has linked their pinkies together. Not even 'a holding-hands'. Barely qualifies as 'a holding-fingers'. Pathetic, you think, pathetic pathetic pathetic – just his little finger and her little finger and it is like some strange, childhood memory, like some strange, childish promise.

Because it had never been a phase, had it? Some fading thing to grow out of, something to get over. She had married him and maybe –

"They'll be happy together," you wife repeats, but the melancholy is gone. She sounds content, satisfied.

You wrap an arm around her shoulders, make a noise low in your throat not entirely of agreement, but – "Maybe. But they will never be unhappy together."

Maybe that's more important.

But you don't really know.

That's their story.

Sakura's father somehow ended up a weird hybrid of Sanji from OP and Tamaki from Ouran. (This is disturbing in its own right, of course, but mental synapses making unnecessary connections - it somehow makes Sakura's mother a combination of Zoro and Haruhi. I do not wonder at all now in regards to Sakura's maniacal Inner Being, and am a little surprised that she is not more maladjusted.)


My before-school-starts gift to y'all, though admittedly less gift and more punishment. Thank you for reading.