A/n: the last chapter. After you've read it, leave a comment, just a few words as to how you view the story, the plot, the characters etc. The original author, I'm sure, will be very much pleased to learn you appreciated her piece of writing, as well as me, your humble translator, who wants to thank everyone for the interest in the fanfic and patience and wonderful comments

I cherish a hope you enjoyed the whole thing, all its twists and turns, and unexpected changes, and especially it concerns this final chapter, the last passages. Not all readers will manage to catch the gist, as it is ever-so subtle, the majority will be left confused. Those who can read between the lines and have a trained mind, however, will be pleasantly surprised, as was I when I first read the story, and this is the reason I love it. One can find more than one connotation to Itachi's musings.

As for further projects, from now on I'll concentrate on my 'Behind the Scenes' and 'About Bonds, Bounds, and Boundaries' stories. Soon I might get down to translation again, it'll be another multi-chaptered Naruto-based fanfic

Behind the Scenes chapter 4 to 7 edits coming one of these days

Any changes in my work are always announced on the profile page

Chapter XXII


Chapter Twenty Two Summary: everything is back to the normal course. The three of them seem to live happily together. The Uchihas, however, have always been a strange family, so who knows, maybe some of them still has a secret to keep


A small netted training ground lit by the sun. Involuntarily, Sakura narrows her eyelids, covering them with the back of her palm; she is slightly envious of Itachi, who is now standing in the middle of the place with his head tilted to the side as he is eagerly catching every tiny sound. Near him, smokes a little patch of burnt grass - a trace of Gokakyuu no jutsu which he used for a start, recalling several easy techniques and seals. No doubt, the period of more than a year of home arrest has told on him, but it's not anything close to a critical term for one of the best shinobi in the world.

The corners of his mouth moved up in a faint, rare, and thus such a precious smile,

- I've been missing it, and a lot, - he quietly noted, shaking his hands before suddenly turning to the pink-haired girl. - Sakura, can you hide in the trees and then trow a kunai or shuriken into me? The more unexpected, the better

- But you-, - it was an astonished look that he received.

- Don't worry. I want to try out a jutsu

For a moment or two she hesitated, then disappeared among the branches while Itachi formed some seals. Jumping from one tree to another, she carried on until chose a suitable spot. The opponent, clearly visible, seemed relaxed. Sakura was slow about her actions, but upon recalling what kind of man there was, tossed a kunai straight into his back. The item would hit the target, no denying - but the Uchiha turned abruptly and caught the flying object. Amazed, she leapt off the tree and ran up to him,

- Itachi - How did you-, - in disbelief, she stared at the kunai in his palm. - It's- You couldn't see it, could you?

He flung the weapon up, and when it landed on his hand, its handle was facing her,

- It's a secret technique of Kisame, his present for my eighteenth birthday. Do you know how bats not get lost in the dark? It works the same way. Initially, it was designed to make it easier to fight in thick mist, but Kisame showed it to me and said one day I'd need it, - his voice filled with overtones of... sorrow? regret? - So he was right

- A present? - asked she in confusion, yet no reply followed.

'Present somebody with jutsu?'

Then again, with a Sharingan bearer anything was possible. Besides, what else could one give for an S-class criminal's birthday? And since when did S-class criminals start giving each other presents?

'Not a bad idea, though'

She looked up at him again, he felt it as if shrugging off the reverie, then said,

- Hit me, - a light smile crawled onto his face. - Let's see what else it can do

The kunoichi chuckled and tugged on the gloves. Things went swimmingly, matching just fine: whenever she hit, he escaped. She managed to touch him twice, but the guy was always so prompt he avoided the blow in the nick of time, just like a ghost. In her soul, excitement was mounting as she struck him over and over. Still, it was not all she felt - inside her fluttered an odd joy since she hardly remembered a practice like this, she acted with ardor and delight. She wouldn't mind thanking Itachi's friend, had he been alive. At last, when the sun was moving to the west, they called it a day, both panting, sweaty.

- Wow!

Sakura and Itachi turned to the familiar voice, its owner stood at the field's entry, leaning against the net, on his lips played a grin, such a rare ray of light on the usually sullen face.

- Ha! - the girl all but stuck out her thumb in a Gai-sensei's fashion, even Itachi enounced something like a giggle, adjusting the tie on the ruffled ponytail.

The other Uchiha sized them up, first his brother, later his wife, his eyes closed, features softened - no more wrinkles on his forehead, smile growing yet warmer. Suddenly, Sakura found him lacking the ever-present sickness, that which has been around him for months on end.

Funny thing it is, how one can change within such a short period of time. Could Sakura even suppose what she would have to put up with after only a year of married life, what would become natural and habitual to her?

- People change when they lose or when they find, - Itachi had once told her. - Most curiously, when it is the meaning of their life

She hadn't asked him if he'd ever changed, but one thing she knew for sure - he possessed the strength to alter others without interpreting his own actions. Whether it was for the better or worse, that she failed to figure out.

Being a doctor, healing wounds was her vocation, be it physical or mental wound it didn't matter, and when she fell asleep next to the one whose vocation was afflicting these wounds, she had a remote guess they were quite a pair.

*Several years later*

A noise awoke him. Sharpened by blindness, Itachi's ears caught it from behind the wall, where was Sakura and Sasuke's bedroom. Rustling, squealing, labored breathing, muffled moans, before a stifled,

- S- Sakura...

Itachi smiled at it and went to sleep again.

- Nii-san, - Sasuke opened the shouji, peeping inside. - Can we talk?

The other guy looked up from the book he was reading, and nodded, thus letting Sasuke slide into the dim of the place and close the door, carefully, after which he sat on the futon. He dropped no word, obviously collecting thoughts.

- Nii-san, - he began. - I decided to rid of the scrolls from Nakano, - a pause, and he continued in full resolution. - Mangekyou shall die with me, - a look into Itachi's unseeing eyes held a glimmer of hope. - I need to know if you object

The elder proceeded with reading,

- I don't. Do what you think is right

Sasuke shone and embraced Itachi's neck in a childish gesture,

- Thank you nii-san, I knew you'd understand, - a tender smile adorned his lips, afterwards, he nearly sprang up and darted out of the room.

Itachi listened to the disturbed steps, stroking the open page of the book, somewhat absent-mindedly, then sighed as he set it aside. His outstretched arm was fumbling under the bookcase until it reached a small hollow, where he neatly picked up a floorboard and moved it to the left, opening a hole, into which slid his sensitive fingers. He discovered a folded fabric of the scrolls written in accurate, if only a little shaky, handwriting of one who lost his eyesight. Copies of Nakano scrolls.

Secret of power. Secret of freedom.

He shook his head; lovingly, fingertips caressed the self-traced-out lines,

- Foolish, foolish little brother, - he uttered in a strange, full of unknown sadness, voice. - You didn't understand anything...

The room drowned in silence. Itachi shook his head again, and returned the floorboard into its proper place.