Kith & Kin
by Adriana S (hikari yuuko)
July 26th, 2006 to April 10th, 2008



Part I: Bonds


It was raining. The forest was filled with the sounds of small animals hurrying to their homes and leaves swaying as gushes of wind rushed through the trees' branches. The ground was covered in mud and wet, fallen leaves the color of antique gold. It was a light downpour considering the season. Still, it was strong enough so that the sky had turned a shade of murky grey and that the sun was nowhere to be seen behind a number of cumulus clouds that in any seconds could turn into storm clouds.

Sasuke watched all of this with observant, dark obsidian orbs under the small rooftop of his backside porch. Not everyone could say that they had an entire forest for a backyard, yet there he was, admiring the racket that a simple rain could cause. The man wasn't completely safe from getting wet as the wind teased him every once in a while. His hair was already damp and his clothes should have been changed if he didn't want to fall sick; but there were other things in his mind. The frown on his young, handsome face almost looked like it would leave a mark engraved in his features if it persisted any longer. It was so deep and dark that it was intimidating by itself. That was not to say about the intense glare his dark eyes were throwing at nothing in particular, but most likely at whatever he was thinking about. Clearly, it wasn't a good moment to approach him.

Nothing but the sound of the water pouring down from the sky and hitting the floor enveloped the air. That is, until his ears perceived the faintest traces of an unfamiliar… noise. It was not something Sasuke was used to hear, to say the least. He could identify the noise as a sob, or more like a succession of sobs, and when he realized this, he scrunched his nose up. Someone was crying, somewhere nearby.

He followed the sound almost by instinct. It didn't take him much to reach the source of the sound. He just took a few turns across the hallways of the manor until he found himself on another of the porches with view to the backyard. There, the Uchiha found a small person curled against one of the corners. A small boy, five or six years old at the most, with hair as black raven as his own. He was clutching his knees with one of his short arms and hastily pushing away his tears with the back of his other hand, almost as if that prominent salty liquid stung him. The sobbing had subdued into a softer weeping sound, not wails like it would be expected of a child his age, but the tears kept flowing aplenty. He had doubled himself so his face was hidden between his knees.

Sasuke moved forward, standing barely two feet before the sobbing wreck that was this boy. He looked down at him then, eyes sharp. "What are you doing here?"

"Uuuh… uuuh…" The boy looked up, for the first time sensing and acknowledging the other presence, but unable to control the crying. If anything, the need to do so grew in intensity at the sight of Sasuke.

"You are crying." The statement slipped from the older man's mouth with harsh disapproval evident in his tone even before he realized how particularly foolish it seemed to affirm something as obvious.

"Uuuh…" His younger companion was incapable to reply, his eyes falling to the wooden planks of the floor. His cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, having been caught like this.

He gazed at the boy with a critical stare and furrowed eyebrows. It was almost as if he was trying to examine him and decipher some kind of secret that the child hid. "Why?"

"Uuuh…" The little boy gulped and managed to look up at him once again, lips quivering before answering, "'Kaa… 'kaachan." The stuttering didn't go unnoticed; it was probably due to having been crying for a while now that his voice sounded so raspy and tired as well. "'Kaachan got hurt… My fault…"

"Sakura will be fine," he stated flatly, arms crossing over his chest. He was stiff and his figure sent shadows that towered over the crouched boy. "Now stand up and stop crying."

"But… but… 'Kaachan…" In his mortification, the young one's eyes fluttered about in an attempt to avert them from the man. He clutched his knees more tightly, though now he'd completely forgotten to wipe the tears that continued to drip down his cheeks and stain his little, round face further. "She got hurt because of me! Again!"

There was a pause of silence and the boy chose to stare at his legs, unsettled by the hard stare he was receiving in exchange. An 'It wasn't your fault' was in order, but Sasuke couldn't let the words out from his mind.

"Stop crying." It was a command that came from his mouth instead and his tone came even harsher than he had truly intended. Then he added, critically, "Your mother knew what she was doing."

The boy immediately looked up at him, eyes wide with shock and hurt. "But… Tousan!" He shrieked, his lips puckering and a frown settling on his childish features, the perfect imitation of his father before him plus the bewildered look. "Aren't… aren't you worried about 'Kaachan? She could lose… she could lose…"

Sasuke stood rigidly, jaw tight, tilting his chin with indifference. No other words ever left his mouth to console him. He was secretly struggling with an inner battle, but on the outside and to the eyes of his child, he looked like the epitome of apathy.

Quickly infuriated at his father's unresponsiveness and not longer able to hold the smoldering gaze on him, the boy looked away once again, still hiccupping and fighting to control the tears. His cheeks were still flushed, both from crying and now from the anger rising within him. He'd inherited much of his father's temper, making him calm and collected when needed; but sometimes he snapped all too suddenly and threw a number of tantrums that were even more vehement than those of kids' his age. Fortunately, there was also much in him from his mother's personality, which helped him to be a lot more open and childish than what his father had been at that age. At the moment, he was torn between his resentment toward his father and the concern for his wounded mother.

Shiro had been surprised. His father had always been stern with him, but this was not like him. The 'Tousan' he knew was strict but kind, and would even joke from time to time (to tease his uncle or answer back a joke from his blond-haired friend). He'd never thought he'd be so unconcerned when his mother was this hurt. Didn't he… didn't he…

"Don't you love 'Kaachan?" he wondered in the softest of voices, a mumble that the older man was only able to catch thanks to his keen hearing. The sullenness in his question was evident. "You are so mean!"

"Are you done, kid?" Sasuke's tone seemed to be reprimanding, but otherwise he didn't show any other sign of annoyance or irritation. The Uchiha simply stared down at the boy that had been succeeding in his fight against the display of emotion that his father condemned so much.

Had his wife been there, she would have certainly said something to reprove of Sasuke's behavior. But that was exactly it, Sakura wasn't there to gently tug at his elbow and tell him in a hurried whisper not to be so harsh to their child. She was asleep in their bedroom, for a third day, as she healed from a recent attack she had suffered at the hand of missing-nins that were former shinobi of Rain. That very fact had had his head spinning and spinning for two nights in a row with disturbing thoughts about what could had happened had he not arrived on time. When he had found Sakura, she had been almost unconscious and curled up in a ball with their son tightly embraced in her arms. Shiro, their firstborn son, had been in shock.

The truth was that he sincerely didn't mean to seem so detached and uncaring; he just didn't know how to manage the jumble of emotions corrupting his mind at the moment. It wasn't as easy as when she was with him. He simply didn't know how to deal with this, with any of this.

But there was no way the boy in front him could know it. Thus, when he stood from his crouched position on the floor and looked up at him, it struck Sasuke the way his midnight blue eyes had darkened in the one of the most intense and powerful of glares. The glare was so hard to the point that Sasuke could have sworn seeing red in those eyes for a fleeting second. And amidst the glare, the tears began pooling one more time. He had never looked so much alike to his mother until that very second, despite being almost a complete physical replica of his father.

"I hate you!" The sharp, dark blue eyes were boring holes into him. It almost made him shudder, and that was something… "I hate you," he yelled accusingly, "Tousan!"

And then Shiro turned on his heels and began running away, quickly stepping down the steps to the wet lawn and putting as much strength into his legs as he could to run faster. He almost tumbled once into a puddle of mud, but not even that stopped him from escaping.

Sasuke remained on his spot, gulping down hard the knot in his throat as he watched Shiro running away into the depths of the woods within the Uchiha estate, his eyes unreadable. He took a step back, now staring with startled eyes at the place where Shiro had been standing as the boy's words repeated themselves in his ears one time after another. For the first time in a long while, Sasuke looked completely shocked. Before realizing it, he'd fallen onto his knees, fingers clasping the fabric of his dark slacks.

"I hate you!"

Something prickled his eyes, making his vision beginning to blur. Raising his hand to his face, he was taken aback when his calloused fingers met drops of water. They were warm.

It was raining. But Uchiha Sasuke was still under the roof.

---

"I hate you!"

Those were big words for a five-year-old. Sakura would have never accepted it, much less from her son.

"I hate you!"

Hate. Sasuke hadn't thought of that word in a long, long time; a success itself. Before he'd learned it from his brother Itachi, the word 'hate' had never even existed in his world. He'd been young and innocent and yet to be tainted by it. He didn't have a reason to think of it or speak it.

"I hate you, Tousan!"

Or maybe he had… Hadn't he sputtered those blasted words once at his father, just like his son did now?

"I hate you, Tousan!!"

Aa, he did.

He'd spoken the words out of instinct, not really meaning them, but rather than that, wanting to provoke the then alive Uchiha patriarch. Something, some reaction, anything; but the man wasn't fazed. He had been even younger at the time than what his son was now. He remembered his father's eyes from that moment. The blazing, unwavering eyes of his father were something he would never forget, no matter how the rest of his face blurred along the years.

"When we are alone, your father always talks about you." Mikoto had confessed once when she gently tended to his wounds, her fingers caressing his cheeks. Her touch had been gentle and cool.

But he'd thought his mother's words had only been spoken to sooth and calm him down, to make him forget about the cold treatment he was getting from his father while his brother was showered with recognition and attention. She had been right all along, but how was he to know?

"Well done," Fugaku's ruff voice rang in his ears as another memory slipped into his mind. He remembered how his eyes got round with surprise and disbelief, but his father was really complimenting his hard work. His father's face had wrinkled somewhat as he tried to smile. "As expected of my child."

He'd just wanted some kind of praise from him, just once… something to show him that his father acknowledged him as his son. And when he'd gotten it at last, it was already late. Not too long after that, his brother had annihilated the whole clan, created a bath of blood within the Estate of their renowned clan, and left him with only his life and the word revenge engraved in his soul.

"Hate me more and more." Itachi had told him, that time when he'd been given one last gift to his younger brother: a new feeling that made hearts clench and even the purest of souls rot. That feeling had corrupted him and obsessed him, had blinded him and guided him into darkness, had haunted his nights and disrupted his peace of mind, had turned him into a traitor to his own, and had almost made lose everything he had in the process.

Then, there was once when they met a few years after his parents' assassination, the Uchiha slaughterer had mocked him for not having enough of it, even when Sasuke had been already consumed with anger and pain and loss. "You don't have enough hatred."

That word triggered far too many memories, most of them unpleasant. But more than anything, knowing that it had been his son who had spat it at him caused him to be all the more upset.

He held a grip on himself, fingers rubbing angrily the corner of his eyes, and stood.


Five years earlier…

He remembered pacing up and down the hall for more hours he could count until Shizune had exited the main bedroom, looking weary, and granted him permission to get inside at last. He'd almost thrown a fit, a full-blown tantrum actually, when he'd been first forced to leave the labor room as the medic-nin argued that he was breaking everybody's concentration and that he was only burdening the already stressed out Sakura. In other words, he was being a hassle.

He went past the older, dark-haired woman while blurting out a "Thanks" and rushed to his wife's side, sitting on the chair set just next to her. She was on the bed, sitting against the wooden headboard and looking tired but healthy as a rosy blush spread over her cheeks. In her arms, she carefully held the bundle of blankets in which their newborn son or daughter was wrapped with. His heart thumping against his chest, he reached over and kissed her forehead before looking down at the baby. It was only then that he noticed that…

It was a boy!

"Sasuke-kun," Sakura's voice was laced with heavy sleep and seemingly never-ending happiness. Her eyes shone brightly and her smile was more beautiful than he remembered. "Please meet our son, Uchiha Shiro." Then she looked down at the sleeping infant. "Shiro-chan," she whispered lovingly, "this is your daddy."

It struck Sasuke how much love could be put into a few, simply words. But he was even more astounded when Sakura moved so she could place the newborn in his arms. The baby was so small that he was afraid to hurt him when he carried him. There was a small tuff of characteristic dark hair atop his head and his skin was milky white. His cheeks were flushed like his mother's and his lips were puckered up even when in deep sleep. The tiny fingers, five of them in each hand, were clutched into fists.

Sasuke almost jumped in surprise when those same fingers curled tightly around his thumb. Watching him from bed, Sakura stifled her giggles with a hand over her mouth. He barely registered turning his gaze from the sleeping infant to the new mother and watching her with the most dumbfounded of looks. She almost laughed out loud this time as the dark-haired man stared down at the baby, completely clueless.

The baby was so small, but the grip on his finger was very strong. To Sasuke, it was almost as if he was the one being held.

"Sakura…" he looked up at her hours later as the baby now slept in his arms and he sat on the chair beside her bed. "Thank you."

Sakura sighed, setting her head against her pillow. "I love you too, Sasuke."

---

A few months ago…

There was a 'tap, tap, tap, tap' sound of small feet coming closer, each time the sound getting stronger. The raven-haired boy came running toward the porch, where his father was sitting on the steps that faced the lawn. His father, Uchiha Sasuke, was deep into his reading, a thick folder with papers the child presumed to be mission briefings or something alike. When his father was not out on missions, he was doing paperwork and going through many files.

He came to a halt, bending over his stomach as he panted for air once before straightening himself up and plastering a grin on his childish face. "Tousan!" he called, he seemed utterly proud and his voice denoted so. "Tousan! I got a prize from Nara-sensei! See? I won first place!"

Sasuke turned his head, eyes moving from the child's excited face to his hand and then to the paper diploma and a set of shiny shuriken he was holding. He nodded in approval before turning back to his work; he pushed the reading glasses up the bridge of his nose and frowned.

"Well done, Shiro…" He hadn't even looked at him as he congratulated him; instead his eyes were intent on the rather extensive report he'd been given at the Hokage's office. The tea, now cold, and several treats his wife had left for him remained untouched on the tray beside him.

Shiro gulped, staring at his father quietly before bowing down in respect. "Th…thank you, Tousan." He turned around and ran to his room without any other word.

Sakura watched the event unfurl with a worried frown from around the corner of the hall. Sasuke hadn't even noticed how the boy's voice had wavered when he saluted him nor noticed how quickly he had dashed away to his room.

Later that night in their bedroom, she had broached into the topic very subtly. She had noticed things like this before, but it had never worried her until now. She knew Sasuke was a good father, but she also knew how hard it was for him to show his feelings openly. Even so, if she had to beat her husband's ass to make him understand how important this was for their child, she would do it without any doubt.

"Sasuke, you should try to talk more with Shiro-chan," Sakura began as she stripped out of her clothes and changed into her silky nightgown. She seemed stressed over the matter.

"I talk with my son," was the blatant reply from Sasuke, who was already in bed, reading a book under the dim light of the lamp on his nightstand.

The young woman settled herself on the bed beside him, pulling the covers so she could rest under them. For a moment, she hesitated and she ran her gaze around their bedroom, looking for something to fix her worried, green eyes on. "Yes, but," she strayed, obviously at loss for appropriate words.

He glanced at her and sighed, an unusual feat of tiredness in him that only she would witness. He knew what she was trying to say, he wasn't a fool.

Sasuke left the leather-bound book on the nightstand and turned the light off, leaving the room in darkness. He pulled the bed sheets over his body, just below the waist, and shifted against his pillow until he was comfortable. Moving closer to his beloved, he quietly wrapped his arms around her waist, his chin resting on the hollow place between her neck and her shoulder. Sakura sighed against him.

Sasuke's eyes fixed themselves at the satin pink strands of hair of his wife. He loved this woman more than she knew, so much more that he couldn't really begin to explain it. It had been long ago since she had etched herself in the depths of his heart, almost unnoticed to himself until one day the realization of his true feelings for her hit him square in the face. Sakura had taught him how to feel again. And then, she had given him the greatest of gifts: a life without nightmares and the joy of a child from his own flesh and bones.

"Sasuke, I know you. I know this is how you are and I love you," she said as she snuggled close to him. "But he's barely five years old… Sometimes you just have to tell him that you care about him." Sakura waited as his grip around her got tighter, but he didn't say anything back. She merely smiled in understanding and closed her eyes. "You'll be able to do it, I'm sure you will."

Sasuke reviewed her words as she fell asleep and he tried to follow her example. He knew well that he had never been good with emotions and she was the one who would single-handedly understand what he was feeling and then make him understand.

When he was young he'd believed that one single word of praise was all that he needed, even a half-hearted one. He'd just been expecting one word of pride from the honorable Uchiha Patriach, from his father; but maybe that wasn't enough. Maybe he'd thought that making his father proud would be enough and he'd been wrong all along. What mattered weren't praises, but affection. Unfortunately, 'affection' wasn't a word in his vocabulary until not so long ago. He'd been missing many things in his life.

Was he really doing the same thing Uchiha Fugaku did to him when he was young? Was he really following the footsteps of the skilled shinobi he admired so much but at the same time feared to disappoint? Of the father he'd wanted so much to be acknowledged by? Was he hurting his own child without knowing it?

Now he had those things, things like love and friendship and kindness and happiness in his life. Shiro was the proof of what he'd accomplished. Their son was the living proof that, even someone like Sasuke, who was stained and haunted, could redeem himself and help create something so pure out of love. That was better than any praise. All he had to do was show that to his son.

Would he be able to do it?

Sasuke closed his eyelids shut and waited for sleep to come to him. His wife snuggled closer, still lost in the land of dreams, as he let out one final sigh of frustration before drifting off.


Present time…

He ran through the woods in a desperate frenzy, moving as fast as his feet allowed him to and pumping as much chakra as he could into them to gain even more speed. In one hand, his blade Kusanagi helped him cut through. He clenched the other hand at his side and gritted his teeth…

Not once in his life had this forest seemed so long and intricate like it was this very moment. It was not that these woods were that wide, but the thick branches and leaves created dense walls that weren't easy to pass by. Ironically, these forests were part of the Uchiha estate precisely because of that unique quality. But his head was full of panic and those 'damned branches' only slowed him down.

What was worse was that the Uchiha woods were actually connected with the rest of Konoha's forests at one point. Right now, that particular thought wasn't helping him concentrate properly… Furthermore, as to be expected, he couldn't even feel the kid's chakra (if he had been paying more attention, he would have noticed the faint pulse of green chakra hiding within the forest). His mother had taught him well… maybe too well.

It wouldn't take too long before the night fell, either. But he didn't stop; he had to find his son.

They had already been close to losing him once… It happened once when rage had taken over him one more time, once when Orochimaru had reappeared to make a mess out of their lives. That had actually been the time when he'd used the sealed curse one last time and when the Snake Sannin from Sound had breathed his last, truly.

His former master had almost succeeded in his last attempt at taking over Konoha. Most of the village's shinobi and kunoichi weren't strong enough against his seal-aided army. Orochimaru had also made sure that most of Konoha's strongest assets were all out on different missions, himself and Naruto included as they'd been escorting the Godaime Hokage from Suna. By the time they had reached Konoha it had almost been too late. And while Kakashi engaged Kabuto in battle, Orochimaru (in an all too new vessel) had taken upon himself to hurt Uchiha Sakura, the village's strongest medic-nin, while she was trying to protect her and Sasuke's two-year-old.

He'd cheated in the ways only a man of his kind could, trying to hit him in his weakest point, but the opposite result had hurled back at him. Indeed, the Snake Sannin's plans would have been perfect if not for that one detail. He had made the mistake of nearly killing Sakura, who would have bled to death if Tsunade hadn't arrived on time, and taking away their kid in the process. He'd meddled with Uchiha Sasuke's loved ones and that was enough to drive Sasuke to the ends of his strength in order to overthrow his former mentor.

That time, with both at his side, the woman he loved and his old rival and best friend, he'd saved his son and defeated Orochimaru once and for all. The battle had lasted for many days and nights and caused the shedding of much blood, sweat, and plenty of tears from the inhabitants of their village. But they had fought hard and bravely, like true shinobi, and it had been worth it. There were scars on the three of them to prove it; scars that, though faded on their skins with time, would engrave themselves in their bodies and their memories.

He'd cried for the entire five days the boy had been unconscious after the rescue. Sakura, herself healing from her wounds at that time, had remained silently beside him as he kept vigil over the child. When the kid woke up, he'd sworn on his pride and his honor never to leave him alone. He'd never leave him, or Sakura for the matter, unprotected.

He would keep his promise…

---

At last he came to a halt, breathing raggedly. The rain had stopped somewhere around the time when he was running after Shiro. His clothes were soaked and his feet muddy; there were no doubts that his sandals were ruined, but he couldn't care less about them. The sweat mixed with the rain that had dampened his hair and trickled down to his brow as his eyes scanned the area.

Shifting his eyes around the place, he immediately felt a sense of recognition. He hadn't noticed that he'd been rushing down this path, the same he had taken every morning to train when he was a mere child himself. He walked to the nearest tree and ran his finger over its bark. It was rough under his touch, worn down by many years, but tall and proud. He could still feel the places where it had become thinner, where he'd burnt it with half-assed techniques that had improved over time. These trees were old, had been there way before he'd been born and probably after he died.

When he caught the sound of rustling leaves nearby, Sasuke narrowed his obsidian eyes and then they turned a bloodshot red; his pupils metamorphosing into swirling commas. The Sharingan wielder noticed it as soon as his bloodline technique had activated, enhancing all of his senses: there it was, the small figure enveloped by a faint trace of chakra, suppressed chakra. If this were a battle, it would have been either that the ninja had too little chakra left and was trying to prevent from being completely drained or that he excelled at hiding his chakra. He didn't think of it these possibilities.

What mattered was that he had found his son at last.

His feet were moving before he knew it. He was surprised when he got closer to the place, as he found himself standing just in between a circle of old trees. This place was where he used to practice on his targets from dawn 'till night fell. Arriving at his childhood training spot brought a wave of memories of himself – much, much younger, less scarred, and a different light upon his eyes – being surrounded by giants. He stared at his surroundings; each tree had so many markings it was impossible to count them and the old red and white circle target tablets made of wood were worn out by time and the weather. But what had surprised him more than anything was the set of kunai perfectly embedded on them with incredible accuracy.

And then, sitting against one of the trees and hugging his knees, there was Uchiha Shiro.

---

The man stood before the huddled boy.

Shiro immediately sensed his father, even as he was approaching, but made no move to run away this time. Rather, he simply remained there with his arms wrapped around his legs and his face hiding against his knees. And he waited. He felt his throat dry and his eyes prickled with unshed tears.

"Tou-san," he muttered, as if guilty, but still not daring to look up at the man whom he admired so deeply. He couldn't bear to look up to find disdain in his father's eyes for being weak; it would be the last thing he ever wanted. It was just that he was upset about Kaa-chan… and he was so sorry.

"Hn."

Sasuke had grunted, a noise so typical of him that it'd become a normal thing, startling the young dark blue-eyed boy. He didn't distinguish whether the sound had been made to imply acknowledgement or if it was purely annoyance. The only person that could really pin-point what those noncommittal noises meant was his mother, and even some rare times she missed.

"I'm sorry, Tousan, I didn't mean it…" He opened his eyes, which he'd closed tight shut in attempt to prevent further crying. His gaze flew up, seeing but not really, for his father's expression was covered by the trees shadows and everything looked blurry. "I… I'm sorry! Sorry! I'm…"

Uchiha Sasuke took a step forward.

His firstborn stopped apologizing altogether and shock became apparent in his features. Standing in front of him was his father, the respectable leader of the Uchiha clan and skilled shinobi, an ANBU even, of Konoha, and there were tears in his eyes and running down his cheeks. He didn't remember ever seeing before any sort of emotion as clearly written on his face like this time.

"Tousan?" he wondered worriedly in between his own, renewed sobs. Shiro had tried his best not to break into a fit of cries, but now they wouldn't stop even if he tried to push back the tears or if he bit his lower lip enough to make it bleed. It was too overwhelming for the small child.

Sasuke lowered to his knees; and before the boy could react or even protest, he'd been enveloped in his embrace.

"Never do that again!" Sasuke scolded, voice harsh but nearly heart-breaking. The little one stiffened in his father's hold for a second, listening intently. "What will I tell your mother if something happened to you?!"

Despite he was reprimanding Shiro angrily, Sasuke was beyond relief. The beating of his heart slowly settled as he pressed the child's head against his chest. The little boy leaned against his father's body, like he'd done so many times when he was even younger, ears intent on the steady 'thump, thump, thump' he was able to hear and that had fallen from wild to a soft, lulling pace.

"Tousan…"

The older man's voice dropped into a soft, tired tone. "What would I do?"

"I'm sorry," he apologized quickly; though still a bit hesitant, he was speaking honestly. His voice also came out a little muffled by the dark blue shirt of his father. He regretted yelling at his Tousan despite the anger he'd felt, because he was still his Tousan, after all; he regretted running off like that, because he'd been scared until he recognized the Uchiha signature aura coming close. "I'm sorry, Tousan."

"Listen, brat," Sasuke gruffed out, demanding attention. His tone was that of mild annoyance, but actually he was more embarrassed than anything. He opened his mouth and failed to say something once and then twice. Shutting close his eyes and gulping down an inexistent knot in his throat, he tried speaking one more time. "I love you and your mother… more than anything… in this world…. When I knew you were attacked and I wasn't there to protect you… I… I… just…"

Sasuke stopped speaking, not one to be known for his fluency with caring words. It had taken much effort to crush his ego to be able to say what he had. He cursed silently at his inability to express what his heart was practically screaming at him.

Shiro pushed himself away from his father's arms and looked up at him, however still in a loose embrace. A smile crept up to his lips as his father turned down to look back. "It's okay, I understand," he told him, with a maturity beyond his age, and did his best not to cry again.

To his surprise, Sasuke realized that not only did he look like his mother once again, he even sounded like her. He could see so much of Sakura in the way he spoke, he looked, he acted, that it would be stupid to say he wasn't his mother's child. That smile on Shiro's face could only be hers.

Suddenly, little fingers were touching his cheeks, rubbing away the traces of tears across his cheeks and wiping away the ones still pooling in his eyes. Uchiha Shiro knew how much his father hated to cry. He'd seen him cry only once and he'd been too small to understand the reason behind it. He'd never mustered the courage to ask.

"Let's go back to check up on Kaa-chan, alright?" Shiro's voice was still tiny, but nearly as determined as Sasuke sounded when he was in battle. This kid had too much of his parents for his own good. Then, he threw at his father an almost dashing smile, "I want us to be the first thing she sees when she wakes up."

Sasuke felt himself nodding, a smile of his own finally breaking completely the stony façade he had tried to keep not so successfully even when he had been crying minutes earlier. He stood up, quickly brushed his dirty clothes, and then helped his son to his feet. The hand that he had offered to help Shiro to stand up remained carefully wrapped around the boy's hand.

Shiro smiled brightly at him again and Sasuke took it as a cue to start walking; the young Uchiha trailed behind him, holding tight onto his father's larger hand.

"We have to hurry up. Sakura is waiting."


Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Kishimoto-sensei. I only own the plot, if any, and Shiro.

Notes:

Firstly, thanks if you've reached this point. I hoped you liked it, as I worked really hard on this one even if it is a little all over the place. If you notice that starting date, you'll see that I began this almost TWO years ago, and that was because it begun merely as a 300-word draft and grew up into this as I came and went, editing here, writing there, until it took this form.

This is going to be a two or three-part, this one that is more from Sasuke's perspective and the other from Naruto's, though set in a different time as to let it flow. The prominent characters are Sasuke and Sasuke's son and the latter's stories involving his parents as he grows up. The "thing Sakura could lose" shall be discovered in that second part, too, I hope! As of now, I'm juggling between the second and a third part from Sakura's perspective, but that may take a long while to be written given personal issues (time, school, the normal drill). It might be a bit plotless, but I just wanted to describe a series of events in their lives.

Also, at the time I first wrote this, the Orochimaru-thingie wasn't over yet. So... I'll ignore that and hope you don't mind if I ask you to do so as well.

At first, I wasn't too content with having to put "x years earlier" on the flashbacks, but I realized that I skip a lot in time. Despite my clues about the timeline (ages, mostly), I know most people won't be making mental counts, so… My fault for liking the time skips…

In this story, Shiro is a little over 5 – and 2 and just 5 years on the flashbacks.

Why Shiro? To be honest, as I was looking for a suitable name, 'Shiro' just popped into my head. At first, it was just because I remembered Hitsugaya Toushirou from BLEACH, and subsequently, another character called Ukitake Juushiro (both of whom possess characteristic white hair). Plus, Shiro-chan sounded cute. I was going to dismiss the idea, but then I started thinking that since 'shiro' meant 'white' as far as I know (the color is called shiroi) it would be a contrast in the dark past of the Uchiha. White is viewed as a symbol of purity in my culture too, so while Sasuke is marked with the massacre of the Uchiha, his son is untainted. I have yet to decide what goes before the 'Shiro', for it can change the meaning of the name altogether; but I think that only a nickname is okay for a five-year-old for now. Still, suggestions are well received!

And, good grief, this note is so long… Sorry! But please, remember to review if you liked before leaving!