A/N: I'm back again. Here's a character cheat sheet in case you forgot:
Hayato and Jin - 11
Mikoto - 9
Fugaku and Shisui - 6
Isamu - 2
Mamoru - 12
Ringo - 9
Haruto - 6
Cousin Inuzuka Bakura - 10 (Hana and Itachi's son)
Cousin Hyuuga Shin - 12 (Neji and Tenten's son)
When Did You Fall
When I woke up in the present time, I realized how my eyelid still sank, and a dark cloud above my head shadowed the light in our bedroom. I may have had a few dreamless rests before I finally resolved to get to my feet and use the restroom.
I wanted to know what happened after that kiss, but I had to try to pose as a mother and resume my duties to my captivating family. They needed me. Slowly the seams that must have kept them together loosened. I hated seeing the pain in my oldest daughter's hardened, ebony eyes. And, I despised observing my oldest son's shoulders fatigue beneath the burden of carrying my secret and his responsibilities to our clan.
Maybe that maternal bond had never left.
However, my head spun as I reminded myself that I had four more children to learn. At least, I knew their names - Mikoto, Fugaku, Shisui, and Isamu. Why did we have so many children? Among my dreams of a future with Naruto, I only pictured two kids - an older boy and a younger girl. Six children superseded my dreams.
After I had finished with the bathroom, I thirsted for a drink of water, so I made my way to the kitchen. For the time, I wanted to evade any potential encounters with Sasuke or our children. I heard a faint and nearly callous voice coming from the dojo that vaguely evoked an image of my caretaker.
I amused myself with my dextrous feet that left absolute silence behind as I neared an open area that led to the outside. Just how much had I grown as a ninja?
Uncharacteristically, within the stark, quiet manner, I heard a boisterous exclamation, "You like me right, Mikoto? Even though you call me an idiot sometimes?"
"Yeah, Ringo," chimed my youngest daughter - Mikoto. One of her petite hands rested on the boy's shoulders.
Her smile was so slight yet left no indication of sadness as she spoke to the pink-haired boy. And, her velvety voice stayed soft and even.
"We're gonna invite the whole village to our wedding one day, right?" asked the boy as his green eyes glimmered in the sunlight of dawn.
"Yeah, Ringo," sighed Mikoto as if the answer were obvious to both of them.
With a swift and controlled punch to the air, Ringo grinned, "S-Shannato!"
"You're celebrating, aren't you?" questioned Mikoto this time with a giggle lacing the tail of her inquiry. "Keep your voice down. My father is home today."
The pink-haired boy scratched the back of his head and bowed with an apology. With a short sigh, his shoulders slumped as he studied Mikoto's features. "I'm going to make you happy one day, Mikoto. I'll be with you forever!"
Placing a hand on the kid's head, she smiled, "I know, Ringo. You've been saying that since we were 5."
Wasn't she ten-years-old?
"And," declared the kid with a tight fist to his chest, "one day, I'll find a way for you to see me."
"I wish I could see your manly pink hair, Ringo. I believe in you, but I'll like you if you don't, too."
Tears poured from the boy's eyes as he sniffed, "Mikoto-chan is so cute! I'm really lucky." Ringo wiped his face with his sleeve. "I gotta go before your dad wakes up! I'll see you at school, okay?" With that, he jumped the fence to the outside and scurried away.
If they had seen me, how was I supposed to react? As I contemplated the situation at that moment, I wanted to think of their innocent love affair as charming. However, I dedicated a lot of my life to reciprocating the inspiration that Naruto gave to me. While the result felt futile at first, he helped me to get stronger. The pain of yearning for him was a double-edged sword.
When Mikoto finally sensed my presence, her brow tightened, and her smile dropped upon her wan, pale face.
Again, I didn't want to break character, so I took the hint that I should probably express my true feelings since she had appeared distraught by my arrival.
"Mikoto," I flatly called.
"Oh, Mother! You're alright!" Mikoto replied with a genuine level of pleasantries. She smiled and tried to force any trace of guilt from her face.
Perhaps, she didn't know what I saw. How could I not have seen anything from my vantage point? I had a clear view of the young couple. "Do you have a crush on him?" I blurted.
Hopefully, the true me did not know of the relationship. Would I take her reply seriously? Would I doubt her if she denied the question? I would think they would take more precautions if they wanted to hide any trace of their relationship. However, they were unrefined and juvenile ninjas.
"Yeah - yes, we've been friends for a really long time, you know," she stammered a bit, and once she relaxed her shoulders, she took a deep breath and faced me.
Our situations greatly contrasted, for Mikoto and Ringo shared mutual affection. "Uzumaki Ringo," I guessed aloud after spotting Naruto's spiral Uzumaki symbol. Ringo and Mikoto were just children, too. They had yet to enter the ninja world, so they could potentially change by the time they were legally allowed to get married. Maybe Mikoto could find something else to do with her life before then.
Moreover, could Mikoto fight? Her visual impairment must have tremendously handicapped her.
Reaching out, she touched my arm with her small, warm hand. Or, was my body simply cold? "Mom, are you okay? Your chakra is nervous," she noted. Byakugan had sparked across her face. Perhaps, she could freely use her bloodline limit.
Instead of denying my discomfort, I dryly cleared my throat. "Yeah," I said, and then continued to address the situation, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I had blurted that question without thinking. Surely, an adequate mother would have heard the aspirations of all her children.
"Um," she began, "I'm not sure. Papa doesn't want me to be a ninja, but I'm in the academy to learn."
What Sasuke wanted hardly mattered.
Cracking through the atmosphere like lightning, the crystal voice of Sasuke Uchiha sent sensations through my ear and down my spine when he added, "Mikoto-hime has a myriad of talents and potential just like everyone in the Uchiha clan. Hinata, are you feeling alright?"
A smile pulled at my cheeks, and I felt like I could finally drop whatever act or appearance I struggled to maintain. "Yes," I answered.
"Baths make you dizzy from time to time," he explained and then, turned to Mikoto. "Have you prepared for school?"
Sweat bubbled at Mikoto's brow as she struggled to stifle whatever tension she had in her body. Sasuke must not have known much about Ringo. She regained her composure and replied, "Yes. I'm sorry. I lost track of time."
Hayato emerged to the porch. He greeted me before turning to Sasuke. "I'm ready. I set the table for Mother like you asked," he mentioned to Sasuke.
"Excellent - as expected for the heir of the Uchiha clan," Sasuke smirked. "Again, your aim's improved a lot. Maybe they're actually teaching you something useful at that damn Academy."
Praising Hayato? Was Sasuke putting feigning affection in front of me? Just last night, his scolding interrupted Hayato's good deed. Albeit his stress got the better of him, but I held a degree of concern over their relationship.
Hayato stood across from his father and mimicked his disposition from head to toe. They both crossed their arms across their chest and tilted their heads slightly to the side as they discussed their training in a harmonious bass pitch. Despite his timid nature, in some lights, I would immediately recognize him as the son of Sasuke.
Then, Mikoto, where did she stand among us? I wanted to know more about her as a person. Fortunately, she had a friend to keep her company outside of family - her Romeo. But, where did she fall between Sasuke's traits and mine? I never thought I could be as poised or talented as Mikoto. I had never seen purely Hyuugan mauve eyes contrast against such raven-black hair.
No wonder she already had a devoted boyfriend.
Hayato placed a gentle hand on Mikoto's shoulder and whispered something into her ear with a wink.
"Eh? What was that?" asked Sasuke with a slight scowl of a frown.
"We'll be late, Father. I'll see you later," Hayato waved as he scurried away with his sister gleefully following behind him.
Shortly after the last of our children left, Sasuke's face softened into a smirk as stared up at the overcast skies. He muttered, "Those damn Uzumaki's."
Did he know about Ringo and Mikoto? "What do you mean?"
He walked into the dining area where hot food sat at the table for four. Why four? Pulling out a chair, he sighed, "Well, Hayato can have a mischevious streak. His best friend is Mamoru, so I figure it comes from him."
"I-I see," I stuttered before taking the seat that he pulled out for me.
"Speaking of which, Sakura and Naruto are coming over to check your progress. Is that okay? I'll send them away if it's not. Naruto didn't need to come along, but he wanted to see you."
A melancholy smile rose to my face at the mention of Naruto. I avoided eye contact with Sasuke, for I had no idea if my expression would betray my thoughts.
Changing the subject, I interjected, "Who made this food?" A simple omelet sat on the table. Its aroma drew drool from my mouth - I had to cover my face to avoid anything mortifying to spill out. The savory blend of spices and sauce were enough to make me weak.
Sasuke tightened his fist and flashed a smarmy grin, "That's food from one of our best gourmet chefs, Uchiha Mikoto. Hayato is good, too, but he takes care of big meals when you're away. Aside from them, you're the only other person who makes edible food. And, naturally, your cooking is the preferred choice."
No, after the first bite, I already knew that I couldn't cook as splendidly as Mikoto. Perhaps I was famished when I carelessly scarfed down half the dish without looking up. When I pulled in a bowl of rice, I caught a glimpse of Sasuke's amused smile. He leaned on his hand across from me and gazed at me.
Grabbing for a napkin, I quickly cleaned my mouth and apologized, "Sorry, I should have waited for our guests."
"The food will lose its freshness and heat once they arrive. You know Na-," he began before he corrected himself, "Naruto tends to run late. They were supposed to be here half an hour ago."
Right, I didn't know anything. If Sakura was my primary physician, then she probably was the one who diagnosed me with amnesia. I didn't particularly want to talk about it, but if she knew the supposed cure, then maybe her presence would aid my recovery.
Sasuke added following the opening of our front door, "As difficult as it may be, you can act in whatever way you want to around them. I won't be upset."
What did he mean that he wouldn't get upset?
Naruto cheered, "Sasuke! Hinata! That food smells fantastic. I'm starving." Drool shamelessly trailed behind him as he took the seat next to me.
"Is that your idea of a calm entrance? I should have known," Sakura sighed.
Stuffing his face, Naruto and his innocent grin bit down on each chunk of food as if the omelet could extend his life. I smiled because how could I not? His energetic charm had always been a comfort to me, and watching him enjoy food was often the fastest way to see that genuine, warm smile of his. Once he finished, he caught my stare and placed his warm arm around my shoulders. "I've missed you, Hinata-chan. Did you make this? It tastes amazing."
I may have stuttered or stammered out some denial to Naruto's question, but I couldn't prevent the heat from rising to my cheeks until I spotted the sullen, sunken eyelids of Sasuke. Indeed, as I recalled more memories of the Uchiha, my remiss attachment to Naruto receded. I frowned at Sasuke. Why did having such a flustered reaction feel like I betrayed him? Perhaps, the societal expectation of loyalty bound me to him.
No, he had been the light at the end of my tunnel.
Sakura, unphased and a bit entertained by the situation, teased, "Hey, hey, Naruto, you're making Sasuke jealous."
They must not have understood the chasm between Sasuke and me. Not even I fully understood the scope of the situation. Sasuke was more isolated than anyone.
The patriarch roughly rubbed his hand down his face and replaced whatever anguish I may have sensed with a stoic and unyielding frown. "I'm fine," he lied.
Naruto got to his feet and headed to the kitchen after pushing down on Sasuke's head. My lover followed him back there.
Meanwhile, Sakura turned to me with a pen and paper beside her plate. She tried to assume a friendly whisper when she asked, "Have you remembered anything new? Can I ask these questions? I thought it would be a good time to reminisce."
I told her all about my dreams - every detail that I could remember. She confirmed most of them - the parts that she witnessed, at least. I had hoped that Sasuke and Naruto would return so that they could confirm the rest, but moreover, my heart throbbed when the pink-haired doctor confirmed various aspects of the past. So then, I was making positive progress.
She had to ask, "Are you sure that you're dreaming memories and not making up new ones?"
"I thought that at first, but if you're saying that they're true, then they must have come from somewhere."
Nodding, she agreed, "True. Was there something else?"
For this part, I didn't want Sasuke to hear me - maybe he would get his hopes up, but my face heated with each moment of delay. "I-I kissed Sasuke," I recalled. "I don't know if something like that would have ever happened. But, I tried to kiss him once, and then he rejected me. Then, I kissed him again, and he kissed me later on."
Sakura grinned and leaned forward as she dropped her pen to the side. "Really? I guess you never gave me the details of your first kiss. How was it? Did you like it?" she entreated more juicy gossip.
If I said what I felt out loud, I would just pass out again. Instead, I nodded.
"You're adorable," commented Sakura. "I can't believe that! When and where?"
I stared at the food below me as I recalled, "I kissed Sasuke when he was in the hospital. Then, he kissed me when I went to bring him food the next day."
"Oi!" Naruto exclaimed as he emerged from the kitchen, "I remember that! That was around the time when-!" He began, but Sakura interrupted him. Plopping down in the empty chair next to her with his fresh plate of seconds, he sighed.
I wondered if he changed seats for Sasuke's sake.
"Naruto, don't tell her. We need to allow her to remember everything on her own."
My head spun. Contrary to earlier in the conversation, Sasuke didn't hear me talk about the situation. And that relieved me. I didn't even want Naruto to hear. As much as I wanted to eat more, my stomach grew nauseous. I found the gumption to stuff my face regardless.
Sasuke returned with his free hand tucked into his robe. Stern and deliberate, he urged, "Let's take it easy with the questions. Did your kid, Ringo, leave early for school today?"
Naruto scratched his neck and whistled while Sakura averted her eyes to the ceiling before raising a finger and opening her silent mouth.
They had no idea where he had been.
Sakura interjected, "You know, our boys are pretty independent with our busy schedules and all."
"Yup," declared Naruto, "the Uzumaki brothers take care of themselves. Afterall, they're the sons of the Hokage."
They nervously chuckled as Sasuke's acrimonious glower darkened. He pressed his hand against the table in front of Naruto and leaned down to glare. "I know him and Mikoto are friends, but I've heard he wants to marry her. Keep your boys under a watchful eye, or they'll face the consequences."
"I think it's cute. Mikoto inspired Ringo to be a doctor, you know?" chimed Sakura with a smile. "Our kids won't be babies forever."
Making eye contact with Sakura, Naruto nodded, "Yup, if you want more babies, just make some more like you usually do. We can accept that our kids are growing, so we don't want anymore."
Sasuke stayed quiet. He contemplated what he wanted to say next before he boomed, "I know she's going to grow up! But, she's my precious Mikoto, and I want her to follow her dreams - not some brat."
Standing from his seat, Naruto retorted with a tight frown. "Did you just call my kid a brat? Ringo is the only kid with a clean record, so who's the brat now, Sasuke-teme?" he bickered.
Pointing to himself with a thumb, Sasuke growled, "All of my kids have clean records. They're leagues above your kids."
As they went on, Sakura clued me in with a quick comment, "They always squabble like this, but we're really just one big, happy family. Everyone knows young love hardly lasts, anyway."
Young love doesn't last. Technically, Naruto's crush evolved into a long-lasting marriage. Sakura's crush on Sasuke evolved into friendship. My infatuation with Naruto disintegrated into a platonic relationship. Then, for Sasuke, I was the only person he had ever loved. Between us, there was a 50/50 success rate.
I wanted to have something to say, so I asked, "Sakura-chan, who are your children?"
Her eyes widened before she nodded and sketched a few simple sketches of three boys ranging in height. "There's my oldest, Mamoru - he's Hayato-chan's best friend. He likes girls a lot, and he's full of himself. But, he protects the people that he cares about and wants to become a sage ninja. Then, Ringo is short for his age, and people pick on him for having pink hair. He's really smart, though. When he says that he'll become a doctor like me, I believe him. And, Haruto the youngest. He might seem sweet, but he has a crafty prankster side like his father and has a big imagination."
"I see," I nodded. I had only met two of them. Our families must have been close. I wanted to ask how old Mamoru was - he must have been born when we were pretty young, but as Sakura said, I had to remember most of these things on my own for the memories to solidify.
I glanced over at Sasuke. His shoulders stayed high, and despite his aim tone of intimidation, he boasted about his family with an elated innocence that I never thought I'd see in his eyes. My heart fluttered to see him in good humor after days of watching an aura of sadness engulf him.
"Do you feel comfortable with Sasuke?" asked Sakura with a slight smile on her lips.
I blushed and buried my face. I didn't want to lead Sasuke into thinking that I was accustomed to anything more than what we had, but luckily, he didn't see me. Slowly, I nodded.
"He'd be happy to know that."
My heart didn't stop throbbing, and soon, butterflies in my stomach accompanied the sensation.
After Naruto and Sakura ate, helped clean up and left, Sasuke sighed after closing the door. He must have enjoyed the company of his old team, for a smile remained at the corners of his mouth. "They're tiring," he groaned.
What would happen at that moment? Up until that time, we had not been in a nearly empty house together. "Um," I faltered. Should I tell him the stories that I told Sakura? He had the right to know.
"Yeah?" he asked before glancing over his shoulder.
Right, I made him jealous earlier, and then he and Naruto chatted in the kitchen. "I'm sorry about acting like that in front of Naruto."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed before they sunk into a sullen disposition once more. "It's fine. Since you have few memories before you were 17, it'd make sense for you to have feelings for him. My biggest fear is that if you don't get your memories back, then I'll have to win your heart all over again. I can hardly comprehend how I was so fortunate the first time."
"With Naruto, it's different than when I'm with you. It's always been different. Did you know that?"
Reserved, he hesitated before replying without any inflection or expression, "You may have said that before."
"The feelings I have around you transcend my dreams and time," I explained as I pressed a hand against my heart.
Sasuke turned around to face me. He raised his head and studied every twitch of my face just like he did when he kissed me in my dream. "What exactly are you saying? You can be honest with me. I won't jump conclusions," he reminded me.
He wanted me to show signs of interest. He wanted me to come closer much like my memories, so I took step after step until I was less than half a meter away from him. As I neared him, I admired his build and the pleasantly chiseled shape of his body and face. My breathing grew heavier as I proceeded to get closer to him. "When we first kissed, I think I know why I did it now," I revealed.
By the stillness of his chest, I could tell that his breathing shallowed as he hung onto my every word.
"You know me, Sasuke. You knew me then, and you know me now, and I don't think anyone can replace what you are to me in my lifetime. I'm here for a reason, right? We must be kindred spirits, o-or s-soulmates," I explained. Somehow, I got through that drawn out confession without passing out or panicking. I may have stuttered, and I may have looked everywhere but Sasuke's face. However, I unleashed all my thoughts in one fell swoop.
Would he give way to his passion and pounce me with the lust that he restrained for the past few days? I don't think I had prepared for that. I would do it for him, though.
Finally, I looked up to him to see his eyes agape and his trembling hands. Tears at the surface of his glossy, ebony eyes had yet to fall. "Hinata," he muttered through his shaking voice.
He didn't have to comfort me in that moment. I wanted to comfort him, and I didn't want him to feel alone anymore. I dove into him without a second thought. Did my soul hug his, too? Is that how love worked? "I like talking to you and being with you, Sasuke. I like k-kissing you, too."
Sasuke couldn't still his tremors. He held onto me tightly like he had found me after years of being separated. When I looked up at him, his eyes met mine for a few silent moments before he hesitantly lowered his face to mine for a kiss.
This Sasuke of the future had a powerful yet gentle kiss that weakened me and drew a moan from my lips. His firm grip on my waist pulled me further into him as his warm tongue brushed passed my lips and swept through my mouth. It tickled the inside of my cheeks as his hand kneaded my back. His primal, intrigued growl echoed my higher moan, and when my knees buckled, he kept me standing.
Heat shot through me. Places in my body pulsed despite their distance from my heart. Sweat built at the surface of my skin as I lamented the possibility of an end to this rapturous sensation. What would happen if he kissed me for longer? I lost the ability to fear for consequences.
And, when he pulled away, my heart wept. I leaned onto him for support as I caught my breath.
In my ear, he purred, "We have to make up for lost time."
"Sasuke," I moaned.
"I've learned a lot about your body over the past years. Did I improve?"
I nodded without looking at him. I realized I still had a firm grip on his shirt, so I pulled away and apologized, "I'm sorry."
"Thank you. I know you haven't remembered everything yet, but I'll wait forever for you."
I wouldn't want to hurt him like that. I wouldn't want to have him wait for me forever. At some point, I would have to yield to him whether or not I could properly sort out my feelings.
Sasuke added, "If you're curious, though, I can make your body reach your limit. It takes a while for my younger self to get you anywhere close to your limit, but I can do it for you now - repeatedly."
"W-What?" I squeaked.
With a chuckle, Sasuke walked past me. "I'm simply teasing you. I can control myself until you're ready. The fact that you feel something for me can get me through the days." He paused as he stared at the ground. "I was worried, but your words remedied my anxiety. I think you said something about soulmates around the time you realized our love."
Did my old self have a connection to the future? Was that what love meant?
"Anyway, I need to shower. You have free roam of the house. Hanabi is taking care of Isamu for the day, so we're truly alone."
Hanabi, I wonder if I'd get to see her.
I awaited Mikoto at the front of the manor. Sasuke warned me that a lot of people enjoyed tagging along, and other times, our kids would go to other friends' houses. Only Jin had a tendency to come straight home. Apparently, she sometimes brought Shin or Cho, Chouji's daughter.
Mikoto came straight home, however. Ringo walked her home.
"Miss Uchiha! Hi!" he greeted with beads of sweat jumping from his face. "What are you doing out here? It's nice weather, right? Mikoto-chan says it'll rain tomorrow, though. She's always right about the weather."
He must have known that I saw him. And, I must not typically sit out here waiting for anyone to return. When he saw me, he looked at me like I had two heads. I sighed at the same time that Mikoto did. "She's really special, isn't she?"
"Yeah," Ringo nodded with his cheeks as pink as his hair. "She's the only person who's ever cheered for me in school."
Mikoto stayed silent as she played with her hair.
His eyes watered as he dropped to his knees and begged, "Please, don't tell Sasuke. Mikoto-chan is my only friend. If he finds out, he might say that we can't hang out together anymore."
They were a lot like Romeo and Juliet, but remembering the smile on Sasuke's face after his teammates left, I could hardly assume that our families hated each other. This situation felt vaguely familiar. I frowned, "It's fine, Ringo-chan. I won't tell him. We care about you all, and we want everyone to be happy. Mikoto, I want to know that you can achieve anything you want to do."
Ringo stood up and chimed in, "Mikoto is talented in a lot of things - she's so talented that she can't decide which thing she wants to do. Mikoto-chan can cook, garden, and play music like nobody else in the family! And, now that she's studying to become a ninja, she's almost the best in our class! There's nothing Mikoto-chan can't do." He jumped up and down as he talked.
"Oh," I stammered. I thought she was too wrapped in her feelings for Ringo to explore any of her interests or abilities. "Is that true, Mikoto?"
She nodded as she gripped her arm. "I guess you never asked me what I wanted to be, so when you did, I didn't know what to say. But, I'm happy to have Ringo as my friend."
Friend. Choices. Future. Maybe my reposed motherly instincts had arisen unnecessary panic. I rubbed my temples. "I see," I hummed.
"Just a friend?" whined Ringo. "But, you said we'll get married."
Mikoto closed her eyes and furrowed her eyebrows. "Yeah. We can't be boyfriend and girlfriend until we kiss. And we can't kiss until we're married."
I stood up and took a deep breath. Suddenly, I yearned for another nap. Sasuke was probably in the bedroom as well.
"Mamoru-nii said he kissed a girl when he was my age. And you're supposed to be boyfriend and girlfriend before you get married. Right, Miss Uchiha?"
I froze in place. "Um," I stuttered, "Everyone does things differently."
Mikoto smirked, "Well, Papa said that Uchiha's don't kiss until marriage."
"Huh? It's an Uchiha thing? No fair!" complained Ringo.
Well, either Sasuke lied, or he broke tradition. I trailed off into my empty bedroom and lied on the bed.
Mikoto followed me inside and quickly bowed, "Thank you, Mom. I'll focus on finding out what my dream is with Ringo by my side. You always said you were afraid of me becoming a housewife, so I'll make sure to shoot for something higher."
For some reason, my drowsiness weakened me and delayed my response. "Of course, Miko-chan. I always knew that," I said without thinking before I fell asleep. Miko-chan? Where did that come from?
A/N: I can't believe I wrote so much on this chapter. I was super excited to see that people still care about this story, and it also filled me with a lot of regret. I should have tried harder to update.
I bet some of you started reading this years ago.
Thank you for your patience. You've helped me to become a better writer over the past 8 years. Cheers to more frequent updates! Lol.