The Nakano Shrine is one of the Fire Country's oldest and most historical locations. Technically outside Konoha, outside the walls and farther into the woods, it is one of the few places that had not been destroyed in Pein's assault on Konoha. The Uchiha sector itself had been decimated, and had not been rebuilt, but no one had snatched up the land either; they all knew who had lived there and what had taken place, and no one wanted that 'cursed' land.

So when Sasuke had returned, he'd taken it back (rather to the relief of the zoning officers, in fact) and had a manor house built on it, one not unlike the Hyuuga compound, a sprawling, traditional-style house with an expansive garden and clearly marked boundaries. It had been too big for him, a single man living alone without even a single servant, and even though he is no longer unmarried, it is still too big, though he and his still-fairly-new wife have already begun to work on making it seem a little smaller, a little more snug and home-like.

Uchiha Sasuke has been at the Nakano Shrine since early that morning, reading over all the histories of the Uchiha clan, annotating them, and adding his own story to the records. There's rather a lot of material, so by necessity it's taken him a while to get through it all; only now, after nearly three weeks of regular dawn-to-dusk work and even more extra and generally odd hours late in the night, has he really started to set down his own life's story.

He senses her even before he hears her footsteps or the sound of someone purifying themselves at the fountain in front of the shrine. Then there is the short pause as she bows twice, then the soft double-clap followed by a longer pause as she bows again and silently prays for a few seconds. The quiet clack of sandals on stone and wood resumes but cuts off again after only a few steps, as she removes her zori and enters the inner shrine in sock feet.

As usual, she pauses at the incense burner, and he allows himself a brief sideways glance, watching through his long bangs as Hinata fans a little of the smoke towards her midriff.

She shouldn't be there, technically speaking. For all the talk of their possible distant familial relation, she's still not an Uchiha by blood, and these grounds are sacred to his family, consecrated to a single elite bloodline. She knows this, and yet she is still there, and he does not reprimand her for it.

Finished with the incense, she approaches him, pristine white tabi socks silent on the polished wood.

She's not far enough along yet to really be showing, but he already knows her well enough to see how carefully she moves now that she knows she's responsible for two lives instead of just one. He likes to watch her move, something that he was initially surprised to realise, but which makes sense; she is graceful in a way that only those who have trained to be so from a young age can be, each movement light and flowing, her posture careful, her poise perfect.

She glides to a stop behind him, looking at all his notes, all the scrolls, all the musty tomes, and for a long while she's silent, watching him work; then at last she speaks, quiet but strong, something he admits to himself—and only himself—that he admires about her.

"You weren't there during the Chuunin exams when Naruto-kun fought Neji-nii-san…a-and I was unconscious for a lot of it, b-but…that was when Naruto-kun first made a very important promise: that when he was Hokage, he would change the Hyuuga for Neji-nii-san."

Sasuke has heard about this promise more than a few times, and what's more, he's seen the results in action in the Hyuuga family's social structure. The changes have been faster than expected, but still somewhat gradual in certain areas, and Sasuke is pretty sure that most of the Hyuuga elders aren't on speaking terms with Naruto anymore, but that doesn't really matter since the Hokage has all the real power, and the faith of his people to go along with it.

He doesn't have to look back at her to know that Hinata is fiddling with the cuffs of her kimono's sleeves. "We've changed so many of our traditions…a-and it's hard, and it's going to be hard…f-for a long time. The bitterness…the prejudice…i-it won't really go away until the older generations have p-passed on…but…things are better now."

She smiles That Smile, the one that always means she's thinking of Naruto, a meld of tenderness, respect, gratefulness, and probably some other emotions Sasuke has no name for, or knowledge of. It sends a pang through him, something like jealousy except not quite, because he knows that deep down he feels the same way towards Naruto, or very nearly so.

"…A-and things will keep getting better as time passes…b-because a past full of hate and cruelty is not something that should be preserved. Who will it help? I-it's…it's not fair, not fair at all, to p-pass something like that on to your children." Sasuke hears the rustle of fabric as she presses her hand to her stomach, and that slightest of swells there. "It will only cause more pain…more hate, more cruelty."

Sasuke remains silent, unmoving; she can't see his face to see if her words are finding their mark, but his shoulders aren't tensed enough for him to have taken offense, and he hasn't started writing again, either. That's how she knows he's actually listening, not just putting up with her, so she ventures to share one final thought.

"He never asked us to forget…just forgive. B-but…but in this case, isn't forgetting important, too?"

That said, she lingers a moment more, until he starts writing once again (considerably slower than before), then she leaves as quietly as she came. She briefly brushes her hand across his shoulders as she passes, and he relaxes a little at the touch, turning his head minutely to watch her go.

This is another of the many things that Sasuke has learned he likes about his wife: soft-spoken as she generally is, she still has opinions and surprisingly strong convictions, but she never really forces them on anyone. Instead she simply states things as they appear in her eyes, laying out her reasoning and letting him make of it what he will.

When she reaches the door, he looks away from the soft sway of her hair, her hips, turning his eyes back to the scroll in front of him. Somehow it's easier not to look at her when he calls after her, her name almost a murmur:

"…Hinata."

Without a hint of a pause, she turns back to face him, a swirl of long, shadowy-dark hair and pale, expectant eyes. "Y-yes?"

His pen stills again, and for a silent moment, he stares down at the paper in front of him without really seeing it, considering his question and whether or not he really wants to ask it. What it might gain him, what he might lose.

"Your clan must have kept records just like these."

She nods, knowing he'll see it out of the corner of his eye, knowing there's more, waiting for the rest of it, for the actual question.

"When Naruto gave that order…what did you do with them?"

Hinata is smiling now, a bright expression that has just the barest hint of amusement in it.

"We burned them," she says, quiet, but with more than one note of pride in her voice, which does not waver in the least. "All of them. Every single one."

Sasuke turns his head slightly, just enough to meet her eyes and exchange a knowing look, his expression shifting to imitate her own, though as ever his smile is more of a smirk, and it's still more reserved and a lot less open. After inclining his head just a fraction, his attention returns to the papers in front of him, and Hinata takes her leave of the temple, her movements light as she bows and backs away from the shrine, her smile small and secretive.


Half an hour later, after she's returned home, Hinata notices the smoke. She can see it from the kitchen window over the sink, and she sets aside the rice she's washing, her pride and happiness so strong that they momentarily overcome her, though despite his past and his penchant for hanging onto things better let go, she hadn't really doubted him in the least.

For a long while, she just smiles to herself, watching as the smoke curls upward, rising well over the tops of the surrounding trees, an angry, inky column that climbs higher and higher until it simply fades away, swallowed up by the perfect, unbroken blue of the sky arching overhead and vanishing without a trace.


Fin