Thanks for voting! Here is your epilogue. . . Prepare yourself . . . this is a long chapter.

A/N: I honestly don't see a need to write a sequel just for the sake of having one. I already have an idea in mind but nothing is absolute. So unless there is a demand to continue, then by all means, make your opinions heard. If and/or when I am ready to post a sequel, you will be notified via Choosing Sasuke. In order to receive such notification, I suggest you add Choosing Sasuke to your story alert subscription. But if you feel this story is complete and doesn't need any more unnecessary garb, then great for you!— and better yet—less work for me! :)

Here is your epilogue! I hope it meets your satisfaction. . .







.:cc::cc: ( Six Months Later ) :cc::cc:.

Pristine lakes of clear grey and blue reflected the many rows of coloring trees along the lake and rivers. Soft winds, chilling temperatures, and a satisfying crunch of dried leaves beneath each step. High anticipation and excitement rose in the voices of every Konoha children as waves of dreams, gales of laughter, and blossoming love wove through the village with the start of autumn. Empty trees stood without their coat of bristle leaves as the chilling winds blew away fallen yellows and oranges across the sky. The ever pouring rain from the night before washed away the last of yesterday and paved the roads for a new tomorrow. The barren sun, bright but neither warm nor unrewarding, gleamed in a sky of white and ashen grey. There was a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through spring and summer, beauty still lingers in death and decay.

Today was one of those perfect Konoha autumnal days, which brings in more excitement than death would initially warrant. To the citizens, autumn becomes a second spring in which every leaf blossoms into a separate flower as the citizens watched fallen colors of orange and yellow cascading through the village roads.

The market was bursting with energy and activity as everyone went through their day, running errands, wasting time, and jumping in piles of freshly raked leaves. All the while, a crowd of sand shinobi came across the path, making their way indiscriminately through the market, towards the Hokage tower.

"Are we almost there?" asked Matsuri, uncomfortably adjusting her large brown cloak.

A tall puppeteer with contemporary white facial paint led them reluctantly through the crowd. "It's farther up," said Kankuro impatiently, rubbing his cold hands together.

Though they were dauntingly armed and foreign, the villagers remained neither intimidated nor bothered by the Sand nins appearance. Temari and Kankuro had become frequent visitors to Konoha for the past ten years, since Gaara became Kazekage. Their faces were well known within the community as allies and friends.

"Can we run there? At least that way it'll keep us warm," said Matsuri, speaking for the rest of the shivering Suna shinobi behind her who, unlike the Sand siblings, were solely accustomed to the arid temperatures of Sunagakure and not this strange weather phenomenon called, Autumn.

"Matsuri, we're still foreigners," said Baki, coming to her side. "A group of shinobi in traveling cloaks will draw attention to us."

"What's wrong with attention?"

"Attention draws out misinterpreted intentions," Baki explained. "All the villagers will see is a crowd of foreigners making haste towards their Hokage—we may be seen as a threat."

"Matsuri, if you're cold you may stop and rest in a tea house," said a calm deep voice.

A tall lean man of twenty three years of age stepped from the crowd of sand shinobi. A distinguishably large gourd fixed across at his back, his crimson red hair falling just enough to moderately hide the kanji of Love on his forehead. Subaku no Gaara, the famed Kazekage of Sunagakure, was nothing short of handsome, as he shed his image of psychotic blood thirsty killer years ago, with nothing but the best intentions for his country—Sunagakure and the villagers.

"All of you are permitted to rest. I can go forth alone," said Gaara monotonously.

"I'm sorry Gaara-sama!" piped Matsuri. "Rest is unnecessary. Our assignment is to escort you safely to the Hokage."

"No, your assignment was to bring me to Konoha," Gaara explained with a hint of a smile. "We're in Konoha. You've all completed your task."

"I insist on taking you directly to the Hokage's office," said Matsuri determinedly.

"As will I, Kazekage-sama!"

"Your safety is more important."

"We will guard you with our lives!" said another sand shinobi.

Gaara held up a hand and the group quickly fell silent. "Then we'll travel by rooftop." Baki looked ready to protest but Gaara silenced him. "Being foreigners we may attract attention, but Konoha will not attack unless provoked."

They all nodded in understanding and with the wave of Gaara's hand, the mass of sand shinobi quickly dispersed to the rooftops, traveling with haste towards the tower.

Hokage Tower

"What?—Back in my day kids weren't allowed to be leaders!" Ao roared, punching at the large oval desk where everyone sat. "This wouldn't have happened if a grown man were in charge!"

Across the room, sitting directly in front of Ao and his men from Kirigakure were Shikamaru Nara and Choji Akimichi, the only two leaf nin in the building who had authority to settle business with foreigners. Choji frowned, his large red cheeks swelling with contempt.

"Naruto is a great Hokage," said Choji defiantly, "even your Mizukage thought highly of him!"

Ao scoffed.

"Settle down Choji," said Shikamaru with a sigh, waving his hand lazily. "There's nothing to get worked up over. Did you guys come to Konoha just to find out what we did with Sasuke and Hinata?"

Ao frowned, crossed his arms, and nodded.

"Well we did nothing," said Shikamaru simply. "They ran away."

"You're kidding me!" hollered Ao, his voice booming through the room. The men behind him shook their heads gravely. "When did you let them escape? Why would you let two criminals go? I was to return to Kiri with news of their punishment, and now I find out they're gone?"

Shikamaru shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "We could have answered all of your questions by mail. By coming all the way to Konoha you made this ordeal more troublesome than it needs to be. And for the record, we didn't let them go. They. Ran. Away."

"Is there a search?"

"Yes, for them and several hundred other renegade/missing shinobi in our bingo book," drawled Shikamaru as he rubbed his chin. "Hinata and Sasuke are no longer active Konoha shinobi. If they are found, either by one of our team or yours, they will be treated as criminals. Is there anything else you need?"

Ao's frown deepened. The wrinkles along his forehead buried deeper in his features. "So… if these renegades are not affiliated with Konoha… then we have jurisdiction to hunt them down as well."

"That's right."

Choji tensed uneasily at the nasty smirk on Ao's lips. The other men around him nodded their heads in understanding as they waited for Ao to speak once more.

"I was supposed to go back to Kiri with specific news of their current status," said Ao carefully. His fingers tapped at the cherry wood desk absentmindedly. "Mei will be happy. This is… fine news."

Shikamaru rested his head lazily on his palm and the expression on his face bared the look of a half interested man. In truth, Shikamaru was carefully examining every little detail of Ao's demeanor, words, expression, tone and body language. There was a thirst exuding from the man, as though he very much enjoyed the news of Hinata and Sasuke's disappearance.

"If that is all you came for, then you can find your way out," said Shikamaru rising to his feet. Ao and his men did the same, they exchanged brief curt nods and left. For a second he could hear Ao mumble something like, "rude kids can't even spare their Hokage for an appearance." He sighed and led the way out with Choji at his side.

"This sounds bad," said Choji apprehensively. "I think that guy wants to kill them."

"I don't doubt that." Shikamaru took a turn and they continued on through a brightly lit corridor. "Whatever Hinata and Sasuke did to piss him off, he's still dwelling over it. But there's no priority for Kiri to initiate a search. They'll just be added to Kiri's bingo book."

"But still… Hinata is—"

"—with Sasuke," said Shikamaru firmly. "They're both Konoha shinobi and they've been rightfully ranked given the amount of skill they possess. The will of fire travels in their blood regardless if they're wearing a headband or not. As long as they travel together, they won't be beaten so easily."

Choji grimaced at the thought. Shikamaru must have noticed his hesitance because he came and smacked Choji's shoulders reassuringly. "I'm 95% sure they're traveling as a team, don't worry so much. Come on, we have a long day ahead of us."

Choji smiled slightly and nodded his head. With a sudden jubilance, Shikamaru pushed the two large doors open and led the way for Choji to sit in another meeting room, this time to address Subaku no Gaara, Kankuro, their Suna entourage, and of course his fiancé—Temari.

Today was the day, Gaara, the Kazekage, and Naruto, the Hokage would together bequeath their sanction of approval for Temari and Shikamaru's official marriage. Today was the day both of them would gain partial citizenship between Suna and Konoha. And of course today was the day both of them would legally be allowed to establish residency and own property within both countries.

"Will Naruto not be joining us?" asked Gaara inquisitively.

Shikamaru cocked his head only slightly. "He'll be here later in the evening. Naruto has taken a leave from his duties for the time being."

"Did something come up?" coughed Kankuro, raising a brow.

"Sort of…" Shikamaru scratched his chin uneasily. Everyone turned to him with heightened attention. "Naruto has been in an odd state for the last six months. We're giving him time, but he'll be here for sure by tonight."

"Six months is a long time," piped Kankuro, placing his summoning scrolls upon the desk. "What's happened?"

"A lot has changed in the last few months Kankuro," explained Temari, as she stood beside Shikamaru. "Naruto made a big decision to tear down the Uchiha district. It was his final decision to sever the remaining bonds that connects the Uchiha to Konoha."

"That's right… I must have forgotten…" said Gaara from the window. "Konoha no longer recognizes the Uchiha as associated with the village—"

"Not entirely!"

A shuriken came flying through the window, hitting a large portrait. Everyone clutched their weapons. Rock Lee kicked his way through the window, landing dramatically atop the large oval desk. Several sand shinobi gaped at the strange green man. "Naruto saved Sasuke's house and the Uchiha Police Station as historical monuments to the village!" said Lee theatrically as he pulled the shuriken from the wall with his bare teeth. "He's preserving the power of friendship and youth as homage to the Uchiha's legacy and what they've done for Konoha!—Friendship lives on!"

"What are you doing here Bushy Brow?" Kankuro asked, smirking slightly.

"Naruto sends a memorandum from the hospital!" Lee proclaimed proudly. "There will be an announcement. He wishes to address the country in a few hours and would like all ranking shinobi to be in attendance at the rooftop."

"Naruto is still coming later right?" asked Shikamaru, frowning at the turn of events. Today was supposed to be his day.

Lee nodded in confirmation and everyone turned their gazes severely to the windows, where messengers from all across the villages ran from rooftop to rooftop informing everyone of the announcement. Such news were rarely broadcast to the village as a whole. The last of which occurred when Naruto was titled Hokage. The sudden air from the streets became confused, anxious, and worried all at once. At that moment, there was a heaviness that was felt by all. In a few hours, their beloved Hokage will once again stand on the tallest tower in the city, overlooking the village he was in command of.

In just a few hours, law will be spoken from Naruto, and whatever he announces—it will be final.


Konoha Hospital

Konoha's hospital was cold and empty. In the eastern ward, where patients underwent rehabilitation and cleansing, was a hall with many vacant rooms. At the very end of the hall, was a large hospital room with one patient, one visitor, and one medic on duty. The room was stuffy and dark, with tiled floors that could not retain heat. The blinds drew shut, leaving a sense of dreary darkness upon the inhabitants as heart monitors and sensors beeped soundlessly. In a corner, sat a pink haired woman huddled on the floor, whimpering and sobbing. Her trembling hands clung to her long messy hair as her wide green eyes stared straight through the grey walls. All around her were rolls of tear stained tissue paper scattered across the floor. She cried and sobbed silently to herself.

"It… doesn't look like she's getting any better…"

A few feet away, half hidden in the shadows, Naruto stood watching. In clothes worn for several days at a time and with unkempt messy hair, he had a look of worry on his sullen pale face. Heavy dark circles stacked beneath his eyes, resulting from no sleep and no rest, this Naruto looked utterly disheartened and helpless.

"Postnatal mental illness isn't uncommon," said Shizune, shaking her head grimly as she read through Sakura's medical charts. "Her miscarriage is taking its toll on her. She's suffering with postpartum depression and unless we see some improvement from her symptoms, it may escalate to postpartum psychosis."

"It's been months now," whispered Naruto, carefully watching as Sakura sobbed and pulled at her hairs, a pool of long pink hair at her knees. "She hasn't eaten. She hasn't slept. She won't talk to me. She won't even look at me…"

"Naruto it's not that simple to fix," said Shizune severely. "The loss of her baby created a chemical imbalance in her. Depression affects moods, attitudes, behaviors, tone, outlook, hygiene, work, and even the people around her. This isn't something I can cure with a simple prescription. We're dealing with something more complex because it's in her head."

"I'm a b-bad mother…" mumbled Sakura weakly, staring obsessively at the wall.

Naruto's gaze fell to the floor. She had been saying these same sentiments for the past four months. He was tired of hearing it, and every time she spoke, he felt a pang of guilt rush through him. He knew it was a loss, because, in truth… he would have been the child's father.

"I-I'm a bad mother…"

Her words echoed in his ears. The loss of this child struck both him and Sakura.

"You should go home and get some rest," Shizune said to Naruto. "You haven't left her side for weeks now, and when you do leave it's only for an hour. Naruto…" she paused, her eyes searching his features carefully as she reached forward. "Are you feeling okay?"

He turned away, his misty blue eyes hidden in the shadows. "I'm fine."

"I'm a b-bad mother…"

"Sakura… stop saying that…" he whispered quietly.

"Under normal circumstances, this sort of depression doesn't last more than a few weeks…" explained Shizune, coming forward to calm the pink haired woman. "She has been reluctant to speak about her feelings but I know she feels lost, overwhelmed, and—"

"Abandoned…" Naruto finished for her.

"I-I'm a bad mother…" Sakura's voice cracked and tears began streaming down her face. "He—He abandoned me!"

"Sakura, what are you saying?" gaped Shizune, brushing her hands through Sakura's hair. "No one abandoned you. Naruto is right here—"

"Not Naruto!—Sasuke!" shrieked Sakura, falling to the floor and sobbing uncontrollably. "Sasuke left me! My baby is dead!—I have nothing… I have no one… no one…" The hospital robe clung to her pale skin, the ends of her hair stuck out in all directions, her cheeks hallow, and the dark puffy circles beneath her hazy emerald eyes showed a broken soul. "My baby… is dead…"

For a second no one spoke and the room filled with Sakura's choking sobs. Naruto turned to the shadows, his heart curled inward where he could feel her crying wails burn through his body. Guilt and regret, weakness and contempt, he felt it all.

"I'm going to sedate her," said Shizune after a few silent moments. Sakura froze, her cries settled in fright.

"No," cried Sakura, grabbing onto Naruto and sobbing once more. He looked pained, the muscles of his jaws tensed with helplessness. "Naruto please! I see death in my dreams! Don't take me back to that! Please!—Please!" She slapped and punched at his chest. "This is all your fault!—I'm alone because of you! I have no one!—No one!" She kept hitting him and cursing herself until she fell to her knees, clinging onto Naruto's robes. He caught her arms and held her still.

"Shizune," he ordered, holding the frantic woman still. Shizune came to their side and pricked Sakura with a heavy dose of sedatives. She wailed and fought. His grip tightened and she stopped struggling. Sakura looked up, her sad emerald eyes meeting that of misty blue. Tears streamed freely from her face, until finally she collapsed.

Naruto carried her limp form to the hospital bed, laying her delicately upon the sheets. "Sakura… I'm sorry…" His fingers rose and he brushed away her warm tears.

Shizune appeared at Sakura's bed side, checking her pulse and temperature. Naruto stumbled back a few steps, his eyes brimming with unshed tears. He choked back a few times, feeling his hands tremble, as he turned his back to them, resting his forehead against the wall. His heart ached with a sense of heavy loss that he felt like crying.

Shizune turned from Sakura. "Naruto… your announcement… are you sure you want to do this?"

Slowly, he raised his hands and for a moment he did nothing but stare fixatedly at his palm, taking in the blisters and wrinkles of his twenty three years. Sakura's tears rolled down the crease of his palm and his old scars. They felt warm yet cold at the same time. Naruto grimaced, his eyes welling with unshed tears and he punched the wall angrily.

"I have to…"

Shizune came to his side and sadly shook her head, "There has to be another option…"

He pressed his back to the wall and slumped miserably to the ground, his once bright blue eyes absent of joy and cheer. "There is, but I need to do this for the sake of the village."

"You won't be helping the village much by stepping down."

"I haven't been able to do anything for the village since Hinata left me." His voice sounded as though it came from far away. "Shikamaru has been overseeing my duties for the last six months. There's nothing I can do…"

Shizune sat beside him. "Naruto… you've saved this village many times…"

"When the time comes and Konoha needs me, I'll be here," said Naruto with a dry croak. She watched him. He turned to Sakura, his forlorn eyes gazing sadly at her resting form. Warm tears rolled down his tired pale face. "I will find Kakashi but for now… I can't be the Hokage."

Hyuga Estate

"That should do it," said Hanabi, mumbling quietly to herself. She sat on her knees above a large scroll which unraveled across three tatami mats, where she had just finished scribbling the last few markings to release the seal on Hinata's water scroll.

With particular care, she placed the paint brush away, careful not to stain her exquisite autumn patterned kimono. The maids had spent hours preparing her for yet another tea ceremony with her eight bachelors. With glossy brown hair tied elegantly in a loose, yet fashionable bun, she brushed away a few stray bangs. Light hints of rouge blushed against her porcelain white face as she pricked her slender finger with a kunai. Crimson drops of blood formed at her finger tips. She smeared it across the scroll, closed her eyes, and began mumbling several incantations beneath her breath.

Suddenly the floor beneath her feet illuminated a marvelous shade of shimmering white. The Hyuga Trigram appeared below, large amounts of chakra swirled across the room, her hair fell loose and flew in all directions and all of a sudden, from the center of her heart, she could hear a voice.


She strained her ears to listen. The voice sounded like Hinata's. It was neither coming from her room nor the scroll. The voice came from inside her.

"Hanabi, can you hear me?"

"Yes," she said out loud, in no particular direction. "Where are you?"

"That does not matter. You will know the truth."

Hanabi felt her body tense. The veins along her temples grew with her Byakugan. She didn't argue and settled with being as attentive as possible.

"Go to the tower. On the top floor, in my old room, where Naruto resides there will be two vanity mirrors. One of them has a seal above it. To release the seal you will need water, earth, and blood. Not just any blood. You may only use Hyuga blood.

There was a knock on the door. She fumbled slightly and cursed the timing. "Hanabi-sama your father requests a word."

"Release the seal. From there you will know the truth."

Hinata's voice faded and the light quickly disappeared. The large scroll she created burst into flames, burning into ashes in mere seconds, and leaving nothing but Hinata's blue scroll perfectly untarnished. The tatami mats caught fire. Hanabi cursed, reached for the scroll and stomped the fire out. Smoke and dust filled the room.

"Hanabi-sama, your father is on his way," said the maid outside her door.

She could hear the quiet footsteps of Hiashi Hyuga coming down the hall. Hanabi reached for a candle, blew it out, and tossed it in the ashes.

The paper screen doors slid open. She hid the scroll beneath her robes. Hiashi appeared at her door.

"Yes father?" said Hanabi as calmly as she could muster.

Hiashi stepped forward, frowning at the sight and smell of his daughter's room. He looked to the floor and saw the black blemish of fire across the tatami mats. "What happened in here?"

"A candle…" said Hanabi dryly. "I was fixing my hair and when I reached for a comb, a candle fell over. I didn't notice until I saw smoke rise from the floor."

Her father came towards the ashes, narrowing his eyes at the hazardous candle. His finger ran along the sides of the wax, feeling no warmth or heat emanating from the candle's core. "This little thing caused the fire?"

"Y-yes father," said Hanabi nervously.

"It's a wonder the wax didn't melt, given the size of the burns across your floor."

Hanabi gulped and felt her father's eyes bearing down on her. This must have looked suspicious. He was probably curious of her odd demeanor and actions. A maid came shuffling down the hall. She came to a halt and bowed low in front of them.

"Excuse me Hiashi-sama, Hanabi-sama," said the maid hesitantly. "The selected four men deemed most influential and wealthy by the elder, are in the tea room awaiting your company."

"We're down to four men now?" asked Hanabi, quickly changing the subject.

"Hanabi, it's the processes of elimination," said Hiashi cautiously, picking up the candle and examining it carefully. "This method is necessary when our last heir is marrying for the family. Did you already forget we started with a hundred men?"

The maid turned to Hanabi purposefully. "Mistress, you asked me to tell you whether," for a moment the maid paused, and her eyes followed Hiashi hesitantly. Hanabi gave her a look that told her it was okay to continue. "Sarutobi Konohamaru is among the four."

Hanabi flinched. She could feel her cheeks warm slightly.

"W-Why would he bother showing up? He's not even qualified," said Hanabi proudly.

"Quite the contrary," said Hiashi, flattening the wrinkles of his sleeves. He turned to the maid and waved for her to leave. The woman bowed and left. "Konohamaru is the grandson of our third Hokage, he has potential for strength. Naruto also trained him since he was a child and look where that determination has brought them both."

"Father, I've already read through his mission history."

"Then you cannot deny his strength."

"Konohamaru may be capable," said Hanabi, emphasizing her words severely. "But there are still three other men that are just as powerful, if not more."

Hiashi frowned, raising his hands to rub his chin thoughtfully. For a moment, he said nothing but turned to look at the garden just outside the wide paper screen doors. "It would be wise to show him a little more gratitude, Hanabi. He was the one that saved you from that one mistake of yours."

Hanabi blushed uncomfortably. She clenched her fist, pursed her lips, and dropped to her knees, bowing so low she could smell the scented oils of pine and peppermint from her hair and kimono. "I was careless. Under normal circumstances I should have been capable of handling the situation alone—"

"There, you've said the word capable again," said Hiashi waving his hand exasperatedly. "You're throwing these words around carelessly describing other's abilities that even you yourself are not capable! Konohamaru has grown to become a worthy man. You would do right to show him the respect and gratitude he deserves for what he has accomplished and for what he's done for you. That man went above and beyond to bring you—"

"Yes father, I remember…" she could feel her ears grow pink with further embarrassment.

"Do not underrate the strength and potential of any man or shinobi. You made the first mistake by thinking too highly of yourself. Konohamaru Sarutobi is the only man within the fire country that, not only seems interested in you, but he has a strong will of fire to fight for you."

"He is still a boy," said Hanabi firmly, raising her head to look her father directly. "The man I'll marry will be a man."

"In two months time he will be in his twentieth year."

Hanabi sat primly before her father, the knuckles of her fist clenched, her brows furrowed and she frowned. "He's just Konohamaru. We've known each other far too long, father. If I must marry, then I will find a man that is truly a man. Strong mentally and strong physically, otherwise he can't possibly handle me. It will be better if I choose someone from a land far."

Hanabi stood without apology, slid the paper screen doors open, and ran into something hard. She stumbled back a few steps and looked up. There, standing outside her door, was Konohamaru himself.

"Oh," she said, "I didn't know you had arrived."

He did not answer. His expression was stiff and Hanabi couldn't help but watch him. He had grown a head taller than her, and through the simple Yukata he wore, she could see the outline of muscles beneath the blue scarf that hung from his broad shoulders.

"Did you…" She started to ask if he had heard the conversation about him, but then decided she did not want to know.

Konohamaru bowed his head politely, his spiky brown hair perfectly hiding his eyes, and excused himself. "I'm sorry."


"We've waited too long," said Hiashi, standing to check the time. "You go ahead and entertain the other three in the tea room. I'll bring him back."

Hanabi frowned as she watched the blue trail from Konohamaru's scarf fade down the hall.

"He was the first to arrive," said Hiashi knowingly, stepping out into the hall to join her."Since morning."

"Morning?" Hanabi gaped.

"That's right. Now, there are more pressing matters you must attend to," said Hiashi sternly as he closed the door behind him. "There are three men of elite status waiting for you in the tea room. The fourth would be with me. One of these men will be your betrothed."

Beneath her robes, she clutched Hinata's water scroll. To her, none of this engagement mattered. She will go through with the Hyuga's traditions of marriage rituals without defiance. She will sacrifice her future for the sake of Hyuga but for now, she was more focused on one thing and one thing only—the whereabouts of her mother.

"Yes father." And with that, Hanabi bowed and turned on her heels, leaving in the opposite direction.


The Outskirts of Sunagakure

Warm, arid, spectacular, and calming. A beautiful rush of clear ever flowing water fell from the heavy rocks above, joining the large lake of water below. Along the shores, were a scatter of large stones and even larger boulders. Desert animals' slithered and scurried beneath one rock to the other. A fallen tree stump landed conveniently in front of the waterfall, becoming a makeshift bridge. Lines of tall palm trees stood in disorderly clusters with sprouts of tropical bushes along the lake. This was her oasis. Her very own oasis made from sweat and chakra. Private, far, isolated, and comfortable—exactly what she dreamed for!

Beautiful Hinata Hyuga sat atop the fallen log, the small waterfall pouring silently behind her as she trailed her toes along the water's surface. She could feel the light haze of mist from the falls behind her, and very much welcomed it as the sun shimmered brightly from above. She smiled to herself, letting out a content sigh, as she slowly wrapped her long hair in a loose bun. The back of her white summer dress slightly damp, but the front perfectly dry and warm from the desert sun. She smiled blissfully and placed a straw hat on her head.

"I'm glad you could meet me today, Sasuke," she said with such ease, her words flowed like silk.

Sasuke Uchiha stepped out from between two tall palm trees, dressed in a black suit and tie, unfitting and out of place in such a dry desert setting. At the sight of him, Hinata arched a delicate brow and stifled a light giggle.

"Why are you dressed so…" she trailed slightly, unsure which words to describe him.

"So stupid?" Sasuke finished for her. He tore off his coat, rolled his long sleeves, and loosened his black tie. "Gato's son is continuing his father's corporation."

"Gato? You mean that same man who hired Zabuza on your first mission abroad?" asked Hinata curiously. "I didn't know he had a son… Is he trying to take control of Kiri again?"

"No," said Sasuke irritably. "He's branching off to Suna."

"And you're dressed like this for his pleasure?" she teased.

"I'm dressed like this for your pleasure," he said, trailing his arms around her waist. "To him, he calls me Taka—"

"The name suits you," she giggled, pulling at his tie and planting a light kiss on his lips."Are you his guard or his warrior?"

"I'm no one to him," said Sasuke through her lips. "It's just a uniform he wants his dogs to wear."

"It looks nice on you." She said, taking his hand and much to his displeasure, ending their kiss as well. Hinata led them across the makeshift bridge to the other side of the oasis. "I'm glad you could meet me today."

"I could have come sooner," said Sasuke impatiently. "But you won't hear of it." For the last six months they had been traveling separately as to not attract unwanted attention. Every other week, on days like today, they would meet each other at this oasis of hers to reconvene together. It was on these sporadic visits that they were able to spend a day or two alone. As much as he hated these preferences of hers, it was for Hinata's protection that he endured.

"Hinata, if you want me here just say so," said Sasuke, taking her hands and whirling her to face him. "You'll only have a hard time getting me to leave."

Hinata smiled warmly at him, running her hands along the contours of his defined jaw. "We can change that…" she whispered coyly.

Sasuke pulled her in, wrapping his arms securely around her petite frame. "What do you mean?" He asked curiously, pushing off her straw hat and freeing her long indigo locks from her bun. "Did you change your mind about this stupid two week wait?" He buried his face in her hair, taking the scent of lavender and honey. "I can finally see you whenever I damn well want to?"

She smiled weakly and leaned her head against his broad chest. "It's not a matter of me changing my mind…" she trailed, looking at the calm glistening surface of her lake. For a moment, no one said anything. All they heard was the subtle trickling from the waterfall not too far away. The desert sun bore upon them, warm and welcoming in the autumn year.

When she didn't speak, Sasuke finally decided to ask, "What's with the change of heart?"

Hinata remained silent, sighing quietly to herself. Sasuke took her chin and slowly raised her head to look at him. A smile grew across her face and she brought her delicate hands forward to touch his lips. A small tail of hair hung at his neck like Itachi's. Fighting has made his face rough and tan while also being smooth in some areas. "The years have been difficult for you…"

Sasuke watched her carefully, allowing her small hands to run across his face. Her touch felt nice to him. He welcomed it. For Hinata, he would cross an ocean for. He caught her hand, held it for a moment as she met his gaze, and then kissed it.

"Circumstances have changed," said Hinata gently. "How about we go for a walk to discuss it a little more?"

"No, we'll stay here," said Sasuke firmly, taking her hand and sitting her on a nearby boulder. Hinata looked ready to protest, but he cut her off, "I found Neji the other day."

Her jaw dropped. He smirked at her interest. The last time she had heard from Neji was a messenger hawk with news of the Hyuga's reaction to her running away. She gestured for him to continue. "Go on…"

"He says it's of the 'utmost urgency,'" said Sasuke mocking Neji's up tight tone. He paused, carefully picking and choosing the best words to tell the girl of the unfortunate news. "Neji insisted you must know…"

Hinata frowned, knowing full well Sasuke was only doing this to build suspense—and it was working. "Can you please tell me?" she asked sweetly.

"I only just found out," said Sasuke, rubbing his strained eyes with feign misery.

Hinata could feel the corners of her lips twitch. "Tell me!" she nearly screamed, refraining herself from shaking the senses out of this teasing man.

Sasuke chuckled, finding Hinata to be adorably impatient at the best and worst of times. "Neji's daughter was born three months ago."

Hinata squealed and it seemed like her face swelled ten times larger. Sasuke wrapped her in his arms. He brushed his nose against the softness of her neck and she melted in his arms. After a few moments her breathing settled and he turned to her. "Are you better?"

She nodded mutely, feeling entirely blissful beside him.

"Any news from your mother?" he asked, resting his head lightly atop of hers.

Hinata played with his tie, her eyes glossy and absent of expression. "She's in Suna."

"What?" He pulled away just enough to watch her. She looked to the ground, her long locks of hair falling past her shoulders. "Why'd she leave Kiri?"

"Do you remember that night we left the cottage?" Hinata began slowly, tracing the buttons of his white shirt. He caught her hand and held it firmly to keep her from being idle. The look he gave her was severe as if ordering her to tell him straight.

"There was a storm that night. Three shinobi from Kumogakure came to the cottage looking for me—"

"You? What do you have to do with them?"

"They heard I was traveling to Kiri with only one guard. And somehow they found out we got exiled," she paused biting hard on her lip. "They wanted to take advantage of the situation and hoped to catch us before I left. Instead of finding us, they found my mother."

Sasuke's brows furrowed with difficult understanding.

"The three shinobi from Kumo attacked her and she fought back valiantly to prevent them from catching up to us—"

"They wouldn't have found us in that storm—"

"I know that. But that same night, Hana came looking for us. She wanted to find us and say goodbye before we left," Hinata looked at Sasuke as though trying to read him. He remained attentively rigid. "In the middle of the storm, Hana was caught in the battle between the four of them. She was struck by one of their lightning jutsu."

Hinata could feel Sasuke's muscles tense beside her. He remained quiet and motionless.

"Sasuke…" said Hinata quietly, "Hana is dead. They found her body the morning after we left."

For a moment both Sasuke and Hinata remained quiet. She watched him carefully while also feeling her hands tremble at the very thought of it. Sasuke slumped heavily to the ground.

"My mother was there. But she wasn't fast enough to save her," Hinata explained quietly. "The cause of death was a hundred volts surging through her small body—"

"I don't care how she died!" shouted Sasuke angrily. "Who did it?"

"I-I don't know," said Hinata frightened.

"Where are her parents?"

"T-They moved."

"Fuck," Sasuke rubbed his eyes wearily. Hinata came to his side and began massaging his tense shoulders. After a moment, he sighed deeply and took her hand once more, pulling her to sit on his lap. She complied. "And… Sho?"

Hinata paused, her eyes dropping to the surface of the lake. Sasuke waited for her to answer, she could feel his eyes on her. "He ran away."

His head fell to her shoulders. She froze. Neither one said anything. They remained still and quiet. Sasuke, too busy taking in the new information. Hinata, too careful to divulge further pain. And even through all of this, their hands somehow managed to find each other. She could feel his warm breath on her neck. Their fingers intertwined as an anchor of support.

Hinata ran a hand through his hair and lightly kissed his head. "My mom is searching for Sho. She's in Suna now just to relocate herself with a new alias. Will you promise me…" she paused, wondering if he were listening to her. Sasuke nodded his head against her. "If you continue on with Gato's Corporation, will you promise to sabotage the whole thing?"

Sasuke scoffed and smirked a little to himself. "I've been doing that since day one. He doesn't know."

Hinata took his chin and raised his head. Their eyes met. She had a look of complete understanding and kindness and he was thankful. He loved her. Everything about her.

"You're a good man Sasuke," whispered Hinata, their faces drawing close.

Her eyes were unbelievably soft and sympathetic. He could feel the tip of her nose rub against his own. "I wasn't always like this," he said calmly as her small hands ran along his lips.

"Is that because of me?..."

"Yes, it's all your fault." He took her hand and pulled her in, their lips met in a passionate kiss. Once forgetting and missing her touch, her warmth, her kisses, her body, and her presence. She smiled against him, feeling the curl of a smirk imprinted from his lips. It was a while before they broke apart. And when they did, it was because Hinata came up for air. She panted heavily, her lips pouty and pink as she gazed at the man before her. He smiled, patiently waiting for her to catch her breath.

"Hinata, I'm sure you already know," Sasuke began, pausing a moment to examine her change in expression. "You've heard of Sakura's ordeal right? She's not—"

"I know," said Hinata, frowning faintly with a look of both grief and relief. "I saw. There was no life growing inside of her. She wasn't pregnant."

Sasuke caught her chin and held her still, his eyes bearing through her soul. Hinata smiled innocently. He couldn't help but smile back. It was contagious. She was able to make him do whatever she wanted. And he didn't care. Hinata deserves everything her heart may desire. If she asked, he will fight for her.

"Sakura may not be pregnant. But it's never too late for you." He smirked mischievously, burying his face at the nape of her neck.

Hinata giggled slightly. "Mmm Sasuke, about that…"

He ran his hands along her sides, trailing kisses from her neck to her jaw.

"I-I'm pregnant."

Sasuke froze. For a moment nothing but silence ensued between them. Hinata pulled herself back, watching him as he reeled the information over and over in his head. She waited, half worried and half anxious as to what he may say or how he may react. But Sasuke simply remained blank and stoic. She found herself feeling worried. Her head flooded with thoughts of him leaving her. Anxiety and nerves flushed through her as she watched for any sort of reaction, subtle or not. Her hands trembled uncertainly.

And then . . . the ends of his lips curled and he laughed.

"You're shitting me!"

• • •x:cc::x:./.ღღ.:The End:.ღღ.\\::x:cc::x• • •


















Satisfied?—you better be!
So judgment time. . . . Sequel?

❒Yes . . . . ❒No