I do not own Naruto…

This story takes place in an alternate universe (AU)…


Itachi stole a glance at the bride sitting at the head table. She was no longer wearing the heavily embroidered red and gold kimono, having changed into a western-styled gown instead. It was a creamy, mermaid wedding dress made of finest quality. The gown contoured against her body all the way to the knee, flaring out at the hem while the halter wrapped around the back of her neck. It was backless… He had no doubt his mother had played a major role in the selection of such a sexy number. To flaunt the real body of her daughter-in-law or to tempt the younger son? He would have picked both, for the bride did have a most beautiful body… curvaceously beautiful. And who wouldn't be tempted?

Having taken her wig and tsuno kakushi down, her dark tresses were now pulled back into a gorgeously done updo, adorned with a floral tiara. A pair of bedazzling diamond drop earrings decorated her ears. She was no longer painted deathly white from head to toe and her lips no longer blood red. He had to admit that their tradition had made many brides look most unappealing. Thence, he hadn't bothered paying attention during the earlier ceremony. It just didn't occur to him what he was missing.

He remembered the first time they had met, fourteen years ago. She was only seven. He had just turned twelve. She was shy, almost timid. She wouldn't even look him in the eye. Her voice was soft... too soft. She even stutters. He was irritated by her presence, almost disliked her. They were too young…

He couldn't deny it now; she had blossomed into a real beauty. Fair skinned, she had big beautiful crystallized eyes with long lashes. Her dark hair and the soft fringe against her face gave her a most demure look. The glossy pink lipstick she wore complemented her looks resplendently. She looked most elegant. More elegant than anybody he had ever met. It must be from the blood that flowed within her, he thought – Hyuga. He felt like he was looking at a princess. One that had come alive from a fairy tale.

Then again, as elegant as she might look, he could sense that she was uncomfortable with the dress. She couldn't help it if all eyes were on her - she was the bride. But he knew that the gown had certainly made her feel uneasy. Too exposed to her liking? He could only guess.

Itachi felt a slight pang of regret dawning on him. He had refused her. Rejected Hyuga Hiashi's offer to betroth his eldest daughter to him. Rejected his father's plea and reasoning. No matter what Uchiha Fugaku said, he would never be tied down. Not him. Not even if the offer was made more than ten years ago and his father had justified that he would surely need a wife when the time comes. He just wasn't interested. He had threatened to leave the Uchiha house if it was ever forced on him. He had run away before… They didn't want to take the chance.

"Beautiful, isn't she?" Hidan whispered near Itachi's ears, drawing the Uchiha out of his thoughts. His racy, grey-haired friend was stooping behind him.

Turning around, Itachi was greeted with a mischievous smile. He kept quiet, trying to stay indifferent as he reached for his glass and took a sip.

"Why did your younger brother get a most desirable wife while you can only sit here sipping champagne?" his friend asked offhandedly while his eyes roved toward the bride.

"It's not even champagne, Hidan," Deidara laughed. "It's tea. Our good friend here can't tolerate liquor, remember?" the Uchiha's blue-eyed friend actually taunted.

"Not even a little?" Hidan scoffed. "Come on Itachi, this is your brother's wedding. You should at least drink a little."

"You shouldn't encourage him Hidan," a red-haired Sasori, who was sitting on the other side of Itachi said. "His parents need him sober to help around."

"Help around? With what…? I'd like to help around in the bedroom," Hidan said sinisterly. "She does have a most beautiful body," he added while he suggestively licked his lips.

"Get off my back, Hidan," the Uchiha threatened softly. It was ironic that he, an Uchiha, couldn't tolerate liquor. The fact was further insupportable since he actually co-owned a pub with his three friends. One would never have guessed that he was alcohol-intolerant. But he had had his fair share of encounter before, having gotten up in the morning at a very busy sidewalk where he figured he had fallen asleep the night before. Intoxicated after a glass of beer… He had promised himself he would never touch another glass of liquor, ever.

A few tables away, Shino sat quietly as he peered at the bride through his dark glasses. She looked most beautiful. Then again, to him, she had always looked beautiful. He could only wish he had told her that before. They had known each other for ten long years. She was a friend, a close one. But many times throughout their long acquaintance, he had hoped that they could be more than that… yet, he could only hope.

The Aburame scanned the room for the groom. Sasuke was standing a table away. He had also replaced his montsuki kimono, haori overcoat and hakama pants with a western-styled number. An all-white tuxedo. The ensemble silhouetted against his body handsomely and the white brought out the dark color of his hair.

The younger Uchiha was standing behind his good friend, a certain too-noisy-for-his-own-good, Naruto. His blue-eyed friend was laughing heartily at some jokes he was sharing with the other guests sitting around the table. The groom however, stayed solemn, not even trying to smile. Cynically, Sasuke's eyes were fixed at a certain pink-haired lady… his best friend's fiancée.

Shino narrowed his eyes behind his glasses. It didn't seem right. Was the Uchiha staring at Sakura? There was something more to that... The Aburame tightened his grip on his glass.

"Want to go make a toast to her?" Kiba, who was sitting beside him, asked.

"Who?" Shino asked as he turned to face the Inuzuka. Just like Shino, Kiba was wearing a black suit over his white shirt. He complimented it with a white tie while the Aburame wore a light blue one.

"Who else? Hinata, off course!"

There was a pause before Shino asked quietly, "Should we?"

"Why not? She is our best friend," the Inuzuka answered with a reassuring smile as he took his glass of wine and tugged on his friend's arm. "Come on, Shino."

They walked up to the bride at the head table. She smiled when she saw them coming. She was starting to feel most uncomfortable, sitting alone. All of her other relatives were mingling around with the guests.

"Hinata," Kiba smiled.

"Kiba... Shino..."

"We want to make a toast to you."

Hinata's smile broadened as she reached for her glass. She had hardly touched her wine.

"This one is for a marriage full of laughter and happiness," Kiba said as he lifted his glass towards the bride, a grin smartening his face. "And also for many, many babies to come."

"Thank you, Kiba," Hinata shyly replied, taking a sip from her glass.

Then, she turned to look at her other best friend. Ten years of friendship have allowed her knowledge as to whether Shino was looking her way or not even though he was wearing his dark glasses. He wasn't looking… He was staring…, speechless. Kiba nudged his friend with an elbow.

The Aburame cleared his throat. He thought for a moment before softly uttering, "This is for… forever and ever."

tsuno kakushi – a hood, similar to a veil