Chapter Fifteen

"Nurse, towel." Perspiration lined her brow, threatening to trickle until someone came up to her and wiped gently. She was up her elbows in blood; literally. But the worst was over. Vitals were a good and the wound was sealing nicely. He'd have some dressing to change every day, and a scar after; she couldn't really risk using all of her chakra on vanity when there had been so many others to tend to. He'd be the last for her for a long while hopefully. But, she still needed to walk home… not crash on a stretcher or a chair because of depletion (unexpectedly).

So many injured, so many dead, so many missing loved ones, and so many waiting and looking to her for guidance. It was the first time in her life she truly felt the position she was in. Tsunade was Hokage, so that defaulted her and Shizune to the go-to directors for what went in and out of the hospital when things happened. But never before had anything happened on her watch this… huge. It'd been like a mini bomb had gone off in the village. A good quarter of it was gone from the battle Naruto had encountered with the Akatsuki—with Pein. No, Nagato. And Madara.

So much had happened.

It'd taken her at least a day to get the full details. In spurts people had told her what they knew. Shizune had filled her in the other pieces.

Everyone who'd lost their homes had been relocated to empty rooms or houses in the clan compounds; the Uchiha space, which had been barren and blocked off for almost all of Sasuke's life, was now filled to nearly the brim with dislocated families. She hadn't had a chance to ask him what he thought about that, but she couldn't imagine he was totally happy. For the past week she'd been on overdrive. If she wasn't stuffing her pie-hole or sleeping in a hospital bunk room, she was working on a bleeding patient. She'd lost some, saved some, and had to yell at quite a few wet-behind-the-ears doctors and nurses who didn't know how to handle a crisis.

She wanted to check on her friends, her son. But they were all busy as well. It had taken days to find some. More still had been still trapped under ruble until earlier today. She'd passed Neji in the hallway and asked him how the Hyuuga search and rescue was going. A huge weight had lifted knowing people were accounted for.

Naruto and Tsunade were dealing with the council; Denzou had been placed in a maximum security cell until everyone could settle just what had happened with Itachi and a formal trial could be held. Sakura wasn't sure how she felt about that, but word was from Shizune that it needed to happen if Itachi was ever to come back into the public eye. Currently, he was on house arrest with a full ANBU guard.

And Sasuke… all she really wanted to do was go home and crash into his arms and into her bed. Words didn't need to be there, just warmth. She was tired emotionally and just wanted twenty-four hours to herself. Internally, she didn't care how selfish it sounded. A mental break was important and required soon.

She gave a sigh as she stepped away from the patient. "All done. Do clean-up and find him a room. He needs quiet, so make sure he's not in a room with secondary or tertiary recoverees."

The nurse nodded. "Yes, Haruno-sama."

She nodded in return and pulled her gloves off, practically ripped off her mask and other covers as she exited the room.

Most of the Akatsuki were either dead or missing. Shizune told her Tsunade would fill her in later when things calmed down and proper briefing could be held with her and rest of Team Seven, including a few others. At the time the priority had been getting the village to an even calm and order. Sakura was fine with that, but she was hoping it'd happen soon. Limbo was not a place she liked to be.


Things were no longer quiet; no longer normal. There was noise everywhere. People were banging with hammers, grunting, shouting, lifting, and cementing things into place. Although, at least at night the whole place shut down. Shinobi had to be dispatched to make sure civilian kids didn't play around the equipment or the sites. Everyone was in a constant go. There was no time to pause. Until today he'd been on search and rescue duty with Neji and a few other Hyuuga. They needed every set of eyes that could see chakra to find anyone still trapped. That had been the priority. But, hours ago the last one had been pulled from under the debris. All of the crumbled rebar, wood, stone, concrete, and glass had been relocated. The dead had been accounted for, the sick and injured were being taken care of, and the worst was over.

But he wasn't a peace; there were still many loose ends to tie up.

He hadn't been able to see Sakura for a week. She'd been sleeping in the hospital out of necessity. He only went home when the search was called off for the day. And by the time he was done he just fell into his mattress, asleep before his head hit the pillow.

There'd been no time to see anyone, not even his nephew.

He was due for a break. Neji told him to take some personal time and he wasn't going to argue. He had things to do; and if Naruto and Sakura were too busy to chat, and the Hokage wasn't going to talk about any of it until she called the meeting herself, then he had someone else he needed to speak with; someone who was on the top of his list next to Sakura.

He gave no indication of how he felt one or the other as he rounded the path and came up to a secluded house in the woods. It didn't look all the different from Sakura's, but it wasn't on a hill like hers.

He could sense the ANBU guards about, but they weren't hiding. He could feel a few of them tense up, chakra stir and flare a little, just to let him know they were there. None of them moved to stop him, but that's probably because they were too busy trying to figure out if he was on the list—if there was one. Then again, he doubted Tsuande would be stubborn enough to keep him away.

When no one stopped him as he came up to the door Sasuke knew there was nothing to worry about. He knocked.

The door opened to reveal someone in a red and white mask.

Sasuke raised a brow as the ANBU stepped aside and held the door open.

"He's upstairs." And then he stepped away.

Sasuke came in a shut the door, watching the agent walk away and back to his card game at a table in the center of the main room. Several other ANBU were seated around, playing.

"Second door on the right."

Without looking back, Sasuke ventured up. When he came on the door he knocked, waited, and then knocked again. When no answer came he opened the door slowly and stepped in.

He sat in the center of the floor. Legs crossed one under the other, eyes closed, and his hands clasped together in his lap. He was quiet—still. For a time, Sasuke just watched him... the man he lived in the shadow of… had for so long he couldn't recall what direct light looked like.

He was a little breathless for a moment, but then… something didn't feel right. Something in the air… it felt slanted.


And then it all made sense. He wanted to bark laughter. For a moment he considered letting the agents know, but decided it wouldn't benefit him. Besides, his brother was nothing if not careful. Instead, he walked out of the house, mumbled that Itachi was sleeping as an excuse for his early departure, and zoomed across the village to find his brother. But, he had a feeling about where he might be.

A few minutes lost and a few inquiries later found Sasuke on the edge of a construction area where someone with a hard hat was barking out orders and a Jounin was addressing Genin. He found a mess of black hair in the group and spanned his visual field around. Blood-red mixed with ebony and he stopped, narrowed his gaze as he spotted something… someone on the top of a half crumbled building a few stories high. The first three floors were all that were left—mostly.

He moved through the crowd casually, slipped up the wall, and landed softly within.

Itachi didn't move. He just kept staring out the crumbled window opening, through the broken glass and down below at the small boy.

He didn't say anything, but Sasuke knew he knew he was there; he had to.

The younger Uchiha took a few steps forward and stopped about a yard away. If he were like Sakura, or old Sakura anyway, he'd make a joke. But, that just wasn't Sasuke, not when it came to Itachi.

"He has her eyes," Itachi said, surprising him enough that Sasuke's eyes widened only a fraction for a second.

He hesitated for a moment and then took the olive branch. "He's a smartass."

And then a smile quirked, a light chuckle never escaped his mouth. "Yes, I noticed. Like Sakura too, but he's more open about it."

He wasn't sure how he felt about that intimate knowledge. It stung. It shouldn't, not after all this time. But it did. Sasuke was still selfish; that part of him never wanted to think Sakura had been with anyone but him, even when the evidence snarked him right in the face with a snide comment and a smirk. But, he didn't see Isao that way anymore.

"I never imagined a scenario in my head where a child of mine existed… not after…"

Sasuke looked out the window, pitch orbs following the Genin team as they worked to help with the rebuilding process. He stepped forward, but still kept his distance.

"I don't know what to say to him."

Sasuke blinked in surprise at the admission. He was so taken aback that he looked over at his brother, only to find him staring at Sasuke with some raw emotion present and open in his eyes.

He swallowed. This just… And then words came. "I never imagined a scenario in my head where we weren't killing one another."

It was funny, but no one was laughing.


Itachi didn't look away; he didn't shut his eyes. He stared at Sasuke, same conflicting emotions plain as day in his eyes. He wasn't hiding, Sasuke realized. He had to then, but not now. This person he was staring at was his brother, not some wolf who tried to prove he hated him and only let him live for his technique.

"I did what I thought was best for you. I always have."

"I know," he replied, surprising himself with how much he believed it.

And then Itachi turned away from him and looked back down at Isao. "I thought he was yours, at first," he said. "When I saw him in the woods, eyes blazing. I thought he was yours and Sakura's."

Sasuke sighed and tension left him, tension he hadn't even known was there. He was beating himself up. Why had he never seen it before? Because he was blind to the martyr his brother was? Or because Itachi had always been so damned good at his job? Perhaps a little of both. "You can't hate yourself for something you didn't know."

"Shouldn't I? I can't imagine he's had an easy life, not with everyone knowing whose son he is. Nevermind what Sakura endured."

"Would you have wanted her to abort Isao? Lie about you?"

"I wouldn't have held it against her."

And that's really where they were different. Sasuke would have hated her for it, blamed her, scorned her. Itachi would have forgiven her, no matter how much it hurt him to do so. His jaw flexed.

And then it dawned on him that someone would have had to have told him…

"Who told you that—."

"You hear things, Sasuke. And I listen."

How could anyone be talking about Sakura or Isao in a crisis like this? Kami… And he shouldn't have found out this way. "Sakura's managed fine. So has Isao."

"And how did you manage?"

The meaning wasn't lost on him. He knew what Itachi was asking. And he hesitated, mostly because the first thing that came out of his mouth when his emotions were high was stupid. So he waited, thought about it, and replied. "I hated her," he said with a sigh, "I hated her a lot in the beginning. But, once he was born…" He let his gaze remain on the boy below, watching as he helped the Hyuuga teammate with a few four by fours. "What do you expect me to say? That I was nice to her? I was there for them. I took care of what you couldn't. Even when she kept it from me, even when she protected you and I hated her for that.

"I love her, Itachi. But that's always a double-edged sword for me—for her. I'm a bomb waiting to go off and she's still here with me. And I love her for that too." He kept on staring at the boy, his nephew.

"Kids change how you view life," he said quietly. "They make you second guess everything because you know they're watching you move."

And then Itachi smiled; he barely saw it out of the corner of one eye. "I know."

The words echoed through him and then he knew who his brother was talking about. The air changed and slanted, like the genjutsu earlier, only rawer. It hadn't changed because of chakra, but because of emotion. Sasuke felt his throat tighten, but he had to know. It wasn't like him to ask something... but nothing was ever the same with Itachi or Sakura as it was with anyone else. "Why didn't you just tell me the truth?" It was stupid, he knew. And he knew the answer. But, he had to say it out loud. "Why not just… why…"

Itachi was looking at him again and he was looking right back.

His chest hurt with it all and somehow he stopped himself from reaching up and gripping his blue standard Jounin shirt just beneath the green vest, just between where it opened.

There are no right or wrong choices when you are a shinobi, Sasuke. Only choices.

Her voice rang out in his head, but it didn't help. He felt robbed, and now the one person he used to blame couldn't be anymore. It was like his life had finally take a flip; no, it had already, but now his heart had to face it. It'd finally caught up with the information he'd had for a week.

A warm wetness rolled down his cheeks… once, twice, three times before he realized he was crying; his breathing was barely erratic and his hands shook as he stared down at them, breaking eye contact with his brother.

He'd never been good at dealing, after all.

Then there was warmth; an embrace coiling around him. It should have suffocated him, but instead he felt lighter. That freedom expanded as he let go—finally. Tears exploded as he shut his eyes and drowned his face in rough-soft cotton of his chest, exhaling and gasping for air.

"I love you, Sasuke."


Somewhere just outside a window ledge on the crumbling building a silver-haired Jounin, former ANBU, shifted and stilled.

Tsunade's summons could wait a while… it's not like she ever expected him to be on time anyway, right?


Sakura sighed, hand in her palm elbow resting on the arm of the chair. Everything was silent as Tsunade finished reading through their reports. Every now and then she stopped and asked a question, hummed to herself curiously, or narrowed her eyes. The last to come through door for the summons were Sasuke and Itachi. She'd glanced up, a little surprised, but didn't say anything. Tsunade had made it pretty clear she wanted quiet until she was done processing it all. So, here they all sat or stood: Sasuke, Itachi, Sakura, Naruto, Kakashi, and Shizune. Isao hadn't been asked in and for that Sakura was happy. She wanted to talk him herself, not put him in the middle of a classified meeting. Regardless of what he knew, Isao was still a Genin.

"Alright, well, Naruto and I have read everything now," the blonde finally addressed them as she set some papers back in a folder and closed it shut.

The pinkette looked up Naruto, who sat next to Tsuande and only off to the side slightly. He hadn't quite caught her off guard just then by staring at her, but she was a little embarrassed by the emotion present in his blue eyes.

"This is a lot to take in, especially after what happened earlier this week. Everyone has a lot to deal with without putting all of this," she said, waving her hand at the pile of papers and folders before her, "out in the open as well."

Sakura's eyes narrowed and she felt Sasuke tense up next to her.

"What are you suggesting, Hokage-sama?" Kakashi asked from where he leaned back against the wall on the far left of the room.

Tsuande sighed and sat back. "First, I have to speak with all the clan heads. They have a right to know what's going on before we make any kind of statement. Second, a trial will need to be held. Denzou is an important figure, and adding more secrecy to this matter will only add to the distrust.

"We can't just punish him in secret. And I doubt any of you want that."

"It wouldn't be right," Naruto agreed.

As much as Sakura wanted to see the Root leader's head cut and served to her, Sasuke, and Itachi on a silver platter, Sakura could concede that was her emotional side talking.

"The village has stabilized. Or, at the very least, it's as stable as it can get for a while. So, I'll hold a meeting with the clan heads, then we'll announce a trial. In the meantime, Itachi has to stay out of sight. If anyone were to see him who wasn't in the know…"

"It could cause a riot," Itachi murmured.

"Exactly. Just give me a few days. Then you can come out in the open. I can't promise it'll be with big open arms from everyone… but, the trial will help you in that matter."

Itachi nodded.

"Is there anything else anyone needs to say?" she asked, amber hues scanning the room and each occupant. When no one said anything she nodded.

"Go home, get some sleep, eat, and don't go into work tomorrow. Especially you, Sakura," she said, hard eyes on her ex-student.

"That's an order."

Sakura smile faintly, nodding she stood up.


She stretched as other left ahead of her, yawning from being so stagnant for in one seat for a while.


She stopped and looked over at her blue-eyed teammate, one brow raised.

"Can I talk to you?"

She nodded and Tsunade stopped in front of her. She almost jumped at the hand on her shoulder and met her mentor's golden gaze.

"I've never been more proud of your stubborn determination. I hope you know that."

Sakura couldn't speak and didn't as the woman walked out of the room and shut the door behind her.

"You ok?"

She turned to meet Naruto's gaze next, watching as he leaned back onto the desk, arms crossed over his chest. He leveled a mature, knowing look on her.

"A lot better," she admitted. "What's up?"

"Why didn't you tell me?"

She blinked.

"This whole time I knew there was more to it; you wouldn't have endured it otherwise. But you could have told me."

She sighed and looked down. "We were sixteen, Naruto. You were still…"

"Headstrong? A firecracker?"


"And later?"

She gave him a look. "Are you mad at me?"

"No, I'm mad at myself for not being able to be there," he said, voice heavy. "Sakura, we're a team. You, me, Sasuke…. That's never going to change. I know it can be hard to come to him… but you should never be afraid to tell us what's going on. We'll always believe you."

She smiled faintly. "I was sixteen too," she admitted. "And it was a high stakes game, you know. It wasn't just about trust. I didn't want you involved if it went bad for me…"

"We're high stakes friends, Sakura," he told her as he closed the distance between them.

"I know…" she murmured looking down.

"Look… after everything that happened with Sasuke, Itachi, you, and the village… We can't afford not be honest with each in the future. I'm going to be Hokage and we all need people we can trust.

"I have that with you and the rest of Team Seven, Sakura. Just remember that the next time.


She smiled. "Well, the next time I become pregnant with the enemy, who it turns out isn't the enemy, and have to prove he's really innocent, all while dodging Root… I'll be sure to let you know."

Naruto chuckled, face breaking out into a grin. "Good."


Sakura went through all the things she had to do in her head, all the people she needed to talk to. Ino was sure to barge in at some point when she had a break, demanding to know how she was doing. The Yamanaka girl had barely said hello to her in hospital at some point when she was helping bring people in; however, she'd made sure to tell her when both of them caught a breath they'd have coffee and eat sweets. She wouldn't argue. Naruto wanted to have ramen with her soon. Kakashi had given her a look during the meeting that said they'd be talking as soon as he got a break. Being a jack-of-all-trades forced Kakashi in twenty different directions at once when a crisis happened.

And Sasuke… she just missed his touch.

But the one person she wasn't thinking about right then—which surprised her—was the only person looking at her when she came through front door of her home.

"Itachi," she murmured as she paused, door still in her barely-there grasp and open.

He didn't say anything, just looked at her. She held that gaze, riveted and unable to move.

There were so many things left unsaid, so many things she'd said to him in her head already, so many tears she'd shed when no one else knew, and there were so many times she looked at Sasuke for those first few months and saw a piece of him reflected in the pitch of that gaze. But, now it wasn't a reflection; the eyes she looked into were Itachi's.

Now that she had a chance to breathe, it was so surreal to see him in anything but that poisonous cloak. She often wondered when she thought he was dead… would Isao look like this when he grew up, the only thing betraying that echo his eyes?

There was a part of her heart that ached, constricted, and expanded at the sight of him.

"Escape your guards again?" she asked, saying something finally and breaking the spell. A small smile appeared as she leaned back into the door and listened to it click into the place.

He returned one, just barely. "That could be one way of looking at it."

Not sure what to say just yet, or how to continue the conversation, Sakura pushed off the door and slipped past him slowly into the kitchen. She could feel his eyes on her, but somehow that was a comfort more than anything else. It was so… weird, him being there. The feeling just kept going through her again and again like a ripple.

She reached up into a cabinet. "You want something to drink? I've got juice and I think a few cans of pop…"

"Thank you, but I'm fine without."

She nodded and pulled out just one before going over to the fridge, opening it, and peaking in. She grabbed the bottle of blue-something… or other. Probably some sugar fruit drink Isao made up…

She glanced over at him as she set her cup on the island in the middle of the room and began to pour. "So… did you come over to say hi?"

"I saw Sasuke today."

"Well, of course, we all met up at Tsunade's—."

"No, I mean he tracked me down… by himself."

Sakura capped the bottle of blue juice off and set it aside. "How'd that go?"

He looked away and to the side. His arms crossed over his chest.

Sakura waited a while, watching him silently. He didn't appear distraught… If anything, he looked like he was still trying to figure it out for himself.

Carefully, she stepped around to the other side of the island and toward him. Deft fingers reached out and rested carefully on his arm. "Itachi?"

He sighed and closed his eyes. "I'm not sure how to make it right, Chīsana Hana…"

And Sakura sighed, long and hard.

"I know what you're going to say," he replied as he turned to look at her. "But it's not just Sasuke.

"Our son…"

She nodded. "Time, Itachi. It will take time. Sasuke, I imagine, will come around faster and easier than you think. He's missed you; now that he knows it's not you… well, he'll have his closure after the trial.

"As for Isao…" Her lips parted slightly and she looked at him with a scrutinizing gaze. "That's mostly on you. But, he's young—twelve—not totally an adult yet. Yes, you missed out on the cute years. But, it's never too late.

"You have to know that."

He nodded. "And you?"

She smiled, warmly and squeezed his arm. "I'm happy you're alive."

He smiled softly again.

"Now," she began, sounding as though she was going to start a new topic, "Have you spoken to Sasami yet? Or are playing avoidance on that one?"

Somehow, she resisted the urge to chuckle as a faint blush tinged his cheeks.


She made tea a little later as they talked and the sun began to set. The pinkette had to admit, it was nice to see a side of Itachi that wasn't showing itself because they both might die.

They talked about her and Sasuke, about Isao, and about his life before the amnesia… before the fight with his brother. They talked about Sasami, Rukia, and Shisui.

It hadn't been easy for him, loving his best friend's wife. But, that seemed his lot in life—at least to Sakura. The eldest Uchiha always ended up sacrificing his own personal good for the good of others.

"I'm home!" The screen door slammed shut, banging against the frame.

She smiled at Isao. "Long day?" He looked like hell. Brown smudges marred his face, a scratch or two here or there, and there was a tear in his pants.

He grinned at her, not seeming to notice Itachi just yet. "Yeah, sorta. We ended up having a match. But then Shikamaru-sensei caught us and complained about us being a bother." He rolled his eyes. "I ate though. He took us over to Ino-san's house.

"Chouji was cooking."

"Far more exciting than mine," she admitted mildly as she stood and gathered up the dishes on the coffee table; they'd relocated to the living room. "I think I'm going to take a hot bath and head to bed." She looked over at Itachi as he helped her, placing the tea pot on the tray in her hands. "You're welcome to stay a while longer."

She glanced over at Isao. "Unless you have something else to do?" She was giving him an out; regardless of how she felt about it… she wouldn't force him to talk to Itachi. He'd do it when he was ready, she knew.

Bright greens that matched her own glanced over at Itachi. "…I don't, no."

She smiled as a small sense of relief filled her. "Well good. I'll see you tomorrow. Make sure you get some sleep, alright? We'll both have a lot to do tomorrow still."

"I know. I will," he agreed, eyes never once leaving the older Uchiha.

Sakura dropped the tray off in the kitchen and then slipped upstairs, exhaling in relief just before another smile crept in. Her fingers ran across the wall, tapping lightly in a happy tune as she came up to her door. It clicked closed behind her and she switched the light on.

"First a shower and then… sleep," she murmured to herself. And then she blinked as she looked up and at someone stretched across her bed. Her brow rose, looking quizzical; then, she smiled and a little chuckle escaped the passage of her lips.

She eased down on the mattress and placed one arm on the other side of his body, trapping him. "Hey…" she whispered… waiting. "Sasuke…" she said next, voice just as soft next to his ear.

She kissed his temple, smile still in place. "I love you." She waited again, but when no movement came she eased up and moved to cross—.

And suddenly found herself under a one Uchiha Sasuke…

…being kissed senseless.



Six months later…

"Here's to two happy saps I know! You guys deserve it!"

"And all the misery that goes with it?" Kakashi offered over his shoulder as he tapped his glass against Naruto's.

The blonde frowned and glanced over at him. "Just because you avoid marriage like you avoid being on time, doesn't mean it's bad for the rest of us."

The silver-haired Jounin grinned. "No, just bad for me.

"Cheers." He clicked glasses again as Sakura rolled her eyes.

"Cheers!" everyone shouted, drank, and laughed.

"I'm going to go get more," she whispered to Sasuke. "Plus, your brother looks lonely."

"I'll keep an eye on Naruto."

She chuckled, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and stepped away, heading towards the bar.

He wasn't talking to anyone, but the bar tender slid him another drink. Sakura took the opportunity to flag him before he wandered off to help someone else—probably Anko. That woman could drink anyone under the table, including Genma. "One more? The same thing," she offered before he asked. As he wandered off with a nod she turned to Itachi.

"You have this awful habit of claiming the darkest corner of the room when Sasami isn't around. You know that, right?"

He smiled at her. "Old habits die hard.

"How are you enjoying the festivities?"

Typical of him to change the topic. She rolled her eyes. "It wasn't even my idea. Naruto insisted on celebrating the announcement. Tsunade insisted on setting up a wedding date. And all we wanted to do was sign paperwork and be done with it.

"You don't bother with a wedding when you're not young anymore, not when you're a shinobi. Not when you're talking about me and Sasuke. It's just… silly.

"But…" she exhaled out, "she seemed to think it'll be good for the village. Something bright and beautiful to offset all the bad that happened before. I suggested if she wanted that she should just name Naruto Hokage. People would forget about the other stuff quickly then."

Itachi chuckled. "I take it your suggestion didn't go over well?"

"Not well at all," she agreed. "So, now I'm stuck planning this stupid thing. If I didn't think Ino would ruffle the whole thing up in girly pinks, whites, and purples, I'd let her do it."

He was still smiling and she could tell he wanted to laugh. "It won't be so bad."

"I know," she sighed out, nodding at the bartender as he dropped off her drink.

"You're happy, admit it."

Her lips quirked at the corner and she looked over at his brother, her fiancé. She suddenly thought about all those things she was all those years ago. All those things that made her love one little boy, that made her ache for the man he was today. "I am… just not for the same reasons as I wanted to be then."

He nodded then.

She stared at Sasuke a moment longer, letting the quiet pass between her and Itachi. "So…"


"Did you ever think it would come to this all those years ago? Could you have ever imagined a picture in your head like this? With all of us? Happy?"

It was his turn to be quiet as he watched the same picture she did, of all the men and women at the table, and as he imagined the boy who was too young to be there that night with them all. He was the only thing missing to the mended scene in front of him.

And then he spoke, "I don't think in a million years I ever expected it… no." He looked over at her and met her gaze. "I didn't ever imagine a future where my brother and I were happy and at peace, where I had a beautiful son, or where I could actually pursue a relationship with a woman I never thought I'd be good enough for."

Her eyes were soft.

"Thank you."

Her tiny smile was a waver, and he could see tears just gathering at the corners of her eyes. She sighed, closed her eyes, and wiped them carefully. He waited as she gathered herself, knowing she needed that moment for herself.

She was looking away again at the table of friends, composed. "I didn't either, you know. I never thought one moment and unplanned meeting would cause such a drastic change in our lives. I'm grateful for it.

"I wouldn't have any of this without it."

"It's amazing how one moment changes your life."

"It is."


AN :: And that's it! Finally. X,x Good god, that took forever.

I really hope this chapter didn't seem too short in places or too rushed. There was a lot to cover. It wasn't as though I had these two key characters with this relationship that needed to be solved; like, just Sasuke and Itachi with a little side of Sakura. No, this had a lot. Most of it stemmed around Itachi. So, I tried to tie things up the best way I could, as smoothly as I could without adding a bunch of unneeded extra dialogue. Just enough that you got the picture and could fill in the rest yourself.

I especially didn't think the conversation between Itachi and Isao was important. That would have required a lot of unneeded drama itself. And honestly, this isn't a story about Isao and Itachi more that it is a romance-love-triangle-thing between Sakura, Sasuke, and Itachi.

Why did I do what I did with the loose ends for Sakura and Sasuke? Well, because they were resolved. They were ok. She just really needed to tell him she loved him xD. And I thought it was a cute way to wrap them up without dragging it out.

Why did I end it with Itachi and Sakura talking? Well… because that's how the story started—with Sakura and Itachi. So, I thought it only natural it end with them reflecting on where that endeavor landed them. Not together, because this isn't a Sakura/Itachi story… no… happy.

Thank for reading, reviewing, and loving every moment. Or, ya know, hating it. Whatever works for you guys. -grins- Happy Holidays! Be sure to check me out on facebook under the facebook url; after the com be sure to put a back slash and the name KitRoe. Easy as that. I've got some original fiction in the works and I'd love you to read that too.