By Any Unborn Child

There were many times that Wabisuke pondered his true 'purpose', if there was one, in the Jinnouchi clan. Granted, he tried not to ponder too often, especially about them – that would mean that the thoughts and opinions of said family still meant something to him. That would have meant that their icy glares and hypocritical words would have sheathed themselves somewhere deep down in his heart, somewhere even he himself couldn't decipher.

For a long time, he knew that he was an outcast, the proverbial "black sheep" of the family. As time passed, he grew into this label – he could clearly see that those old enough to understand how exactly he came into the family wanted nothing to do with him, and those who were too young didn't seem to care.

In the end, it didn't matter. He led his own life, untied by the pressures of familial attachment, and for that, he was shunned.

He didn't actively try to give his supposed "family" something to give him praise for. Wabisuke knew that in order to become a "somebody", you had to take risks, and you had to be willing to make yourself more than ordinary, more than the average person could ever hope to be. He didn't follow a specific pattern of behavior. He didn't even expect to do as much as he did. But he followed this adage throughout his school years, exceeding the expectations of many fellow students and teachers alike, earning him enough scholarships, accolades, and opportunities to last anyone else a lifetime.

It hadn't occurred to him that the Jinnouchis would truly accept him as he was. True, he had done some things that he wasn't proud of. He had said more things in a sarcastic tone than what was deemed "acceptable". He had walked along the razor's edge of disapproval. He had said and done things that he relatively didn't give much thought to.

Regardless, that was the past and there was no way to change it.

It wasn't so much what he did that stood out in their minds – no, not in the very least. It was the fact that he represented something that wasn't out in the open, something that was kept hidden by furtive glances and the choice of where to put trust in someone.

But there were two people in that same family who he had grown to like him, maybe even love him.

The first was Grandma Sakae Jinnouchi. Her venerable and stubborn spirit was only matched by her ability to truly see someone's potential, just by looking in their eyes. To Wabisuke, it seemed like it was an ability that only she had – whether it was something that had been passed down their family line for generations or the affects of old age, he didn't know. Even to this day, he still didn't know. But it didn't matter. He didn't think of it often, but what his Grandma meant to him surpassed what he could put into words. She was the first person who truly saw him for who he was, and not because he was the bastard child of a philanderer. She was the first person who truly understood his circumstantial place in the Jinnouchi family, something that the other members had failed to acknowledge or tool around in their so-called "traditional" and "open-minded" heads.

The second was Natsuki Jinnouchi. He had no idea why - …maybe a little bit - but for some reason this little one grew infatuated with him. It was something that had amused him for a long time. Perhaps it was the allure of a grown man, the experience and mysterious demeanor that made Natsuki fall head over heels for him. Granted, he had boundaries, and he wasn't going to try anything with his niece. Her admiration of him did have its rewards – it had caused her to defend him whenever his name was mentioned, amidst the raised eyebrows of her relatives. But, nevertheless, her blunt nature and welcoming smile had tugged at him, reminding him that there was a benefit to naïveté - kids were allowed to judge a situation or a person by their instincts, and nothing more.

It was not until Natsuki's distressed voice over the phone bringing the news of his Grandma's death to his ears that Wabisuke realized, amidst everything… that he had truly shattered.

For so long, he had protected himself from his own emotions – he had guided himself throughout his life without really experiencing much of anything.

For so long, he had protected himself, using dry wit, logic, and sarcasm as his shield from his true insecurities.

For so long, he had protected himself and himself only.

There was not much he could do now…

…but…for his sake…for everyone's sake…the barrier of doubt and mistrust had to be broken.