Summary: Sasuke is forced to confront the past and accept losing Narumi was his own fault.
AN: Starts around one year after the end of the last chapter.
~ooO Aftermath Ooo~
Sasuke frowned as he stepped out of the elevator onto the floor contain the upper level management offices, including his own father's office. He glanced around uncertain of what to do next. He did not have a permanent office in the building since he worked in the Osaka division of Uchiha Inc. He was only in Kyoto for an in-person meeting. Filial duty made him make the detour to greet his father in person.
Now he only hoped his father was in. Sasuke wished he had taken the time to confirm if Uchiha Fugaku was present before making the detour to stop by. If he was out Sasuke would just have to leave a note and leave to prepare for the next meeting in his rather full schedule. Luckily he had already met his mother for lunch since he would be returning to Osaka on a red-eye flight.
His father's personal secretary – an attractive but older woman – did not bat an eyelash at his query.
"Fugaku-sama's in Itachi-sama's office. If you hurry you can catch them before they leave for the day."
Sasuke stiffened for an instant before he forced his muscles to relax. Itachi was his brother. Sure they hadn't really said anything to each other in the last year – not since Itachi married Narumi and Sasuke had graduated and chosen to work in the Osaka division – but it wasn't like meeting Itachi would kill him. And it wasn't like they had zero contact – they did interact, mostly for business or professional social reasons. Both brothers had carefully choreographed events so only one attended the informal affairs hosted by Mikoto. And their social circles and tastes were different enough that they rarely met in public either.
He dredged through old memories and conversations, to make his way towards Itachi's office. And he blinked at the sight of a floral arrangement being wheeled ahead of him. He was surprised when it turned into Itachi's office. Had he moved to a different suite in the past six months? The door was open so he looked in and saw Itachi standing up and walking around his desk, towards the orchid plant with delicate mauve tinted blooms that had been on the cart. His father moved to stand next to Itachi who was reading the card that had accompanied the plant.
And Sasuke was shocked by the brilliant blinding smile that spread across Itachi's face.
"Itachi?" Fugaku asked curious at the emotional expression on his usually stoic heir.
Itachi's response was to pass the card over to the older Uchiha who read it out loud.
"Congratulations Daddy. Will be waiting at our special place; usual time. Naru." Fugaku grinned broadly. "So you're finally going to become a father," the usually very formal businessman mused with a soft distant look. Dark eyes sharpened. "Are you happy?" he asked his heir.
Itachi inclined his head. "Very," he murmured before shifting impatiently. "It's time."
Fugaku patted Itachi's shoulder. "Then go. She's waiting for you."
Reflex made Sasuke turn and move into the closest doorway, to hide from Itachi. He stood there for the longest time, his mind going over what he had just witnessed: Itachi was going to be a father and he was happy about it. And given what he'd just seen Fugaku had actually softened enough to ask about other peoples feelings.
Sasuke only wished it had happened when he was young, when he was around. Why did his father and brother become halfway considerate and emotional beings when he was living in a different city?
The Uchiha scion ignored the small voice within him that whispered the answer. Narumi – who was light and joy and warmth; who changed everyone she interacted with; who was smart beautiful and rich; who was married to his perfect brother; who was pregnant with his child; who attracted attention and support, even when she wasn't trying.
~ooO Begin Flashback ~o~
Sasuke glared as he stared at the beautiful lithe blonde practically entwined around the stoic looking dark haired male. She wasn't even trying to pretend she was paying attention to the other attendees of his Graduation Commencement. Oh she had been decorous during the ceremonies, but now that it was over – and the reception was in full swing – she was completely focused on Itachi, drawing their parents attention without even trying.
Sasuke was furious. He had learned to live with Itachi attracting everyone's interest but he did not want to live with an ex effortlessly drawing everyone in as well.
"Sasuke-kun? Who's that blonde lady with your brother? She looks sort of familiar," a well-known high pitched voice asked. He turned to see a pink haired green eyed graduate moved to stand next to him. She was dressed in a formal emerald green kimono covered with light pink and white cherry blossoms, a cream coloured obi and black obi-jime.
Haruno Sakura. Wheels began to turn in Sasuke's mind.
"She is very attractive," Hyuuga Neji noted in his usual detached manner.
Sasuke waited until he was certain he had everyone's attention. His fellow graduates were among the wealthy and elite, born to be the next generation of leaders. Konoha Prep graduates always attended the Konoha division of Toudai, one of Japan's most prestigious academic institutions. If they took a dislike to Narumi she would not last long in the rarefied circles the Uchihas moved in.
"She's Itachi's slut."
And he was stunned by the reaction garnered: He was slapped in the face by Hyuuga Hinata. The usually shy and timid young woman was glaring at him, her fist clenched and raised to deal out another blow.
"Don't you dare insinuate such things about Naru-chan!" she hissed at the taller male.
"I must agree," Aburame Shino murmured as he moved to stand behind the Hyuuga heiress. "Narumi-san is most definitely not a slut."
"In fact isn't that why you broke up with her in the first place?" Nara Shikamaru mused absently, his dark eyes sharp and knowing. "She wouldn't put out?"
Sasuke glared at the Nara scion, ignoring the angry females trying to set him on fire with their laser-like accusing stares.
"Whoa! You mean that babe is Narumi? The same Narumi who transferred out of high school?" Inuzuka Kiba was surprised and intrigued.
"What happened to her?" Akimichi Chouji asked casually, trying to redirect the conversation to avoid the expectant feminine explosions.
"She fast tracked through high school and graduated from Akatsuki Arts College more than a year ago," Shino murmured.
Sakura blinked confused. "Wait she's a graduate? Already?"
Shikamaru smirked. "Oh, I forgot you wouldn't know."
That sparked interest. "Know what?" Yamanaka Ino asked curious.
"She manages Hoshi Jutsu."
Everyone turned to look at the slender but curvy blonde almost plastered against Itachi's side. She was dressed in an orange wrap-around dress printed with large cream blossoms around the edges: collar and down the front, both cuffs, and around the hem. The effect was eye catching but the bright colours suited her. Standing next to the Uchiha heir – who was dressed in sombre midnight blue – she looked like fireworks against the night sky.
"She doesn't look old enough to run a magazine as widely read as Hoshi Jutsu," Ino countered.
Hinata laughed at her fellow graduates. "Naru-chan started Hoshi Jutsu when she was still in college."
Eyes widened as the listeners turned in unison to goggle at the blonde.
She had just turned into Itachi's side, raising a slim hand to rest against the discreet fan print motif of his red, black and white tie. The action caused something on her left ring finger to glitter under the soft lighting. To be more precise it caused the diamond set into her ring to flash and sparkle, to show off its cut and clarity.
"In fact I don't think you can call her a slut when Itachi is the only guy she's been with for more than three years. And he's asked her to marry him," Shikamaru added dryly.
Ino's eyes widened. "That long?" she breathed on a sigh.
Shikamaru shrugged. "You know Itachi is the private type. He's not the type to have a serious relationship documented by the paparazzi. And if you're wondering I wasn't going to go around with a target on my back by blabbing about his private life."
"They are very good together," Hinata added with a gleeful pointed look. "After Naru-chan moved in with Itachi they hosted several dinner parties and get-togethers. She is a wonderful hostess and her parties are never boring. I remember one time she invited a group of both her and Itachi's friends up to an onsen ryokan; she reserved the whole facility for an extended weekend so we could get some privacy. She's the best thing that happened to Itachi. He relaxes around her," she added knowingly.
Something died in Sasuke at that moment. Shikamaru and Hinata understood Itachi better than Sasuke. And Sasuke had never known they'd met him more frequently than a handful of times at formal affairs.
Sasuke wasn't certain if he could bear to stay in Kyoto and see Itachi and Naru build a married life together. He had planned on working in the head office after graduation, but now it was not possible. Uchiha Inc did have many divisions… Perhaps it would be less difficult if he could work in one of the regional offices, away from Itachi and Naru.
~o~ End Flashback Ooo~
Blindly, he just managed to make his way out of the building without colliding into anyone who'd want to talk. Sasuke hoped he would not be subjected to any more unpleasant revelations. He just wanted to get through his meetings and out of the city where he would not accidentally bump into his brother or his fiancée. It was hard enough to live knowing if he had been smarter and wiser it would be him in Itachi's shoes; with a beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, pregnant wife; a husband eager to become a father.
Numbly he made a vow to himself – to stay out of Kyoto.
Eight months later Sasuke found himself breaking his vow to stay out of Kyoto. He had managed to hide in Osaka, and turn requests to visit the family home into invitations to stay with him, but the Uchiha matriarch had finally laid down the law and Sasuke could no longer make his excuses and stay out of Kyoto. He had managed to avoid the baby shower – sending his excuses and a commissioned gift, sterling silver baby rattles etched with the Uchiha fan – but he had to be present for the formal naming and presentation ceremony.
He responded almost robotically to each greeting. There were many familiar and unknown faces, young and old. A few of them held a particular dislike towards him: Senju Tsunade, Hyuuga Hinata, Nara Shikamaru, Aburame Shino, Nagato Konan. His parents expressions were carefully neutral. The only saving grace was Itachi and Narumi were not present. Yet.
He looked around the room, the formal banquet hall in the Uchiha Manor. It was not decorated in a particular colour but a motif based on a set of myths Narumi had been very fond of ever since she was a child: The Nine Tailed Beasts. There were paintings, carvings, statues and silk screen prints of all nine bijuu around the room: Ichibi, the one-tailed Tanuki; Nibi, the two-tailed Nekomata; Sanbi, the three-tailed Kyodaigame; Yonbi, the four-tailed Saru; Gobi, the five-tailed Irukauma; Rokubi, the six-tailed Namekuji; Shichibi, the seven-tailed Kabutomushi; Hachibi, the eight-tailed Kyogyu; Kyuubi, the nine-tailed Yoko.
The most beautiful and dominating piece of art work following the prevalent bijuu theme were the huge stained glass French windows at the head of the room. They were suspended within a faux frame with diffused back lighting that caused the colourful joined glass pieces to shine jewel bright.
"Gorgeous isn't it?" Shikamaru murmured low enough for only Sasuke to hear. "Most of the art are gifts from Akatsuki students who Narumi and Itachi sponsored through scholarship programs; but Itachi commissioned the stained glass when Narumi's pregnancy was confirmed. She said she loved it better than the usual traditional gifts of jewellery from a first-time father."
Sasuke stiffened. It was true. Narumi had never been the sort to be covetous of materialistic gifts. She would have been happy eating at a ramen stand if she had the company of those she cared for.
He forced himself to remain seated and hold his tongue. Any outburst would only shame his parents and himself. So he watched and listened and hurt as he listened to bits and pieces of a life he had deliberately cut himself out of… Itachi's life with Narumi. And Sasuke had only succeeded in cutting off his own nose. Any hurt Itachi might have felt had quickly been soothed by Narumi and their growing circle of friends and acquaintances.
He watched with numb eyes as Itachi and Narumi entered the banquet hall together: Itachi dressed in a pale cream suit and blood red silk shirt; Narumi in a mid-calf length cream dress with a deep neckline and a swirling skirt, with a short coral orange bolero jacket, and matching low-heeled pumps. Each one cradled a small bundle swathed in pale green merino blankets. Both looked both proud and pleased as they walked up the aisle to the altar in front of the stained glass where his parents, Gamai Jiraiya and Senju Tsunade waited with the priest.
He listened as Hyuuga Hinata, Nagato Konan, Aburame Shino, and Nagato Pein were called to stand as god parents to the twin sons of Itachi and Narumi: Kenshin and Minato. He listened as those without blood ties accepted the responsibilities and privilege of an intimate role in raising the next Uchiha heir.
He could not bear to look upon Itachi, to see the contentment and subtle pleasure he radiated, to see the compassion when the elder looked at Sasuke. He could not bear to look upon Narumi, to see her unabashed joy, her pride in her children, the unmistakable love in her eyes when she looked towards Itachi.
Sasuke knew it could have very easily been him standing up there. He had spent weeks wooing Narumi before ruining it with his impatience and desire for self-gratification. If he had only been less arrogant and selfish in his teen years, if only he had bothered to think and remember the reason why he had pursued her in the first place…
Narumi glanced down at the baby in her arms. Kenshin was fidgeting, struggling to work free of the swaddling cloths. She couldn't resist the urge to coo when bright blue eyes blinked widely at her and he made a soft gurgling sound.
"I hope his eyes remain blue. Like your eyes," a resonant masculine voice murmured from behind her.
She smiled and tilted her head back to see her husband move around to kneel beside her.
"Then you must understand my wish that he gets your eyes." She raised a free hand and pressed it against the side of his face, cupping his cheek and brushing her thumb over his lips. She inhaled sharply when his tongue darted out to moisten the fleshy pad. "Do you have any idea how much I love you?" she whispered softly.
His eyes darkened as he leaned forward so their lips were scant centimetres apart.
"Almost as much as I love you," he breathed before leaning forward to kiss her thoroughly.
It was the soft protesting cries of their son between them that ended the contact. Both of them were breathing heavily.
"I think we might have to take your mother up on the baby-sitting offer," Narumi murmured softly, her cheeks stained pink.
"Glad you agree with me," the subject of her statement voiced in very amused tones. They both turned in unison towards a broadly grinning Uchiha Mikoto. "When you're ready just give me a weeks notice."
Narumi's blush deepened but Itachi remained unaffected. He was used to his mother embarrassing him in non-professional matters.
"We will," he murmured in his usual cool tones that did not fool anyone watching within earshot.
Senju Tsunade made a scoffing sound before leaning forward to scoop Kenshin up and cradle him against her chest. "Stop hogging the kid and give everyone a chance to admire and hold him. Go and talk and catch up. Both brats will be fine."
Narumi just laughed, not taking offence at Tsunade's words. Her foster mother might be rough and sharp with words but she was a fiercely protective maternal figure. Her children were in safe hands with their grandmother. So she took the advice and stood, taking Itachi with her as she moved to circulate through the clusters of attendees.
She frowned when she saw one particular man retreat to the outer edges of the crowd near the exit. The corners of her lips turned down when she saw Sasuke duck out and vanish. She turned to her husband with a sad look.
"Do you think Sasuke will ever stop avoiding us? I know he was shocked and very rude when he found out but I never thought he would stay distant for years! We didn't do anything wrong Itachi," she whispered as tears shimmered but did not fall.
Itachi wrapped his arm around her and drew her close, brushing a kiss against her temple. "It's not you or us Naru. It's him. When he forgives himself and learns to move past it he will return home."
Narumi sighed but nodded, indicating her understanding. She didn't like it but she would live with it. It was an imperfection in their happiness; Sasuke staying away and distant hurt her husband and in-laws but it wasn't like beating him up would change anything. Sasuke would have to work through his issues and when he did he would come back. But whether he did it in six days or six years Narumi was determined to bring as much joy and laughter as she could into the lives of her family. Sasuke was important but Narumi's world didn't revolve around him; it revolved around Itachi, their children, Mikoto, Tsunade, and all her friends. As long as she had Itachi and her babies Narumi's world was perfect.
AN: This fic is Done. Complete. Finito. My next Itachi/Naruto fic will be for the itanaruswap. It won't be out until March. With any luck I will be able to finish a few WIPs between now and then. Including Breaking Ties.
AN: With their ethereal and delicate beauty, orchids can communicate wishes for love, fertility and many children. Grow orchids in cool and warm climates. Plant in the ground or in pots. If you live in a climate not orchid-friendly, place a glass orchid on a table or wear an orchid pin on your jacket. Give a live orchid to a couple trying to conceive. From ehow DOT com /list_7326994_#ixzz1hEfmVGDu
Toudai – famous Japanese University. Not sure if they follow the principle of having subdivisions/colleges/campuses like North American universities.
obi – wide cloth belt worn with a kimono
obi-jime – the cord tied over the obi to hold it in place
ryokan – traditional Japanese hotels, usually with onsens (hot spring baths).