Notes: Poem by Dante Alighieri

Epilogue

Coda

[Excerpts randomly taken from the journals of Uchiha Sasuke]

"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."

- Itachi and Shisui's trip was a success in more ways than one. Not only did the conference with the various Watchdog divisions across the country go well, they were able to find a lawyer who worked closely with my father while he was alive. This lawyer had to go into hiding – for obvious reasons – and only agreed to cooperate because of Orochimaru's defeat. As we had falsely assumed, our parents had not left us empty-handed. Unfortunately, Orochimaru had managed to get his hands on the Will where he forced more weak-minded lawyers to change its content. Allegedly, this Will now bequeathed everything in the Uchiha's name to Orochimaru. A 'trust' had been set up for me until I reached the age of twenty-one, which for some reason would still transfer funds to Orochimaru's overseas bank accounts. Needless to say, it was quite a messy affair, but after months of court cases and dealings, the government finally relinquished its hold on Orochimaru's frozen funds and gave it back to my brother and I.

- With more funds available, the final stages for construction were completed in about six months. We now had less land devoted to prisoners (we eliminated the dreaded East Block); returning Byaku-Shinkyou to its original roots where prisoners incarcerated were only kept for a few months, rehabilitated and sent back out to society to become better people. However, those who were deemed too dangerous for public life and were sentenced to death by the courts, would either get the electric chair or lethal injection. No more beheadings.

- We have yet to decide on what to do with Orochimaru's former 'lair' (although Itachi's leaning toward a complete overhaul to create a new school), hence it's still closed off to the general public until a final decision is made. The arena once designated for that pagan festival of Gudan is now a baseball field; much to the townsfolk's' delight. Speaking of townsfolk, we now have about a thousand families living within the grounds; mostly made up of officers, long-lost Uchiha members who had lived in the shadows for so long, and those who were lucky to win a home with the successful lottery Itachi set up. I cannot describe the pleasure it brings me to see familiar childhood sights of families wandering the grounds at all times of the day, children free to run around and play without fear of being exploited, and laughter…oh the laughter…

(how I've missed that)

- On the personal side, Karin has established herself as Kabuto's equal in the medical field. Both now work well as a team, and Kabuto has proven to be quite dedicated to his craft, though I still keep a watchful eye on him in case he tries to defect. Though Karin still seems to harbor feelings for me, she is not as overt with them as before and has perhaps come to terms that I will never reciprocate those emotions. I am tempted to let her know that Officer Suigetsu has shown some interest in courting her; although with that man's uncouth attitude, it's hard to tell if he's being serious or not. By the way, he finally accosted me over the unjust beheading of his older brother who was arrested several years ago. I made it clear that I was in a different state of mind back then, and if I went about apologizing to every damn person I upset in those fourteen years, I'd never be finished in this lifetime. He eventually dropped the subject, but only if I agreed to spar with him on occasion. That seemed like a fair deal.

- For the first time in history – okay, since Orochimaru took over – we now have three female officers on the grounds. Officers Tenten, Karin and Hinata were officially sworn in a few weeks ago to much fanfare and publicity. Karin and Hinata will still be a part of the medical team, but will have the honor of wearing their badges and showing off their status proudly. In fact, I do believe all the main players within the Akatsuki organization (including Kisame) were promoted to officers. Kiba returned briefly for the swear-in ceremony, but chose to be stationed in Okinawa to be closer to his family.

- Sasori and Haku bade farewell to us at the end of the month as promised. Karin – who seemed to be on a never-ending cry fest the moment Haku told her the news – threw a party for the couple the night before. Everyone was there – including my brother and Shisui – and between good food, funny anecdotes and exchange of presents; tears were shed, countless photographs were taken and many hugs given. I couldn't get myself to see him off in the morning, though my partner was more than happy to take my place for the both of us. I miss him with every passing day, but if his last happy phone call was any indication, I'll say he's adjusting just fine to 'civilian' life again. Sasori has enrolled him in pre-college classes where he hopes to eventually study Internal Medicine. Wonderful, isn't it? We couldn't be prouder of him.

- As for said partner, I came to discover his notebooks of writings (typos abound) by accident. I was stunned, embarrassed yet terribly pleased at his devotion to store the memories of our relationship in such form. It encouraged me to do the same, and on some nights, we'd sit in companionable silence to write, interrupted only by the occasional "do you remember that time when we…?" or "I'm pretty sure that wasn't the way it happened" or "if you lie about that, Naruto, I'll fucking kill you"…and so on and so forth. So far I've complied quite a few more notebooks than he has; something that's left him baffled since it was all his idea in the first place.

- We spent our first Christmas together and welcomed in the New Year as well. The 'honeymoon' was wonderful, but we both knew he'd have to return to Kyoto; a realization that was much harder to swallow than I thought. All the same, he promised to return in a month, but by then, I knew we would have to make a compromise of sorts when it came to our 'long-distance' relationship. I discussed it with Itachi, who was open to the idea and didn't see a problem with it, and when Naruto returned, he was thrilled to learn that I could follow and live with him in Kyoto whenever we wanted. In fact, we made plans to see the world when we were less swamped with responsibilities (and this, of course, included checking up on Haku). Hopefully, with Sasori's permission, we could drag him around with us on some of the trips. Surely he'd want a break from his studies every now and then, wouldn't he?

- Last but not least, we finally did it…in a subtle way. Once, on a cold winter night, Haku had whispered into my ear that I ought to 'settle' down with Naruto in more ways than one. However, Naruto and I knew that such a thing was impossible in the world we found ourselves in. We knew we were committed to each other spiritually, mentally and physically, so that was more than okay, right? Not for Naruto apparently, for the foolish, stupid, lovable, wonderful idiot showed up to bed one night (while we were in his home in Kyoto) with a small velvet black box he urged me to open. Inside were twin plain gold bands; nothing extravagant. However etched on the inside were our initials and the simple phrase –

S & N…Eternally Yours

…which had me stunned into silence at his audacity and yet extraordinary thoughtfulness.

(ah how I love him)

- We vowed to wear the rings until our dying day, even though we knew society might frown and begin to demand we prove our heterosexuality. However - and until that day arrives - Naruto and I will continue to love and live as we choose and be happy no matter what anyone else thinks. Why just the other day we actually held hands in public as we walked through the breathtaking Kyoto Botanical Gardens without drawing any extra attention. Could this be a sign of things to come?

One can only hope, my dear reader. One can only hope.

There is a gentle thought that often springs
to life in me, because it speaks of you.
Its reasoning about love's so sweet and true,
the heart is conquered, and accepts these things
this is love's messenger and newly sent
to bring me all Love's words and desires.

THE END