Have you ever had a feeling? A feeling so big that it barely seems like it could even fit inside of you? A feeling so strong that it makes you want to act on it before you even know exactly what it is? The sort of feeling that tells you something. A feeling that says something big is about to happen, even though nothing but small things have happened for a very, very long time. A kind of feeling that makes you look at everyone you know differently. A feeling that makes you hold your close ones closer, and feel like the people you're distant from need more distance.
Sasuke had a feeling. He felt like something big – whether bad or good – was about to happen. The worst thing about this feeling was that he could guess what it was about with ease. After all, there were only but so many big happenings to have feelings about in Sasuke's life so far.
There was his sixteenth birthday, when his brother, Itachi, had made love to him for the first time. It had been so long since they'd been free together, and still their love making was quick, contenting, then over. They were still learning to have sex again, among a great deal of other things – which was quite silly, honestly, because at this point they'd been free longer than they'd been incarcerated anyway.
But some things change a man.
Aside from Sakura's murder, Hinata's murder, and his relationship with Itachi – there weren't anythings for Sasuke to have feelings about. Luckily – or unfortunately – for him, he did receive a small hint that he could safely assume was related to his feeling. This hint came in the mail one day, in the form of an invitation.
Now, invitations can be tricky things, depending on what it is that you're invited to, where it is that this event takes place, who it is that invited you, how happy you'll be on a scale of one-to-ten if you can make it, and how guilty you'll be if you can't.
Sasuke's Happy Scale for this event was a mere two, but he realized that his guilt level was a definite ten, so he reluctantly pulled out his laptop to look into travel expenses, and began to make some necessary phone calls. His lover, (and brother) was out at work, so Sasuke decided he would have to figure out this feeling of his on his own, even though between the two of them, Itachi was better at working through his emotions.
Sasuke highly hoped that his feeling and the invitation were completely and entirely unrelated, but he was too smart to be optimistic.
It had been five years since Hinata Hyuuga's death. At first, every day one could find Kiba Inuzuka standing beside her headstone, staring down at it as if it would change anything. Then, slowly, life moved on. It became every other day, every three days, every week. Every month. And now, only three times a year. The day of Hinata's birth, the day of Hinata's death – and today.
Today was the eighth anniversary of what happened in Room 234, and still Kiba couldn't tell you why and how everything had gone so very, very wrong. The police had declared Sai and the Uchiha Brothers innocent, and were now saying that Hinata was the killer. Saying that she'd murdered her best friend, then when the case re-opened, she'd been afraid and guilty and taken her own life. Hung herself.
Kiba didn't understand how someone resigned to Suicide could have such desperate rope burns on their hands. He knew she'd died trying to get that rope off of her neck. Trying, and failing – and for what? Because she knew who had killed Sakura? Because she didn't keep it to herself?
Mikoto and Fugaku Uchiha were divorced now. Fugaku had moved away to god-knows-where afterwords, making Shisui the head of the Uchiha family, as the next eldest. He'd moved in to the main house, and Mikoto had moved into his. Sai didn't move at all, and supposedly "came back" to Konoha, though he still made casual appearances around town as 'Ami' from time to time. He claimed that it was so no one would suspect them to be the same person, but Naruto had teasingly accused him of liking himself better as a girl. Kiba would have laughed, except that sometimes he didn't remember how to do that anymore.
Itachi and Sasuke Uchiha never came back to Konoha. Well, never until now. Rumor said that they were in town this week, for Ino and Choji's wedding. Kiba had never known that they were all that close to Ino and Choji, and for a moment, he idly wondered if they were just looking for excuses to see their mother. The Uchiha brothers seemed like the type who would miss their family but be too proud or too afraid to admit it. Or who knows? Maybe weddings aren't something you have to be close friends to attend.
Or maybe Kiba just didn't really know who was closest to whom in their circle. After all – he'd always been the outsider. In truth, they all could have done it to Sakura. Who didn't have reasonable motive? Itachi and Sasuke had a secret to keep, and Sakura told it. Same thing with Sai.
She had threatened to tell Neji's parents that he was gay before he was ready to – which wasn't so bad of an offense, but had resulted in an enormous argument between the two of them that had included many hurtful words that couldn't be unsaid. Shikamaru had always despised her, simply because he saw right through her, and never failed to notice the way she wronged so many of his friends.
But Gaara? And Kiba himself? Who knew, really. Gaara had always kept his personal feelings displayed on his skin, but sealed between his lips. While he was two years recovered at this point from his masochistic bad habit, the kanji for 'Cherry Blossom' was still etched into his lower abdomen. Or at least Naruto said it was. Aside from Shisui, who was Gaara's lover, and Naruto – who was Gaara and Kiba's shared best friend, no one had actually seen the Subaku's lower abdomen. In all likeliness, Gaara did have a motive to kill Sakura. Naruto had joked that it wouldn't take much for Gaara to have a motive to kill anyone, and Sakura had been rather foul to a great many people.
Even Naruto himself. She had been cheating on Naruto all the way through their relationship, and Kiba was one of the few to know that she had, in fact, given Naruto an STD, although the blond never revealed what STD it was and whether or not he still had it. His exact words had been: "I loved Sakura, you know. I loved her, and I loved making love to her, even though it made me sick. Is that how you feel about Hinata, Kiba? Like you'd hold her all night because you love her so much – no matter how much it stings and burns in the morning?"
Kiba did love Hinata that much. And that had always been his reason. He didn't hate Sakura. Hell, he barely knew Sakura. But he knew that god damn Sasuke Uchiha was betrothed to Hinata. And he knew that if Sasuke was proven guilty, Hinata's hand in marriage would go to any member of the Uchiha family that wanted it. To Kiba, if Hinata had to be in a marriage contract with someone, it should be Sasuke. Simply because their genuine dislike for each other would keep them apart. He couldn't count on that with some other Uchiha who he didn't even know. Besides, his friends were all doing this for each other. Of course he would help them keep Sasuke from facing that fate.
But now what? It was over. They were all free and Hinata was dead. Sasuke wasn't worth that. No one was worth that. He stared down at her headstone silently, and let the tears run down his face. He could hear people approaching behind him, but he didn't look up, barely even recognized their presence until he saw a pale delicate hand, placing a rather extravagant bouquet of flowers down.
He looked up then, and saw that the Uchiha brothers were in fact in town, and that maybe they were that close to Ino, because she was with them. Surprisingly enough, the delicate hand had been Sasuke's, and not hers – though she was holding quite the abundance of flowers as well.
"Lilies," Sasuke said softly, "They were Hinata's favorite."
Kiba frowned, unappreciative of the kind gesture. "How did you know that?" He asked, somewhat accusingly.
To his utter shock, Sasuke laughed at the question. "It was my business to know things like that, wasn't it? After all, had she not have died, I would have been forced to play the part of the perfect fiance until she worked up the balls to marry you instead. I happen to have a list of her favorite things that our mothers made me memorize when I was six years old. Of course, at that time, Polly Pocket dolls were number one."
Finding at least a little humor in this, Kiba smiled. His first thought was that maybe Sasuke didn't always have a stick up his arse. Then, looking at the loving yet disinterested expression on Itachi's face, he mused that perhaps a stick up his arse was exactly what Sasuke had needed after all.
"We're just heading to meet up with Shikamaru and Gaara, though I bet Neji will be there too. I swear if he and Shika don't just shag already, the sexual tension will suffocate them both." Ino explained, looking vaguely uphill in the direction of Sakura's grave. Kiba knew that on this day Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji often came here and talked, after paying their respects to both dead girls. He suspected that Shikamaru rather resented being a part of this tradition, as he certainly didn't miss Sakura the way that Ino did, but both Sakura and Hinata had been Ino's best friends, and with them gone, Shikamaru was the only best friend she had left.
Wordlessly, he followed them up to Sakura's grave. Surely enough, there was Neji along with Gaara and Shikamaru.
The three of them looked thoroughly surprised to see the Uchiha brothers there, and Kiba wondered if maybe he wasn't the only one who had been skeptical of the rumor that they were in town.
More surprisingly to Kiba, was the sudden and urgent hug that Shikamaru pulled Sasuke into. It was purely platonic, but held such emotion and friendship that it seemed like more than that. Kiba wondered if maybe Shikamaru was more of a brother to Sasuke than Itachi was – since the elder Uchiha was clearly much more than that.
Kiba didn't seem to be the only person who hadn't expected such affection out of their usually quietly strategic friend. So imagine the horror when Shikamaru separated from Sasuke and gave Itachi an equally bone-crushing embrace.
"Shika?" Sasuke asked softly, when Itachi deposited Shikamaru back into Sasuke's arms, clearly uncomfortable with human contact himself.
"I figured it out," Shikamaru said, it was almost a stage whisper. It was near silent, and yet they were all being so silent already that they could hear him. "I know who did it. I know everything. I understand everything. I'm so sorry..."
He was crying now, and Kiba decided that perhaps Shikamaru was literally having this epiphany at this very moment, because the next thing that the genius did was kiss Neji firmly on the lips, and then his hug was for Gaara – who looked (if possible) even more disoriented than Itachi.
"Hinata never really told you who the killer was, did she?" Shikamaru demanded of his red-headed friend. "She told you it was Sasuke, because she didn't want to marry him... that's why … Oh god, but it wasn't Sasuke! It was never Sasuke, you've got to understand!"
And then he was latched on to Kiba. Who didn't really feel uncomfortable with the hug as much as he felt uncomfortable with the fact that Shikamaru – who was usually completely calm and collected – was having an absolute break down about events that had long-sense been set aside.
It was at this moment that Naruto and Sai made an unexpected appearance, eyes widening at the sight of Itachi and Sasuke – who Naruto glomped in a way that was no less enthusiastic, but much more in character than Shikamaru. He gave Ino a half-hug and a kiss on the cheek, before warmly accepting the hug that he was randomly receiving from Shikamaru.
"You alright there?" Naruto asked, patting Shikamaru's back.
"He just solved the case," Neji explained, still looking dazed from that kiss. It had been so long that it actually took Naruto a second to realize what Neji was talking about.
"Our case?" Naruto blurted incredulously, passing Shikamaru off to a clearly opposed and reluctant Sai.
Kiba hadn't realized before then that in truth, Naruto and Shikamaru were the only friends they all had in common.
Sai was frowning at Shikamaru, even as he stopped crying and took a deep breath.
"So," Ino asked, raising a daring eyebrow, "Who did it?"
They had almost forgotten she was there. It had been a moment that was just between them, the suspects of this case, the men who had lived the last eight years with Sakura Haruno's death hanging over them. Always to protect each other, whether they were closer to one person in their group or not, because they knew in their hearts that none of them did it – but until then, almost none of them had known who did.
And Shikamaru smiled, and he embraced Ino gently, and kissed her hair. And then, he looked her directly in the eyes, and answered her question.
A/N: Duh Duh Duuuuuuhhhhhhh!
So now you know who the killer is. Before you ask – yes the murderer for Sakura and Hinata are the same person.
Next chapter is the last! I'll try not to take too long with it, but I can't make any promises because I literally have no internet access on any computer in my house anymore.
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I LOVE YOU ALL FOR READING!