AN: Greetings readers! It been too long! Too long! I had wanted to update in March but I couldn't grasp an ounce of free time and I didn't want to post something short just for the sake of updating. This chapter is extra-long to make up for my absence here on FFnet. I hope I've captured enough in this chapter to keep you coming back for more.

The sequel to "Closer" is in the works as we speak and will be uploaded the next time I post a chapter for this fic. I was sooooo happy after reading the last Manga chapter. I wanted to give Sasuke a high five (in his face of course) for his decision. And it's APRIL so the Road to Ninja Naruto movie should be subbed soon! I'm on the lookout for that as well.

Thanks for your ungodly patience with me. Remember to drop a review at the end of this chapter. Kisses!

Chapter 4

Once upon a time we fell apart…

She was numb to everything that had to do with the memorial and funeral services for her mother. It all went by in a haze. She was so tired, so tired of shaking hands of having people express their sympathies.

She's in a better place now…I'm sorry for your loss…she had heard those phrases so much that they lost all meaning to her now. Every time someone would say it she wanted to scream at them to shut up! Her dad was the one who guided her through everything. The services and the burial. She had spent so much time indoors, the cool winter breeze felt foreign to her skin for a moment.

She stared into the dark pit of the empty grave. Various family members had all pitched in and they managed to buy a nice casket and plot. It had to been closed lid services because of the damage to her mother's body. But Ino remembered…she remembered her getting buried in fierily wood and cinder. She would close her eyes and see the panicked look on her mother's face…the resignation to her fate. So she didn't sleep much. Often she would curl up in the worn blue reading chair in the living room next to the bay window. It had been her mother's favorite place in the whole house.

Some of her friends had come for support, Sakura, Shikamaru, Choji and their families. Sakura had coached her to eat a few bites of food but it had all tasted like dust. Finally, after three days of it, it all ended and she and her dad were left alone in a quiet house. He had tried to talk and be there for her, but her mother's death was just too big of a blow to get over and they spent most of their mourning in their own rooms. Lying in bed, Ino felt tears sting her eyes. She could hear her dad shuffle across the hall, in the guest bedroom because it was just too much to go into his own bedroom.

It was just too quiet and she threw off her blankets and dressed in muted colors, jeans and a long sleeved sweater, not even bothering to tie her hair up. She slipped out of the house unnoticed by her father and took a walk down her quiet suburban street. It was late, almost midnight but the bus services were still working and she took one to the far side of the city where the River Senji sparkled under the lights of the new condos established just last week. She didn't go across the river to them because that land would make her remember that night. The night she ran for her life.

Ino sighed and sat on a bench next to the river front. A steady line of tall lamp lights illuminated the walkway. Grand Senji Bridge stretched across the vibrant river and few cars passed over. But she didn't pay much attention to them either. Her eyes wondered to the river, to the lights reflecting off the river and she just stared. Stared at nothing, felt nothing. Even the icy night didn't bother her, she was numbly mesmerized by nothing but it felt good. To be blank after an emotional week was a blessed relief.

Her phone rang and she reached into her jacket pocket to answer. "Yes?" She sounded as empty as she felt.

"Ino? Are you okay? Where are you?" It was Sasuke and she let her phone slip from her ear a tad to get away from his worried tone.

"I'm not home. Call back later." She mumbled before letting her phone drop to her lap, not bothering to press the 'end' button. She closed her eyes, just for a second but her eyelids felt so heavy, they didn't want to open. She sighed, a delicious breath that emptied her lungs. She thought about nothing, only focused on her breathing, falling deeper and deeper in the embrace of oblivion. That was, until someone jostled her awake and brought her back from the dark into a reality she didn't want to face. Her eyes were slitted, barely seeing dark eyes staring into hers.

"Itachi?" She sounded breathless.

"Come on Ino. Come with me." His arms slipped around her waist and she tried to shrink away from him. She didn't want to leave this place and go back home. Home to a broken father and an empty reading chair. It was too suffocating to be there, her mother was everywhere she looked. In the full dishwasher, the unwashed pile of laundry in the bathroom, the bottle of homemade strawberry lemonade in the refrigerator. In the decorations, the pictures of the family scattered throughout that hollow house. Gods, even the smell, she could actually smell her mother's perfume haunt her at every turn.

But she was too weak to fight him. Too exhausted to tell him these things. He squatted in front of her and arranged her arms around his neck before lifting her onto his back. His arms hooked under her thighs, behind her knees, firmly holding her against him. Her nose was filled with the scent of his dark hair. Some kind of spicy scent and male, the way Itachi always smelled like. He was warm too. She felt his strength in his muscles as he walked with her.

"How did you find me?" She asked drearily.

"Sasuke was worried, so he asked someone to activate the GPS in your phone." Itachi's back vibrated. "It gave us a general location."

She nestled her cold nose deeper into his neck not feeling up to the task of being angry that her privacy was invaded. "Is Sasuke here too then?"

She felt his shoulders stiffen and he cleared his throat before answering. "Yes, but I found you first. We'll wait for him by the car."

Ino made some kind of sound in understanding, her chin now resting on his shoulder. "I don't want to go back home."

"But your dad is there."

Ino closed her eyes, feeling guilty about not thinking about him. He was all she had now. "I don't know how he can stand it there. It feels so…empty." Her voice cracked and new tears sprang into her eyes. "I never thought about how much she was a part of that place and now I see her everywhere."

"I'm sorry Ino." Itachi murmured with tight emotion in his usually calm and collected voice.

She closed her eyes to stem the steady flow of tears and buried her face in his neck and hair again. The remaining walk back to the car was in silence. Sasuke was there when they arrived. When he saw them, Ino saw the flash of jealously in his eyes and around his tight mouth. He was about to say something but Itachi spoke first.

"She's cold. Let's get her into the car." And he lowered her to the ground while Sasuke shrugged out of his dark cashmere coat. He draped it over her shoulders and placed her in the back seat with him. He rubbed her arms furiously to create friction and warm her before taking her hands into his and blowing his hot breath into her palms. Itachi was in the driver's seat and cranked up the heater full blast.

"Foolish woman." Sasuke muttered, embracing her gently, his warm mouth next to her ear. "You always make me worry." Ino sighed and closed her eyes as she wrapped her arms around his waist, snuggling into his comforting body heat. She didn't know she had been shivering until now.

"I don't want to go home." She whispered wearily. "Tell my Daddy for me Sasuke." She sleepily said. "Tell him I'm sorry."

Sasuke leaned back in the seat to recline her. His heartbeat lulled her into a dreamless slumber.

XOXO

Sasuke and Itachi sat side by side in a hotel suite two hours away from Leaf staring at Ino's innocent looking phone. Sasuke slid it to Itachi but his brother slid it back.

"She asked you to do it." He said.

Sasuke pushed it back. "You're better at talking to people." He argued.

Itachi flicked it back. "She's not my girlfriend." He defended.

They both were blanching at the thought of calling Ino's father.

Sasuke scowled. "'Yeah…uh Mr. Yamanaka, your daughter is here with me and my brother in a hotel room and doesn't want to go home.' Nice first impression of us don't you think?" He snapped.

Itachi smirked. "You sound like you know what to say. What? Worried?"

Sasuke stood up. "Of course!" He bristled hotly but then looked guiltily over his shoulder to make sure he didn't wake up Ino sleeping in the huge four poster king size bed. He lowered his voice. "He works for Torture-Interrogation! Or have you forgotten?"

Itachi was looking too smug for his liking. "Yes, I remember. But Sasuke, he'll be worried for her." His expression turned serious. "You've been dating for a year now. Were you two planning to keep your relationship a secret forever?"

Sasuke gave an exasperated groan and sat back down at the table. "Of course not. I was planning on telling Mother and Father about her. Ino was thinking of a good way to introduce me to her parents but then…the accident." His insides turned cold, remembering that fateful day when Ino's world went up in flames. "I don't know if it's a good idea right now. Her father must be in a similar state."

Itachi leaned back, his hair falling into his almond shaped eyes. "He'll be worse when he discovers his only child gone as well. Spare the man some grief Sasuke and call him. Tell him she's okay."

Sasuke stared at the phone, before summoning his courage and sliding it open to the Contacts menu. He scrolled down until he saw "DADDY" in her list. His thumb hovered over the talk button before he pushed it. He took a deep calming breath and closed his eyes, listening to it ring and ring. He thought that he would get off lucky and just have to leave a voice message, but the line clicked alive.

"Ino? Baby, where are you?" The voice was strained and raspy and Sasuke was beginning to feel guilty.

Sasuke sent a look to his brother but he was expressionless, watching him closely. He cleared his throat. "Hello , this is Sasuke Uchiha." He mentally winced, not liking how forced he sounded.

There was a tense silence at first. "Sasuke Uchiha? Why do you have my daughter's phone? Is something wrong? Is she alright? Where are you?" He was bombarded with the intensity in Ino's father's voice.

"No, no she's fine!" Sasuke insisted, running a hand through his hair and ignoring Itachi's amused smirk. "She's with me. My brother and I are with her." He assured before cursing silently. This was not going very well at all!

"Your brother? Who is that? Where is my Ino, boy!"

"My brother, Itachi Uchiha." Sasuke said quickly, looking to his brother and saw that he was no longer looking amused. If anything, he paled at little after Sasuke mentioned his name. "Look, uh-er Sir, we found her at Senju River Boardwalk. She said she needed to get away from the house and- uh -doesn't want to go back. We tried to persuade her but—" Sasuke raised his brow in shock when he heard the older man chuckle on the other end of the phone.

"Calm down, you're talking too fast." Sasuke flushed on his end and began avoiding Itachi's questioning look. "I know who you are. I was just pulling your leg."

Sasuke's jaw ticked briefly in annoyance but he pushed that feeling away. "Oh. You know who I am? Did Ino tell you about…us?"

He heard Ino's dad shift on the other end. "No, but when it comes to my daughter, I have eyes everywhere."

Sasuke's anxiety had waned at his amused tone, but then increased seconds later. Just how much did he know? What did he know? "I see. Does she know you know?"

"No, she doesn't. Let's keep this between us right now okay?" He sighed heavily. "How is she doing? This week has been hard on her. On us both. I understand she needed to get away."

Sasuke heard the same subdued mono tone in Ino's father. He looked over to the sleeping blond. He must be just as exhausted. "She's sleeping right now." He murmured. He could almost feel the tension leave out of the other man over the phone because his voice softened considerably.

"That's good. She's hasn't slept for days. Make sure she gets as much sleep as she can and make her eat something. Maybe being with you two will help her progress through this difficult time."

Sasuke nodded. "I'll watch over her." He promised, meaning it with everything he had. "I'll have her call you as soon as she gets up."

"Please. Good night Uchiha." And the line went dead. Sasuke gave a long sigh and slid her phone closed. That wasn't so bad. Her Dad seemed like a down to earth kind of guy and he could tell he cared for his daughter very much.

"We good?" Itachi asked and Sasuke nodded. Itachi relaxed, sliding deeper into his chair and crossed his ankle over his knee. He looked like he was thinking hard about something. Sasuke noticed him doing that a lot these days.

"Are you going to stay here?" He looked over the bed. "I'm tired."

Itachi followed his gaze, avidly watching Ino sleep. "I'll head back home. Make sure you keep in contact with me though."

Sasuke felt his temper flare to life, seeing that look but he clenched his fist and suppressed it. It would do him no good to confront his brother about it. Especially at a time like this. Still, he couldn't help the possessive feeling that crept up every time he saw that look. He didn't overly worry about other guys and Ino because they weren't even considered competition. He was Sasuke Uchiha and no one compared. No one except Itachi.

Sasuke silent watched him leave, deciding that he wasn't going to call him. He could deal with his grieving girlfriend on his own. He didn't need Itachi to help. He slipped out of his fitted sports jacket and draped it over his coat on the back of a chair and unbuttoned his white button up shirt, pulling it from his pants until he felt comfortable. He flipped off the lights as he made his way to the bed. She sensed him and turned to him. He tucked her head under his chin and stroked her hair soothingly, pulling her as closed as he could.

"I miss her Sasuke. Why did she have to die?" She mumbled, her fingers digging into his shirt. He had no answer to give her and that made him feel like he had failed her.

XOXO

3 Months Later

Sakura didn't know what her mother was up too. She was uneasy the whole trip. It had been a normal weekend morning until a little after breakfast, her mother told her to dress in something pretty and that they were going out. Sakura had to suppress a pout. She was still treating her like a little kid telling her to dress like she was five and clueless.

"Why?"

Her mother seemed too involved in her own little world to scold her for asking why. She just smiled that maddening secretive smile and fluttered her hand to the stairs. Sakura knew it was useless to ask again and moodily snapped her book closed, hauling herself from the kitchen stool up to her room. She threw her tantrum up there, pulling her clothes from the closet and slamming her drawers in annoyance. She made herself presentable in a knee length skirt of soft pink and a simple white button up shirt with a cashmere cardigan of cream. She ran a brush through her hair and pushed on a headband with a glittering jeweled rose on its side. Her mother approved of her outfit and whisked her away into their dark sedan. It was a cloudy day with misty rain. Her mother was humming lightly to the classical music, that infuriation smile still on her face.

They drove through the city and then the scenery changed to meadows and meadows of dry grass and leafless trees. Sakura saw the forest that surrounded Leaf Capitol thicken. It was about fifteen minutes into the drive that huge ancestral manors began popping up in the distance. Sakura grew uneasy for some reason.

"Mother, where are we going?" Sakura turned and Sami glanced briefly at her before turning her attention back to the winding roads.

"We're having tea with some business acquaintances, honey." She finally said, tuning onto a quiet street where tall, exquisite cypress trees lined the private driveway. An old Japanese feudal style mansion blossomed the further up the hill they traveled and Sakura sat up straight, her eyes taking in the foreboding iron gates that halted them. A lone guard came from his post next to the gate, dressed in a black suit and a red tie.

"Name?"

"Haruno. Sami Haruno."

He looked down at the clipboard in his hands and nodded. He pulled his card key from his pocket and passed it over the gate scanner. It opened without a creak and they drove in. It felt like ice had settled in the bottom of her stomach when she heard the gate shut behind them and the huge mansion got bigger and bigger as they made their way up the gravel path. She resisted twisting her hands in her skirt. She didn't want her mom to know how nervous she was.

Two well-dressed servants opened their doors for them when their sedan stopped and her mother passed off her keys, taking Sakura firmly by the arm. Each step up the dust free stairs rang loudly in her ears. Sakura closed her eyes to hide a wince when her mother rang the doorbell. An older housekeeper with bone while hair and emotionless eyes opened it for them and quietly took their bags and jackets before escorting them into the richly decorated settee room off to the side.

This place is huge, Sakura thought, trying not to gape at the lavish elegance that invaded her sight. Bold colors of black and red were offset by the soft cream drapes and houseplants.

"Madame Uchiha will be here shortly. I'll have tea sent in." The housekeeper showed them the couch.

"Thank you." Her mother murmured. Sakura was much slower to take a seat.

"D-did she say…Uchiha?" Sakura turned to her mother in disbelief. Sami was leaning back, looking like she was right at home. "Why are we here?"

Sami flashed a smile. "Madam Uchiha and I met when I was leaving Uchiha headquarters. We got to talking and I might have mentioned that my daughter knew her son Sasuke from school and before I knew it, she had invited me for tea. Who was I to say no to such an influential woman?"

Sakura doubted her mother's story very much. She probably weaseled this meeting out of the woman somehow. "But I don't know Sasuke Uchiha. We never spoke, not even once." Sakura hissed, embarrassed by her mother's lie. Now what was she to do? Madam Uchiha might ask her questions and she would have to make something up. Sakura hated lying.

Sami was about to say something but they heard the clipped sound of high-heels just outside the room. Both stood when Madame Uchiha entered. Sakura dropped into a small curtsy, lowering her eyes respectively. Sakura's nervousness double.

Madam Uchiha was very beautiful, Sakura could practically feel her elegance and prestige smother her. She looks like Sasuke, Sakura thought a little dreamily, lifting her eyes to the older woman. Her long black hair was pulled neatly in cherry wood hair pins, curled at the ends. Her make-up was flawless, looking like it was airbrushed on and she had on a well-fitting dress of deep ruby red with matching gold jewelry.

"Good morning. Please, have a seat." Her voice was regally cheerful. Sakura obediently did as she was asked. Her cold trepidation wouldn't be leaving her any time soon.

XOXO

Muffled voices could be heard up stairs and considering how huge and grand this mansion was, Sami could tell it was a pretty intense argument. Madame Uchiha tried to raise her voice to cover it, but they could still hear. Something was telling Sami to find out who was quarreling and she excused herself to use the restroom. She gave a patient smile to Sakura who had paled at the idea of being alone with Madam Uchiha but Sami knew her daughter could handle herself.

The bathroom was just off to the side, but Sami had sneaked behind the servants and housekeeper and went upstairs, following the heated voices. She stopped in front of a dark and heavy office door and took a few fugitive looks around her before pressing her ear to the cold wood.

"I don't know what the hell changed your mind about studying in Mist. You've talked about following in Itachi's footsteps since you could talk!" She recognized Fugaku Uchiha's domineering timber.

"I know that father, but everyone is entitled to a change of mind time to time. I want to stay here in Fire Country now. I don't see what the problem is. Fire University is just as prestigious as Mist University. I can get the same kind of degree—!"

"It's not the same thing!" Fugaku roared, cutting off the previous voice. "You better think twice about this Sasuke! What the hell is keeping you here? Is that more important than our Uchiha Empire?"

"I didn't say—"

"You don't have to say it! I can read it in your face! Focus on your priorities as an Uchiha heir. As the son I raised you to be! Or forever be a disappointment!"

Sami had enough time to duck behind the wall before the heavy office door opened and a tall young man stalked out, his jaw tight and black eyes flashing angrily. From what she heard, Sasuke was always trying to get on his father's good side. How could they be arguing? What were they arguing about? Sasuke wanted to go to a different school? Something was keeping him here? Sami frowned, pausing at the entrance of the settee room. Could it…no. She shook that thought from her head. No, it wasn't that. But…she had to make sure.

After, Madam Uchiha ended their tea; which was fine with Sami. She could tell that Sakura was mad at her when they got home but she would deal with that later. She had to investigate something.

XOXO

Sasuke's birthday was just around the corner and Ino was in a men's department store looking for a gift.

"Not like he needs clothes anyways. I bet his wardrobe is five times bigger than mine." She muttered, running her fingers through a display of hanging silk ties that cost more than her dad's monthly mortgage payments. "He better appreciate the thought at least." She yanked a black one with a small little red flame at the bottom and trudged to the counter to buy it. The sales lady looked down at it and gave a tight smile.

"It this all?" She asked in a pickled voice. Ino scowled at the impudence in her tone.

"Yes. It's a gift."

"You have something to go with it I assume? I can show you other items that are on clearance."

Ino snatched her bag with the tie in. "No thank you." She pulled the black silk from it and caressed the fabric with her fingers. "I won't be in it for long." She purred. The sales clerk blinked a few times before Ino's meaning fully set in and a blush began to rise. "Have a nice day." She cooed and left the store with a cocky swagger.

The day was warm, summer burning hotly in July. She wore a short white skirt and a baby blue tank top with frilly flip flops. The busy streets of Leaf didn't take away from her slow carefree stroll. "Okay, present bought. Something to check off my to-do list today." She said to herself. Planning her boyfriends' birthday was difficult, but planning anything for Sasuke Uchiha was a challenge. Luckily Itachi was always willing to help out. She didn't know what she would do without him. He ordered the cake, booked the hotel suite, directed her to this men's department store and was getting a list of Sasuke's friends together for her. She already knew most of them.

Naruto, Hinata, Kiba and a quiet young man named Juugo were all enrolled in Guy-sensei's dojo. She had been star struck when she met them all. She had seen their pictures in magazines, in movies and press interviews but she never thought she would meet them all in person. The first thing she did was hound Naruto into giving her an autograph, voicing her voicemail greeting for her cell phone and took a bajillion picture with him. He laughed at it all, but did as she asked without complaint and told her some interesting stories of he and Sasuke. Overall, the really got along, kindred spirits.

She had to work a little harder to get Hinata to warm up to her. The Hyuga Heiress was very shy but once she got her to open up, they became locker buddies. She, Hinata and Tenten went out when they both had the time. But Hinata was a public figure and she was dating Naruto Uzumaki so her time spent hanging out was limited and rare.

Kiba was the easiest to befriend. He was flirty and cocky and got on Sasuke's nerves. More than one time, their spars turned into more with Sasuke taking out his annoyance on the Red Bran heir. But boys were so weird. They would go all out and Sasuke would kick his ass and Kiba would smile his annoying wolfish smile and they would become friends again. Girls couldn't do that. Ino couldn't do that. She could hold a grudge for a long time.

Shikamaru and Choji got along with everyone, not ones to be intimidated by wealth and popularity. They didn't really get into taijutsu practice, trying Guy-sensei's youthful spirit. But when they did, if was half-hearted at best. Ino knew the only reason they joined the class was to stop her from pestering them about it and to get out of chores. They were the only children her dad's friends had so a lot of their parents' attention was on them.

Her phone rang and put her inner musings to an end. She dug into her purse to get it, a smile blossoming over her face when she read who it was.

"Yeees?"

"Where are you?" Sasuke asked. Ino looked around her.

"Main and Primrose in Leaf. Why?"

"I'm not far. Wait for me." He gruffed and hung up. Ino stared down at her phone. Sasuke didn't sound very happy considering his birthday was only two days away. She stuffed the small bag with the tie in it, into her purse and found a bench that looked clean enough to sit on, in the shade of a pizzeria. She had to wait a short ten minutes before she saw him in the distance, making his way towards her. His head was down, hidden by a black baseball cap and his hands were stuffed in his light blue distressed designer jeans to avoid detection.

When he came close, he pulled her into a deep hug before she could say anything. Ino's lighthearted mood turned to worry in an instant and she hugged him back, knowing that he didn't want her to ask him questions just now. Just hold her for a moment. There were moments like these when all his walls were down and he trusted her enough to let her in. She wondered what was going on with him. He pulled away and she stopped him from moving to far from her by cradling his face and kissing him gently. It was a soft, simple thing that poured all her heart into him, telling him that she loved him and would be there no matter what. Things between them often passed that way. Words could only express so much.

She felt him relax into it. They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment before she smiled. "Come with me to a movie."

His lips quirked into a smirk and he sighed out loud. "I'm not watching Naruto's latest teen drama flick."

Ino rolled her eyes. "I already saw it." She singed and entwined her fingers into his. "No, I want to see Rotu's Circus."

Sasuke stopped, looking at her in disbelief. "That's a cartoon!"

Ino nodded with a giggle. "I know. Let's go before all the good seats are taken!" She said, tugging him behind her.

"We are not going to see that." Sasuke protested.

"Yes we are."

"No we are not."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yeeeessss!"

XOXO

Shisui Uchiha left the apartment of one Anko Mitarashi with a hop and skip in his step, a whistle playing a joyful tune on his lips. It was three in the morning so the streets were virtually empty. It was a warm night, and his shirt was unbuttoned at the throat to cool him off.

Anko's little apartment was on the rough side of Leaf but he held no fear as he walked to his cherry red convertible parked just off to the side with an expired meter. People around here knew not to mess with anyone associated with Anko and they knew who he was. No one messed with an Uchiha.

He pulled his keys from his pocket and was about to beep open his car when headlights blinded him. Squinting, he raised his hand to shade his eyes and tell off the asshole, but when he saw the familiar profile of his family lawyer, Kakuzu Hashi in the lights, he rolled his eyes.

"Your father wants to talk with you." Kakuzu said in his deep raspy voice. He had been the family lawyer for his father for as far as Shisui could remember. He looked younger than his years. His father and Kakazu had known each other since childhood. He never liked him.

"Tell him I'll talk to him at home." Shisui waved him off with his fingers.

Kakazu's phone rang and Shisui slid into his plush leather seat. He pressed the ignition button but once again Kakazu stopped him. This time by holding his phone to him. "Your father."

Shisui hesitated before sighing and answering. "Yes?"

"You will speak to me now, or your pretty little woman with suffer the consequences." Madara's voice was deadly serious.

"Really father? Threatening helpless women?" He tried to sound passive, but his jaw was clenching in anger. He looked up to the red brick five story apartment building he had just left, instantly finding Anko's window at the corner. Her room was dark and he imagined her snuggled under her cheetah print comforter, naked and sated. Just as he left her. His insides burned hot with protectiveness.

He hung up and slammed his door shut tossing his keys to him. He caught them easily with his massive hands, not breaking his composure. "Make sure it gets home safely." He told Kakazu before passing him. The driver to his father's luxury black SUV opened the left side of the door and Shisui slipped in. Madara was dressed in a pinstriped suit of coal and black. His long mane of black hair poured perfectly down his back. The only light in the back seat was the bright glow of his business tablet.

"Glad you decided to join me." Madara said, not looking up.

Like he had much of a choice. "What couldn't wait until I got home?"

Madara held up his tablet and Shisui took it from him with a frown. It was a picture of a young woman around his age with long dark violet hair and chocolate brown eyes. "Yugao Uzuki? Who is she?"

"The daughter of Uzuki Properties and Real Estate. If we play our cards right, she will become my future daughter-in-law." Madara leveled eyes with him. "Your wife."

Shisui snorted and tossed the tablet on the seat between them. "This again? Why don't you hound Obito about this? He's the eldest."

"Obito has chosen a bride already. Didn't you know?"

Shisui was surprised. "He did? Who?" He and Obito were close brothers. There was no way he would tell their father first.

"Rin Nohara, the daughter of Diaskue Nohara. Nohara Medical Supplies. Most hospitals in East Leaf and the surrounding providences buy from them. He made a wise choice."

Once he heard Rin's name Shisui wasn't so surprised. Of course he knew Rin. Obito had been head over heels in love with her since meeting her in high school. Back then, she had a massive crush on Obito's best friend Kakashi Hatake but over time, Obit managed to woo her. He didn't know they were that serious though. "He loves her. It's no surprise to me."

"So you knew? He just brought her home the other day and declared that the wedding is in five months. Why didn't you tell me about her?" He snatched the tab. "Making me look like a fool in front of her, I bet he got a good laugh at that. Your mother is in a frenzy these days in preparation for their nuptials." He muttered. Shisui wasn't home much these days so he didn't notice.

"We have a meeting set up for you to meet Miss Uzuki for Sunday at two in the afternoon. Clear your mindless activities for that day to meet her."

Shisui shook his head and leaned back in the seat. "I already told you that I'm not going to marry anyone you pick."

Madara was silent for a moment before he softly replied. "Mmm, you did. But that was before I found Miss Mitarashi." Shisui stiffened and turned to his father. Madara was staring hard at him. "You kept her hidden well son, but you should know by now that I find out everything."

Shisui glared at him. "You keep her out of this."

Madara smirked. "It's you who will decided whether I keep her out of this or not. She has no parents, no real ties to anyone so no one will miss her if she…just disappears one day?"

Shisui was about to grab his father's shirt, but Madara beat him to it and grabbed his by the throat of his button up shirt and squeezed. "If you hurt her in any way…"

"I don't have to hurt her to get my point across Shisui. There are so many other ways to get what I want from you. You will meet and you will propose and you will marry the young woman who will benefit our Uchiha Empire got it? Do this, and I won't lay a hand on your precious Anko."

They held gazes before Shisui had to look away. It was like looking into the eyes of a snake. Madara let him go and straightened his clothes. "Making a foolish fuss over a woman, really Shisui. It's not like I asked you to stop seeing her all together. Despite our differences and priorities, I like to see me sons happy. If she makes you happy then keep the Mitarashi girl as a mistress if you want."

Mistress, Shisui thought, looking out the window if the car. His father didn't know about Anko's rules. If he was with her, he could only be with her. There could be no girls on the side. They had made such progress tonight, he thought sadly. Anko never let him come to her house before. They always met up at a hotel, or one of his penthouses.

Now everything we've worked for will fall apart, he thought, glaring at his father's refection in his window. But he didn't want anything to happen to her either. His father wasn't one to warn him with empty threats. But to marry? He never wanted to marry anyone. Why couldn't he be happy with just Obito and Rin? Why didn't he need him to get married too?

They drove in silence the rest of the way to their manor. That silence stretched as they entered the house. His mother had gone to bed long ago and hot tea was waiting for Madara as soon as the housekeeper greeted him. Shisui trudged up the stairs to his bedroom "Remember Shisui, Sunday at two. Got it?" He looked down at his father, his lips in a thin line. Madara was waiting for a reply and Shisui gave a curt nod. He had won, he thought closing the door to his expansive room quietly. His father had won finally. He had found his one weakness.

Anko…

XOXO

Everything was set up. She checked and doubled check all her plans before setting them in motion. Ino Yamanaka's relationship with Sasuke Uchiha would be broken, Sami thought.

She was seated outside Domi Hotel in a dark car with tinted windows just waiting for two people to show up. They both arrived in Itachi's car not to long after she had parked.

"There they are. Make it quick. You got the stuff?" She turned to a young man in her passenger seat dressed as a Domi Hotel bellboy in maroon and gold.

"Got it." He held up the little eye drop bottle filled with clear liquid. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB. "Are you sure that the others won't be coming? I don't want to be interrupted."

"I redirected them to Hiro Hotel and Spa yesterday. Ino and Itachi don't know about it so it will only be them in that room." She had gotten hold of Sakura's phone and found Ino's number the day before. It had taken a day to get a duplicate SIM card made, but once she did, it was easy to send a fake mass text to the people invited. In it she had changed Sasuke's surprise party from Domi to Hiro Hotel. To top it off, she had sent a 'whoopsi' text to Sasuke from Ino to ignite his jealously. Every time he could call or text Ino's phone, it would call or text her extra phone as well. She could see that he was getting angrier and angrier. She wanted so bad to see the fireworks.

Sami leveled her gaze to the man seated next to her. Mizuki. He didn't volunteer his last name but her assistant assured her that he would get the job done with the right kind of money. She already wired half of it to him discreetly.

"Alright. This should be quick." Sami nodded, her heart beginning to pound hard in her chest. She shouldn't have to do this, she thought a bit sourly. When she first found out about Sasuke and Ino's relationship a year ago, she assumed that Sasuke would grow tired of her by now. Rich, good looking young men like him didn't stay in a relationship very long. So she just had to wait.

She had enrolled Sakura into Leaf Academy in the hopes that her pretty daughter would catch his eye, but she had overestimated her daughter. She had a year and the girl didn't even talk to him! How disappointing. Still, that minor step back wouldn't detour her plans but she was short on time. The kids would be starting collage next month. If she wanted any chance of getting Sasuke as a son-in-law, she had to do something now.

Sasuke would break things off with Ino after this, and then when Sakura matured and started attending medical school, she would turn the pressure back up. But Sasuke needed to cleanse the Yamanaka girl from his life and she was going to help him do it. He needed to upgrade anyways…what could Ino Yamanaka give him that Sakura couldn't? Fugaku Uchiha would never approve of her anyways, not matter what Sasuke or Itachi said. As far as she saw it, she was doing them both a favor. Saving Sasuke from his father's disappointment and saving Ino from that kind of rejection.

XOXO

"Here." The weight in Ino's arms lessened as Itachi took the top two boxes of the four she was carrying from her. She flashed him a smile. They were in the parking garage, hauling things up to the room. Her phone rang and she sat her boxes down. Itachi followed suit, hitting the garage elevator button. Ino frowned at the name flashing on her caller id and showed it to Itachi.

"He keeps calling!" She groaned, letting the call go to voicemail. She had been avoiding his calls in order to set up the surprise party, but her boyfriend was determined and persistent. Itachi's phone rang next.

"Ahh, my little brother." He sighed and pressed his end button. "We only have a little while before he does something drastic to find us."

"Like activate my phone's GPS?" Ino commented dryly.

Itachi smiled softly. "It was only that one time. Get over it." He reached out and Ino shifted her eyes to watch his hand. He leaned in and pulled something from her hair. "A leaf."

The bell to the elevator rang and Ino flashed him a quick smile. "Thanks. Ready to get back to it?"

Itachi picked up his boxes. "Ready."

Once they reached the very top of Domi Hotel they headed to the very end, to the corner suit that she had booked for the party. Itachi opened the door for her with his card key and Ino slid by him.

"Thank you. Put them over here." She sat down her boxes on the dark mahogany table in the hotel suite.

"You got a lot of party favors." Itachi commented, placing his boxes besides hers. There was a knock at the door, momentarily pulling her from her party planning thoughts.

"Appetizers are here." She breathed, opening the door. A tall white haired man stood before her with a pleasant smile and a cart full of silver dishes.

"Where would you like me to put this?" He asked, rolling it into the suite.

She waved absently to the right. "Uh, over there by that chair." Ino said busily, opening one of the boxes full of decorations.

"Aww, you could have called and had us do that for you." The bellboy commented and Ino shook her head.

"I like doing things like this." She said, digging through the decorations to make sure she had everything. She didn't want to hike her ass back down the stairs if she forgot something. Itachi was right, they were short on time.

"Here you are." The bellboy poured them twin glasses of water and placed them on the table. "For your hard work. Try some. It's our new imported water. We like to know how our Domi patrons like it." He smiled, dropping a few cubes of ice into the crystal glasses with metal tongs. "So far, it's been pretty popular." He smiled. "July is a pretty hot month and I've noticed that you two have been up and down that elevator several times."

Ino gratefully took a glass and Itachi followed. They clinked in a toast. "To a happy birthday." Itachi said and Ino grinned.

"To a happy birthday."

They missed the growing cheshire grin on the bellhop as they drank.

XOXO

Something dark and uncontrollable was brewing deep inside of his heart. It all started when he got a text from Ino early in the afternoon.

Meet you at Domi Hotel soon.

It was a simple text and he replied.

What for?

Five minutes later he got a response. Sorry, wrong person.

He had blinked at it for a second, thinking that she was joking or something but every text he sent was blatantly ignored which was unusual because Ino was a motor mouth, even in text form, and she always got back to him. He stared at his phone for a while, willing her to call back or answer a text but it remained lifeless. It was only then that he realized that it was Sunday and Ino and Itachi had standing coffee dates on Sunday. From there, his thoughts began churning. His confusion turned to hesitant questioning, then to paranoid suspicion, then to full blown rage. They were meeting in a Hotel? His brother and his girlfriend? He didn't want to believe it, but both Ino and Itachi were not answering any of his texts or calls. He bolted from Uchiha Manor, madly weaving through traffic to get to Domi Hotel.

He had calmed down a bit on the way, but his insides were in knots. He circled the parking lot a few times in his small dark tinted SUV before he caught sight of Itachi's unmistakable sports car. Sasuke took a deep breath and waited a tense ten seconds before he followed. The winding path took him to the parking garage. He stopped a few rows down when he saw Itachi park. He could only see from their necks down, but they were all smiles. He tightened his grip on his leather steering wheel, his heart throbbing painfully.

He grabbed his phone and called Ino again watching her closely. She dug into her purse and pulled out her silver slide phone, looking at it before throwing her head back with a groan. She showed Itachi and he just frowned. He got her voicemail and hit his wheel angrily. Damn her! What the hell was going on? Itachi was the same, ending his call before he even got his voicemail. Sasuke was about to honk his horn to get their attention when completely froze, eyes widening when Itachi leaned in.

Was…was he…kissing her?! All his blood seemed to turn to slush and then it boiled. Red and hot. All he saw was them, all he saw was Ino flash his older brother a smile, eyes sparkling. Then they were gone, the elevator swallowing them slowly.

Someone honked behind him, making him jump. He peeled out of the parking garage, seeing nothing, feeling nothing. He didn't even know where he was going. How could have he missed this? How? Itachi asked him to trust him and he did. Ino asked him to trust her and he did. He trusted them like a fucking fool! Angry tears burned his eyes and he pulled into the nearest parking lot. He screamed, hit the wheel, and crushed his phone under his foot. How dare they do this to him! How dare they?!

He swiped his eyes hard, scraping his eyeballs in the process. He was not going to let this go! They thought they could treat him like this? They thought that they could lie to his face like this? They thought that he was just going to let this go? Fuck no he wasn't! And with that thought settling bitterly inside of him, he peeled from that parking lot in smoke back to Domi Hotel to confront them.

Sasuke anxiously tapped his foot in the elevator, watching the floor numbers light and dim as he ascended up Domi Hotel. Finally the doors opened and he stalked down the plush halls until he reached the suite.

Knowing how much influence was needed, he had to drop his family name to get a card key. As soon as the door opened, instantly he saw the trail of red rose petals greet him. Everything was bathed in candle light. He followed the petals through the elegant living room to the bedroom door.

Slowly, he opened it, eyes riveting to the heavily draped bed. A sheer net glistened in the flickering light and he walked forward. As his eyes swept the room, he saw Itachi's white button shirt draped over a chair. Sasuke reached for it, crumpling the crisp fabric in his shaking fingers. His ebony eyes wandered to the floor where he spotted black loafers and a pair of expensive silk dress pants. He reached out and pulled back the bed curtains, trying mentally to prepare himself for what he knew he was going to see.

For a moment, he just stared at them, both asleep, cuddled next to one another. Long black and blonde hair was tangled intimately together. He didn't have to pull back the blankets to know that they were naked. His mind roamed to one thought and then onto another like lightning, quickly bringing his seething rage back to a boiling point.

He knew it…he knew something had been going on with these two from the beginning. Their Sunday dates, their late night phone marathons. The looks they would exchange when they didn't think he was looking. Why did he ignore his instincts for so long? Things had been too perfect, he thought darkly. He should have known that low class women like Ino would do something like this. Didn't his father warn him? But Itachi…what did he ever do to him to earn this kind of betrayal? He idolized his brother, he loved him to the point of pain. That's what was making him hurt so much. Tears dripped down his cheeks. Itachi…why? He lightly touched the top of his brother's head, his hands wandering down to his neck. All he had to do was squeeze…

Itachi's eyes flew open and he caught Sasuke's wrist, surprising him with how sudden he woke up. Sasuke narrowed his eyes, refusing to move his hand. "Get up now." He didn't even recognize his own voice.

Itachi frowned, moaning and putting a hand to his head. "Sasuke? What are you doing here?" His words sounded slurred. He braced his arm behind him to sit up. His long black hair was undone, spilling over his shoulders. "What's going on?"

Sasuke took a step back to stop himself from hitting his brother. His hands were twitching to tear him to pieces. "Enough already. You're just making yourself look pathetic."

Itachi's eyes sharpened at his tone. "Sasuke…"

"I never thought we could be so close Itachi, sharing women and all. Should we have a few drinks and discuss what kind of position Ino likes the most? Who could make her scream louder?"

"Stop it." Itachi seemed to be coming out of his drowsiness. He glanced to his side, his face full of confusion. Or was it guilt? What kind of excuse was he planning on telling him? What kind of explanation was he willing to give? There was none! None! He launched himself at Itachi, his fist hitting bone and flesh and Itachi was knocked from the bed, tangled in the blankets. He was on top of him, bruising his knuckles and yelling the first things that came to him head. He didn't even know half of what he was saying and he could barely see Itachi defending himself through the blur of tears.

"Sasuke! Sasuke! Sasuke STOP!" Ino's screaming voice tore him from his spell and he turned his attention to her. He got to his feet.

"Stop? You want me to STOP?!" He screamed, pushing her against the wall. She was clutching her sheet protectively against her naked body, hair unbound and blue eyes wide with fear. "What the hell is wrong with you two?! Fucking my brother behind my back the whole time?"

She paled. "What?" She shook her head desperately. "Sasuke it's not what it looks like…we were…and then…" Tears spilled from her eyes and she grabbed the front of his shirt with a free hand. "I don't know what happened but we never…I would never! I love you! Itachi loves you! We would never do something like this! Please!" She begged.

Sasuke stared at her, searching her eyes before he began to laugh darkly. He ripped the sheet from body. He didn't even move his eyes from her face. "Try another one sweetheart." She tried to cover herself with her hands. He tipped his head back, looking down at her. "No need. We've both seen it all before." He glanced at Itachi, glaring at him from the floor. Sasuke was pleased that he had bloodied his lip. "Right Big Brother?"

"You need to calm down and think clearly." Itachi tried to reason but Sasuke ignored him, looking at Ino trembling before him, eyes wet and pained.

"You love me? Do you?" He purred, fingering a strand of gold hair. Ino didn't respond, but she didn't have to and he didn't care for her answer anyways. He was over this now. He was over her and over Itachi. And he was calm. He was eerily calm. She opened her mouth to speak but he silenced her with a look. "I don't need someone like you to love me."

She reared back like he had slapped her. "S-someone like me?"

Sasuke smirked darkly. "A whore's love is worthless anyways."

Behind him, Itachi stood and spun him by the shoulder. Sasuke saw stars and his whole face exploded in pain. He staggered back, bumping into a chair. Itachi stood before him, all thunder and anger, holding his blanket at the waist with one hand. He felt fear trickle down his spine for a split second before his own anger smothered it. He touched the corner of his mouth, finding blood. He chuckled, getting steadily to his feet. Ino was sobbing, but he couldn't see her because Itachi was standing in front of her like a fucking knight in shining armor.

"Leave now, before I do something I'll regret."

Sasuke smirked but said nothing as he left. He was never going to look back…he was over it. The hollowness in his chest was going to be a reminder of this day. They were nothing to him now. Nothing.