The stares aren't new.
He's lived his whole life under a microscope and he's more than used to this by now. As a child, admired and envied and observed for his legendary family, for his potential, for his name; looked upon with pity when that family was taken away, too-bad, so-sad, unwanted sympathetic stares; wistful gazes of giggling girls with too much free time on their hands. Suspicious glances or hateful glares. He's known them all, and lived with them.
Ironically it is a pair of seafoam green eyes that unsettles him.
He is walking through the market, as per usual, as is his custom since the war ended and he was welcomed back into Konoha a hero. The sun is setting and the gathering clouds threaten rain, and Sasuke loses himself to hours and quiet contemplation. Walking relaxes him. He doesn't even carry around his sword anymore, not when he's so relaxed.
And tired, if he's being honest with himself. He'd trained with Sakura earlier that day, showed her some rather complicated fire jutsu and then they'd beaten the crap out of each other. Sakura at 17 is nothing like Sakura at 12.
He never would have punched 12-year-old Sakura in the side like he'd done earlier that morning; now, breaking three of her ribs probably saved his life, the way she'd been coming at him. Sakura, these days, is not only strong as fucking hell, she's even smarter than she used to be and every day is a challenge.
It was fun.
And then out of nowhere, as he passes by a stand serving dango without so much as a second glance, he sees those eyes. Someone staring, but not in the way that he's used to. Not in admiration or free, in hero-worship or suspicion.
Almost like they're trying to figure him out.
Sasuke frowns. Just because he's used to being stared at doesn't mean it's not annoying. And when he passes by the owner of those frustrating green eyes, he feels them follow. Then footsteps behind him, and the pursuit is on.
He's not in the mood to stop and chat with some random villager. He's had a fun, challenging day and now it's his right to relax on his way back to his flat downtown. Chatting up a villager with a staring problem isn't how he fancies spending his evening, so when he knows he's been followed onto the main street, he stops abruptly and without turning around, mutters, "It's rude to stare."
It is common courtesy, he knows, for the offending party to immediately apologize and hurry away so as not to cause anymore discomfort. But the woman behind him with the prying green eyes neither apologizes nor leaves.
"It's rude to mutter to an elder," she retorts, and the voice is sharp and grating. He feels like he's heard it before, maybe, but can't place it. So with all the aggravation in the world, he turns around.
The woman behind him is very tall and very thin, perhaps too thin. There are premature wrinkles on her face that suggest she's perhaps younger than she looks, but difficult times have aged her considerably. Her hair is blonde and sleek, and she's dressed conservatively, like a housewife. It's her eyes, though, that place her.
"You're Uchiha Sasuke," the woman says, almost needlessly. The enormous fan on the back of his shirt gives him away, and he knows he's not the type to be easily forgotten, especially in a village like Konoha. "You might not remember me. I'm Haruno Mebuki."
Sakura's mother, Sasuke realizes, and then he tries to soften his glare; it is impolite of her to stare, but it's impolite of him to harbor such animosity towards the parent of one of his trusted teammates. Even if she's the one who's in the wrong.
Mebuki smirks, and he knows he's seen that smirk before, on her daughter's face. She puts a hand on her hip – another mannerism of Sakura's – and holds out her shopping bag expectantly.
"Well, come on," she says, as if they'd had a standing engagement elsewhere. "Dinner's in an hour, get this bag. Good heavens, boy, I know your mother raised you to have some manners."
Sasuke stiffens at the mention of his mother. Instantly he is angry, and he prepares to storm away from Mebuki and take out his anger towards her on Sakura the next day at training, but Mebuki continues like she isn't even aware.
"Mikoto-chan would roll over in her grave if she saw her beloved little boy walking along without a care in the world while a lady struggled with her groceries!"
It's the way Mebuki says her name – says Mikoto-chan, like they were friends – that stops him.
"You…knew my mother?" he asks, tentatively, and he doesn't like how his voice comes out. Small, almost hopeful. It's not a projection of what an Uchiha at 17 should sound like, that's for sure.
"'Course I did," Mebuki replies breezily, still holding her bag out, and this time, Sasuke takes it. It's heavier than it looks, and she jerks her head in the direction of her house. Bewildered, he joins her, not sure what else to do but inwardly desperate to hear more about his mother.
"Were you friends?" he asks.
"'Course we were! Geez, boy, I should probably be offended she never thought to mention me to you when you were little…maybe if she'd had a girl like I did, we would have got on better as we got older. Sort of lost touch, in the end, but you couldn't ask for a better friend. Your mother was a hell of a lady, Sasuke-kun."
Mebuki then plunges into a story about how she'd met and befriended Mikoto – at a slumber party thirty years ago. They'd gotten along well, Sasuke learned, and he followed dumbly, not saying a word, drunk on all this new information. He struggled to picture his mother as a young girl, before she was a kunoichi, before she was the matriarch of the most powerful, most self-destructive shinobi clan in the village. Inebriated with the thought of learning more about the most important person in his life, he realized belatedly that he'd followed Mebuki all the way to her house.
"…and when she was pregnant with Itachi-kun?" Mebuki laughs as they reach the front door. "I never thought she had a temper like that, I was so proud of her. She used to scream and rail at your father like you wouldn't believe. All the hormones, you know. I went through the same thing with Sakura, I chucked a butcher knife at her father during a mood swing when I was about five months along. But I've always had a temper, it was Mikoto-chan that kept her cool. Except with Itachi. I learned to steer clear of her, she was the one who never missed a mark chucking knives. Well, what are you doing just standing there, boy, I know damn well she never taught her sons to lurk in doorways. Go on inside and sit down, I'll get started on dinner."
Sasuke really has no choice. Something about Mebuki, the imposing, confident way she carries herself, her no-nonsense tone, or the way she describes Uchiha Mikoto with such fondness has him obeying, toeing off his shinobi sandals carefully as he crosses the threshold still carrying the groceries.
"Is Sakura here?" he asks, realizing that this might be surprising for his teammate, seeing him come in for dinner with his mother like he did this all the time.
"Why would Sakura be here?" Mebuki asks briskly, leading him through the small, well-kept family home and into the den. "She lives across town."
This, Sasuke realizes uncomfortably, is an oversight. He'd been attempting to be a better teammate after his return to Konoha, but somewhere along the way, he must have missed a step. Only a very poor teammate wouldn't know where his teammates lived.
"…I thought she'd live here till she gets married," he murmurs. It was the way it worked in the Uchiha Clan, anyway. Young, unmarried girls lived at home until they found husbands. Still, the admission has him feeling like he's just revealed his naivete.
Mebuki sighs like she pities him for his archaic thinking. "Things aren't like that these days, Sasuke-kun. That's your father's influence, I'm sure. But you know Sakura. She isn't the type to allow others to take care of her when she's able to do so herself."
Sasuke half-smiles to himself as Mebuki ushers him to a sofa.
"What'll you have to drink?" she asks breezily.
"I'll put on some tea," she decides without waiting for him to answer. "Mikoto-chan wouldn't want you drinking sake."
And then Sasuke is left in the Haruno family den. He is uncomfortable, out of his element, and this isn't how he'd planned to spend his evening, but now that he's here, he's glad he came. He'd never met Sakura's parents before – at least, not that he could remember and certainly hadn't had a conversation with either of them. That wasn't very good teammate behavior.
Still, he is surprised by her mother. They don't look alike at all except for the eyes; Mebuki is tall and sharp and reedy and her looks are severe, while Sakura is smaller and more feminine-looking, soft and demure. Whenever Sasuke would picture her mother, he always envisioned an older version of Sakura: same candy pink hair, same gentle smile.
Their personalities are somewhat similar, though. Sakura is very, very kind and underneath Mebuki's hard exterior, so is she. They are both talkative and a bit on the bossy side. He hopes that Sakura inherited her cooking abilities from her mother, because Sakura's cooking is delicious.
Not that he'd ever tell her that.
The Haruno house is much, much smaller than the one he was raised in, but it feels like a home. Sasuke knows his mother tried, but not even her warmth was much of a match for the Uchiha austerity that made where he lived a manor, and where Sakura lived a home. It's full of well-worn furniture and there are pictures on the wall, pictures of a small family in various stages of life. Sasuke sees a gap-toothed Sakura smiling shyly at the camera, a jumprope in her hand; he sees an infant Sakura with eyes as startlingly green as they are now; he sees Sakura in her medic uniform, her shy little grin replaced by one of sheer confidence and poise, her beauty almost alarming in the flash of the film.
There is the whistle of the tea kettle on the stove in the kitchen, and Sasuke realizes for the first time how hungry he is. Dinner sounds pretty good right about now, but it's impossible for him to ignore the fact that he might not be the Haruno family's favorite person right now.
If Sakura ever told them about…well, everything that happened between them before the war…
Sasuke winces. He'd nearly allowed himself to get taken in by the prospect of a family dinner, and he hadn't bothered to consider that perhaps his presence might not be especially welcome. Yes, Mebuki had manhandled him into coming, but there is another member of Sakura's family, one of who might not be so simpatico with the idea of spending a meal with a man who, one year ago, would have cheerfully torn out his daughter's throat…
And speak of the devil…
"Kizashi!" Mebuki yells. "Get in here, you'll catch a cold if you stay out there with those stupid flowers another minute, don't you see the rainclouds? Clean yourself up, we've got company!"
Sounds like Sakura yelling at Naruto, Sasuke thinks, smirking, but then he realizes that Kizashi is Sakura's father, and he's coming inside.
Wish I'd brought my sword…
"Oh, is Sakura-chan here?" calls another voice, this one very deep and very masculine, and Sasuke hears footsteps approach the back door.
"No, not Sakura. Damn it, darling, you're getting dirt all over my clean kitchen floor…go wash up, you're going to embarrass me. And do something with your hair!"
Sasuke hears Haruno Kizashi coming closer and stands, halfway because it's the polite thing to do and halfway because he wants to have a running start, in case Kizashi has an inkling of the things that have taken place between himself and Sakura, and wants to exact some painful paternal revenge. He certainly wouldn't blame him; Sasuke wishes he could set himself on fire a thousand times over for doing the things he'd done to Sakura in the past.
Then there is a huge looming shadow in the den, and Sasuke sees Sakura's father for the first time.
He is a massive man, taller even than Sasuke, which unnerves him. His shoulders are broader, too, chest wider, muscles straining against his haori. His hair is wild, reddish-pink in color and shaped weirdly like a cherry blossom. Again, he is surprised at the lack of similarity between parent and child; Sakura is about as tall and thick as one of her father's thighs.
"This is Uchiha Sasuke," Mebuki introduces from the doorway, an apron around her waist and a wooden spoon in her hand, clearly in the middle of cooking. "Sasuke, this filthy lump is my husband Kizashi."
"Uchiha Sasuke, huh?" asks Kizashi, and his eyes narrow as he scans Sasuke up and down. More staring, more examination, more scrutiny. Sasuke stiffens and bows his head; it is a conciliatory move. He isn't known for his manners or respectfulness, but after all he'd done…after taking this man's daughter by the throat with all the intention in the world of spilling her blood…
And then Kizashi's rough-looking face splits into a wide, genial smile and he grabs Sasuke's hand in a vigorous, friendly shake.
"Damn good to meet you, boy," he says brightly.
Sasuke just stares. Either Sakura has never told her parents all that transpired between them…
…or her relentless friendliness is an inherited trait.
note.. trying something a little different, just a four-part story this time instead of these mammoth ones that take over my life. but one aspect of this sasusaku universe that i think gets really neglected is the potential dynamic between sakura's parents and sasuke, so here's my take on it. as always, let me know if you liked it and if you didn't like it go about your merry way.
xoxo daisy :)