Sasuke sipped a steaming cup of tea, closing his eyes as the warmth of the liquid heated his chest. Across the table from him, Takuma was barely touching his food, staring blankly down at his plate. After their brief training session at the Spot, Sasuke and Takuma had returned home. Initially, Sasuke's eldest son was dragging himself to his room, showing signs of clear exhaustion. Now, at three in the morning, Takuma had entered the kitchen to heat up his dinner from earlier. The fact that he had barely touched the food was disconcerting to the older Uchiha. After he had sipped his tea, Sasuke spoke.
"Takuma," he said. His son's green eyes shot up as if Sasuke's voice had broken him out of a trance.
"Yes?" the boy asked. Sasuke raised his cup to his mouth to sip tea again then continued the conversation.
"If you aren't going to eat your food, you need to go to sleep. Your exam is in exactly five hours," Sasuke said. Takuma looked down at his food and then back up into Sasuke's eyes.
"Yes, Father, but..." he said. Sasuke raised his hand.
"Being late to your exam because you overslept is not an excuse your instructor will want to hear nor is it one I'll accept. If you're having trouble sleeping, I can give you something that'll help you sleep for a few hours," Sasuke said. Takuma sighed.
"Father..." the boy said. "I'm just nervous." Sasuke nodded and drank from his cup.
"You still haven't explained why," he said coolly. In actuality, Takuma had only barely mentioned that he areas in his test that he was concerned about. Sasuke had grilled him on every aspect of ninjutsu, genjutsu, and taijutsu for his written test and had helped him perfect his transformation, substitution and clone jutsu to the point where Sasuke knew that the only way to improve the jutsu was to move to the next level. Yet, the boy was still incredibly nervous.
Takuma sighed and twiddled his fingers. "It's...a girl." Sasuke's eye twitched and his palm almost slapped his face. But before he did anything, Takuma continued talking, almost in a whisper. "Her name's Honami...Uzumaki." Sasuke's eye widened marginally.
"The Hokage's daughter..." he said, withholding the shock from his voice.
Sasuke had been present for Honami's birth, only weeks after Takuma had been born. Naruto had been a nervous wreck, sending clones out to do his Hokage work while he stayed at the hospital fretting over Hinata and the fact that Sakura wouldn't be available to bring his first child into the world. Sasuke had never been one for moral support, but he did his best to keep his hyperactive friend calm and focused. When Honami had finally been born, she had vibrant red hair, the distinctive trademark of the old Uzumaki clan and the pale, almost colorless eyes of a Hyūga. She was a beautiful and healthy child and Naruto's eyes were flooded with tears.
To hear that Takuma had an interest in Honami wasn't entirely surprising to Sasuke though. The two had played together when they were young, but when Kichiro had been born, Sasuke sought to make sure that his two sons shared a strong bond thus separating Takuma and Honami. Naruto and Hinata had struggled to produce another child for years until four years prior when they had their second child, a stillborn boy, leaving Honami an only child. Sasuke had always felt guilty for separating them. It only felt right now that the two of them would become close in adolescence.
Takuma nodded from across the table. "Yes, sir," he said. He looked up into Sasuke's stoic face and when the elder Uchiha nodded for him to continue, he did. "It's just that, I know I'll do well during my exam. I'm confident enough to know that I'll get the highest scores on every test I take...but Honami will also get high scores. She's very talented and will probably be in the top five of our class," Takuma said.
Sasuke nodded. Honami was definitely a far cry from her father during his Academy days. From what Sasuke knew about her as word spread amongst the jōnin, Honami had overwhelming potential. But that couldn't be what bothered his son. There had to be something deeper.
"Is that what concerns you, then? That her scores might come close to yours?" Sasuke asked. Takuma half nodded.
"Somewhat," he said. "Father, I know how the whole team dynamic works. They try to round out the teams so that they're balanced. I'll probably be teamed up with people that are either in the middle of the rankings or barely passing. I don't have a problem with that at all. It's just...I'd rather be on a team with Honami," Takuma said. Sasuke wanted to smirk. Takuma had never been the talkative one; that character trait had fallen onto Kichiro and was probably a curse that Sasuke had unintentionally given the boy by naming Naruto as his godfather. But now that Honami was the subject, Takuma had much to say.
Nevertheless, Sasuke had to talk sense into the boy.
"Takuma...if what you're saying is true, the only way you'd end up on a team with Honami is if one of you two completely fails the test." Sasuke's eyes bore into Takuma's. "And I'm not going to let you sabotage your exam because of a girl," Sasuke said. Takuma looked with his mouth agape before he suddenly sealed it shut. Sasuke stared forward and continued to speak. "You are an Uchiha. You bear the name of the most powerful and feared clan in the world and you are my son. You'll do well because you have the ability."
"But Father, I..." Takuma started. Sasuke's glare cut him off. Throughout his life, Sasuke had been blessed with eyes that spoke every sentiment he had. Everyone Sasuke had ever known knew exactly what he thought from his eyes alone and that included his children. But with Takuma, Sasuke felt the need to enforce his point.
"I know what you want. You and Honami can become close despite being on separate teams. There's no law stating you can't be friends with someone on another team," Sasuke said. Takuma pursed his lips and looked away.
"Were you and Mother ever on separate teams?" the boy asked. Sasuke stared back in silence, his tea cup held to his mouth. The question Takuma asked stabbed at past events that Sasuke had tried his hardest to withhold from his children. A past filled with murder, hatred and pain. After Sasuke had been accepted back into Konoha, Naruto outlawed any talk of the four year stretch that Sasuke had spent as a vengeful criminal. Takuma even asking if he and Sakura had ever been separated sent a chill of paranoia down Sasuke's spine. He would have to be...selectively honest with his son.
"Well, yes, we were. Some missions I took...your mother wasn't necessarily qualified to go on," Sasuke said, before setting down his cup. "But our separation didn't destroy our relationship. In fact, it made it stronger. Made me realize what I truly needed..." Sasuke said, trailing off. Takuma looked forward, curiosity shining clearly in his face, intelligent and innocent. Like Itachi's had been. Sasuke shook his head of the images of his brother that crept into his mind and looked back at his son. "One day, when you're mature enough and ready...I'll tell you some things about me and our clan that you'll need to hear from me and no one else."
Takuma nodded slowly. "Yes, sir," he said quietly. Sasuke dipped his head and closed his eyes.
"Just don't forget what I said about your exam. Do your best. I expect nothing less from you," he said. Takuma yawned and rubbed his eyes.
"Yes, Father..." the boy said. Sasuke smirked and walked towards his eldest son, rubbing his head as the boy finished yawning.
"Go to bed, Takuma. I'll get you up in a few hours." Takuma stood to his feet and stretched. Sasuke pulled the boy close to him and embraced him, briefly. "Goodnight, son," Sasuke said. Takuma nodded as he slogged to his room.
"Goodnight, Father," Takuma said as he disappeared behind the closed door of his room. Sasuke stood in the kitchen alone for a little as he pondered on Takuma's situation. He believed in his heart that his son would follow his instructions and do well on his exam. That wasn't the issue. It felt like the secrets of his past were creeping up on him and he had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. Takuma was a quietly curious boy. If he wanted to find something out, he'd look into it and draw from multiple sources until he filtered it down to a single truth.
But, Takuma was patient. Sasuke knew that his son trusted him enough to wait, at least he hoped he did.
With these thoughts in his mind, Sasuke left his tea cup in the sink and walked to the end of the hallway to his bedroom. Sasuke dropped his robe as he climbed into his bed and wrapped his arms around Sakura, kissing her softly on her neck. The pink haired kunoichi giggled and turned to face. Sasuke smiled at her and the two shared a brief kiss. When their lips parted, Sasuke sighed.
"We have a bit of a problem," Sasuke said, brushing his wife's hair from her face.
"Oh?" Sakura asked, leaning up on her elbow and resting her chin on her wrist. "What kind of problem?" Sasuke turned onto his back and sighed.
"Well, two. The first one being Takuma likes a girl enough to want to self-sabotage his Academy exam in order to be on the same team as her," Sasuke said. Sakura laughed and Sasuke glanced over towards her. "What?" he asked.
"So he finally tells you, the morning of his exam. We had a very shrewd child it seems," Sakura said. Sasuke sat up and looked Sakura up and down.
"He told you already?" Sasuke asked. Sakura nodded and rubbed Sasuke's chin.
"He did. He made me promise not to say anything to you until he could properly gauge your reaction," the woman said. Sasuke nodded. It made sense even it was somewhat disappointing. While Sasuke did spend enjoyable, fun-filled days with his children, he was also known as a stern disciplinarian. Sakura was much more relaxed and open with the children.
"And your thoughts on this situation?" Sasuke asked. Sakura shrugged.
"Well...I did tell him that purposely scoring low to get placed on the same team as Honami could be seen as 'romantic', it wasn't a good idea. Honami could easily not get a high score and end up in the middle of the rankings," Sakura said. Sasuke agreed.
"Well, what do you think about Honami...for our son?" Sasuke asked. Sakura laughed and laid her head on Sasuke's chest as she spoke.
"Sasuke, they're eleven years old. Takuma has a little crush. I doubt it's that serious," Sakura said. Sasuke scoffed and looked down at his wife.
"I know someone else who had a little childhood crush. A couple people, actually. They're married to the people they wanted and now their children might start connecting," Sasuke said with a sly grin. Sakura rolled her eyes and pat Sasuke's chest.
"I'll give you that," she said, playfully reluctant. "Also, Takuma could've chosen worse young girls to crush on. Honami's not a bad girl. She's certainly got more of Naruto's personality than Hinata's, but Takuma might need someone a little more energetic," Sakura paused and then looked up at Sasuke. "But once again, they're only eleven. We've got some years before we have to worry about that," Sasuke nodded and rubbed his wife's shoulder.
"Now, for the second problem..." Sasuke said. "I think someone may have said something to Takuma about us...and our past. Has he brought that to your attention?" Sakura shook her head. When Sasuke looked down at her, he could make out a small vestige of worry.
"No, he hasn't. What makes you think someone said something to him?" Sakura asked.
"He asked if you and I had ever been on separate teams," Sasuke replied, sighing. "I've told him about my tenure with Team 7 up until the end of the Chunin Exams. I haven't said anything to him about the two years I was gone or the year that followed...but I think he may be curious," Sasuke said. Sakura bit her lip, a look that made Sasuke even more internally worried.
"When will you tell them, all of them?" Sakura asked.
"When they're ready." Sakura sighed after Sasuke's answer.
"Sasuke, you know as well as I do that if we hold back on telling them the entire story 'until they're ready', someone will come into their lives and tell them a twisted version of what happened," Sakura said. Sasuke shook his head and stared at the ceiling.
"There's no way anyone could tell a story more twisted than the actual truth, Sakura. You and I both know that," Sasuke said.
The Uchiha closed his eyes as images of his nightmarish former life played back in his head. The people he'd killed, the lives he'd destroyed, all for hatred and the pursuit of vengeance. Something warm and wet trickled from Sasuke's eye, a tear he recognized. The tear rolled down his cheek and dripped from his chin. Sakura pulled herself up next to Sasuke and held his head in her arms as Sasuke let loose silent tears before he finally spoke.
"I don't want our children to know about any of it. I don't want Takuma, Kichiro and Hikari to hear that their father killed his own brother, attacked his friends...nearly killed their mother..." Sasuke shook his head. Sakura rubbed Sasuke's head and cooed in his ear.
"You don't have to tell them all now and when it happens, you won't have to do it alone. I'll be there for you like I always have been," Sakura said softly. Sasuke let another tear fall before he gathered himself and rolled over, climbing on top of Sakura. Their kiss was long, meaningful and passionate...almost as passionate as his words.
"I love you," Sasuke said, kissing down Sakura's neck, eliciting a quiet moan from her. As the passions flared, Sasuke felt Sakura squirm under his touch. Her legs wrapped around his waist and Sasuke could feel her pulling him in closer.
"I love you too," Sakura breathed.
The sun rose three hours later, climbing over the horizon and shining into Sasuke's bedroom. The golden light touched Sakura's body, causing Sasuke's pink-haired kunoichi to shine like a goddess. Sasuke's eyes were still heavy from lack of sleep but he pushed his body to get up. Sasuke yawned as he rolled out of bed and stretched, cracking his shoulders and his neck. The Uchiha grabbed his robe from the floor and put it on as he went out into the hallway toward Takuma and Kichiro's room.
Sudden movement caught Sasuke's eye and he turned to the kitchen, looking out to the small field behind his house. Outside, Takuma was rehearsing for the physical portion of the exam, performing his transformations and clones perfectly. Sasuke stood in the kitchen and watched his son in silence. Takuma stopped and turned as if he felt Sasuke's presence. After seeing his father, Takuma headed back towards the house.
"Good morning, Father," Takuma said as he finally step foot into the house, panting from his earlier exertion. Sasuke dipped his head.
"Good morning," Sasuke replied. "You're up rather early." Takuma nodded and wiped the sweat that dripped from his brow.
"Just making sure I know the exact amount of chakra to use. I don't want to get in front of everyone and start floundering in front of everyone in class," the boy said. Sasuke narrowed his eyes and the nodded.
"Alright. Go take a shower and then get dressed. Your exam begins in an hour," Sasuke said.
Takuma walked out into the hallway and into the bathroom. Sasuke walked into the room that Takuma and Kichiro shared and saw the younger of the brothers laid sprawled across the bed and snoring lightly. Sasuke smiled and sat on the edge of the bed for a while. Kichiro's fingers twitched in his sleep and moaned. Whatever dream the boy was having was clearly exciting to him. Sasuke decided to let him sleep. His classes didn't start until after the Academy exams concluded anyway.
Sasuke rubbed Kichiro's head and left the room. As he did, Takuma headed down the hallway and sprinted to his room. Sasuke noticed that time had started to escape him. If he was going to take Takuma to the Academy, he'd after to hurry and get dressed. Fortunately, speed was Sasuke's strong point. Within moments of entering the room, Sasuke dashed around the room, dressing himself in his jonin uniform, complete with his dark green flak jacket, short sleeved black shirt with the Uchiha clan emblem on the shoulder and his black arm protectors that covered everything from his wrists to his elbow.
Sasuke kissed Sakura's forehead, whispered a goodbye and then exited his bedroom and waited for Takuma. His son rushed out of the room, dressed in a high-collared black shirt and white shorts. Takuma looked up at Sasuke and for a moment, it looked like the boy was staring in awe. Takuma snapped out of it and nodded to Sasuke.
"I'm ready," the boy said. Sasuke smiled and placed his hand on Takuma's head.
"You'll do well, son," Sasuke said. Takuma smiled back and nodded. The two Uchiha walked outside and stopped in front of the house. Sasuke slowly discharged chakra from his body and held onto Takuma as the two disappeared in a puff of smoke. The quick Body Flicker took them through the village quickly, traveling over the rooftops until they finally arrived in front of the Academy building.
"Just a bit too slow," a familiar voice said, laughing. Sasuke held Takuma as his body readjusted from the technique and looked up. The white cloak trimmed in red flames flowed in the wind, the red kanji written on the back spelling "Sixth Hokage". Sasuke closed his eyes and smirked.
"Good morning to you too, Naruto," Sasuke said as he stood up. The Sixth Hokage smiled widely and the old friends bumped fists. Takuma bowed his head as the Hokage's eyes went to him.
"Good morning, Lord Hokage," he said. Naruto raised an eyebrow as he looked down at the boy.
"Geez, you don't have to be so formal, Takuma. You'd think I wasn't your honorary uncle or something," Naruto laughed. Takuma cracked a small smile and then suddenly froze. Sasuke stared down at his son and then attempted to follow his gaze, finally catching sight of what he had his eyes on. Behind Naruto, a girl with mid-length red hair stood, talking with a few other girls Takuma's age. It was Honami Uzumaki. Seeing Takuma's reaction, Sasuke recognized the severity of the boy's infatuation and he knew that Naruto noticed it too.
"Takuma," Sasuke said. The boy snapped his head up and looked at Sasuke and then at Naruto before he blushed slightly. Naruto smirked and Sasuke sighed. "Go ahead to your class or you'll be late." The young Uchiha nodded quickly and walked away from the two adults and headed inside of the Shinobi Academy building. When the boy was gone, Naruto turned to Sasuke with a fox-like grin.
"So...your son's got a crush on my daughter, huh?" Naruto said. Sasuke's face remained unmoved.
"Apparently," he said. Naruto cocked his head to the side.
"Do you disapprove?" he asked. Sasuke shrugged.
"I think you're supposed to be the one that approves or disapproves your daughter's relationships," Sasuke jabbed. Naruto grinned.
"Well, I'm still learning this parenting thin," he laughed. Sasuke smirked.
"Indeed," he said before sighing softly. "I don't have a problem with them being close so long as it doesn't distract Takuma from his studies...which it kind of has." Naruto looked over at the Uchiha.
"It's that bad, huh? He hasn't been failing, has he?" Naruto asked. Sasuke shook his head.
"Not at all. In fact, he's at the top of his class. I thought you knew that, Hokage," Sasuke said. Naruto nodded.
"I do. It's just been a month since I received the last progress reports from the Academy's graduating class. Anything could happen within that period," Naruto pointed out. Sasuke agreed and then sighed.
"I don't know if this is a request that might sound nepotistic, er, selfish but Takuma was willing to sacrifice his class ranking in order to be possibly teamed with Honami. So..." Sasuke said. Naruto smiled.
"You want me to put Takuma and Honami on the same squad?" Naruto said. Sasuke narrowed his eyes. He hated how Naruto always seemed to be able to read his mind. He didn't know why it surprised him so much. The two were practically as close as brothers.
"Only if it wouldn't be too much to add to your agenda," Sasuke said. Naruto laughed.
"Ah, don't worry. It's already done," Naruto said. Sasuke raised an eyebrow.
"It is?" he asked. Naruto smiled and rubbed the back of his head.
"Yeah. Believe it or not, Honami actually asked me to do it a couple of days ago. When she hits me with those eyes...it's not much I can do to resist." To Sasuke's chagrin, Naruto bumped his arm with his elbow and grinned. "I think this little adolescent crush may be mutual," the blonde man said. Sasuke scoffed lightly.
"Good. I'd hate for Takuma to get his heartbroken," Sasuke replied coolly. "So what's the catch to this arrangement? From what Takuma's told me, he and Honami are in the top of their class. In order to keep the teams balanced, you'll have to put one of the lowest ranking students in their team," Sasuke said. Naruto nodded.
"Exactly. I have a kid in mind for that position. He ranks low but I think if he's teamed up with the two of our kids, there's no way he won't progress," Naruto said.
"Who's the kid? I hope you won't choose someone that holds our children back in the Academy," Sasuke said. Naruto shook his head.
"No, I don't think he will. He just needs a little more help," Naruto said.
"Naruto. Who's the kid?" Sasuke said, sternly.
As Naruto opened his mouth to respond, Sasuke heard a boy yelling as he raced down the street. The boy had spiky burnt orange hair and a long multi-shaded blue coat, glasses with orange lenses and dark blue pants. At first glance, Sasuke thought he had a flashback of Naruto getting to class late. Then the Hokage nudged Sasuke into the present and nodded towards the boy.
"That's him. Shōgo Kazuma, dead last in the Academy class," Naruto said, almost beaming with pride. Sasuke glanced over to him and shook his head. It was just like Naruto to root for the underdog. He had lived his life as an underdog and eventually, he had come out on top. Now, whenever anyone was dead last, Naruto gave them his full support. Sasuke folded his arms.
"What family is he from? Are his parents anyone I'd know?" Sasuke asked. Naruto shook his head.
"Probably not. His mother's a civilian. His father died a few years ago from a chronic disease and it's been him, his mother and little sister ever since. He has something he wants to protect and he's going through the Academy to do it," Naruto said. Sasuke nodded and watched the boy crash through the door.
"Hopefully, he gets the help he needs," Sasuke turned to Naruto. "Have you decided on a squad leader for them?" Sasuke asked. Naruto looked over towards him and grinned a grin so familiar that it almost set off a fire inside of Sasuke. His face twisted into a scowl while Naruto's smile grew larger and larger. After an awkward moment of staring, Naruto finally spoke.
"I have one in mind. I'll be letting him know soon, though," Naruto said. Sasuke frowned. He knew exactly who Naruto had in mind...
"I'm not going to lead a squad of Genin, especially not one with my son on it. There needs to be some level of separation when it comes to these things. Besides, do you honestly think that Shōgo kid could last half an hour of training with me?" Sasuke said. Naruto nodded.
"Actually, I do. If your eight year old Academy student can hang with you, I'm sure Shōgo will be able to manage. I think it'll be good for you," Naruto said. Sasuke scoffed.
"Do you really want me training your daughter, Naruto?" Sasuke asked. Naruto paused and smiled sheepishly.
"Perhaps...on second thought, I could choose someone else," Naruto said, rubbing his chin. Sasuke nodded although he knew that Naruto was only feigning defeat in the argument. Once Naruto made up his mind, there was virtually nothing anyone could do to change it.
If Sasuke was to become the leader of his own team...it almost made him nauseous to think about it. He had never had much of a problem leading people, but in general, he cared very little for the prospect of leadership. At his core, Sasuke was a loner and he wished to stay that way.
As Naruto turned towards Sasuke again to start another conversation, there was a whirl in the wind that drew both of their attention. A figure appeared in front of Naruto and Sasuke, dressed in a green jumpsuit and orange leg warmers, Sasuke recognized the man instantly. The self-proclaimed "Handsome Devil of the Hidden Leaf Village" stood up straight before bowing to Naruto.
"Lord Hokage," he said before then turning to Sasuke and dipping his head. "Sasuke." Naruto narrowed his eyes and Sasuke's face remained like flint.
"Lee...everything alright?" Naruto asked. "You've left your post." Rock Lee bowed again and Sasuke sighed.
"Forgive me, Lord Hokage. But an important situation came up at the entrance that requires your presence," Lee said. Sasuke furrowed his brow.
"What's going on? Are we being attacked?" Sasuke asked, although he had no idea who would have the gall to atack Konoha with both Naruto and Sasuke present. Thankfully, Rock Lee shook his head and looked to Naruto.
"No, no, nothing like that...well, I hope not. Just come with me," Lee said, then casting his eyes on Sasuke. "You need to come too." Sasuke frowned. Instead of asking any more questions, Sasuke looked toward the Academy building and sighed. He looked to Naruto and gave him silent consent. When Naruto nodded to Rock Lee, the three of them leapt away from the Academy, disappearing into the air as they traveled high above Konoha.
As they cut through the air, Sasuke felt the same horrible feeling he had felt earlier resurface. This time, the paranoia couldn't be shaken. The Uchiha's nerves didn't settle in the slightest until he, Naruto and Lee landed near the Konoha gate.
Standing guard were two other jonin that Sasuke didn't know but Naruto spoke their names as he passed them. Sasuke didn't pay any attention to him. He just stared forward. Naruto glanced over to Sasuke and opened his mouth to say something until he turned his head and followed his gaze.
"Oh, shit..." Naruto muttered softly.
A woman with long, straight red hair and glasses stood behind the two jonin and she fixed them when she caught sight of Sasuke. The woman then looked down to her side and said something, supposedly to whoever was with her. The two Konoha jonin then parted and Sasuke saw as the woman and the person concealed next to her stepped forward. Sasuke gulped as his heart pounded in his chest. His eyes certainly didn't deceive him.
In front of them stood Karin and to her side, a boy. A boy with a face that looked eerily similar to Sasuke's...