Trapeze

Chapter 44

Disclaimer: Do I really really REALLY need to say it...?

Thank to Coolestbee, Chichi4mangaHero, Fern-chan, AwaitTheRise, Tamani, PolarisLittleWitch, spiritjumper, Hawk Sirius, xbamsod for reviews. Thank to Yumi Miharu, Kongo Isamu, LadyKnight151, darkmagician3 for favorites.

Fern-chan: I fear for your characters... O.o

WHOOOOO! Nothing like finishing four chapters in one day! NEW RECORD!

You know I was reading my first ever 'popular' story... man, did it suck. Talk about Mary-sues and no plot what so ever. I'M SO GLAD ACROBATS/TRAPEZE ISN'T LIKE THAT! (or any of my other popular stories.)

Also, someone pointed out that Tora was a little OOC in the last chapter: we'll just blame her out of character temper on the meds, since we all know she's violent when it comes to that! O.o

Fluffy fluff fluff!

vvv

"Mama, why are you and Daddy mad at each other?" Tenshi asked as she laid cuddled up next to me, I had been discharged from the hospital only hours earlier and was sent straight home to rest. It had been three days since my fight with Itachi, and neither of us had spoken to each other yet. The whole village knew we had fought, but no one knew about what. In truth, I really didn't know what the argument was truly over. It couldn't have been about me walking around the hospital, could it? It had to be something else, something more complicated than that. When I didn't answer her, Tenshi repeated her question. I sighed, "We said some mean things, sweetheart." Tenshi sat up a little, her small fingers running down my cheeks, "So say your sorry." She said. I chuckled humorlessly, "It's more complicated than that." Tenshi's face scrunched up, "What's comp'cate mean?" I hugged my daughter to me, "It means that it's not simple enough to explain."

Tenshi was quiet for a while, so long that I thought she had fallen asleep, then she asked in a very small voice, "Does this mean I can't see Daddy anymore?" I was glad she blind, surly she would have seen my uncertainty, "I don't know, sweetheart. I really don't know." I whispered. Tenshi turned her face to mine, her blind eyes holding a look of panic, "Is Itachi-chichi not my daddy anymore?" She squeaked. I quickly kissed her forehead and tucked Tenshi's head beneath my chin, "Itachi will always be your father, that won't change, koibito. He just might... not spend time with me anymore." Tenshi squirmed out from my hold and said, "Only Daddy can call me 'koibito'!" I laughed despite my gloomy mood, "You do know that means sweetheart don't you? We're calling you the same thing." Tenshi remained adamant in her belief that koibito didn't mean the same thing as sweetheart. I rolled my eyes and laughed again.

My daughter slid off my bed and kissed me on the forehead like I was the child and she was the mother, "Good night, Mommy. And don't worry about Daddy, he still loves you." She said cheerfully before making her way out of my room. I smiled at her retreating back, wondering when my little girl had become so wise, and praying that she was right.

vvv

Ino was the first of Reiko's friends to stop by after I had returned from the hospital. She stood in the kitchen ad watched silently as I prepared breakfast. I glanced at my brother's girlfriend, "You can stand there or you can help me." I said mildly. Ino tilted her head, "Usually when a couple gets into a fight, they're either burning up over it or crying." She pointed out. I had to refrain from laughing at the image of Itachi crying. Instead I shrugged, "Itachi and I rational adults. What's the use of crying when you know you're stupid?" Ino frowned, "If you know you were wrong then why don't you go apologize?" She asked incredulously. I just gave her a look, "Because Uchiha's have their pride and large egos to take into consideration." Ino rolled her eyes, "You're still angry then. You just hide it well." She muttered to herself. I ignored her comment as I cracked a few eggs to scramble. I wasn't angry, just... upset.

I eyed Ino as I turned off the stove and transferred breakfast onto plates, "Are you eating here or not?" I asked. Ino didn't seem to hear me, her face was screwed up in thought. I shrugged and fixed her a plate before going to wake up my family. First I stopped by Reiko's room, since his was the closest. I opened the door, slamming it in the wall behind it. My brother jerked and sat up glaring, rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Wakey, wakey sleepy head. Breakfast is served to the grumpy prince." I said flatly before leaving, I could hear him cursing me as he got up, already in a foul mood. It really didn't matter if I woke Reiko in the most gentle way possible, he would still be surly. My brother wasn't a morning person. I went to Tenshi's room right beside mine. I woke her more gently, shaking her shoulder until she opened her blind eyes. I scooped her out of bed and twirled her around, getting a giggle out of my daughter and set her on the ground, "Mommy made breakfast rice for you!" I told her, and that was enough to send my four year old daughter scrabbling out of her room in her sleeping yukata. I followed her at a more placid pace.

Ino, used to the way I woke my family, was already sitting at the table, chin resting on the palm of her hand, "I'm glad I don't live here." She commented when she saw me. I rolled my eyes as I placed her plate in front of her, "Eat and be happy I haven't kicked you out yet." I said before sitting down. Tenshi was already at the table, gobbling down her small bowl of rice mixed with slices of ham and bits of egg. I would never understand how she liked it, but it was something Choji had gotten her hooked on. Reiko came shuffling in, "Tora... why do you have to wake me like that?" He asked, yawning, as he gave his girlfriend a peck on the cheek. Ino giggled and blushed. I smiled at Reiko coolly, "You'll bite my head off any way I wake you, I might as well get some entertainment out of it." Reiko huffed, "It's early in the morning and I have no where to be. Why can't you let me sleep in?" I smirked at my brother, "Because I'm an evil older sister." Reiko opened his mouth, but I held up a finger, "And before you make any comment about me turning into an Uchiha, please remember that I've been waking you up early long before either of us knew any Uchiha." Reiko grumbled under his breath and began shoveling food into his mouth, leaving no doubt that he was going to tease me. Ino nearly fell out her seat laughing.

Several minutes of silence passed before Tenshi looked up, rice grains sticking to her mouth, "Mama? Are you going to say sorry to Daddy yet?" She asked in all innocence. Ino gave a suppressed squeal, her hands cradling her cheeks at my daughter's adorable naivety. I sighed, feeling older than I was, "I don't know, sweetie." Tenshi frowned, "But you have to. Mommies and daddies stay together, it's a rule." Because she was blind she didn't see my expression of sadness, but Reiko and Ino did. They both stopped eating to look at me, pity in their eyes. I glared back, I didn't want pity. I never wanted pity. Ino stood then, slamming her palms on the table, "That's it! I'm taking you shopping, Tora. And no protests." She said when I opened my mouth to argue. Reiko snorted. Tenshi gasped and asked, "Ino-oba, can I come? Can I? Can I?" Ino picked up her niece, laughing, "Of course, Tenshi! I wasn't going to have it any other way." Unlike me, Tenshi actually enjoyed shopping. Something I know she got from Ino, she definitely couldn't have gotten it from Reiko or me. Reiko smirked at me, "I think I'll take a nap..." I glared at him, all that work to get him up and he was going back to sleep.

vvv

"No." I said again, my arms crossed stubbornly. Ino glared back at me and held out the fabric, "Come on, Tora. This kimono is practically made for you. It's perfect!" She tried, but I shook my head, "I said no." Ino grumbled something about being as stubborn as an Uchiha under her breath then turned to Tenshi, "Hey, Tenshi, can you convince your Mama to wear this? I think she'll look very pretty." Tenshi stamped her foot, "Mama is already pretty!" She snapped and I smirked, I had her trained well. Ino pursed her lips, "But this will make her even more pretty. I'm sure your father would love seeing her in this." I scowled at Ino, that was a low blow. Tenshi suddenly changed her stance and urged me to try on the kimono. I groaned, there was no denying my daughter. I snatched the swath of fabric from Ino's hands, "Fine, but I'm only trying it on. I am not buying it." Ino smirked at me then turned her fashion senses on my poor daughter, though I think Tenshi enjoyed it.

I retreated to a secluded changing stall and stripped off my peacock blue outfit. Folding each article of clothing carefully I set it to the side before slipping on the three layers of the kimono. The first was plain blinding white and made of smooth silk. The second layer was a pale orange patterned with small outlines of white sakura blossoms, nearly invisible against the orange background. The final layer was a rich black color with deep orange tiger lilies blooming near the bottom, concentrated mostly to the left of the fabric, their petals stretching upwards so that it looked like fire. A light grey obi accompanied the kimono with a traditional red sash to complete the look. I felt silly standing there in the kimono, I had never been one for girlish things; it had taken forever for Ino to convince me to buy my normal blue split skirt and top.

Before I could take the kimono off without letting Ino see it, my brother's girlfriend was calling from outside, "Come on out Tora, or I'll come in there." I mentally cursed but stepped out of the changing stall. Ino gasped in delight when she saw me, "Oh, Tora! I told you it was perfect, you have to wear that to the Fire Festival this year. Please, for me and Tenshi!" I glared at the younger girl, "You're not making a very good case." I growled. Ino rolled her pretty blue eyes, "Fine, wear it for Itachi-sama. You know he'll love it." I put my hands on my hips, "And what makes you think we'll be over our argument by then? The Fire Festival is next week." Ino huffed, "Uh, because I'm probably the person besides family who knows you the best. You both love each other too much to let a little argument get the better of you." I frowned at her, "Shisui isn't family and he knows me more than you do." I pointed out. Ino grinned at me, "So he isn't... but I see you're not denying that Itachi-sama isn't family either." I grimaced, I walked into that one.

"Ino-oba, will you buy me a puppy?" Tenshi asked as the three of us walked down the main street of Konoha. I spoke before Ino could say yes, "Tenshi, Itachi and I already told you no. If you keep asking everyone for a puppy I'm not going to get you one for your birthday, understand?" The four year old pouted, but didn't say anything else. Ino laughed, "Oh Tenshi, you're so adorable! I'll tell you what, I'll buy you a stuffed puppy today and then I'll help you pick a real puppy out when it's your birthday." Tenshi squealed at the thought and grabbed Ino's hand, "Come on, Ino-oba! I want a stuffed puppy now." Ino shot me a panicked look at my daughter's resolve, but I pretended to be more interested in the menu of a restaurant. She had practically broken my arm to get me to buy the kimono; and when I still wouldn't do it, Ino bought it with her own money to give to me later.

Before my daughter could drag Ino to her deserved doom, a familiar voice called out, "Hey, Ino-pig! Tora-san, wait up!" Ino and I turned to see Sakura waving at us frantically farther down the road. Behind her was her team, all of them looking like they had just gotten back from a mission. Tenshi perked up when she heard Sakura's voice, "Sakura-oba! Ino-oba is going to buy me a stuffed puppy!" Tenshi called, her blind eyes turning to the general direction of Sakura. The pink haired shinobi squealed and ran to scoop my daughter up, "Tenshi I haven't seen you in forever! How's my favorite niece?" Sakura said as she settled Tenshi on her hip. Tenshi giggled, "I'm your only niece." Sakura hugged Tenshi closer, "That makes you my favorite!" She sang then turned to Ino and I, "So what are the three of you doing?" Ino grinned, "I managed to pry Tora out of the house to go shopping."

"Whaaaat? You got Tora-san to go shopping?" Naruto chose at that moment to ask. Tenshi nodded frantically, "Uh-huh! Ino-oba buyed Mommy a kimono!" I took my daughter from Sakura, "It's 'bought' sweetie, and I'm not wearing it." I told her. Sasuke smirked, "Not even for Itachi?" He asked innocently. I glared at the younger Uchiha, "Not even for him." I snarled. Sasuke's smirk grew wider, "By the way, I was supposed to tell you that Okaasan wants to talk to you." Before I could say anything Sakura took Tenshi back, "Go on then! Don't keep your future mother-in-law waiting." She said waving her hand dismissively. I turned my glare on her, "She's your future mother-in-law too, you know!" I growled before turning around, but not before I saw Sakura and Sasuke blush and awkwardly shift away from each other. The sounds of Naruto and Ino's laughter followed me as I walked away. At least no one had thought to point out that I didn't deny Mikoto being my future mother-in-law.

vvv

Mikoto smiled at me as she set down a cup of tea in front of me, "How are you, Tora?" She asked politely before taking a sip of her own drink. I rubbed my fingers across the low table and didn't answer. Mikoto raised an eyebrow, "You're not still upset are you?" She asked, surprise lacing her voice. I glanced up at the older woman though my eyelashes before looking back down at the table, "No." I said truthfully. I wasn't upset over the fight. But was Itachi? Was he still angry with me; is that why I hadn't seen or heard from him in three days? The Uchiha woman tilted her head, "You mustn't let fighting get in the way, Tora. Every couple argues, it's natural." I finally met Mikoto's gaze fully, "Mikoto-san... why did you want Itachi to date Yakkaina?" I asked suddenly.

Mikoto pulled back, her black eyes blinking in surprise. She hadn't been expecting that, in truth I hadn't meant to ask it. The older woman sipped at her tea as she thought, "In all honesty, I don't know. Her mother and I were friends as children, but Yakkaina is clearly nothing like her mother." Mikoto paused, trying to think of a reason why she would want a blatant fangirl dating her oldest son, before she continued, "I guess I supported him dating her because Fugaku did." I frowned at the mention of Itachi and Sasuke's deceased father. I never did like him, I was almost happy the day I learned he was killed by one of his clan members. Mikoto saw my expression and gave me a small smile, "Fugaku was a difficult man to like, granted. He expected too much from both his sons; but, though he never showed it, I know he loved Itachi and Sasuke." I felt a twinge of guilt and bowed over the table, "Forgive me, Mikoto-san, I-" Mikoto waved a hand though, "No no, you are entitled to your opinion. I understand why you didn't like my late husband, how he treated you was unforgivable."

I frowned again, "But- why are you telling me this?" Mikoto sipped her tea before saying, "Because though my husband was a hard man and we were not a well matched pair, I still loved him." She chuckled a little to herself, "I don't know how many times we fought, it was never pretty. And sometimes I thought that it could never get better, but it always did. Fugaku was the best husband I could ask for." I shot a suspicious look at Mikoto, "I am not married to Itachi though." I pointed out. Mikoto just smiled and drank her tea. "Indeed you're not. I never said you were." Mikoto responded lightly. I could tell by the spark in her eye that she was thinking 'yet', but I didn't bother to point it out. That was a conversation I didn't want to think about yet. I finally picked up the cup of tea and drank a little of the lukewarm liquid, "Alright, what does this have to do with me?" I asked. Mikoto gave me a closed eyed smile, "You and Itachi are certainly going to fight more in the future. That is a fact." She said and I glared, "Get to the point, Mikoto-san." I said edgily. Mikoto giggled a little and set down her cup, "I'll tell you what I told Itachi: How many times you fight isn't what matters, it's how fast and earnest your apology comes afterwards that counts."

Like fate, the sound of the front door opening cut our conversation off. Two utterly familiar voices could be heard, both too low to hear what they were saying, but I knew it was Itachi and Shisui. I hunched over my cup, staring into the green liquid as if it could offer up life's secrets, or at least a way out of the awkward situation bound to come. Two pairs of footsteps started for the kitchen, Shisui called out, "Hey, Mikoto-oba, what's for din...ner?" I didn't turn around, I could feel Shisui's disbelieving stare, "Tora? When... what-?" Mikoto stood, cutting her nephew off, "I wanted to talk with Tora about something. Sorry, dear, I haven't made dinner yet. Would you like to help me?" "B-but Mikoto-oba... You don't like anyone in your kitc-" Shisui started to say, but Mikoto walked around me to drag Shisui towards the kitchen, her expression still beaming of false cheerfulness. I knew she was trying to give Itachi and I a few moments alone to work out our differences. "If you help then you'll get dinner faster, come on!" I heard Mikoto saying as she practically forced Shisui to the kitchen.

Silence descended after the two disappeared. I could feel Itachi standing somewhere behind me, his gaze boring into my back. I knew I should say something, but no word seemed adequate enough to convey my thoughts. After a long awkward and tense moment Itachi finally spoke, so softly that I wondered if I had imagined it, "Say something, Tora." What could I say though? I couldn't apologize when I didn't really know what I would be apologizing for. "Tenshi misses you." I blurted out, then grimaced. Of all the things I could have said, I had to mention my daughter. Itachi was silent behind me. I didn't turn to see his reaction, I really didn't want to see it. I shut my eyes so tightly that my eyelids hurt, it was a mistake coming here so soon. I stood up, my back still facing Itachi, intending to leave, when he said, "I miss her too." "Then why didn't you see her?" I asked, refusing to turn around. I knew the minute I looked into Itachi's onyx eyes I would do anything for his forgiveness.

It was an agonizing long time before Itachi responded. A loose floorboard groaned when Itachi stepped closer to me so I could feel his presence at my back. "I didn't want to make things worse." He said softly, leaning down so his lips brushed the rim of my left ear, I shivered at the pleasant feeling. "I knew you would need time, so I left you alone... even though it pained me to stay away." Itachi said lowly. I took a deep shuddering breath, my nerves singing. Itachi leaned down farther until I felt his warm breath ghosting across the soft skin of my neck, "...I missed you more though..." He murmured, almost in a trance. My breath hitched when I felt his lips graze my neck, slowly running up my skin until he pressed a tender kiss just under my jawbone. I bit my lip to keep from moaning, my mind frantically trying to make sense of what just happened while my heart fluttered silently begging for more.

Itachi pulled back from my neck to press a small kiss at my temple, his arms snaking around my waist to draw me against him "I won't ask for forgiveness for my concern for you, but I apologize for my rash behavior." He said. I turned in his arms and buried my face in his chest, inhaling his wonderful scent, "I'm sorry for overreacting... and for accusing you of thinking you were better than me." I whispered, a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth. If this was what apologizing was like, then I would happily do so for every little thing I could. We stayed there for a few minutes, just content to hold each other, before Itachi had to ruin it by asking, "So what's this about a kimono for the Fire Festival?" I pulled back to glare at him, "I'm going to kill your brother." I growled. Itachi smiled and kissed me quickly on the forehead, "It was Ino who told me. She also told me that if you didn't wear it, she was going to force Shikamaru to trap you with his shadow jutsu and dress you herself." My eye twitched, knowing Ino would make good on her threat, she had done it before.

^o^

Fluffy and humor, and cute Tenshi moments... plus it's the longest chapter so far (by a few paragraphs but still) Mwahahahahahahahaha! And before ya'll get in a tiff about Itachi and Tora forgiving each other too early: It's been five days in Trapeze time, plus this whole thing was NOT part of the schedule, so I had to end it quickly and get back to the main plot... ^^;

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