Teamwork 2

O Sasuke, u so emo. ;.;

Interlude: Ghosts (Sasuke)

There are no ghosts in this house. None of his, at any rate. There's Uchiha Hideyoshi; Uchiha Minako; Shin; Isamu; Kaede.

To him, nothing but names on paper.

He cannot tell if they would have begrudged his use of their home. They're smiling in most of the pictures he found, in the ones he placed on the small family shrine; so he tells himself they wouldn't have -- too much -- and goes about his day.

It would be easier to live with if he didn't have to cross half the Uchiha district every time he wants to leave the house. The first street is fine; he never used to explore this boring side of the district much. At the corner is an old well, with stone benches in a half-circle around. When the benches weren't taken over by crabby old people, he used to climb at the end of the first and leaped his way across.

Next is the street where the ice cream man had his stand. The garden with the huge dog. His mother's best friend's house. A tiny square with bushes that children pretended were perfect hiding places; they're overgrown enough to make their own jungle, now, except that half are withered.

Depending on which gate to the rest of the village he wishes to use, he can either walk past the piece of Uchiha training grounds that Itachi claimed as his own and the lake where Sasuke practiced Katon, or the charred remnants of his home. Most of the time, it's more practical to walk by his home.

Sakura has developed an inordinate fondness for a kind of sweets she says she can find nowhere but in the other direction. Naruto teases her about her hips; Sakura hits him, and says he deserves it for getting between a pregnant woman and her cravings.

They're so see-through it almost hurts, but acknowledging it would mean acknowledging they see through him as well. So he forks over the money for Sakura's sweets in silence, and doesn't elbow Naruto too hard when he leans over Sasuke's shoulder to steal from the bag.

Sasuke doesn't know what his ghosts would say about his two lovers and their bizarre, immoral arrangement.

So in the evenings, when all the training of the day is done, when Naruto is off with Iruka or Jiraiya or Kiba or whoever else, and Sakura is off with Ino, or her parents, Sasuke sits in front of his unknown cousins' little shrine and wonders about his own parents.

It isn't something he does often, thinking about his parents. It's hard to remember them without remembering how they were taken away, and then his focus shifts onto revenge, not remembrance. And he still needs to avenge them. It burns deep inside; he doesn't think it's ever going to stop. But he cannot give in to murderous, blind rages when he's faced with the picture of that black-haired, happy family. Hideyoshi; Minako; Shin; Isamu; Kaede.

If his parents had lived...

His father... A proud man, respectful of traditions, but not one who let rumors cow him either. Sasuke knows he would have disapproved of Team Seven's arrangement -- wouldn't have opposed Sasuke marrying outside the clan, but wouldn't have liked the fact that they don't even know who the father of the child is. He might even have looked down on Sakura for that, even though it wasn't her fault... No. No. Sasuke doesn't like to think that. His father was a just man.

Hopefully he wouldn't have begrudged Sasuke's friendship with Naruto, but he would never have wanted to hear about anything more than that. As long as Sasuke was married and had children, as long as he did his duty to the bloodline, his father probably would have pretended that any male lovers Sasuke had didn't exist. Not that Sasuke would have ever wanted to tell his father about any of that, so it would have been all right if he didn't want to know.

His mother... Sweet, caring, perpetually smiling. She would have been concerned -- probably for the same reasons Sakura's mother is so worried. She would have been sad about the way people might shun them...

And if they were still here to worry about, Sasuke might consider asking Naruto to never be more than their secret lover, the ex-teammate they happen to still be on good terms with, just for his mother not to be shunned because of him, just for his father not to lose face.

The point is moot anyway. Sasuke doesn't have to make this decision.

The thought of denying Naruto's importance to protect his reputation, of all things, makes him want to growl. He doesn't like the idea of letting outsiders know anything about his personal feelings, but if there is one thing that could prompt him to forego his pride and go along with public displays of affection, it's spite.

Only consideration for the feelings of his precious people places higher; but his parents are beyond that -- what does it matter if their second son has loose morals, compared to the fact that he betrayed Konoha, that he feels nothing at the thought of betraying it again, that if he still could, he'd leave again in a heartbeat.

Ultimately, his parents aren't here, and cannot judge what his life has become. If they were here -- even if the rest of the clan wasn't -- his life would be so different he doubts he would recognize himself; but they aren't, and torturing himself with what-ifs is a waste of time. He'll have to keep living with the thought that on this, at least, he would disappoint them. There are so many other things -- so much more important -- abandoned Konoha, tarnished the name of the Uchiha clan, came at his teammate and friend with the intent to kill -- for which he knows he would not get their forgiveness.

Of the four people whose opinion still matters to him, only Sakura and the child would be embarrassed, and even then it depends how and when the rumor spreads. Naruto would laugh and brag if people asked him the truth about their sentimental arrangement, and nothing fazes Kakashi.

His mother might have accepted them, though. As long as her son was happy.

Overall, he's not really happy; but that's nothing out of the ordinary. There are still problems to fix and jutsu to learn and progress to make and his brother to kill.

He's not happy often, but Naruto and Sakura help him not to be down or angry all the time either. He doesn't need them; he could do without them. But they're here and they're not going to let him go, and now, with the child, he can't let them go either. Even if it's not his. There are people who would love to get their hands on the Kyuubi's carrier's spawn. He'll kill them first, if Naruto doesn't.

Sakura smiles more these days; sometimes Sasuke catches himself smiling back. Naruto is insatiable in bed. Or out of bed. Everywhere.

The thought of losing his teammates makes him sick.

He shouldn't have stayed, after Naruto stopped him at the waterfall. He should have escaped from the hospital the second he could walk again. They're chaining him to them, to this village. They're dulling his resolve. They're not letting him hate enough.

Sasuke lives in terror of the day Itachi will fix that mistake for him.

He knows it will be enough; it will be the one thing he's still missing. If Itachi kills them, Sasuke will kill Itachi, no ifs or buts, no "not strong enough yet," no fancy tricks needed. He's sure of it -- sure that that's the only guaranteed method. If Sakura and Naruto die, then Itachi will die too.

And then Sasuke will follow.

He can't take it a second time.

He used to be unable to enjoy his present because his dreams were in his past; now he can't enjoy it because his future holds nightmares. He hates his teammates a little, he thinks. His goal wasn't so impossible when he had nothing left to lose.

He never should have let them worm their way in. The only way to keep them safe would have been to cut them out. But it's too late for that. They're targets, now. Leaving won't protect anyone anymore.

And so he sits in front of the shrine, and watches the incense sticks burn from tip to bottom. Those cousins he never knew smile at him from the picture, frozen and so far away he feels sometimes they have never been real, have never existed. Just like the boy he was, before his world was destroyed. Just like his family, with his strong father and gentle mother, and that big brother he loved, for and despite everything he was.

He wishes the child could have known his grandparents.

[House of Dogs (Naruto)]