“Ah, Uchiha Sasuke, it’s really you. I never thought I’d see you again around town.”
Sasuke slowly turned around at the sound of an unfamiliar voice speaking his name, a glimpse of hostility in the tone, his hand resting on the handle of his Katana. Turning fully around, he looked into the empty yet darting eyes only a Hyuuga could possess. The elder man’s face seemed familiar, yet it didn’t quite click, since most members of the clan looked very much alike. But one look at his forehead made Sasuke realize who he was facing. “Hyuuga Hiashi”, he stated blandly. “What would you want from me?”
Hiashi flinched a little over the impoliteness of Sasuke’s words. “Would you do me the favor of joining me for lunch today? You are the only survivor of one of Konoha’s five noble clans, and I think there are quite a few issues to be discussed between us.”
Sasuke taxed Hiashi with open hostility in his eyes. The Hyuuga and the Uchiha have always been indifferent towards each other. Why should they now start having discussions to do? “I’m not here to stay”, he simply said and almost turned around to leave. In fact, he was only here to get Sakura and leave for his next adventure. He had promised to take Sakura on one of his travels around the world several years ago, and never kept his promise when he briefly returned to Konoha to hang out with Naruto or to check on his bank account. But he was nearing his twenties and when he wanted to rebuild his clan, he would probably have to make a move on Sakura soon. Why her? It wasn’t something he really wanted. Every woman would do, to be honest, but Sakura had always been true to him, and he knew she still deeply valued him, even after everything he’s done in the past.
“It’s about something your father and I discussed, only weeks before… well before the tragedy occurred to your family.”
Tragedy? Sasuke clenched his teeth. “You mean when my brother was forced to wipe out our clan on behalf of the Third?”
Hiashi cleared his throat. “It was a difficult time back then. Please keep that in mind.” The men stared at each other for several moments before Hiashi pleaded again. “So would you please join me for lunch, Uchiha Sasuke? I want you to know that I always valued your father. He’s been a strong and willful man.”
Sasuke thought about it for another moment. Then he agreed reluctantly. He just wanted to get out of this village as soon as possible again. Still, he was curious, what his father had planned with that old man that wasn’t as old back then. “Good, but it’s your treat.”
Hiashi nodded gracefully, hiding his hands in the wide arms of his dark kimono and his emotions behind the mask of stoicism, so many great men in the ninja world owned.
Sasuke followed Hiashi to a stall in the middle of Konoha’s market, a lively place, loud and busy, a place Sasuke would never go to if he had the choice. He thought about the two options there were around their following conversation. One was, that the topic was total nonsense and everyone around could very well hear what was going on, what two clan leaders were chit-chatting almost 15 years ago. The other was that the topic was actually super secret, and he used the high sound on this place to cover his words. “Filled tomatoes?” Sasuke murmured, looking at the menu of the stall. How did this old hang know…
“I’ve got my ears everywhere”, Hiashi stated, not looking at Sasuke’s mad face. He ordered the vegan version filled with tofu and onions, while Sasuke chose an option with cheese and egg. Waiting for their lunch, the two men sat down at an old, informal table with squeaky benches on three of its four sides. They sat face to face from each other, taxing their faces in silence.
When their food arrived, it was Hiashi who spoke first. “Will you be fine, with just that one arm?”
“That one arm is more than enough”, Sasuke snapped, breaking the one-time chopsticks apart with his teeth, not paying attention to Hiashi’s staring. He started to take out the filling of his tomato, eating small bits of the creamy stuffing. He may be one of the most impolite persons Hiashi ever met, but his table manners were that of a noble heir.
“You know that Uzumaki Naruto got a prosthetic arm?”, Hiashi asked in between two bites.
Sasuke rolled his eyes. He wasn’t in the mood for small talk, and Hiashi wouldn’t get him anyway. “Why are we here, Hyuuga Hiashi?”
The older one places his chopsticks on the table, looking around with a somewhat annoyed sigh. Then he reached into the inside pocket of his kimono and took out an old, strained piece of paper. He unfolded the sheet and placed it on the table between their plates, facing Sasuke, so he could read comfortably.
Sasuke’s eyes widened as he recognized the handwriting of his father. “What is this?”, he gasped and took the sheet into his hand without laying the chopsticks down. Crumbs flew over the paper, and he quickly blew them away, before they could leave oily traces. "Betrothal?”, he said under his breath.
His eyes flew over the yellowed paper. “Herewith, I Hyuuga Hiashi ninth head of the noble Hyuuga clan, promise the hand of my oldest daughter Hyuuga Hinata to Uchiha Fugaku, eleventh head of the noble Uchiha clan’s, second son Uchiha Sasuke for they may form a new, strong bloodline within the borders of our village hidden under leaves. May their future marriage be fruitful and bring lasting harmony between our two clans. Signed Hyuuga Hiashi and Uchiha Fugaku.” The contract was dated only three months before his father died.
“What is this?”, Sasuke repeated forcefully and slammed the paper back on the table.
“It is what it says in the heading”, Hiashi stated.
“I can read very well, thank you!” Sasuke clenched his teeth. “There has never been a marriage between Uchiha and Hyuuga. Why would you give your oldest daughter – the future head of the clan of all people – to one?”
Hiashi remained silent for several breaths. His face didn’t reveal any emotion, but when he spoke, he broke eye contact with Sasuke and looked at his hands. “I knew from a very young age that Hinata would never be the head of our clan. My father found her too weak, from too bad health and to top it all, she was a girl. Luckily, when Hinata was five, her mother, my late wife, gave birth to our second daughter, Hanabi. While she was still a girl, my father saw all the needed traits in her, she was strong, stubborn and a fighter from her very first month on. My wife, fragile and sickly like Hinata, died when Hanabi was 14 month old, without giving me a son, but my father, I and the rest of the eldest decided that Hanabi should be my successor as the Hyuuga clan’s head. We didn’t know what to do with Hinata though. From the rules of our clan, she would have been forced into the branch family of the clan, but she hadn’t gotten her cursed mark yet. One evening I met your father at a café we both spend a lot of time in. He told me a lot about you, how he would be the proudest father if you were his only child. But you were cursed to be Itachi’s younger brother and compared to him, everyone looked small. And so, a plan formed in both our minds at the same time. We only ever wanted the best for our children, so we thought why not make them still something special, outstanding. Why not have them form their own new clan, their own new, strong bloodline? No Hyuuga ever had a child with an Uchiha, nobody knew what an offspring of two such strong bloodlines, two such strong dojutsu would be like. We decided to talk things through with the eldest of our clans and a few days later this contract was signed in the presence of the councils of both clans. We hoped for a bright future for you two, Uchiha Sasuke. While Hinata was weak, I still loved her dearly. I still do, as she reminds me of her wonderful mother, every time I look into her beautiful, kind face. And when I look at you, Uchiha Sasuke, I too see the warm and caring face of your mother Mikoto, a woman of incredible strength and kindness.”
Sasuke needed a moment to process everything he’s just heard. Feeling an itching behind his eyes he was unfamiliar with, he pressed the index finger and thumb on the bridge of his nose to hold back the water coming into his eyes. “That’s a lot”, he croaked. Hearing from a third person how his father, whose attention he tried to get for the first eight years of his life, thought about him, stirred so many unresolved feelings up inside him that he wasn’t able to say anything for minutes.
Hiashi just continued to eat his stuffed tomato, giving the younger man the time he clearly required, avoiding to look at his burst of emotions. After half finishing his meal, he only told Sasuke to keep eating, it wouldn’t be as good when it turned cold.
Sasuke obeyed automatically. Hiashi’s strict and calm demeanor didn’t allow disobedience.
When the men both finished their meal, Hiashi neatly placed down his chopsticks and looked open into Sasuke’s eyes. “Can I please have your opinion, Uchiha-kun?”
Sasuke noticed the shift to the friendlier appellation and acknowledged it with a slight smile. “Why are you sticking to these old papers? My father knew this would never happen. He had a coup d’état planned for a long time when he signed this.”
“Let me only tell you this: Maybe I knew more about your father’s plans, than you can imagine, young Uchiha”, Hiashi instantly cut Sasuke’s words off. “And why do I still stick to those old papers? They are the only way to keep the dignity of my daughter alive. Hinata has shown rather… unfortunate taste in men. I was told she is seeing that Uzumaki boy. And while I acknowledge his deeds during the war and that he’s grown into a quite tolerable man, he’s still no match for my daughter, future Hokage or not. You know, we Hyuuga only marry in between the five noble clans.”
Sasuke’s eyes widened. Naruto was dating Hinata Hyuuga? While he knew that Hinata liked the Uzumaki ever since academy, he never thought Naruto would return those feelings. So he really abandoned his feelings for Sakura? “And I am from one of the five clans. And while never an Uchiha and a Hyuuga have merged, you prefer seeing her as my wife than Uzumaki’s.” He concluded.
Hiashi broke eye contact, again looking at his palms. “That’s how you could put it…”
“You also don’t mind that I used to be an s-class ranked nukenin only three years ago?”
Hiashi took a deep breath – so he did mind. “You have been redeemed by the five kage. There is nothing I have to worry about.”
Sasuked scoffed. Redemption, what did that even mean? He didn’t care what any of those five old hangs had to say. For him, he would only be redeemed, when he thought he was. One step was his arm – he had to pull together to stop his hand from flying to the stump under his long sleeve. Another was that he didn’t deserve true happiness, not in a relationship, not in friendship and not in a profession he loved. He would never return to duty and would spend the rest of his life miserable and bored. So he didn’t deserve to decide his mate on his own either, as it looked like. His eyes wandered the handwritten betrothal contract. His father only wanted the best for him, a purpose in life, something to be proud of, not only being the younger, disappointing brother of the new head of the Uchiha clan. And now that he was the last Uchiha, would that contract still make sense? Was it wise to cross his fragile bloodline with somebody else who has a dojutsu? Nobody knew what happened when Byakugan and Sharingan interbred. With everything he knew about bloodlines, they could very well cancel each other out. And what then? What if he wasted years of his life with a woman that gave birth to child after child, and they all were useless? But his father had thought differently. He believed that they would create a new, strong bloodline together. Did Fugaku in fact know more about genetics than Sasuke did? His mind raced around those questions, making him almost dizzy, until he finally said: “Fine, I’ll submit to my father’s will and accept your daughter as my future wife. You said she wasn’t in good health, I hope that doesn’t keep her from having healthy children?”
Hiashi quickly shook his head. “Oh please, Sasuke-kun! She was only sickly as a child, since her teenage days, she has improved massively. But I guess you last saw her during those Chunin exams where Otogakure attacked.” He cleared his throat, noticing that it wasn't the best topic to come up with in Sasuke’s presence. “Well, you should meet her again soon, maybe for dinner at our house? I’ll arrange everything with my daughter, and hopefully she will soon let go of that Uzumaki boy.”
“Please leave Naruto in my care”, Sasuke quickly returned. It was important for him to be the one to talk to him. “You know, we’ve been mates for years. I don’t want any hard feelings to dwell between us.”
Hiashi didn’t look pleased, but he also didn’t deny his offer. “Very well, when the breakup is mutual, it’ll be easier for Hinata anyway.”
Sasuke nodded. The conversation was over for him, and he rose from his bench. “You’ll excuse me then, Otou?” He gave Hiashi a sly smirk that the elder didn’t return, he only flinched a little at being called dad.
“You’re very impolite, young Uchiha”, he grunted through gritted teeth, but Sasuke already vanished with Shunshin.
The brown and green, five-story building still looked the same as when they were Genin. Sasuke teleported instantly to the very last floor, the one with the flats’ doors on the outside, facing a large balcony that connected the whole floor. He’s been here so many times during those three years of traveling, he didn’t need to think about it to teleport there. He knocked on the door and when it didn’t fly open instantly, he started to get annoyed. Again he knocked, and this time the door flew open.
“Ah, it’s you, Teme”, Naruto snapped. He looked ruffled, a glance over his shoulder revealed a floor full of scrolls and papers.
“You’re busy?”, Sasuke noted, and entered the apartment without waiting for an invitation.
“Yeah, kinda…”, Naruto grunted, rubbing his belly under his shirt. “You know, donin’ future Hokage stuff."
Sasuke scuffed and heavily sat down on Naruto’s bed. He looked at his friend with a tilted head, not sure how to start the conversation. It wouldn’t be a pleasant one. “I heard you’re dating Hyuuga Hinata”, he finally blurted out.
Naruto’s eyes widened, his cheeks going pink. “How-how d-did you know?”
“Did her stuttering rub off on you?”
Naruto frowned and sat down on the floor with noise. His papers and scrolls flew away or got crumpled below his butt. “She’s not stuttering anymore.”
“Good to know”, Sasuke blandly stated. “You can’t see her anymore.”
“What?!” Naruto flew back on his feet and the before unharmed papers flew through the room. “What are you saying, are you out of your mind?”
Maybe he really was, saying the following words to his only real friend in the world, the only person that he really cared about. “I’m going to marry Hyuuga Hinata.”
“Sasuke, what are you saying? You haven’t even talked one word to her since, I don’t know, academy? And Sakura, she told me you’d come and get her soon. What about your journey? I-I don’t understand, what’s going on?”
“If you’d shut up for a minute, I could explain everything”, Sasuke growled through gritted teeth.
With an offended face, Naruto flopped back to the floor, arms crossed.
Sasuke waited some seconds to confirm he would keep quiet before he started to retell what had happened in the morning. “And I’m not going to abandon my father’s last wish for me. I’m going to obey and marry Hinata. She’ll be the foundress of the new Uchiha clan, a strong new bloodline.”
Naruto didn’t answer instantly, which surprised Sasuke, who had expected screaming and fighting and throwing hands. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Are you even listening to what you’re saying? What is Hinata to you? An incubator? What about her wants and dreams? Have you any idea what she wants? And what is Hiashi thinking? It’s his oldest daughter he’s talking about, selling her like a mare. I knew the Hyuuga were a horrible bunch but that? No, that's enough. Once I’ll be Hokage-”
“Yeah I know, you’ll change the Hyuuga!”, it was now on Sasuke to interrupt Naruto’s rant. “You have no idea how clan politics work. No heir of a big clan was ever allowed to choose their partner simply to their taste. It was always a bit of politics, a bit of consideration, a bit of genetic calculation. They all got a bloodline to pass on!”
The young men stared at each other, one face harder than the other, both so close to start throwing hands.
“Why are you even dating Hinata of all people? I thought you loved Sakura so much?”
Naruto looked at his hands that sank feebly into his lap. “I accepted that she didn’t like me back. That she still was into you. I haven’t stopped loving you either, so why should she?”
Sasuke flinched at the word loving, but he didn’t interrupt Naruto this time.
“And Hinata? She was so kind and sweet. I knew she liked me, I knew for years, but I couldn’t act like it. And then… then there was this guy that took her away. I went to save her.”
Of course he did. Sasuke huffed. He always had to save the day.
“She kissed me and I kissed her back and when everything settled down a bit, we kissed some more, and then we also did something else, and you know, I just thought that we now had to be together, since everything else would be really unfair, wouldn’t it?”
Sasuke’s jaw dropped. So basically his best friend had already fucked his future wife. He fought himself to not talk about that fact. “So you’re just her boyfriend, ‘cause you didn’t want to be an asshole?”
“I AM no asshole!”, Naruto insisted.
Sasuke sighed. He was so glad he never had a problem with being a meanie, or else he would probably already be married to Karin – watcher! “Naruto, it’s not a nice move to be with somebody and pretend to like them as much as they like you just so you don’t hurt their feelings.” It felt hypocritical giving Naruto relationship advice, since his own record of successful relationships was deep in the reds. “Can you look me in the eyes and tell me you really love Hinata? If you do so, I promise to tear the contract my father and Hiashi did apart.”
“She does love ME for who I am! She already loved me before I was a hero, before all the girls were going after me! I can’t trust any other girl to love me the way Hinata loves me.”
Frowning, Sasuke thought when Naruto had become so selfish, when it had become more important for him to be the one getting the attention than giving his attention away. “That doesn’t seem like you. What about Hinata, do you think it’s fair that she’ll always be the one that loves you more? Do you really want that kind of life? And what about Sakura?”
“Sakura loves you!”, Naruto snapped, looking out of the window behind Sasuke’s back. “She’ll be so heartbroken, when she hears you are planning to marry Hinata.”
The Uchiha scoffed. “Maybe she will. But she’ll get over it. Sakura is strong, but she definitely doesn’t know what she wants either. You know why I came here today? To take her with me, that’s true, but to me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Sakura or anybody. I only choose her ‘cause she’s loyal and strong, and I know she’d be a great mother. I just need somebody to carry on the name Uchiha and my bloodline. You know, I don’t think I’m actually capable of loving somebody. And to be honest, Sakura doesn’t deserve a life like that either.” He slowly closed his eyes and a small smile formed on his thin lips. “She might think she’s still in love with me, but I saw you interact. I know she’s feeling more for you than she might admit. I’m sure she returns your feelings, Naruto, I just think she doesn’t know it yet.” He took a deep breath and suddenly felt exhausted. It’s been a while since he’s talked so much at once. When he reopened his eyes, Naruto’s face was the color of the Uzumaki crest on his t-shirt. Sasuke huffed a laugh. “You should go ask Sakura out on a date. I’m pretty sure she’ll accept. And let me take care of Hinata. I promise you, I’ll treat her well and with as much respect as I’m capable of. She’ll be alright. She’s an heiress, she knows how to accept the fate that’s been given to her. I'm sure she’ll be alright, we’ll be alright.”
Naruto looked at his palms. He knew from Sasuke’s words that his decision was definite. “You really think Sakura likes me back?”, he asked sheepishly.
Sasuke nodded with a grim smile and watched his friend jump back on his feet.
“I’m sorry mate, but I gotta be somewhere! See you around!” Naruto jumped into his sandals, threw his bright orange sweater jacket over his shoulders and ran out of the apartment.
“I’ll let myself out!”, Sasuke responded, but the door had already shut behind Naruto.