Author's Note: Hello, my loves! I know that there isn't anyone out there still reading this story but know that even if it takes me ten years, I am still here, behind the scenes, writing two letters per day it feels like. I am so sorry for the long wait! It's not an overly impressive chapter by any sense of the word but it is something. I know that you are all mad at me - if you're even still out there - but I do hope that you continue to enjoy! Have a wonderful day!
"I choose you."
Mito stares back at her with beautiful rose-colored eyes, sitting while surrounded by all sorts of papers filled with scribbles. Everything scattered around her made it look like chaos and discord, yet somehow she also made it seem like everything was exactly where it needed to be. "Not that I blame you. I am the most beneficial one to have near your family, so I suppose I understand."
Sakura stares at the red-haired woman, honestly impressed beyond words. She wished that one day she would be able to be as strong and as confident as Mito Uzumaki. She just made it seem so natural being as confident as she is and Sakura deeply admires that. Plus it was kind of funny how she said things, like her opinion, was a simple fact and everyone else was slow to keep up with the way she ran things.
"I like you, Mito," Sakura says, smiling at the smooth face of the other woman. "And I'm hoping that we can be a family."
Mito shrugs her shoulders. "That's sweet, Lady Uchiha. I can understand why you would choose me. Me being here would be very beneficial to all of you, as I've said. Plus it would give me more time to investigate the strangeness going on around here without my sisters or the elders breathing down my neck. Maybe now I'll finally get some work done in peace." She takes a moment to think about her own words before nodding to herself. "Okay, sure. I accept."
Sakura looks over at Tobirama and Hashirama, the latter of which is just as confused as she is, while the former is nodding as if her reasoning made absolute sense to him. Sakura looks over at Hahsirama again and he shrugs his shoulders. So long as at least one of them understands, that's going to have to be good enough.
"Are you sure that you're okay with this, Lady Mito?" Hashirama asks concerned, dark eyebrows pulling together.
Mito nods. "Sure. I knew that I was probably the best bet out of all my sisters, and honestly? This isn't the worst arrangement I could have had."
Hashirama squints, not sure he understands. "Thanks?"
Mito's frosty expression softens slightly. "I'm sorry. It wasn't meant to come out like that." Her expression falls neutral again. "The fact of the matter stays the same, though. I have a few choices for noble husbands and one that is the head of our sister clan? That is beneficial to me. Especially since he is young, handsome, and kind enough that his adopted baby sister was worried that he would be mistreated by the harpies of my clan is enough to prove that I'm in better shape than most women are."
Tobirama frowns at her words while Hashirama looks genuinely sad by them. Sakura can't help but think back to a few months ago before she was even married to her wonderful husband. How all that came to be. How Sakura got a scar across her chest from saving Izuna's life and how her clan's elders threw a fit over her never being able to marry into a prominent clan because of it. How angry and hurt her brothers were when they realized that. Not only that she was hurt, but that all those old dogs in their family cared about was Sakura's ability to make a strong tie to another clan through marriage alone. They didn't care about her well-being or the fact that she was hurt.
Sakura's certain that's what made Hashirama and Tobirama the angriest. She was their family, not in blood, sure, but in love. They no doubt believed that she deserved better than that.
And Sakura will love them forever for that and every other reason that she doesn't have the time in her life or the air in her lungs to recite all of them.
Sakura didn't think about it at that time but she remembers them coming home from that meeting. She remembers the simmering anger floating around them as Tobirama simply couldn't speak he was so mad and Hashirama, well, at the sight of her, his face pinched up so tightly, like he was in physical pain before he pulled her into his arms and held her close. He was so upset, holding her to his chest for a long time. Sakura could sense that something was wrong, and at the time didn't know what exactly it was about.
She remembers sitting down by the fire, pulling him down with her, and pushing his head down onto her lap as she slowly her fingers through his soft, pin-straight brown hair. He stared up at her for a long time while Tobirama pulled out some food to cook for them in silence. This was still back then when Sakura didn't need words. The only people that really mattered to understand her didn't need her words. She knows now that a part of it was being lazy and another part was making it needlessly more complicated for others to get close to her.
But at that time, the only ones she really wanted she already had. Her brothers were with her. They were the only ones she wanted.
She didn't know what upset her brothers so much and neither seemed interested in really talking about it, so Sakura let it go. They sat in silence. Hashirama laying on his back staring at Sakura. Sakura staring into the fire that Tobirama was using to cook their meal. And Tobirama was busying himself with their food to even look around the room. In the silence of it, Sakura whispers, "It's okay, Tobirama-ani, Hashirama-ani. It's okay."
She could tell they were upset, but she didn't know why. But she loved her brothers and any time that they were upset, she just wanted them to be happy, to feel better and she wasn't sure how to help them other than to offer her words. At the time, it was all she had.
Tobirama pauses in cooking to look over at Sakura, red eyes staring directly into her green ones as he says, "No, Sakura, it's not okay. But it will be. Hashirama and I will be with you forever."
And silly, naive Sakura smiled at that. Overjoyed at the idea of always being together with the two people she loved most in the world.
Thinking back on it now, Sakura was sorry for how much that situation hurt her brothers. She was the one with the scar that will never go away - as does Madara and Izuna by extension - but their love for her made them worry more than she ever would have wanted. But they felt her pain as if it was their own. They would never sell her off to empower the clan or to appease a bunch of old men. She would stay by their side for the rest of her life so long as she was happy. Everything else is damned. And just as she worries herself sick for them, they do for her and each other. Unfortunately, that's love.
"I'm sorry," Hashirama says softly, looking over at Sakura, probably thinking about the same thing that she was.
Mito shakes her head, drawing his dark eyes back over to her. "Don't be sorry. Don't feel sorry. Do better. For your sister." She waves to herself, looking coldly amused. "For your wife. For your daughters and granddaughters. You're a man in charge of a big village, a big, influential clan with a lot of different clans following your lead." The two stare at each other as Mito says, calmly, "You want to make a difference? Swear to me here and now. If we are to be married, our firstborn, boy or girl, will be your heir or heiress. That way it's fair. If Kami decides we have a boy, then boy it is. But if we have a girl, I want her to be recognized as your heiress. With all the same rights and power an heir would have had."
Hashirama's eyelashes flutter a bit with thought before he nods, smiling lightly. "That is such a wonderful idea."
Mito huffs, shaking her head like she couldn't believe it. "Perhaps your sister was right to be worried for you, Lord Hashirama."
Hashirama smiles a bit more, shrugging his shoulders at that. He almost appears proud, like he's the luckiest man in the world to have his sister worry about him. He looks over at Sakura, reaching out to take her hand and kissing the back of it. "My sweet imouto would worry for me even if I wasn't like this."
Sakura grins back at her brother, squeezing his hand tightly before looking over at Mito, knowing that Hashirama certainly wasn't wrong in what he said. "We would love the help, Lady Mito. Please say you'll at least think about it?"
Mito shakes her head before raising her arms up high above her head to stretch for a moment. She lets out a sigh and relaxes back in place looking back at the youngest in the room. "There isn't a need to think about it," Mito says simply. "I've already thought through all of this since my sister made the initial proposal. As I said, I'm the most logical choice out of all of my sisters, so this was a very plausible outcome that I had considered. I don't need time to think about it. But thank you for asking. What I do need time for is this seal, now if the three of you are done, I would like some time to further study this," Mito says, waving her hand toward the papers around her. "We can tell my sister tonight."
Hashirama laughs, giving Sakura's hand a squeeze before finally letting her go. "You have everything planned out, don't you, Lady Mito?"
Mito's smile warms up a touch but still as sharp as a blade. "You will learn soon enough, Lord Hashirama, that I leave nothing without careful consideration."
Hashirama nods as he climbs to his feet with Tobirama just a moment behind him. Hashirama holds out his hand for Sakura to take and helps pull her to his feet as he says, "I'm starting to see that. Thank you for your time, Lady Mito. I suppose we should leave you to your work. We shall see you tonight."
Mito nods, sparing the three siblings a long look. "Tonight, then."
After they leave the building, Sakura turns to her brothers, letting them know that she was going to talk to Miyaya. Sakura knows that she has been waiting patiently for the pink-haired girl's decision on which of the Uzumaki sisters will be marrying into the Senju clan. Sakura felt so bad for taking such a long time to make her decision, but when she finally managed to corner the Uzumaki clan leader about to go into a meeting.
Miyaya seemed pleased with Sakura's decision. She didn't say much one way or the other on how she felt about Sakura choosing Mito of all the sisters but so long as she wasn't mad or somehow displeased, Sakura could accept that. It took a long time, and she's probably at the last possible moment for her to decide, but it is finally done. Now they can prepare for the wedding at the end of the month.
Sakura knows that Mito, Hashirama, and Tobirama were going to come with her later that night to talk to Miyaya, but Sakura felt that she should take responsibility for it on her own. She was the one left with the decision, so she should be the one to own up to it. Thankfully, Miyaya didn't seem to be upset or otherwise unhappy about the situation so it seems like everything is working out okay for them. Which Sakura is thankful for.
It makes her anxious, thinking about her brother getting married, but Hashirama seemed at peace. Sakura will worry and fret for a long time, but hopefully, this will be for the best. They seem to be getting along well enough, for the time being, so she can only hope. She hates the idea of forcing her brother to do something against his will. She knows that this isn't completely strange in shinobi society - marrying someone for a political purpose rather than love - but she still wishes only the best for her brothers.
And for as open and loving as her eldest brother was, sometimes he was far harder to read than even Tobirama. Usually when something troubling was going on and Sakura would look over at her eldest brother and he would, more often than not, give her a smile in one form or another. A happy smile, a sad one, a soft one, and even those that are just in his eyes. It didn't really occur to Sakura until just then that perhaps she didn't know as much about Hashirama that she thought that she did. At least, not when it comes to things like that.
That or Hashirama is just too good at keeping his true thoughts to himself.
He never wanted to worry her, so he would soothe her fears with a smile, and it almost always worked. Sakura always felt better when looking into her eldest brother's eyes, because despite how he felt, he seemed impossibly strong at all times. He never faltered, never showed weakness, and was always... smiling. He always seemed so sure and so strong. Sakura never really had to worry with Hashirama around.
Another one of the millions of amazing things Sakura loved about her brothers.
Sakura heads home after that, figuring that it was all pretty much done with. She walks up to the front door of her house, stopping when she heard signs of exertion from the backyard, and made her way around the house to see Madara running through motions that Sakura had to guess is part of his fighting style. He's so in the zone he doesn't appear to notice Sakura walking over to the edge of the stairs and sitting down to watch him. She leans forward onto her elbows, green eyes following his fluid, practiced movements.
Fighting is in his blood. He's been practicing forms and kata all of his life. Everything he does in regard to that seems precise and practiced. Never dull or rough around the edges.
She's not sure how long she was sitting there, watching her husband's movements, before she stands up and heads into the house. She grabs a cup of water and heads back out to see Madara finishing up. He glances over at her, dark eyes sparkling at the sight of her as if he hadn't noticed that she was there earlier. And maybe he didn't, he was pretty focused on his steps.
"Hello," Madara says breathlessly, eyes crinkling a bit.
Sakura smiles back at him, holding out the cup for him to take, ignoring the fluttering in her stomach. She loved that look in his eyes the most. "Hello, Madara-chan."
He drinks a few deep gulps before putting it down on the porch and takes Sakura's hand, helping her sit down next to it. He crosses his arms over his chest and leans back on his hips, looking down at her, curiously. He tilts his head to the side a bit. "Tell me about your day. How are you?"
Sakura tilts her head a bit, feeling love swell in her chest. "I am okay. I chose Lady Mito to be Hashirama-ani's wife. I told her."
Madara's eyebrows raise toward his hairline as he nods slowly. He runs the back of his hand across his forehead to wipe off some of the sweat built up there. He looks down at the ground for a moment, shuffling back and forth a bit. He moves around so that he can hop up next to her, his shoulder brushing against hers, casting a slow look over at her. "And how are you feeling about all of that?"
Sakura shrugs her shoulder, looking down at her dangling feet off the porch while his feet touch the ground. "I'm okay."
Madara tilts his head a little bit. "Are you really?"
Sakura nods slowly. "I'm okay. Why?"
Madara stares at her, curiously. "Hashirama is your brother. You were tasked with the nerve-wracking decision of who he's going to be spending the rest of his life with." Sakura stares at him, unsure of where he was trying to go with this. Madara tilts his head a bit, letting out a little sigh. Not like he's upset, but more like he's worried that Sakura hasn't thought about it as much as he has and he's about to make her day harder for her. "All your life Hashirama and Tobirama have been making decisions for you and while I know they've put agonizing thought into each and every one of them, you have never really had to take any responsibilities for any of it, because of that. It's not the same here. You made the decision."
Sakura stares back at him for a long time, processing what he's trying to say. And he's right. Not that Sakura has ever blamed her brothers for anything that goes wrong in her life - and honestly, she's been very fortunate so far - but she honestly could to some degree as most of the life choices for her have been made by someone else. Namely, Hashirama and Tobirama. And while Sakura personally thinks that they've done a wonderful job, seeing as she has no complaints, it's definitely different the other way around.
Subconsciously, Sakura has to have already known this, seeing as how much of a pain this whole thing has been because she wanted to be absolutely sure that she got the right sister for Hashirama, but it wasn't a conscious thought. She knew how much weighed on her decision, but not the full extent of it. As much as Sakura would like to panic and have second thoughts about all of this, she doesn't. She has given it considerable thought, as she didn't make the decision all willy nilly, but she will always worry about her brothers. She will always wonder how they are doing, if they are alright, and if they are happy.
Because, once again, that's what it means to love someone.
Sakura turns to look back over at Madara, resting her chin on his shoulder to stare at him in the eye. "It'll be okay. I will always worry about them - my brothers. But I will also always be here."
Madara offers a small, sweet smile, staring into her eyes. "Yes. We will. Together."
Sakura giggles at the crinkling in his eyes. She leans in close, rubbing the tip of her nose against his, which makes him smile more and her heart flutters once more. Sakura links her arms through his, placing a soft kiss on his cheek and grinning at him, not at all minding that he was sweating. "How do you feel?"
Madara's smile widens even more still, mile-long lashes fluttering. He reaches up and holds onto one of her hands, cradling it between both of his. "I feel better. Thank you. I do apologize for having worried you before."
Sakura shakes her head, resting her cheek onto his shoulder and closing her eyes. She's tired. She's not used to getting up so early, but she's trying to do better. For the sake of herself and all the men in her life that she loves. They may not really need her to be strong, but she does. She needs to be strong for them for herself. They don't need it, she's sure. But she needs to be for them, for herself.
Sakura wraps around his arm, snuggling close, feeling him press back into her too, looking out over their backyard in silence, soaking in the warm sunlight. Sakura waits a few minutes, letting them bask in their happiness and closeness, before asking, "Will you come to dinner tonight? With my brothers, Lady Miyaya and Lady Mito?"
Madara rests his cheek on the top of her head. "Would you like for me to be there?"
Sakura nods. "I want you there if you're feeling up to it."
"I feel much better now," Madara assures her. "Do you have any time after dinner tonight? How about a late-night walk before bed?"
Sakura grins up at him, bobbing her head up and down in excitement. She's sure she's going to be tired from getting up early these past few days to train with Hashirama and Tobirama, but she loves these short, gentle times with her husband. It's something that he's been enjoying doing before they go to bed is a little walk where they can just talk. Sakura has been enjoying them too.
"I would love to."
Madara smiles faintly, pressing his lips into her hair before resting his cheek back onto her head and they settle again into silence.
Sakura admitted to Mito that she already told Miyaya about her decision and the older woman didn't seem at all surprised. They - Sakura, Hashirama, Tobirama, Mito, Miyaya, and Madara - sat around a table, eating and talking about the future. Sakura listened to them talk about money and plans for both the marriage and for the village. Sakura is careful to listen to it but doesn't fully understand it. But instead of just drifting off when they all started talking business, Sakura tried hard to stay focused through it. She caught herself multiple times and had to bring herself back.
She finds the best way to help herself focus is to lean into Tobirama's side and whisper questions into his ear. He listens to all of them and whispers back the answers while still listening in on the conversation going on around him and throwing in his input whenever it seemed prudent. He didn't seem to mind her bothering him and even seemed happy that she was willing to participate as much as she could.
Hashirama was proud of her, she could tell by the way he kept sending her lovingly proud smiles throughout the course of the dinner. At least, she thinks that's why he's smiling at her. Or, he's just happy that she's there. He's... hard to read sometimes. But still, regardless of that, Sakura felt accomplished for making it all the way to the end of the night having some idea of what they were talking about. It's definitely not much, but it is something.
Sakura thanks Mito and Miyaya for coming and apologized again for it taking so long for her to make a decision - to which both of them brushed her words off, disinterested in apologies - before she hugs and kisses her brothers and wishes them goodnight before taking Madara's hand and the two of them head toward their home.
They walk slowly, dragging their feet as they head home.
"I've been thinking..." Madara says slowly, "and I know that I keep saying this, but I would really like to see your chakra again."
Sakura glances at him, curiously. "You can see it whenever you want to."
Madara offers a little, gentle smile. "I know. But I also know that you're tired. I'm just fascinated by it. The abilities that you have, the uniqueness of your chakra... it's all very interesting to me. Not today, and not tomorrow either, but someday soon, I want to see it again in action, if you are willing, of course."
Sakura rolls her eyes, leaning into her husband while turning to look at him. "It's okay. Whenever you want. If not today, or tomorrow, then the next day."
Madara's sweet smile widens a little bit as he turns his black eyes toward the road in front of them as they walk. "I know you've said that before. But I also know that you aren't a show animal to be poked and prodded either. I just want to make sure that you're okay with it."
"I am," Sakura says. "Okay with this, I mean. There aren't secrets between us."
Madara nods, squeezing her hand tightly. "I know that. But you are entitled to say no if it's something you don't want. Even if we are husband and wife. We are still separate people. Love doesn't mean obligation. You can still hold your individuality while being my wife."
Sakura offers him a crooked smile, glancing up at him. "You love me, Madara-chan?"
Madara blinks, his steps faltering for a moment as if her question caught him off guard before his movements smooth out once more as he seriously considers her words. Sakura giggles, not meaning to elicit this reaction. It was more of a teasing jab. Sakura opens her mouth, about to tell him that she was joking and he didn't have to be so serious about it when he nods, looking down at her and saying, firmly, "Yes. Yes, I do."
Sakura gapes at him, shocked by his candor. Not that Madara has ever been dishonest - at least not when it wasn't beneficial to someone he cared about - but she hadn't really thought about it like that. Yes, she knew that she loved Madara, but she wasn't sure that they were at that stage in their relationship. She's sure it's natural for partners in arranged marriages to develop feelings for one another and Sakura has always cared about Madara, and was even growing to love him too, but she wasn't sure that they were at the point of talking about it.
Maybe that's odd considering they were married, but still... she hadn't expected that he would say yes.
Madara gently pulls her along as their home comes into view once entering the Uchiha compound. Sakura quietly absorbs her husband's words. Madara seems content to let her think about it while he squeezes her ice-cold hand in his fiery hot one. Sakura walks hand-in-hand with her husband in silence, trying to decide if his words scared her or not before carefully deciding that they didn't. They give her hope, actually.
They can all be happy. They can build up their village and their families. Everyone's dreams are starting to come true and people are starting to become happy. There isn't anything wrong with them being happy either. Things are turning upward - well, for the most part. Aside from the demon in the forest and the people using the Uzumaki seals to try and kill Sakura's brothers. Yeah, maybe not looking all the way up but still, things are good. They are getting to a good place. They are happy.
For now, they are all happy and healthy. They've earned this. They've earned happiness.
Sakura pulls her hand from Madara's and steps into his side, wrapping her arms around his waist and nuzzling into him. His arm slides up and over her shoulders, holding her close. The night was cold and Madara was very warm. She's thankful for him to be here with her.
And yes... she loved him too. Of course, she loved him too. Madara is the perfect man for her. He's made her so happy that there aren't any words for it. She's so happy that he's there with her. She's so thankful. Any number of things could have changed - or even just one simple thing - and Sakura could have either ended up with someone else entirely, or she would have only her brothers at her side for the rest of her life. But she's fortunate to have Madara. To have her brothers - Izuna, Hashirama, and Tobirama.
She chooses to be happy with the life that she has. She chooses to love, in all of the many forms that it comes in. They all deserve to be happy.
"I love you too," Sakura says softly, feeling Madara squeeze her shoulder lovingly as they walk up to their house.
"Let's get inside, Sakura, it's cold out. And you have another early morning so we should head to bed." Sakura hums softly under her breath, following her husband - the man she loved - into their home.
Yes, it was. It was cold outside. But in Madara's arms, it's warm and safe. It always has been.