Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.

Note: For all of you who left reviews and encouraged me to attempt to expand on this story, this new revised first chapter is for you. As a reminder: this story may or may not be canon compliant.

He's only been back in Konoha a week so far. A foreigner to his own family, he is trying his best to fit into the life they currently live. When he left the last time, Sarada was a tiny toddler, but she is nothing of the sort now. Lean and determined, his bright kunoichi daughter has become her own person. She is so much like her mother and yet there is Uchiha in her too. It will be difficult to catch up on all that's happened while he's been gone, but he knew this before he came back.

He hoped his return would be smooth, but the enormous rift between them is as wide as it is deep. No matter what though, he is determined to bridge over it. He knew there would be complications in the wake of his return. Nothing is ever easy when he is concerned.

Many things are kept from her for a reason. Unfortunately, secrets are never a good thing to keep. Did he learn nothing from Itachi? He knows she's suffered. They've all suffered. Sakura and Sarada are especially hit hard but the grief extends to their other friends in the Village too. They've all helped Sakura raise their daughter, and although he hasn't exactly shown it, for this he is grateful.

Choices he's made have brought him to where he is now. Sarada hasn't talked directly to him after the excitement wore off the very first day he returned and he wouldn't answer many of her questions. She may have been in awe of him at first but now she treats him like a stranger. There is definitely anger and something more simmering beneath the surface. She is the perfect, polite daughter outwardly, but addresses him as a guest, not a father. He knows this is what he deserves, even though it puts another hole in his already battered soul every time she looks away.

Sakura. Dear sweet Sakura is there for him, forever faithfully his loving wife. Like a lighthouse at the edge of a rocky shore steering ships safely away from destruction, she is there to shine her brightness into the days that follow. She works to establish familiarity between them and breathe false happiness into the tense moments. There is so much left unsaid, so much he can't say just yet. It can't get better quickly, but he hopes it doesn't get worse.

When he was away from the Village, these two and Naruto were all he thought about. He worked toward making the future a brighter one. Sarada would never know it, but he made time to contemplate over all they meant to him.

He's at a loss for words. In the past he often got by with actions alone. With Naruto that type of behavior fueled their relationship. It made them stronger and able to understand each other without speaking. Sakura eventually had grown to understand this, so he did not have to vocalize his every thought to her. Unfortunately he knows nothing about his daughter, but the few words she's shared with him highlight what damage his time away and lack of communication does to her.

His own father was a prominent figure in his life before he died at the hands of his brother. Although some of his likeliness can be seen in Sasuke, he isn't a person he cares to emulate. All the same, he had a father, one that was around for 9 years of his life. He still vividly has memories of him along with his mother. In Sarada's eyes, though, she has had none of this. He is a ghost from the past, who was gone most of her life, and he is a stranger she no longer wants to get to know. She only knows her mother and their family togetherness just doesn't fit in her mind.

Seven days and nights are long when you are hoping for something to happen, anything really, but nothing does. He will never rush Sarada. He can't just pop into town and expect her to come running to give him a hug as if she were little. She is hurt and feels abandoned. That feeling he can attest he knows well. Even when buried deep, it never completely goes away. He understands how it can cast its spell, and even though it's wrong, how you can blame yourself for the situation. He is glad Sakura built a solid foundation for Sarada, but he can understand and sympathize with his daughter's inner insecurities perfectly. It's too bad she tried to seek him out earlier and was abruptly brought back to the Village before she could find answers to the questions she had. In no time flat, the brick walls were securely in place that allowed for his secret life away from her. No one has shared much with her since.

The guilt still remains that he didn't recognize his beloved daughter when they first met. She, however, knew immediately who he was. It stings even more to know he is the precious person who caused her Sharingan to awaken. He loves her more than she will ever know, and he has never once forgotten about his family. Unfortunately, he knows after enduring years of frustration, only to face an awkward homecoming, distance is created between them.

It is impossible to know where to start. He isn't able to share the reasons of his departure, and he knows this will only widen the rift. Before he knows it, she will be a Genin, eager to start going on missions. Fortunately they are in times of peace, but as a ninja, there is never a guarantee she will live through missions assigned, and the possibility does exist that she will die before she will ever know the truth.

Sarada sits in the corner eyeing him suspiciously but holds her tongue. Several times he thinks she might be ready to speak her mind but to his disappointment she just sits there, trying her best to appear disinterested. Tenseness in her posture however indicates nothing of the sort.

Waltzing back into their lives without so much of a word infuriates her. There are no apologies, no explanations, just a sudden appearance, like she is supposed to be happy about it. Why in the world would anyone think that? He supposes she thinks to herself.

Their closest shinobi friends paradoxically treat him as an equal and speak well of him. He knows Naruto has a lot to do with this as well as Sakura. He also knows their respect makes her head spin. Despite the good manners she displays outwardly, he has become aware of what she really thinks. He is opposite of what she hoped he would be and he has heard her quietly ask herself why he had to be her father. He knows she is embarrassed by him and regrets ever wishing he was back.

The entrance of her mother to the house stirs them out of their thoughts.

"Well, hello you two. How was your day?" she asks brightly.

Uncomfortable. Terrible is what they think.

"Fine," is what they bite out simultaneously and look in surprise at one another.

"Good," she replies back. I bought all the ingredients for a special Italian dinner tonight, chock full of fresh tomatoes," she says glancing over to Sasuke. "It's a perfect send off meal before your mission."

"Hn," he replies.

Mission? Sarada wonders. What mission? He just got back. Is he leaving again so soon? She wants to ask, but refrains. She keeps telling herself if he is gone when she returns from the Academy it might be a good thing, even though a part of her doesn't agree.

They eat in silence that night. Meaningful glances are exchanged between her parents but she pretends not to notice or care. When Sarada leaves to do the dishes, she overhears parts of their conversation from the kitchen."

"Did you talk to her yet?" her Mom inquires.


"You need to," she says sagely. "Before tomorrow is best."


Sarada finishes washing the dishes and tries to run past them to escape to her room and avoid an encounter with him. She is nearly there when he speaks.

"Wait Sarada," he says. His tone makes it seem more like a command. She freezes, then slowly turns around. "We need to talk."

Sarada hopes her mother will sense her distress and dissuade him from continuing. Unfortunately no such luck exists and she encourages her to come back to the living room to sit. Long moments of intense silence suffocate the room. Sarada begins to simmer as she observes how stupid the whole scenario really is. Didn't her father say he needed to talk? Or was that said with expectation that she would talk? Well, she has nothing to say to him. Why would she?

"Sarada," he finally speaks. She nearly jumps back in surprise as he has never initiated anything with her. She pins him with a death glare, but with all eyes on her, she has to respond.

"Yes?" Monosyllabic is probably the best way to go so it will minimize time spent with him.

He noticeably exhales and pinches the bridge of his nose. Uchiha, Sasuke loves and adores his little Sarada. He knows this with certainty. Unfortunately his physical absence has him lacking on any experience in being an actual father to her and how he might fix this. Watching her from afar, he knows his decision to leave left her feeling abandoned and betrayed, and it shakes him to the core. She does not know the depths of the love he has for her or Sakura, and he really wants to make it right.

There is so much she does not know. In a life turning change of events, he has learned what it meant to be a Konoha nin at the conclusion of the Fourth Shinobi War. Those around him helped him to find clarity in the confused mess he thought was his reality. If he learned anything from Itachi and the Hokage before him, he knew it was his duty to protect and cherish the Village and his family before everything else, even his own life. He also learned what it meant to truly love and how important that was.

"Sarada, I know you're not happy with me."

She says nothing to spite him and so he proceeds on.

"I've been gone for a long time." He looks to her for a reaction and when he sees tears beginning to form in her eyes, he knows he has hit the crux of the matter. "Nothing's going to make up for that."

That's right, she wants to yell back but holds her tongue.

"I've made some mistakes in my life."


"But you're not one of them."

"What?" she manages to spew out. Of course not, right? What is he talking about? She knows he's hit a chord though. There has always been the minute possibility he left because of her and she has always wondered about this.

"You two," he indicates with a wave of his hand to include her Mom, "mean the world to me."

Then why haven't you been here? Where were you all this time? What husband or father in their right mind leaves their family if they are precious to them? Despite her best efforts, she cannot stop the tears from falling or speak her thoughts. Sarada is never one to cry, but he is a master at breaking her heart.

Dear sweet Sakura also begins to weep and that gives him pause. His tender heart breaks for them, nearly undermining his mindset to get things out in the open. He has to stay focused though. He is determined to remain strong to make it through this. He has hurt them too much already. It is time to move forward and face the raw feelings head on.

"No," she says plainly and won't elaborate. He wants to counter her statement but knows it is exactly how she feels.

"It may not feel like it," he proceeds, "but you are both important to me." He tries to reassure her but falls flat.

"No!" she repeats, making her feelings quite clear. They are unimportant, clearly other things that kept him away held more importance than anything they represented to him.

"It's okay to hate me," he says, confusing her for a moment. "I'll understand under the circumstances."

She'll admit a part of her does nearly go that far. If she is thinking clearly she may realize she actually hates what he did to her and not what she feels for him but she isn't there yet.

"Good," she spews out.

This is definitely not going to a good place but he continues.

"No matter where you are," he begins, fondly reflecting back on the life of his brother Itachi, "or where I am," he continues, "I will always love you, both."

Her mother considerably brightens as she wipes stray tears away and hugs him back. Sarada just sits there and watches them. These words are meaningless to her. Who is he to speak of love when he quite honestly is back all but 7 days and evades all of her attempts to answer her questions? She doesn't need his love. She needs...

And then out of nowhere, fast as lightning, she feels him poke her forehead. It happens so fast. She looks stunned for a moment before confusion sets in. What theā€¦

"I'm sorry Sarada," he says, as glances over to her Mom who nods back to him. "I know that's not the only thing you want to hear."

The shock of his admission starts to run through her. She has spent the better part of her life trying to figure out why he left, why he wouldn't come back, why he would do such a thing. Why? Why? Why? She would ask herself, hating him all the while for actually going through with it.

"I won't be able to answer all your questions," he admits, "but know this, Sarada, I love you."

She closes her eyes but the tears manage to escape. She works hard to concentrate on her deep breaths to control her emotions and can feel the resolve in herself to hate him forever start to weaken and she berates herself for this.

His heart breaks seeing her like this. Their reunion was supposed to be happy, supposed to be a new start, but he supposes this is what he deserves. He notices there was a tiny change in her disposition when he speaks of his love however, and that gives him something special...hope.

After a few moments of silence she speaks. "Is that all?" she asks, but uses a quieter voice with less bite to it.

He has no idea what is going on in her head and how she is taking this but he will torture her no longer.


"May I go to my room now?"

"Of course."

He does not see her when she retreats to her room to let the tears flow freely, cursing herself that she dares let herself cry over him. When does he have any right over feeling anything for her? Years of miserable disappointment of not having a father present in her life finally catches up with her and she begins to face this with reckless abandon. She hates him for all he did to her. Her inner turmoil keeps her mad with him, but if she allows a moment of brief introspection, she will see that the hope of something new sprouts from all the pain. His admission of regret is something she has hoped for, a healing ointment to seal the cracks and prevent the bleeding the separation has caused. All she's ever hoped for was his return and he is finally here. She doesn't know where to go now but she can feel something change between them.

I'm sorry...

Know this Sarada, I love you.

He won't see it, not for a while, but Sarada loves him too. Regret is the first step in making amends with all the wrongs. And regret is something he will readily give until he can make it up to them, if that is even possible. Life is often too short to move on without thoroughly making the most of what little time you have with someone. These two mean everything to him, and he sternly sets a goal to make amends. He can only hope that this is the start of making it happen. He is not used to making apologies or showing love, but if that's what Sarada needs, he will give her that and more.

If mistakes in the past show him anything, this is important. During this time he is back, he is more than willing to work things out. Regret isn't comfortable but if he knows himself well enough, this might be his first step toward retribution and showing them how much they mean to him.

Author's Note: In Buddhism there are seven realms of hell. From what I understand, regret is one attribute that can help elevate one out of these realms which at least in my mind may be where Sasuke lies at this time in the story.

A special thank you to xFlipJamsx and Oldest Soul for clarification on Naruto fandom facts and to the wonderful authors who have helped me develop the courage to share my stories.

Update: As something new, I have decided to ask a favor of my readers. I'd like to start a fanfiction movement whereby readers pay it forward by reviewing the works they enjoy and pledge to review works of those who have reviewed for them. Positive constructive reviews have really made a difference to me as well as for other authors who have joined. Know you need not be an author to join, just pledge to leave signed constructive reviews to encourage authors to continue sharing on the site. Feel free to see my profile for more details.

With that said, I'd love to hear what your thoughts are. Reviews are appreciated.

Lastly, as an addendum, I'd also like to mention to new readers: this story began as a hurt/comfort one shot and blossomed into something more. It definitely encompasses different genres as time goes on.