Author's Note: Hello, my lovelies! I know it has been such a long time since I updated this story that the chances of anyone still being out there and reading is slim, but I am still writing for it! XD Thank you all for your support! Thank you for all of your kind words! I really hope that everyone out there is staying safe and healthy! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
"So..." Tajima Uchiha says slowly, breaking the painful silence in the room, "you are Madara's son."
Manmaru beams proudly at that. His large black eyes crinkle happily around the corners as he stares at the man in front of him. "Yep! Daddy says Manmaru is Daddy's hair."
"Heir," Sakura corrects softly.
"Hair," Manmaru says, pouting with his little lips pursed out and eyebrows pulled together. He blinks a few times, reaching up to run his hand through his hair as if suddenly realizing what he had said. He reaches up and touches his own hair, a cute pout working its way across his face. "I don't know, mommy. I don't know."
Sakura laughs lightly, pressing her forehead to his and staring into his beautiful dark eyes. "Heir, my love. You are his heir. His firstborn child and the one he has chosen to one day lead his clan."
Manmaru smiles brightly at her, pale cheeks pinkening, despite his little nod, Sakura suspects that he doesn't actually understand what she was talking about. Which is fine. He doesn't have to understand, not now. In time, she's sure the Uchiha will educate him on the importance of what he is - so long as it is still Madara's wish for Manmaru to be his heir - but that is for later.
"Heir," Manmaru says through a crinkled-eyed little face.
Sakura kisses his cheek before lowering him down to the floor and turning him toward the elders. "Now, show your respects to your clan's elders. Bow your head and thank them for their time and to take good care of you."
"Thank you for your time and take good care of you," Manmaru says to the floor, while Izuna snorts, amused next to her. Sakura rolls her eyes. He's close enough, she supposes.
"Thank you, little lord," Taizinsho says, his weak voice easily heard over the silence of the room.
Sakura lets Manmaru straighten up and walks him over to the old man, sitting down in front of him - having more respect for him than anyone else in the room. At least, elder-wise - and pulls Manmaru down onto her lap. "Manmaru, this is your great, great, great uncle Taizinsho. He is the oldest of your clan, so you must be respectful."
Manmaru studies the old man, tilting his head slightly.
"Say hello, Manmaru," Madara says softly, petting the head of his son fondly while lowering onto his hunches next to them.
"Hello," Manmaru says, leaning in close to Taizinsho to peer through his droopy eyelids to look into his eyes, but seems to be having a hard time finding them. "Do you still have eyes?"
"Manmaru!" Sakura gasps, gripping his skinny arms tightly. "What part of that is respectful?"
Manmaru wilts, embarrassed while Izuna nods slowly in Sakura's peripheral, chiming in, "Well, I mean, kid's got a point. It's been almost a hundred years since anyone's seen them."
"Izuna!" Tajima snaps while Madara reaches back and slaps his brother hard in the back, making Izuna flinch in pain. He sends Madara withering look but doesn't actually complain, no doubt knowing that he was in the wrong for his words. Doesn't mean he's not bitter about it. Although Sakura's worried about her son growing up with Izuna as a role model. She wants him to be a good boy, Izuna might turn him into a goofball. Perhaps not the worst thing in the world to happen to an Uchiha, but it looks like it is to them.
Sakura sighs, pulling Manmaru close to her, shaking her head. "Say sorry, Manmaru."
Manmaru wilts a bit, not knowing what he did wrong. "I'm sorry."
Taizinsho chuckles softly to himself, holding onto his chest a bit, not seeming to mind the disrespect in the slightest. "It is nice to meet you, little lord Manmaru." He smiles and it warms Sakura's heart.
The little boy looks around for a moment, considering something before turning his pretty black eyes toward Taizinsho, a look crossing his little face. Manmaru reaches over with both of his hands, cupping the older man's face and leaning his forehead against the older Uchiha. He smiles and crinkles appear around his large dark eyes as he whispers softly, "It's okay. It's okay. The boo-boo isn't forever. It's okay."
Sakura looks down at her son, curiously. "That's sweet of you, Manmaru."
"Mommy heals people," Manmaru says softly as the older man lightly touches the boy's little hands. "Manmaru can too."
Sakura smiles softly, looking over at Madara to see the sweet look on his face. Sakura kisses the back of her son's head as the boy finally pulls back after patting the older man's cheeks.
"Thank you, little lord, for your sweet words," Taizinsho says, squeezing Manmaru's hands before finally letting him go. "I appreciate it." He turns his head toward Madara. "Your girl raised a sweet boy for you, Madara. Make sure you thank her properly."
Madara nods, petting down the long, messy black hair of his son. "I will. Thank you, uncle." He straightens up, looking around the room at the elders with a big sigh. "This is how it's going to be. He is my son. He's part of this family. If you don't want me to take the blame for why he wasn't here, then you'll have to. Just... tell them the truth. You didn't know for certain and so you thought that she was lying about Manmaru and we just met up with him again."
"It'll be done," Taizinsho says, nodding his head. He waves his hand at the rest of the elders like his word was law and he didn't really mind what any of them had to say. "You let us explain to the clan, Madara. You should be with your family."
Madara hesitates a moment, looking around the room at everyone. Izuna shrugs his shoulders a bit, not really knowing what else to say. The older of the two of them take a moment to think about what he wants to do before looking back over at his little brother, saying, "I'll need you to gather the clan for an emergency meeting, Izuna. As many that can attend, should."
Izuna's expression turns stony, understanding the importance of what his brother is saying. He nods once, sparing Manmaru a look before turning around and leaving the room. Madara leans down to take Manmaru from Sakura, holding him tightly to his side. Sakura climbs to her feet, figuring this was the only real way to reveal him without saying anything. The clan had to know.
"I will be with my family," Madara says, smiling thinly when Manmaru smiles at him. "But we do this together." He looks around the room at everyone. "I'm going to reveal him, and I want you all to stand there beside me. We will stand together. We will push forward as a family. Stand by me, take the punishment at my side and we can all push forward together."
Madara doesn't wait for a response. He holds the small boy close, moving him over to sit on one arm while holding out a hand for Sakura to take. She hesitates for a moment, not sure that she's mentally ready for any of this really, but she knows that she has to. The sooner that they can reveal Manmaru to his family, the sooner they will get used to the idea of him. And Madara is kind of stiff-arming them into just accepting that they have to take responsibility for what they did. He seemed keen on doing what was best for his clan, and they somehow must have been convinced that this would be what was best.
This is good because the last thing that she would want is for Madara and Manmaru's relationship to somehow be strained because of what these people did. Madara didn't know about his son, he shouldn't be punished for that.
Sakura climbs to her feet, following Madara to the door after he releases her hand.
Sakura lays next to Manmaru, staring at his sleeping face, knowing he's probably exhausted from his long day. She runs her fingers over his long, soft hair. She understands that he's had a really long day. Meetin his family... was quite something. The Uchiha seemed to be used to having surprise meetings sprung on them, as a lot more than what Sakura expected had gathered by the time they left the room. That or the nature of a warring clan was to always be ready to move on the drop of a hat. Either way, there were quite a few Uchiha waiting for them.
Madara revealed Manmaru while holding him close. Told them that the blushing little boy in his arms was his son and heir and that Sakura, who patiently stood off to the side next to Taizinsho in the cluster of elders was the mother. At first, the majority of the clan was silent, looking around at everyone as if no one knew what was going on.
And then it erupted into everyone talking at once. Everyone had a question. What was going on? How come this boy is five years old? Why didn't they know about him sooner? Where has he been? Who was the mother? How come they've never met her before? Why here? Why now?
Madara waited for their uproar to die down before he explained, calmly, what happened. Madara embellished a bit, claiming that the elders just didn't know. And during wartime, it was hard to trust anyone. It wasn't necessarily untrue, but Sakura felt bad that Madara had to lie a bit - or perhaps simply phrase it in a more favorably for the elders - but it was his choice. It didn't reflect on him too badly, but Sakura could see him clutching Manmaru like a lifeline. Almost like he was afraid his family was going to come rushing over him and steal his son away from him.
They didn't, thankfully. But they were upset.
Sakura could feel their eyes flicker between her, Madara, and their son, trying to wrap their minds around what happened. Obviously, she was the only one there that didn't belong. She refused to dip her head or look away from their dark eyes, but admittedly, she did pull her cloak around herself a little bit tighter. It did comfort her somewhat to have Taizinsho leaning on her. Someone relying on her helped to keep her grounded.
She was anxious but somehow managed to stand strong through all of their questions and accusatory looks. Madara made it explicitly clear that it was the elders that turned Sakura away five years ago, because they didn't believe her, and it was by accident that Madara came across Sakura again after all of these years and by that time the war was already winding down.
Sakura heard him say it, she watched him scan the crowd making sure to meet everyone's eyes, but she had to guess that everyone was already making their own assumptions about what happened. Even if Madara didn't actually know, a part of them will always figure that Sakura hid Manmaru away because of their war - which Sakura suspected might be what the elders were worried about. They think that Sakura kept her son away from them so that he wouldn't die in war. Sakura doesn't remember any part of that with Sakura Seto, but a part of her has to wonder if the poor girl ever thought of that.
She may have just wanted to be with Madara because Sakura Seto loved Madara.
There was a small moment, where, in the crowd, Madara's eyes found Kagami - the only Uchiha other than Izuna and maybe Taizinsho that Sakura is able to pick out of a crowd - and the other man nods. He takes an exaggerated deep breath, which Madara mimics but much more subtly, and then lets it go slowly as if to help calm him down. Sakura isn't sure if there is a bit of stage fright in the Uchiha patriarch, which is humorous to think about in its absurdity but not completely out of the realm of possibilities, or just a subtle way for Kagami to remind Madara that he was just there with him.
Breath, take a moment, collect your thoughts, I'm here, sort of thing. Sakura's not sure, but Madara did seem a bit relieved to see him.
Honestly, Sakura is thankful to be back in the walls of Madara and Izuna's home and away from the prying eyes of all the rest of the Uchiha. She can understand why they would be angry over the situation, especially with it having been explained to her a few minutes prior to that moment, but that doesn't make her any happier to be on the receiving end of their judgment.
It doesn't seem fully justifiable that Sakura should bear the brunt of this, but at this point, she doesn't have much of a choice at this point.
Thankfully Manmaru was too embarrassed by all the people staring at him to really pull his head from Madara's shoulder, daring only to peek through long, messy black hair every few minutes, hoping that the attention would be elsewhere. Normally it wasn't, which would lead to him burying his face into Madara's shoulder again or wrapping his arms around Madara's neck.
He managed a squeaky, "Hi, I'm Manmaru," at Madara's request, but that was it.
He gobbled down dinner like a champ once the family of four retreated from the scene, and fell asleep after running the halls like a madman, falling out of the tree twice and then proving he was able to pick up tree walking without much more difficulty. Tomorrow will prove if he really figured it out or not.
Sakura caresses Manamru's face, listening to his even breaths wondering how it was possible to love someone this much. Her love for this little boy seemed to put her love for Sasuke to shame. It made the feelings Sakura had to Sasuke seem like a mild infatuation. This boy wasn't of her body - or was it? This is so confusing - but she loved him so much it almost hurt.
She watches the butterfly wings Manmaru uses as eyelashes flutter a bit as he dreams for a few moments longer before finally pulling herself up from the pile of blankets on the floor and out of the room. She heads for the kitchen to find Madara and Izuna sitting at the table drinking a bottle of sake.
Sakura snorts at the sight of it. "Oh wow, I don't think today went that bad."
Izuna holds up his glass to her. "Maybe but we're Uchiha, and there's always tomorrow."
Madara huffs, raising his own glass. "You can say that again, brother."
Sakura walks over to Madara, lowering down next to him. After the two brothers throw back their cups, Izuna stands up to grab a cup for Sakura, which she's actually thankful for. Personally, she isn't much of a drinker, but she's had a few glasses of sake with Tsunade and Shizune before. Thankfully, medical shinobi can metabolize alcohol faster if they focus, so Sakura's not worried about getting drunk if her body, for some reason, doesn't have its regular tolerance. She nods her thanks and lets Madara fill up her cup before throwing it back.
"Manmaru asleep already?" Madara asks as the alcohol warms her body.
Sakura nods, pushing her cup back toward the oldest in the room for him to pour her another one, but she gives herself a minute before drinking it, opting to push it around between her hands. "Yep. He's out."
"I aspire to one day never give a damn like that kid," Izuna says wistfully, shaking his head.
"You don't give a damn, Izuna," Madara accuses, sending his little brother a look.
Izuna gives him a look that contorts his face in such a way that Sakura chokes on the laughter that escapes her. "Since when?" He sounded so insulted, so indignant that Sakura couldn't help nearly falling over in her laughter. He looked so much like Sasuke but didn't act a bit like him that the differences were so jarring. And honestly, kind of hilarious.
Madara gives him an identical look that Sakura will swear on to any and all the Shinto gods that the expression makes the two of them look like twins. "Since I've known you, you little shit. Don't play this game with me, I'm not in the mood."
Izuna pouts. "Fun hater."
Madara rolls his eyes while Sakura wipes her tears away from her giggling. "Izuna, despite the meltdown that didn't occur, today really..."
"Sucked?" Izuna offers knowingly.
Madara sighs, rubbing the tips of his fingers together for a long moment, shoulders drooping a bit. "Yeah. Today kind of sucked."
Sakura sobers up a bit, reaching out to place a hand on Madara's arm. He looks down at her hand as if he's never seen a hand before. It takes him a moment to remember that she's still there, and when he does he looks up and into her eyes. He stares back her, black eyes flickering back and forth. Without the tension around his eyes and without them being narrowed, Sakura can see the youth in them. He's in his early twenties. It's hard to remember that sometimes. Madara Uchiha seemed larger than life. Seemed like this enigmatic figure that couldn't be touched or bothered by mere mortals.
But he isn't. He's a young man just... trying to do his best. His best for his clan. His best for his brother. His best for his son. His best for himself. But no matter what, he seems to be coming in the last place. He wants everything to work out and he wants his family to live harmoniously, but she can see the stress of everything wearing him down.
Since meeting Manmaru, Madara has been pushing himself to end the war with the Senju and reunite with his son. Now his family knows about the little boy and their reaction was less than favorable, but it wasn't horrible.
Sakura can see the stress and worry in those dark eyes, so much like Manmaru's. Sakura Seto's heart bleeds for the man she loves, and Sakura has to fight herself from pulling him into her arms and hugging him close. In that instant, stomping down the little voice in the back of her head that she knows belongs to Sakura Seto was near impossible.
But she does allow her hands to reach out, pushing the fringe in his eyes out of his face and keeping it out with her hands on his cheeks to make sure that he is looking at her - that his sole focus is on her - and she says, "Listen, today didn't necessarily go according to plan, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Don't focus on the past, look toward the future. Your alliance, your dream, your village..." Sakura hesitates for a moment, staring into his eyes. "Your son."
Madara looks down at the table or their laps, she's not sure which, but Sakura gets an eyeful of long butterfly lashes so similar to Manmaru, and a small part of her kind of hates him again, but for an entirely different reason.
Sakura leans in close so that Madara will look at her again. "Drink to celebrate the little victories, Madara, not to drown out sorrows from a situation you handled the best that you could."
"Maybe..." Madara murmurs, looking into Sakura's eyes.
"I know you didn't have a lot of choice one way or another..." Sakura admits, "but it was very brave of you to be able to stand up for yourself and your son. Take pride in the small victories."
Madara nods, at least, as much as he can with Sakura holding his face. Sakura pulls her hands away which makes Madara frown a bit at that as his fringe falls back into his face.
"Okay," Madara says to the ground before peeking through his fringe to Sakura with impossibly black eyes. "To the small victories, then."
Sakura smiles, nodding her head and lifting her small cup to toast with the brothers on that. They all throw it back and set their cups down taking a moment to let the alcohol work its way through their systems. And then they sit in silence, lost to their thoughts as they digest everything that happened today. It was stressful, and kind of a lot, but it could have been so much worse.
"I'm glad that you're here," Madara says after a long silence.
"Me?" Izuna asks jokingly.
Madara rolls his eyes. "Aye, brother. But not just you." He sends Sakura a meaningful look.
She offers a thin smile. "Honestly, I definitely didn't want to be here for that, but I am glad that everything is out in the open. Secrets are not a healthy, loving family foundation make if you catch my drift. We are in this together. All of us so we have to find a way to make it work. Your family has to know the truth and I have to learn to deal with them. It's going to be an adjustment for all of us."
"That's a very admirable way of seeing it, Sakura," Izuna says, nodding in approval. He offers her a boyish smile. "If I were you, I'd run for my life. Our family is terrible."
"Misunderstood," Sakura amends for him, looking between both men but thinging about those that she left behind. The Madara of her time. Sasuke. Itachi. Obito. They weren't bad people. Honestly, none of them were terrible people. They just... didn't do great things. Sakura's not sure she'd go so far as to say any of them were truly justified in the bad things that they did, but not all of it was truly abhorrent or unbelievable. Not to mention the curse that torments their family line that they have no control of.
Sakura looks between the two brothers. "Misunderstood. Not terrible. I've seen some pretty terrible people in my life and you aren't it."
Izuna and Madara share a look that Sakura doesn't know how to decipher. Madara rubs at his face, suddenly looking exhausted. He holds his above his head, stretching out his upper body and his spine as far as it can go before slumping a bit, blinking slowly. He looks through long lashes back over at Sakura and says, "I'm sorry about all of this. About being away. About raising Manmaru alone. About my family. All of it."
Sakura shakes her head. "It's in the past. Don't worry about it. Focus on the now, and the future. Build a village with that goofball Hashirama, that we can raise our beautiful boy in. Admittedly, you'll never get those first five years back, and while you'll never forget, he'll never remember. So make it up to yourself by being there for the rest of your life. I'm not mad at you for having to raise Manmaru alone. I'm glad that he is so adorably in love with you." Sakura feels a smile cross her lips as one crosses Madara's. "I love that he sees you as his dad and that you're so good with him. Learning hand signs and tree walking is easy for you and me, but getting the hype and the excitement in those things from us makes him so happy. To me, that matters so much more than thinking about what we missed."
"Perhaps," Madara agrees, but not fully.
And honestly, Sakura's not unsympathetic. She doesn't remember Manmaru growing up either and while her consciousness wasn't even here all those years, it still feels like she was cheated. In a way, the two of them were in the same boat. Sakura couldn't have been there, and in a way, neither could Madara. She refused to be mad at him over that. It wasn't his choice, it wasn't a conscious action on his part. He's just a much of a victim of it as Sakura is.
"I just wish that I could have been there," Madara admits, looking down at his hands curling around his sake cup but not bothering to refill it, they've all had enough for tonight. "I wish I could have seen him grow up. Heard his first word. Watched him take his first steps."
Honestly? Sakura did too. Although she will probably remember in time, Madara won't be offered that, and it makes her sad.
"I know," Sakura says, which is honestly the only thing she can say. She wished there was something more she could say to him that would somehow make him feel better, but she knows that there isn't anything. Nothing will get those years back. All they can do it look onward toward the future and keep watching for Manmaru's other firsts. His first jutsu. His first broken bone. His first mission. His first real friend. His first girlfriend. His first heartbreak. His first tragedy. His first son or daughter of his own. His first everything. The good, the bad. Everything.
They sit in somber silence once more, lost to their thoughts before something occurred to Sakura.
"Oh, can I make an abrupt request that has nothing to do with anything we were just talking about?" Sakura asks, looking between the two brothers.
"Go for it." Izuna nods, capping the sake bottle and making it official that they were done for the night.
"The woman who raised Manmaru while I was... away..." Sakura says delicately, avoiding looking into Madara's eyes knowing that he's been pretty forgiving about how elusive she's been because of her memory loss. "Well, her name is Yuzu and she's got a gaggle of her own kids and was looking after our little fireball for like two months with no help aside from her husband who works all the time and is barely able to support them as is... and she didn't ask for anything in return..."
"You want me to pay them?" Madara asks. If anyone else would have said that, Sakura would assume that they were annoyed at the idea of it, but Madara asks so simply like he just needed Sakura to give the word and he would go digging into the Uchiha coffers to offer some sizeable coin to the woman who looked after their boy, he was just clarifying it with her first.
"No," Sakura says, waving her hands around. She had already tried that, Yuzu just glared daggers at her and told her not to insult her again. "Well, not really. I was actually thinking about inviting her to the village after it starts to get on its feet. I do owe her after all, Madara. And Manmaru adores her." Madara blinks at her, slightly surprised. "I know it's odd because a spot hasn't been picked for the village yet, but I was thinking that it would be a nice way of saying thank you for looking after him and asking for nothing in return."
"That is a kind thing for her to have done," Madara murmurs. "But there are a lot of things that have to go into bringing civilians into..." he hesitates, staring into Sakura's eyes before he swallows the rest of his words. He just nods, more to himself than to her. "You know what? Never mind. It's our village. We'll make it happen, I promise."
Sakura smiles. "Thank you. It'll mean a lot to them, I'm sure. And Manmaru will be happy too."
Madara nods, a soft smile playing over his lips. "Good. It may take a bit, but once our village can support civilians, it will be done. You have my word."
"Thanks," Sakura says, then lets out a long sight, glancing over her shoulder. "Okay, I think I'm going to head to bed. That little snot monster had me up too early this morning."
Madara smiles at that while Izuna lets out a bark of a laugh, his face lightening up greatly at that. Sakura climbs to her feet, stretching out all of her limbs before wishing the brothers farewell and goodnight, hearing them wishing her the same as she heads out of the room and back down the hall to where she knows that her son is sleeping peacefully, having no idea she left in the first place.
Sakura finds Manmaru where she left him, curled up, sleeping soundly with his little arms wrapped around Kuro. She closes the door behind herself and lowers herself into the pillows and blankets next to Manmaru. She wraps herself around the little boy as he curls into her, grumbling under his breath and turning into her a bit as if sensing it was Sakura there with him. She runs her fingers through his hair for a moment marveling as his purity and adorableness before closing her eyes and started drifting off to sleep.
She was almost asleep when a soft knock at the door pulled her from it. She looks over at the door, blinking the sleepiness from her eyes to see Madara standing in the doorway, dark eyes finding her easily in the moonlight.
"Madara?" Sakura croaks. She must have been more asleep than she thought. "What's wrong?"
Madara hesitates, shifting a bit, reminding Sakura of a young child not wanting to wake his mother during the night because they weren't feeling well or had a nightmare. The action suited Manmaru much more than it did Madara. But it was still endearing to see.
"Can I sleep with you?" He asks, then quickly adds, "Both of you, I mean. I just... I want to be with him." He looks away, as if ashamed. His dark eyes turn to look over his shoulder either to see if anyone was listening in on their conversation or maybe thinking about retreating back to his room and hoping Sakura forgot about his moment in the morning.
"Sure," Sakura says slowly, rubbing her eyes a bit. She was getting used to Madara roaming the halls at night doing laps to ensure that the house was safe before settling in for the night and while Sakura's not worried about a surprise attack from anyone, a part of her is relieved to have someone else there to help look after Manmaru. Sakura would never forgive herself if something happened to that precious boy.
Madara slips into the room, shutting the door softly before making his way over to the pile in the middle of the room. He lowers down on Manmaru's other side before carefully placing his hand on Manmaru's ribs, slightly over her own hand as the boy hums in his sleep, clutching Kuro closer. Sakura watches as Madara finds a comfortable position facing Manmaru before her eyes slip closed and sleep pulls at the corners of her mind. Sakura doesn't move her hand and doesn't mind the connection as Manmaru snuggles a bit more, as if sensing his father there.
Just before Sakura completely lost consciousness, she hears, so softly she's not sure if she actually heard it or not, "Sleep tight, my sweet boy. I love you so much. I've never loved anyone more. From this moment on, every great deed is done for you, Manmaru."