Once, when she was younger, Sakako had asked Dad,
“Are you lonely?”
He had frozen in his seat, chopsticks halfway to his mouth, eyes gone wide with surprise.
Sakako knows her family isn’t like other people’s families. And not even in the way that clans are different from non-clans; or how Ino-oba, Sakura-oba, and Sai-oji are different from families with one mum and one dad.
People–even those close to her parents, even Baa-chan and Jii-chan and Shikamaru-oji–used to look at her and Dad with indignation on their behalf. Then with pity. Then just muted, ongoing confusion.
Dad put his chopsticks down, breathed, then turned his hand over so she could place hers in his.
“Why would I be lonely,” he had responded, fingers gentle around her own, “when we have each other?”
It’s not until later that she’ll realize that he didn’t answer her question.
She doesn’t ask again.
Sarada both is and isn’t her sister–shared genetics, but not shared homes or heritage or lives. She’s not quite a stranger–their parents are friends, after all–but despite blood, they’re not quite family either.
Yodo both is and isn’t her sister in a different way.
Sakako has never been to Sand–for somewhat obvious reasons, Dad’s jaw clenching at even the thought of it though he never says anything against it out loud–but Mum is still a shinobi of Konoha and besides, Temari-oba is Yodo’s aunt as well. Again, in a different way.
Whenever her siblings-but-not visit from Sand, they stay at the Nara compound.
Some nights, Mum does, too.
Sakako joins them, when Dad works night shifts, and it’s like having a sleepover. It’s nice.
“Your hair is so long and soft,” Yodo says, as she brushes the damp and wavy strands. Sakako leans into the touch.
They’ve pulled their futons together into a makeshift large one, their blankets mussed and overlapping. Mum’s futon is a few meters away, made up and untouched–she’ll join them later, after debriefing at the Tower.
“It’s hard to have long hair in Suna,” Yodo continues, exchanging the hairbrush for fingers, beginning to re-braid Sakako’s hair, “The wind and sand and all, but Mother taught me how to do this on her hair and I don’t think I’m too bad.”
Yodo is one year younger than Sakako and already one of Sand’s experts in engineering. Braiding hair is easily within her capabilities, but she sounds uncharacteristically shy, unsure.
When her hands pull away, Sakako checks her work: a single braid is more Mum’s style than Sakako’s, and it’s slightly loose and lumpy in places, but… it’s nice.
“My turn now,” Sakako says, wielding the hairbrush and a smile. Yodo gives a hesitant and somewhat bewildered smile back.
Mum returns to find both of them singing and dancing along to Yodo’s music player, short blonde braids and long dark braid bouncing in time to the music.
Once, when they didn’t know she was listening, Sakako overheard her parents fighting.
Fighting as in arguing, not fighting as in sparring. They let her watch their spars, so long as she’s finished all of her schoolwork and she stays behind the barrier seal. Arguing is a different story.
“I told you–years ago–that I’m not going to promise anything I can’t keep.”
“The situation has changed since then, Shikako, things are different now!”
“Things are always different, Sasuke! It’s only because you’re expecting something that I never agreed to.”
“You’re always away and she misses you, our daughter misses you–”
“Don’t put words in her mouth!” Mum shouts, a flare of chakra like the heat of a Grand Fireball, like the roar of an exploding tag. Sharp and bright and crackling like a sword.
The argument stops then, silence settling like ashes.
Her parents are too skilled as shinobi to make sounds when they move, but she knows they must have stepped closer to each other because their voices are quieter now. Intimate.
“I miss you,” Dad says, low and apologetic, confessing.
“I do love you,” Mum responds, steady and emphatic.
Sakako will wonder about the extra word for weeks.
Sakako doesn’t need to see Araya’s face to know what he looks like. Which is good, since she’s never seen behind his mask.
“He looks like me,” the ghost hovering behind Araya’s shoulder says, intangible hand resting fondly on his head, “Though he has Tomoka’s eyes.”
This must be his biological father, then.
The porcelain mask tilts, an obvious expression of confusion.
“Yes,” Sakako answers belatedly, “I’ve been learning kenjutsu from Dad. Sorry,” she says, pulling her eyes away from the ghost, “I must still be tired.” It’s earlier in the day than she’s usually awake, especially after a night of stargazing, but her siblings-but-not from Sand tend to rise with the sun.
Araya tilts his head in the opposite direction, this time emanating incurious skepticism. He shrugs, straightens out, asks, “Do you want to spar? Kenjutsu only,” he adds.
She hesitates, looks around. The clearing in the Nara clan compound isn’t technically a training ground–it’s okay to practice shadow jutsu in, but not much else. Unfortunately, the actual training grounds in the village can only be reserved by ranked shinobi, and both of them are Academy students still–Araya a foreign Academy student at that.
Sakako considers her options, before channeling chakra to her wrist. Kisuke-san appears after a moment and Araya startles back, sword at the ready.
“It’s okay,” she says, hands out in a pacifying gesture, readying herself to reveal one of her secrets. She took one from him, even if he doesn’t know it–it’s only fair that she give one in return.
“This is Kisuke-san,” she introduces, and her mentor bows shallowly. After a beat, Araya does the same, albeit with far more caution. “He’s a shinobi of Konoha… and a ghost.”
Araya takes to the revelation much better once she explains that Kisuke-san can reserve a proper training ground for them and supervise their spar. Afterwards, they are both equally eager for his observations and advice, the other ghost watching serenely from the side–no longer hovering, but definitely not forgotten.
A few days later when Araya and Mum leave, Sakako sees them off at the gates, even though it means she’ll have to run to get to the Academy before classes start.
Sakako gets a hug from Mum, breathes in her scent as she holds on tightly.
She pulls away, looks at Araya. “Until next time?” she asks him, offering her hand, the same one with her summoning bracelet looped around.
His grip around hers is firm. “Until next time,” he agrees.
Before they depart, Araya lifts a hand to his mask’s mouth–a promise to keep her secret. She grins back.
Once, when Dad had a break from work and Mum had returned from researching in Uzushio, the three of them went on a trip to Sora-ku.
Technically, it was a C-rank mission–transporting supplies for the Neko-baa–but while her classmates were jealous of her for going on a mission before graduation, she knows it’s really just the Hokage letting her family go on a vacation. They’ve been given more than enough time; they’re planning to visit Otafuku Gai on their way back.
For such a large city, there’s hardly any living beings. No ghosts, either, which is more unnerving to Sakako. She’s not afraid, because her parents are with her, but she can’t help the way she looks around, desperately trying to find a ghost, any ghost.
Ghosts, even without speaking to her, tell her much about a person or a place. Fallen enemies versus lost family members haunting a person; the old Uchiha compound has dozens of her kin, though they’ve begun to move onwards to the Pure Land in groups.
No ghosts, no knowledge–she’s going in blind.
Her parents notice her unease, glance at each other and nod. Dad takes point, Mum steps back, Sakako ends up in the middle of a standard protective formation.
Nothing actually happens–well, there was the whole thing with the black marketeers and Mum kind of demolishing a building and Dad ended up having to send a hawk to Konoha’s Police Force telling them to send a follow up team–but nothing they couldn’t handle easily and nothing to do with ghosts or the lack thereof.
Sora-ku is still unnerving for her, but she got a neat kusarigama out of it and she got to spend time with both of her parents, which makes it a trip she’ll remember fondly.
Until Araya and Yodo graduate from the Academy, Shinki is a genin without a team. Two years is a long time to wait, so until then, he’s to be Mum’s apprentice–an unusual arrangement given that they’re shinobi registered to different villages, but the few words of protest don’t actually have any power to prevent it.
Three days after Shinki and Mum arrive in Konoha–three days of Sakako splitting her time between the Nara compound and home–Dad goes to meet with Mum during work.
Sakako doesn’t know about this until she gets out of class for the day, coming home to find Dad and Mum and Shinki sitting around the table. It’s not a tense silence exactly, but she can tell that her arrival makes things easier, makes the air lighter.
“Dad,” she greets, his hand smoothing over her hair in return, “Mum,” she adds, leaning in for a brief hug.
She smiles at Shinki, silent, never sure exactly how to address him–if she should call him big brother or not–especially not with Dad in earshot. Shinki gives a nod of acknowledgement, which is about as much as she’s ever received from him before.
“Sakako,” Mum asks, “Can you help Shinki with the guest room?”
She knows that it’s really just a way to get the both of them out of the room, but the obviousness takes out any malice.
“Sure,” she says, because right now Sakako is glad for the excuse, on her behalf and on Shinki’s whose spine is rigid and hands curled into fists, “It’s upstairs,” she beckons, and her brother-but-not stands to follow.
The empty room next to hers isn’t really a guest room–they don’t really get overnight guests, and the occasional times that Naruto-oji sleeps over, he ends up sprawled on the couch downstairs anyway–it’s just a room waiting to be used.
Sakako knows Dad is keeping it available for a maybe-one-day potential sibling, though as far as she knows he’s never said as much out loud. She thinks maybe Mum knows it, too, and has been purposefully keeping just as silent on the matter.
When they get there, Sakako begins pulling out the futon, and Shinki shakes out of his weird robot act to help her.
With his help, they’re done in a few minutes, and they sit in not entirely comfortable silence. Mostly because they’re both sitting seiza style which Sakako hardly ever does–generally only during kunoichi lessons–but something about Shinki inspires proper manners even with his dusty brown clothes and armor.
“How long are you in Konoha for?” she asks. Usually Baa-chan or Jii-chan will tell her since, usually, that’s where her siblings-but-not stay when they visit. This is a new development and she’s not quite sure how to act.
“Another week,” Shinki says, “Mo-… Shishou said that she needs to formalize my apprenticeship so that I can get credit for any missions we do even if its from Leaf.”
“You can call her Mother, you know. I don’t mind. She’s your Mum, too, isn’t she?”
Shinki’s eyes flick in the direction of the kitchen, then back up to her face quickly. Nervously.
“She’s your Mum, too,” Sakako repeats, no longer a question. Firm and sincere and willing him to understand.
He nods in agreement, which is as much as she’s ever received from him before, but this time she thinks she sees the tiniest hint of a smile.
One day, when she’s old enough and strong enough and she can be sure that Dad won’t see it as some kind of betrayal, Sakako wants to go to the Village Hidden in the Sand and meet the Kazekage.
A/N: THROWS FEELS AT YOU THEN RUNS AWAY. I HOPE YOU’RE CRYING, ANON, LOOK AT WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!
Hahahaha, no, so… I hope I didn’t make anyone into a villain here, that’s not what I was trying to do.
The way I figure it is that Sasuke is monogamous. Suuuper monogamous–like, one and done. Maaaaybe he’ll make an exception for Naruto, but basically Shikako is it for him.
In contrasat, Shikako is poly, obviously, but more than that she doesn’t like being tied down. Technically I don’t think Shikako is married to either Sasuke or Gaara and I don’t think she’s likely to ever marry anyone. She’s very pragmatic about these kinds of things–she’ll make a vow to serve Konoha and the Nara clan and protect her teammates etc. But she won’t make a vow to love someone forever because even if she does love someone for the rest of her life, she doesn’t want it to become something that’s an obligation, you know? Something that’ll turn bitter and grudging with constant exposure.
Sakako is more like Shikako in that way–in the sense that she’d rather have her Mum only around one week every month and concentrated time together, than four weeks every month and maybe seeing each other only at dinners if that. Basically: the opposite of canon Boruto and Naruto.
I also realize that I kinda didn’t mention Kareru at all here. And that some parts wouldn’t really make sense if he did exist so… I mean… maybe he is mostly raised by Yoshino and Shikaku? Or at the very least, that’s where he lives and then the age gap between him and Sakako explains the rest of the distance?
Uh… I might have to reorganize Dreaming One Shots if I write more next gen stuff… or make a separate next gen collection on ao3