AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sasuke appreciation post. This is in recognition that not all relationships between father and child are smooth sailing (I know mine isn’t), but the rockiest of them all must be Sasuke and Sarada’s. There is always a chance for healing, however. I truly loved writing this fic, so I hope you all truly love reading it. Happy Father’s Day, and do enjoy!
“Does Papa hate me?”
Sakura put the dishes down and turned away from the sink. “Of course not, Sarada,” she frowned. “What brings that question about?”
Sarada shrugged and leaned against the doorway, arms folded as if she were defending her heart. Sasuke had recently agreed to take Boruto under his wing as a student with the Seventh’s permission. Was it wrong of her to feel hurt? To feel betrayed by her own father? She is his flesh and blood, she is the one who carries his same kekkei genkai. Were her skills not good enough for him to train? She decided to dismiss the thoughts and regretted asking her mother the question. Sarada pushed her glasses up her nose and sighed, “No reason.”
Sakura wiped her hands dry before folding her arms across her chest, mirroring her daughter. “You know, I would like to ask the same question, Sarada.” The young Uchiha girl looked up at her mother as blood rushed to her face in embarrassment. Of course, Sakura knew the answer to the question, “Do you hate your Papa?”
Sarada scoffed in reply as an attempt to brush the question off. However, she knew better than to think her mother would let it go that easily and not sense that there was something deeper beneath her question. “Don’t I have reason to?” Sarada grumbled. Before Sakura could begin to defend her husband, Sarada pushed off the door frame and sped off toward the front door. As she was reaching for the handle, the door opened itself too quickly for it to register with Sarada and stubbed her toes. Pain surged from her foot all across her body, so she threw her foot up to hold it in an effort to soothe the shock. She fell back onto her behind, her glasses falling just below her chin, barely staying on her face by the help of her ears.
When her foot’s pain was at a dull ache, she adjusted her glasses to be back in place and looked up to see her father. He was wearing a dark grey vest over a black sweatshirt. Strewn over his shoulder was the cape he normally wore when going out or traveling. He looked down at Sarada in surprise, then offered her his hand. Seeing his gesture, Sarada pushed herself up and hoped he could see that she blatantly ignored him. “I’m heading out,” she said curtly, slipping on her shoes and sliding by him, right out the door.
Sasuke watched her jog down the pathway and take a turn in the direction of the Akimichi residence.
“Sasuke-kun,” Sakura stepped out from the kitchen smiling half-heartedly. “Welcome home.”
Sasuke slipped his shoes off and gave her a brief kiss on the center of her forehead. Sakura felt relieved at his touch and turned away to lead him to their bedroom. When she sensed he wasn’t following her, she turned back and looked at his subtle distressed expression.
“Does Sarada hate me?”
Sakura dragged her hand down her face while she let out an exasperated sigh. “She really is your daughter, you know,” she groaned. Sasuke looked at her, confused. She was well aware that Sasuke had trouble expressing his emotions. Having a prepubescent daughter did not help with his emotional disability; if anything, it only exaserbated the degree of it in front of his family. “Sasuke-kun, do you hate Sarada?”
Sasuke raised an eyebrow. “Of course not.”
“Could you tell her that?”
Sasuke looked away. Sakura knew well, even though his miniscule movements were subtle to others, that he was embarrassed. “Did something happen?” he asked, suddenly focusing all of his attention on his cape.
Sakura placed a hand on top of the cape and pulled it away from him to force Sasuke to look at her. “She’s missed your company for many years, Sasuke-kun,” she said. “The least you can do is tell her you care.” Sakura stared directly into his eyes with genuine concern, something that reminded Sasuke of his own mother. He didn’t like the feeling churning in his stomach. Danger? No. Fear? Somewhat.
Sasuke sighed, defeated. “Where is she now?”
“Probably ran of to Chouchou’s,” Sakura replied. “She’s going to find out soon enough that they’re visiting Shikamaru today.”
Just as Sakura finished her sentence, the front door opened. Sakura glanced over Sasuke’s shoulder and gave a warm smile. “Welcome back,” she said. Sasuke grew tense as he felt his daughter’s eyes scan his back before she huffed away to her room. When the door to her bedroom shut, Sasuke looked back to Sakura almost pleadingly. Sakura only furrowed her eyebrows in irritation and pointed to Sarada’s room. “March,” she ordered. When Sasuke sighed, Sakura walked over and let a hand cradle his cheek. “She needs you.”
Sasuke ran his fingers across her forehead before making his way to their daughter’s room. He raised his hand to knock, but hesitated. Just do it, he thought. He knocked with his knuckles gently.
Sarada knew it was her father. If it were Sakura, she would have called her name or let herself in. Papa has a lot to learn about his own house, Sarada thought bitterly. “Come in,” she called out from her desk. She folded her book and turned to face the opening door. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. She hadn’t seen him so sheepish before: he entered without looking her in the eye, which was a first. His footsteps were timid, as though there may have been traps set up on her floor. “Do you need something?” Sarada asked.
Sasuke looked at her then. Such a confident, strong-willed daughter they have. Her personality radiated with Sakura’s energy. “May I sit?” Sasuke asked. Sarada nodded to the bed. He walked around it and sat in front of her. His legs were so long that his knees were nearly pressed into his stomach when he took his seat. Sarada noticed his clumsy motion and almost scoffed.
“Do you need something?” Sarada repeated, impatience sewn into her tone.
“Your mother told me to talk to you.”
Sarada’s expression grew unamused. “So you don’t want to talk to me,” she clarified.
Sasuke raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I do.”
“But Mama told you to talk to me. If she didn’t, you wouldn’t be here.”
Sasuke opened his mouth to reply. He was already a man of few words, and she was thwacking him with her own, baiting him. Sasuke shook off her smart remark and mirrored her unamused expression. The two of them stared down for a few moments, father and daughter, flesh and blood.
Sakura peered into the room and saw the familiar expression on Sarada’s face. It was an expression that she had never seen on her before, but on her father years ago. He would constantly give their teammate that look. No nonsense with Sasuke. It’s like looking at a picture of him… She really is his daughter, Sakura chuckled to herself, then pressed herself against the wall to listen in further on their conversation. You can do this, Sasuke-kun.
After a few moments, Sasuke broke the silence. “So you hate me.”
It was Sarada’s turn to be surprised. “No,” she answered instantly, not noticing that the word has escaped her mouth. She realized it too late, and then turned away from him, focusing all of her attention on her big bunny plush. “What brought that about?” she grumbled.
Sasuke followed her gaze and recognized the toy he had sent back to Sakura years ago to give to Sarada. Its color was duller and its marble eyes had been scratched over time, but it was surely the one that he picked out himself. “It was handmade in a village seventy miles from here,” he commented.
Sarada glanced at her father from the corner of her eye curiously.
“I picked it out because your mom said you liked rabbits.” He met her gaze. “Was she wrong?”
Sarada reached out and rubbed the one of the bunny’s ears instinctively. “No.”
Sarada spoke up next. “So you hate me.”
If she were talking to anyone else but her father, there would be confusion. From hatred, to a bunny, back to hatred. Sasuke understood the train of his daughter’s thoughts, however, and replied instantly, “Never.” He reached out and touched the bunny’s other ear with his rough fingers. “I would never because I could never.”
Sarada stared into her father’s eyes and was taken aback. For the first time, there was pain within them. What shocked her is that she had seen that pain before. However, it was not from him, but from her own reflection. There was a wave of understanding that hit them both. Guilt washed over father and daughter, flesh and blood. For Sasuke, it was guilt for not being there for her every milestone as she grew up. For Sarada, it was guilt for holding his absence against him when he had no control.
“I’m sorry, Sarada.”
Tears welled up in her eyes and she looked down at her lap.
“I’m sorry, Papa.”
Sasuke let go of the rabbit’s ear and rested his hand on her shoulder. When she looked up at him, he let go of her and tapped his fingers on her forehead. Sarada understood, now, that it was a gesture of returns. When Sasuke stood up to leave the room, Sarada threw herself into him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Sasuke was taken aback for a moment, and only a moment, before he rested a hand on his daughter’s back and gave her a reassuring pat.
Sarada let go and returned to her desk. She put her hand back on her book. When Sasuke closed the door behind him, Sarada looked at the bunny resting on her bed. She stood and crawled onto her covers and hugged the bunny tightly, breathing in the scent of her father’s travels.
On the other side of the door, Sasuke closed his eyes tiredly. When he opened his eyes, Sakura was there in front of him. “Good job,” she mouthed. She leaned in and whispered, “You really are her father.”