Differential Chapter 9

Chapter Nine: Time’s Up

Just like the start of every semester, Sasuke was spending his last week at home buying supplies and groceries to take back to his apartment style dorm.

“I hate moving back in,” Sakura grumbled as she crossed off another item from her list. “We’re going back to the same dorm we stayed in fall semester but they made us pack up all of our shit just to have us bring it all back.”

Except this time he was running his errands alongside Sakura.

“Grab the sriracha,” he nodded to the hot sauce bottle as he slowed the shopping cart to a stop in front of the Asian/Hispanic aisle of the grocery store.

Sakura tugged the cart by the basket until he followed her into the aisle.

“I wanna grab some ramen too.”

“We should just stop by the Korean market instead. Better instant ramen.”

“Shit. You’re right.” Sakura looked down at the few items in their cart and then back up at him. “Why did we come here again?”

“The Korean market doesn’t sell tomato sauce for some reason and the milk here is cheaper.”

“Why don’t you just buy milk when we’re back in the city?”

“It’s a hassle to carry groceries on the train or bus and city parking is a mess,” Sasuke reasoned. “Also your special milk is cheaper here.”

“Don’t mock me for being lactose intolerant.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You’re thinking it.”

“Stupid superior digestive tract,” he heard her grumble as she walked ahead of him toward the dairy aisle.

Usually Sasuke preferred to do his shopping on his own. There was no meandering and he was in and out without any hassle. Sakura was like his mother who always made a list but then deviated from the list she had made herself to grab things she hadn’t intended to buy.

He would have gone out shopping by himself if it weren’t for the fact that it was a perfect excuse to spend more time with Sakura. Time that wasn’t had with their pants off.

Whenever he wanted to have a real discussion about what they were doing, Sakura would trace the veins that peeked through the translucent skin of his inner wrist with a delicate touch of her fingers. She would take his hand and press soft kisses to his fingertips never breaking eye contact.

It was those eyes of hers that made him want to forget the fragile line they had crossed. The one he had been trying to build up into a wall ever since he was sixteen.

A wall that kept crumbling with everyone of Sakura’s kisses that melted into soft sighs and content hums.

“We should do something later.”


If it weren’t for the fact that her cheeks were flushed he would have thought Sakura hadn’t spoken up from where she was rifling through the jugs of milk for the one with the longest shelf life.

“I just, you know,” Sakura shrugged, peering up at him through her pale lashes, “figured we should go do something since we’re heading back tomorrow.”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and fiddled with her hands, wringing them in the bottom hem of her sweater. It was a habit she had when she was younger that never really went away.

And one Sasuke was glad he could recognize.


“Yeah, sure.”

Sakura’s jaw dropped but she quickly composed herself into a bright smile and beamed up at him.

“We can watch that movie that Naruto was trying to drag us to but we kept rejecting,” Sakura suggested.

Sasuke nodded in agreement. As much as Naruto was their friend he was terrible company at the movie theater.

“Make sure to mention the movie on Facebook so he can see it.”

“He’s going to be so mad.”



Sakura lifted a three quarter sleeve skater dress in front of her floor length mirror and then lifted a baggy cable-knit sweater that was practically a dress considering her height.

Or comfy?

Sakura tossed the dress over her desk chair and pulled on the sweater over her head. She wasn’t going to freeze and look like she was trying too hard. It was just a movie with a friend.

A friend that she was spending a lot of time with her legs wrapped around his waist.

“Oh, Jesus,” Sakura cursed and slapped her cheeks.

I’m getting embarrassed now!?

Sakura bent over so all of her hair fell over and scooped it all up, tying it into a messy bun on top of her head.

“It’s getting awfully long again,” she muttered. She wasn’t going to cut it again but a trim was due. It had taken forever to grow it back her preferred length after she chopped it all off in high school.

Now why did we do that again? Oh, right…

Sasuke had supposedly liked long hair which was one of the reasons she had refused to cut it in the first place. Although she wasn’t going to tell him about her feelings she still had wanted him to think she was attractive.

Well, we got the answer to that question now don’t we? Sakura’s cheeks warmed up as applied lip balm to protect her lips from the winter air.

She had wanted his attention, whether it was because they were competing for the best grades or because he thought she was pretty. Competing on an academic level was easy. Putting her self-esteem on the line wasn’t.

“I need a necklace.”

Sakura opened up her jewelry box and hummed along with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake tinkling as the little ballerina twirled on the box. She pulled out a white gold necklace with a ballet slipper pendant. Carefully she clasped it behind her neck and adjusted it so it rest neatly against just below the hollow of her neck on top of her sweater.

Now this is a look I haven’t seen in a while, she inwardly teased herself.

The bun was messy, completely against regulation, but her face was clear of makeup and she was wearing her old pendant. She could have been on her way out of the old studio she used to go to attend class.

Naruto used to tease her that she and Sasuke conformed to a lot of the Asian stereotypes. She took ballet and he played the violin and neither one of them dared come home with a grade below an A.

Stereotype or not, she had loved ballet. She had quit before her junior year of high school to focus even more on her studies and had no regrets but occasionally Sakura could feel a dull ache in her chest when she remembered all of those years of dance. She loved walking down memory lane but she always avoided thinking about her final recital.

She had chopped all of her hair off the day after the event.

She had tried to let go of Sasuke after that day.

Not that I ever succeeded in doing that.

Sakura let out an exaggerated groan and slammed her fist on the machine. She slipped her hand into Sasuke’s front pocket and he jumped back.

“I’m not trying to feel you up,” Sakura rolled her eyes, “I just need the quarters.”


Sasuke pulled out two quarters and slid them into the slot of the fighter arcade game so that Sakura could press continue.

“I use to win all of the time, how am I losing?” Sakura grunted, jabbing hard at the buttons to try and land a combo.

“That was before we figured out I needed glasses.”

“Oh, shit. That’s right.”

They played one more round until Sakura finally gave up and dragged him to play Mario Kart. Nothing about the night seemed that different to Sasuke than what they usually did just that they were without the usual tag along.

He wasn’t sure if that was comforting or worrying. On one hand it was relaxing because there was no need to try so hard to make the night run smoothly but if he had a moment to overthink it seemed that what seemed like a date to him was just a normal hangout to Sakura.

That had been running through his head throughout the movie. They only thing that was able to put his mind at ease and allow him to enjoy the film was when Sakura lifted the armrest so that she could curl into his side. She had always been very touchy and clingy but outside of what had been going on the past few weeks, it had been years since they were this close and comfortable around each other.

And he knew it was his fault for that.

“I want ice cream,” Sakura sighed, stretching her arms over her head.

“Did you bring your pills?”

“Duh. Kind of have to when all of the good food is made with dairy.”

“All of the good food?”

“Yeah, like ice cream and cheese pizza and pumpkin spice lattes and…”

Sakura prattled on listing all of her favorite foods but Sasuke was barely listening to them, more focused on watching the way her mouth shaped every syllable and how when a word caused her lips to spread a dimple formed.

He knew all of her favorite foods. It was bits of information he stored away, subconsciously stamping them as important.

Clear on his mind were smug grins or scowls, ever present with the way they always tried to one up each other. But her smiles and blushing were rare and he was getting spoiled with how often he could pull them from her now.

“And you know how much I love Vietnamese iced coffee.”

“Yeah, anything to get a high dose of sugar.” Sasuke’s face twisted up into a scowl at the thought.

“Oh, shut up. Sweets make my mouth happy.” There was a slight pause before she continued. “Amongst other things.”

Sasuke stopped in the middle of the theater lobby not sure if he had heard her correctly and was reading too much into it.

“Don’t think about it too hard,” Sakura burst into a peal of laughter. “But you can help me be very happy later.”

Sasuke’s eyes went wide and he gaped at her, unsure how to respond. He hadn’t expected her to tease him in such a crude manner in public.

“And if you’re still not sure what I’m talking about I’m referring to your━”

“Yeah I caught that,” Sasuke interrupted her. He grabbed her hand and sped out of the lobby before she could say anything else where people could hear her.

She tasted like taro gelato and the chocolate she had drizzled all over her scoop.

The plan wasn’t to end up in the backseat of his RAV4 but Sakura had slipped back there and had asked him to pull over somewhere secluded. He was going to ignore her and just go home when she had tossed him her leggings but as soon as her boyshorts hit his steering wheel he turned down a street going the opposite of their houses and parked in the dark parking lot of the community pool. He turned off the headlights and parked in a dark corner.

Sakura pulled on his sweater as he climbed over the center console and joined her in the backseat.

He was getting spoiled with all of her affection. But he was going to make the most of it while she was offering it to him.

Sakura knew her parents were going to wake her up early so they could have a big breakfast before she went back to school.

Her father would make her favorite blueberry waffles and her mom would pack her up two cartons of bao to take back to her dorm.

But she didn’t know if whatever she and Sasuke were would last past the night.

Dragging her fingers down his chest, brushing along the fine hairs that trailed down his lower abdomen, she listened to the way his breath hitched.

She committed to memory the way his chest rose and fell rapidly in sync with her own.

“I’m not done with you,” Sakura murmured, against his mouth. “Not yet.”

She trailed kisses along the underside of his jaw and down the line of his throat.

Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.

Office Romance

With the tip of his pinky, Sasuke traced the round strokes of the letters of his name etched on the empty cup of coffee.

The contents had been drained over an hour ago but he couldn’t will himself to toss the cup into the trash bin. At least not until he got the next cup.

But it wasn’t likely that Haruno would be making another coffee run with how late in the day it was.

He would just have to hold onto the paper cup she had scribbled his name on until her break the next day when she would pop on over to his work station and ask if he wanted her to pick him up anything while she was on her break.

Sasuke was always working straight through his and it was nice that someone had noticed.

Especially that the assistant with rose gold hair had noticed.

Haruno Sakura was new to the company, a student taking sabbatical to do some temp jobs. At least that was how it started. Somewhere along the way someone higher up must have forgotten that it was a temporary position and she was never returned to the temp agency that had assigned her to their office.

Sasuke wondered how much of it was the much needed help and how much of it had to do with Shisui making a passing comment to his cousin Obito.

“Sasuke apparently likes coffee now,” Shisui had snickered as they took their smoke break.

Obito had responded with a “oh really?” and let it go. He didn’t tease him at work but every now and then he would pass by Sasuke’s desk and give him a sly grin when he spotted the coffee cup.

Sasuke didn’t care for the taste of coffee. Just because he disliked sweets it did not mean he enjoyed the bitter taste. His preferred drink was matcha tea.

But of course Haruno Sakura didn’t know that when she offered to grab him some on her run for some “real coffee.”

She had tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, a slight blush on her cheeks and without really processing the question Sasuke answered:


And now everyday when Sakura ran out to grab a latte she would bring back a cup of strong black coffee with his name on it. Literally.

“Here are your copies Uchiha-san!”

A cheerful voice broke Sasuke from his reverie.

“Ah. Thank you Haruno.”

“I keep telling you to just call me Sakura.” Sakura made a tutting sound and put her hands on her  hips.

Not like you call me Sasuke.

“Oh I’ll take care of that for you.”

Sakura snatched the paper cup and tossed it out. All Sasuke could do was watch her throw it in the trash.

At least she would be bringing another one by the following day.

“I’m going to grab some coffee.”

Sakura stood in front of his desk, wringing her hands around the skinny strap of her shoulder bag.


Sasuke reached for his wallet to grab some money for his share. She always insisted it was on her but after weeks of buying coffee every day it was getting to be too much.

“You don’t actually like coffee do you?”

Sasuke froze. Slowly, he shut his drawer.

“You always make this face,” Sakura exaggerated a frown, “when you drink it. You get a wrinkle right here.”

Sakura tapped the area between her eyebrows.

“You could have just said no, you know that right?”

Sasuke shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He wasn’t going to tell her that he wasn’t paying attention to her first offer because he was too busy staring at her.

“I can grab you something else.”

Sakura shrugged nonchalantly. Her act was only given away by the dusting of pink on her cheeks.

“What do you actually like?”


“…tomato juice.”

“Tomato juice!” Sakura giggled. “That’s kind of cute.”

Sasuke scowled. Cute?

“Alright then. One can of tomato juice.”

She skipped away before Sasuke could give her any money for his drink.


Sasuke snapped his head to the other side of him. Shisui was snickering from behind his computer monitor.

“So cute, Sasu-chan.”

Sasuke scowled at him and turned away, shuffling through his notes for the meeting in an hour.

“Sakura-chan never offered to get me anything. But every day she’s at your desk.” Shisui tossed him a smirk. “I wonder why.”

Sasuke coughed into his hand and hid his red face behind his computer monitor.


Ino was always busiest at this time of year. Even when she was younger she couldn’t celebrate the holiday until the day was almost over because she was busy helping her mother out in the shop.

She use to gripe and moan but as she got older she began to get excited to prepare the many floral arrangements ordered for Valentines Day.

Especially now that her husband helped her out in the shop, spending most of the day with her, only stepping out to make deliveries.

At exactly noon the bell on the front door rang. Looking up from the counter where she was bundling up a bouquet, Ino saw a head of black hair enter the shop.

Right on time. As always.

“Hey Auntie Ino.”

Uchiha Sarada approached the counter. It was the same thing every year.

“Your father knows that it’s usually women that give gifts out on this day right?”

Every Valentine’s Day and every White Day, Ino had an order for a bouquet of daffodils from none other than Uchiha Sasuke. And every year Sarada came by to pick them up.

“Funny. He said to give you this if you said that.”

Sarada handed Ino an envelope. Opening it up she found a few bills for the payment and a letter. Ino unfolded the parchment and read: It’s none of your business Yamanaka.

Cheeks flushing red in anger, Ino almost took back the bouquet. Fortunately for him she couldn’t do that once she caught a glimpse of Sarada’s adorable eager face.

“What are you doing here?” Inojin had finally shown up to help his mother. “Another errand for your dad? He knows this is a holiday where traditionally women are the gift givers right?”

“It’s none of your business Inojin.”

Sarada narrowed her eyes at him in a glare reminiscent of her father and planted her fists on her hips. Ino almost burst out in a fit of giggles. It was like looking at a little Sasuke only with Sakura’s attitude.

“But yes I’m running errands. I gotta head out to the chocolatier now. Bye Auntie!”


Sarada paused and turned at the call of her name. Chocho was making her way towards her.

“Whatcha up to?”

“I’m on my way to pick up some chocolates.”

“From that fancy place? Count me in!”

“Oh.” Sarada shuffled her feet nervously. “They’re not for me. They’re for my mom.”

“Oh, please.” Chocho rolled her eyes. “We know they’re going to give you your own box.”

And sure enough when Sarada picked up the pre-ordered box of chocolates, the chocolatier gave her a smaller box of her own.

Sarada pulled out a second envelope from her pouch and handed it to the man. He opened it right in front of her and chuckled. Sarada noticed that he had pulled out more money than was due for the single box. It was just enough for the second box as well.

“Give your father my thanks for his continued patronage.”

“What did I tell you?” Chocho grinned smugly as they made their way towards the hospital.

“Yeah, yeah.” Sarada handed her the box. “Here you can have a few pieces.”

“Your dad always gets the good stuff.”

Sarada giggled. She had to agree. Her parents were just too cute.

Sarada wish she remembered to bring her phone with her. Her mother was always so cute when she got flustered.

No matter how many years passed by her mother always reacted the same way when Sarada popped into the hospital carrying the bouquet of flowers she loved so much.

Sakura’s face would flush pink and she would cover her face with her hands in embarrassment.

“You still have that vase right?” Sarada asked walking behind Sakura’s desk and looked in one of the cabinets for the ceramic vase she hid away just in case Ino or someone came by with flowers.

“He didn’t have to…” Sakura mumbled, unable to keep the smile out of her face.

Sarada rolled her eyes. Her mother wasn’t fooling anyone. She always got giddy when Sarada’s father was involved.

I swear it’s like they’re newlyweds.

“Can you help me with this?” Sakura asked pulling out a carton of tomatoes and a red ribbon from under her desk.

Nodding enthusiastically, Sarada helped her mother tie a neat bow on the box.

“You know where to find him?”

“Uh-huh.” Sarada nodded securing the carton in her pack. “He was going to be looking through the archives today. See ya at home, Mama.”

And with a wave she was off to continue playing messenger for her busy parents.

It’s Not The Clan

Surprisingly, it’s not the Uchiha that have a problem with the idea of Haruno Sakura and the youngest son of the clan head.

Despite their somber looks and the stoicism that seemed to be built into their genetics, they are a clan of love.

Mebuki can see it in their eyes when she passes them in the streets. Sees the shine when they gaze upon their own children, their lovers, and their friends.

She sees it in the gentle chiding and the soft smiles that grace Uchiha Sasuke’s face when he thinks no one is watching him and her daughter.

There was a time she wouldn’t have believed it was possible. She wouldn’t have dreamed of her pretty bookworm child catching the eye of someone from an elite clan.

But there she goes. Sakura blushes at the attention she never thought she would receive. Just a hardworking girl from a civilian clan.

Mebuki takes pride in embroidering their clan’s crest in all of their clothing but she knows that to all it is nothing but a mere circle, an empty space.

Sasuke is always punctual and polite when he picks up her daughter for a mission or training. Mebuki has met his mother on multiple occasions and knows she would be proud that her harping on manners have been deeply ingrained.

Sakura is always forward and latches onto his arm, intertwining their fingers. Red tints the tips of Sasuke’s ears but he lets her have her way, only letting go in the presence of Kizashi.

A funny habit considering her husband is so sunny in disposition and is quite fond of the boy. But Mebuki knows the boy is only attempting to be chivalrous and not step on any toes. To not cross any boundaries of a father’s comfort.

But it is in these moments that Mebuki can hear the whispers.

The words weave around her head and settle in her ears.

“The police chief would not like that.”

“Look how she makes him carry her things,” another voice scoffs.

“Using an Uchiha as an errand boy? How impudent!”

And those are the kindest things she has heard.

When did names mean more than feelings? When did a piece of fabric on a person’s back hold more value than a human being?

Mebuki looks down at her qipao. Looks at the red circles embroidered for her husband’s clan. A crest he does not wear on his own clothing but she wears with pride on her own.

That their daughter wears with pride on her own back. A ninja of the Haruno clan, a small civilian family of no significance.

A small family proud of their daughter who works hard and is strong all on her own despite having a name of no significance.

Who is loved not because of a piece of fabric on her back but because there is something in her that speaks to the dark eyed boy she holds in high esteem.

If she were not already looking at the doorway, Mebuki would not have known that the dark haired beauty had entered her humble little shop.

Once a ninja, always a ninja.

Uchiha Mikoto smiled softly as she walked towards her, her footsteps not making a single sound. Bowing slightly, the matriarch moves with grace and is far more respectful than those of Mebuki’s own status.

“I must apologize.”

Her voice is clear without a hint of an accent. Proper enunciation all the way through. A truly posh manner of speaking she had once heard her own child attempt to emulate.

“I did not mean to postpone this meeting.” There is a flush of red on the woman’s ears, reminiscent of the embarrassed look her son displayed himself. “I only just discovered the nature of our children’s relationship. If I had known sooner I would have properly introduced myself.”

Ah, Mebuki caught on to what she meant. This isn’t a confrontation.

“It’s nice to make your acquaintance Uchiha-san,” Mebuki responded, not bothering to hide the dialect she spoke in. She bowed, slightly lower. “Haruno Mebuki at your service.”

“Mikoto.” There was a firmness in her tone that promised difficulty if Mebuki did not do as asked.


“From a shop I favor.” Mikoto handed her a white carton. From the sound of the shifting items and weight, Mebuki knew what the gift was.

Sasuke brought a box every week, a pink flush on the apples of his high cheekbones, as he politely greeted the Harunos before being dragged away by Sakura.

“Kizashi really likes these senbei.”


“Your son brings them all of the time. Such a sweet and polite boy.”

Mikoto’s face flushed pink as she beamed with pride.

“I am glad to hear it.”

“Would you like some tea?”

“Um…” Mikoto’s eyes shifted to the wall of canisters that held the loose tea leaves. Her eyes quickly ran over the foreign script on the labels.

“No,” Mebuki chuckled. “Have tea with me! What’s your favorite? White oolong, perhaps?”

Mikoto nodded shyly.

“Sasuke picks this one up a lot. I assumed it would be for someone at home. He only drinks matcha.”

“He prepares the tea the best,” Mikoto admitted.

“The key is in controlling the heat,” Mebuki instructed. “I’m sure being from a clan of fire gives some kind of advantage.”

“Does he come by often?”

“Can you believe how far she makes him travel just to pick her up?”

Mebuki chanced a glance at Mikoto’s face. The tone of her voice did not give away any underlying resentment. And neither did her eyes.

In them was worry. A worry that looked all too familiar.

“Yes. He’s so polite. He always offers to help around the shop when he’s waiting for Sakura.”

The stress around Mikoto’s eyes smooths out. The corners of her lips quirk upwards into a familiar smile.

“That’s good.”

Mebuki prepares the tea and sets it down on a chabudai closest to the opened doors that led to the back garden of the shop. A gentle breeze was quite relaxing and she was sure Mikoto would enjoy it as well. Hopefully enough to let go of the tension in her shoulders and neck.

It is on their second cup of tea that Mebuki brings up what she concluded was the true reason for the visit.

“Your son is nothing but charming. He treats my daughter well. She is happy. He makes her happy. And that in turn makes me happy.”

The tenseness Mikoto carried in her shoulders is gone.

Mikoto is a mother, just like Mebuki is a mother. Before anything else, she is Sasuke’s mother.

“Sakura makes Sasuke happy as well,” Mikoto offers shyly. “He gets so flustered when I bring it up. He’s so cute.”

And there it was. A sweet smile Mebuki is sure is reserved for those Mikoto holds dear. A smile she has seen on Sasuke’s face when he is with her daughter.

A smile that says more about the Uchiha than any whispers or gossip of the villagers that look down on her daughter simply for being with the one she loves.

Because that’s what it all buckled down to, wasn’t it? Love, simple love.

And the love Mikoto has for her son and his happiness, was all that mattered. More than the crest on her back or the one on Mebuki’s skirt, her son’s feelings held more value in her eyes and in her heart.

Tomato Miso Soup

There was a misconception about Sasuke that he never thought he would need to correct.

It was one of those things he always viewed as a luxury and never had time for or cared about. When one was always on the road living the life of a vagabond, cooking wasn’t a priority. The taste of food never mattered as long as he got sustenance. As perfect and talented as people believed he once was, there was one skill he had never picked up.

Uchiha Sasuke did not know how to cook.

When he was a genin and went out with Team Seven, he would give in and allow himself to enjoy the spicier foods he loved. He would take out portions of his pay and allowance and enjoy an outing for food.

But he couldn’t live on takeout and instant foods like his teammate Naruto. He would never stoop so low as to build his diet up of cups of ramen and milk. It was better to use his village allowance━and later on his mission pay━to buy his favorite fruit and ready made meals at the closest conbini.

It was the best place to stock up on onigiri, his go to snack or quick meal.

Although he didn’t know how to cook, he did know how to prepare onigiri. Always busy training, he only set time aside to make his own when he was in a particular mood. He found it therapeutic to mold the triangular shaped balls of rice.

Shaping the rice and making his favorite filling of okaka reminded him of his mother. She had been the one to teach him how to prepare rice balls when he was younger and Itachi had left him behind. He would wait until his mother’s back was turned and take rice into his little hands and try to make the biggest ball he could, which earned him a scolding from Mikoto.

The reminder of those scoldings would make him feel hollow when the only sounds coming from his kitchenette was the sound the rice made as he squished it with his fingers and the sound of his own breathing.

When he finally came back home one of the first things he learned to enjoy was cooking. Or at least he enjoyed cooking with Sakura.

Sakura didn’t cook often but she fared better than he did. It was amusing to watch her attempt to make anything because she was completely by the book, strict about following recipes to the tee as if she were following the instructions for one of her antidotes.

“What’s this?” He would ask holding up a foreign looking cooking utensil. He always stocked his kitchenette with the most basic of tools.

“A mandolin slicer. We can use it to julienne some vegetables for stir fry and other things.”

“And what’s that?” Sasuke would point out an odd looking fruit or vegetable,

“I don’t know but let’s find out!” Sakura’s eyes would gleam with excitement and she would toss the produce into their shopping basket.

Every day was a new experience in his tiny kitchen. Sakura would bring over a journal full of recipes her mother had compiled over the years and they would pick a new one to try.

“That’s a good look for you,” Sasuke mumbled one day, warmth creeping up his neck.

“It’s cute, huh?” Sakura winked flirtatiously as she tied her apron strings behind her back. “Ino found it and thought the pattern was so me of course.”

She pulled out everything she needed to make the dashi for their miso soup. It was the first thing they learned to make together and it was a staple at any meal they shared.

“You should blanch the tomatoes,” she suggested with a smile. The corners of Sasuke’s lips twitched upwards in amusement. She was always casually throwing in the cooking vocabulary she learned, happy to know what they meant. “We can toss them into the soup. Wouldn’t that be interesting?”

“You should stay here,” he said just as casually as she used her new words. “We could make miso soup everyday.”

For a moment the only sound was of the water of the two pots boiling until Sakura’s soft voice broke the silence.

“Yeah. We could do that.” She averted her gaze, cheeks blazing a vivid pink.

The kitchen was quiet again as they moved around, preparing their dinner. Sakura took a peek at what Sasuke was doing and she almost dropped the dashi she had made.

“What are you doing with those chillies!?”

“Won’t they be interesting in the soup?” He teased.


And as she tried to wrestle the peppers out of his hands and the kitchen was filled with warm pleasant sounds, Sasuke couldn’t help but feel as though this was a luxury he would gladly indulge in as often as possible. A luxury he could make all of the time in world for.

Breaking The Desk

Ino shut the door behind her with one foot, puffing out an exasperated breath.

Toting groceries up to the sixth floor walkup she shared with Sakura was one of the reasons why she wanted to move. The budget friendliness of it had lost its appeal within the first few months and her boyfriend’s crowded studio apartment was starting to sound like heaven. Who cared if it was right across the street from a concert venue? At least she could take an elevator up to the apartment.

Dumping the bags of groceries on the peninsula countertop and tossing her weekend bag onto the ground, Ino rubbed her poor aching shoulder.

Who needs the gym when you gotta walk up six flights of stairs?

Grabbing a sparkling water from the fridge she made her way to the futon, ready to sprawl out on it and relax.

It was good to finally be home. Whenever Sasuke, Sakura’s soldier husband, came to visit she vacated the premises and spent that time with Sai.

She was about to call out for Sakura when the sound of a heated conversation finally grabbed her attention.

He’s still here? Ino groaned inwardly. He’s supposed to be gone by now!

Sakura and Sasuke were known to be quite…amorous when they were finally able to meet up. It was the reason why Ino always escaped the apartment whenever he visited but she wasn’t doing it today. She still had lots of work to get done and an early lecture the next day.

Knowing that a heated discussion would lead to a fight which would then lead to them almost immediately making up in the most carnal of ways, Ino decided to cut them off before it could escalate. There was no way she was heading over to Sai’s this late in the day. He lived farther away from campus and she was putting her foot down.

Marching over to Sakura’s bedroom door, Ino stopped her first from knocking when she heard Sakura shout at Sasuke.

“You broke my fucking computer desk!”

Oh no. Not again.

“You weren’t complaining at the time!”

Yep. They did.

Ino looked down at her bottle of sparkling water and knew she was going to need to break out the emergency wine.

“Wha—? Th-that’s not the point!” Ino could just picture Sakura’s face burning a shade of hot pink to match her hair. “You still broke it you fucking idiot!”

“Yeah, well, you married this idiot so what does that say about you!?”

Ino stood up and grabbed her weekend bag. She whipped out her phone and dialed Sai’s number.

“Yeah, babe. I’m coming back. Yeah he’s still here. They broke another fucking desk. Yeah I know. You would think the idiots would buy a more durable desk after the second time it happened. No, I’m not going to ask them what position they were in that caused it to break!”

Ino paused half way down the flight of stairs and pinched the bridge of her nose. Leave it to Sai to want the details of their friends’ sex life.

I think it’s time to move out.


She should have stopped him a few drinks ago.

And all of those shots were definitely a mistake.

Sasuke Uchiha was passed out and Karin wasn’t sober enough to worry about the way she was dragging his body as she pulled him by his legs.

Suigetsu was suppose to be holding Sasuke’s arms but he disappeared once they got outside. Karin wouldn’t be surprised if he got himself picked up and taken to the drunk tank.

I should have stayed home and cuddled with Tenten, Karin grumbled inwardly.

She propped Sasuke up so he was leaning against a streetlamp and sat on his other side so his head could roll over onto her shoulder.

“Ah, shit.”

Karin pressed the power button on her phone two more times, hoping it would come to life. No dice. Her battery had drained a while ago as she overzealously added snaps to her story.

She rummaged through the pocket of Sasuke’s utility jacket and pulled out his phone glad that he finally switched to a smartphone instead of the flip phone he used last semester.

“Here we go.”

Karin pressed Sasuke’s thumb on the home button on his iPhone and unlocked it. She was originally going to order an Uber to get them to her place but the feeling of tape on the back of Sasuke’s cell phone case was bugging her.

“What the fuck?”

Karin squinted her eyes and then removed her glasses before putting them back on when she remembered that she couldn’t see without them.

“Return…to…Sa..kura?” Karin frowned trying to remember what she knew about her friend.

They had become part of a group in their first semester when Suigetsu had forced them all to work on a project together. Karin wasn’t friends with anyone in university yet so it helped that Suigetsu dragged Jūgo over to her seat at the lecture hall.

Sasuke had been walking by, probably trying to figure out how to do all of the work on his own, when Suigetsu wrapped an arm around his neck and sat him next to Karin.

They sort of were stuck with each other ever since.

Karin scrolled down Sasuke’s contact list until she found a Sakura with blossom emoticons and a sparkling heart next to the name.


Karin dialed the number and right before she realized what time it was, “Sakura” answered.

“Can’t sleep?” A sleepy voice giggled.

“No, actually, he’s passed the fuck out.”


“Karin. I’m one of his school friends and I was trying to get him home but that asshole Suigetsu ran off on us.”

“And you’re calling me because…?”

“My phone’s dead and I’m too drunk to remember my girlfriend’s phone number and this idiot apparently has ‘Return to Sakura’ taped on his phone so here I am calling Sakura.”

“You sound very coherent for a drunk person.”

“Thanks. It’s a blessing.”

There was a pause and Karin thought maybe Sakura had fallen back to sleep.

“Are you somewhere safe?”

“Yeah, yeah totally.” Karin pushed back her bangs and took a deep breath. “Do you think you could come get us?”

“It would take me an hour possibly but yes. Anywhere you could go for now?”

“University Diner is twenty-four seven I could try and get us there. It’s only a block away.”

“Okay. I’ll try and get there as quickly as possible.”

“I lost my phone.”

Karin jumped, not expecting Suigetsu to say anything since the last time she saw him was in the bar.

“You didn’t have it when we went out. To prevent any regrets.”

“What was ringing in my pocket then?”

“Nothing you nimrod. Where’s Jūgo?”

Suigetsu went silent. If she wasn’t looking at him she would have thought that he passed out too.

“We lost Jūgo.”

What do you mean we lost Jūgo?

“I left ‘im in a safe place after he fell asleep but I can’t remember where…”

“You had one job Suigetsu.”

“To be fair.” Suigetsu took a long pause before his next set of words. “I’m drunk as fuck.”

“I hate you.”

“Yeah, yeah. So what are we doing?”

“We gotta take Sasuke to the diner. Then you’re going to look for Jūgo.”

“Can’t you just drag him there?”

“Grab his arms, stupid!”

It was a total invasion of privacy. She would kill anyone if they did the same with her phone but Karin was one jager bomb too many in to care.

She was feeling wired from the energy drink but also slightly brain foggy and she needed to entertain herself somehow.

Sasuke was the weirdest person she had ever met. He had created folders for everything. Not a single app was allowed to float around on its own unless they were the apps on the toolbar.

She learned a lot about him though. He had one email account for gaming, another for school, and one for social media. Karin rolled her eyes that he even bothered with social media apps considering he rarely went on them.

She slid down the booth so her head rest on the top of the seat and sighed. Suigetsu went off to figure out where they had left Jūgo so she was stuck alone at the diner with a passed out Sasuke.

Karin balled up the wrapper to straw for her milkshake and flicked it at Sasuke’s nose. She was already bored with the games on his phone and although his dog was cute, there was only so much cute she could take before she cried because she was still kind of drunk and there was no puppy around for her to cuddle with.

Opening up the Notes app she thought she would find random class schedules and the like. Karin hadn’t expected to find locked notes.

Why would he lock notes?

Karin attempted to open one but it required a password and she couldn’t use Sasuke’s thumbprint to unlock it.

What would he hide? Photos? Sexts???

Karin gagged and put Sasuke’s phone down on the table. She picked it back up again when she realized she could use the contents of the locked notes for blackmail.

Karin wasn’t fond of scooping out the litterbox of the cat Tenten adopted and she could always get Sasuke to do it for her and a bunch of other errands.

But only if she knew the contents of the locked notes.

“Typical,” Karin huffed, blowing her hair out of her face. Sasuke was the type of person that didn’t need a hint to remind him of his password.

She groaned and stretched out her arms on the table top. Next time she was bringing Tenten along.She was her impulse control. Then maybe she would be at home getting smooches and cuddles instead of babysitting a grown ass man.

No. She would have to drag him back to her place where he would be drooling on the comfy couch she and Tenten coerced a salesman to give them at a discount. And then she would be disgusted. So then she would have to draw on his stupid pretty face with a permanent marker.

In fact, perhaps she could get one from one of the waitresses…

“I got here as quickly as I could!”

A pink haired girl plopped down across from her in the booth and brushed Sasuke’s hair out of his face.



“Your hair. Is pink.” Karin’s jaw dropped in fascination. She squinted her eyes and then backed away with a soft, “whoaaa..”

“Oh wow, you are drunk.”

The girl that could only be Sakura waved over a waitress and ordered a tomato mozzarella panini and cheese fries and a strawberry milkshake.

“He’s going to be hungry when he wakes up,” Sakura explained. She grabbed some napkins and wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth.

“Your boyfriend is a hot mess.”

“Well, he doesn’t usually get this drunk. He doesn’t usually drink enough to get drunk.” Sakura’s mouth quirked to the side as she watched Sasuke’s nose wrinkle up when she smoothed his hair away from his face again.

“I should have realized that when after his fourth shot he shouted something about his girlfriend being his impulse control and slammed three more before promptly passing out.”

“Why did you guys go out drinking like this?”

“Well we just finished a paper and this is the first semester we could actually all go to a bar since Sasuke just turned twenty-one. But tell me how you’re his impulse control. He never talks about you outside of the small updates about what he does on breaks and every weekend.”

“How are you this coherent?”

“Like I said, it’s a gift.” Karin propped her chin on her hands and leaned forward on her elbows. “But please tell me more about yourself and Sasuke. I would like to know some embarrassing things about him while you’re here and he can’t stop me.”

“I don’t think I should.”

“Boo you whore.”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you know all of Sasuke’s passwords?”

“We believe in trust in our relationship. Of course I know his passwords. We have nothing to hide from each other.”

Karin pulled out Sasuke’s phone and flipped it around to face Sakura.

“Then do you know the password to his locked notes?”

“What are you doing?”

When Suigetsu returned to the diner━without Jūgo━Karin was scribbling on a napkin and the girl on Sasuke’s lockscreen was sitting across from her sipping at a milkshake. Sasuke was still passed out except now he was propped up against his girlfriend and drooling on her shoulder.

“We’ve tried like every possible password Sasuke could have used but we can’t unlock this folder of notes.”

Suigetsu looked at Sakura and then back at Karin. He looked at Sakura again for a full minute before holding out his hand.

“Give me the phone.”

“Okay but if we can’t figure it out how are you going━”

“Got it.”

Karin’s jaw dropped as Suigetsu slid the phone across the table. Where the gray lock screen was before was a picture of Sakura looking out a car window.

“What was it?” Sakura asked, eyebrows pulled down in frustration. She should have known him best.

“Bro code.”

“You still unlocked it, Sui.”

“Yeah but I’m not telling you what the password was.”


Karin started scrolling down and was confused the further she scrolled. They were all just normal candid photos of Sakura. Why would he━


All of the patrons of the diner turned to look at the source of the screaming. Karin shot them all a glare.

“What? What did you find?” Suigetsu attempted to grab the phone from her hand but she slapped his hand away.

“Not for your eyes!” She snapped at him.

Karin broke her glare to peek back down at the phone but then looked back up, her cheeks turning a blazing hot pink. She looked over at Sakura and shielded her eyes with a hand.

“I’m so sorry,” she muttered, handing the phone back to the source of her new discomfort. “The first set of pics looked so normal. I didn’t think he would have those.”

“Sasuke’s got nudes!” Suigetsu gasped, a giant grin spreading on his face. He pointed at Sakura and guffawed. “Her nudes!”

“Will you shut up!” Karin yanked on his shirt hard enough for him to fall into the booth. She looked over to Sakura who had gone paler than she already was.

Sasuke continued to snooze away on her shoulder despite all of the noise.

Karin hadn’t expected to meet so much of Sasuke’s girlfriend on their first meeting.

“I can show you my tits if that would make you feel better,” Karin offered.

“No thank you. I think I should just take you all home now.”

“Sui. Where’s Jūgo?”

“Oh shit! I knew I forgot something.”

In Color

For an interesting experience read this fic on tumblr mobile.

There was a section of the store that housed media in a range of colors that Sasuke only knew the names of. He never wandered over to those aisles unless he was with his mother.

Mikoto would open tubes of paint and scoff, unsatisfied with the pigment, until she found tubes that were satisfactory━paints she could work with, and manipulate better.

Sasuke didn’t understand what she was looking for.

It all looked gray to him.

Although he worked in all media, Sasuke preferred to work with charcoals. In a world of grays it felt safer to stick to the nubs of black and white. He didn’t have to worry about what colors objects were. He studied the shadows and the way light hit and created his images.

Walking down the hall and examining the work from the students, he couldn’t help but feel jaded.

He was supposed to be touring Konoha University of the Arts, his mother’s alma mater. It was an open house for prospective students and it was the school that Sasuke wanted to get into.

His portfolio was reviewed by his teachers and his mother and they all said his pieces were sure to get him in but he felt as if something was missing.

“Do you want to check out the Department of Sculpture, Sasuke-san?”

He was brought back to focus by the voice of Sai, one of his friends and classmates and the only one that would be applying to schools for the arts with him. Sai worked with ink and painted in a very traditional style.

And just like Sasuke, he could only see in shades of gray.

“Yeah sure.”

Sai was being oddly accommodating. It was probably due to the fact that they were the only students from their all boys school at the open house. Sai had no reason to head down to other departments considering he only ever worked in one media.

“In the showcase the art that’s in the most advantageous locations for display seemed to be all color work. It’s in the  info cards.”

“Yeah,” Sasuke muttered his reply.

It was unfair but artists that could create in color had an advantage over those that couldn’t. Those that lived in the world of grays had to put more depth, more feeling, into their work.

Sasuke ditched Sai in the sculpture department’s showcase hall. Sai was all smiles and listening intently to a long haired man’s presentation on his clay sculptures, easily amused by the interruptions of a wood carver that kept arguing with the other man.

To Sasuke it seemed like the two of them were flirting through the insults they tossed at each other. When he read their info cards and color was listed on them, it became even more clear that it was their variation of flirting.

How cliché…

Two artists finding their soulmate while at school was something out of a shoujo manga. It was the kind of thing his sister-in-law would have squealed over but what grated on Sasuke’s nerves. He wasn’t fond of witnessing people in love.

He got enough of it at home with his parents and then with his brother and his in-laws when he visited them.

He supposed he wouldn’t have found it as annoying if he could see what they saw. If he could live in the world of color as well.

Sasuke meandered the halls and eventually found himself to be lost. He had walked too far away from the showcase and there were no more signs with arrows leading him back.


He was no longer looking into studios but lecture halls and normal classrooms. Sasuke ran a hand down his face, frustrated by his poor sense of direction. He was about to admit defeat and call Sai when he heard giggling from the floor below him.

“We’re going to be late!”

Sasuke leaned over the railing and was about to call out to the girls walking below. But when his eyes moved from the girl with white hair in a ponytail to the shorter girl walking next to her the words got caught in his throat.

The shorter girl’s hair wasn’t the soft gray that lighter shades would appear. And her skin while still pale wasn’t the white he would normal have seen. There were tones, nuances of that lovely color in her flesh, where the shadows giving her contours had once been.

When she laughed her eyes squinted a little but then opened up wide when she caught Sasuke’s eye revealing a color he was never going to forget.

The girl froze, laughter gone from her face as she gaped up at him. She looked ready to shout at him when the taller girl whose hair was no longer white blocked her face from Sasuke’s view.

“I came to your open house like I said I would now keep your end of the bargain,” the girl huffed. “We’re going to be late!”

“Ah! Wait, Ino━”

She was being dragged away, panic in her features. Sasuke booked it for the stairwell, intent on following her. He exited the same door the girls had and found himself outside where students were crowding around and everything was brighter.

His mother had spoken of completeness. Itachi described it like a puzzle coming together.

Pretty words that felt like lies. The world of color was loud and overwhelming. The grays had faded and he clapped his hands over his eyes to shield himself from the brightness of the new world.

No one had prepared him for the sudden explosion, the assault on his senses. But then, no one knew that would happen.

When his mother met his father the world opened up slow, a gentle awakening as she reached for his tan fingers, a warm tone that left her delighted. She had been young when they met. Fugaku was an older neighbor boy that was only trying to help the primary school kid that had moved in three houses down and had fallen off of her new bike.

Itachi had met Shisui first and they both only saw patches of color, an odd phenomenon that left adults baffled. At least until Itachi met Izumi at school and then brought her to the park he was to meet Shisui at. She fell into step and the rest of the world opened up for all three of them.

It was a slow build for them, as they had a singular object to focus on as they stared at each other in wonder.

Sasuke didn’t get that. He had only seconds to look at her and then she was gone and the world of color crashed over him in forceful waves.

When he was ready to uncover his eyes he knew he wasn’t going to find her.

He stood in the middle of the lawn, lost and alone.

Sakura hadn’t left her room in days.

When she wasn’t practicing until her fingers were raw from holding down on the strings of her violin, she was face down in bed soaking her pillows with tears.

She had forgiven Ino for dragging her away. Ino couldn’t tell what was going on with her at the moment. She had panicked when her senses were overloaded with all the new colors and if Ino hadn’t been holding onto her she was sure she would have collapsed in the middle of the street.

So unfair, she complained yet again to herself.

She didn’t have a single clue who the boy could be other than a student or a potential student of KUA. He could be her upperclassmen the following spring if she passed the entrance exam. Sakura wasn’t even sure if he was in the music department. She assumed he was because he was on that side of campus.

He was beautiful…

His skin was just a smidge darker than hers and Ino’s and his messy hair wasn’t the inky black she would have once believed it to be. There was a haze in the color, a tone that she now knew was called blue.

The color of his eyes were still a shade from the gray world but they had a brightness to them that would have been lost in the monochromatic field.

Sakura shifted her left hand’s position slightly and moved it in the knocking motion of a vibrato. The warm sound as she pulled her bow was the bloom on her mother’s cheeks after Sakura’s father flirted with her felt like.

Sliding her bow she shifted into a slow glissando and she could feel the ruffling of blue black hair and the shine of it under fluorescent lighting.

The warmer the sound the more vivid the colors that bursted in her mind. Melancholic melodies brought her splatters of cool colors.

Sakura hadn’t expected the change in vision to affect her playing but her father had made a comment about it.

“It doesn’t sound stiff anymore,” Kizashi offered. “There’s more feeling now. Almost as if someone in love was playing.”

He had only been teasing but it didn’t stop Sakura from stammering out protests and storming back into her room.

Sakura was a prodigy which was expected of her from friends and family despite the fact she was the daughter of a little known composer and former concert pianist. She perfected every technique and her playing was almost flawless.


She played all music, fell into every movement, exactly as they were meant to be performed but there was no passion.

At least that was what her instructor had critiqued her on before she decided to take a tour of KUA.

“This isn’t love,” Sakura scoffed.

It felt more like loss.

It was like learning to draw all over again.

Mixing his paints, Sasuke grew frustrated with his pack of colors. The paint tube labeled pink wasn’t the right shade. He needed a color closer to the strawberry flavored Calpis his brother-in-law was fond of drinking.

“I kind of need that back.”

Shisui  reached for his drink but Sasuke smacked his hand away. Sasuke didn’t bother looking up as he compared his swatches to the liquid but he could hear him complaining to Itachi.

“You should know better by now.”

“It’s not my fault he’s obsessed with pink!”

The green was a different case. Nothing was right ever. Not emerald nor forest green nor viridian. Sap green was much too dark.

Mixing more oil paints, a little yellow and a lot more white, Sasuke found the shade that matched the light coloring of the Myanmar jadeite bangle his mother wore.


Close but not close enough. Sasuke clenched his jaw in frustration.

“Try this maybe?”

Mikoto showed him a swatch that she had created and scribbled a word underneath. She was helping him learn all of his colors and their names.


“Pretty, huh?”

“I guess,” he mumbled.

“They must be considering your one track minded approach to these colors.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” the words rushed out as he tried to mimic the color his mother had made.

Mikoto brushed off the way he snapped at her with a knowing smile and pulled out more textured sheets of paper.

Now that there was color in his life, Sasuke moved on to making mixed media art. Black and white would explode into color on his canvas. He would sketch in his charcoals on one portion and then a symphony of color would crescendo across the rest.

Everything once felt so static but now the world seemed to play a melody, a concerto with every new color palette he found in the universe.

Sakura was optimistic at first but after a few weeks she gave up.

Her soulmate was either a graduate or was a prospective student that didn’t pass the entrance exam.

Sakura discovered that there was no one other than her father that had hair in the shade hers was. Her hair was like a beacon and it attracted the attention of everyone she met that could see in color.

She had hoped that her hair would lead her soulmate back to her.

“You should model for the art department,” a classmate joked.

“I’ve been asked by a few in our general classes,” Sakura admittedly bashfully. “But that’s not my thing. I’m only good in front of an audience when I’m playing.”

The stage was where she really came to life. Music was her everything and she wanted to share it with the world.

It was going to be a long time before she entered the Master’s Program but Sakura was enjoying the vigorous coursework in the Department of Composition. Ino had once called her a masochist because she actually loved having a lot of work to do.

Sakura never had a dating life and she could count her friends on one hand. She strained her eyes until she had to wear glasses—contacts on special days—and worked her fingers raw.

The end results were always worth it.

“There’s an interdepartmental showcase this winter,” the Professor droned on. Sasuke only ever heard him excited when it came to critique days.

He wasn’t a fan of interruptions and preferred when all the students threw themselves into their work.

“Although this showcase is open for submissions from all students in the painting course,” the professor took a pause to sigh, “those that can see in color are at an advantage.”

There were a few scattered groans across the studio.

“The theme of the showcase is In Color. If you are interested in applying see me after the studio block is over and I will give you the guidelines.”

Sasuke waited until the last student dragged themselves away from the studio before approaching the professor.

“Ah. Uchiha-san.”

His professor handed him a packet and a flash drive.

“Here are the compositions selected by the music department for the showcase.”

Sasuke scanned the information listed in his packet and nodded.

It shouldn’t be too hard to paint imagery to match the scores.

She wasn’t going to be making many friends.

Oddly that didn’t hurt as much as Sakura thought it would. Once upon a time she would have been devastated over it but now it meant very little.

If they don’t want to be shown up by an undergrad they gotta step it up.

Sakura’s composition had won a spot in the winter showcase. It was only her first year in school and she was already a favorite among the faculty.

I worked hard for this. I earned it.

She was the daughter of a small name composer and easily forgettable pianist. Her mother was an ordinary  seamstress. Everything she earned she worked for, slaved for.

She didn’t care if everyone in the Department of Composition saw her as the enemy.

Sakura wasn’t at university to make friends. She was there to color the world through sound.

The sound was breezy. It was gentle and then it marched in like a storm before drifting back into gentle waves.

Sasuke inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly. He laid back in his bed, his arms crossed behind his head.

Sasuke tried to summon the grays and deep plums of a cloudy winter night sky. He tried to envision swirls of white for a blustery night, perfect for a blizzard. It was what would be expected for a winter showcase.

But pink clouded his mind.

He was taken back to spring and pink clouded his mind in dots flirting along his peripheral, a gentle cascade. Falling petals danced behind his eyes but then stormed around as the wind of late March picked up.

Cherry blossoms…

Cliché after cliché is what Sakura expected. It was what she feared.

She knew everyone would have their own interpretation of the scores but it still left her feeling anxious. None of the composers were permitted to get in contact with the submitting artists and she wasn’t going to see the art pieces until the night of the showcase.

Sakura fingered her modest black skirt, gripping it as she made her way around the hall. The pieces were divided into clusters so that they were grouped together with the songs the the artists were inspired by.

She had wanted to reach her section alone. Her parents had linked arms and mock pouted about her being embarrassed about them before moving on without her.

Taking out her cell phone, she opened the app the university had created for their interdepartmental showcases. She put on her ear buds and used the in-app camera to scan the QR codes by each section. The app gave her the information on the student composer and the contributing artists and also played the music composed for the showcase.

She went through two more sections before she reached an interesting display. In the center of blizzards and thunderstorms three panels, each twenty-four inches by thirty eight inches.

The outer panels were an explosion of pink. Cherry blossom trees stood against a white world, their petals rushing from their panels into the center panel, swirling gently toward the center toward a lone figure in pink.

She scrolled the app and found the painting under the name and the title of the work.


Sakura’s face warmed. How did the artist know? Or was it coincidence?

Gently, Sakura traced over the lone figure in the center, barely brushing her finger pads over it.

The figure had its back to the viewer but would it be a reach to think it was her?

“You’re not supposed to touch the artwork.”

It took a moment for Sasuke to realize he had said something. He had been in shock, just watching the pink haired girl as her eyes roamed over his work. It wasn’t until she brushed her fingers against the canvas that he snapped out of his daze.

The girl’s eyes━seafoam green eyes━widened and her lips parted. She just stared at him, gaped at him. Sasuke cleared his throat, feeling hot around his collar. This wasn’t how he expected meeting her would be like.

“You’re,” Sasuke cleared his throat again, the girl’s staring making him feel self conscious., “you’re not━please don’t touch my canvas.”

Something must have clicked because as soon he finished his sentence, the girl threw herself at him, arms wrapping around his torso and her face pressed into his chest.

Is…is she crying!?

Sasuke awkwardly patted her back.

“There are people around,” he muttered.

Instantly she tensed up and pulled away.

“Sorry, um━”

“Uchiha Sasuke,” he offered.

“Nice to finally meet you. My name is Haruno Sakura.”

“You’re kidding.”

What were the odds that his work shared the same name as the inspiration?

He gawked at her as she burst into a fit of giggles. She shook her head and smiled at him, flashing perfect white teeth. Her eyes squinted a bit, pale pink lashes meshing at the corners around green eyes.

The sight was more vivid than anything he had seen in the world of color.

You Already Know All That You Need

When Sasuke was younger, silence was a home he lived in.

There was silence when he entered the genkan and slipped out of his sandals. There was silence when he walked the halls of his home. There was silence sitting across from him at the dinner table.

His mother filled the space with the sounds of cooking and washing. She was the pleasant voice that filled the lonely air when Itachi left him behind.

It was maddening how similar Sarada’s and his situations were. Absent father, mother filling in the gaps and reassuring them of their love. All that was missing was a beloved sibling.

It felt good to believe that his father spoke about him to his to mother. It felt good when Fugaku took the time to teach him the katon—the family jutsu.

But there was a terrible ache he could not let go when he was left to wonder what would it have been like if Itachi and his father never had a falling out.

Would he still have been invisible with only his mother’s words to placate him?

It was in poor taste to have these ill thoughts when no personal defense could come from one already long buried.

The last time he spent so much time at home Sarada was only tall enough to press her face into the area above his knee. A couple days in a foreign apartment wasn’t enough to make up for years away from home.

A tugging at his heart, a pull at his soul to the life he made with his wife could only get him so far.

He loved her━loved her so much. But there was doubts that Sarada knew exactly how much, that she was sure of his love.

The only parent he spent time with was his mother and he could not do the things she did for him for Sarada. So many years away caused their relationship to differ too greatly from the one he had with his mother.

He never witnessed how his peers interacted with their own parents. He didn’t care enough when he was younger to notice anyone else and when he was assigned to Team Seven, Naruto was an orphan as well and Sakura…Sakura had only mentioned them once and never brought them up again.

That was likely due to his response to her griping and the crass comment she had made at Naruto’s orphan status. A comment that hit too close to home.

Sasuke didn’t meet Sakura’s parents until he was an adult and stood at their doorstep, ready to introduce himself to the family of the only woman he would ever consider spending the rest of his life with.

At the time he wasn’t so sure what he expected.

Haruno Mebuki was a kind faced woman though she had wrinkles on her proud high forehead from often contorting her face into a frown at her husband’s antics and her daughter’s inability to properly care for herself despite caring for everyone else.

Although she was wary at first, protective as a lioness with her cub, Mebuki was a gentle woman. And it showed in the way she served him extra portions and fussed over the sunken look on his face. He had left that evening with a tight feeling on his waistband and enough leftovers to last him the rest of the week.

He’s sure his mother would have made fast friends with Haruno Mebuki.

Kizashi was the opposite of his wife. He was taller than Sasuke, an odd encounter within Konoha, and although he had also had a kind face his size made him look formidable and imposing. He was a large and burly man but with a booming voice welcomed Sasuke into his home with a clap on his shoulder. He was much sunnier in disposition and friendlier than Sasuke had expected.

But the part that threw him off was his demeanor when he was around Sakura.

Sasuke’s relationship with his own father was so much different than the one of Haruno Kizashi and his daughter. Sasuke was always vying for Fugaku’s attention, trying to be like Itachi━better than Itachi━in order to get the recognition he craved.

It was the opposite with Kizashi and Sakura.

Kizashi showered his daughter with all of the attention and affection he could before Sakura grumbled that he was being “too much.”

Kizashi would joke loudly and embarrass Sakura with a large arsenal of puns. The man was quick with words and used his intelligence to attempt to pull out a chuckle from his daughter no matter how small.

Now he used his way with words on his granddaughter. Unlike Sakura, Sarada was more receptive to his jokes, snickering at her mother and grandmother’s expense whenever her Ojiichan said a clever line.

How easily Kizashi spoke with Sarada. How easily words were returned to him.

“I’m not doing anything special,” Kizashi broke the silence between them. The women chatting in the kitchen and Sarada had disappeared down a hall.

Sasuke raised an eyebrow not sure what Kizashi was referring to.

“You were frowning at dinner. There was a nice look on your face whenever Sarada laughed but then you would sort of get this faraway look afterward. You were quiet. Even more than you usually are.”

Sasuke sighed. If his father-in-law had noticed, Sakura had definitely noticed. His wife didn’t miss anything.

“I’m not doing anything special. I’m not acting any differently than I normally would. I’m just being me. And you should just be you.”

Sasuke left the Haruno home more confused than when he had arrived.

Wasn’t the issue that he was too much himself? That he could not act the way other fathers acted with their daughters without coming off as awkward?

“Still haven’t figured it out?” Sakura asked as they lied in their bed, one of her hands scratching curlicues on his scalp.

Sasuke bit the inside of his cheek. There was no escaping how observant his wife was.

“Just talk to her. That’s all you need to do. Wasn’t that all you ever wanted from your own father?”

All Sasuke wanted when he was younger was acknowledgement. He wanted his father to see him.

It wasn’t until his father was gone that Sasuke realized he wanted to know who his father was. To know what made Uchiha Fugaku, Uchiha Fugaku.

He didn’t know anything about him except for what he learned from other people. That wasn’t an ideal way to get to know one’s own parent.

That wasn’t how his child should get to know him.

And then it all made sense what Kizashi had said.

Sasuke did not need to be like anyone else. Sasuke did not need to learn from anyone else. He didn’t need to act any differently.

He loved Sarada because she was Sarada. Just as no matter how much of a mystery his own father had been, Sasuke still loved him just for being him.

And Sarada, no doubt, loved him just because he was who he was—her Papa.

And as much as Sarada was like Sakura, she was still like him as well right down to the absent father.

Formerly absent father.

Sarada was no longer small enough to only reach his knee. And although she would always be his child, his little girl, she was no longer a child and she should be treated as such. She was a genin, an adult by shinobi standards.

But not an adult by Uchiha standards.

And it was time to rectify that. And it was time for her to learn just another part of what it was like to be an Uchiha. Another part of what made her father what he was.

Because Sarada was not just Sakura. She was Sasuke too. And if she was anything like him then what she wanted wasn’t pet names or to be spoiled in public.

She wanted her father, just the way he was.

Around The Dinner Table

He was used to being stared at.

Most of his life was a practice in avoiding the stares of strangers. He played aloof and kept to himself until the staring no longer mattered. Until he could no longer feel the stares as anything more than the buzzing of a gnat.

The stares meant nothing to him. Not until they did.

Not until he realized that he was staring right back at wide, cat-shaped jade eyes.

He was use to being stared at and with decades of knowing━and a brief stint on not knowing what to do about the stares of the prettiest green eyes━ Sasuke found himself at a loss about what to do about wide cat-shaped deep dark brown eyes.

It was easier when Sarada was younger. When the feeling was new and all he had to do was revel in the feeling of being stared at by something, someone, he loved more than life itself. Sasuke could learn, practice, what to do about those eyes and what they held.

Sarada was all his in coloring and there were little quirks like her smirks and her glares━and even her pouting but he wasn’t going to admit that to Sakura━but despite how deep brown her eyes were, she couldn’t run away from how much Sakura she had in her.

Those eyes were as expressive as her mother’s eyes. And after years away despite knowing what emotion was in them, he did not know what to do about them.

When she narrowed them would staring back at her unnervingly make her resolve crack with a burst of giggles?

When they glittered with the beginnings of tears could he still  murmur softly in her ear and hold her close to lessen the fall from storm to a drizzle?

These questions made their way around his mind as he sat in an unfamiliar chair at an unfamiliar table.

“Mama destroyed the house.”

Sasuke blinked in surprise He had been waiting for the bearer of the staring eyes to say something but not for her to provide something in relation to what he was currently thinking about.

“She has a habit of doing that it seems.”

His voice was soft but not soft enough that he went unheard by his wife who was shouting her protests from the kitchen.

“When you were a baby she fell asleep while cleaning bottles in the sink.” Sasuke turned slightly in his chair to better have a look at his eleven year old. “She woke up when her hands slipped into the sink water and the shock caused her to rip the sink from the countertop. She flooded the kitchen.”

“You’re kidding!” Sarada giggled. Her eyes squinted with glee and her mouth spread into a wide smile that showed off her dimples.

“In my defense,” Sakura strolled into the dining area and placed more dishes on the table, “I was having trouble sleeping because of a certain someone.”

She ruffled Sarada’s hair on her way to her seat.

“So Mama has always been strong, huh?”

If Sasuke hadn’t been already looking at her, he would have missed the fact that the question had been directed to him.

“Yes.” He recalled a skinny, long haired version of his wife pounding the head of their best friend. “Always.”

From the corner of his eye he saw Sakura nonchalantly placing helpings on plates for them, a subtle tint of pink on her cheeks.

“And she was usually the smartest but kept letting her emotions get the best of her,” he added to his compliment to tease her. Sakura’s face flushed crimson but she continued with serving as if he she hadn’t heard him. An attempt to disprove that she couldn’t keep her emotions in check.

“That’s right, you guys were on the same genin squad.”

Sasuke took a bite of the first home cooked meal he’s had in over seven years and took a moment to enjoy the nostalgia he felt at finally having food his wife cooked for him. He had expected Sakura to respond to their child but Sarada’s statement still hung in the air.

He looked again, and there was Sarada looking at him expectantly.

“Yes. We were. On Team Seven.”

There was a glimmer in Sarada’s eyes that made Sasuke take pause before taking another bite of food.

These are things she could have heard from Sakura…

And yet, what could it hurt to indulge her?

Sasuke was no stranger to the absence of a parent. Mikoto was loving and stern and she always knew what to say but things she shared that elated him did not hold the same strength as the attention of the father he craved acknowledgement from. At seven all he wanted was to hear his father’s voice, hear words directed at him about him straight from the source.

And here was his own child, wanting the same: words from her father.

And there she was, staring at him with hopeful eyes. Hopeful eyes that he knew what to do about despite years of being away.

Sasuke was used to be stared at.

But nothing could stop the warmth that spread in his chest when he caught himself being stared at by the prettiest cat-shaped, deep dark brown eyes he had the greatest fortune to have ever seen.

“Yes we were on the same genin squad. Did your mother ever tell you about…”