And In The Morning There Are Birds

He woke with the sound of chirping birds ringing in his ears.

Blinking his eyes open, Sasuke inhaled deeply and stretched his limbs. His legs dangled off of the couch and he wondered if Sakura could be convinced to change her loveseat in her office to something larger.

He turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling tiles. As soon as the ringing was gone from his ears and the world became silent again he started to count.





The door opened with a click and Sakura creeped into her own office carrying a cardboard box full of folders.

If it weren’t for the way Sakura would try to sneak in to get work done, Sasuke would think she knew exactly when it was that he woke up from his nap. She always arrived seconds after he woke up on his own.

“Hey sleepyhead.”

Sakura squatted down so that she was eye level with him ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp as she did so.

“I’m just going to look over some cases if you want to keep sleeping.”

Sasuke watched as she made her way to her desk. She set her box on the desk and smoothed her lab coat under her thighs as she sat down.

The clacking of the keyboard keys and the sound of her sleeves rubbing against the desk surface as she wrote lulled him back to sleep.

White and blue flashed in his eyes as loud banging on his door woke him up. He eyed the digital clock on his nightstand and pulled his duvet over his head.

It didn’t matter that it was one in the afternoon.

He wanted sleep.

The smell of mint circled the air and the fabric of the couch cushion scratched at his cheek.

Scenes of rubble still flashed as double exposure over the shelves of books but his mind was slowly processing what was actually in front of him.

I’m in Sakura’s office.

It’s located in the Children’s Institute.

The institute is in Konoha.

Sasuke stared at the ceiling tile and counted.

On four, Sakura was opening the door carrying a bento set.

“You can be really one track minded sometimes you know.”

Sasuke tilted his head up and raised a brow. Sakura’s eyebrows were pulled down in a frown but the apples of her cheeks were dusted with red.

“You’re heavy.”

Sasuke ignored her and nuzzled his cheek against her breast before pressing open mouthed kisses on her sternum, trailing them down the flat planes of her stomach.

“We were supposed to be setting up your bookshelf today.”

Sasuke nudged her thighs apart with his shoulders and slid his arms underneath her legs, caressing the fleshier parts of them until he reached her bottom. He pressed more kisses to the insides of her thighs, nipping his way to his goal.

“See?” Sakura’s voice was breathy in his ears as she snaked her fingers through his hair. “One track minded.”

The sound of birds chirping accompanied the hard yank of his door.

If it weren’t for the fact that his left arm was missing he wouldn’t have been surprised to see the flashes and sparks of lightning that usually accompanied the sound.

“What?” He didn’t even attempt to hide his irritation.

This is why he preferred to sleep in Sakura’s office.

No one was allowed in there or into the institute unless they were a patient or staff.

It was the one place he had peace and wouldn’t be disturbed.

All he wanted was to sleep.

Blue-white light flashed in his eyes.

The smell of mint wafted around the air from the oil diffuser and his cheek rubbed against the wool of Sakura’s sweater. Her fingers scratched circular patterns on his scalp.

“How was your nap?”

Sasuke mumbled against her stomach, not quite sure what he was trying to say himself, and drifted back to sleep.

A bird chirped lazily as Sasuke slowly blinked his eyes open. His bed was warmer than usual and the smell of apples permeated the air.

“I fell asleep last night.”

Sakura’s eyes were wide in horror at her transgression. Sasuke pulled her closer, and tucked her head under his chin.

“Sasuke. My mom is going to kill me.”


He pressed his mouth against the top of her head and closed his eyes again.

A single bird chirped outside his window as he drifted back to sleep.

The Lion & The Ram

Tracing the lines that stood prominent on his forearm, Sasuke sighed and dipped lower into the bathtub. It was on such a noticeable part of his body, and his mother knew the exact moment the cluster of dots on his skin took shape, just a few months shy of his first birthday.

“Tired from the heat already?”

Sasuke looked up at his older brother sitting across the ofuro. His hair had gotten long enough for Mother to let him borrow one of her pins to keep his hair from getting wet. With his hair pulled up and away, Itachi’s soulmarks were on display. A rarity considering their placement on his collarbone.

Itachi was an anomaly. It was one thing to be born like the Hyuga and have no soulmark but to have two of them was almost unheard of.

Itachi’s two marks were completely different from each other and stood on opposite sides, symmetrical in location. Constellations that typically never rose high in the sky at the same time standing like equals on his skin.

The one on his right he was born with, one soulmate already born before him. The second one appeared when he was eight months old, the other one younger but still the same age.

At four years old Sasuke was confused by Itachi’s marks. If he had two soulmates than how did he know which one was the right one? What if he picked wrong?

“I don’t think there’s a wrong choice,” Itachi answered him, ruffling Sasuke’s hair dry with a towel. “It doesn’t even mean I will ever meet them.”

That was the problem with their soulmarks. Constellations were vague. His soulmate could be anyone.

Anyone born under the Ram.

Being born without a soulmark wasn’t a bad thing. At least that’s what Sakura’s mother said.

Haruno Mebuki told her daughter that it was actually a blessing. Without a soulmark, Sakura would never fall prey to chasing after any person that happened to be born under whatever constellation that appeared on her skin.

“Plenty of people fall in love despite not having any mark. Some people with marks fall in love with the wrong kind. You don’t find the person for you just because a few dots on your skin happen to have lines that connect.”

It was all unfair to Sakura. She wasn’t born from parents without soulmarks. Her parents even had matching marks located along their ribs on opposite sides of their bodies.

Sakura wouldn’t have minded so much being markless if she were a Hyuga. An entire clan of people without soulmarks that belonged to each other. No one married outside of the clan so a lack of marks meant nothing to them.

But day after day without anyone to talk to, no friends by her side, Sakura couldn’t stop the overwhelming feeling of loneliness.

She longed for her translucent freckles to darken and form a constellation, any constellation, just for the promise that one day she would have someone that she belonged to and they belonged to her.

She was five and all she wanted was a friend.

The long sleeves of the clothing his family wore never felt more welcomed than when he entered the Academy.

The kids were always running around and asking each other what kind of marks they had. If the mark matched their own it was more likely they would be friends.

Sasuke didn’t like that. It was like they didn’t care about the person just the mark on their skin.

Sasuke didn’t want any part of that.

If he was to be loved it would be for who he was, not for superficial things. He refused to tell anyone what his soulmark was.

Yamanaka Ino was the kind of person that did whatever she wanted.

It was why she decided the cute pink haired girl would be her new friend despite the lengths other kids went to avoid her or bully her. And it was also the reason why when she found out that Sasuke wasn’t born under the Archer that she didn’t care about soulmarks.

Who were the stars to tell her the coolest guy in the village wasn’t supposed to be hers?

And besides, it would be a great example for Sakura who confided in her that she didn’t have a mark. It would help her friend realize that marks didn’t mean anything in the long run.

“Tilt your head forward so I can secure the ribbon better,” Ino ordered. She went out shopping the other day for the perfect gift for Sakura━a red ribbon to pull her hair away from her pretty face.

Ino brushed some strands into place and pushed down Sakura’s high collar out of the way. She gasped when she saw her friend’s nape for the first time.

“Ino?” Sakura’s voice snapped Ino out of her thoughts.

“Nothing!” Ino brushed off the heavy sinking feeling in her stomach and tied a bow on Sakura’s head.

Soulmarks mean nothing, Ino reminded herself refusing to show Sakura how sour her mood had become.

There was something dark about his older brother that worried Sasuke. The elders of the clan were investigating his best friend’s death so it made sense that Itachi would be somewhere far away in his thoughts.

Sasuke went to check on his brother, concerned for he was even more withdrawn than usual. He caught him standing in front of his mirror, fingering his collarbone on the right side.

Sasuke had heard that when someone’s soulmate died that the soulmark would fade away but he had never known anyone intimately enough to witness the phenomenon.

Now he stood outside his brother’s bedroom, peering through the crack of the door, fascinated by what he was seeing.

On the left, the second mark was still there standing proud, but on the right there was a cluster of formless dots. Sasuke couldn’t place which dots used to be part of the old constellation.

Sasuke creeped away, unsettled by the blank look on Itachi’s face and the way he kept tracing patterns on his skin, trying to fruitlessly connect dots.

He didn’t sleep that night. He kept watch over his soulmark and prayed for the health and longevity of a stranger.

Sasuke woke up gasping yet again. It had been a year since the fall of his clan and he still saw the streets running with blood and mangled bodies when he closed his eyes.

He was the last of the Uchiha━he no longer counted his brother as one.

He had gotten his hopes up when he woke up and overheard that Uchiha Izumi’s body lacked any physical wounds. Seconds later his stomach sank when the nurses on the other side of the door mentioned that the estimated time of death made her the first victim that night.

Slowing down his breathing, Sasuke turned on his side and eyed his soulmark. The Ram was still there.

A reminder that one day, he wouldn’t be alone after he took care of his brother.

Sakura had never been so scared before in her life.

Even now that Sasuke sat across from her, covered in bandages, she could still picture his prone body lying on that bridge covered in senbon.

“Not so close,” Sasuke muttered when Sakura’s knee touched his.

“Just changing your bandages,” Sakura explained. Usually she would be giddy to even be close to Sasuke but all she wanted was to feel his warmth, to feel that he was alive.

She once admired him from afar but spending time with him made her feel something deeper for the quiet boy.

He was no longer just the perfect, high scoring Academy boy that had once smiled freely when he snuck peeks at his grades but her squadmate, a friend.

“All done.”

She smiled softly at him, flushing at how intense his gaze was. Her smile stretched into a full grin and Sasuke turned away.

We’re closer maybe? Just a little?

It was weird when she wasn’t smiling. At least, when she wasn’t smiling the way she usually did.

Sakura was a happy person whose energy brought him a sense of peace. Her existence had become something…precious to him.

Thinking about someone’s happiness and their moods wasn’t something he thought he would care about again. At least not until after he avenged his clan.

There was something about her smile though━something about when he made her smile.

It made it so he didn’t mind if a certain Ram had a Lion somewhere on her being.

It had been years since Ino had seen the telltale mark on Sakura’s nape. Now she was staring at it again, small like everyone else’s mark but still obvious.

And she felt for the first time that maybe━for some people━those clusters of connected dots really meant something.

“All done,” Ino chirped, proud of her work. Sakura’s hair was still choppy but it was a lot more even than the mess she made of it earlier.

A mess she made for her teammates.

As soon as she was done brushing the last strand of hair off of Sakura’s shoulders, Sasuke quietly sat down by Sakura.

They weren’t speaking yet Ino felt like she was watching something from the outside, from far away. It was just like earlier when she was frozen with fear.

She loved Sasuke. She was sure of it.

But then why was it only Sakura that moved toward him and embraced him. Stopped him. Ino herself wanted to run━run far away.

She watched the two of them for a beat, a strange peace around them as they shared each other’s company.

Until Naruto woke up and started shrieking about Sakura’s short hair.

Ino clucked her tongue in disgust. Really? She was covered in bruises and her eye was swollen and he talks about her hair?

Did Naruto ever see Sakura? Really see her?

It made more and more sense every day why his mark wasn’t the Ram.

Even you…

It should have disturbed him how much she was starting to matter to him.

Even you…

But laying her down in a safe place, he didn’t hesitate putting her before his revenge.

Because he wasn’t going to go through that again.

He wasn’t going to lose someone precious again.

If she weren’t so worried, so scared, she probably would have laughed at how her gut feeling was correct.

The tug in her heart, the heavy sinking in her stomach, led her to the path to the gates of their village.

And there he was, walking towards her with his travel bag.

His footsteps echoed in her ears, a steadier and more relaxed cadence than that of her heartbeat.

“What are you doing prowling around here in the middle of the night?”

“Thank you.”

It was supposed to be easy to leave. No one was supposed to even be awake when he left. He was simply going to walk out and no one would know until he was long gone.

Knocking Sakura out was easy. He had always been faster and she was distracted by how emotional she was feeling.

If his resolve hadn’t been so strong perhaps he would have wavered a bit.

She was going to scream. If she hadn’t already woken someone up with her shouted confession she was going to alert someone of his departure.

Knocking Sakura out was easy. All he had to do was hit the right point on her nape and she would pass out.

Holding her now as she fell back against him he couldn’t help but stare wide eyed at the back of her neck, right below her high collar. A small voice in the back of his mind whispered how bad it was for her neck to be at that angle but he had already knocked her out so it was a little too late to be considerate.

In some of her babbling from their early days as squadmates, Sakura had confessed to being markless.

She lied.

That wasn’t fair. It was in a location hidden from her. Why no one had told her she had a mark he didn’t know but it wasn’t important. What was important was what kind of mark she had.

Sasuke scooped her up, cradling her body close before setting her down on the stone bench off to the side of the road. He couldn’t return her home without wasting precious time he already spent being intercepted by her. It was the best he could do for her.

Looking down at her there was a strange feeling in his chest that made his ears warm up.

It made a lot of sense if he thought about it.

Made a lot of sense for her to be a Ram with a Lion mark.

He couldn’t regret his decision.

He had to get stronger. Orochimaru would help him with that.

But there were nights when he couldn’t sleep that he would lay on his side and trace the constellation on his left arm.

He would avenge his clan. And then he would go home.

When Sakura took time to think of her friendship with Sai it made her laugh to herself sometimes. She felt too much and he felt too little.

But they were working on that.

“Danzo got rid of our marks. He burned them off.”

Sai’s voice still had a monotone quality to it despite how much more open he was becoming with the limitations he had.

“I sometimes think I can remember the shape but in reality I don’t.”

Sai sketched out an image of a bell and and drew a line underneath it. Sakura’s brows pulled down into a frown as she tried to place the figure.

It didn’t look like any she knew. But that’s what happened when someone was drawing from a faulty memory.

“We weren’t allowed to keep our soulmarks. We belonged to Root and no one else.”

“Soulmarks aren’t that important,” Sakura reassured him. “I don’t have one and nothing has changed.

“But,” a wrinkle formed between his eyebrows, “you do have a mark.”


Sai gestured for Sakura to turn her back on him. She felt his cool fingers slide her collar down and then he released it. A few seconds later he held up his sketchbook to her.

Sakura’s eyes went wide and her hand flew to the back of her neck. There were nine dots connected into a constellation she knew as well as her own. One that she use to dream was hers when she was younger.

The Lion.

It was never quiet. She could hear the screams of people ringing in her ears. If she was alone she couldn’t hear her own thoughts because all she could hear was the screaming.

That’s what Ino told her when Sakura curled against her in the cot they shared. It was getting hard to sleep alone when they were cognizant of the fact they were losing members of their forces by the droves.

People they use to see walking down the street weren’t going to be in the village anymore.

If they had a village to return to in the end.

If they themselves were around in the end.

The way he said her name still caused her stomach to get airy. The way the second syllable hit the roof of his mouth and rolled into the third.

And then she remembered that they were in the middle of a battlefield.

Soulmarks meant nothing to him anymore.

It didn’t matter that he was drawn to her, that her voice was the only sound he zeroed in on after arriving.

Nothing written in the stars was going to get in the way of his new goal.

Soulmarks meant nothing.

Her head rolled against Sasuke’s collarbone.

She saved him because he was an important piece to defeating the rabbit goddess.

She saved him because she loved him.

And the stars had nothing to do with her love.

It had to be done.

She was trying to get in the way of his plans again.

Making him waver and putting herself in harm’s way.

She had to be incapacitated.

Dying should have felt worse than that.

Sakura blinked her eyes and looked up at her sensei’s face. He looked down at her with concern in his eyes but it was unnecessary to direct any toward her.

She felt her heart in his hands and then nothing.

Maybe that’s how it always was with them.

Her heart in his hands.

And then nothing.

His Ram was gone.

As the sun was rising and all the words were said Sasuke noticed the Ram was gone.

His arm from the elbow down was missing but he wasn’t so concerned with that. He lost enough blood to know that was his last sunrise.

He wondered if Sakura ever found out about her soulmark. Would it disappear after his eyes closed forever?


A warmth flooded the location of his remaining arm. A green glow lit up, drawing his attention to the somber look on Sakura’s face.

His Ram was here.

Kissing her nape was a habit.

Sakura wouldn’t admit it to anyone but she was sure he knew she exposed it as often as possible just because of that.

She never found a soulmark on her husband’s body. She figured that, perhaps, he lost it a long time ago.

It was in the quiet of their dark bedroom that he whispered to her that he never did.

Teru-Teru Bōzu, Teru Bōzu

Turning her head side to side, it still felt awkward to feel the ends of her hair skimming against her neck.

Passing all of the stalls, the noise of the busy festival sounded far away, as if she dunked her head under water.

The feeling was constant. Having Sasuke out of sight made it feel like her chest was collapsing in on itself and the air was thinning.

She was scared.

She couldn’t shake the feeling that if she took her eyes off of him for a moment that he would disappear.


Sakura paused in the middle of the street and turned. Naruto slowed down as he took his last steps to stand right next to her.

“I’ve been calling after you for a while now!”

Naruto’s face twisted into an ugly pout and Sakura sighed. She had told him she wasn’t going to attend the festival when he had tried to ask her on a date. She hoped he wouldn’t ask her about why she was out.

“I thought you were staying home tonight?”

There was a brief pause where Sakura didn’t know how to respond. If they still had the same relationship they did when they were Academy students she would have told him off and stormed away with a toss of her hair. But he was her teammate now and could be considered a friend despite his bratty attitude.

“Well now that you’re out we can at least watch the fireworks!”

Sakura smiled softly. Leave it to Naruto to stay upbeat.

But she didn’t want to see the fireworks with Naruto. She originally planned for Team Seven to go to the festival together so that even if it wasn’t a date, she could still be with Sasuke on a day that celebrated lovers.

Sasuke was in the hospital so there was no chance of a pseudo-romantic evening. She went to hang up her wish for his good health and was going to head home.

“I’m just going to head home, Naruto.”

“Let me walk you home!”

Already feeling defeated, Sakura made her way back down the road not caring if Naruto fell in step besides her. She didn’t mind the company, only hoped it didn’t encourage him.

They were friends but nothing was going to go further than that. Her feelings were elsewhere. With someone else.

“Hey! What are you doing here?”

Naruto’s voice snapped her out of her reverie and lifting her head, right across from her front door, Sasuke was leaning against the wall.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital?”

Sasuke clucked his tongue at him and sent him a glare before stepping away from the wall. His gaze drifted to Sakura and then he nodded his head in the direction of the street. He walked ahead expecting them to follow.

Sakura’s mood perked up instantly. She grabbed Naruto by his sleeve and took off after Sasuke.

Sasuke didn’t like crowds. He always got antsy when they were in an area with a lot of noise and too many chakra signatures. As someone who was always on alert, crowds caused sensory overload. He drew them away from the buzz of the festival and to the riverside where no one would be.

The sky lit up with colorful sparks and the sound of whistling and booming claps.

Sidling up to Sasuke, Sakura timidly pressed her arm to his. Feeling giddy after he didn’t react, Sakura leaned against him more. She enjoyed the feel of his skin touching hers until a forced pushed itself against her on her left.

Naruto, not wanting to be left out, had attached himself to her left arm and pushed against her to get even closer in contact than she was with Sasuke. At that, Sasuke reached his limit on physical contact and shoved the two of them away.

He always gets in my way!

Sakura knocked her knuckles on the top of Naruto’s head.

Next year I’m definitely coming with Sasuke alone!
But Sasuke left a few weeks later.
And it rained every Tanabata since.
Sakura sighed as the rain pattered down her window.  The sky had been so clear during the day. The rain came out of nowhere as the sun was falling. It picked up and the steady torrent was getting stronger.

She was sure to find her wish scattered on the ground with the other wet tanzaku with how forceful the rains were.

It rained again, Sakura grumbled inwardly playing with the ends of her hair. It had grown down to her lower back again.

She liked it long but growing it back hadn’t been intentional. She had gotten too caught up with training and teaching Ino medical ninjutsu and simply didn’t notice the strands of hair until they got in the way when she was working.

I’ll get Ino to cut it tomorrow…

Sakura peered out her bedroom window, searching fruitlessly for the moon through the gaps of smoky gray clouds against the black pitch of sky.

She took down the little white dolls hanging in a row on her window and crushed them to her chest.

Praying for good weather wasn’t going to bring Sasuke back home.

“What are you doing?”

Sakura looked up from her satchel and grinned shyly before showing off her little white doll. Sasuke rolled his eyes but fingered the white cloth. It was left over from the fabric Sakura had used to make more kamon for their clothing.

For more uchiwa to grace their backs.

“The sky is overcast. It’s likely to rain when we reach the village. Are you sure you want to go to the festival? It does add another fifty miles to our trip.”

“The storm will roll right on by.”

Sakura clucked her tongue and patted her doll. She was going to remain positive even if testing the direction of the wind assured her more that the storm was heading away from the village than a little monk having power to grant her wish.

“Are you sure you want to go to the festival?”

Sakura recalled a time when he purposely stayed away from large crowds of people. He still was antsy, being alert never changed. He told her about how he had always been that way but that when his older brother was with him, the buzzing inside him would settle.

It helped to have someone he loved with him.

“The falls can wait,” he replied, pulling her hood over her head. “They’re not going anywhere.”

But tanabata only happened once a year.
Sakura drew a face on the doll the next day and they sent him down the river that ran through the village. They watched the doll make his voyage from a bridge similar to the one that stood side by side on as genin.

“Do make tomorrow a sunny day…”

Sarada’s high voice warbled from her seat at the table. She tied a blue ribbon to form the head of her white doll.

“Mama, I’m done. Hang him up!”

Sarada cheered when Sakura hung up her seventh doll on a pole out on the engawa.

“Will Papa be home tomorrow?”

“Not tomorrow Sara-chan.”

Sarada’s small face squished into a pout.

“Then who is going to hang up my wish?”

“I’ll hang it up.”

Sarada raised a single eyebrow, looking up at her mother doubtfully.

“I’ll put it up real high.”

“But Papa would get it up higher…” Sarada pouted. It was the first time he wouldn’t be with them. Who was going to carry her so she could see above the crowds of people?
It didn’t matter in the end. Sakura had an emergency at the hospital and Sarada was left in the care of her grandparents.

Kizashi-jii was taller than Papa and he hung up her wish, right before the first drops of rain began to fall.
Please let Papa come home.
“Why are you so gloomy?” ChouChou shook her head as she munched on takoyaki. “We might not get to see the fireworks because of the rain but at least we hung up our wishes.”

Sarada wiped her glasses with her handkerchief and slipped them back up on her nose. She stared impassively at the festival goers running for cover as the rain fell at a steady stream.

Wishes? Those are just strips of paper.

Sarada sighed and lifted the flap of the stall’s curtain. It was time to go home and bring Mama her sweets from the festival. The crowds made her antsy and she would rather be home with Mama cooking dinner together.
But if you do work, please bring Papa home.

Mama was always pretty but in a yukata she was beautiful. Especially with a pretty flush on her cheeks as she walked side by side with Papa.

“So lucky that the sky’s clear huh, Sarada?” Mama beamed. “We can see Vega and Altair.”

Sarada grinned from ear to ear, eyes squinting from happiness. It had been so long since it hadn’t rained during the festival.

But the happiness she felt was slowly ebbing away to anxiety. There was too much noise and the smells were overwhelming. She was buzzing but she couldn’t go home. Not yet. Not now that Papa was here.

“There’s a place by the river,” Papa’s voice, soft but still clear over the crowd. “It’s a good spot for viewing the fireworks.”

Papa led them away from the crowds down to a grassy bank where the lights glittered on the water’s surface. The noise was far away and Sarada felt her chest lighten. The buzzing was fading away.

“It’s good that they can see each other again, right?” Mama said dreamily, her head tilted to the sky towards the Summer Triangle.

The corners of Sarada’s mouth quirked up and then spread into a soft smile as she watched her father sidle up to her mother.

Yes. It is.

Cigarette Scars

Tracing her finger around the bumps with a barely there touch, Sakura was left to wonder yet again where he got the wounds.

What did it say about her that their relationship was already physical but she didn’t feel like some questions could be asked?

Sasuke never flinched when she brushed against the old scars. Never startled out of loving her when she bit into his forearms with her nails, leaving crescent shaped reminders of where she’s been, of where he’s been.

He probably does it himself, she mused as he tucked himself back into his boxer briefs and pulled the covers up over her shoulders.

What mess has this beautiful boy━beautiful man━become from what he’s seen?

“I should go,” he whispered, pressing a kiss on Sakura’s temple. “Before Tsunade comes back.”

Sakura watched as he slipped on his clothing as quietly as possible. He slipped his switchblade into his back pocket and tucked his Browning into his torso holster before slipping on his bomber jacket. Fully clothed he could pass for a random first year university student.

Maybe if he were born into a different family he would have been one.

But then maybe they would have never met.

“Not very subtle are you?” Sasuke muttered as Sakura lit up his cigarette.

She was taking a break from crooning out the sultry love ballads the patrons filed into the lounge for. That and the tables for cards in the back.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

She grinned at him slyly and tilted her head in a way that caused her ringlets to sway prettily around her head.

“Tsunade is going to find out if you keep eye fucking me from across the bar.”

“You’re not so subtle either, y’know?” Sakura cracked into the dialect that Tsunade strained to teach out of her.

But once a street urchin always a street urchin. No matter how pretty the clothes she wore now, she couldn’t forget the hunger and the cold. Nor the fear that what she so willingly gave to Sasuke would have been stolen from her.

“I have another song to sing for the night.”

“Maybe this time, you don’t look right at me,” Sasuke whispered, leaning in so his hair brushed against her cheek, silkier than one would expect.

Sakura turned away haughtily, shaking her curls around her head. She refused to let him see the pink of her face as heat bloomed across her cheeks.

Sakura was rubbing soothing circles with her thumbs on a burn mark she hadn’t seen before when Sasuke groaned awake.

“Mama ‘Nade stitched you up good, huh?”

Sakura smiled softly and leaned against the couch, adjusting her body to relieve the pressure on her knees. It had been a few hours but she hadn’t left Sasuke’s side. She almost fell asleep, right on the floor.

“Bringing Shisui all of those nights so he could lie on this couch,” Sasuke winced as a spasm of pain shot through him, “I never actually thought I would be the one on this couch.”

“How d’ya get stabbed?”

“Sorry I missed your set.”

Sakura frowned. He was always avoiding questions about work.

“You can tell me y’know. No judgements. Not from me.”

“You may be a sparrow but I’m not talking shop with you. I don’t want to be just that with you,” Sasuke mumbled. “You may be one of Madara’s little birds but you’re my Sakura.”

Continuing rubbing the newest cigarette burn, Sakura leaned her head against his thigh.

“You’re going to have to talk one day,” she whispered. “And I hope it’s with me.”

Sasuke closed his eyes and Sakura was ready to get up and leave. Their relationship wasn’t going anywhere.

“Later. Lemme sleep for now. You’re being annoying.”


“I’m trying to sleep.”

“You better rest well ‘cause we’re gonna talk a lot.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Sakura shifted her body and kept rubbing her soothing patterns, sliding the pads of her fingertips along Sasuke’s smooth skin and the scars.

There was so much she needed to ask her beautiful boy━beautiful man.



The nightmares were so constant that Sasuke no longer jolted with heavy panting and screams. His eyes no longer widened as he stared into the void and waited for the visions of his past to blur away to darkness of his room.

Now he woke with a sigh and rolled on his back, blinking up at the starry night sky.

He felt stupid the first overnight with Team Seven. He had childishly hoped that being as far as possible from Konoha would give him respite from the dreams of mangled bodies and blood seeping into floorboards.

There was no running from his ghosts.

Sasuke turned his head to his right and saw Naruto with his mouth wide open and his body twisted so that he was snuggling his blanket and bed roll instead of lying on top of it. He didn’t need to look to know that Kakashi wasn’t sleeping in his bed roll. Their instructor was never in his bed roll though he liked to continue to create the illusion that he was sleeping soundly across from his trio of genin.

Turning to his right, Sakura was awake, eyes on the starry canopy above their head and her lips moving slightly as she spoke to herself.

In the dark her chin length hair seemed more dusty rose than the wata-ame pink of fluffy festival treats it looked in the midday sun.

Sakura’s hair looked like the orange of glass molding in flames when the sun was falling and the color of candelabra amaranths during the false dawn━but he wasn’t going to look into why the shades of Sakura were so pronounced in his mind that he could find her in the world and the world in her.

But for now the fire pit was dead and the only sounds were that of chirping cicadas and the rustling of wind through leaves. Yet Sakura was awake.

“I can’t sleep when we’re out of Konoha anymore,” she whispered into the night.

She didn’t need to turn to know he was awake. It seemed that she was always aware of when he was awake.

Again, something he didn’t care enough about to give it much thought.

Perhaps in another lifetime he would have the liberty to give in to passing curiosities. But not this one. So he pushed it away to the far recesses of his mind.

“But then again,” Sakura continued on without waiting for his response. “I don’t sleep much in Konoha as well. I can’t stop feeling so restless.”

A hand of hers left it’s place resting on her stomach to finger the short strands of her hair. If it was to mourn the loss of its length, Sasuke didn’t know. The action reminded him of his mother, and the way she would stroke his forelocks when he was in bed with a fever.

So he disliked very much when Sakura played with her hair as if to soothe herself.

He watched her lift her hand up and draw a shape into the air.

“Cassiopeia is right there. So that means Polaris,” Sakura dragged her pointer finger upward and Sasuke followed it to a bright star just a little off from right above them, “is right over there.”

“Wouldn’t you use the saucepan to find Polaris?” Sasuke whispered his question. He wasn’t going to sleep any time soon and Sakura’s voice was better than the distant sound of his own screams from his dream.

“Not when Ursa Major is low in the sky. Cassiopeia is actually more helpful for us when the season is changing to winter.”

Sasuke looked to the sky and searched for the saucepan and discovered that Sakura was right. There was a bright star that could have been the tip of the handle barely spotted through the trees.

“You can almost see Alkaid right there.”

Leave it to her to know the names, Sasuke grumbled inwardly. It was late in the night and he was tired. Being restless always left him irritated at the smallest of things.

Sleep would solve that issue if he could get it.

“If I didn’t need to sleep I would pull out my planisphere.”

Sasuke looked over at her expectantly and Sakura didn’t disappoint. She didn’t need to look at him to know an explanation was required.

“It’s a star chart. It helps me find the constellations.” Sakura sighed and snuggled into her bed roll.  “My favorite constellation is falling lower into the west now.”

Sakura lifted her hands and made the shape of a triangle.

“The Summer Triangle,” she murmured almost dreamily.

Sasuke rolled his eyes. Of course that one was her favorite.

“It contains one of the brightest stars—Vega—and well,” her tone changed and she finally looked at him if only to flit her eyes back and forth between him and the sky, “Orihime and Hikoboshi are in it.”

Besides the obvious ones for navigation, he knew very well of the stars for Orihime and Hikoboshi. It was one of his mother’s favorite stories.

Before he was an academy student they would make teru teru bōzu together before Tanabata, in the hopes they would keep the rains away.

But that was in the past. Little white dolls didn’t hang from his windows anymore.

“There’s Orion.”

Sakura’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He was slowly slipping back into the scenes from his dream.

“He’s really prominent around this time of the year. And then he falls to the scorpion in the summer.”

“And with the scorpion so rises the snake.”

A silence stretched between them, the conversation dying with the reminder of events from a different forest. He could feel the slight pinching at the junction of his neck and shoulder. Sasuke would have believed Sakura had fallen asleep if he didn’t peek over at her from his peripheral.

“Leo stands proud in the sky when Serpens rises,” Sakura broke the silence.

Sasuke raised a brow, not sure where she was going with that statement. She turned her head to him and smiled shyly.

“You’re, uh, a Leo.”

“So I am.”

Sasuke turned back to the dotted patterns in the sky. That’s all they were. Random scatterings. Designs created by men connecting different stars to tell stories held no power.

They meant nothing.

Nothing meant as much as the restless feeling inside, knowing he was still so far away from where he needed to be, from the things he needed to do.

Whenever, However, But Always Yours

“Do you…believe in reincarnation?”

That wasn’t a question she had ever expected her boyfriend to ask. She pushed her laptop aside and propped her elbows on the table, resting her chin on her hands that were clasped together in front of her face.

“What brought this on?”

Her boyfriend sighed and plopped himself onto the seat across from her. He had bags under his eyes and a coffee stain on the shirt of his light blue scrubs. He had always had a fondness for the drink but his caffeine addiction became worse when he became a resident.

She had no right to judge the intake as she was the same but at least she didn’t pour inappropriate amounts of sugar and creamer in hers. Her boyfriend could only drink his coffee when it was disgustingly sweet.

“A patient said something about wanting to come back as a bird in the next life and it sort of got everyone talking about reincarnation and past lives.”

He ruffled his pale, rose gold hair and let out a sigh. Rosy lashes fluttered, eyes having trouble staying open.

“Instead of talking about reincarnation or whatever, how about you go to sleep.” It wasn’t a question. She didn’t leave any room for argument and stood up, taking hold of her boyfriend’s arm. “Come on. I’ll make something for you to eat for when you wake up.”

“Let me guess…something with tomatoes?” Her boyfriend teased, his green eyes shimmering with mirth.

“Stop being annoying.” She scowled, but her ears were tinged with red.

She followed him into their bedroom and helped him get ready for his nap. If left to his own devices, her boyfriend would just toss his scrubs anywhere on the floor and then collapse onto their bed.

“I believe in reincarnation by the way,” He muttered as he snuggled under the duvet.

“That’s strange. I would think you wouldn’t. Being a person of science and all.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t believe in reincarnation.” He pouted and squirmed under the sheets. Turning his green eyes back to her she muttered, “I would like to think I will come back again in another life. And maybe in our next life we’re still together. I would like to still be in love in another life, in all our lives.”

She scoffed, averting her gaze in embarrassment. Typical. He had always been the one more open and free with his feelings in their relationship.

“Maybe in the next life you won’t try to make a pass at me by asking if we had met before.”

“Hey,” Her boyfriend protested, “that wasn’t a pick-up I really did think I met you before. You seemed very familiar. Especially your eyes.”

“Dark brown eyes are common. Of course they would seem familiar.”

“It’s not common when they’re dark enough to pass for black,” her boyfriend argued. He gave her a small smile and said “Hey, maybe I knew you in a past life. It would explain why you seemed familiar.”

“Uh-huh.” She rolled her eyes but smiled down at him softly.

“Good night.”

Her boyfriend looked up expectantly as if waiting for something. She bent down so that they were at eye level and came closer. Her boyfriend looked up, eyes shimmering and eager waiting for a good night kiss.

She smirked and poked him on his forehead.


She turned away and left the room, leaving her boyfriend looking dejected but with a warm blush dusting his cheeks.

She’s always teasing me, he sighed inwardly and closed his eyes. Moments later, he drifted into a peaceful slumber.

Sakura sighed and lightly tapped her forehead, right on her seal. It had been a week since Sasuke had left for his journey. She was upset that she wasn’t able to go with him but whenever she remembered the way they parted she would feel giddy, a light, airy feeling building up in her stomach.

Next time, huh?