Melusine

He wasn’t supposed to be in there.

He was told by Orochimaru and his assistant Karin Uzumaki that out of all the rooms in the base, he wasn’t supposed to go into that one room. Sasuke had heard the instruction and made sure never to enter The Room as he made his rounds but there was a sound coming from inside of it.

A sound that was suspicious. And was it not his job as security to investigate suspicious noises?

In his defense, his employer should not have granted him access to said room by way of the skeleton key Sasuke used for all of the other doors in the base. It was a foolish mistake but Sasuke wasn’t going to bring that up to Orochimaru. Especially not after what he found in The Room.

It was a girl. But at the same time it wasn’t. With slow, hesitant steps Sasuke approached the large basin in the center of the room. It was a tank that appeared to be built into the ground and in it was a girl but also not a girl.

Decidedly feminine features━attractive feminine features━ were set in a wary glare. The closer Sasuke got to the tank, the further back the being swam.

Sasuke had many questions but was unsure if the creature would understand him. The pink tendrils that gave the appearance of having hair and the fins off of the side of  its throat made it quite clear that he wasn’t looking at a human.

As pretty as it may be, it was definitely not human.

Jade eyes narrowed at him with distrust when he reached the edge of the tank.

Sasuke knew that Orochimaru was a sketchy individual. He was always giving half answers or vague responses to what it was that was researched in his lab. It was the kind of behavior that would make a normal person wary but a job was a job.

And Sasuke needed the job. But he wasn’t so sure that his desperation for one was worth it anymore.

As curious as he was, there was a job he needed to do and this one required of him to forget what he just saw and to leave the forbidden room.

There was a weak high pitched cry as he closed the door and locked it up again. It gave him pause but he walked away, like he should have done instead of entering.


He found himself in The Room again the next night.

Sasuke had done his rounds and on his short break he decided to pay a visit to the creature.

Sasuke dragged a chair from a desk in the corner and sat in front of the tank━just far enough that he nor the creature could reach each other.

Pulling out his sack lunch, Sasuke munched on his food observing the creature as it swam around it’s tank, peering over its shoulder at him.

The creature never made a sound. It made him think he had only imagined the soft cry from the other night.

Despite never making any noise it was quite easy to tell what the creature was thinking. Big jade eyes were so expressive. They narrowed whenever he caught her eye but whenever he caught her off guard by watching her from his peripheral her eyes widened in wonder in his direction.

Sasuke pulled out a bag of cherry tomatoes and popped one in his mouth. Looking back toward the tank he was startled to find the creature had swam to the side where he was sitting. Her eyes had widened and her head had cocked to the side as she watched the clear baggie holding his snack.

Pulling out a single fruit Sasuke edged closer with hesitant steps. The creature backed away from the edge of the tank as she watched him approach. Sasuke extended his arm, holding the tomato as far from himself as possible.

The creature narrowed her eyes at him, untrusting.

“It’s food. See.”

Sasuke popped the cherry tomato into his mouth and ate it. He almost opened his mouth to show her that it was gone before realizing that the action was silly. If she wanted it she would take it but he wasn’t going to try and coerce her.

Once more, Sasuke pulled out a tomato and extended it to her. One final chance to take one if she wanted to.

A thin, pale arm lifted up from the water. The skin was smooth, no scales like he thought there might be. The creature plucked the tomato from his fingers.

Ah, Sasuke thought as the creature gently placed the fruit into her mouth. Webbing between the fingers.


No matter how often he came, she still didn’t talk. But that didn’t stop Sasuke from talking to her.

It had been a long time since Sasuke had anyone he was willing to talk to. Sometimes he wondered if he would eventually lose his voice from the disuse. He had lost his parents when he was younger and then his older brother to cancer before he had graduated from high school. He told this all to her. About how he was all alone now.

“I do have this one friend. We met during basic training and then we were deployed at the same time.”

Sasuke tilted his head back so it rested against the tank. He no longer sat in a chair at a safe distance.

“He can eat his weight in ramen in one sitting. It’s disgusting.”

Sasuke turned his head to look at the creature and wrinkled his nose. She mirrored his action and then smiled. His mouth quirked upwards at the corners but then he frowned.

“We meet up every now and then and people say we’re best friends and I guess they’re right. Too bad the only thing we seem to have in common is the army. There’s not much to talk about except for reporting to each other what our lives are like now that we’re back home. Sometimes I think that if we hadn’t enlisted we would never have become friends if we had met anywhere else.”

He was always trying to tell him what was best for him. Sasuke was tired of hearing what his friend had to say about what he should be doing with his life.

“I’m taking a break from school. A long break. Okay, I dropped out.” It was easy to tell himself the truth when someone else was listening. “That’s actually why I enlisted. To get help with college payments. But now that I’m back all I want is to fix up Mom’s place.”

Sasuke’s favorite place in the world was his family’s lakehouse. Itachi had spoke of going back and fixing it up one day after Sasuke was done with school and they had the money for it. It was the only thing he had left of his family and Sasuke refused to sell it.

“It’s a pretty place. It will look really nice once I’m done with it.”

And you will never see it.


Sometimes Sasuke thought he was going crazy. Why was he talking to a creature in a tank? Why was he bringing it sweets?

“I’m not sure if you’re even supposed to be eating stuff like this.”

The creature smiled coyly at him before snatching the candy from his hand. Once she ate it she stuck her hand out for more. Sasuke sighed and dug out another piece of caramel from his pocket.


“I sometimes wonder what they call you,” Sasuke muttered as he watched the creature twirl in her tank. She laid on her back and flashed glimpses of her form above the water before dipping back below the surface.

She was always doing things like that now that she was comfortable with his presence. He would enter the room and catch her in the middle of grooming, combing webbed fingers through her tendrils tossed over one pale shoulder before giving him a demure smile.

He would have found her behavior flirtatious in a human. With her he was sure she was just fishing for a treat.

Sasuke was about to head back to his duties when he heard a gurgling sound and then a small chirp.

“Sakura.”

Eyes widening in shock, Sasuke turned back to the tank. The creature was staring straight at him.

“Karin teach Sakura,” she spoke in a warbly voice. “Karin name Sakura. Karin friend.”

Friends don’t stick you in a tank, Sasuke wanted to say. He wanted to, but he held his tongue. He held his tongue and selfishly thought only of himself and his position.

“Have you,” Sasuke swallowed, “told Karin about me?”

Sakura shook her head.

“Sakura tell Karin, Sasuke leave. Sasuke no come back.”

Smart. Probably knows that she won’t be getting anymore candy if they get rid of me.


Now that she was learning to speak their language it was Sasuke’s turn to listen.

“Karin nice. Karin say Sakura smart. That Sakura pretty.”

Sakura spoke like a child. She understood conversation quite well but her speech was still poor. She strung words together and he understood what she was trying to say but he hoped she would improve. Hoped she would talk more.

He really liked her voice.

“Karin smells nice. Karin say it is perfume. Made of flowers. Sakura like Karin.”

Does Sakura like Sasuke? He caught himself thinking. The back of Sasuke’s neck heated up in embarrassment. How mortifying that would have been if he had said it out loud.

“Sakura miss home.”

Sasuke was pulled out of his self berating at the sadness in Sakura’s voice. He was visiting her in the lab so often now that he shouldn’t have forgotten that she had to have come from somewhere else but he had.

“But home no have Sasuke.”

Sakura’s fingers ghosted over Sasuke’s forearm. The barely there touch caused a shiver to run down Sasuke’s spine.

He stood up quickly and backed away from the tank. Sakura blinked up at him with  her big jade eyes, cocking her head to one side in confusion.

Sasuke cleared his throat and muttered that he had to go back to work.


The next few times Sasuke came back he kept his distance. He still brought her treats but he didn’t stick as closely to Sakura’s tank as he used to. And she noticed.

After the fourth day of his new behavior Sakura refused the caramel candy she had grown fond of and stuck to the far side of her tank.

“What’s up with you?” Sasuke’s eyebrows pulled forward in a deep frown.

“Sakura not pet,” was her reply. “No want stupid candy.”

“You sure did like them before,” Sasuke muttered. “Always acting cute to get a piece.”

“Sasuke give candy. Sakura thought Sasuke like Sakura.”

“That’s not━I mean, you’re━”

“Sakura know what Sakura is.” Sakura gave him a weak smile. “Sasuke leave now. Want to be alone.”

“Sakura━”

Sakura dove under water, down where he couldn’t follow.


Sasuke returned every night and she would dive under the surface, refusing to speak to him.

What a stubborn little thing.

“What was that?” Naruto, Sasuke’s army friend, quirked an eyebrow at him.

“Nothing,” Sasuke sighed.

He had hoped on his night off that going to the bar  would distract him from his problem with Sakura but nothing had. In fact, Sakura was distracting him from having a good time out with his friend and the small, mousey girl Naruto had excitedly invited to introduce to Sasuke.

So caught up with thinking of Sakura, Sasuke kept forgetting the girl’s name. Not wanting to ask it so far into the night he stuck to calling her “the Future Mrs. Uzumaki” which caused her to blush furiously and Naruto to tell him to quit teasing him.

“So how is working with my cousin? Is she a pain?”

“I don’t really work with her now do I?” Sasuke rolled his eyes. Naruto had been the one to tell him about the job offer but he was sure Naruto had no idea what it was that his cousin Karin did for work. “I never see her.”

Karin worked during the day mostly and he never saw the redhead except for when she was heading home for the night.

“Weird. I could have sworn she insisted on you applying because she had the hots for you.” Naruto took another swig of his beer. “She sure sounded interested when I told her about how you wanted to fix up that house at your family’s lake.”

“Maybe she thought I had money,” Sasuke snorted. Typical. There was no money. Just property that had stayed in his family for generations. The house had been a gift to his mother from his father. They had passed away before it could be completed unfortunately.

“Karin teach Sakura. Karin name Sakura. Karin friend.”

“She’s a bit of a pain sometimes but I doubt Karin’s that shallow,” Naruto defended his cousin.

“Me too. I doubt she is.”


“Stop!” Sakura narrowed her eyes at Sasuke, throwing the caramel wrappers he had dropped into her tank onto the floor. “No trash where Sakura sleep!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why Sasuke throw trash then?”

“I’m not apologizing for that.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes even more.

“Okay, I’m sorry for throwing trash into your tank.” Sasuke rolled his eyes. “But I’m talking about the other night.”

Sakura sank lower into the water so that only her eyes were above the surface. Her eyes were narrowed as she continued to watch him, wary.

“It’s weird when I don’t talk to you. When you don’t talk to me.”

Sasuke sat by the edge of her tank. He rest his elbow on the rim and propped his head up by laying his chin on his fist. After observing his relaxed state, Sakura relaxed as well and flipped on her back, drifting along the surface.

Sasuke’s neck started to heat up as he watched her drift lazily, her pale smooth body on display.

“What am I going to do with you?” He sighed. Sakura just smiled at him and twirled, giving him flashes of her pale skin.


Things were back to normal. Or as normal as being friends with an amphibious humanoid being was.

Sakura didn’t try to touch him again. It seemed that after the first attempt was rejected she had decided to keep a comfortable distance between them. She got close enough to talk and to grab whatever treat he had brought her but she wouldn’t reach out to him.

And it disturbed him how he hoped she would try again.

“That’s new.”

Sasuke poked Sakura’s forehead right on the new rhombus shaped marking. He had noticed a slight coloration change from time to time but it wasn’t until now that the marking had taken a form. It drew more attention to her face and the brightness of her jade eyes.

Like she needed to be any prettier.

Sighing, Sasuke leaned back against the tank and pulled out his dinner. He unshelled a hard boiled egg and laid it on the edge of the tank with some cherry tomatoes from his salad.

He and Sakura ate in companionable silence. He didn’t know what Sakura was or what she was doing here but he enjoyed her company. He enjoyed talking to her and watching her swim in her tank and listening to her warbly voice.

Too bad she’s not human.

It was unnerving how often he had to remind himself of that fact. Had to remind himself that he should care that she wasn’t human like he was.

To distract himself he started to whistle a tune. When he was younger his mother use to play on a baby grand piano when it was quiet time at home. The melody she played would get stuck in his head and he would catch himself whistling when he was lost in his thoughts. It helped calm his thoughts.

From somewhere far away, he could hear the splashing of water. Could hear the dripping of water approaching him but it wasn’t until a drop of water fell on the tip of his nose that he snapped out of his thoughts.

Before him stood a pair of bare opalescent legs with purple markings. His eyes followed them up to rounded hips and a smooth lower abdomen. Before he could open his mouth to say anything, Sakura dropped right into his lap.

Lips parted and wide jade eyes staring at him in wonder, Sakura slid a webbed hand up his chest and wrapped it around his neck, soaking his clothes.

She’s not human.

Sakura pressed her body closer, her tendrils falling over her shoulder onto him. She shifted in his lap, pressing his crotch to a body part he had assumed she didn’t have. Or what he didn’t want to think too much about.

She’s not human.

“Sasuke…” Sakura’s warbly voice was right by his ear.

Not human…

Sasuke’s breath hitched when Sakura’s cool palm slid under his shirt. She growled low when she tried to pull her hand out from underneath and got caught in the fabric. She turned her palm around and clawed at the fabric, ripping the buttons from his shirt to free herself.

Sakura cocked her head to the side, gazing with wonder at the flexing of Sasuke’s abdominal muscles as he tensed up at her scrutiny.

“Sasuke different,” she murmured. “Different from Sakura.”

“Yeah.” Sasuke swallowed the lump in his throat. “We’re different.”

“Sakura no care. Sasuke care?”

Sakura was close enough for Sasuke to see the translucent sort of film over her eye. Another eyelid that most likely protected her when she was underwater. She blinked at him and let out a soft sigh. She slid down his body and lay her head on his chest.

Ah. Dun-dun like Sakura.” she slid her webbed fingers until they lay over his heart. She traced them as best as she could on his skin. She skimmed her lips on his chest and murmured, “Just like Sakura.”

Sasuke placed his hands on the small of her back. Her skin was wet and soft, delicate to the touch. Sliding his hands around her lithe form, he spread his palm flat on her sternum, feeling her heartbeat against his hand.

“Yeah,” he whispered. “Just like Sakura…”


She was running out of time.

Karin pulled at her hair and then slammed her face into her hands. She screamed into her palms.

After screaming she inhaled deeply and let out a long exhale. Rearranging her glasses on her face she counted out prime numbers until her breathing was back to normal.

She had tried everything she could to get Sasuke’s attention, to convince him of selling his lake property to her. She even went as far as taking him out for drinks in the hope that a little flirting would sway him but the answer was always no.

Karin had even stooped so low as to ask her cousin to help her.

Straightening out her desk she left her office and walked down the hall to Sakura’s room.

“Hey pretty girl,” Karin called out. She knew Sakura would recognize her voice and swim to the surface.

Sure enough, before she could even make it to her cabinets, Sakura’s pink external gill filaments broke through the placid surface.

“I gotta check your water’s pH balance, sweetie.”

As Karin tested the water in the tank she observed Sakura as she swam about.

Her tail had disappeared and her adult markings had fully developed. She was reaching the stage in her life where she was ready for mating and that worried Karin.

Soon she wouldn’t be able to stall Orochimaru’s plans for the nixie.

Orochimaru let her take the lead in their research but never failed to remind her that he was the one in charge.

Karin didn’t need the reminder. She was haunted every day by the face of their first specimen. She couldn’t get his sharp tooth smile out of her mind.

Or his vivisected body.

Her orders for the day were to give Sakura a full physical exam. She did it often to make sure she stayed healthy despite the fact they deprived her of a natural body of water. But today was different. Today she had to evaluate her and prep her for artificial insemination.

Karin wanted an in vitro fertilization but Orochimaru insisted on in vivo for the first pregnancy. She held back from sobbing at the implication that they would be forcing Sakura to give them multiple specimens.

Karin had tried to refrain from becoming attached to Sakura. Tried to save herself from more heartbreak after Orochimaru killed her first nixie.

But just like with Suigetsu she just had to go and name Sakura.

This was more than she had ever bargained for when she went into the field of herpetology.

“Reading today?” Sakura swam to the edge of the tank and turned her eyes up at her hopefully. Karin shook her head sadly.

“We have labs to do today, Sakura.”

“No.” Sakura pouted. It was her least favorite thing.

“Come on. If you’re a good girl I’ll play some music for a full hour.”

Sakura immediately lifted herself to perch on the tank’s rim.

Karin’s experience with Suigetsu made it easier to handle Sakura. She would occasionally get temperamental but it was easy to placate her.

Although both nixies loved music, what Sakura loved the most was learning. It was easier to teach her how to speak human languages and she yearned to learn how to read the books Karin read to her.

While Karin prepped everything she needed for the required blood work, Sakura started to hum. Karin put down the vial she was holding and stared at her, russet eyes wide in shock.

Clair de Lune?

Karin only ever played pop music, hoping the upbeat tunes would make Sakura happy.

“Karin?”

Karin shook her head and picked up the vial again.

“I need your right arm.”


Angry didn’t even begin to describe how Karin felt. She was downright furious. She checked the results again and again.

Sakura was pregnant. She was pregnant and Karin has no explanation for it.

She couldn’t ask Orochimaru for he was the one that asked her to prepare Sakura for insemination. There was no way he was responsible and he was the only person that had access to the lab they kept Sakura in.

Karin’s head snapped to the tank at the sound of Sakura’s humming. Sakura had her arms crossed on the tanks edge. She laid her head on her arms, smiling dreamily.

Male frogs sing to attract mates.

Karin folded the lab results and tucked them into her bra.

Time to find this “frog.”


Usually when Sasuke came to work the building was already empty. Karin would occasionally be leaving when he came in but she never stuck around unless she wanted to bug him about something she couldn’t wait for Naruto to pass on.

Today she was waiting for him inside of Sakura’s room.

“I knew it!” she shrieked, flailing her fists at him, pounding on whatever part of him she could reach.

“Uzumaki, cut it out!” Sasuke grabbed her wrist and pushed her off of him.

“You fucking pervert!” Karin hissed, face flushing red with anger. “How could you do something like that?”

Sasuke swallowed the lump in his throat. He should have expected to get caught. He was expecting it after the first time but after nothing had happened he got comfortable. Too comfortable.

He looked past Karin to where Sakura was sitting at the edge of her tank. She wouldn’t look at him, keeping her eyes downcast.

“She’s pregnant you jackass.”

“What?” Sasuke turned his attention back to Karin.

“Apparently nixies are able to mate and crossbreed with humans.” Karin crossed her arms in front of her chest. “That wasn’t something I intended on experimenting on ever but your indiscretion has left me no choice but to follow through. Especially since she won’t let me get rid of it. If I try to bring up the topic she threatens to poison me.”

“Poison?”

“You fucked her without even thinking about the consequences?” Karin wrinkled her nose in disgust.

Sasuke shot her glare and she rolled her eyes before explaining.

“When threatened, a female nixie can secrete poison through their skin. She almost got Orochimaru good when he brought her. I also say female because our deceased male didn’t seem to have the same capabilities just a sharp set of teeth like a shark though he was monophyodont. He obviously didn’t have the glands that produced them.”

“There was another of her kind?”

It was shocking enough that Sakura existed in the first place but to find out that there was potentially more like her was on a completely different level.

“We learned all we could from the male while he was  alive so Orochimaru…” Karin closed her eyes and exhaled a shaky breath. “He ordered an autopsy.”

“He’s not killing her,” Sasuke growled marching over to the Sakura’s tank. Startled by the quick movement Sakura fell back into her tank.

“I wasn’t planning on letting him. And that’s not his plan for her. At least…” Karin swallowed the lump in her throat. “At least not yet.”

“So what was your plan?” Sasuke didn’t look up at her. He kept his eye on Sakura who was curled inward into herself below the surface.

“I was going to try and stall his plans and figure it out before she supplied him with enough specimens for him to decide it was time for an autopsy on a female specimen.”

Karin took a seat by Sasuke by the edge of the tank. She grabbed his shoulder to get his attention.

“I was supposed to get you to sell your property to me. It’s a decent sized open lake and because it’s private property there would be less chance of someone seeing her. I can’t keep her in a tank her whole life. It’s like asking you to live in a bathtub.”

Sasuke stared at her a moment, face blank, before turning his attention back to Sakura.

“I know you won’t sell me something that means so much to you but it’s obvious you care about her. At least enough for me to trust you with her if anything were to happen to me.”

Sasuke’s brows furrowed. He gave her a questioning stare, imploring her to explain.

“I can’t just take her. Orochimaru will come after me. Or you if he thinks you have anything to do with it.”

Karin pulled a vial out of her pocket. The liquid inside was a sickly green color.

“This is nixie poison supplied by Sakura.”

Karin tucked it back in her pocket, out of sight.

“I’m going to use it on Orochimaru and then burn the lab down, make it look like an accident. The only person that would care is his assistant Kabuto that works in one of his labs abroad. Considering we do a lot of illegal work I don’t think he will come after me as long as he gets the money he’s due.”

“And what are you going to do with Sakura?”

Sasuke didn’t have to ask, he knew he had something to do with her plans. She may have tried to find a way to use him without his knowledge before but now there was no avoiding it. Sasuke was involved whether she liked it or not.

“I need you to be ready to receive her on your next off day. I’m going to make it as easy as possible for you but it’s a huge risk. Nixies are bound to the body of water they call their home. They can come on land but that’s usually to mate according to the male specimen. They can’t stray too far. I’m hoping that she can make the journey to your lake.”

Karin gripped the front of Sasuke’s shirt and pulled him down so they were eye to eye.

“We may lose her in the transfer,” Karin whispered harshly. “But it’s a gamble I’m willing to take. Don’t fuck this up.”


As soon as he heard the back doors to Karin’s van open up, Sasuke reached out to pull the crate she was sliding in with the assistance of one of her stainless steel mobile tables. Sakura’s voice was muffled through the wooden planks but it was obvious she was upset. Sasuke reached for the latch on the lid but Karin slapped his hand away.

“Don’t open it!” Karin snapped. “Do not open this crate until we’re within the lake’s perimeter.”

Karin drove as if she were going home before she made a detour to leave the city.

When Karin merged onto the highway and picked up speed, Sakura started banging her fist on the walls of the crate.

“Talk to her,” Karin ordered. Sasuke raised a brow at the tone of her voice. “It will soothe her.”

Leaning over the crate, Sasuke murmured soothing words, trying his best to ignore the fact that Karin could hear everything.

It was hard to do considering she would snort every now and then.

They drove for two hours, only another half hour until they were within the Uchiha property line, when Sakura stopped making any noise from within her crate.

“Sakura?” Sasuke panicked when she stopped responding. “Sakura!”

Without caring about Karin’s earlier warning, Sasuke yanked the top of the crate off.

The inside of the crate was lined with a plastic tarp, allowing for Sakura to lay in water from her tank.

Sakura’s chest was rising and falling rapidly and her eyes were glazed over.

“Karin!”

“Check her temperature!”

“She’s warm. Really, really warm.”

Karin stepped hard on the gas pedal, picking up even more speed.

“The crate must have trapped her in heat. Fuck!”

Making a sharp turn, the water in the crate jostled around and Karin chanted out a stream of curses.

The van’s A/C was already on the highest setting possible. There was no way to make the van any colder.

Karin headed straight to the beach and backed up so they could slide Sakura out using the tarp.

Sasuke didn’t wait for her. As soon as she parked the van he lifted Sakura into his arms and headed straight for the lake.

“She needs to be acclimated to the lake’s temperature and I need to check the pH. She could go into shock!”

There wasn’t enough time for all of that. Sasuke ran straight into water, fully clothed and submerged himself and Sakura underwater. He stayed under until he felt Sakura twitching in his arms. A few jolts and she shook herself from his hold. As she swam away Sasuke broke through the surface in desperate need of oxygen.

Gasping for air, Sasuke looked around frantically for any sign of Sakura. After a moment of he stood still, watching as the surface of the lake remained completely still.

“Where did she go?” He asked Karin who was standing on the shore, her boots in her hand.

“This is the biggest source of water she’s ever known.” Karin sat on the beach and pulled her knees up to her chest. “It’s a new experience. I hope she doesn’t get overwhelmed.”

“So what to do we do now?” Sasuke asked looking back at the placid surface of the lake.

“We wait.”


Karin had to go back to Orochimaru’s facility. Sasuke always wondered what happened on his off days. It turned out that those were the nights that nocturnal research needed to be taken care of.

Karin had explained that for weeks she couldn’t figure out what had caused the change in her observations of Sakura’s behavior. She was really kicking herself over not having put two and two together earlier.

She said she could easily explain her absence during the day because she was always going out to different wetlands to procure specimens for other experiments but at night she had to go back to her lab.

She also had to get ready to destroy the lab to get rid of Orochimaru and so it would be as if Sakura never existed.

Sasuke didn’t want to leave the lake just in case Sakura came back. He only went into his house after two hours to open the windows and check that the plumbing was working since he had called the water company the morning after Karin told him her plan. Turning on the heat was easy considering the house used heating oil. Sasuke had stocked up the previous summer and shut it off for when he wasn’t doing any work in the house.

It was nearing the end of winter and nights were chilly. Sasuke grabbed one of the quilted blankets from the linen closet and dusted it before heading back out the lake.

He chose to sit by a tree that sat on the edge of the lake just a bit away from the sandy beach. When he was younger his brother always talked about tying a rope swing to the tree so they could swing into the lake. His mother immediately put an end to those plans by pointing out how shallow the water was in that location. His father promised to build them a proper dock so that they could go fishing.

The lake and an unfinished house was all he had left of them.

And now even Sakura was gone.


He woke up thinking that it had started raining.

He didn’t plan on sleeping outside but he dozed off while waiting for Sakura. The lake was large but there was a chance she had found the river and traveled beyond the boundaries of the Uchiha property.

Sasuke opened his eyes as water continued to fall on him in drops. The first thing he saw were a pair of slim pale legs.

“Sakura?”

She dropped in his lap, nuzzling her face against his chest.

“Sakura like it here.”

“Where did you go?”

“Needed to see if safe.”

Sakura pulled back and placed her hands on her lower abdomen. Her stomach had already begun to round out.

“Karin was mad.”

“Yeah, but not at you.” Sasuke cupped the side of her face. “She was mad at me.”

Sasuke drew her close and pressed his lips against hers. Sakura stiffened in his hold and then pulled away from him.

“Sakura already with child.” She put his hands on her abdomen. “See?”

“No that’s━I mean, yeah you are but…” Sasuke sighed and hung his head. “Humans don’t just have sex to procreate. Don’t worry about it.”

“Can mate when already with child?”

“Karin didn’t teach you much did she?”

Sakura shook her head. Considering what she had explained to Sasuke it was no wonder Sakura only knew what her instincts told her.

Sasuke contemplated explaining any further without Karin present when he felt Sakura tug on his shirt sleeve.

“Hm?”

“Sasuke stay with Sakura?” She turned her head to the lake.

“I can’t breathe underwater like you can. I can’t live in the lake.”

Sakura’s shoulders drooped. Almost instantly she straightened up, her face set in a scowl. She bared her teeth at him, flashing her sharp canines.

“Sasuke always leave Sakura.”

She stood up fast, yanking herself out of Sasuke’s hold.

“Wait!”

Sasuke stood up and grabbed hold of her arm before she could dive back into the lake.

“Listen to everything before you go running off again. Annoying,” he huffed under his breath.

Sakura crossed her arms over her chest and tossed her tendrils back in a perfect imitation of Karin when she was angry with someone.

“I can’t live in the lake.” He tugged gently on her arm and led her up the gentle slope to the house standing on top of the hill. “But I’ll be living there. And you can come be with me and I can come visit you. Even during the day.”

Sakura’s lips parted and her eyes shimmered in awe.

“Close!”

“There’s not much inside yet but do you want to go see it?”

Sakura nodded, pulling on his arm. Sasuke chuckled softly and scooped her up in his arms. She chirped with glee at the sudden motion. He only meant to carry her for her comfort as her elongated and webbed feet would have more difficulty climbing the slope than he did but her enjoyment was a bonus.

“I’m going to bring more furniture later,” Sasuke explained unnecessarily. It was more himself gathering his thoughts that informing Sakura. She was too dazed by the inside of the house to pay attention to him. “Luckily the idiot and his girlfriend were able to help me bring my truck here earlier this week.”

He set her down on his mother’s old rocking chair and watched as her eyes went wide when the chair rocked back and forth. She grabbed on tight to the arms of the chair, scared that she would fall off.

Sasuke smirked at her before lightly pushing the chair so it would continue rocking. She squealed but when she realized that Sasuke was supporting her, she settled into the chair only lightly gripping the arms.

“Karin never told me how long you could be out of the water,” Sasuke sighed. As great as it was to be spending time with her, he knew she had to go back to the lake. It was where she belonged.

“Sakura fine here.” Sakura turned her head away haughtily and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

Sasuke just shook his head and lifted her out of the chair. He wouldn’t have brought her into the house if he knew she was going to refuse to go back to her proper habitat.

“She’s going to call us as soon as she can and then I’ll know what’s best for you. But for now you gotta go back.”

Sakura wrapped her arms around his shoulders and held on tight, pressing her face into the crook of his neck.

They were separating again, just like they did every day. But at least they knew they would have a tomorrow which was something that wasn’t assured in the lab.


“Congratulations, you’re unemployed.”

Sasuke rolled his eyes even though Karin wouldn’t be able to see him do it. He had tried to keep busy spending time with Sakura and cleaning the house but it didn’t do anything to help his irritation with the redhead. It was approaching late evening by the time she got in contact with him.

“I’ll be taking care of some stuff over here but I should be able to head over to the lake in about two weeks. How’s my girl doing?”

“She’s enjoying her freedom.” Sasuke sighed and laid back on the sofa he was shoving under the bay window before the call. “She brought me a catfish. Well, half of a catfish. She wasn’t happy that I wouldn’t eat it so I had to have a discussion about cooking with her.”

“Don’t turn down her gifts. She was doing something really nice for you.”

“I’d like to see you eat a raw catfish.”

“Hey, I’m not her mate.” Sasuke’s neck heated up at the term. “You should be more understanding and caring.”

“You just want to use me as your guinea pig to find out how nixies interact in pairs.”

“I actually don’t think they interact much outside of the actual act of mating. The male nixie Orochimaru captured was violent and preferred isolation. And although Sakura is a sweetheart she showed signs of having only interacted with other females of her species. It took a long time to get her to trust me due to being forced into a tank but Orochimaru couldn’t get anywhere near her without her showing signs of hostility. I think the females are gentle beings that probably care for their young but that males break off and only seek out their own kind when it is time to mate. It’s probably an anomaly that she is so attached to you, her mate.”

“That explains a lot.”

It was probably the reason why she rejected affection the previous night. She probably thought he wouldn’t want to engage in any acts that resembled mating now that she was pregnant.

“Explains what?”

“Nothing you need to know about.” Like hell he was going to talk to her about his sex life. “So what do we do now?”

“Keep track of her pregnancy until I can get there. I need to settle some things but it looks like I did a pretty damn good job with the lab.”

“Congratulations, you’re a professional arsonist.”

“Shut up.”


It took two months but Sasuke had finally finished up the remodel on the master bedroom.

He had left it last on purpose having originally thought he could sleep in one of the other bedrooms but Karin had taken over both. She used one as her bedroom and converted the other one into a small lab where she continued her research on Sakura.

It was never Karin’s intentions to reveal her findings to the world. She had explained that she had worked with Orochimaru because he was the only expert in herpetology that could assist her in fulfilling her personal ambition of finding proof that the being she saw as a little girl in the river before she blacked out truly existed and that it has saved her from drowning.

Her experience with Sakura proved that it could be no other creature but the one Orochimaru had dubbed a nixie after the water sprites in European folklore.

After the tedious task of settling all of her accounts she packed up all her stuff and moved in with Sasuke where she acted like a mother-in-law that had no sense of boundaries.

“Where do you even get this stuff?” Sasuke wrinkled his nose at Karin’s ultrasound equipment. They had an argument the previous month about the cost of their electricity bill but she kept insisting they could find enough for it in their budget planning.

Sasuke found the funds in Karin’s pockets which she wasn’t too happy about but she couldn’t argue considering he didn’t charge her rent. It had really helped her case that she was the only person qualified to give him any assistance with Sakura.

“It’s none of your concern,” Karin snapped. “Now go get Sakura. I’m sure she’s due any day now.”

Sasuke ignored the fact that she was ordering him around and marched down to the tree near the shallow part of the lake.

Now that Sakura was nearing the end of her pregnancy she wasn’t swimming out to the deeper parts of the lake. She had made herself a cozy little patch of mud and reeds to lay in as she waited for the birth of her child.

A high pitched cry broke through the tranquil atmosphere.

“Ka━” Sasuke began to call for help when a red blur ran past him.

“Don’t just stand there!” Karin barked, moving faster than he had ever seen her move.


Naruto hated how far Sasuke had moved away. It was difficult to get him to come around to hang out when they were in the same city and now that he was off in the country he saw him even less.

After the building Sasuke worked security for burned down, he packed his bags and moved into his family’s lakehouse. He found a job at a hardware store in nearby town and settled down for a quiet life in the country.

“I need to use the restroom,” he told his fiancée.

They pulled up at a combination gas station and convenience store in the town Sasuke now lived in. Most of the populace of said town lived a half hour drive from the lake Sasuke owned.

Naruto had wanted to make his announcement in person which he knew Sasuke would find annoying considering he could have just called him but he missed his best friend.

After finishing up his business, Naruto strolled the aisles of the convenience store. He was sure Sasuke wouldn’t have ramen stocked at his house and Hinata was probably craving something sweet. He knew that if he didn’t bring his cousin some chocolate she was likely to punch him in his arm.

When Naruto had first heard that his cousin was going to be living with Sasuke he was disturbed. He didn’t want them to be hooking up but when he brought it up to Karin she started to gag and told him not to be an idiot.

Apparently the Uchiha’s lake was the habitat of an endangered amphibious species and Sasuke’s home was a convenient place to set up camp so that she wouldn’t have to shuffle any work a far distance.

“I’m serious, dude!”

Naruto’s ears perked up at the sound of a boy in his late teens. He shifted his attention to the cashier who wasn’t taking his excited friend seriously.

“I’m not going to humor you, Haru. Last year you were ranting about a monster sized alligator in the river and now you’re talking about a mermaid? When are you ever going to quit?”

“I’m not the only who’s seen it. Sara swears she saw a smaller one with it too. The big one has pink hair and the smaller one black hair.”

“Oh, please.” The cashier rolled his eyes. “Shut up, I have a customer.”

Naruto smiled at the two boys and paid for his things. In such a small town they were probably starved for any type of entertainment. Shaking his head he got in his car and broke out into the laughter he had tried so hard to hold back inside the store.

“What’s so funny?” Hinata asked.

“You’re not going to believe the kind of stuff the locals come up with for fun.”

Mirepoix Chapter 2

Provencal Rice Soup

Sasuke had run away from home the summer he turned fifteen. He packed his bags and used his mother’s frequent flyer miles and was on a plane to France before anyone realized he never came home from his last final exam.

All Sasuke wanted to do with his life was cook food but his father wouldn’t support his dream of being a chef. He was always sneaking off to work as a kitchen porter when he had told his parents he was tutoring underclassmen.

Sasuke ran off to France to study classical French techniques. Growing up he had eaten traditional Japanese dishes and American food but there was something about rich and decadent French cuisine that called to him.

His cousin Obito had made the trip to pick him up from France but instead of taking him back home, Obito had convinced his mother that now that he had a chaperone it would be fine to let him stay. Somehow Obito was able to smooth everything over.

“He can practice his French in a natural setting!”

Three weeks in France turned into a two month culinary trip around Europe as Obito and Sasuke made pit stops in Italy and then to Switzerland and Belgium where Sasuke found chefs to study under. Obito had brought back boxes and boxes of chocolates hoping to appease Mikoto.

She was just glad that her son was back home.

Fugaku and Sasuke had a falling out after that summer. Fugaku wanted Sasuke to focus on his studies. Sasuke wanted to go to a culinary art school.

Sasuke ended up being disowned by his father before he entered his junior year of high school and he moved out to live with his older brother and his friends. Itachi and his best friends Izumi and her husband Shisui assisted in financing Sasuke’s dream to go to culinary school and Obito found him a job working at a restaurant in which his friend Kakashi Hatake worked as a bartender.

He eventually moved in with Kakashi as to not cause conflict with his family. He knew his father needed his brother and he wasn’t going to make his brother pick sides.

Dan Kato, the owner of Wisteria Place, took him under his wing as a commis chef and taught him everything he knew before he passed away.

Sasuke took care of the kitchen and alongside the other staff supported his wife, Tsunade, as she mourned his death.

He had been offered executive chef positions at other restaurants and although it was flattering and would have been proof of all that he had accomplished to lead a kitchen at such a young age━he couldn’t leave Wisteria Place.

He couldn’t leave home.


The kitchen was as loud as it always was but there was something missing that Sasuke tried to ignore.

It was on his mind every time he placed a dish on the serving counter and it sat there he would frown. He kept expecting a perky waitress with rose gold hair to scoop up a dish as soon as he set it down for service.

“You’re late,” Sasuke growled at a mousy waitress. She trembled more than the Hyuga girl and almost dropped her plate. It wasn’t the first time Sasuke questioned why Tsunade didn’t just hire runners that focused on the food and clearing tables.

The waitress made a feeble noise of complaint that Sasuke raised a brow at. He narrowed her eyes at him and she lowered her gaze and gulped.

Sasuke was about to ask her to speak up when he was slapped with a spatula across his back.

“Don’t you dare lose me another waitress, boy,” Tsunade growled at him.

Sasuke brushed off the pain and turned back to managing the kitchen staff.

Ino was working as both the garde manger and assisting him as the saucier. He would typically be focusing on creating sauces on his own but without the chef de cuisine managing the kitchen it was up to Sasuke and he was being spread thin.

“Yamanaka! The duxelles,” Sasuke barked as he made sure the grillardin seared the steak to the perfect medium cook required for the dish.

“Here chef!” Ino called out bringing over the sauteed mushrooms and shallots.

As much as he yelled at her, Ino was his first pick for a new sous chef once they had new kitchen hires. He wouldn’t accept an outsider coming into his kitchen and taking the spot. Women had it tougher as professional cooks but he didn’t see gender in the kitchen. Ino was talented and had the drive and that was all that mattered.

“The tapenade for the hors d’oeuvre platter?” he asked her without looking up from the stove tops.

“Placed for service.”

Sasuke nodded and Ino hustled back to her station.  He usually checked every dish before it headed to service but he had faith that she did her job properly.

He just wished he could say the same for the front of house staff.

Moments later he went to place completed dishes for service and the hors d’oeuvre platter was still on the service counter.

Fuming he searched for the order ticket. The wait staff was over fifteen minutes late for pick up. Again.

“Naruto!” Sasuke growled out.

“Yep?” Naruto chirped, unaffected by his bad mood.

“Throw on a tie and put on one of the waiter’s aprons hanging on the hook, you’re running food.”

“Where the fuck do I get a tie from? How do I tie a tie!?”

“Neji has spares. He’ll tie it for you if he doesn’t have time for you, ask the other Hyuga. Get moving.”

“Why can’t I run food?” Kiba whined as he carefully stacked a new set of dirty dishes at the dishwasher’s station.

“If that lazy ass waitress doesn’t show up, trust me, you’ll be running food too.”


Sasuke groaned and slumped against his locker. As much as he loved his job, the exhaustion at the end of the day was something he could live without.

The front of house staff had been doing so well for a week and his irritation had remained with just the staff under him in the kitchen.

Tsunade wasn’t happy that he had pushed Naruto and then Kiba out to help run food but she didn’t complain, only gave him one of her signature annoyed looks. It was help that was obviously needed that night.

After he made Naruto run food, the waitress from before had gone missing in the middle of her shift. She had come back only to be sent home by him.

He understood that for most wait staff that their job was simply that━a job. That for them it was just a means to get by until a better job that suited them more came along.

But for him Wisteria Place was his life. Cooking was something he sacrificed a lot for and he had pride in what he did. It may have been too much to expect the same from the waitresses that came and went not caring about the food the way he and the rest of kitchen staff cared for but the way the front of house staff treated the food they made was something he wasn’t going to tolerate.

No one should disrespect food like that.


“Shit, that looks bad.”

Sakura slipped on her button down, hiding the bruise on her back from Ino. She knew that Ino didn’t like her hobby because she always came out with large and ugly bruises but she loved roller derby.

“It’s not that bad.”

“Yeah and I’m not blonde,” Ino scoffed.

“I just bruise easily.”

“Are you sure you can work?” Ino didn’t try to hide the concern from her voice.

The bruise was around Sakura’s hip and went up her back. It was surprising that Sakura was even able to function with how bad the pain must have been.

“You know I can’t take off,” Sakura muttered, eyes downcast. As much as her parents helped out with paying for school, they couldn’t pay for everything.

They helped out with her half of  the rent for her apartment but Sakura was adamant about taking care of everything else. She would buy her own groceries and pay for the utilities herself.

After having done the numbers it was ridiculous how much dorm fees and meal plans cost. It made more sense to move in with Ino and her boyfriend Sai. Even if that meant some sacrifices had to be made.

“Besides, it was my last game. I can’t afford the dues and all of the costs of playing anymore. I’m officially retiring from roller derby.”

Sakura tried to play it off like she could take it or leave it but she knew she failed at that when Ino’s expression softened even more.

“Well, we should be getting off at the same time tonight so you don’t have to head home on your own.”

“Oh? No date night?”

“Shut up. You know we’re too tired at the end of the night to have a proper date night.”

Sakura had only meant to tease but she knew that was the reality for some chefs. Ino was doing something she loved but it took a lot out of her and she had almost no free time. She was lucky to have such a supportive boyfriend like Sai.

“Come on. You gotta get back to work before Chef Uchiha finds out you left your post.”

“Oh, God. I never even got around to telling you about the drama from last night.”

Ino paused to adjust the bandana on her head and shivered, recalling the events from the night before.

“You chose a helluva time to take off. I’m sure Chef Uchiha had another waitress fired.”

“Yikes.”

“Oh, she had it coming. She was always on her phone and disappearing,” Ino huffed, obviously not sympathetic in the slightest. “But he ended up sending Naruto and Kiba out to run food and that was a riot. They were quick though so that was helpful.”

“Kind of wish I saw that.”

“Naruto looked like such a dork. I wish I took a pic of that.”

“Maybe I’ll see him running food tonight.”

“Yeah, maybe.”


Sasuke narrowed his eyes, not happy at all with what he was seeing.

He was ready to pull Naruto to the side again to help run food but there wasn’t anything obviously wrong that would warrant such an action.

Haruno was moving slowly and awkwardly but she was still picking up her food on time. There was just something unsettling about how she carried herself and went out of her way to make sure nothing brushed against the right side of her body.

“Yamanaka. What’s up with your friend?”

“Huh?” Ino looked up without pausing in her slicing which had him snapping his fingers and pointing down. They couldn’t afford for her to be cutting herself in the middle of service.

“She’s walking funny.”

Sasuke wiped his hands on his apron and went out into the corridor and pulled Neji aside as he walked by.

“You have an injured waitress.”

“What? There hasn’t been an incident,” Neji peeked around the corner and scanned the dining hall. “Ah. I see what you mean now. Are you sure that’s an injury?”

“She flinches whenever anyone gets near her back. Don’t let her take anymore tables. Send Haruno home after she closes out her current checks.”

Neji sighed and shook his head. He wasn’t happy with the Naruto arrangement the night before and it looked like he was going to have to deal with it again.

“She’s not going to be happy about that.”


She wasn’t.

“I haven’t done anything wrong!” Sakura hissed, her cheeks flushed red with anger.

“You haven’t,” Sasuke agreed.

Sakura was expecting a fight and her momentum was thrown off. When Neji had told her she was done for the night she had assumed that she was being dismissed.

“But have you ever heard of taking it easy? The dining hall is a crowded area and you’re obviously trying to avoid anything touching your back.”

Sasuke handed her one of the carry out bags and then crossed his arms in front of his chest. Her narrowed his eyes at her and spoke sternly.

“Go home. Eat. Rest.”

Feeling a little out of it from the brief conversation, Sakura went and found Sai to let him know that she was leaving early and that she would see him and Ino when they came home.

She was secretly glad that she would be going home. She had taken a pain reliever before work but it wasn’t helping and she was anxious on the floor, worried that someone would brush by her and aggravate her pain.

It was a little shocking that Sasuke had noticed how she was feeling. She didn’t think she was that obvious.

When she got back to the apartment she toed off her shoes at the entrance and dumped the carry out bag on the kitchen counter.

She let out a sigh of relief when she peeled off her clothes. It felt so relaxing to be able to walk around in flannel pajama bottoms and a sports bra. Even wearing shirts was bothering the bruised area of her back.

Sakura shuffled back to the kitchen and opened up the carry out bag, curious as to what Sasuke had given her.

Soup. The man gave her soup.

Still hot, the container was filled with a delicious smelling rice soup. She pulled out a spoon from one of the drawers and scooped up a mouthful, remembering to blow on it first. She didn’t want to burn her mouth in a rush to taste more of Sasuke’s cooking.

“Oh. It has tomatoes.”

Mirepoix Chapter 1

“Real Food”

This was his happy place. The heat of the stove top. The smells of sauces as they simmered. The sound of knives hitting their cutting boards. The sound of Tsunade shouting at one of the station chefs.

Again.

Sasuke did what he always did when Tsunade Kato was shouting. He ignored it.

He didn’t have time to worry about what was stressing her out. She had fired the head chef which gave him even more to be responsible for. About now he would be checking on the pantry and discussing the tasks the swing cook was required of that day.

But apparently the swing cook had other things to do.

Sasuke opened the door to the walk-in and glared at Ino Yamanaka. She was curled inward to keep warm as she whispered into her cell phone. She shrieked when she realized who was staring her down with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

“Has the delivery come in today?”

“Delivery?”

“Yes, Yamanaka. We were expecting a shipment today from Sabaku’s farm. Since you’re in the pantry I’m going to assume that you received the order.”

“Lighten up, dude.” Sasuke grit his teeth at the sound of Naruto’s nasally voice. “Gaara just pulled up around back.”

“Inuzuka and Uzumaki!” Sasuke called out to the busboys that were making puppy eyes at the commis pâtissier in the hopes of being fed. “To the truck.”

Sasuke rolled his eyes at their grumbling. He was sure that they were close to cracking the little resolve the Hyūga girl had and he had interfered. In a moment the pâtissier would be checking in on her and they wouldn’t get another opportunity until dinner service had ended.

“You’ll be the garde manger tonight, Yamanaka.”

“Pantry chef, right, got it.” The blonde girl nodded her head enthusiastically. As she walked past him she muttered, “English dude, speak it.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes again, Sasuke began taking inventory of the meats and the daily catch. Tsunade boasted always fresh and it helped that her farm-to-table restaurant happened to only be a fifteen minute drive through city traffic from the waterfront fish market.

Everything seemed to be in order so he went in search of the head waiter to inform him of the change to the plat de jour.

In the narrow hall between the kitchen and the bar among the hooks on the wall was a suit bag.

That’s not supposed to be here…

Sasuke turned over the slip of paper pinned to the suit bag. HARUNO was the only thing on it.

Frowning, Sasuke headed to the bar where he could see Kakashi’s silver hair poking out from behind an orange book.

“Any idea why there’s a suit bag on my smock hooks?”

“No clue.”

“Really?” Sasuke cocked an eyebrow up. Kakashi just shrugged.

“New staff for front of house.” The head waiter, Neji, swung up the counter to get behind the bar. “Don’t scare this one away too.”

Wait staff. Sasuke’s brows furrowed and he scoffed. It wasn’t his fault that the waitress had been completely incompetent. She should have counted herself lucky he didn’t know her name. With the exception of Tsunade, Neji, and Kakashi he only knew the names of the employees he yelled at.

The one incident shouldn’t have been enough to have her running away. He didn’t even open his mouth! All he did was glare at her when she knocked over the order she was supposed to be picking up.

“Service is in an hour so let’s get the meeting out of the way.”

“Where’s Tsunade?”

“Either yelling at the kitchen porter or the boucher.”

“It was most likely Lee,” Neji sighed.

“Are you saying that because you have a thing for the butcher or…?” Kakashi trailed off at the look Neji gave him.

“Either way here are the specials for today. We have added a new grill option that’s also available at the bar. I’m sure you noticed when you were stuffing the menu folders.”

Neji nodded barely looking up from the menu. He was trying to memorize the changes and specials for the night. He wasn’t one to need to consult a menu throughout dinner service.

“And please refrain from acting like a complete snob tonight with the guests.”

“She wanted a red with her halibut!”

“Kakashi?” Sasuke ignored Neji’s outburst and stared pointedly at the bartender.

“I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Despite his aloof appearance, Kakashi was someone Sasuke could trust. He was the person that introduced him to Wisteria Place after he was brought back home from Paris by his cousin Obito. He stood behind him and offered him a place to stay when he was temporarily disowned for pursuing a culinary career.

After meeting with front of house staff, Sasuke returned to his kitchen where hopefully no one had burned anything down. He should have more faith in his fellow kitchen staff members, but sadly he did not.

He would have more faith in Yamanaka as his swing cook if she wasn’t constantly being distracted by something. Distraction usually came in the form of her boyfriend, the other bartender, but today that job belonged to her cellular device.

“You better be on your way Forehead! Neji hates tardiness more than he hates haircuts.”

Sasuke almost snorted at the comment but he was more frustrated with her than amused.

“What does ‘almost here’ mean? Hello? Are you there? Sakura!”

“Yamanaka what’s the rule in my kitchen?” Sasuke swiped the cell phone from her hand.

“No! Chef Uchiha, I need to have this call right now.”

“Yamanaka’s friend? Yeah, she’ll call you back when it’s her break time if she gets a break tonight—”

“You wouldn’t! No!” Ino wailed when she saw his expression as he continued to talk into her phone as he made his way to the back door to check on the handling of the produce delivery.

“I am confiscating her phone. Don’t attempt to call back.”

“Watch out!”

Sasuke blinked when he heard the warning through the phone and it’s echo from the back alley. It was the last thing he heard before he was tackled, someone’s very pink head ramming straight into his sternum.


She didn’t mean to be running late but the trains were always unpredictably delayed. She had adjusted her schedule for the rush hour but not for the trains to be running on a single track.

Instead of transferring lines like she was supposed to, Sakura decided she was better off heading to Wisteria Place on foot. Or by roller skate.

Rolling down the sidewalk, she hoped she would make it in time. Normally it would have been faster to take the train but the transfer was delayed by over an hour.

Dodging pedestrians and beating the blinking walking sign was no problem. Usually when she was speeding in her skates she was also trying to dodge the hits of opposing blockers as she tried to score points.

It just didn’t help when Ino was blowing up her phone with her calls.

“I’m almost there. I just had to switch to my skates.”

“What does ‘almost here’ mean?” Sakura grunted as she hopped onto a curb. “Hello? Are you there? Sakura?”

“Yeah, Ino—“

“No! Chef Uchiha, I need to have this call right now.”

“Yamanaka’s friend?” A smooth baritone replaced Ino’s haughty soprano. “Yeah, she’ll call you back when it’s her break time if she gets a break tonight—”

Ino wailed in the background of the other end.

“I am confiscating her phone.”

Sakura rounded the corner and dodged a parked truck she hadn’t expected. She didn’t hear what else was said as she spun around a gangly blonde young man.

“Watch out!” She shouted too late as she spotted a tall man all in black come out of the door she was hoping had been the back door to Wisteria Place.

Sakura was used to taking hits in roller derby but the body she slammed into was hard and the impact was like hitting a wall.

Her face slammed into a chest and her hands clawed, trying to grab onto something so she wouldn’t head face first onto the floor. They found purchase gripping onto muscular triceps and the hands of the owner found their way around her body to her back. Together they found her balance and steadied her.

Grateful, Sakura beamed upward and prepared to thank the man that caught her. She was met with a set of livid smokey gray eyes.

“What are you doing in my kitchen?”

“Wha—? Your kitchen? Doesn’t Tsunade Kato own this restaurant?”

“Ms. Kato’s restaurant but my kitchen,” the tall man fumed. “Skates aren’t allowed in my kitchen and neither are random strangers.”

Sakura’s face flushed red and her cheeks puffed out. It wouldn’t do to get into a fight on her first day at work but he was pushing all the wrong buttons.

“Haruno!” Tsunade stormed into the kitchen. “About time you got here.”

“Hello Ms. Tsunade!” Sakura straightened up and gave Tsunade all of her attention. “Sorry I’m late, it won’t happen—”

“Enough rambling!” Tsunade barked. “Neji is in the wings waiting to give you further instructions. Don’t keep him waiting any longer. Uchiha, you need to be getting ready for service not bothering my wait staff.”

Tsunade turned to lead her down a hallway. Sakura skated backwards sticking her tongue out at the chef and only turning back around after seeing his jaw slightly drop at her immature behavior.


He waited for her to screw up.

Sasuke wasn’t expecting much out of the short girl with the rose gold hair.

He could admit that she cleaned up nicely after she changed out of her torn up jeans and raglan crop top into the white button down shirt, black dress pants, black vest and red tie uniform required of the wait staff. Her long hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail showing off a proud high forehead.

And she must have impressed Neji because she was put right to work. Neji only supervised her directly for the first table.

She was always the fastest to retrieve her orders. It was if she knew exactly how long something would take to prepare and timed the kitchen right after she dropped her tickets. Sasuke searched for a watch on one of her wrists but didn’t find one. Either it was coincidence or she was able to calculate the time in her head.

“Pretty!” He heard her squeal when Yamanaka placed a salad with julienned vegetables on the serving counter.

He rolled his eyes at how smug Yamanaka looked when she returned to making the various ribbons necessary for their ribbon salad. It wasn’t even the most complex dish he ever had her prepare.

But there was a sort of power that compliments gave. When he was younger and worked on desserts he hated, it always made his chest blossom with warmth when he saw his mother and brother’s faces full of joy when they took their first bites.

It was probably the same for Yamanaka, to hear from her friend how well of a job she did.

And Yamanaka typically excelled in everything she did in the kitchen. She was the only person he had ever accepted as his commis. As the swing cook he trusted her at whatever station he placed her in.

If she were quieter he would probably be on friendlier terms with her instead of being the coworker that was constantly snapping at her.

“Thank you,” the pink haired skater told him like she did every single time he handed her a plate. She had been quite amicable despite how they had met earlier.

He refused to admit that her shy smile when their eyes met, was charming. Refused to admit that by the end of service he was a little impressed with how well she handled herself.

“Haruno’s good with guests,” he heard Neji comment as he turned in his review to Tsunade. He added, “It also helps that she’s pretty.”

“That it does!” Tsunade barked out as she laughed. “Can you talk to Tenten and Lee? Her job is to debone fish, not to debone Lee. I can’t afford to find a new kitchen porter right now.”

Sasuke snorted. Not many people were able to deal with the hiring process and put up with both Tsunade and him. The kitchen porter was an odd one and took all criticism with the widest grin humanly possible. Sasuke was sure he was a masochist.

“Alright, I guess that’s all for tonight. Finish cleaning up and you’re good to go.” Tsunade stood and stretched. “Gonna see if Kakashi minds mixing me up a cocktail before heading out.”

It was time for Sasuke’s favorite time of the night. The staff would be wiping down their stations and then he would have the kitchen to himself. There was something therapeutic about taking nightly inventory in his quiet kitchen.

Sasuke sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. As much as he loved his job, he was ready to go home and take a hot shower for his sore muscles. Standing for hours every day was taking a toll on him.

Sighing again, he unbuttoned his smock as he shuffled his feet toward the locker room. He was always the last one to leave besides Kakashi and Tsunade who would toss back a couple of drinks before heading home.

So to say he was shocked to see the new waitress huddled in a corner would be an understatement. But nothing shocked him more than what he saw her doing.

What are you eating?”

“What?” She drew her can of sweet corn closer to her body, as if she were trying to shield it from him. “Not like I took this from your pantry.”

Sasuke scoffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Of course she hadn’t! Wisteria Place didn’t use any canned products. They even made their own mayonnaise.

“You’re not seriously eating corn straight out of a can?”

Sasuke had seen some disgusting eating habits. Inuzuka and Naruto were some of the worst offenders. And as much as he turned his nose up in disgust at instant ramen, at least Naruto has never stooped so low as to eat canned corn as though it were normal.

No. That wasn’t happening. Not at Wisteria Place. It was unacceptable.

“Hey!” The waitress whined when Sasuke snatched the can out of her hands. He threw the can into the trash can. “I was eating that!”

“Not anymore.”

“I paid for that! It was my last can you ass.” Her cheeks flushed a dark pink in anger. “What am I supposed to eat now?”

Sasuke rolled his eyes and shuffled back into the kitchen. He turned slightly and locked eyes with the pouting girl. He sighed and beckoned her to follow him with a nod of his head.

“Sit. And don’t talk.”

She hopped up onto one of the counters and he resisted the urge to snap at her for putting her bottom where they prepped food. He had already shouted his voice hoarse and no longer had the energy to talk.

He pulled out the cod he was saving for his lunch the next day and some mussels from the fridge. He brought them over to the stove top where he set a pan to bring some wine to a boil. He tossed in the mussels and shook the pan until the mussels opened up.

If it weren’t for the fact that he kept seeing her sitting there from the corner of his eye as he made his way around the kitchen to grab more ingredients he would have forgotten that she was there.

The only noise she made was one of distaste when he shook the cayenne pepper into the house-made mayonnaise. He stopped in his mixing and raised a brow at her. She clammed up, letting out one last giggle.

The waitress had leaned over to prop her elbows on her thighs, lips slightly parted as she watched him, her eyes sparkling with wonder.

He was sure the heat on his face was from the stove as he seared the cod not from feeling flustered from being watched so intensely.

He plated the cod and mussel aoli in the same manner he would beautifully plate a dish for dinner service. Just because she wasn’t a guest didn’t mean he would serve her anything less than perfect. He delicately garnished the cod with red bell pepper slices and handed it to her.

“Here. Real food.”


Sakura was entranced. She knew through Ino and her own mother how much work went into cooking but never had she seen the task look so beautiful.

Chef Uchiha was art in motion. When he was quiet and at work it was hard to relate him to the same man that had yelled at her after she ran into him by the backdoor or simply grunted when communicating with the wait staff.

Sakura swallowed hard watching his forearm muscles flex when he shook his pan or whisked the contents in his bowl.

Nothing sexier than a man cooking, huh?  A voice in the back of her mind whispered and her face warmed up.

Her eyes wandered from the way his snake tattoo coiled around his forearm to his broad shoulders and down to the way the seat of his pants fit on his rear.

Yeah…the cooking…

Sakura was so distracted by her thoughts that she was caught off guard when Chef Uchiha stood in front of her, a beautiful plate of seafood in his hands.

“Here. Real food.”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Technically, sweet corn was real food.

“Thanks,” she muttered when their fingers touched when he slid the plate into her hands.

Sakura dug in and couldn’t help the moan she let out from the first bite. Despite the spice sitting on her tongue, the fish and mayonnaise was delicious.

And to think she had been satisfied with her can of corn only twenty minutes ago.

The feeling of being watched wouldn’t go away so she looked up, still chewing, and narrowed her eyes at Chef Uchiha. He had a smug smirk on his face.

Stop with the arm crossing already, she groaned inwardly. How did being a cook cause guns like those?

“You may have a point,” she grumbled. He only laughed through his nose and then moved away from her to clean up his station.

“Clean up when you’re done. I gotta cut the lights soon.”

Sakura ate as quickly as she could while still savoring the food. It had been a while since she had freshly cooked food. If she was lucky Ino would make her something when she was home in their apartment but usually Sakura was on her own.

“Come on.” Chef Uchiha was waiting for her in the hall when she was done changing. “Tsunade already went home so I gotta lock up.”

Out in the alley, Chef Uchiha had a Kawasaki waiting for him. Sakura had to take the train so that was where they parted.

“A Ninja huh?” Sakura whistled at his bike.

He simply raised an eyebrow at her as if he didn’t expect her to know anything about motorcycles.

“Well, g’night Chef Uchiha!”

Chef Uchiha snorted and put his helmet on.

“It’s just chef in the kitchen.” He paused for a moment before finally saying, “Good night, Haruno.”

Sakura beamed at him. She was sure he hadn’t even bothered to learn her name at all.

“Good night Sasuke,” she altered her previous farewell and waved at him before heading home.

It was a good first day.

Eat Me, Drink Me

Part One: Something

The rules were simple. No drugs, no alcohol, no extreme diets. A donor couldn’t be underweight and they had to submit themselves to bi-weekly physicals. Sexually active donors were to be screened for sexually transmitted diseases frequently.

Sakura just wanted to pay for school.

She knew there were negative connotations to being a donor. Selling blood to feed the vampiric citizens of the world was looked down upon by her fellow humans, despite the fact that blood donations were part of the peace treaty between the two species and were supposed to be anonymous.

Sometimes were anonymous.

Being a donor was supposed to be impersonal. A human went to a blood bank, got their blood drawn and they would receive a check from the government every month.

The process was advertised the same way fertility clinics advertised egg donations. The vampires only wanted young and fit donors to keep the blood of a pure quality that was safe for consumption.

Humans provided healthy blood and vampires protected them from those that would slaughter them for their meals, unnecessarily killing a human when there was no need to drink them dry to feed.

In order to supply the vampires with the blood they needed for nourishment, the human government paid citizens as an incentive to keep them donating.

And Sakura really needed the money. Med school wasn’t going to pay for itself.

It was tough to juggle school work and a job. And although donating paid well it wasn’t lucrative enough on its own.

At least not when she was a cold donor.

For a price, vampires could get their blood fresh, straight from the source. It was the preferred way to feed but not all vampires could afford it. Before the treaty they took it as they wanted it, but without knowing the source well they left themselves vulnerable to disease.

Vampires were stronger and they lived longer, but they weren’t invincible.


Eight o’clock on the dot there was a knock at her door. He was always punctual.

Turning down the corner of the page she was on, Sakura set her book down and gave herself one more once over in the hallway mirror.

Her guest could have entered anytime he wanted. Not only was he too strong for the lock to keep him out but Sakura had given him a key to her apartment already.

“Is it because I have to invite you in?”

“It’s because my mother raised me better than that and she would skin me alive if she knew I was coming and going as I pleased from a woman’s home.”

Sakura was learning that a lot of the myths she grew up with about vampires were false, stories made up by humans to give them a false sense of security.

“You’ve been staying up late again,” was the greeting she received. Sasuke pushed past her with two bags of groceries in hand.

First myth debunked: vampires needed an invitation to enter a home.

“What gave that away?” Sakura retorted sarcastically. She knew she had bags under her eyes from late night cramming. “I just finished exam week.”

“Which means you haven’t been eating properly of course,” Sasuke muttered, pulling out packaged meat and vegetables. A head of garlic rolled on the counter and Sasuke stopped it before it could roll onto the floor.

Second myth debunked: vampires were weak against garlic.

Instead of taking out garlic from Sakura’s diet, Sasuke had added more of it. Garlic apparently had properties that helped her maintain healthy blood circulation and reduced levels of LDL cholesterol.

The pungent odor was irritating but of course it would be considering vampires had a heightened sense of smell. But that’s all it was, just a small annoyance.

“What are we making tonight?”

“Stir-fry.”

Her favorite nights of the week were when Sasuke came over. They would cook meals and chat━her more than him━and it would feel a little like what having a boyfriend was like.

It felt even more so like that when they made their way to her lumpy couch and Sasuke trailed his fingers under her shirt and up her back.

“Sakura…” Sasuke breathed against her sternum. His fingers trailed back down her back, smoothing over her waist before settling on her hips.

She chanted his name as she rode him, his hands on her hips guiding her movements hidden under her skirt. Sakura pressed her body closer━wanting more, aching for more.

Sakura was just reaching her peak when a sharp pain stung at her neck.

Right. That’s what he’s here for…

Sasuke lapped lazily at her neck in tandem with his final thrusts as he came down from his own release.

“Enjoy yourself?” Sakura muttered as she watched Sasuke lick his lips, savoring every drop of blood.

Sasuke kissed her instead of humoring her with a response. His tongue rolled against hers and there was a coppery after taste.

“You should brush your teeth after eating.”

Sasuke only laughed through his nose and kissed her again.


“Fangbanger.”

Sakura dropped her hands from her task of tying her hair up and glared at the other occupants of the gym locker room. The other women whispered to each other in the corner of the locker room, an occasional snicker coming from one of them.

Ignoring them, Sakura stuffed her bag into her locker and tied her hair up as she walked past them, not caring if her bite mark showed.

Not all warm donors had the kind of relationship she had with Sasuke. Most vampires met their donors at the blood bank and had their meal. Most donors weren’t as exclusive but she and Sasuke were one of the exceptions.

.
.

“So you’re like…a cop?” Sakura eyed the uniform Uchiha Sasuke wore to their interview.

“That would be the equivalence, yes.”

Sasuke shifted in his seat. Sakura narrowed her eyes at the action not sure what to make of it.

Why would a vampire be nervous of a human?

“How old are you?”

“Not a very original question,” Sasuke scoffed. He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Twenty-three. We’re not all ancient. The oldest vampire I know is my great-great uncle Madara.”

“Oh. We’re almost the same age…” Sakura expected him to be much older than her, not only by a year.

“So you’re a student?”

“Yes. I’m studying to be a doctor.”

Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She expected a question about the color but it must have been obvious that it was natural. Donors weren’t allowed to bleach their hair.

“It’s weird trying to get to know each other like this, huh Uchiha-san?” Sakura wrung her hands in her lap. “The technicians are sitting fifteen feet away from us and it’s just kind of unnatural. I guess it’s like if I went and talked to the pig that would eventually be part of my katsudon.”

Sasuke frowned, the corners of his mouth pulling down and a wrinkle forming between his perfect eyebrows.

“My mother said to treat this as an omiai.”

One of the technicians cleared their throat and Sasuke threw a glare in their direction.

“Oh.”

“Ignore the fact that I’m a vampire.”

A very hard task when there wasn’t a human alive she knew that looked anywhere near as beautiful as the man in front of her. He was more beautiful than most vampires she had seen in passing as well.

“We are learning about each over tea, seeing if our ideals match up, and figuring out if we want to enter a commitment with one another.”

Yeah, sure. Sakura wanted to roll her eyes but held back. And we ignore the fact that you’re paying to snack on me.

But he was her age and beautiful and when he did speak he was smart and funny, although what he usually found humorous was to tease her.

“Because of my work hours it would be more suitable for me to make house calls instead of coming in at the allotted appointment times the facility schedules. Would that be an issue?”

“That would actually work better than having to swing by the blood bank.”

Sakura was relieved. The blood bank was out of the way and even though they reimbursed her for the travel expenses she was usually cutting it close when it came to her class schedule or would have to take an entire day to be two cities over.

“Then it seems our preferences match.”

Sasuke smiled at her, just wide enough for her to catch an elongated canine.

“What’s your blood type?”

.
.

After that meeting they set up a schedule for when Sasuke would meet with her for his feedings.

Sasuke would typically come early evening before his shifts but sometimes he would text her or call her to let her know he wouldn’t be coming around until late.

But on the evenings he came early he would bring groceries or hot meals.

“If vampires don’t need to eat why do you know how to cook?”

“Food is enjoyable but it doesn’t fill us or keep us healthy the way it does for humans. It’s sort of like what candy or coffee are to humans. You don’t need it but it’s something you enjoy.”

A knock on the door at nine o’clock had Sakura shuffling to her front door. It wasn’t until she opened the door did she realize that she hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

“Of course.” Sasuke looked down at her impassively.

“I have been studying for the MCAT.”

Sakura squeaked when Sasuke pressed his nose to her throat. His breath was hot but it caused a shiver to run down her spine.

“You’re becoming iron deficient,” Sasuke scolded her as he pulled away. “How many meals have you been skipping?”

“I get busy and I forget,” she mumbled, following Sasuke into the kitchen.

She cringed when he opened her fridge and turned to glare at her. He gestured to the nearly empty fridge and silently demanded an explanation.

“I’ve been really busy.”

“You’re going to collapse one of these days.”

Sasuke packed her fridge up with groceries and pulled out what he needed to prepare a pasta dish. Sakura never brought it up but Sasuke seemed to have a preference for western dishes made with tomatoes.

“How’s work?” Sakura asked. She sat on the counter swinging her feet as she watched Sasuke bustle around her kitchen. “Same old, same old?”

Sasuke nodded as he offered her a plate of food.

“I hate paperwork.”

“It can’t always be chasing down out of line vampires,” she giggled before stuffing her mouth with spaghetti.

Their evenings were quiet but Sakura enjoyed the company. Especially when he kissed her gently, just the two of them in her kitchen.

“Sasuke-kun?” Sakura questioned as Sasuke pulled away from her.

“My break is almost over. I have to head back.”

It wasn’t the first time he left without feeding. And just like the other times Sakura was confused about where they stood.


He didn’t sleep over often but there were times he came over really late and crawled into bed next to her. Sakura would wake up, curled against another body, and smile fondly at the sleeping face of the vampire next to her.

Her bed was too small for two but it didn’t stop Sasuke from slipping under her covers and entangling his limbs with hers.

We’re strange aren’t we?

Sakura couldn’t put an exact name to it, but their relationship while odd was something.

Not just vampire and donor. Not just friends.

But something. Right?


Sakura stared at the bottle the technician slid across the counter to her.

She was waiting for the results of her monthly pregnancy test, something donors with the capability had to submit to if they were sexually active. Although she was on birth control they had to make sure.

Humans couldn’t be donors if they were pregnant.

“Why do I need to take supplements?”

“Because although you are in perfect health, the vampire assigned to you has still been collecting cold donations.”

The technician flipped through the file in her hand and nodded to herself.

“Uchiha-san seems to not be getting all of the nourishment he needs from his warm donor—you, Haruno-san—which is unsettling. If the supplements do not help then there may need to be a change in assignment.”

A different technician approached them and handed a slip to the technician handling her physical.

“Results are negative. You are clear to continue your donor duties. We’ll see you at your next appointment.”

Sakura nodded and collected her appointment reminder and her supplements.


Her thighs were his favorite place to bite. Usually.

Sakura’s brows drew down in confusion as she tried to catch her breath. Instead of the usual nips that followed, Sasuke dragged his lips up her torso, pressing kisses on her stomach.

“Sakura,” he panted, voice breathy against her ear as he thrust inside of her.

Vampire. Donor. What did it matter when it was just them, connected, and he touched her the way he did? Said her name the way he did?

We’re something, right?

Sasuke kissed her as he came, moaning into her mouth. Sakura cupped his face in her hands and held him to her, wanting to be closer, not wanting to let go.


It wasn’t until rays of sunlight broke through the crack of her shutters and she woke to the steady breaths at the nape of her neck that she realized that he hadn’t bitten her at all the night before.

Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t just about that.

Part Two: Everything

He wasn’t supposed to kiss her. That was where he first fucked up.

When his father first sent him to get a warm donor to decrease the amount he needed to drink, Sasuke assumed he would meet with a plain housewife that doubled as a donor to help provide more to her family’s income. Maybe even a NEET that needed to show his parents he was doing something.

He even expected a fangbanger, a person that offered themselves as a warm donor because they fetishized vampires.

The photograph he had received was of a pretty girl in her twenties. A photograph that did no justice for the live person he met with at the blood bank. As colorful as she appeared in an image she was much more vibrant when she spoke and moved.

He wasn’t supposed to kiss her but weeks of knowing Sakura, added with the blush that bloomed on the apples of her cheeks when she was frustrated with his teasing led to the moment.

If Sakura didn’t hum, so content when he continued to press kisses to her mouth. If Sakura didn’t sigh, so pleased, when he dragged those kisses down her jaw, down her pale, slender neck.

If. If. If.

Thinking of “Ifs” couldn’t help Sasuke. It was too late for all of that and if he were honest with himself, he didn’t have a single regret.


Sasuke got lucky with Sakura. He could text her or call her and tell her any available time he had and she would be ready for him.

Often he would find himself in her bed during daylight hours. If he forgot to bring his sunglasses and hat he would be trapped the whole day in Sakura’s apartment.

If he was lucky he was trapped on a day that Sakura was free.

She would get up from bed to eat and do her chores but when she was done she would grab her school work and crawl back into bed. Sakura would sit up and study while Sasuke snuggled against her hip, one of his arms thrown across her lap.

“You should be sleeping,” Sakura would comment, not looking up from her laptop. She would mindlessly stroke his hair, giving him affection without putting any thought to it.

“You should take a break,” he countered. “I’m already naked. You should take advantage of that.”

Such a curious creature. Sakura had already seen him naked on countless occasions but she never failed to get flustered.

Her cheeks would flush and he could track the spread of the heat from her face down her neck and further past her shirt. Sasuke could smell the heated blood, hear the thumping of her heart and the rushing of her blood.

“Your eyes are doing that thing again. So red,” Sakura’s voice wavered as Sasuke pulled her laptop away from her and set it down on the floor. “If you’re hungry you can just say so. You didn’t eat last night.”

“If I was hungry, I would say I was.”

Sasuke loomed over her, dragging his fingers up her torso, lifting her shirt with the movement. He drummed his fingers along her ribcage.

If he wanted to, he could apply enough pressure to crack them. It wouldn’t take any effort on his part, just a press of his thumb and the bone would snap, puncturing a lung and causing it to collapse.

“Sasuke-kun…”

Her voice was always breathy when he brushed his fingers under the swell of her breast and rubbed his thumb up the line of her throat just under her jaw.

A press of his thumb and he could crush her windpipe.

But instead he stroked along her jaw and enjoyed the way her eyes became hooded as he touched her. There was so much trust in those eyes, never a worry about how dangerous a position she was in. So much adoration in them right before she took his hand in hers and turned her face to press a kiss to the inside of his wrist.

Is that all for me? Really?

Sasuke wasn’t sure what he did to deserve that look in her eyes. That look of pure happiness whenever she opened the door and he was on the other side. That look that made him forget.

Forget that the delicate woman lying underneath him would age and want more and drift away from him.

Forget that he wasn’t allowed to get attached.


“You should drink more.”

Sasuke watched as his older brother brushed off his mother’s hand as she reached to stroke his face.

“Izumi-chan, would you mind? After your meal of course.”

Itachi had always been sickly and needed more than just the blood of a cold donor. Blood provided by the dhampire of his two spouses improved his condition but drinking and feeling the person as he fed had always disturbed Itachi.

Due to his disgust with himself, he never drank enough.

“Damn pacifist,” their great-great uncle Madara had spat in disgust. “Pitiful.”

Their mother wouldn’t allow their father to invite Madara for their more intimate family dinners after that.

“I drink enough.”

“We usually have to, uh, distract him,” Shisui teased, tossing back his own goblet of blood. “Not that it always works but we give it our best shot.”

There was a thumping sound and he choked on his gulp. From the look Izumi was giving him it was clear that she had kicked him under the table.

“Must you be so crass in front of your in-laws?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You implied it.”

“May I be excused?”

The bickering ceased as everyone turned their attention to the youngest member of the family. Sasuke kept his eyes on his father—ignoring everyone else—who simply nodded before turning his attention back to the warm bowl in front of him.

Sasuke didn’t usually mind when his family gathered every week for dinner. But for the past few weeks there was an irritation building up whenever he sat across from his brother.

Here he was struggling with resisting drinking and his brother as always did so with ease despite the fact that he was being encouraged to drink from his wife.

“That’s a nasty habit.”

Sasuke crushed his cigarette under his foot, kicking it off the engawa and into his mother’s garden.

“She’s going to find that,” his brother warned him.

“I’ll blame Shisui.”

“This isn’t like you.”

“I always blame Shisui for things.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

Sasuke sighed and took a seat on the ledge of the engawa.

“How long is this lecture going to take?”

“This is exactly what I mean.” Itachi took a seat, giving Sasuke his space. “You’re really snappy lately and you don’t really care about anything. What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing.” Sasuke cringed at how quick he was to respond, proving that he was being as snappish as his brother said he was being.

It wasn’t his family’s fault that he was feeling the way he was. None of them were to blame for his predicament.

It wasn’t their fault that they were happy while he wasn’t.


Sasuke chose to ignore his phone ringing in his pocket for the third time when he heard her clear her throat.

Sakura nodded toward the bottle on the counter and then looked up at him. She crossed her arms in front of her chest, drawing inward on herself. The gesture made her look even smaller than she already was.

“Is there something wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you.”

“Then why are they giving me supplements? They said you’ve been collecting cold donations.”

Oh. The cold donations.

In an effort to curb his appetite, Sasuke had been making sure to fill up before he met with Sakura. He was testing a theory that if he were too full before sex that he wouldn’t be driven by instinct to feed. He didn’t need to feed more than three times a week but he wanted to see Sakura a lot more often.

The  problem was that his triggers for hunger were the same things that aroused him when it came to Sakura.

And how was he supposed to explain that to her?

Trying to think of an answer that would suffice was difficult enough without his phone ringing continuously. He pulled it out of his pocket and peeked at the Caller ID. “Uzumaki K.” flashed on his screen and he stared at it.

There was a chance it was work related but there was an even higher chance that it wasn’t.

“I have to take this,” Sasuke told her reluctantly sliding his finger across the screen to answer.

“First let me just say,” a haughty feminine voice broke through without greeting, “Suigetsu did it.”

So it wasn’t work related. Sasuke sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“But it was your fault it happened,” Karin continued. “You haven’t been answering your phone for days and no one knows where you go apart from work and it’s not like you have a life.”

“What did you idiots do?” Sasuke hissed. From his peripheral, Sakura’s eyes widened in shock and her guarded pose dropped a bit of its tension.

“Let me reiterate that it was Suigetsu,” an angry shout came muffled through the speaker. “He may have broken the door to your apartment.”

“You’re fucking kidding,” Sasuke growled. “My door? Really?”

“You really think I would want to tell you that we broke something of yours?”

Sasuke sighed and rubbed his forehead. As snarky as she could get, Karin wasn’t stupid enough to get on his bad side.

But she wasn’t above annoying him and letting Suigetsu take the fall.

“You’re a tracker. You could have found me at any moment if you wanted.”

“You were the one that said to stop chasing you down. Not my fault your messy ass can’t answer a cell phone that’s literally always in your pocket.”

“Didn’t realize you were so clingy. I don’t get how Konan puts up with you. You would think she would be tired of babysitting.”

“Leave her out of this!”

Sasuke smirked as Karin ranted about leaving her girlfriend out of their conversations. If anything was her weak spot that was it. She always got touchy when it was brought up how much younger she was than Konan. It wasn’t the largest gap for a vampire couple but it was still a sore spot for her.

“Sasuke-kun?” Sakura brought his attention back to her and the conversation they had been having.

“Wait? Are you with a woman? You date?! Why didn’t you say anything? Sasuke? Sasuke!”

Sasuke hung up and put his phone on vibrate before he stuffed it back in his pocket. He barely removed his hand before his phone started vibrating. Karin wasn’t going to let it go.

“It was a coworker.” That didn’t sound right at all. “A friend. She and another friend were curious about my whereabouts.”

“You could have told them. I wouldn’t have minded.”

“It’s none of their business.”

The response came out too quickly and it sounded awkward to Sasuke’s own ears.

“Sakura—“

“It’s okay.” Sakura sighed and played with the supplement bottle on the counter, refusing to look at him. “You should go take care of whatever they needed to call you about.”

I should be taking care of this.

“I have stuff to take care of for school anyway. So if you’re here for blood you should just get that over with.”

Sasuke gripped her shoulder and leaned down, tracing the side of her throat with his nose. His lips brushed against her skin and she flinched under his touch.

Biting her wasn’t his intention. He kissed the junction of her neck and shoulder, trailing more kisses up her throat right under her jaw.

I don’t want blood. I want everything.

Perhaps if he had said his thoughts out loud Sakura wouldn’t have pushed against his chest and turned him around so he faced her apartment door.

He sighed and grabbed his coat off of the kitchen island when he heard the bedroom door shut with a click.

.
.

It wasn’t the first time Sasuke had been kicked out of Sakura’s apartment. Although the first time it had happened he had been kicked out for something he found far more pleasant.

As much as she had enjoyed her orgasm, Sakura didn’t enjoy finding out the source of blood that caused the smear on Sasuke’s chin.

“It’s still blood and orgasms help with cramping.”

“Get out! Out of my apartment!”

Due to her embarrassment she had pushed him out of her apartment, with his shoes in hand and his pants riding low on his hips. He was stuck outside half dressed until she opened her door again and let him back inside so he could gather the rest of his clothing.

They had sat down and discussed boundaries and that just because her period came early, it didn’t mean he could snack away as he pleased. The days of her period were usually the days he never visited because Sakura arranged their schedule around them and she preferred it that way.

She was supposed to refrain from doing her donor duties while menstruating but Sasuke saw no reason for her not to offer a different way for him to consume blood. Especially if he was more than willing to help her deal with the pesky, painful symptoms of her menstrual cycle.

“It’s not all liquid how can you consume that?!”

“How do you drink boba tea?”

“That’s not the same!”

They had argued but there was a shift in their relationship that day. Something more open about them came about because of the incident. As physically intimate as they were there was something that kept them both so closed off from each other.

“If you want you can stay,” Sakura had mumbled, averting her gaze, “I know I’m on the rag and you can’t drink from a menstruating donor for their health and safety but you don’t have to leave…”

How was it that they could be naked in front of each other but still uncomfortable with leaving their feelings bare for the other to see?

Sasuke knew Sakura wanted more than just his visits. Wanted more than just his touch. It was in the way she looked at him, eyes full of yearning even when they lay side by side waiting for their breathing to slow down. She clung to him in her sleep the same way he clung to her when they were awake.

Their words danced around in an awkward shuffle, refusing to be the one that changed their dynamic.

Although Sasuke wanted Sakura to make the first move, to voice what she wanted from him, he knew it was unfair.

She had more to lose than he did. He could walk away from her, ask for another donor if he felt uncomfortable. Sakura would be hurt and terminated as a donor. He needed her blood and she needed the money.

What they needed not what they wanted because Sasuke was sure that what they had wasn’t out of convenience. Everything could change if one of them would just take the plunge and say it out loud.

I want you.


Sakura would love to meet Karin.

That was all that went through Sasuke’s mind as he watched the redhead socialize and introduce her lover to their coworkers. No one would ever doubt that Karin was a vampire. Karin dressed and carried herself in the exact way Sakura had once assumed all vampires did. Clad in leather and revealing just enough skin to be just short of scandalous, Karin and Konan made a vision of seductresses of the night.

Sakura would probably go nuts over my formal uniform.

Sasuke clutched at the fabric of his cape. Darker than the police uniform, the vampiric military force had a flare for the dramatic. The formal uniforms were for aesthetic purposes not for practical use.

He could almost hear Sakura’s cheerful voice mocking him.

“So you do own a cape!”

Sasuke hid a smile behind his goblet. He had been avoiding socializing as much as he could but someone was sure to ask if they noticed even the slightest tick of his facial muscles.

Sakura could usually tell what he was thinking just from the slightest shift.

.
.

“You’re laughing at me!” Sakura pouted, pulling her phone to her chest and shielding it with her hand.

“I’m not even smiling how am I laughing at you?” Sasuke scoffed but turned his mouth into the back of his hand to hide his face just in case he broke through his facade. He had been busy chopping vegetables which was probably why Sakura thought she could sneak up on him.

There was a chance she would be unhappy to know that he was aware of her creeping around him the whole time.

“I just wanted one picture,” Sakura pleaded. “You said it was a myth that vampires don’t show up in photographs. Looks like I have proof now that you were telling the truth.”

“I think what I said was that my great-great uncle Madara was the only one that didn’t show up in photographs. Something about cameras stealing your soul.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No I’m serious. We really do have souls.”

“Not that part!”

Sakura burst into a peal of laughter and there was no more hiding his forming smile.

“He avoids mirrors too. It’s why his hair always looks a mess. The older generation has an aversion for a lot of things because of superstitions and that’s probably what led to all of the vampire myths.”

Sakura laughed harder and the sound caused a fluttering sensation to fill his stomach. It was doing that a lot lately.

Taking his mother’s lead about treating the process like an omiai, Sasuke spent more time with Sakura than necessary. There was no awkwardness about how he would sink his fangs into her slender neck.

The only awkwardness came from how he wanted to drag his lips lower down the line of her throat and suck on something other than her blood.

Her company was enjoyable and she was pretty and his mother really messed him up with her comment.

Treating her like a person and not like his food made Sakura more comfortable with him touching her, putting his mouth on her, but it also made Sasuke more comfortable in her presence.

She wasn’t just something he had scheduled during the week. She was someone he looked forward to seeing. This was more than just blood.

And that was terrifying.

“A candid photo and you still look good,” Sakura grumbled as she looked at her phone’s screen. Her voice was low but Sasuke caught her words easily with his superior hearing.

His tracker hearing.

Hunter hearing.

Hearing of a predator.

“What was that?” He asked her, leaning over so that they were at eye level with each other. “Didn’t catch that.”

“It was nothing.”

Sakura’s face bloomed a pretty blush that dusted the apples of her cheeks.

“I could have sworn you said something,” he continued to bug her, watching the heated color intensify to a deep red.

A pretty, pretty red of blood rushing to her face.

“Something about my good looks, maybe?”

Sakura glared at him, and the blush spread down her neck.

“Yeah I said that. It’s not like you aren’t aware of how good looking you are!” Sakura retorted hotly. Her heart was pumping fast beats that drummed in Sasuke’s ears.

“True.”

He slid his hands on the countertop, trapping her within his arms. She gulped and it was humorously audible now that Sasuke was focused on every little thing Sakura was doing.

Focused on the way her eyes shifted from his mouth to the side and back. On the way her chest was rapidly rising and falling. On the sound of her staggered breathing.

All signs her blood was rushing, swirling around and perfect for the taking.

So Sasuke took what he wanted.

Sakura’s breath hitched against his mouth, soft lips trembling as they parted from the pressure of Sasuke’s kiss. Sasuke sucked her lower lip into his mouth as he cradled her closer to his body. Slipping his tongue inside her mouth, he coaxed a content sigh of hers to roll against his tongue.

Not enough. Sasuke moaned softly as Sakura’s fingers brushed the points of his ears to grip his hair.

“Your ears…?” Sakura pulled back slightly, a wrinkle forming between her eyebrows. “They’re—“

“Yeah, they’re pointed, don’t worry about them,” Sasuke huffed, frustrated that she had stopped moving her lips against his.

My neck hurts, he griped inwardly.

He gripped her hips and lifted her up so she was seated on her island. Sakura squeaked and dragged her hands down from his hair and cupped his neck.

“You’re too short,” Sasuke explained. Sakura narrowed her eyes at him and opened her mouth to retort but Sasuke didn’t give her the chance.

He pulled her closer to the edge of the counter and stood between her legs. He drummed his fingers on her thighs and slid them up before taking hold of her waist.

Sakura moaned against his mouth as he rocked against her. The more he rubbed himself against her and she scratched lightly at his back through his open flannel and t-shirt the harder he got. She dragged her nails down and with some fumbling she slid her hands under the hem and raked her nails up his torso.

Sasuke was tugging on the waistband of her shorts when Sakura stilled in his hold. She pulled away from him and wrapped her hand around his wrist. She didn’t have the strength to push him away━she was only human of course━but that one movement froze him in place.

“I,” Sakura licked her lips, “don’t have any condoms here. I never have them.”

Sasuke sighed and dropped his forehead on hers. He hadn’t meant to take it as far as they did but he couldn’t deny being hopeful as he stood there with a throbbing ache in between his legs.

“Next time…I’ll bring some, hm?”

“Okay.” Sakura nodded, cheeks flushed and clothes rumpled. “That…that sounds good.”

“You know,” Sasuke smoothed his palms flat on her thighs, “there’s a lot we can still do.”

“You’re laughing at me again,” Sakura grumbled but she slid her hands up his torso and looped her arms around his neck. “Why do I get the feeling that you’re just going to keep teasing me from now on?”

.
.

“Are you really hiding in the shadows at a vampire function?”

Sasuke peered through his peripheral at the person disrupting his moment of recollection. Karin sidled up next to him against the wall. Besides being an excellent tracker she was able to mask her presence the best. Not the muscle of their department but without her finding rogue vampires would be difficult.

But her habit of sneaking up on people was irritating to no end.

“You’re so creepy even by vampire standards.” Karin exaggerated a shiver and fished a cherry out of her drink. “You’ve got enough gloom for the whole ball.”

“What do you want Karin?”

“You don’t smell like you usually do.” Karin side eyed him, smile toothy and flashing her fangs. “Cleaned up the reek of human I see.”

Sasuke loomed over her small form. Even slimmer, more lithe than Sakura, and yet his overwhelming height didn’t faze her. Karin just scoffed and took a prim sip of her fruity drink.

“You’re bringing down the party.” Karin adjusted the clasp holding his cloak together. “Just go home. Or wherever it is you would rather be.”

Sasuke glanced over at the rest of the ball room. Everyone was still in the midst of the military force’s festivities.

“No one is going to miss your antisocial ass.” Karin pushed on his shoulder and then waved him away with shooing motions of her hand. “Now go before anyone notices I’m gone because I had to check on your morose self.”

Karin adjusted her glasses on the bridge of her nose and gave him one of her looks that was a cross between disappointment and haughtiness that she had perfected over the years. Usually it was given to Suigetsu but occasionally Sasuke was on the receiving end. It never really affected him until now.

If there was every a time he deserved that look, it was in this moment.

“You’re less depressing to hang around when you stink of human.”

Karin didn’t wait to see what decision he made. She chose to find Konan and link her arm with hers, happily escorting her around the ballroom to be introduced to any of Karin’s coworkers and friends. She beamed at her taller girlfriend and was openly affectionate whenever she got the chance.

She was content and nothing else mattered.

Sasuke rolled his eyes and turned to leave the ballroom. The ball was getting duller by the second and there was somewhere much more appealing to be.


It was two in the morning and he hadn’t called ahead but Sasuke had no qualms over his late night appearance at Sakura’s apartment.

A normal human would have been sleeping or trying to sleep.

Not Sakura. Sakura would be up late and studying. Sasuke knew enough about her habits to know she wouldn’t be sleeping like she should have been.

And sure enough when she opened the door she was in a pair of shorts and camisole to sleep in but was wearing her reading glasses, a sign that she had been in the middle of working on an assignment or reading a medical journal.

“I wasn’t expecting you.”

Sakura slipped her glasses off and folded up the frames. She shifted on the balls of her feet and she hid her hands behind her back.

“I didn’t plan to come.”

Sakura jutted out her lower lip and narrowed her eyes at him in suspicion. He knew it was out of character for him to come over on a whim.

On his way over to Sakura’s apartment he kept arguing with himself, going back and forth on what he should do.

His mind kept telling him to go home, to forget his urges and stay in control, but his body as if moving on its own had him finding himself at her door and his fist raised, ready to knock.

Sakura took note of his cape and there was a glimmer in her eye. The muscles on her face twitched but remained as impassive as she could muster.

But her eyes always gave her away. Despite herself they had gleamed the way they always did when she opened her door and he was standing outside of it.

She stepped aside and let him into her apartment.

“Before you ask, no I didn’t come for━”

He didn’t get a chance to finish when Sakura pulled him by the flaps of his cloak and stood on her toes, pressing her mouth against his. Without hesitation he molded his lips over hers and slid his arms around her torso, pulling her closer. Sasuke held her tight and prayed she wouldn’t pull away.

Sasuke backed her away from the entry way and into the kitchen area. He wasn’t patient enough to get her to even the couch of the section that made up the living room let alone her bedroom. He lifted her up on top of the island that divided the kitchen and the living room, sucking her lower lip into his mouth.

“I missed you,” Sakura moaned when he released her lip in favor of pressing hot open mouthed kisses along her jaw and down her throat.

It had only been a week but Sasuke was used to seeing Sakura almost everyday with his habit of sleeping over and spending whole days in her apartment. He had only ever gone one day away from her at a time after they had first became physically involved.

So he missed her too.

He missed listening to her stories about her professors and classmates. Missed berating her about her eating and sleep habits. Missed how she would always be so cold and still only wear shorts and a camisole in her apartment choosing instead to bundle up with a blanket.

Sasuke also missed the way they moved together.

He missed the way she breathed. Missed the way her thighs trembled when he glided his hands on them, stroking them. Missed the way his name got caught in her throat.

Sasuke tugged at her shorts, roughly pulling them down. He missed being inside her as well and he knew they would both be happier if she had far less clothing. Sakura yanked off her cami and tossed it aside without a care for where it had gone and Sasuke moved his kisses further down her chest, wrapping his lips around a hardened nipple.

He could feel her fingers fumbling at the clasp of his cloak and he brushed her fingers away. She protested but then squealed when he picked her back up and moved her to the couch. He went for the clasp himself and Sakura busied herself with unbuckling his belt.

“Now. Please,” Sakura pleaded as she unbuttoned his suit jacket. He shimmied out of it as Sakura assisted him in undressing by untucking his dress shirt. She attempted to undo the buttons but her fumbling fingers kept slipping.

“Forget the damn buttons!” Sasuke hissed. He licked his fingers and rubbed them over the tip of his cock before taking himself in hand and guiding himself into Sakura’s tight, wet heat. “Ffuuck…”

Sakura moaned her approval and grinded her hips down, moving without him, not caring to adjust to his intrusion. She squeezed her breasts in both of her hands and bit down on her lower lip.

Fuck…

Sasuke pulled her legs over his lap and gripped her hips as he drilled into her, thrusting deeply causing her to gasp out in staccato beats.

His thrusting got sloppier as he moved his focus on kissing her deeply. Sakura whined in frustration and Sasuke felt the vibrations roll against his tongue.

Sakura rolled them so that Sasuke landed on the ground with a groan.

“You okay?” She asked as she straddled his lap, knees at the sides of his hips. He growled at her but gripped her hips tightly. “Good.”

She sank back down on his length and using her hands on his chest as an anchor she bounced up and down on his lap, throwing her head back as Sasuke matched her bouncing with upwards thrusts. He slid his thumb over her clit and rubbed in circles at the same pace Sakura was setting.

“Shit!” He could feel himself slipping over the edge as the muscles of Sakura’s core fluttered around his cock. Sasuke pumped upwards hard, holding Sakura down, no longer letting her move.

Sakura came, crying out as she collapsed against his chest. Sasuke followed after her still holding onto her hips. He gripped tightly and spilled inside of her, finishing with slow lazy thrusts.

They laid there on the ground chest to chest waiting for their breathing to slow down.

“Yeah, so I missed you too.”

Sakura snorted, pressing her face into the crook of his neck. Sasuke felt her sigh, warm breath puffing out onto his flesh.

He listened to her heart slow down it’s beating until she drifted off to sleep.


Sasuke blinked and stretched out his limbs. He huffed out a breath and turned his head to the empty gap Sakura usually took up in bed. He sat up and scanned the bedroom floor for his boxer briefs. Sasuke had finally removed all of his clothing after carrying Sakura to bed.

Everything was rumpled but luckily he had some clothing in the bottom of Sakura’s closet and he could always borrow her iron.

No idea how I’m going to explain some of those stains to the cleaners…

Not bothering with anything but his underwear he rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. Heading out to Sakura’s kitchen he paused outside of the bedroom door at the sight of Sakura sitting on her living room floor in nothing but his cape.

“Um, I…”

Her face flushed red and she wrapped the oversized cloak around her small form. Sasuke exhaled through his nose and

“It’s a good look for you,” he teased her and took a seat on the couch.

Sakura buried her glowing red face into the flaps of his cloak. It was a really good look for her. Sasuke could look at her face forever and never get bored. It was a while before she poked her head back out from his cape.

“You didn’t drink last night.”

“I didn’t come here for blood.”

Sakura cocked her head and her brows furrowed in confusion.

“I don’t come here just for blood. Your blood isn’t what I want when I come over.”

Sakura inhaled sharply and kept her gaze steady on him. Eyes that always glimmered with everything she felt for him. Everything he wanted to keep glimmering for him. Always for him.

Because she━she was everything.

Parade of Lights

The last time Sakura had been to the Land of Waves with Sasuke, they were twelve and it was the setting of the first frightening experience she had encountered when becoming a shinobi. She had felt weak and useless not being able to do anything to help her teammates.

But that was different now.

Sakura was twenty years old and about nineteen weeks along in her pregnancy. Her bump was still small and with her heavy cloak no one would be able to tell but as she crossed the Great Naruto Bridge she couldn’t help but place a hand on her lower stomach.

One day she was going to be able to tell her child of the story of how this bridge got its name.

Something cold and wet touched her nose causing her to look skyward. White flakes were falling. Sakura hated the cold but she loved snow. She looked to the concrete and deflated when the flakes melted as they touched the ground. It wasn’t cold enough to stick.

Her hood was pulled over her head and she tilted her head to look up at her husband. His single hand pulled on the strings off her cloak, tightening the hood so it wouldn’t shift.

Sakura’s face became warm, a pink blush covering her cheeks. Sasuke was a mostly silent man, but it was these small actions that loudly stated how much he cared for her.

“Thank you.” She smile sweetly, almost shyly. Sakura wondered when this newlywed feeling would go away. The soft gestures of affection weren’t new but they still made her feel as if there were butterflies fluttering around in her stomach. Sasuke responded with a nod before making their way further down the bridge.

It had been Sasuke’s idea to visit the Land of Waves. They had been traveling for almost a year now without a set plan about their destinations but he had been almost insistent about reaching the Land of Waves by this date. It was out of the way considering they had plans to visit the Land of Snow before the generators were turned on for the time of year it became the Land of Spring.

“So when are you going to tell me what we’re doing here?”

Sakura had been asking constantly throughout their journey but Sasuke would just smirk and evade the question. Sakura would puff out her cheeks in irritation and let the subject drop for the moment before curiosity hit her again and they repeated the motions of her asking and him evading.

Whatever it was, it had to be good if Sasuke was keeping it a secret.

“Don’t you get tired of asking?”

“Don’t you get tired of not answering me?”

Sasuke just shook his head and chuckled. As happy as it made her to see him so amused, Sakura could only go so far without knowing.

As they approached the shores of the Land of Waves, Sakura was overcome with a sense of warmth in her chest. The harbor town was bustling with activity, lanterns were lit and there were stalls along the street leading to the docks. So many years after they had visited as genin and the Land of Waves was prospering.

There was a multitude of shapes formed with strings of lights on the docks, causing the dark water to glitter in the night. They bobbed on the water, making the reflection of the lights dance across the surface.

“Wait. Are those…boats?”

The colorful string of lights had been wrapped around the vessels. Each boat had their own theme, with different creatures or objects created with the lights.

Sakura’s eyes widened in awe and in her excitement she made to sprint to the docks. A firm hand grasped her forearm and stopped her in her tracks. Sasuke was looking down at her, brows pulled down in a frown. Sakura clicked her tongue at him but looped her arm through his.

“It’s not like running is going to do any harm. We’ve been traveling across countries! And plenty of women exercise while pregnant.”

Sasuke scoffed but he let her hold on to his arm. It wouldn’t make sense to argue with a medic. He only wanted her to be more cautious. Festivals had crowds and running in a crowd wasn’t a good idea. He was being logical, not overprotective.

Or so he kept trying to convince himself.

Sasuke unhooked his arm and drew her cloak tighter around her body, making sure Sakura was completely covered━especially around her midsection━and keeping warm.

He wasn’t being overprotective. Honestly.

“Helicopter parent,” Sakura muttered. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her but she just grinned and playfully stuck her tongue out at him. Sasuke rolled his eyes and lead her to the docks.

He watched her as she turned her head excitedly back and forth between the different displays. She was reacting exactly as he thought she would when he first came across the boat parade. It was just one of those things that reminded him of her when he was wandering alone just a year ago.

Sakura’s eyes sparkled under the many lights. The light display decorated her face in a palette of technicolor brilliance.

After roaming for a bit and purchasing warm drinks, the couple went back to the bridge to find a spot to watch the boats as the traveled out into open water.

“Do you think we’ll be able to bring them here one day?”

Sasuke didn’t need to ask what Sakura meant. He could tell by the subtle shift under her cloak that she meant their unborn child. She was prone to laying a hand on her stomach when she spoke of their child.

He nodded his head and she beamed at him.

It would be wonderful if some day he could bring his child here and make them happy enough to smile at him with the same joy Sakura smiled with.

Yes. Sasuke couldn’t wait for that some day.

First Snow

Surrounded by acres and acres of trees, Konoha’s air was always fresh and clean. In winter, the fresh air was sharp and biting against one’s cheeks and ears.

There was something unsettling about snow. The world was blanketed with white making the streets quieter and the world seem larger. The relatively calm setting was always in contrast to what usually occurred for Sasuke Uchiha when everything was covered in snow.

But there would be no fighting, no attacks, today. He was home, able to enjoy time with his family for a change.

“Come on, Papa! Let’s go.” Sarada jumped from the bottom step of their apartment building, landing her small feet perfectly into the footprints he had left when he had descended down the stairs earlier. Sakura followed close behind, smiling fondly at their daughter’s antics.

Although the temperature could drop to below freezing, Konoha’s winters never guaranteed snow. This would be the first snow Sarada would be able to enjoy with both of her parents since she was a toddler and she was going to make the most of it. She doubted she could ever convince her father to build snowmen or snow angels but she would settle for just a stroll through the snow covered streets.

Sasuke’s strides were much longer but Sakura easily walked in tandem like she always had when they reached adulthood, no longer struggling to walk side by side and flitting nervously in his peripheral.

On his right side was Sarada, hand twitching like she wanted to take hold of his. He bit back a smile and waited to see what she would do. His daughter occasionally acted aloof in his presence but there were still moments where her desire to be spoiled and receive affection cracked that blasé exterior.

He secretly hoped this continued on even when she became a teenager. He missed out on a lot from when she was younger and wasn’t ready for any possible rebellious teenage years.

Sasuke’s brows pulled forward in confusion as he noticed Sarada looking down at the ground. Her gait was awkward as she took occasional hopping steps forward.

After a beat he realized that Sarada was making sure her footprints were right alongside his. Because her legs were a lot shorter she would fumble every now and then. Slowing down a bit, he silently assisted her in her attempts to match steps with him.

Sasuke smiled softly remembering a different twelve year old girl that wore red that use to do the same thing. He may have found it irritating back then but now it was charming all of the ways Sarada reminded him of Sakura. Even the way she beamed up at him reminded him of her mother.

“So why didn’t you go hang out with your friends again?” Sakura teased, knowing full well Sarada’s reason for ditching her friends today.

“I just didn’t feel like it.” Sarada clasped her hands behind her back and turned her face up to the gray sky, blinking at it’s brightness. She hummed contently, a sweet smile on her face. Sarada caught Sasuke’s eye and turned away.

Chuckling at her caused Sarada to elbow him slightly which only made him smile more. He was caught off guard when a small gloved hand slid into his own. Looking down he saw Sarada staring straight ahead feigning nonchalance. The tips of her ears were bright red, a trait she had gotten from him that gave away any embarrassment.

The last time he held her hand like this as they walked through the snow laden streets, she was two and stuffed into a puffed up jacket. Sakura had crammed a hat on her head and a scarf around her lower face so by the time they pulled her hood over her head the only visible part of her face were eyes. Her wadle was so bad that it was just safer to carry her.

“This is our first snow together,” Sarada chirped.

“No it isn’t.” Sarada’s smile dropped from her face and she just gaped at her father.

“What are you talking about?”

“We did the exact same thing we’re doing now when you were a toddler,” Sakura explained. She was biting her lower lip to hold back her laughter. Her child was so cute when she was baffled.

“Well, I don’t remember that!’

“And technically that wasn’t the first time either.” Sasuke took the opportunity to mess with their child. “We were in the Land of Snow when your mother was twenty-four weeks along.”

“That definitely doesn’t count!” Sarada huffed. Sakura couldn’t take it anymore and burst out laughing. Sarada pouted and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“She looks just like you when she does that,” Sakura pointed out to Sasuke. Sasuke frowned at her. He most definitely did not pout.

“I don’t do that.”

“You’re doing it right now.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are. Your mouths even turn down the exact same way.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

You’re being ridiculous.”

“Are you mocking me?”

Sakura never got to retort back. Something had hit Sasuke square in the back and he turned around to find Sarada holding a snowball.

“Aren’t you guys too old to be flirting?” Sarada made a playful gagging gesture.

Sasuke bent down and scooped a handful of snow.

“You’re not going to throw that back at your daughter are you?” Sakura asked him, raising an eyebrow at him.

“No.”

And he smashed it over her head.

Sarada giggled, clutching her sides. Her mother’s mouth had dropped open in astonishment, snow falling all over her face as she moved.

“Oh, you think that’s funny huh?”

Sakura bent down to scoop snow into a ball and Sarada squealed before taking off. Sakura took off after her, firing snowballs as she chased her.

The peaceful setting was disturbed but Sasuke definitely preferred these kinds of attacks.

It was good to be home.

Fireplace

The old house had had a fireplace. That was Sarada’s first thought as she wrapped her afghan tighter around her shoulders.

It was starting to become unbearably cold outside and although the apartment had decent insulation, the electric heater her mother bought was no replacement for the toasty warmth of a real fire.

We really should get a kotatsu…

During the winter she and her mother would cuddle together under a blanket, soaking in the warmth of the roaring fire. Sakura was always impossibly cold, making Sarada flinch whenever their feet or hands touched.

“Mama!” Sarada would squeal in discomfort. Sakura would smile sheepishly and wrap her up in a tight embrace.

“But you’re so warm!” She would coo. “You have fire in your veins! Just like your Papa.”

Sarada snorted, pulling her knees to her chest. She hoped that the more compact she was the warmer she would be.

“Tadaima,” Sarada heard the deep timbre of her father’s voice from the entrance.

“Okaeri,” she called back, too cold to move to greet her father more properly.

Sasuke shuffled into his family room after leaving his cloak on the hook and spotted his daughter curled up on the couch he had planned on sitting on to read his scrolls when he came home. Considering there was more than enough room for the both of them he took his place on the opposite end.

Sarada tried to reign in any disgruntled noises or looks. She didn’t want Sasuke to think she was annoyed with him but there was no doubt he would have brought the cold from outside with him.

After a few minutes of comfortable silence as Sasuke read and Sarada tried to warm up, she began to feel a pleasant warmth radiating from the right side of her body. A warmth that had nothing to do with the heater on the ground.

“You have fire in your veins! Just like your Papa.”

Hesitantly, Sarada edged closer until she was leaning against her father’s side. She felt him stiffen up but then relax into the couch. He continued to read, apparently not bothered by her sudden closeness.

The two of them sat like that in silence only speaking to welcome Sakura home an hour or so later.

“Well that looks cozy.” Sakura sat on the other side of Sarada and curled up next to her, pressing her daughter more against Sasuke and his warmth.

This is better than a fireplace, Sarada thought as she absentmindedly nuzzled her cheek against her father’s arm.

Sakura reached for Sarada’s blanket, brushing her cold hand against Sarada’s cheek.

“Mama!”

Eskimo Kisses

There was an odd ritual that Sakura and Sarada had that at first confused Sasuke but then he realized was quite familiar.

Everyday when either Sakura or Sarada came home from being outside in the cold all day they would find one another and rub their noses together. The one that had been indoors would squeal at the coldness of the other’s nose while the other would laugh at their momentary discomfort.

It had been a habit of Sakura’s when they were traveling around in the winter. Her nose would become ice cold and she would attempt to sneak up on Sasuke to press her cold nose against his face. The first time she had rubbed her nose against his he was baffled and appalled at his own embarrassment. He was fully expecting her to try and give him a kiss and she had shocked him with the feel of tiny nose pressed against his own, rubbing from side to side.

Sasuke didn’t mind the cold but there was nothing that worked like a better wake up call than Sakura’s chilled to the bone nose.

It became a weird game of “is it a kiss or is it a weird rubbing thing” between the two of them. It carried on mostly during winter when Sakura realized how Sasuke would jump slightly when she did it. Occasionally Sasuke would turn it back around on her as she would help when he would wait until she was all bundled up and warm and his skin was all icy to give her what she called an “eskimo kiss.”

It was an act he only attempted in private but it was amusing to hear Sakura yelp in shock. She would glare at him and stick out her tongue when he got his payback.

Sort of like what Sarada did now whenever his wife snuck up on her. Sarada’s cheeks would puff up and her eyebrows would pull down in a pout and she would scold her mother with a “oh, real mature Mama.”

It was sweet but sometimes Sasuke couldn’t help but feel left out. He did not regret going on his mission but he did regret all of the time he had missed out on with Sarada. She was growing up and soon enough she wouldn’t have time for “Mama” or “Papa.”

A draft came in as the door to their apartment was opened. Sarada’s voice traveled into the family room as she stated that she was home. Sasuke welcomed her home and turned his attention back to his scroll. He was sure he would hear her small feet bounding for the kitchen to make something warm to drink.

Her mother wasn’t home so there was no need to tiptoe and try to sneak up on her.

“Papa?”

Sasuke looked up, surprised to see Sarada standing right in front of him. This wasn’t part of her routine. She would usually ask if he wanted tea and head straight for the kitchen to pull out bags of his favorite green tea and her favorite black tea.

Sasuke’s eyes went wide as Sarada had bent down slightly to grind the tip of her nose against his. Her cheeks and the bridge of her nose were pink either from the cold outside or embarrassment. Possibly a combination of both.

Sasuke was too startled by the suddenness to even flinch at how cold Sarada’s nose was. He just blinked up at her as she smiled down at him mischievously.

“Want some tea, Papa?” she asked over her shoulder as she headed toward the kitchen.

“Aa, Sasuke replied, hiding his face behind his scroll, the tips of his ears having turned a light shade of red.

He smiled to himself as he continued to read. Sometimes, certain behavior was okay to pass on.

Cuddlebugs

The wind whistling outside was almost loud enough to cover the sound of Sakura’s breathing. A feat Sasuke would have thought impossible considering how closely she clung to him in the shelter of their tent.

Sasuke shifted and Sakura adjusted herself in her sleep. Sakura got cold easily and always moved closer to whatever source of warmth she could find.

The two of them use to sleep on separate bedrolls but after months of traveling and marriage those same sleeping mats now lay side by side. The space was still too small for two but husband and wife slept with tangled legs and arms thrown over waists, seeking to be as close as possible even when they were far away in the realm of dreams.

Sakura is small and provides no warmth, but there is a different sort of comfort that Sasuke finds when it comes to laying close. The rhythmic sound of soft breathing causes his mind to settle in a sort of tingling haze. It’s a sort of pleasure that was once hard to summon but is something granted to him every night now.

“Autonomous sensory meridian response,” his brilliant wife offered once with a soft smile. It was a term he had not known before but Sakura remedied that by rambling on about the topic, unintentionally causing the same tingling haze to begin on his scalp and work its way down his neck.

Sasuke shifted again and Sakura once more adjusted herself in her sleep. Always following after him even when she did not know it. Sasuke exhaled through his nose a soft laugh that wouldn’t wake her up.

Softly, gently as possible, Sasuke’s hand roamed over Sakura’s form and attended to his favorite night time habit. He lightly traced soft circles along Sakura’s lower abdomen and up the gentle slope of her belly, home to the life they created together.

Another gust of wind had Sakura whimpering in her sleep until Sasuke drew her closer. She settled with a content sigh against him.

She was the one that wanted to come to Land of Snow.

Sasuke sighed and wrapped their blankets tighter around their bodies.

Although it would have been more comfortable to sleep with Sakura’s back flushed against his front, this was his preferred way to sleep.

Side by side and facing each other, the love of both their lives safely snuggled between them.

Ashiyu

Sakura rubbed her belly and sighed.

From the window of their hotel room she could see the swirls of steam rising all over the village from the various hot springs. Such a tease for a pregnant woman.

They were crossing through Yugakure and had no difficulty securing lodging in the resort town. The city was filled with numerous hotels to satisfy the needs of tourists to the relaxing destination spot.

Although he wouldn’t admit it, Sasuke had altered their travel plans so that they could rest indoors. Sakura didn’t complain about sleeping on forest or cave floors but she couldn’t stop the way her hand would fall to her lower back and rub especially now that her pregnant belly was putting strain on her back as well.

Sakura couldn’t complain when her husband was being so accommodating. His cheeks would flush the palest of pinks and he would turn his face away with a pout that edged along the side of scowling and it was the cutest thing she had ever laid her eyes on.

I hope our kid makes that same face, she would giggle inwardly to herself every now and then.

Sakura sighed once more and dragged herself away from the window and plopped herself down on the hotel bed. The bed was fluffy and softer than anything she had ever lied on but it was no comforting hot soak.

Unfortunately it would be a while until Sakura could take a long, relaxing soak in a hot bath. Her travel weary muscles were aching and longing for the famous hot springs.

“Let’s go find something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry,” Sakura grumbled. She wasn’t in the mood to walk anymore especially considering she would be passing all of the onsens on their way to find food. Despite how hungry she was she had no intention of leaving the hotel room until it was time to check out.

A long growl from her stomach gave her away and her cheeks flushed red.

Sasuke didn’t say anything but the corners of his lips twitched upward causing Sakura to puff her cheeks out in indignation.

Instead of teasing her like he normally would have done, he took hold of her hand and gently helped her rise from the bed.

His wife had no problem roughing it but since she had become pregnant there were times she reminded him more of her genin self when she got all huffy and complained. As irritating as it had been when they were pre-pubescent brats, now it was occasionally endearing. Mostly due to the fact that when she got all huffy she had the habit of rubbing her protruding belly in a soothing manner and watching the action caused his chest to fill up with warmth.

Sakura slid the lower half of her face under the clasp of her cloak. She knew she was acting like a spoiled brat but it was completely unfair that she couldn’t relax in any onsens until after the baby was born.

It didn’t help that Sasuke insisted on going for a walk after dinner. Her swollen, achy feet wanted nothing more than to return to the hotel room where she could lie in bed and hope that Sasuke wouldn’t mind rubbing them. She was far along in her pregnancy where she couldn’t touch her own feet anymore.

“Hmm?” Sakura poked her head out of her cloak as Sasuke squeezed her hand and led her off the path to a small area. Swirls of steam rose from the ground and she squealed in delight at the sight of of the onsen foot bath.

Sasuke reached down and helped her slip out of her sandals as she steadied herself by grabbing onto his shoulders.

“Just for a little bit,” Sasuke warned. Sakura rolled her eyes at his overprotectiveness.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m the medic here, I know.”

Sakura dipped her feet into the hot water and let a dreamy sigh. The heat was so soothing.

Sakura patted the area next to her and beckoned Sasuke to join her. He stared at her, contemplating for a moment before he slipped off his own sandals and joined her.

“This is the best.”

Sakura leaned against her husband as he hummed in agreement.

“Thank you.”

“Hmm,” Sasuke hummed again, shifting his body so that he was propped against her as well.

Sakura closed her eyes in contentment and stretched out her toes. She was just getting more relaxed when Sasuke’s voice cut into her daydreaming.

“I think that’s long enough.”

“Anata!”