Brace Me Honey I Need Friction

Rainy days always made her chest feel heavy.

A sense of nostalgia would wash over her and she would ache for something she couldn’t recognize.

Drumming her fingers across her protruding stomach, Sakura hummed softly as she watched the rain fall and pitter-patter against the docks of the river village she and Sasuke were currently residing in.

The hut they made their home for the past couple of weeks was on the outskirts of the cluster of huts that were erected directly on top of the river. The fishing community traveled by small boats and the interconnected docks that made up their village.

Sasuke had said the rain would cease to fall in a couple more days and with it would come the fireflies the village was known for. It would be another beautiful sight she would want to bring her child back to see.

Her husband was so soft with her, taking her places he had visited and showing her a world untouched by shinobi.

Days with Sasuke was like the rain falling down on the river village. Gentle and soothing but with a constant ache. As if their time alone wasn’t enough.

They were putting off returning to Konoha now that she was pregnant. The gentle slope of her stomach was a constant reminder that their traveling should be over but there was still so much to see.

So much to see from the eyes of her dear husband.

The intention was never to get pregnant so soon but sometimes life gets in the way of itself when it is occurring.

And loving her husband and being loved back didn’t leave room for thinking of plans.

“It’s too cold for that,” Sasuke murmured in her ear, shutting the window Sakura was looking out of.

His hand slid from her hip and around her waist to the rest on the lower part of her stomach. Sakura couldn’t help but smile at the gentle touch, almost reverent, he had when it came to the stomach that cradled the new life they created.

“It’s a good thing I have a husband to keep me warm then,” she whispered back, turning in his hold so that she could peer up at him through her thick, pale lashes.

Intentionally flirting with Sasuke was something that still made the back of her neck heat up. It was one thing to fall into it in normal conversation. It was another thing to do so with a goal in mind.

Especially when he was overly aware of her goal and was amused by her constant attempts to reach it now that hormones ruled her body.

“Hmm. Could he now?”

Sakura narrowed her eyes at the way the corner of his lips turned up into a crooked grin.

“Yes. He could.”

Standing on her toes, Sakura pressed a kiss to his chin urging him to tilt his head down to meet her. Sasuke was so tall to the point of frustration at times. He had grown so much and she so little as they reached the end of their teen years.

“How would you like to be?”

“Always so blunt, Anata” Sakura sighed out in exasperation.

Her belly was obvious but not obtrusive in her opinion, and yet Sasuke still treated her with a gentleness that she found━using his favorite word━annoying. Obstetrics wasn’t her specialty but she knew enough and read up enough when they lounged around on lazy days to know that he was being ridiculous.

He was going to be a helicopter parent, she just knew it.

“Sit down,” Sakura muttered, not looking at him directly but at the armchair she liked to sit in when she patched up their clothing or read.

“Sitting?” Sasuke raised and eyebrow, amusement gleaming in his eyes. He did as she was told and looked up expectantly. “Another one of Yamanaka’s suggestions I assume?”

“Maybe,” she mumbled, cheeks flushing hot pink. Lifting her dress so it bunched up around her waist, she straddled him. She slid her hands up his chest until she cupped his neck and rubbed her thumbs along his jawline.

Sakura let out a squeak that turned into a fit of giggles when Sasuke gripped her hip and pulled her flush against him. She pressed a sweet chaste kiss on his lips and then rest her forehead on his.

“There’s definitely something between us,” she joked, shifting her eyes down to her stomach and back to her husband’s. He laughed through his nose and rolled his eyes. Sometimes there were parts of his father-in-law that came out in her.

“There should be less between us,” he spoke into her neck as he pressed open mouthed kisses, trailing his tongue up slowly on the line of her throat to press more kisses to her jawline.

Sakura shivered in his lap but hummed contently as he stroked her back under her dress. It had been aching as well but she settled for just easing the ache between her thighs as it had been bothering her more that day.

Sasuke unbuttoned the ties of her qipao top dress and let it flap open to reveal more smooth skin.

“Careful!” Sakura hissed when Sasuke palmed a breast. He pinched a nipple, earning another hiss but moved his hand before Sakura could slap it away.

“They’re getting bigger,” he murmured as he kissed softly on the tops of her breasts, away from the over sensitive areolas.

“Yeah,” Sakura sighed as he massaged the flesh on the underside. “They do that. Oh! That actually feels nice.”

Sasuke gently rolled one nipple between his lips. He didn’t do it long because he wanted to get farther than they were. Overstimulating Sakura tended to end things much quicker than he would like nowadays.

Just kissing was all she really needed now that she was pregnant. She was almost always hot and wet without him needing to do much. His mouth had gone dry despite the confusion at how desperate she had been the first time she had initiated sex after becoming pregnant.

Desperate like it was a need, not just a want for his touch.

Sakura brought her hips to a slow grind as Sasuke rolled his tongue against hers. She hummed her approval of his slow kisses. She loved when he was soft and attentive. She felt so loved and cared for in the safe cradle of his hold.

It made her glow with happiness that he could enjoy this new life and be a man free of any burdens.

For the small love forming and shaping in her womb every day wasn’t a burden, but a happy promise. It was something to look forward to.

A dream to make reality. Not a goal to accomplish.

“Impatient are we?”

Sasuke smirked at the way Sakura fumbled at the ties of his pants. Her hurried movements were creating a stronger knot and she groaned in frustration as she pressed a hard kiss to his mouth.

“Let me help you.”

Sasuke brushed her hand away and deftly removed the knot. He had one hand fewer than she did but was a lot more experienced with his own clothing and it would be better for him to take care of it before his needy little wife decided ripping them off of his body was the best course of action.

As soon as he loosened his pants, Sakura dove her hands inside them and stroked his hardening cock, leaving him panting in the crook of her neck.

“Want inside of me?” Sakura teased, pressing kisses to the side of his head.

“Not as much as you want me to be,” he moaned out onto her flesh and bit at the junction between her neck and shoulder. “This is…just fine.”

“Don’t be a prick while I’m holding yours Sasuke-kun.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and slowed down the pace of her stroking. Sasuke shot her a glare and used a single finger to stroke the wet patch on Sakura’s underwear.

“Okay, I won’t tease,” she hissed as he pressed his finger harder against the patch, digging through the cloth to her clit.

“Come on.”

Sasuke tugged at her panties until Sakura stood up and removed them herself. She bunched up her dress at her waist again and straddled his lap again. Sasuke held up his cock so she could slowly sink down, adjusting to his size at her own pace.

She clutched his shoulders and rode up and down at her desired pace, slowing down when she so wished and speeding up when she wanted it faster.

Sasuke watched her come undone, gripping her hip to support her better but letting her do as she pleased. It was always a sight to watch her above him taking in her own pleasure.

“I━” Sakura sobbed. “I need━”

“What do you need Sakura?”

Her face scrunched up as she struggled to reach that release she had been wanting for the better part of the day.

“Please touch me!”

And who was he to deny her? Sasuke reached in between them and played with the little nub he had grown fond of stroking. He rubbed little circles, not too hard, because even that could end up being too much for Sakura in her current state.

Sakura reached her climax with a high pitched cry trapped in the back of her throat. She slumped forward a bit, using Sasuke for support. Her hips continued to move in lazy circles but her high had left her exhausted.

Sasuke moved his hand back to her hip and thrusted underneath her. Slow, hard thrusts that had her crying out in a staccato beat. Once she was looking back at him he quickened his pace and she bounced on his lap once more from the force.

Sakura clenched around him and when she felt him twitching she pulled him in for a fierce kiss. Sasuke held her down, pulling her closer to his body so he could be buried deep when he hit his own release. He grinded out the end of it and pressed kisses down Sakura’s clavicle.

“You’re a mess,” Sakura giggled, ruffling his disheveled hair. “We’re going to have to do laundry again.”

“And maybe replace this armchair.”

“Think we can send it back home? I quite like it.”

Sasuke chuckled softly, resting his forehead on her shoulder.

He would have to think about that but he too was growing fond of the chair.


Years of traveling light and using summoning tattoos had left Sasuke a minimalist. When he had first acquired an apartment when he returned to Konoha, his home was empty except for the bare essentials.

That was, until Sakura got involved in the arrangement of his home.

When they were simply spending time together, Sakura would bring something along to add more life to his apartment. Something to make it more “lived in” as she put it.

A wall clock in the shape of a cat on the wall by the fridge.

Wind chimes that hung on the veranda.

Succulents from Yamanaka Hana, imported from Suna.

Throw pillows and an afghan, handmade by Sakura and her mother, for the well worn couch that found its way from Kakashi’s old apartment.

And slowly, she put her touch on the more intimate parts of his home. Her little things made their way into his bedroom.

A reed diffuser for the calming essential oils she used for aromatherapy.

A wall tapestry with a painting of mountains, a gift from Sai.

Blackout curtains, so that he wouldn’t be disturbed by the bright Konoha sunshine that shone from the inconvenient east facing bedroom window.

These were all things that weren’t necessary to live but they were things that made his life better. Each little piece made his apartment a home not just shelter.

But Sakura was slowly crossing the line.

Sasuke lifted up the metal tube contraption and and spun the handle at the top. There was a slight disturbance in the flow of the spin.

A grinder.

Sasuke set the grinder back down on the countertop, not quite sure what to make of it.


“Hm?” Sakura hummed, walking into the kitchen with dish rags fresh from the wash.

“Why do we have this?”

“For coffee.”

“Sakura. We don’t drink coffee.”

Although the couple had opposing preferences in taste—she liking sweet foods and he liking spicy—they both agreed that they didn’t like the taste of coffee.

Their hot drink of choice was tea although they differed in that as well. Sasuke preferred matcha and Sakura liked something foreign, elderflower.

The herb was entirely Sakura in his opinion. It had health benefits but the plant the flower came from was also toxic.

Leave it to a master of poison to use a toxic plant in a domestic setting.

“Yes, but you never know when we may have a guest that does.”

And it continued on like that.

There were hand towels with his clan insignia in the bathroom and he wasn’t allowed to use those because they were there just in case they had guests.

There were cat shaped salt and pepper shakers to match the wall clock.

There was a table runner, only to be taken out when they invited guests to dinner.

And a tea set from her parents they weren’t allowed to use unless there were guests over.

“It’s getting crowded.”

Sakura looked up from her files, spread out all around her in the living room. She brought more work home now that they were married so that they could have more time together.

“I guess I could stack these better.” Sakura shuffled her files so that they were in more compact and orderly piles.

“That’s not what I meant,” Sasuke sighed.

He tilted his head in the direction of the television set and the numerous knick knacks on the matching shelves. It was a real feat placing all of the miscellaneous knick knacks considering the amount of books they kept in their apartment.

The items they owned surpassed superfluous in his opinion. At this point they were borderline hoarders.

“Do we really need all of this stuff?”

Sakura looked up from her papers and her eyes softened at the lost look on her husband’s face. His brows were drawn down and he bit his lower lip.

She loved this cute side of him that pouted but she also preferred when he was relaxed and comfortable.

“I don’t know.”

Sakura cocked her head to the side and smiled slyly at him. She traced the pads of her fingertips along his inner wrist and tugged on the hem of his shirt. She led him to their comfortable worn out couch and pushed him gently so that he would know to sit back.

She climbed onto his lap, straddling him and pulled their afghan over their heads.

“I kind of like all of this stuff. Makes this place feel like home.”


Everything was cozy, he couldn’t argue with that. But Sasuke learned a long time ago that things were not home. People were home.

And home was in his lap, soft and pliant under his hands.

Sakura was still at work at the Children’s Hospital when there was a knock on their apartment door.

If it was a guest for him, there would have been no knocking. His guest was the barging in where he was unwelcome type and Yamanaka Ino had her own key due to being the closest that Sakura had to an older sister. The woman always checked to make sure Sakura was eating all of her meals and sleeping whenever Sasuke was away.

There was a steady stream of chakra, tightly compact and coiling in a very controlled manner just outside his door. There was a similarity in the way it moved to that of Sakura’s but still entirely different.

Before Haruno Mebuki could knock on the door again he opened the door wide and greeted his mother-in-law.

Sasuke was grateful that she was only carrying a small cake box and not another trinket for the apartment. He and Sakura had plans to build their own house but at that moment their small apartment was all that they had and he was starting to feel overwhelmed by how crowded the space felt.

“I know Sakura is at work but I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway.” Mebuki slid off her sandals at the entrance and slid into the spare slippers Sakura had purchased the other week. “Thought I would bring you a treat while you were just going through some scrolls.”

Mebuki continued on further into the apartment as if the place was her own home and considering all of the trinkets and knick knacks and other homey items had come from her and Kizashi, it only made sense that she felt at ease strolling in and making use of his kitchen to serve up her homemade cake━the only cake Sasuke could stomach.

“Oh!” Mebuki spotted the coffee grinder, placed aesthetically on the kitchen island. “It’s about time Sakura got one for herself. Let’s see…”

She rummaged through the cabinets and found the bag of coffee beans and pour over coffee maker. She huffed and looked for the tea bags that kept stocked for guests and pulled out the kettle. She set everything on the counter and beamed up at him.

“Want to learn how to make yuanyang?”

Sakura came home late in the evening carrying a stack of documents. She would have done better to take a nap but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to rest until at least half of her work was done.

“I should make some tea…” she mumbled, shuffling to the kitchen. She stood on her toes and pressed her lips against Sasuke’s cheek as he packaged leftovers from the lunch he had with Mebuki.

“Let me make something for you.”

Sasuke made drip coffee in the pour over maker and set the kettle on the stove to make milk tea with Pu Lei. It was Mebuki’s favorite dark tea which she informed him of during lunch.

He mixed the tea and the coffee together in Sakura’s favorite mug and served it to her at their coffee table.

She hummed gratefully and sighed into the steam from the mixture.

“Like home in a cup,” she murmured and Sasuke smiled softly.

“Like home in a cup.” Mebuki had sighed and gave him a cheeky grin. “I made this for Sakura every night she stayed up to study. I made it every night for my husband when we would watch the fireflies. My mother made it every winter night for me and my father.”

“It’s crowded,” Sasuke said as he leaned against the couch by her legs. “But the coffee grinder can stay.”

“Oh, can it now?” Sakura giggled lightly.

“Aa,” Sasuke replied softly. “The grinder can stay.”

It could stay and could take up space because even though the grinder didn’t make the home, it made home a little happy.

Don’t Talk, Just Ride

Four floors to each garden apartment and three apartments on each floor.

And not a single one had a washer and dryer unit of their own.

This annoyed Sasuke to no end but with utilities included and a laundromat around the corner that provided a laundry drop off service at a reasonable price, he would never have to visit the laundry center in the basement of the apartment.

At least that was usually the case.

Sasuke hated going down to the laundry center. He had a difficult enough time dealing with roommates he wasn’t sure how to handle run ins with strangers in a secluded area.

The apartment he shared was a drive from their school but it was cheaper and in a quieter neighborhood than the apartments on campus. Mostly families lived in the garden apartment units which was perfect considering both his father and Kiba’s mother made it a point that they were going to school to get an education not to party.

Shino didn’t have that same issue with his parents but he was Shino and no one expected him to be the one always missing at some random girl’s apartment every other weekend or so.

Unfortunately for Sasuke he was behind on a lot of his housework because of work and school. Really behind.

He was down to his last pair of gray sweatpants and an old hoodie. He had clean socks left but unfortunately no more boxer briefs. He knew his mother would be scandalized by the state of his laundry hamper.

Sasuke couldn’t wait for his clothes to be taken to the laundry service. He had to wash at least one load of laundry so that he would have clothes to wear while his laundry was being taken care of.

Because of the fact that it was mostly families in the apartment, Sasuke was sure that doing a load of laundry in the middle of the night would assure he would be completely alone.

At least that’s what he thought.

Walking down the hall to the laundry center it wasn’t until he reached the door that he could hear a dryer running and smell fabric softener in the air.

At one in the morning?

He ignored the fact that he was also attempting to do his laundry at one in the morning and grumbled inwardly. He considered that whoever was inside was probably trying to avoid running into their neighbors as well and wouldn’t bother with small talk.

Propping his basket on his hip, Sasuke pushed open the door to the laundry center with the intention to avoid eye contact and just stare ahead at the washing machines.

Entering the room he almost dropped his basket and let the dirty laundry and box of detergent tumblr to the floor.

The machines weren’t that tall but for someone as petite as his neighbor they still were an issue. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her bottom clad in a pair of simple cotton shorts as she leaned into the machine to try and snatch the last remaining articles of clothes from the bottom.

She hopped away from the machine and Sasuke was sure that any jiggling that was going on was just over exaggerated in his mind ever since he had zeroed in on her bottom.

Sasuke stood in the doorway feeling slightly awkward. He wasn’t sure what he expected his neighbor to look like but she definitely wasn’t what he pictured.

Turning to face him, she awkwardly pressed her wet clothes to her chest and gaped at him.

“The machines are free,” she muttered and shuffled over to the dryers and tossed her last bits of clothes in before shutting the door.

Sasuke snapped into action and hastily loaded his laundry and detergent into the wash and slid his laundry card into the machine to turn it on.

The original plan was to stay in the laundry center until his clothes were done. Sasuke didn’t feel like trekking up and down the stairs to his apartment in the third floor so he was going to stay put and play around with his phone like he had planned and hopefully his neighbor would leave and wouldn’t come back until her clothes were done drying.

He tried not to think about how the only things he was wearing was the gray sweats and the old police academy hoodie he stole from his brother-in-law Shisui.

Sakura wanted to crawl into the dryer and hide until her neighbor decided to leave. She was sure she could fit inside comfortably.

She settled for sitting on top of the dryer and hiding behind her assigned reading and ignoring the heaviness of her breasts as she was now hyper aware of them and her lack of a bra now that a man was in the same room as her.

And he wasn’t just any man. He just had to be the same neighbor she had been harboring a crush for ever since she saw him and his roommates unloading their moving truck from the safety of her balcony.

Her eyes were always drawn to him when she saw him at the 24/7 gym attached to the leasing office and swimming pool. Her heart always skipped a beat when she saw him heading to the apartment after parking his car.

And he doesn’t even know I exist.

Sakura’s nose wrinkled as her face pinched up in self loathing. Here she was, embarrassed that she was practically tits out with her attractive neighbor in a secluded area, and still bemoaning the fact that he wouldn’t even look her way.

Peering over the top of her book, Sakura snuck a glance at him and then shoved her nose back into her book.

Holy shit!

She didn’t mean to look at it. She really didn’t. Her eyes just happened to land on an unfortunate location when she let them drift over the pages of her book.

She couldn’t stop what her roomie Karin had said that earned a smack on the arm from her girlfriend.

“Girls have sundresses and yoga pants and guys have gray sweatpants. Everything is out there for you to see.”

Well everything really was all out there for her to see and she had no idea what she was supposed to do about that.

“There’s a lot you can do with that,” a voice that sounded suspiciously like Karin wheedled into her mind.

With her face heating up, she slid her assigned reading up to block her face and whatever view she had of her neighbor.

Not like he can tell what’s up with me. He’s just messing with his phone.

He knew that ass.

It belonged to the jogger that shared the gym space with him in the early hours of the morning or late at night. Her hair was the familiar shade of pale pink that trailed behind her, swinging as she ran with her back to him from his seat at the horizontal chest press machine.

It had become a familiar sight on Monday and Wednesday mornings and then on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

A familiar enough sight to recognize a set of missing lines that stretched across her bottom against the material of her shorts.

But her underwear or lack of underwear wasn’t his business.

Sasuke shifted his body and then changed his mind from leaning against the washer and decided that sitting on top of it would be more comfortable. The movement made him uncomfortably aware that his dick was brushing the soft inner lining of his sweatpants directly but there was no way he was going to stand the entire time.

Peeking from his peripheral, he saw his neighbor fidget from her seat on  top of one of the dryers. She was reading a book he had to read in a lit course in a previous semester.

It was the first time he actually got a decent look at her face and she had a face to match her tight body that had him looking back down at his game on his phone. He was busy trying to kill off humanity with a disease he created in the game but he kept losing focus whenever there was a slight creak of metal and his neighbor was shifting in her seat.

She had crossed her legs this time and his eyes were drawn to the artificial light reflecting off of her smooth shin. He followed the shine past her knees and up to her thighs. Soft thighs. His eyes traced the hem of her shorts before they snapped back to his cell phone.

The washer completed it’s cycle before the dryers were finished which left Sasuke awkwardly waiting around until his neighbor was done using them.

It really made no sense for the dryers to have to run fifteen minutes longer than the washers.

Sasuke fidgeted on his perch, aware of a set of eyes on him. Occasionally it would feel like he was being watched and his neighbor would look back at her book before his eyes could actually meet hers.

Out of all of the buildings that made up the cluster of garden apartments he would have never thought that the jogger would live in the same apartment building he did.

What a funny coincidence…

He sighed inwardly and went back to his phone. Sasuke had no idea how Shino did it. His roommate barely spoke to him or Kiba, how did he talk to girls let alone get them to bring him home?

Forty-five minutes alone in the room and the two of them hadn’t said a single word to each other after she had told him that the machines were free.

His neighbor uncrossed her legs, drawing his attention back to her creamy skin. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable with the fact that he was there. She had come down barely clothed in tiny shorts and a camisole and had probably expected to be alone.

Soon enough the dryer buzzed and she hopped off of the dryer. Sasuke tried to keep his head down to avoid staring at anymore bouncing parts of her anatomy would do. It didn’t help that she had bend down to unload the dryer which left him free to look at her backside.

Sasuke kept his eyes on his phone, attempting to be as respectful as possible.

“Machines are free.”

Looking up from his phone, Sasuke saw his neighbor standing with her basket at her hip. She avoided eye contact with him before awkwardly waving goodbye and exiting the laundry center as quickly as possible.

Well that couldn’t have been weirder.

He was wrong, of course.

For some reason after that meeting he saw his neighbor more often.

He would be out on his balcony taking a drag when she would be climbing out of her car or walking up from the path everyone cut through the thin line of trees to the convenience store.

He couldn’t see her that clearly sometimes, especially at night but she was so expressive even when it came to how she held herself.

On Wednesday afternoons she would be dragging her feet, too tired almost to make it up the steps to make it inside of their building. Her overloaded backpack would be slung over one of her shoulders and he could hear her groan from where he stood, hanging over the railing so no ash would fall on Shiro or Akamaru’s outdoor water bowl or the bee watering station that Shino had set up.

It was even more awkward when he attempted to go jogging with Shiro. He would end up carrying his Shiba Inu back to the apartment and on the way his neighbor would be out jogging in one of her usual small outfits.

She worked out a lot.

Sasuke would have just walked on by without acknowledging her presence if Shiro hadn’t decided to yelp excitedly as she approached.

“Cut it out,” Sasuke scolded his dog.

“So cute!”

Sasuke froze as his neighbor slowed down to a stop and proceeded to pet his dog. It had been two weeks since they had been this close to each other and it was only thanks to his attention slut son that it was even happening.

“What’s his name?”


“Cute. See you around Shiro and…?”

His neighbor’s eyes drifted to his face and she looked up at him expectantly.


She beamed and scratched Shiro behind his ear one last time.

“Sakura,” she replied before slipping her earbuds back on and taking off down the sidewalk again.

He gave Shiro an extra treat when they got back to the apartment.

The next time she saw Sasuke was at the gym.

He was a constant presence on the machines and she usually didn’t see him until after she finished her run. There was a routine that never broke.

Until today.

He was at her treadmill. Her treadmill. Sure there were two other treadmills she could use but that was her treadmill. She used it every Monday and Wednesday morning and then every Tuesday and Thursday night.

Her neighbor━Sasuke━probably didn’t realize that she used the gym at the same hours he did. She was the first one in the gym and he came after she did but until the moment where she saw him with his dog—not even the laundry room run in━she was sure he never truly noticed her.

The treadmills faced away from the entrance of the gym so her eyes landed on his back. His shoulder blades stretched the fabric of his muscle tank as he pumped his arms. Sakura’s eyes trailed downward and watched the way the tight muscles of his body flexed with every movement he made.

Oh sweet lord…

Sakura shook her head and moved her bag and bottle of water to the cubbies available for storage. It was just a normal day━night. A normal night where she would get her run in and then go home for a hot shower before she hit the books.

But she was panting and he was panting as they ran in tandem. The sound of their breaths puffing in sync clouded her mind.

It was easy enough to slip into a daydream of a different situation that would leave them panting.

Sasuke was tall and strong. His muscular arms from the edge of her peripheral were a reminder of that. He could probably lift her and press her against the cubbies without breaking a sweat.

Heat was pooling in her lower stomach and downward as she thought about how they were always alone in the gym no matter what time they both came in. If only the management hadn’t set up security cameras then they could…

There was a loud click when the door unlocked as another resident used their key card to gain access to the 24/7 gym.

Slamming down on the cool down button, Sakura braced herself against the handlebars of the treadmill. She barely slowed down when she hopped off the machine and grabbed her things.

That shower was going to have to be cold.

Sasuke rolled his eyes when the next group of soccer moms walked past him giggling and whispering to themselves.

It wasn’t as if men couldn’t take yoga classes.

Kiba had convinced him and Shino to take the yoga class provided by the apartment management in his attempt to hook up with the brunette one building over that was always covered in cat hair.

It took him taking care of all the kitchen and bathroom cleaning duties for the next month but he still managed to rope the two of them into attending yoga.

“He ditched us,” Sasuke said flatly as they watched Kiba lay his complimentary yoga mat right next to a willowy brunette near the front of the room.

“I expected him to.”

Shino yanked the hood of his cotton t-shirt so it was secure over his head and smoothed out the lines of his harem pants as he kneeled on his mat.

“You just wanted to take the class didn’t you?”

“Acting as if I didn’t got me out of toilet cleaning duties.”


Sasuke looked at the door and back at Kiba. It wasn’t as if Sasuke needed the class. His sister-in-law was a yoga instructor and he had been forced into lessons alongside his older brother and brother-in-law for most of his teen life.

“This is a good spot.”

Sasuke looked away from Kiba’s awkward attempts at flirting and noticed a bossy looking redhead setting down three sets of mats in front of his and Shino’s mats.

“Karin, you should probably ask if they’re reserving the spot in front of them first.”

A brunette with her hair secured in twin buns eyed Sasuke and Shino apologetically. Though it didn’t stop her from sitting down on her mat in front of Shino and patting the mat in front of Sasuke.

“Karin does what she wants,” a familiar voice grumbled.

“Don’t I know it.”

Sasuke’s breathing halted as Sakura kneeled on the mat in front of him and waved back at him politely. She turned to face the front, her racer-back tank top cut in a way that allowed her shoulder blades to be shown to advantage. His eyes followed the curve of her back down to her pert bottom that was sitting on her small feet.

A cough turned his attention to the redhead that was still looking in his direction. She mouthed the word “pervert” at him with a smirk before she turned to face the front, latching herself to the arm of the brunette she came in with.

Sasuke kept from scoffing out loud but movement from the figure in front of him caught his eye again.

Sakura stretched her arms above her head, straightening her back in the process. Sasuke’s eyes trailed over the contours of her lean muscles and then settled on her nape, where strands of pink hair fell against her creamy skin from the bun on top of her head.

This is going to be a really long hour…

“You wouldn’t quit staring,” Shino accused him as they walked down the hill from the leasing office to their garden apartment.

Sasuke refused to respond to him. The hour for the class had ticked by slowly and his focus kept drifting to the petite woman in front of him instead of the instructor up front. Kiba had secured a real date with the cat hair neighbor and he just suffered another day of not actually having a conversation with Sakura.

“Are you going to actually talk to her some day or are you hoping that your awkward body language is enough to communicate whatever it is that you want from her?”

Sasuke preferred it much better when Shino didn’t try to have conversations.

Sakura had had enough.

She scooped up her laundry basket and grabbed the detergent and fabric softener from the storage closet.

If Karin and Tenten were going to be fucking so loudly that she couldn’t sleep she was going to do something productive with her time.

Sakura had made it a bad habit to only get to her laundry by the time she had almost no clean clothing left in her closet. She ended up living mostly off of her gym attire when she was lounging at home or needed to run an errand because of it.

School and work took a lot out of her and if she didn’t workout to destress she could probably get more chores done but working out helped her relax so she could sleep.

It also kept her out of the apartment when Karin and Tenten were being just a little inconsiderate with their volume.

Walking down the corridor, Sakura could hear the machines running. She already made her way down from the fourth floor and she wasn’t going to turn back. She would just see if a machine was free or wait until her neighbor was done.

At least she had her phone to pass the time.

Opening the door Sakura would have bolted if Sasuke wasn’t already looking at her due to the creaking of the door. Of course he would be the one doing his laundry at this time of the night. He was the only one of their neighbors she had ever run into in the middle of the night trying to do his laundry as well.

“I just unloaded the machines a moment ago. I’m almost done.”

His voice was just loud enough to hear over the noise of the dryer. It looked like he had finished up washing all of his laundry but was waiting for loads to dry as he folded the ones that just finished.

Sakura dumped her laundry and the pods for detergent and fabric softener into the washers. She inserted her card and tried to relax her body. She didn’t want Sasuke to know that she was jittery in his presence.

She wanted him to think she was someone he could talk to.

And maybe…do much more afterward. At least have the potential for much more.

Setting her phone aside on the washer, Sakura edged closer to the dryers. They knew each other’s names, it shouldn’t be that strange to try to get some small talk in.

“Is that really how you fold your clothes?” Sakura giggled.

The piles of laundry were a little messy but the shape of the folds were oddly elongated.

“Is there a specific way you’re supposed to fold them?”


Sakura pulled one of his shirts from the pile of warm clothes. She held it out in front of her and took it by the shoulders and folded back the sleeves. She laid it across one of the dryer tops and folded the shirt in half so that it was neat and square the way it would have been on a shelf at a store.

“It’s just,” Sakura fumbled for a word, “neater.”

Sasuke stared at the shirt and didn’t respond. Sakura’s smile crumbled, sure that he was irritated by her interference. Sakura was about to apologize for being rude when he nudged her with his elbow.

“If you’re so good at folding why don’t you do my laundry then?”

“If you want help you should just ask,” Sakura giggled and nudged him back.

Between the two of them the laundry was folded and placed in his basket quickly. Sasuke was working on his last set of jeans when Sakura noticed something black under his t-shirt sleeve, shifting with muscles as he moved.

She knew he had a few tattoos due to the muscle tanks he wore but she never paid them any attention, preferring to watch the way his tendons moved under his skin and the flexing and bulging of his arm muscles.

Curious, her fingers slid his sleeve up so she could see what his tattoo was. She barely brushed against his skin, revealing the talons of a bird of prey, when Sasuke froze midway through folding.

Sakura snatched her hand back and mumbled out an apology. Whatever moment they were having she probably ruined it.

Sasuke tossed the jeans aside and tried to still his heart.

The touch was innocent. It was obviously out of curiosity for the tattoo on his upper left arm. Her fingers barely touched him and yet they caused a tingling sensation to crawl up his arm and down his back.

He glanced at Sakura from his peripheral. She had withdrawn her hand and was edging away from him.

Well that wouldn’t do. Not now that she was showing an interest in touching him.

Sasuke returned the favor and barely skimmed his fingers on her upper arm. Sakura shivered but her head snapped right back to him. He cocked his head to the side and the corners of his mouth lifted slightly. Sakura’s mouth parted open in confusion and he took the opportunity to repeat the action, only more purposeful this time.

Sakura didn’t flinch this time but she quivered under his touch. Sasuke trailed his fingers up her shoulder and brushed them along her neck before cupping her face. He waited for something, either words or a change in body language, that told him to back off.

Sakura’s hand gripped his wrist loosely but she rubbed her thumb across the back of his hand. Keeping her eyes downcast, Sakura bit her lower lip and used her other hand to slide under Sasuke’s shirt.

Sasuke jumped under her touch, his abdominal muscles clenching under her gentle fingers.

He always imagined how smooth her skin would be and how soft she would feel but never imagined what it would be like if she touched him.

He kind of wanted her to touch him more.

As smoothly as he possibly could without saying anything, he gripped her by the waist and lifted her onto the dryer. With his palms flat on the dryer top he leaned in so his lips were a hairbreadth away from hers.

Sakura still hadn’t said anything yet and Sasuke needed her to respond somehow, whether it be verbal or physical.

He wanted her but she needed to want him just as much.

He smelled of mint. Sakura could practically taste it with how close he was, breathing onto her mouth.

Why isn’t he kissing me?

Sakura frowned but slid her hands up his chest and cupped his neck. Their noses slid against each other and gently, she closed the gap. She pressed her mouth to his, parting her lips to have his move against hers.

Sakura pulled him closer as his tongue stroked behind her teeth and rolled against hers. Sasuke gripped her hips and nestled himself between her parted legs.

It was a little odd that they were making out after not having talked much. But when Sasuke rolled his hips against hers, Sakura didn’t really care if their bodies kept doing the talking for them.

One of Sasuke’s hands kept his grip firm on her hip, continuing to hold her in place as he rocked against her. He flattened the other one on her stomach under her shirt and trailed it up until he cupped a bare breast. Sakura gasped when he thumbed her nipple at the same moment he thrust particularly hard against her.

Not wanting to just be receiving, Sakura broke free from Sasuke’s kisses to press her own along his jaw and down his neck. She flattened her tongue at the base of his throat licked up the side, feeling the groan he emitted vibrating in the back of his throat.

Sasuke kissed her fiercely, open mouthed without tongue so he could pull back, sucking her lower lip into his own mouth and released it with a gentle tug between his teeth. He rested his forehead against hers, letting Sakura catch her breath only for him to roll his hips against hers in a lazy rhythm that her hips subconsciously tried to match.

The buzzer for the washing machine went off but Sakura couldn’t find it in herself to care as she crossed her ankles against Sasuke’s lower back trying to push him closer than he already was.

Moaning softly, Sasuke nudged Sakura’s chin up with his nose and trailed hot kisses down the line of her throat. He bunched up her t-shirt under her armpits, leaving her breasts bare. He cradled the back of her head with one hand as he lowered her down, pressing more kisses down her sternum before sucking on the underside of her right breast.

He looked her directly in the eye before flattening his tongue against her nipple and giving it a sure lick. He encased her nipple in his mouth and groaned as he tugged on it with his lips before releasing it to give the same treatment to her other breast.

Sasuke pressed more open mouth kisses down her toned stomach, sucking at the flesh by her belly button and caressing the underside of her thighs. He trailed more kisses along her waistband and tugged on it.

“Fuck,” Sakura moaned softly. If he was planning on doing what she thought he was going to do she might just die.

The buzzer of the dryer echoed in the chamber of the laundry center and Sasuke reluctantly pulled away from her. He turned her away so he could pull out his laundry and toss it into his basket and then got up and switched her laundry to the dryer. He then started the dryers using his own laundry card.

Sakura bit her lip to hold in her laughter. He was so impatient.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her and yanked on her shorts.

“Off. Now.”

Sakura lifted her bottom as he pulled them off along with her boy shorts, her slippers falling to the floor in the process. He kissed her navel and then scraped his teeth against her hip bone. The action caused Sakura to shiver in the warm laundry room.

Never dropping his gaze from her face, Sasuke pressed a kiss, licking the underside of her knee before placing her leg on his shoulder. He mirrored the action with her other leg and then pressed slow chaste kisses to her inner thighs, looking her right in the eye between each kiss.

Palming her bottom in his hands, Sasuke gave her center one hard lick before tracing a circle around her clit, never directly stimulating it.

Sakura let out a whine in the back of her throat and Sasuke just chuckled against her nether lips. He pressed an open mouth kiss to her core and groaned low in his throat. Sakura’s breath caught in her throat.

He’s trying to kill me!

Sakura weaved her fingers through Sasuke’s already messy hair and tried to lead him to where she wanted him. But it seemed that Sasuke had a different plan.

He pulled away from her to kiss up her thigh again. As he nipped and sucked at the flesh there, he stroked her nether lips with his index and middle finger, spreading them as he lazily massaged her.

It wasn’t until Sakura rolled her hips in desperation and whined low in her throat that Sasuke slipped his middle finger inside her. He supported her with one arm, sliding her off of the dryer so that she was standing and kneeled in front of her and pumped his finger at a slow, leisurely pace. Sakura shot him a glare before he slipped his ring finger in as well and picked up the pace. He curled his fingers and rubbed her clit with his thumb.

When he felt her clenching around his fingers he stopped the circular motions with his thumb.

Really?” Sakura hissed. She was starting to wonder what she got herself into.

Sasuke smirked at her before he took her clit between his teeth and tugged it before drawing it between his lips and suckling it.

Sakura’s legs began to tremble and Sasuke removed his fingers so that he could hold her up as she reached her climax. He continued to lap at her, over stimulating her into another orgasm. When it seemed he was going to try getting her to a third she yanked on his hair.

Sadist,” she hissed at him when he kissed her knee with a sly grin.

“Ah,” he agreed, caressing her legs. He kissed her thigh one more time before standing up to his full height.

Sakura eyed the bulge under Sasuke’s baggy shorts. She pressed her palm against it and Sasuke’s jaw clenched. Sakura withdrew her hand and grabbed her shorts and panties. She shimmied into them and scratched the back of her neck, playing with the strands of hair that fell out of her messy bun.

“We should, uh…”

Sakura swallowed hard. That had been a lot more intense than she had imagined it would be like.

And in the laundry room? Really?

“We should?” Sasuke stroked her side, looming over her from behind. He trapped her body between him and the dryer.

“Maybe take this somewhere else…?”

“Your clothes still have like another ten minutes.”

Sakura opened the doors to the machines and pulled her clothes out and tossed them into her basket. Sasuke’s eyebrow quirked up at her as she settled the basket on her hip.

“What? It’s only ten minutes. They’re dry enough.”

Sakura secured the basket on her hip and headed towards the door. She pulled it open and turned back to look at him.

“Well? Are you coming?”

“Am I?”

Sakura’s jaw dropped at the double entendre.

“Don’t be crude,” she scoffed but then smiled at him slyly. “Or you just might not be.”

Sasuke snatched his basket off the ground and followed her out.

And to think he used to hate going to the laundry center.

And In The Morning There Are Birds

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

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

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





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

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

“Hey sleepyhead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wanted sleep.

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

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

I’m in Sakura’s office.

It’s located in the Children’s Institute.

The institute is in Konoha.

Sasuke stared at the ceiling tile and counted.

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

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

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

“You’re heavy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All he wanted was to sleep.

Blue-white light flashed in his eyes.

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

“How was your nap?”

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

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

“I fell asleep last night.”

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

“Sasuke. My mom is going to kill me.”


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

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

The Lion & The Ram

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

“Tired from the heat already?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone born under the Ram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was five and all she wanted was a friend.

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

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

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

Sasuke didn’t want any part of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sakura had never been so scared before in her life.

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

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

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

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

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

“All done.”

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

We’re closer maybe? Just a little?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mess she made for her teammates.

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

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

She loved Sasuke. She was sure of it.

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

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

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

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

Did Naruto ever see Sakura? Really see her?

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

Even you…

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

Even you…

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

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

He wasn’t going to lose someone precious again.

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She lied.

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

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

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

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

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

He couldn’t regret his decision.

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

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

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

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

But they were working on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Lion.

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

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

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

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

If they themselves were around in the end.

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

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

Soulmarks meant nothing to him anymore.

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

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

Soulmarks meant nothing.

Her head rolled against Sasuke’s collarbone.

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

She saved him because she loved him.

And the stars had nothing to do with her love.

It had to be done.

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

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

She had to be incapacitated.

Dying should have felt worse than that.

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

She felt her heart in his hands and then nothing.

Maybe that’s how it always was with them.

Her heart in his hands.

And then nothing.

His Ram was gone.

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

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

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


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

His Ram was here.

Kissing her nape was a habit.

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

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

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

Teru-Teru Bōzu, Teru Bōzu

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

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

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

She was scared.

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


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

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

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

“I thought you were staying home tonight?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let me walk you home!”

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

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

“Hey! What are you doing here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He always gets in my way!

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll get Ino to cut it tomorrow…

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

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

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

“What are you doing?”

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

For more uchiwa to grace their backs.

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

“The storm will roll right on by.”

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

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

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

It helped to have someone he loved with him.

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

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

“Do make tomorrow a sunny day…”

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

“Mama, I’m done. Hang him up!”

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

“Will Papa be home tomorrow?”

“Not tomorrow Sara-chan.”

Sarada’s small face squished into a pout.

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

“I’ll hang it up.”

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

“I’ll put it up real high.”

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

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

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

Wishes? Those are just strips of paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. It is.

Cigarette Scars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then maybe they would have never met.

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

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

“I don’t know what you mean.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How d’ya get stabbed?”

“Sorry I missed your set.”

Sakura frowned. He was always avoiding questions about work.

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

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

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

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

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

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


“I’m trying to sleep.”

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

“Yeah, yeah.”

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

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



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

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

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

There was no running from his ghosts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can almost see Alkaid right there.”

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

Sleep would solve that issue if he could get it.

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

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

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

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

“The Summer Triangle,” she murmured almost dreamily.

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s Orion.”

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

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

“And with the scorpion so rises the snake.”

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

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

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

“You’re, uh, a Leo.”

“So I am.”

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

They meant nothing.

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

Whenever, However, But Always Yours

“Do you…believe in reincarnation?”

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

“What brought this on?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good night.”

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

She smirked and poked him on his forehead.


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

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

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

Next time, huh?