He missed touching her.
He missed the sound of her voice and the way she bit her lower lip before bursting into a peal of laughter. Sakura was always too loud and too big in every way but her body.
And Sasuke was realizing that her mother was the same.
Shit, Sasuke groaned inwardly. From his desk and through his holo-screen he could see the familiar blonde hair of his fiancée’s mother. The color had caught his attention from his peripheral and when he focused on the approaching woman he wanted to hide his face in his hands.
Mebuki Haruno had been coming every day since the accidental death of her daughter. She had been sympathetic at first when she found out that Sasuke was called in for the hit and run which resulted in organic damage. The sympathy flew out the window when she discovered that Sakura’s stack had been missing.
The Harunos were grounders which meant they were too poor to afford a clone or synthetic sleeve that was a replica of their daughter. The government was to provide a free sleeve because she had been involved in an accident with a government owned vehicle.
But Sasuke didn’t want a stranger’s face. He didn’t want to hear Sakura’s thoughts and words with a stranger’s voice.
Mebuki’s eyes were two shades too dark and she had wrinkles at the corners of her eyes but it wasn’t difficult to imagine Sakura giving him the cold, accusing look.
Sasuke and Sakura weren’t married. He had no right to her cortical stack, to her coding.
But he refused to have anyone but Sakura.
So another day of cold stares and shouting was on his agenda.
Kizashi, Sakura’s father, was never present when his wife came to demand their daughter’s stack. He was only there the first time when Mebuki went on a rampage when they were told her stack was missing from her sleeve.
His eyes were dull and tears clung to his pale lashes—Sakura’s lashes—as he followed behind his wife. He didn’t seem aware of where he was until his wife started accusing Sasuke of kidnapping their daughter.
Kizashi blinked back his tears but didn’t say a word. His reactions were abnormal. Even grounders had a lack of care for the original sleeve when a secondary one was an option.
Sasuke hoped it was because Kizashi felt the same way he did.
That Kizashi didn’t want anyone unless it was his daughter.
Sasuke lived in Konoha and worked as a cop but it didn’t change the fact that home for him was Sora-ku, the city in the sky.
It was probably one of the reasons he hadn’t been fired for misconduct when he removed Sakura’s stack and refused to hand it over to her parents. Why no one bothered to do anything but write a short note in his file about misplaced data.
Meths, even if they lived as grounders, could still flex enough muscle to get what they wanted.
Sasuke never thought about the fact that he had multiple clones in a freezer. He was still too young to care about transferring to a new sleeve and he had been lucky so far that he hadn’t sustained organic damage even with his profession.
A profession his family humored as an eccentricity, merely a hobby.
The Uchiha were rich enough to never have to work a day in their long, long lives.
But no one really cared what the second son of the ancient Madara Uchiha’s twenty-fourth child’s did to pass the time.
They turned their noses up at his preference for the ground world, enjoying the comforts of their floating city away from the “thugs and brutes” that were jealous of their superior sleeves.
Sasuke wondered sometimes if the face Sakura loved so much was his own or genetic modifications, an altered appearance modeled after the beautiful features of his mother’s.
It was a question he never felt comfortable enough to ask. Or accuse his mother of.
Sakura was beautiful. She was beautiful in a way only a child of the ground world could be. Born in Konoha to immigrant cake shop owners, nothing about her looks was artificial.
Everything was hers and Sasuke loved her all the more for it.
Suspension was all they could do to appease Mebuki Haruno. Madara Uchiha funded the department and lined the pockets of the mayor and governor. No one was going to terminate employment of his favorite grandchild.
In reality it wasn’t a punishment but more like a vacation. Sasuke needed the free time to supply the data gatherers information on the clone for Sakura.
“You can make her how you like her,” his grandfather had tossed out nonchalantly. “Get rid of any pesky traits she didn’t like herself.”
It was said in such a blasé manner and Sasuke was caught off guard. Madara didn’t mean any insult and none of his other relatives had even reacted to the comment.
It was typical of them to pick out mods for their new sleeves. They could enhance their clones as they pleased. Money was never an issue.
“My forehead is huge!” Sakura used to complain. It was only slightly larger than average, nothing Sasuke would have even noticed if it weren’t for the fact that she had pointed it out.
He was too caught up in pretty jade eyes to think of something as inconsequential as a slightly wide forehead.
When Sakura’s sleeve had been freshly damaged, Sasuke had taken a trip down to the forensic pathologist and swiped DNA samples.
Using his access code he was able to secure swabs of saliva and blood and hair samples. He had been lucky that her body was secured by the police due to the nature of her death. It was an accident but an investigation was necessary.
Insurance companies were always trying to get out of securing free sleeves for those whose sleeves were going to die of natural causes or if the accident was preventable on the victim’s side.
His Sakura wasn’t a drunk or a junkie. She had just stepped off of the curb on her way to the bookstore and an asshole crossed the intersection when his light was red.
“You are able to alter anything,” the technician explained as he filled out Sakura’s entry into his holo-screen. “You can change her features to look more Terran. Or if you prefer the exotic features of a different Outerworld. We can alter her body fluids to produce Empathin or even get rid of her freckles. Increase her bust size maybe? It’s not often the original isn’t here to select their own mods.”
Sasuke’s neck heated up at the thought of Empathin. Sakura would probably push him over the railing of their apartment veranda if he gave her a perverted mod without her consent.
But the idea of feeling what she felt and her feeling what he felt when they made love was tempting.
Maybe for the next clone when he could talk to her face to face and they could discuss it. He refused to have her spun in a temporary body to have the conversation.
“Exactly the same.”
It took a month for the sleeve to be complete.
The life cycle was accelerated when it came to making clones for those that had already reached adulthood. Technology was only so advanced. If Sasuke had it his way he would have had Sakura’s sleeve ready the same day he placed his order.
Sakura’s clone looked almost exactly like her. The sleeve lacked the scars that littered her body, given to her from life. Her forearm no longer had the burn mark from her accident in her family’s bakery. There was no nick at her left eyebrow.
But it was Sakura. Her same rose gold hair and jade eyes. Even all of her freckles were the same, trailing down her sternum and dusting her breasts.
“We need the cortical stack.”
The technician broke Sasuke’s focus away from examining Sakura’s clone.
“Once we upload Sakura Haruno’s Digital Human Freight she can be needlecasted to her new sleeves from here on out. A total safeguard from Real Death.”
Sasuke slipped off the necklace he was prone to wearing around when he knew he wasn’t working. Only where he knew he was safe.
He wanted Sakura’s stack with him at all times but he wasn’t always the safest option.
When he wasn’t wearing her stack around his neck, he hid it in his mother’s private rooms.
Making her clones and needlecasting Sakura made his mother giddy.
“Now we’ll really be family,” Mikoto had gushed at the idea of Sakura’s clones residing in the Uchiha vault.
It was a tad morbid but not an unexpected reaction.
Sasuke handed the stack to the technician and within moments Sakura’s D.H.F. was uploaded.
“She’ll respawn in a few seconds.”
Sasuke watched as the sleeve’s eyes blinked into focus. It’s nose twitched and it smiled softly at him.
“Good morning, Sasuke.”