There is a soreness in his lower back and a crick in his neck that has him worried to open his eyes.
He dreams often of home when on his mission, but the smile on his daughter’s face and the feel of his wife’s hands as they eased the kinks and knots of his muscles had been so real. He had smelled the fabric softener and felt the softness of the white bed sheets with the scalloped trim that Sakura favors. The detailed stitching brushing against his cheek is a sensation so strongly imprinted in his mind that it feels as though he had felt it only a mere hours ago not months.
Reaching to adjust his cloak to ward off the cold, he tucks his face into the collar and sighs. He detests being away but he is duty bound. Sasuke knows the dreams will only haunt him when he is idle for too long.
A crackle of a flame has his eyes opening wide. He never uses a fire at night when traveling alone. More alert now he recognizes the scent of smoke wafting about and absorbed into the material of his black cloak.
And he notices the way his hair brushes alongside his cheeks instead of resting against one side and brushing against the lashes of his left eye.
Sasuke has to blink excessively before he is able to focus on his surroundings. The clarity he usually had is gone and he has as much difficulty seeing as when—
The blurry trio of sleeping bags and the long red hair poking out over the top of one is a sight he hasn’t seen in almost two decades.
It’s as he’s flexing fingers on a hand that he hasn’t had in over fifteen years that he recognizes that his chest is rising and falling at an alarming speed.
When was it that he last had a panic attack? When was it that he last had a panic attack without being able to turn and hold on to the small, soft body of his pink haired wife to ground him to reality?
Inhaling and holding his breath, Sasuke lets out his next exhale long and slow.
Oddities in his life are rare but nothing new, but suddenly finding himself in his teenage body is far more outside his realm of normality than rabbit goddesses and eye snatchers from the moon.
Settling into the flow of Team Taka is easier than it should be, but Sasuke was never much of a talker and it helps him pretend he isn’t a thirty-two year old man trapped in the body of a seventeen year old.
These versions of his former underlings haven’t noticed anything off about him yet but he knows it’s only time before he slips up.
It would be better to separate.
By the red clouds on his cloak and his blindness he can pinpoint when in time he’s supposed to be. Team Taka is meant to hunt down the Hachibi but Sasuke isn’t his young self lost in the darkness. He not only doesn’t want to hunt down the Hachibi but he also knows how it all plays out and doesn’t care to repeat history.
He will have to walk a path parallel to the one of his past so that he doesn’t disrupt the course of events that lead up to his future. As much as he would rather abandon everything and return home, there may be consequences to that decision.
There is one decision he must make to change the course of events. It will buy him time as he avoids hunting the Hachibi and it would be best for himself and to prevent an outsider from taking what belongs to his brother.
The order was wrong, but it was time to claim his inheritance.
Having the procedure done a second time, Sasuke was more alert this time around during his healing process. There are no dark thoughts clouding the corners of his mind as he plans.
This is another moment he wishes Sakura were with him. His brilliant wife would have healed him and fixed any errors left behind by the crude surgery. She would be able to come up with theories as to how he found himself in such a predicament. He can only hope that she is safe with their daughter in the distant future and that he hasn’t had any missteps that would erase their family’s future.
As much as he doesn’t want to hunt down the Hachibi there is still one man he will have to take care of again. Sasuke will have to be smarter this time around, less controlled by the hatred that had consumed him in his old life.
Loud voices and hissed insults outside of his bedroom has him snuggling into his futon until only the spikes of his hair can be seen poking from the top of his blankets. He doesn’t wish to know what it is Karin is doing that has her fighting with their comrades.
Sasuke longs for the quiet of his home even more during his recovery. Aches for the breeze drifting in through the open windows of his house and the smell of garlic and shallots filling the air as Sarada and Sakura’s chatter wraps a soothing buzz around his brain and down his spine.
He can’t afford a single misstep. He’ll find his way to Sakura again in the future—of this he’s confident—but he can’t lose their Sarada.
He drifts into a troubled sleep and dreams of hues of pink and red and of a girl’s distant laughter, always cutting away when he’s just within reach.
It’s a color he could never mistake and a voice he yearns for on quiet nights after days of of inaction.
There are others with her but who they are he doesn’t care. It’s always been like this. He hears her, sees her, before all others. Once that had been something he would vehemently deny, keeping those stray thoughts encased in the deep recesses of his mind, but he isn’t his seventeen year old self━no matter his appearance━and home is a flash step away.
“Konoha shinobi,” Karin warns. “Three klicks but heading west in the opposite direction. Easily avoidable.”
“You couldn’t have said something earlier?” Suigetsu scoffs. “You have one job and you can’t even do that right.”
“Shut up!” Karin seethes. “Sasuke-kun knows I would have said something if I was told to keep alert for them.”
With just a glance, Sasuke has them silencing. He nods his head in the direction he wants them to take and the three of them take off without him.
Home is running in the opposite direction. Three kilometers turns into four which turns into five and then six. And so on she keeps running, not even knowing how much he wants to be running to her.
He can hear them whispering. Even Jūgo is becoming skeptical of his plans. They have been moving and moving, constantly moving without making any effort to hunt down the Hachibi despite the orders given from his elder cousin Obito masquerading as their ancestor.
“Are you sure?” He hears Suigetsu muttering to Karin from his spot above them all in the forest canopy.
“I’m positive. We’re going in circles. Just as we’re getting closer I can feel him leading us away and…”
“Something’s…different about Sasuke-kun. He doesn’t feel the same. His chakra is different. It’s like it’s not the Sasuke-kun we know.”
“Is it because of that surgery?”
“No…it’s been like that since before…just one day he woke up and he was different.”
Whatever Suigetsu responded with was lost to Sasuke as he closed his eyes and shut their voices out.
He didn’t necessarily need them anymore but the three of them had nowhere to go currently. In the future they crawled back to Orochimaru but at the moment he is still dead. And with the war approaching they would need as many allies and Taka did their part in assisting in his old life.
Sasuke will have to find a reason to get away from his team to avoid anymore suspicion.
He’s on his own for a bit. Sasuke always needs his space from his teammates and before they used to be wary of him, but now they’re wary for another reason all together.
He’s Sasuke but he’s not their Sasuke. He’s a Sasuke only a select few know and Team Taka never had this Sasuke. Karin has witnessed small increments but this Karin isn’t the Karin that was covered to her elbows in blood, cradling his premature daughter to her chest. This Karin doesn’t know it yet, but he is in debt to her for helping his wife and child.
He owes her more than she knows. But that hasn’t happened yet and he just wants distance, space away from her calculating eyes. She can see the way his chakra moves, feel the missing heaviness of how imposing it once was.
And he can’t allow that to be his undoing. He could handle it if Karin were to confront him but he couldn’t handle it if the confrontation led him to losing his future.
So Sasuke runs.
He takes the first chance he gets to split from the rest of Taka. Makes an excuse so that they split ways for a period. They have Karin and she can track him when they need to meet up again.
Being on his own again, Sasuke is reminded of the time during his redemption journey. Although he stands shorter than when he stepped out alone for the first time, he is seeing the world through clearer eyes and a free heart.
Sasuke finds himself sleeping often, a habit from when he went searching for himself. When the warm breeze rustled through the grass and the scent of the oak trees traveled with the wind, Sasuke was reminded of home and his thoughts would become muddled. Sleep was a reprieve from the confusing ache in his chest.
Now sleep is a curse. The weariness of his eyes as they drooped haunts him. For sleep cannot give him what he wants.
A promise that when he wakes up everything would have been just a dream. And that he would be home again.
It takes Sasuke a moment to remember to breathe.
It was already a coincidence that they had crossed paths once before, that he had caught a glimpse of her so soon before…
Before the time he had seen her in his timeline━his real timeline━and almost lost the future he is missing now.
His eyes are wide open and he is seeing the world with such clarity. How many times did he miss her before? How many times did he miss her when his vision was clouded with his hunt for justice?
He draws in the breath his lungs have been screaming for and it’s with that inhale that Sakura skids to a stop.
Eyes so green, so seafoam green, narrow and scan the perimeter. Short, choppy hair rustles with the slight movement of her head as she searches in his general direction. Sasuke can almost see the calculations circling in her mind.
She knows someone’s there. He can make a run for it, use his greater speed as an advantage. It would be the wise thing to do. The strong thing to do, for he knows that the gravitational pull his wife has on him even━before she’s aware she has any pull on him at all━is something he is weak against.
It is why he left home at twelve. It is why he stayed away.
Sasuke is very good at doing his duty. It’s what kept him on his mission for so long, it’s what had him on his mission without coming back home until it was done.
But he is tired and sleep has been bad and all he wants is that look━the look that Sakura gets on her face when she sees him, eyes wide and lips parting as if she’s seeing something splendid for the first time.
It’s greedy and selfish, but he’s sacrificed years in one lifetime and weeks in another. The universe can forgive him for a few seconds.
Purposefully he takes a step on a twig on the forest floor, one that alerts Sakura to his exact location. He just needs to wait for that look, that one look of astonishment, and he’ll take off.
“Sasuke-kun!” Sakura gasps, but before he can pivot and flee, she’s already taking a step back.
Curious, he halts his movements and watches as she digs her teeth into her lower lip and her eyes drift from him to the direction she had been heading toward before he had distracted her.
He is right in front of her—not moving now that he’s observing her—and she isn’t pleading with him to go back home with her.
Sasuke understands that she may be wary of him, unsure of how he would react, but Sakura isn’t one to shy away when it comes to her feelings so her silence is unnerving. He had been expecting her to shout out, not to act with trepidation.
Sasuke edges forward, sliding one foot along the soil, moving slowly as if approaching a doe. He waits for a reaction but Sakura just stares and stares.
He takes off, using a sequence of flash steps to create distance. He didn’t expect Sakura to be able to predict his movements but a tugging at the rope belt he uses to tie his cloak to his body has him skidding to a stop and redirecting his path.
He can’t look back. If he looks back he’ll break and forget that he has a responsibility to keep the timeline on its course. There is no telling if he will wake up back at home and face consequences for any disruptions he may have caused.
“Sasuke-kun,” Sakura continues to cry after him, trailing closer after him than he anticipated her sixteen year old self to be able to.
His mind offers a flash of Sakura dodging quick attacks during the fourth great war and then of her sucker punching Shin with his body covered with activated mangekyou sharingan, despite her off roster status due to being the director of the hospital.
Fumbling a flash step, Sasuke trips up and skids across the forest floor, catching himself with his hands digging into the earth. Sakura catches herself on the trunk of a tree, using chakra to anchor herself instead of skidding along the forest floor like Sasuke. Green eyes go wide in fear as she continues to watch him, body poised and ready to make a run for it. Her body is tense as she anticipates a violent reaction from him.
Activating his sharingan, Sasuke scans every inch of her and looks for a sign, any sign that she could be━
The endearment has barely left his tongue when Sakura throws her body at him, tackling him to the ground in one of her strong embraces.
“It’s you, it’s you!” She sobs into his chest, soaking his top with her tears.
Sasuke places a hand on her back and rubs soothing circles, letting her find comfort in releasing weeks worth of stress.
Sasuke doesn’t need to hear the lecture. It’s in his wife’s scowl as she sends pulses of her soothing chakra to his temple, healing the scarring from the surgery his cousin had performed to implant Itachi’s eyes. It’s the same scars she healed for him while he was in the hospital after his battle with Naruto.
She doesn’t reprimand him as he pulls her closer to straddle his lap. The closer she is, the more real it feels that she’s really with him.
Sakura had been in her sixteen year old body for the same amount of time he had been back in his seventeen year old body. She had told him of how she woke up one morning convinced she had dreamt he had returned for good, only to realize she was in a smaller body, in a much smaller bed, back in her bedroom in her parents’ house.
Sasuke scoffed at the comment of a smaller body. She had only grown a few more centimeters by the time she had reached adulthood. It is true though that she is no longer fuller at the hips and had lost the bust she developed after pregnancy━even the one she developed toward the end of puberty, but he isn’t going to mention that he had been watching her more closely than he should.
He remembered the shock of standing up and realizing he had lost over half a foot of his own height and although he was still muscular it was nowhere near the muscle mass of his adult body.
And then there was the issue of balance since he no longer needed to compensate for the missing limb.
“Do you think anyone else was sent back in time?” Sakura asks him as she examines him further, unzipping his top and brushing the pads of her fingers along still healing scars.
“Definitely not Naruto. He wouldn’t have the sense to keep it a secret.” Sasuke drags his nose up the line of Sakura’s throat. She smells mostly of sweat, dirt, and grass, but just underneath is her own unique scent.
Sasuke slides his hands under her medic apron, fingers edging along the hem of her tight shorts.
“What—,” Sakura narrows her eyes at him, cutting off her flow of chakra, “—what are you doing?”
“Nothing,” Sasuke answers as he cups her pert backside with both hands.
“We’re in a forest,” Sakura protests.
“That wouldn’t be new for us,” Sasuke counters.
“We’re in a forest, I’m sixteen, and you’re a missing nin,” is Sakura’s rebuttal. Despite her protests, she reaches for his rope belt and tugs it undone.
“Physically,” Sasuke continues to counter, “but spiritually we are━”
“Oh, just shut up and kiss me, you opportunist.”
Sakura holds his face in her small hands and initiates their first kiss━a minor change from their original timeline. Sasuke sits her in his lap and bites on her lower lip, pulling it into his own mouth as he proceeds to deepen the kiss.
Sasuke isn’t ignorant of the fact that he now has the advantage of two hands. He can touch his wife without the assistance of any jutsu. Although the observation doesn’t stop him from using his teeth to unzip her top. His hands are too busy pulling off her shorts and underwear.
As close as they are, they’re not close enough and he needs to correct that.
“Don’t rip through my shorts,” Sakura warns him, clutching his shoulders with enough force he’s sure she added chakra to her hold, a promise of repercussions if he damages her clothing.
Sakura’s gasp is barely heard over the sound of her mesh tank top being torn in half with only the use of Sasuke’s teeth. No one ever sees her undergarments so it’s an article of clothing that has no import, something that Sasuke is aware of and pays no mind to her grumbling as he drags his tongue up her sternum.
Her irritation melts into a soft sighs as he presses open mouth kisses to her clavicle. He grabs her waist with his hands, distracted by how tiny it is as he brushes his thumbs lightly around her belly button.
“Sasuke-kun…” Sakura murmurs as he sinks his fingers into her warm, wet center. He gets to work on stroking her with one hand and helping her remove her shorts and underwear with the other.
Two hands really were more efficient.
Sakura’s moans roll into his mouth as she grinds her hips against his hand. She had been too engrossed in the feeling of his fingers thrusting in and out of her core to worry about removing her medic-nin apron. Sasuke wants it on during their encounter.
Barely covering anything at all, Sasuke didn’t get a chance to appreciate her little apron when he really was seventeen. It is short enough and the slit just high enough that he can watch the way Sakura’s pink curls brush against the heel of his palm.
As Sakura grinds her hips against his hand, she braces herself by gripping his shoulders. The position they’re in makes it easy for Sasuke to wrap his lips around a pebbled nipple. He uses his other hand to press against her lower back in order to support her as she bucks against him, legs trembling.
As her inner muscles start to spasm around his fingers, Sasuke pulls them out. Sakura cries out at the loss and throws a glare at him, eyes watering from the frustration.
“I was close!”
“Yeah, I know.”
Sakura pouts so cutely he should feel bad about depriving her the release she was edging toward but he doesn’t. He just pulls his cloak out from under him and spreads it out on the forest floor.
“Come here,” Sasuke murmurs, tugging at her wrists to draw her closer. “And take off your shirt.”
Sakura barely shrugs her red top off and Sasuke is already pushing her down on to the cloak. He wastes no time in pushing her thighs apart and opening her folds once again. He’s careful to avoid the bundle of nerves that would throw her over the edge now that she is sensitive from the earlier stimulation.
“You’re doing it again,” Sakura whines, wiggling her hips in an attempt to get him where she wants him.
“What am I doing?” Sasuke feigns ignorance, pretending to be too concentrated on his task.
“Sasuke-kun. I’m not going to be the only one naked outside again.”
Sasuke frowns at the statement but doesn’t refute it. Their encounters outdoors usually ended up with Sakura losing every article of clothing while he only tugged his pants low enough to free himself from the confines.
Sasuke shrugs but in a gesture of mock solidarity he removes his shirt and tosses it to the side. He quirks an eyebrow at her and hesitantly she relaxes underneath him.
Now that she’s more willing to be compliant, losing the tension in her body, Sasuke swipes at her clit. He rubs at it with his thumb as he strokes her folds and places kisses down the valley between her small breasts and lower until he reaches her navel.
Dipping his tongue in her belly button, he sucks at the flesh there before making his way down lower and lower, past the thatch of pink curls, and flattens his tongue against where she’s hottest and drags it nice and slow before flicking Sakura’s hardened nub with the tip of his tongue.
A sharp pain at his scalp alerts him to Sakura’s fingers clutching at his hair and yanking it as he pulls the nub between his lips and rolls his tongue around it, alternating between soft suckles and hard suction that has her thighs trembling around his head.
Sasuke groans against her folds and Sakura’s body tenses up as his name tumbles weakly out of her mouth in a soft cry of relief.
Sasuke continues to lap at her core, flicking her clit in the upstroke. When Sakura tries to sit up he hooks his arms around her thighs and place his hands on her hips to keep her still. Using her sensitivity from the last orgasm he guides her into a second one and then rolls it into a third.
Sakura’s pulling his hair so hard at this point he’s glad that she is unable to concentrate on anything else but the feel of his tongue. If she could focus she would gather her chakra and attempt to pull him off of her. With the way she was yanking she could probably scalp him with her bare hands in her flustered state with the use of chakra.
By the time he’s done teasing her, Sakura is struggling to fill her lungs, unable to catch her breath through her pants. As she’s coming down, chest slowing down in its rising, Sasuke sits up on his knees and pulls her lower half so that her legs are spread across his lap.
“Are you okay?” He asks as he strokes her thigh soothingly as her eyes blink back into focus. She nods and grasps his hand, interlocking their fingers.
“I want to touch you too.”
Sakura pulls his hand up and presses kisses to the pads of his fingers, drawing them into her mouth. Sasuke’ mouth runs dry as she sucks on them. With a mischievous glint in her eyes, she slides his index and middle fingers in and out of her mouth, her tongue wrapping around them.
“Next time,” Sasuke chokes out, reluctantly removing his hand from her hold as he pulls himself out of his pants. He gives himself two quick strokes, using the slickness from Sakura’s sucking to lubricate himself before guiding his cock into her entrance.
Slow and steady, Sasuke pushes in, groaning as he sinks deeper into Sakura’s slick heat. Looking up at Sakura’s face he cocks his head to the side, not sure why her lips are parted and eyes glimmering in awe.
“So that’s what you would have looked like…” she says softly.
Smirking down at his wife, Sasuke groans again purposely as he pulls out and thrusts back in as deeply as he can fill her.
The awestruck expression falls from Sakura’s face as she gasps from the sudden fullness. Sasuke stills inside her, feeling her inner muscles contracting around him as she adjusts to his size. As soon as she lifts her hips to move underneath him, Sasuke begins a steady pace of thrusts, gripping her hips with both hands to anchor her to him.
As familiar as he is with what his wife likes, his young body isn’t accustomed to being inside her and he is hypersensitive to the sensation. He can feel his release rapidly approaching, much sooner than he’d like.
Pulling out, he maneuvers Sakura’s body so she’s on her stomach. Following his lead, Sakura braces herself on her hands and knees and spreads her legs for him. Sasuke sinks back in and Sakura cries out, feeling him even deeper than before.
It’s a position Sakura prefers and that he gladly puts her in due to the increase in her sensitivity. He settles himself into the even pace from before, not trying to cum before he’s ready. Sasuke takes a finger and drags it down the curve of Sakura’s spine, feeling her flutter around him from the act.
Sasuke drops his head in the crook of her neck and drags his nose across her nape. Dropping kisses between her shoulder blades, Sasuke bites down on her shoulder and Sakura cums again, squeezing him tight and forcing his release out of him. Sasuke pulls her hips tight against his and grinds into her as spills himself inside of her. He collapses on top of her, chin resting on her shoulder. Sakura slowly drops to the ground and nudges him gently off of her as they sprawl out on the cloak.
Sasuke takes a deep breath and pulls Sakura closer so that her back is pressed against his chest. He hooks his arm around her waist and pillows her head with his other arm. Pressing his nose against the top of her head, he breathes in the smell of home. Sweaty and hidden behind the smell of earth, it lies there in the strands of Sakura’s hair.
Sakura had shrugged on his shirt when they gathered their things and relocated to a bank of a stream to wash up. The sight of their crest on her back is a small comfort but the news Sakura gave him as they laid on the forest floor had put a damper on his mood.
“Sasuke-kun,” his wife calls back his attention as she hangs up the newly washed cloak to dry. “What are you going to do now?”
Sakura was on her way to rendezvous with her team when she ran into him. Luckily she was ahead of schedule due to already having the information she needed from the mission in the past. Sasuke hadn’t sidetracked her as she was using the extra time to be on her own. She had found it unsettling and tiring when she was with people. The stress of pretending and trying not to disrupt the timeline had been getting to her.
She was just as stuck as Sasuke and the only theory she could come up with was the rinnegan which was ruled out as soon as the thought crossed her mind. The rinnegan traveled dimensions not time.
Waiting around and playing out the rest of the events wasn’t something Sasuke wanted to do. There were other ways to get what he wanted.
“And I really don’t wanna celebrate Naruto’s birthday this time with the two of you blowing each other’s arms off,” Sakura jokes as he drags a hand down his face in embarrassment.
“That’s not happening this time.”
“Then what is happening this time?” Sakura slides her hand down his left wrist, settling her palm against his until he takes hold of it and interlocks their fingers.
“This time,” Sasuke breathes before granting her a soft smile, “this time, I come home. And stay.”
“And you stay.” Sakura nods, beaming up at him. Her smile fades and her brows furrow. “And Sarada?”
“We can be careful, do some calculations…” Sasuke rubs his thumb on the back of her hand. “She was ours once. She can be again. We’ll try.”
“We can try,” Sakura agrees.
“But for now,” Sasuke tugs on her hand, drawing her closer, “let’s go home.”