Melusine

He wasn’t supposed to be in there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


He found himself in The Room again the next night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The creature narrowed her eyes at him, untrusting.

“It’s food. See.”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you will never see it.


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Sakura.”

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

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

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

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

Sakura shook her head.

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

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


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

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

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

He really liked her voice.

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

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

“Sakura miss home.”

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

“But home no have Sasuke.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not━I mean, you’re━”

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

“Sakura━”

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


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

What a stubborn little thing.

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

“Nothing,” Sasuke sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too. I doubt she is.”


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

“I’m sorry.”

“Why Sasuke throw trash then?”

“I’m not apologizing for that.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes even more.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“That’s new.”

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

Like she needed to be any prettier.

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

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

Too bad she’s not human.

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

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

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

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

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

She’s not human.

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

She’s not human.

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

Not human…

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

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

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

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

“Sakura no care. Sasuke care?”

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

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

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

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


She was running out of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or his vivisected body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have labs to do today, Sakura.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clair de Lune?

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

“Karin?”

Karin shook her head and picked up the vial again.

“I need your right arm.”


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

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

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

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

Male frogs sing to attract mates.

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

Time to find this “frog.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s pregnant you jackass.”

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

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

“Poison?”

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

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

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

“There was another of her kind?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is nixie poison supplied by Sakura.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Karin!”

“Check her temperature!”

“She’s warm. Really, really warm.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We wait.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now even Sakura was gone.


He woke up thinking that it had started raining.

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

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

“Sakura?”

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

“Sakura like it here.”

“Where did you go?”

“Needed to see if safe.”

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

“Karin was mad.”

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

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

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

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

“Can mate when already with child?”

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

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

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

“Hm?”

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

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

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

“Sasuke always leave Sakura.”

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

“Wait!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Close!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Congratulations, you’re unemployed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That explains a lot.”

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

“Explains what?”

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

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

“Congratulations, you’re a professional arsonist.”

“Shut up.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A high pitched cry broke through the tranquil atmosphere.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m serious, dude!”

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s so funny?” Hinata asked.

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

Parade of Lights

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

But that was different now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t you get tired of asking?”

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

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

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

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

“Wait. Are those…boats?”

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

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

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

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

Or so he kept trying to convince himself.

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

He wasn’t being overprotective. Honestly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded his head and she beamed at him.

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

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

First Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you talking about?”

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

“Well, I don’t remember that!’

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

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

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

“I don’t do that.”

“You’re doing it right now.”

“No I’m not.”

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

“You’re being ridiculous.”

You’re being ridiculous.”

“Are you mocking me?”

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

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

Sasuke bent down and scooped a handful of snow.

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

“No.”

And he smashed it over her head.

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

“Oh, you think that’s funny huh?”

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

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

It was good to be home.

Fireplace

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

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

We really should get a kotatsu…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sasuke shuffled into his family room after leaving his cloak on the hook and spotted his daughter curled up on the couch he had planned on sitting on to read his scrolls when he came home. Considering there was more than enough room for the both of them he took his place on the opposite end.

Sarada tried to reign in any disgruntled noises or looks. She didn’t want Sasuke to think she was annoyed with him but there was no doubt he would have brought the cold from outside with him.

After a few minutes of comfortable silence as Sasuke read and Sarada tried to warm up, she began to feel a pleasant warmth radiating from the right side of her body. A warmth that had nothing to do with the heater on the ground.

“You have fire in your veins! Just like your Papa.”

Hesitantly, Sarada edged closer until she was leaning against her father’s side. She felt him stiffen up but then relax into the couch. He continued to read, apparently not bothered by her sudden closeness.

The two of them sat like that in silence only speaking to welcome Sakura home an hour or so later.

“Well that looks cozy.” Sakura sat on the other side of Sarada and curled up next to her, pressing her daughter more against Sasuke and his warmth.

This is better than a fireplace, Sarada thought as she absentmindedly nuzzled her cheek against her father’s arm.

Sakura reached for Sarada’s blanket, brushing her cold hand against Sarada’s cheek.

“Mama!”

Eskimo Kisses

There was an odd ritual that Sakura and Sarada had that at first confused Sasuke but then he realized was quite familiar.

Everyday when either Sakura or Sarada came home from being outside in the cold all day they would find one another and rub their noses together. The one that had been indoors would squeal at the coldness of the other’s nose while the other would laugh at their momentary discomfort.

It had been a habit of Sakura’s when they were traveling around in the winter. Her nose would become ice cold and she would attempt to sneak up on Sasuke to press her cold nose against his face. The first time she had rubbed her nose against his he was baffled and appalled at his own embarrassment. He was fully expecting her to try and give him a kiss and she had shocked him with the feel of tiny nose pressed against his own, rubbing from side to side.

Sasuke didn’t mind the cold but there was nothing that worked like a better wake up call than Sakura’s chilled to the bone nose.

It became a weird game of “is it a kiss or is it a weird rubbing thing” between the two of them. It carried on mostly during winter when Sakura realized how Sasuke would jump slightly when she did it. Occasionally Sasuke would turn it back around on her as she would help when he would wait until she was all bundled up and warm and his skin was all icy to give her what she called an “eskimo kiss.”

It was an act he only attempted in private but it was amusing to hear Sakura yelp in shock. She would glare at him and stick out her tongue when he got his payback.

Sort of like what Sarada did now whenever his wife snuck up on her. Sarada’s cheeks would puff up and her eyebrows would pull down in a pout and she would scold her mother with a “oh, real mature Mama.”

It was sweet but sometimes Sasuke couldn’t help but feel left out. He did not regret going on his mission but he did regret all of the time he had missed out on with Sarada. She was growing up and soon enough she wouldn’t have time for “Mama” or “Papa.”

A draft came in as the door to their apartment was opened. Sarada’s voice traveled into the family room as she stated that she was home. Sasuke welcomed her home and turned his attention back to his scroll. He was sure he would hear her small feet bounding for the kitchen to make something warm to drink.

Her mother wasn’t home so there was no need to tiptoe and try to sneak up on her.

“Papa?”

Sasuke looked up, surprised to see Sarada standing right in front of him. This wasn’t part of her routine. She would usually ask if he wanted tea and head straight for the kitchen to pull out bags of his favorite green tea and her favorite black tea.

Sasuke’s eyes went wide as Sarada had bent down slightly to grind the tip of her nose against his. Her cheeks and the bridge of her nose were pink either from the cold outside or embarrassment. Possibly a combination of both.

Sasuke was too startled by the suddenness to even flinch at how cold Sarada’s nose was. He just blinked up at her as she smiled down at him mischievously.

“Want some tea, Papa?” she asked over her shoulder as she headed toward the kitchen.

“Aa, Sasuke replied, hiding his face behind his scroll, the tips of his ears having turned a light shade of red.

He smiled to himself as he continued to read. Sometimes, certain behavior was okay to pass on.

Cuddlebugs

The wind whistling outside was almost loud enough to cover the sound of Sakura’s breathing. A feat Sasuke would have thought impossible considering how closely she clung to him in the shelter of their tent.

Sasuke shifted and Sakura adjusted herself in her sleep. Sakura got cold easily and always moved closer to whatever source of warmth she could find.

The two of them use to sleep on separate bedrolls but after months of traveling and marriage those same sleeping mats now lay side by side. The space was still too small for two but husband and wife slept with tangled legs and arms thrown over waists, seeking to be as close as possible even when they were far away in the realm of dreams.

Sakura is small and provides no warmth, but there is a different sort of comfort that Sasuke finds when it comes to laying close. The rhythmic sound of soft breathing causes his mind to settle in a sort of tingling haze. It’s a sort of pleasure that was once hard to summon but is something granted to him every night now.

“Autonomous sensory meridian response,” his brilliant wife offered once with a soft smile. It was a term he had not known before but Sakura remedied that by rambling on about the topic, unintentionally causing the same tingling haze to begin on his scalp and work its way down his neck.

Sasuke shifted again and Sakura once more adjusted herself in her sleep. Always following after him even when she did not know it. Sasuke exhaled through his nose a soft laugh that wouldn’t wake her up.

Softly, gently as possible, Sasuke’s hand roamed over Sakura’s form and attended to his favorite night time habit. He lightly traced soft circles along Sakura’s lower abdomen and up the gentle slope of her belly, home to the life they created together.

Another gust of wind had Sakura whimpering in her sleep until Sasuke drew her closer. She settled with a content sigh against him.

She was the one that wanted to come to Land of Snow.

Sasuke sighed and wrapped their blankets tighter around their bodies.

Although it would have been more comfortable to sleep with Sakura’s back flushed against his front, this was his preferred way to sleep.

Side by side and facing each other, the love of both their lives safely snuggled between them.

Ashiyu

Sakura rubbed her belly and sighed.

From the window of their hotel room she could see the swirls of steam rising all over the village from the various hot springs. Such a tease for a pregnant woman.

They were crossing through Yugakure and had no difficulty securing lodging in the resort town. The city was filled with numerous hotels to satisfy the needs of tourists to the relaxing destination spot.

Although he wouldn’t admit it, Sasuke had altered their travel plans so that they could rest indoors. Sakura didn’t complain about sleeping on forest or cave floors but she couldn’t stop the way her hand would fall to her lower back and rub especially now that her pregnant belly was putting strain on her back as well.

Sakura couldn’t complain when her husband was being so accommodating. His cheeks would flush the palest of pinks and he would turn his face away with a pout that edged along the side of scowling and it was the cutest thing she had ever laid her eyes on.

I hope our kid makes that same face, she would giggle inwardly to herself every now and then.

Sakura sighed once more and dragged herself away from the window and plopped herself down on the hotel bed. The bed was fluffy and softer than anything she had ever lied on but it was no comforting hot soak.

Unfortunately it would be a while until Sakura could take a long, relaxing soak in a hot bath. Her travel weary muscles were aching and longing for the famous hot springs.

“Let’s go find something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry,” Sakura grumbled. She wasn’t in the mood to walk anymore especially considering she would be passing all of the onsens on their way to find food. Despite how hungry she was she had no intention of leaving the hotel room until it was time to check out.

A long growl from her stomach gave her away and her cheeks flushed red.

Sasuke didn’t say anything but the corners of his lips twitched upward causing Sakura to puff her cheeks out in indignation.

Instead of teasing her like he normally would have done, he took hold of her hand and gently helped her rise from the bed.

His wife had no problem roughing it but since she had become pregnant there were times she reminded him more of her genin self when she got all huffy and complained. As irritating as it had been when they were pre-pubescent brats, now it was occasionally endearing. Mostly due to the fact that when she got all huffy she had the habit of rubbing her protruding belly in a soothing manner and watching the action caused his chest to fill up with warmth.

Sakura slid the lower half of her face under the clasp of her cloak. She knew she was acting like a spoiled brat but it was completely unfair that she couldn’t relax in any onsens until after the baby was born.

It didn’t help that Sasuke insisted on going for a walk after dinner. Her swollen, achy feet wanted nothing more than to return to the hotel room where she could lie in bed and hope that Sasuke wouldn’t mind rubbing them. She was far along in her pregnancy where she couldn’t touch her own feet anymore.

“Hmm?” Sakura poked her head out of her cloak as Sasuke squeezed her hand and led her off the path to a small area. Swirls of steam rose from the ground and she squealed in delight at the sight of of the onsen foot bath.

Sasuke reached down and helped her slip out of her sandals as she steadied herself by grabbing onto his shoulders.

“Just for a little bit,” Sasuke warned. Sakura rolled her eyes at his overprotectiveness.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m the medic here, I know.”

Sakura dipped her feet into the hot water and let a dreamy sigh. The heat was so soothing.

Sakura patted the area next to her and beckoned Sasuke to join her. He stared at her, contemplating for a moment before he slipped off his own sandals and joined her.

“This is the best.”

Sakura leaned against her husband as he hummed in agreement.

“Thank you.”

“Hmm,” Sasuke hummed again, shifting his body so that he was propped against her as well.

Sakura closed her eyes in contentment and stretched out her toes. She was just getting more relaxed when Sasuke’s voice cut into her daydreaming.

“I think that’s long enough.”

“Anata!”

Accidentally Setting the Christmas Tree on Fire

It wasn’t until he smelled smoke and plastic burning that Sasuke remembered what his mother had told him about the outlet under the bay window.

Having moved out to his own place after knocking up his girlfriend, Sasuke no longer knew the ins and outs of his childhood home. He dropped by occasionally to spend time with his mother but ever since he was accepted into college he was barely at his parents’ house and wouldn’t know anything about faulty outlets.

He should have been paying attention to his mother more.

Sasuke had one job: decorate the Christmas tree. He could have gone to pick up Itachi from the airport but sitting in a car with Izumi and Shisui for forty-five minutes was something he wanted to avoid. He couldn’t argue against their inclusion because if Sasuke could bring his significant other why couldn’t Itachi bring his? Even if those two were some of the most annoying…

It was too late to regret switching tasks with his parents. What was done was done.

“Hello?” The front door clicked open and there was a rustling of someone carrying multiple bags through the doorway.

Tossing the fire extinguisher to the side, Sasuke stood in front of the burnt tree trying his best to hide it.

“It smells awful in here!” Sakura waddled into the family room, arms full of gift bags.

“Should you be carrying so much?”

“I’m pregnant not an invalid.” Sakura scowled before plopping down on the couch. She had a slight waddle in her walk now but that wasn’t going to stop her from carrying on with her life. “Okay. What did you do?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sasuke crossed his arms trying to act as nonchalant as possible. Sakura simply raised an eyebrow and then lifted herself off of the couch, using both arms for support.

“You destroyed your father’s fake tree.” Sakura bit her lip to try and contain a grin from spreading on her face. “You somehow burned down his flame retardant tree.”

“Can you open some of the windows? Maybe the smell will go away before they get back.”

Sasuke began to disassemble the tree, trying to think up a solution to his predicament. There was no way he was going to be able to get a tree three days before Christmas and before his parents came home. It was a good thing all he had done was plug in the lights. No way he was going to get away with destroying his mother’s precious handmade ornaments.

Although he did wish she would toss out the tomato ornament he had made for her when he was seven.

“So what are we gonna do?” Sakura shuffled back into the family room with a trash bag for the tree.

“We can always go steal Naruto’s tree,” Sasuke suggested. He wasn’t being serious. He knew Sakura wouldn’t agree to that.

“No we can’t━”

See, exactly as he thought━

“━he somehow convinced his mother to use a cactus Gaara sent him instead of a traditional tree. Mikoto would never go for a cactus.”

Or not.

Sasuke should not have been surprised that she had also contemplated stealing Naruto’s tree and throwing him to the wolves. Better him than them.

“Do you think your parents would mind if we borrow theirs?”

“They didn’t get one this year since they’re on that cruise.” Sakura rolled her eyes. Kizashi and Mebuki hadn’t even thought twice about spending the holiday on a cruise.

Sighing, Sasuke tied up the garbage bag and took it out. He would just have to endure his father’s disappointed looks and his mother’s sniffling.

He was just about to turn back up the drive when Sakura called out to him.

“Heads up!”

Sasuke caught their car keys at the last moment before they hit him square in the chest.

“What?”

“I know how we can get another tree.”


“A-and I forgot about the outlet ‘cause of this stupid pregnancy brain,” Sakura sobbed, face in her hands. “And now Mikoto is going to be mad at me! I’m so stupid!”

Obito didn’t know what he had expected when he opened the door but it definitely wasn’t his cousin and his pregnant girlfriend. His cousin’s crying pregnant girlfriend.

“And I-I just don’t know what t-to do!” Sakura wailed.

Sasuke shifted on the balls of his feet nervously. On the ride over to Obito’s house Sakura told him to just be quiet and let her do all of the talking. He hadn’t expected her to spontaneously burst into tears when they parked their car in Obito’s driveway.

“It can’t be that bad.” Obito made to comfort Sakura but pulled back when Sakura let out a loud wail. “Sakura it will be fine, Auntie loves you! She won’t mind at all━”

At that Sakura uncovered her face and looked up at Obito with glassy jade eyes full of hope.

“A-are you sure?” Sakura hiccuped and tried to calm her breathing. “Because it seems like I’m always screwing up. Like first I get knocked up while I’m still in school,” Sasuke choked on air, knowing he had taken part in that, “and now I’m destroying their Christmas decorations.”

“Look how about you just take my tree.” Obito scratched the back of his head nervously. “It’s not like I need one. I’ll be spending the holiday with you guys anyway.”

“R-really? You’ll let us have your tree?” Sakura gave a watery chuckle and shook her head.  “That would be so nice of you, Obito.”

“Yeah, of course! What’s family for, right?” He nudged Sasuke in the ribs and nodded his head toward his living room. “Come on, Sasuke. Let’s load it onto your car.”

After a bunch of struggling to strap Obito’s live tree onto the hood of their car, Sakura and Sasuke were pulling out of Obito’s driveway as he waved goodbye to them.

“See? Problem solved.” Sakura pulled out makeup wipes from her purse and cleaned up any mess her tears could have made with her mascara.

“Do you do that all of the time?” Sasuke had to ask. “Like with me?”

“What? Of course not!” Sakura laughed and punched him playfully on the arm.

“Not even when you want me to rub your feet? Or when you don’t want to go to the store?”

“Never!” Sakura held her hand to her chest dramatically. “I don’t like what you’re insinuating.”

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her but just rolled his eyes and kept his eyes on the road.

At least they had a new tree now. Even if was through a dirty trick he had to admit, Sakura’s brains really did save him.

“But seriously, how about that one time━”

“Are you really accusing the mother of your child of manipulation?”

“Whatever. Just know that I’ll be on the lookout for that now.”

“Like you could even tell the difference,” Sakura challenged.

“I bet I could.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes at him and he just smirked.

“You haven’t been able to tell yet,” Sakura muttered.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing!”

Only You

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.

“Officer Uchiha.”

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.”

Call Me By My Name

Sakura rubbed the back of her neck and rolled it, letting out a moan of relief. She couldn’t wait until her shift was over and she could go home. She loved her job but even she could get tired and weary having to tend to patients for twelve hours.

Especially when she forgot her supplements at home.

Sakura had never been fond of drinking blood. It went against everything she had worked for in her previous life when she had been studying to be a doctor.

She worked as a nurse now, always taking the overnight shifts so that no one would question her about not going out to socialize with coworkers. She never stayed at a hospital long, five years was her maximum, ready to leave and work somewhere far away so that no one questioned why she never aged or why her life was so stagnant.

In the beginning it had been hard. She wasn’t meant for a solitary life but it hurt her to see everyone she cared about move on with their lives while it seemed hers had stopped a long time ago.

“We can move to a different place and tell everyone you’re my oldest,” Ino, her best friend, had joked. In her early fifties she was still a head turner and with her fair complexion and blue-green eyes she could pass for Sakura’s mother. “And then when Inojin looks older than you we can move away again and you’ll be my youngest.”

But when Sakura saw her own face, forever twenty-three, she couldn’t help the ache that settled deep in her chest.

Ino, her husband Sai, and their child were the only ones of Sakura’s old life that knew about her condition. Sakura mostly kept her distance from them but she remained in contact, letting them know where she settled next.

There was no telling Ino that she couldn’t speak to her. Twenty-five years back when Sakura had broken off contact, Ino had hired a P.I. and Sakura reluctantly came back home.

Sai hadn’t bat an eye when he caught her with a rabbit in her mouth, tears and blood running down her face. He never explained why he was so nonchalant about the way he had found her but Ino had explained that it wasn’t his first time tracking down a loved one that had a peculiar ailment.

“If I never ran off you would have never found the love of your life,” Sakura had once teased her.

“Shut up! Don’t you ever do that again,” Ino snapped back.

So Sakura kept in touch but she also kept her distance. One day Ino and her family would die and she would look as she did the day she had been turned, forever twenty-three.


Sakura gagged but drained the entire vial. The supplements were disgusting but they replaced the need for blood.

Karin, an older vampire, had created the alternative to blood drinking. She was an acquaintance of Sai’s from his days as an investigator. She had an uncanny gift for knowing where everyone was at any given moment.

Her tracking was much more enhanced than a typical vampire and once she knew a scent she never forgot it.

She was an odd one, at first not wanting compensation for the supplements, but Sai warned Sakura to make sure Karin received monetary payment.

“She likes to collect nice scents and pretty things. Don’t ever be indebted to her.”

Sakura wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and placed the glass vial in her kitchen sink.

Some days, Sakura could understand why Karin had become twisted over time and seeked out companionship as a means of payment.

Life could get lonely when trying to keep their secret.


Sakura preferred the night shift because of the quiet. It had nothing to do with a myth that vampires couldn’t be in sunlight. Sure her eyes were more sensitive to light now but it had more to do with the fact that there would be less people to run into.

Besides the few overnight guests, Sakura only had to deal with her coworkers and the poor patients that had difficulty sleeping

So far she had been lucky and no one from her old life had crossed her path anywhere that she moved to. She had to make sure she was prepared just in case.

“Oh, I’m sorry you must be mistaken.”

“You know what’s funny? I get that all of the time. I must have one of those faces.”

“Sakura? I’m sorry my name is Saya. No not Haruno, Yamanaka.”

But she didn’t know if she would really be able to hold her composure if she saw someone she once held dear.


Sakura wasn’t able to attend her mother’s funeral but she was able to attend her father’s.

She knew if she saw her father weeping over her mother’s casket, lowering her into the plot right next to the empty one that had her name on the headstone she would blow her cover.

When all of the mourners had left she made her way over to his grave. Luckily, Ino had a hand in arranging the funeral and burial proceedings. Kizashi had given up his plot to bury her and her mother side by side. Ino had convinced the person that purchased the plot on the other side of Mebuki to let Kizashi have it.

They deserved to be next to each other. Sakura knew her mother had never been the same since she had “died” and that her mother’s passing had broken her father’s heart.

Sakura was officially the last of the Haruno family. But no one would ever know her name. Not until it was safe enough to use her real name again.

But she would be waiting a while to do that.

Good thing she had nothing but time.


Disgusting. There was nothing Sakura found more disgusting than drinking human blood.

Correction, there was something she found more disgusting.

Sakura yanked on the tall porter’s scrubs and dragged him into a supply closet. She slammed him into a wall and pressed her elbow into his throat.

“We don’t take from the hospital,” she hissed.

“I’m doing my job,” the porter responded coolly, not even flinching at the fact that she was attempting to crush his throat. “You’ll have to try harder than that by the way.”

“Uh..” Sakura’s face scrunched up in confusion but she pressed harder.

“See,” he gasped out, “now you’re actually doing some damage. As fun as this is, there’s a patient in ED that needs a blood transfusion.”

“Wait. What?”

A ringing sound came from the porter’s pocket. He reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the hospital portables.

“Yeah, I’m on my way. A nurse just had a question.” He looked down his nose at her and raised an eyebrow. “Can I go do my job?”

The porter brushed her off, much more easily than she expected him to.

He pushed past her and left the closet.

“Hey!”

“Can you not make a scene?” He asked without turning around.

And then under his breath, only loud enough for someone with her ears, “Annoying.”


“Figures that the first time you gossip with us it’s about Otonashi.”

Sakura chewed on her straw and cocked her head to the side. The more movements she made, made it easier to distract her companions from the fact she wasn’t really eating her dinner.

It wasn’t that she couldn’t eat the food. It just made her feel like a glutton when she ate food and took her supplements which were much more necessary for her to consume.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s the best looking guy that works here and I think all of the single porters and nurses have made a pass at him but he never wants to go out for drinks or hang out on off days in our rotations. Kind of like you.”

Her coworker tossed her ponytail over her shoulder and sighed.

“He’s just a porter but damn.”

“Keep dreaming, Hannah,” a different nurse mocked as she strolled by the nurses’ station.

Sakura spun around in her computer chair and hopped up to dump out her trash from her “dinner.” She was still on her break and it was obvious that she wasn’t going to get far in her questioning.

“I’m going for a walk.”

“Yeah, yeah I’ll keep an eye on your rooms.” Hannah waved her off but grinned at her slyly.”Say hi to Sousuke for me.”

Sakura shook her head but didn’t deny it. She hoped to run into this “Sousuke Otonashi” on her walk. It wasn’t often that she met one of her own kind and it was even rarer that they would take a job that would have them near such easy access to blood but not attempt to steal it.

He had been working at the hospital longer than she had and when she had researched places to move to and work at there were no incidents surrounding the area or the hospital.

She wanted a peaceful place to live in, no drama, and it looked like her vampire coworker wasn’t going to ruin that for her.


“What’s your name?”

Otonashi scoffed and tapped on his ID badge.

“No, I mean,” Sakura moistened her lips, “your real name.”

“What makes you think Sousuke Otonashi isn’t my real name?”

The corners of his lips twitched upwards. Once upon a time that would have been too miniscule a movement for her to notice but now nothing escaped her.

“Like you believe Saya is my real name.”

He leaned back on his hands and sighed. They had been sharing their break times with each other and chatting whenever they ran into each other but he still didn’t let Sakura in.

“It’s Sakura by the way.” Sakura cleared her throat. “My real name is Sakura.”

Otonashi stared at her impassively before turning his eyes back to the night sky.

“I didn’t need to know that.”

“But now you do.”

They sat there in silence for a beat.

“Sasuke.”

Sakura burst out laughing and Sasuke clucked his tongue at her.

“It’s so similar to your alias. Did you even try?” Sakura relaxed and flopped her head onto his shoulder. “Sasuke suits you more.”


“How old are you?”

Sasuke dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his shoe. Sakura watched him pick it up and throw it into the closest trash bin, waiting.

“Twenty-six.”

“No! I mean how old are you really?”

“I thought you would be able to figure that out with my name.”

“It is a pretty old name. No one names their kids that anymore.”

Sasuke frowned but Sakura kept smiling up at him expectantly. She knew he would answer her question. He was a quiet man but there was something so liberating about being able to speak so freely to someone, to someone who would understand.

“I was turned in nineteen sixty-three at the age of twenty-six.”

“You died three years before I was born,” Sakura giggled. “You’re such an old man.”

She looped her arm in his and led him away from the bar they had visited. It was strange drinking alcohol. It was mostly for show. The only way to really get drunk was to drink the blood of an intoxicated person.

But it was nice to go out with someone and not have to think about how one day she would have to leave them.

“Hey,” she called out, bringing his attention to her.

Sakura stood on her toes and pressed a kiss against his cheek. His skin was cold, just like hers.

She hoped one day she wouldn’t have to leave him.


Sakura was glad her back was to him. Her sob was disguised as a whine for release as Sasuke gripped her waist roughly and thrust into her from behind.

It had been so long since anyone touched her in such a way.

It had been so long since anyone called out her name the way he did.

“Sakura…”

His moan was muffled into the back of her neck.

Sakura was so sure that one day she would forget her own name. When Ino was dead and no one knew her from when she was Sakura she was sure she was going to forget her own name.

But with Sasuke she was Sakura. In his bed with their bodies pressed together, she was Sakura.

And she wasn’t ever going to forget the way he panted her name into her ear and branded it on her skin with his mouth.


She loved him.

It was terrifying but she did, she loved him.

Sakura loved him but there was no way to know if he loved her back. Because sometimes she wondered to herself about her own feelings.

Did she love him or did she love the way she was no longer lonely when she was with him?


Sasuke shifted under her fingers. His brows furrowed and he looked at her quizzically as she traced her finger down his nose and over his cupid’s bow. She pulled gently down on his lower lip and then continued to trace down his chin and then stopped when her finger reached his chest, right over where his heart should have been beating but wasn’t.

“If we never died I wouldn’t have met you,” Sakura murmured. “I wonder what your family would have thought of me. If we were alive at the same time that is.”

“Too American,” Sasuke teased her. “We were immigrants. You were born here.”

“We could have met still if we never turned,” Sakura curled up closer to his body. “You would have been old though.”

“I’m not a cradle robber.”

“No, just a grave robber, huh?” Sakura giggled at her own joke. She sighed and wrapped her arm around his waist.

It was so easy to get comfortable like this. It was so easy to get close, to get hurt.

Sakura had picked the area she did because it was peaceful, drama free.

She just had to go and find some anyway.


“Next time I relocate I’m going to use my real name,” Sasuke muttered, drawing on her back with his finger. His finger went in a circle and then down in a line underneath it over and over again. “Uchiha. It’s been a while since I used it.”

“That sounds nice,” Sakura replied. The corners of her eyes began to blur, tears lining her lashes.

He was leaving. She shouldn’t have allowed herself to get comfortable.

Sakura couldn’t help but think about Karin and how she sometimes took payment in the form of companionship. It was probably one too many heartbreaks that had her yearning for more, even if it wasn’t real.

“You should use it too.”

Sakura blinked back her tears and tilted her chin up so she could see his face. He never stopped tracing his finger on her back in the same pattern, round in a circle and then a line underneath.

“You could be Uchiha if you want.”

“And could I go with you?” Sakura whispered, scared to voice the question even though Sasuke would be able to hear it perfectly no matter the volume.

“That would be the only condition if you want to use my name.”

“Couldn’t you just ask me like a normal person?” Sakura rolled her eyes but her lips turned up in a smile. “Or you could have asked me to make you miso soup everyday, you know, like the old man that you are.”

“That is going to get old one day.”

“Oh, like you?”

“You’re not exactly young yourself.”

“How dare you?” Sakura feigned insult at his words before bursting into a fit of giggles. “I have a condition then too.”

Sasuke frowned, looking unsure.

“What is it?”

“Always call me by my name. My real name.”