A/N- I am terrible, but I am still refusing SasuSaku feels. So this happened. It's the reverse soulmates!au prompt from tumblr, only a little different.
Sakura is five when the words appear. They are black and biting against her skin, red and angry and irritated. She wakes up with a fright- the pain is the first of it's kind and startling. The child rushes to the bathroom, a rush of pale pink hair and tiny limbs stumbling passed her parents room.
She scrubs at the ink until her arm is raw and ragged. Her mother sighs in understanding, with worry lines etched into her forehead, as Sakura climbs onto her lap later that morning. Mebuki wraps a cool towel around her daughter's forearm, gently rubbing aloe into the burns and washcloth abrasions.
She tells her daughter a story, where some little boys and lots of little girls wake up one day with words clawing to the surface. About how Fate and Destiny write these words so that one day, she would know who her beloved is. Sakura stares wide eyed at her mother, and nods as if she understands.
Mebuki knows otherwise, but lets the story end, and offers her daughter some apple slices. No one would understand, she supposed, if the words etched in their skin were "It ends with this.", followed with "For once, let me tell you one small truth. It's okay if you never forgive me, but no matter what you become, I will always love you." The words were tiny, almost too tiny for Mebuki to read, but she had little doubt in her mind that as her daughter grew, so would the words.
That night, she puts Sakura to bed and climbed into her own. Mebuki tossed and turned, worried about the life chosen for her daughter. She clings to her husband, with the words I love you sketched into her own wrist. They don't speak. To be a ninja is dangerous, and they both know this.
Sakura attends school the next day, with her wrist bandaged. The other girls make fun of her. Ino tucks flowers between the edges of the bandages. Ferns, she says, mean a secret bond. Sakura keeps the ferns until they wilts, and begs her mother to dry them. They stay on her nightstand for years.
When Sakura graduates the academy, she has a path in mind. She wants... she wants Sasuke, but not just as a friend. She decides that he makes her feel funny, without so much as looking in her direction. It's a warm, fluttery kind of feeling. She wants to be strong, like him, she wants him to acknowledge her and care about her the way she does for him. Ino-pig calls it a crush, and doesn't treat her nice after that. Jealousy is hot, stinging against Sakura's cheeks. Envy is Ino's temper when Sakura gets assigned to the same team as Sasuke. Sakura believes it to be a sign, a blessing maybe.
It isn't a blessing. Sakura is the slowest, the weakest of her team. It doesn't matter how high her marks were in the Academy, she was sorely behind in everything physical- and her boys made that gap obvious. But Sakura tries- she tries to get better. Kakashi congratulates her on her exceptional chakra control- abnormal for her age, even. It's the first time she sees her teammates act as if they're friends- they're jealous, she realizes, when they both pass out in the forest just to be called second best.
She decides on a new purpose early, to be strong enough to protect her boys, her love ones. Somewhere along the line, Naruto and Sasuke had become hers- her responsibility, her teammates, her friends. It was a strange feeling, to have friends that are more than just a girl who won't speak to her half the time, pressing flowers into wounds to make her feel better.
They become so important to her that it feels like she's breaking, shattering even, when they can't stand each other anymore. Vengeance runs through Sasuke's veins like a poison, killing everything around him that tries to grow. He doesn't care about her, or his team, or anything. The knowledge of his curse mark is hot and heavy against her, and she claws up the courage- forcefully- to ask Kakashi how well he knows seals. Her sensei doesn't understand, but she pushes him in Sasuke's direction and hopes for the best.
Things get better, but only for a moment. Naruto and Sasuke can't be together anymore. They get special training- separately, and leave Sakura forgotten, in the dust again. She shows up to the training grounds every day after, working her basics until they're second nature. Solid. They're still not enough, she feels, but someday, maybe she might be good enough for them.
She confesses to Sasuke, right before he leaves. Begs him, even, to take her with him. He thanks her, and leaves her on a park bench. Sakura wakes up stiff, sore, and heartbroken. She gets plenty of concerned looks and even pity as she stumbles to the Hokage's office. It breaks her heart more to tell the legendary Sannin that he's gone, abandoned the village.
They weren't good enough for him. Tsunade issues the decree later that day, telling everyone that Sasuke is a missing ninja. She watches Naruto's heart break in the same but different way when he hears the news. Kakashi drags them to Ichiraku's forcefully, but already it's different.
After Sasuke has gone, it's only Naruto and her. There's no more missions that is just Team 7 anymore. He gets pulled, for rescue missions and others. She doesn't. They still meet up once a week to train, even though she isn't worth Naruto's time. One day, her arm bands aren't low enough. Naruto sees her words- dark and depressing against reddened skin. Sakura makes him promise not to say anything- not to anyone. It was her secret, and not his to tell. Naruto frowns, but he agrees.
They stop having weekly spar matches when he leaves with a Sannin, Jiraiya. He makes sure to say goodbye, and that he was coming back. She waved, this time without tears.
Sakura buys higher gloves. She becomes an apprentice to a Sannin that strikes fear into the hearts of enemies, and heals all the same. Sakura has a path in mind, a new one that she won't vear from, she wants to become great. Not so that Sasuke will notice her, or Naruto won't feel like it was his job to protect her- but so that she can kill him her damned self, and fix them both all the same. She wanted to be a force to be reckoned with, while her boys already were.
She learns from the best, working at every concept until she perfects it. Tsunade isn't the kindest sensei, but harsh in her teaching. Sakura improves slowly at first, and then by leaps and bounds. She gets better. When Naruto comes back, she can smash mountains. She can- and shows him- that she can break people and mend them all the same.
She set out to be a force to be reckoned with, and Naruto has to admit that she had succeeded. Naruto doesn't think she's ever smiled so wide.
The war happens, and Sakura is on the front lines. As a field medic, she lays the footwork of how to support your team, and heal them all the same. In between stretches on the frontlines, she stays busy. There is no shortage of wounded between the five nations, and she's determined to heal them- to save them all. She loses a lot of people. Some die before they ever get to her table, and others die on it. Sakura remembers them all- their names, their faces. She spends days after writing each report by lamp light, in between tiny naps.
She is a medic. She should have been able to save them- all of them. Sakura blames herself, and passes out from chakra exhaustion more times than either Tsunade or Shizune can count. They keep trying, fueled by soldier pills and coffee.
Her words throb, and she pushes on. Somehow, she won't become something that needs to be apologized for. She doesn't believe in Destiny and Fate, not with the blood caked on her hands and under her nails. No matter how much she scrubs, the blood and the words stay. She turns that frustration to saving people, and it helps.
In the end, they save more than they lose, and Sakura thinks that just maybe, that makes it a little easier. Her heart remains heavy, but she learns to smile again.
After the war, Naruto brings Sasuke back. Sakura doesn't know how to feel, but she patches them both up all the same, taking care to numb the nerve endings where there should be arms, elbows, wrists, hands. She is meticulous, professional. They don't feel a thing, so gone from chakra exhaustion that she's surprised they're still conscious.
Sasuke does not take his eyes off of her. She doesn't look at him, and they do not speak. She takes care to heal everything, down to the tiniest scratches. They were her boys, and now, they were back together. It could be Team Seven again, only this time, her family was bigger. Yamato, Sai, they were her family now, too. They- with dozens of people through all the nations, had become important to her, they had earned her respect.
She was respected, and well known. Tsunade gifts her with a new bingo book, one with her on a page. Sakura grins.
Sasuke isn't much for words after that, and she does not press him. They start over, on more stable ground than it all begin. Perhaps. Perhaps something could be made of it this time. For now, they would meet every Tuesday for small sparring sessions, and every Thursday night at Ichiraku's, the three of them downing sake and ramen.
She took regular shifts at the hospital, easing the burden off Tsunade's shoulders so her sensei could retire. She still trained with Lee every Sunday morning, and pretended Sasuke wasn't hiding in a tree a stone's throw away.
Life goes on.
It takes a lot of time before Sasuke begins to open up, but Ino suggests it's a lot like late blooming flowers. Sakura believes her,and gives him time. She doesn't , Sasuke starts to tell her things.
They are in the Uchiha's backyard, pulling weeds from forgotten flower beds when he starts to speak about how his mother used to sit on the back porch in the evenings, slicing fruit for him and his brother while his father was buried in clan matters. How once the midsummer's sun had almost set, she would sit back and watch as Itachi would teach him to stop and observe fireflies- turning everything into a lesson. His mother had the prettiest, saddest smile, he said. Like she knew what was going to happen before it did, and how the endgame would play out.
He was walking her from the hospital to the Academy, shouldering her bag while she carried more books than she could see over. He started again, his voice low and his easy pace keeping up with her, on how Itachi used to meet him outside the Academy when he would get home from missions, because his father never did. There was always dango involved, even though Itachi knew he hated sweets. He smiled then, a small one Sakura almost missed, and insisted that he would always eat one anyway, and convince his brother to eat the rest. Itachi always had a sweet tooth, he explained, and Itachi would always convince their mother to make rice balls with tomatoes inside after. When she would, Itachi would save two extra for Sasuke, always.
After a harsh storm left her safe inside the Uchiha compound and unable to go home dry, Sasuke had told her another story over tea- heaping extra sugar into her cup while leaving his untouched. He spoke of how he had killed his brother in a fit of rage, and Itachi had let him. He was sure that Itachi was far stronger than he let one, and how he had said it all ends with this, and Sasuke didn't understand it then.
Sakura, very quietly, sets up a small alter for Itachi in Sasuke's living room, right next to the one for his parents. The incense always stay lit, and she brings fresh flowers every time she visits. Somehow, she thinks, it eases Sasuke's guilt a little bit.
Sasuke seems to sleep better, and starts to smile every so often. She moves into the Uchiha compound, and cleans each home until it doesn't seem so empty anymore. She plants flowers around the memorial- hyacinths, among others.
They get married shortly before Sasuke's first real extended mission. He's proven his loyalty to the village, Naruto declares, and he can come and go as he pleases. He leaves in the autumn, with promises of returning as soon as he could.
Her heart aches, the first couple of nights alone. The house feels empty, and Sakura begins to understand just that much better, the effects it had on her now-husband. She does her best to keep busy, taking more and more shifts at the hospital until her own apprentices start meeting her by the door. They take turns escorting her out of the hospital and to tiny cafes with cases upon cases. She takes the time to teach, both advanced techniques to her apprentices, and basic field medic classes. There were more entries before, and she gave them the same soft smile.
She gives birth to a baby girl while he's away. It's Hinata and Naruto and Ino by her bedside during the process, and Kakashi and Sai warming chairs just outside. The baby, a little girl, is healthy. She is all her father's curls and her smiles. Sarada, Sakura decides heavily. That will be her name. Sasuke returns, but only for a short time. Naruto had given him leave, he says, he needs this.
She understands, Sakura tells him. His nightmares are rooted in what he had done wrong, and she knew he needed this more than he could verbalize it. She makes him promise not to leave until the afternoon. To spend time with his daughter, she tells him, to have happy memories.
He stays for the week, trying his best to help with Sarada. Sasuke does not know the first thing about babies, but Sakura is patient. She shows him how to hold his daughter while supporting her neck, how to feel her, and how to change a diaper. He's so focused on their child that Sakura felt light all over again. These were her important people, and she would keep them safe.
They sat in the sun one afternoon, only hours before he would leave, when Sasuke starts to talk about his brother again. Sakura listens, peeling pears with a deft hand. He tells her about the way he was growing up, and how Itachi has always cared about him. They say nothing about the thickening emotion grating his voice. Sakura presses a kiss to his cheek, a silent urge to keep going.
Sasuke talks about how it was, when Itachi left him the second time. It hadn't been by his own hand, he promises. His brother had said something he hadn't ever expected. Sasuke remembered it all, he'd even wrote it down inside an old bingo book.
Sakura couldn't help it, she asked what it was. She didn't look up, but instead continued to peel an apple. Sasuke leaned away from her, reaching back into his pouch to grab the book. It was faded, and definitely outdated, page ends dog eared and torn. He flipped it to Itachi's page, where it still said that he was alive. Scribbled in uneven writing, he reads it aloud to her.
"I failed. I won't put myself above you and tell you this and that, it's too late. So this time for once, let me tell you one small truth. It's all right if you never forgive me, but no matter what you become, I will always love you."
The knife slips, and Sakura breathes in sharply, clutching her wrist. She apologizes to him, for getting blood all over the fruit, and goes in search of a towel. She doesn't look at him. He doesn't push it.
When she comes back, she doesn't have the usual bandage on. Her hand glows green, mending flesh in a way he always loved to watch. She cleaned, quietly, bits of black interrupting the flow of her cream colored wrists. He catches it, and looks- convinced that maybe a tiny kitchen knife had caused more damage than it should have.
He doesn't know what to say.
Sarada cries from down the hall. It jolts him from his thoughts, and he lets go. Sakura's face is unreadable as she rushes off to feed the child.
Sasuke isn't there when she comes back. She didn't expect him to stay for so long, really. She smiles a bit when she realizes he cleared the table first, and shut the gate behind him.
She receives a hawk later, a tiny animal pecking at the kitchen window. The tiny note tied to its ankle makes her smile and feel warm inside, despite the chill at that time of night.
"I still love you, if only by chance."
Sakura can live with that, she decides, rocking Sarada ever so slightly. The child stretches, and falls into an easy slumber. Maybe, she hopes, her daughter will have someone as kind and loving as her father.