Summary: Sasuke searches every world, trying to find one where they're happy.
"Is there a world where we get to be happy? And whole?"
"Does it give you comfort to think so?"
He's visited them in his travels. She's happy in many more worlds than she's not. She has a singular propensity toward positivity, matched and surpassed only by Naruto.
Yet there aren't a lot of worlds where they're happy together.
Sasuke is searching for something other than redemption. He's looking for a blueprint of a world worth living in. He thinks that if he can find it, he can make it so.
At first, it's not that he's actively seeking his own happiness. It's just that there are a lot of worlds where his is correlated with theirs. Or theirs with his.
He finds many worlds where his family is alive. These are of no use to him, he can't change the past. He can't bring them back. He stays anyway. He isn't happy in all of them. Tragedy is not part and parcel the reason for him being the way he is. He gets in his own way a lot, in any world.
In a way, it's not shocking that Sasuke cannot find a world where he doesn't know them. Where he never loved them.
Maybe it really is fate. Maybe their promises of lifelong devotion and dedication meant that they could see what he never could. They were meant to be in each other's lives. If there's conclusive proof to be found of any one thing in the universe, it is this.
He misses them, but he isn't ready to be a part of that again. He still doesn't feel like he deserves it. He's still convinced that they would be happier without him.
So he searches.
Naruto would be happy in any place, in any life, under any circumstances. In each new universe, the boy finds love with new people, finds purpose in different things. His goals are changeable with the universe. Only his heart is true.
Sakura's beginnings are these:
Obscure parents, living obscure lives. Civilians who can give her no building blocks.
Genin who give her everything, who make her what she is.
The Hokage and his wife, dying at the Kyuubi's hand. She grows alone. She waters herself.
(There is one world where her parents are green chunin, on patrol the night that Itachi fled. Here they grow in intertwined tragedy and strangle each other.)
Sakura's lives are these:
She quits and becomes a civilian. She writes philosophical texts- seminal works on morality, empathy and the human condition. She keeps a garden where everything in it is beautiful and none of it, a cure. Sometimes she marries, sometimes she doesn't. She's always happy and fulfilled. Thursday nights she has a standing date with her old team, from another life. Sakura sometimes looks at them as if she pities them; as if she's privy to secrets of the universe that they can't even fathom. They love her, but they do not understand her.
Sakura becomes a chunin, a genjutsu specialist.
Sakura becomes ruthless. In the wake of abandonment, she willingly sinks beneath the surface. She locks herself away. Every moment is spent in preparation. Her body is a blade, her eyes cut deep. Anyone she or her village sets her eyes on has little time left.
Sakura as an axe wielding berserker.
Sakura as a non-combatant healer.
Sakura the missing-nin.
Sakura the woman who punched out the moon.
Sakura's ends are these:
Death too young and too foolish.
Death of a woman no less capable than the one he knows, in defense of others. Of him. Of Naruto. Of strangers. Death caused by the mistake of a friend.
Retiring into obscurity, unfulfilled and unhappy. Alone and abandoned. Weak. He hates to see her this way; unmade by mistakes, unrecognizable.
Sakura living her many lives, until she isn't.
He likes to live in places he never left, but he doesn't allow himself to stay long.
It's all wishful thinking, useless for his purposes. But the thing is that Sasuke is more man than automaton. More flesh and fire than he'd have anyone believe.
And they're all so happy there.
He's homesick and cold, but not in a physical sense.
He walks through a familiar village and someone calls his name.
Naruto comes striding down the road, decked out in kage's robes and carrying a little girl under his arm, like a football.
The blonde bounds over to him and smacks him on the back in greeting. "Thought you weren't due back for a while."
"Papa!" The little girl exclaims, which shifts Sasuke's focus to her.
He knows immediately who she is.
The toddler struggles in Naruto's grasp and lunges for Sasuke, heedless and fearless, sure she will be caught.
"Whoop-!" Naruto fumbles, "Sarada, come on!"
Sasuke deftly catches the squirming girl, one handed. He holds her against his chest and stares.
"Lean down!" the bossy little thing orders, just in case he needs conclusive proof of who her mother is.
He complies and she plants a wet baby kiss on his cheek.
Sasuke has no idea what to do, but his throat feels tight. He can't speak.
"Oh shit," Naruto groans, "Oh, I've fucked up. Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?"
"Didn't realize you were the wrong Sasuke. Popping in for a visit?" Sasuke nods. "So like, are you in a nutbag timeline-"
"Language." Sasuke and Sarada say at the same time, then glance at each other. Sasuke, in amazement. Sarada, in childish mimicry.
"Or a 'Good Guy' one?" Naruto finishes lamely.
"Excuse me, did you hand my daughter over without thinking about that?"
Naruto's sheepish smile drops into a grimace. "Guess that answers that question. Damn bastard."
"Language!" The Uchihas shout together.
Sakura's at the hospital until dinner, so Naruto leads him home.
Sasuke refuses to let go of Sarada and luckily, the little girl feels the same. She doesn't seem to understand that he's not actually her Papa, but he doesn't mind.
"How often do other mes come through?"
Naruto shrugs, "As far as I know? Once a year? Last year we got a real nasty one. He was Not Fun At All. You, the Here You, was on a mission. Sakura had to take him down. It was…not the greatest Labour Day Weekend ever."
Sasuke grits his teeth, imagining the steel in Sakuras eyes, glinting through the tears. "Where were you?"
"Fuck you, I was watching your kid."
Sakura comes home to find the two men in her life playing on the rug with Sarada.
She announces herself and when Sasuke looks up, they're simultaneously struck by the other.
There are dark circles under her eyes and her hair is a little greasy. She's wearing rumpled scrubs and a white lab coat over them. Her shoulders droop from tiredness and her freckles stand out against the paleness of her skin. He knows what a hard day looks like, because he's seen it a hundred times. Under his breastbone he feels a stab of longing for the woman he left behind.
She's so similar, there aren't more than a few years between the two. She smiles just the same.
Sakura is beautiful, in any world.
This one welcomes him with a smile and joins the circle of adults around their daughter.
"Stay for dinner?" she offers.
The Sasuke of this world comes home midway through the meal. Sakura jumps up in pleased surprise. Sarada, in her highchair, squeals excitedly while looking back and forth between the two Sasukes.
This Sasuke meets his wife under the arch separating the kitchen from the living room. Sakura feels no shyness in front of him or Naruto, so she throws her arms around her husband and kisses him soundly. "I'm missed you," she breathes and it forces all air from Sasuke's lungs.
This Sasuke smiles at his wife and kisses her forehead and holds her close. "I've missed you, too." Not awkward or stilted. True.
He whisks Sarada from her chair and kisses her sweet chubby cheeks. She blinks and grins so wide, her baby teeth show. "Papa!"
Sasuke never could have pictured himself being so open with affection, especially in front of others. But here he is.
Here is a good, quiet life. With his brother, his wife and his daughter. It's a fortunate world. Maybe this is it.
Sarada calls him Papa and he yearns.
Maybe it's time to come home.
nanowrimo word count: 2015
I wanted to give you guys pain but instead here's some fluff? You're welcome? Sasuke got a little lost on the road of life, as did I.
Feedback = yay