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Part VII


"Mama?"

"In here, baby!"

Sakura hears her daughter groaning at the nickname and rolls her eyes; she knows that secretly the little girl in Sarada loves it when she says it. Though since the pre-teen met her father, the girl is acting more mature and avoiding Sakura's cuddling.

The loud stomps that approach her in a crescendo tell Sakura that either her daughter had a bad day, or she's just being the prepubescent girl she is.

"Look who I found lurking in the shadows of my training grounds, watching me like a creep," she sounds annoyed, but Sakura hears the hopeful tone in her voice.

"Who?" She asks without turning from her dishes, stacking a pile of clean, dry plates methodically.

There's no instant reply though. Sakura hears a noise that sounds pretty much like a "oof", and she's certain her daughter just elbowed their guest with more force than she should. Sakura can't help but smirk; that's her girl.

The visitor lets his presence known with a too familiar tsk, and a second later his chakra is filling the room. And just like that, there's a crashing noise and shreds of glass flying in all directions.

"Really, Mama?"

Sakura turns on her heels, ignoring her mishap in order to gape at her husband; green eyes wide and glimmering with surprise. She didn't expect to see him so soon.

The last couple days were crazy; a lunatic went after her daughter and husband, she was kidnapped by said lunatic after basically saving them. And then, as her family came to her rescue, they discovered the extent of that mad man's action and the atrocities he did. Although everything seems fine and going back to the way they were, there's still a lot to process, especially for Sarada.

"Ah-Anata, welcome home!"

"Aa, I'm home."

"I'll be in my room," Sarada says, moving away from the couple. "Call me if you need help."

The word "help" snapped Sakura out of her daze, bringing her back to the present. It seems that, even after all these years, Uchiha Sasuke still has the same effect on her; heart racing, breath hitching, Sakura's ready to be reduced to a puddle on the floor.

"How was your night? Are you done reporting?" It was early in the morning, a few hours before noon, and since their return to Konoha last night, she hadn't seen her husband.

"Fine," he sighs, bending down to remove his shoes. "The Dobe talked my ears off, but I'm done; no more reports."

"Good. Are you hungry? I can make you something, I just need—" She swirls around and takes in the state of her prior spotless kitchen, now filled with shards and broken glass. "—to clean this mess, apparently."

When Sakura turns back to him, he's smirking, probably aware that he's the one responsible for said mess, knowing exactly why she dropped the dishes. Cocky bastard.

"No, we had ramen. But I do need a bath."

She wrinkles her nose in mock-disgust and he huffs. "Where is it? Our bedroom?"

"Down the hall, last door," she points out the way, watching him as he removes his cloak leaving it by the entrance.

"This is a new house, Sakura."

Yeah, about that… Sakura did kind of destroy their house not so long ago. And it wasn't the first time either, which warranted the disapproval tone of her husband. Sakura is not a woman that cares about money and possessions, but at that moment, she's glad Sasuke's loaded.

"I'm sorry?" She offers, looking up at him with her big green eyes and a pretty pout; she knows the innocent act gets to him every time.

He comes closer, exhaling loudly, and though he looks upset, Sakura knows she isn't the one that put that frown on his handsome face. Sasuke looks extremely tired, and rightfully so; after the emotional rollercoaster they went through, plus the battles and the all-nighter he pulled with their boisterous, blond friend, he should be screaming bloody murder and delivering his resignation letter.

Sakura gives him a watery smile when he stops right in front of her. Their eyes lock in that familiar stare down, and it's like he never left.

His mismatched eyes tell her how much he's missed her, and how much he'd prefer to be here, with her and their little family, than pursuing this never ending mission to keep the world safe. They also tell her how much he loves her.

She blinks first, not able to contain the storm of emotions inside of her. No tears run down her face, but her lashes are thick with them, sticking together as her eyes turn glassy.

His hand reaches up, slowly approaching her, almost hesitant. His fingers trace her cheekbone, thumb brushing the corner of her lips, as a breathy sob escapes her. She closes her eyes, unable to look at him and process this tenderness at the same time.

She feels the brush of his chapped lips just over her seal, and her heart pounds faster when he lingers, pressing lightly.

Once she's brave enough to open her eyes, he's moving, following the path to their bedroom. She keeps watching his retreating form, and a selfish thought comes to her, reminding her how he's always leaving.

Not even a second later Sakura dismisses it and chastises herself for even thinking about it – she knows he doesn't want to, and that this is not in his control.

As she moves again, one step back towards the kitchen, she feels a dizzy spell raking over her body. It starts with a tingle. Then her sight wavers, and she has to lean on the wall for support.

Her breathing hitches considerably when wave after wave of images – or are they memories? – invade her mind.

She sees a green valley and a lake. An injured person in a rocky clearing. And herself, much younger, saving this person – a man with dark clothes.

She remembers that he's heavy and she had to use her strength to carry him. She remembers taking care of him, removing his tattered clothes and bandaging his wounds.

Then, she remembers his face. A loud gasp leaves her already parted lips as recognition hits her. It takes one more minute to decipher if this experience is a déjà vu, a daydream, or if everything actually happened.

Stunned, she's still not sure. Her first thought is to scream, to vent all this confusion and frustration that is consuming her. And so, she does, "UCHIHA SASUKE!"

A door close to her creaks open and Sarada appears in front of her. With concern laced in her voice, she asks, "what's going on?"

"You-your father—"

"Sakura?"

Her husband joins them in the hallway, and still unable to process coherent thoughts, Sakura points an accusatory finger towards him. "YOU!"

She watches as Sasuke and Sarada look at each other and a silent conversation happens. They both frown at the same time and very alike, and Sakura wonders if they are trying to figure out why she's acting like a mad woman.

"You know what I just remembered?" She says a few seconds later using her quiet and impassive voice.

"No?"

"I remembered everything," the last word is hissed through her teeth.

"Mama, I think you need to be more specific."

Taking a deep breath, Sakura balls her hands into tight fists. "You," she starts, eyes narrowed at her husband. "And me. Years ago. Outskirts of Konoha's northern forest. The cabin."

Each piece of information falls into place, and Sakura watches as his features harden, recognition flashing in his eyes. Still, he's silent and Sakura knows why; they are not alone, and this is not a conversation for little ears.

"Huh? Mama?"

"Go to your room, Sarada."

"Am I in trouble?"

"No, your Papa is."

Her daughter turns around to face her father, a disapproving look on her face. She shakes her head and throws one more glance at Sakura before closing the door.

"Sakura I can—"

"You opportunist!" Sakura whispers heatedly. "You took my virginity twice—"

She stops short, minding the closeness of Sarada's room, and also the absurdity of her own words. And then, she recalls something else. "Oh Kami-sama! That's why," she jabs a strength laced finger on his shoulder and he hisses, "I woke up in that mission with no clothes on! And all those… those bruises..."

As she trails off, Sakura sees him observing her as she goes from emotion through emotion; anger, confusion, frustration. And her husband does that with a contagious serenity. His lips part and he exhales slowly, eyes fixated solely on her. His undivided attention seems to soothe her on some level; her chest heaves a few more times as her breathing starts to slow down, mimicking his own.

"Come here," he rasps, fingers waving, expecting her to close the distance between them.

"No!" Sakura replies quickly and she can hear the sheer pettiness in her tone.

"I will help you remember everything. It must be overwhelming seeing two days' worth of memories in seconds."

He's right, it is. And she hates that he's right.

Yeah like you're not curious too, her inner-self retorts.

"Only because this is giving me a headache."

She crosses her arms and reaches the bedroom door, and Sasuke guides her inside, shutting the door closed behind them.

With a touch on her elbow, he turns her around to face him, and Sakura sees black bleeding into crimson as his Sharingan spins, snatching her to a world full of perception and wonder.

When she blinks, they are still standing in front of each other. The only difference from a second ago is that their room is gone, and they are surrounded by an endless emptiness.

Sasuke reaches for her hand, lacing their fingers as he guides her to a painting that is taking form in front of them. They step in together, and as the image clears, Sakura sees herself leaning towards the man in the clearing, the man she rescued all those years ago.

Her husband helps her process – relive – those days that apparently, he has "robbed" from her. When her memories came back, they were muddled and out of place; snippets far apart and missing pieces in between.

Now, Sakura watches everything happening again as a spectator through Sasuke's eyes. It's a combination of his memories and her own, and she feels like she's in a movie, though the quality seems heightened rather excessively.

His hold on her hand tightens and part of the tension in her shoulders eases, because even though she's confused and overwhelmed, he's here with her, and he's not going anywhere until she's ok again – until she knows and understands everything.

She looks up and startles when she sees herself. She's younger and… different. Petite, delicate, beautiful, and nothing like she's ever seen before. Even in mission's clothes, through his eyes that capture much more than anyone else's, Sakura dare to say she's breathtakingly beautiful.

Her petal pink hair shines a myriad of shades as the sun touches it. Her jade-green eyes seem bottomless, gold specs adorn their rims. Her lips have more than the natural matte color she sees every day in the mirror, and her fair skin is smooth like silk. Her curves are accentuated, it seems; more noticeable.

She stops watching to look down at herself, wondering if that's how she really looks – or looked – like.

It's not the first time she's in this world, the world the Uchiha can create from memories, imagination, and everything else the ordinary sight can't see. But it's the first time she sees an image, a projection, of herself.

Sakura is seeing how her husband sees her.

How Sasuke always sees her.

He tugs her hand, and they follow her younger self inside the cabin. Sakura watches every scene attentively; from the medical treatment to the first time Sasuke wakes up and finds her. Her husband makes sure to provide some insight, adding his own thoughts to complete the scene. He's baring himself to her, in a way she hasn't thought possible.

Through the combined memories and his shared thoughts, Sakura sees how Sasuke approaches her younger self, unmistakably thinking it's her, his wife.

The resolute thought that she came to him, saved him when he needed it, and that she's right there, in front of him after years of separation hits her.

And he's not wrong, it is her.

Sakura feels her heart constricting and reaching out to him, the longing palpable in this memory-Sasuke's eyes. The same way as herself, he was love-starved, blind by the emotional reunion.

The things she sees, the scenes that follow, leave her speechless. She's a mess, and not because this happened, but because she spent all these years without being able to relive these moments in her mind. Unable to cherish a beautiful memory.

She thinks that they would have been helpful in moments that she felt lonely. However, she understood why he had to do it; if a hair was out of place, everything could be jeopardized, and they'd risk losing what they already have.

Nonetheless, Sakura is happy she met her husband-to-be in the past; that he's so crazy in love with her that no matter what, when, or which version of herself is in front of him, he wants to be closer to her.

Emotions overload apart, there's also the fact that she's kind of envying herself right now.

This… experienced Sasuke took care of her in more ways than one. Everything is so steamy, sizzling, that she can barely breathe or speak or react right now. She just watches, like a shameless voyeur, and almost feels the ghost feeling of that experience in her feverish skin.

By the time it's over, Sakura feels calmer, less overwhelmed – in a bad way that is.

Sasuke breaks the genjutsu that helped her process the previously locked memories, and by then, the anger is gone, dissipating along with the spell.

"Do you understand now?" His tone is calm and devoted, and it irks her a little that he's so composed, but what do you expect from Uchiha Sasuke?

She nods, feeling her features softening. She understands, and though it's still kind of crazy for her, given the opportunity, Sakura thinks she'd probably take it as well. They barely have opportunities to be in the same vicinity these days, let alone by themselves.

Her husband is too close, observing her intently. She's still thinking a few things through, considering how she's going to make him pay for locking those memories, when he teases, "don't forget that you offered to help."

"But you didn't have to accept it!" She barks back, lips curling into a pout.

"How can I say no to you?"

He says that in a heartbeat, the huskiness of his voice reaches her like an electric shock. Her lips part in astonishment and his eyes follow the movement.

The severity of his words almost knocks her off her feet, and the only thing she can think of is erasing the space between them.

Her eyes narrow fiercely, and she whispers as she goes on her tiptoes, arms looping behind his neck, "you smooth son of—"

Sasuke stops her with his mouth, swallowing her words.

This long-awaited kiss is desperate and hungry, all tongue and teeth. She bites his lip bringing him closer to her, making him follow her lead, and he groans, deep and guttural.

"What are you doing?" He mumbles against her lips as she drags him towards the bathroom. She's still biting him, nipping at his lower lip, hands roaming and pushing his clothes off.

"Woman-handling you."

"I can see that."

"Oh, shut up and kiss me!"

And for a moment, he obeys. He captures her lips again, pushing his tongue into her mouth, immediately pressing her body against the nearest wall as his hand finds purchase on her hip. When a loud moan slips from her, he stops.

"Sarada."

It's becoming explosive, she knows, just how it always does when they are alone together. But Sakura doesn't want to stop; she's too worked up, she needs him now.

"Come on, we have a bath to take."

Before he reminds her again that they aren't alone, she seizes his hand. Expertly, Sakura intertwines their fingers, quickly forming the seal that will soundproof the room and give them some privacy. She feels him smirking against her skin as she nips at his jawline and uses her free hand to push his chest towards the bathroom.

It might seem irrational to an outsider, but for Sakura this strong connection that ties them together is worth the wait – even if she has to wait a lifetime, she'll do it for him.

And if her husband has the chance to find her through time, Sakura will be waiting too.


Bonus scenes


"Does he know?"

Sasuke is laying between her legs, head resting on her stomach, as she brushes his hair, scratching his scalp gently, when she asks. He hums his reply, and though it's not even close to the word, Sakura knows he's wondering who he is.

"You, younger you."

"No."

"Huh," she sniffles.

"It's not like it happened a long time ago and I had the chance to meet him."

"Well, it did for me. Can I do the telling?"

"What?"

"Well, I was just wondering how he – you – would react."

He's silent and she thinks he's considering her proposition, but then he turns his head slightly and bites the skin under her navel, suckling the flesh into his mouth and leaving a tender bruise behind. She whimpers, panting as she looks at his stormy eyes.

"And you expect me to what? Take you sometime in the past as if I had total control over it, and just wait as you tell him?"

"Talking to you, Anata." After a long pause, Sakura adds, "you don't need to be there per se. Just drop me off and wait by... or you can watch."

"You little minx."

"But you love me!"

"Hn."

Yes, he does.


"Anata, are you awake?"

"Now I am."

"Do you remember my twenty-fifth birthday?"

"Somewhat... you wrote a long letter about the lack of festivities."

"Yes, that's the one."

"What about it?'

"Could you… could you loop into, uh, that me sometime?"

His reply comes in the form of a growl as he flips them and finds her lips.


The Red Loop

If anyone had told him that one day, he'd be tied forever to the annoying girl that followed him – relentlessly – through his childhood, he'd laugh in their faces. Nowadays, he knows better.

Though he's not as good with feelings as the majority of the population, he does understand that it was inevitable. He was never able to explain this connection, this invisible force that pulls them together – not until that loop in time.

If he was to put it into words, the most suitable explanation he was able to find is one that many probably already guessed. It has to do with that old tale, the one with the red string and threaded hearts, the same one his mother loved to recite.

It explains why this connection transcends time itself. It explains why, no matter where he goes, he's drawn to her.

It might be a legend, and maybe he's spending too much time with Sakura lately and becoming a little sappy, but he likes to believe that it's true; that they are connected by the red string of fate.


Day 7 - June 7th

A/N: And that's a wrap!

My dear readers, thank you so much for following The Red Loop! I hope that you enjoyed this story as much as myself, and thank you for leaving me your thoughts and kind words every now and then (they always make my day!). :)

I'm sad that this project is complete, I had a lot of fun writing it and exploring Myr's headcanon with her. If you haven't already, please go check her Twitter to see the companion arts for this story. It's at myr_art.

I'm sorry that today's chapter was published later than usual. I tried to keep my schedule and post it a few minutes past midnight PST, but it seems I couldn't finish the last part on time. I think maybe I didn't want to...say good bye? but in the end, I'm glad I waited to share it with you guys. I was able to work more on the scenes and review it with double care.

Anyway, that's it! Let me know what you think ;)

Stay safe!

xoxo