prompt: ssm17d24–after winter comes spring
notes: i wanted to contribute at least once for ssm17, ofc
they led separate lives, she as a pseudo head for the hospital, he as an invisible nomad who occasionally worked for the hokage, but always for himself. yet they were connected by a single band on the third finger of their left hand that, for her, she forgot constantly, that was not enough, and for him, a heavy weight that he carried. sometimes, he came back, they spent days together, always with the reality that he would leave soon. she didn’t dwell too much on the feeling, rather, hadn’t she settled in a life of constant waiting, solidified since she was twelve, when he had left for the first time and set the tone for the rest of their lives.
she settled into a quiet understanding, she did not let her moods change when he arrived, rather she worked hard to maintain her warmth all year. she knew if she started to hope, to expect, she would inevitably be disappointed, that it would cause turbulent changes in mood, in standards of living.
“you smile less often, now,” he had said once, when they lay side by side, fingers touching. he sounded as one did when they could identify the problem clearly, but could not, after much searching, solve it.
ironically, she smiled, and she touched his face. she never harbored any ill feelings towards him for leaving, she never blamed her state on him, she happily took in everything he gave her.
“i’m okay,” she said, even though he did not ask, because he knew.
he sighed, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her face to his chest. she didn’t cry, she inhaled, and felt comforted by his unchanged scent from when she was young.
they had gone on like that for months, for almost a year, like an old couple who had lived together for fifty years, comforted by their past, yet worn by their unwavering bond. in the heat of the summer, she discovered her pregnancy, and her mood plummeted.
sasuke was ecstatic, he put a hand on her stomach, he rubbed it, he spoke to it even in its embryonic stages. he made porridge for her wary appetite, he closely followed her instructions on tonics, but he did not change his ways, he departed as he usually did, and sakura was so used to not saying anything that she did not, even when her stomach felt heavy, even when she felt like throwing up.
sakura’s pregnancy was not pleasant, she was riddled with pains, she was constantly angry, her temper spilling over into friendly gatherings, work meetings and she started to constantly quarrel with sasuke. when are you coming back, she would say as he left even though she never asked; i don’t know, he would reply, and it was true, he came back at any time. he left less often during her pregnancy, but she didn’t notice.
in her seventh month it got worse, she cried often, she held her growing stomach and nobody left her alone. hinata, who was also pregnant, wobbled around her house, and they usually sat together, reading, in the garden. sometimes they would talk, but sakura was content without words. ino came sometimes, newly pregnant, bright and shining, without a bump in her stomach. compared to her, sakura felt dull, fat, and it depressed her.
he came back one early evening, and was especially affectionate with her; he made dinner, he bathed her, he rubbed her feet. finally, he took her to bed, where he seduced her and made love to her. she slept soundly for once, she was quiet, and he laid awake, watching the curious twitch of her stomach, occasionally running a hand over it, always sending his thoughts to the baby inside.
“i’ll be staying,” he said to her in the morning, as she slowly woke, as she turned to him without focus, “in konoha.”
she did not feel a weight off her shoulders, rather she felt even heavier, because she understood sasuke’s need to be outside the village, to protect it without being in it. but, she didn’t say anything, she didn’t want to leave him, she whispered thank you, and she fell asleep again.
sarada was born in march, just like her, yet she looked just like him. delivery was difficult, but the sounds of her first cries made sakura giddy, in a way she hadn’t felt throughout her pregnancy, and sasuke handed her the baby. she looked at him, he looked at her, they understood that they were husband and wife, that they were married. sakura’s love reignited, she remembered the academy days of chasing a sullen boy, she couldn’t believe he stood next to her as she gave birth to their child. it seems he understood the same; in an unlikely gesture he bent his head and gave her a kiss, while the nurses watched, while the baby squealed, and he pulled back, kissed her again.
“sarada uchiha,” he whispered, and it sounded like sakura uchiha, as if he was reminding himself of their family, of their unity.
inevitably he left, but as he walked through the door to their shared house, his home, she was comforted by baby sarada’s cries. he kissed her once, twice, and then the baby, once twice, and then he waved goodbye. she looked down at baby sarada, who was entertained by her bright smile. and laughed along with her.