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Sasuke comes home on an early spring morning that smells like budding leaves and freshly tilled training grounds. Konoha is uncharacteristically silent as he takes his first few faltering steps back into the home he’d spent so long resenting, almost as if the bustling village had decided to turn a blind eye to the tentative reunion taking place just beneath its weathered arches. Sakura looks the same as she had last time Sasuke had seen her; albeit less war worn, and perhaps softer around the edges of her eyes (still verdantly green, like the Nara forest after a summer storm). The last Uchiha doesn’t know when the center of his universe had shifted from Amaterasu’s black flames to spring winds with the promise of warm summers, but when Sakura reaches for his lone hand, the dark man doesn’t resist.  

Summer in Konoha smells exactly as he had remembered it to, all waxy leaves and sandstone baking in the sun. Sasuke wakes each morning to sun spilling over worn upholstery and the smell of Sakura hanging in his nose; a pleasant respite from the ozone and cinders he’d become so accustomed to. Her home, he thinks, would smell like summer any time of the year, a sanctuary tucked deep into the residential zone. She’d welcomed him into the little apartment the same spring morning he’d first bowed his head beneath the monolithic gates of their native village, coffin still too heavy on his back to even contemplate returning to the cemetery he’d once called home. Now, he lays with his head on the arm of her secondhand couch and imagines a slightly bigger apartment that smells like summer and senbei and steeping tea (he’ll make it a reality in time, once his feet are on the ground and Sakura has welcomed him off of the couch and into her bed).

The rest of summer passes in a haze of smoky nights lit only by strung up festival lanterns and a kind of sweet smell Sasuke has come to associate with the night blooming flowers that crawl up the old brick walls outside the Uchiha compound. It feels less like a burial ground now, his childhood home, though not so much so that he yet dares to set foot within it. Sakura folds her fingers into his every time they pass it, and Sasuke can’t help but surreptitiously eye the Uchiwa that dot the exterior fencing, wonders if they’ll look so proud sewn into red fabric (he knows the answer to that question in the same way that he knows the signs to form katon ). Days are warm, passing with gentle fingers against his scalp, mornings spent with his nose tucked into the safety of her throat and of slowly slowly healing. Sakura coaxes him back into the land of the living with all the patience of an old growth forest, hands steady and breath sweet when she whispers his name each evening.

Sasuke teaches Sakura his clan’s flagship jutsu one misty autumn morning on the very same dock his father had taught him. Olfactory memory presses down on his shoulders as he watches pale fingers go through hand signs as old as the village itself, old and new mixing together and threatening to send him to his knees. It all smells the same: the water that laps at the dock beneath them, rot from the piles of golden leaves that eddy across the path leading up to the little lake, the bite of ozone that precedes Sakura’s fledgling katon as it tears out across the glassy surface (and yet there is so much new there too: the delicate floral scent of Sakura’s skin, the matcha powder that clings to his fingertips from breakfast, traces of their little home hanging high and bright in his nose). Condensation clings to the ends of Sakura’s eyelashes when she turns to face him, eyes bright in the watery autumn sun, and even though there’s no mistaking the graveyard at his back, Sasuke cannot help the smile that curls his lips at her obvious pride. When he closes his eyes that night, he sees billowing katons and pink hair kissing the tops of embroidered Uchiwa.

Nightmares are no stranger to Sasuke. They mark the passage of time more reliably than the moon and its steady wane, waking him each night with his heart in his throat and the screams of a wide eyed boy dying on his breath. They’re merciless, have been since the massacre, relenting in their onslaught only when he treads too close to the line that dances between this world and the next. Unsurprisingly, as autumn bleeds into winter, and he relaxes more and more into the comfortable rhythm of life beside Sakura he dreams of wind and Sharingan and the feeling of wood grain slick with blood beneath bare feet. Sasuke wakes to neatly trimmed hair tickling his nose and the steady weight of Sakura pressed against his chest.

“Sasuke-kun.” He knows his tomoe are spinning, and notes with no amount of bewildered pride the way Sakura doesn’t seem to care at all, hands warm despite the winter cold where they splay just beneath his collarbone. His ex-teammate exhales ( a spring breeze, even so deep into the colder months ), breath playing lazily against his cheeks, and Sasuke feels the terror begin to drain from his pericardial cavity with each second he spends memorizing the slope of her shoulders.

He brews coffee in the mornings and sits beside Sakura as she sorts through medical files, all knit brow and pursed lips beside the frosted window pane. Their little kitchen is sun soaked and quiet, a balm on the trampled ends of Sasuke’s nerves (he watches how the sun lights her hair up, and tries to swallow past the lump in his throat at the thought of Uchiha’s with pink hair and the power to crush mountains in their fingertips). It is winter in earnest now, and Sakura’s hair has started to grow long again, the ends just now coming to kiss the skin that stretches between her collarbones and the tops of small breasts. Sasuke tucks it behind her ears and marvels at the fact that she lets him, even as he stands in a kitchen that is undeniably theirs .

Sasuke marvels at Sakura a lot, honestly. At the strength she packs, thinly veiled by lean arms and soft skin. At the dip of her waist where their sheets pool in the morning, skin warm (and on the best mornings, still flushed from the night before). At the fact that even with all of the blood beneath his fingernails, she still chose him. She’s one of the most constant things in his life; besides the sun and the burn of wind against his eyes, wound tight between his ribs like katon or maybe even his chakra network itself.

Winter ends with a sigh and a smattering of cool rain, what little snow that had accumulated in the shadowy corners of Konoha melting away as Sasuke nears a full year back in his home. On the one year anniversary of his return to Konoha, Sakura kisses the skin beneath his Rinnegan just like any other morning as she leaves for work, scrolls under one arm and neatly packed lunch under the other (a product of Sasuke’s evening). She’s radiant in the almost-summer light, freckles blooming across the tops of her shoulders and eyes bright when she casts one last warm glance his way before stepping out of their neatly manicured lawn. Sasuke watches her go, fingers still bright with the smell of matcha brought up to trace where her lips had just been, and wonders how long it will be before he gets to watch his family’s crest retreating on her back.

The answer, as it turns out, is two more months. And when those two months are up, climaxing with a crescendo of golden sun and the whisper of a thousand waxy leaves dancing throughout Konoha’s rich forests, Sasuke marries Sakura under an awning of paper fans and swaying lanterns. They are surrounded by friends, love, and a fledgling sense of peace that curls tight against the hyaline cartilage that makes up his trachea; Sasuke inhales slowly and studies the intricate styling of Sakura’s hair to center himself. The future is uncertain as it ever is, but the air smells like summer sun and his wife’s perfume (his heart rate picks up at the title, warm and bright like morning sun), and for maybe the first time in his life, Sasuke looks forward to it.