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the luxury of a little time

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Sakura smells something good when she walks in the door, and wonders if her mother brought her soup. She’s spent the morning at Ino’s, drinking tea and picking up lavender for a medicine she’s working on. It was wonderful to allow herself the luxury of a little time just for conversation. The new mental health wing of the hospital is just beginning to take shape on paper, and Ino has a multitude of good ideas. It had been a good conversation. Sakura hadn’t wanted to leave.

 

She walks into the kitchen, sets down her packages on the table, and is surprised to see that someone is home.

 

“Mama!” Sarada says, and this is concerning, because Sakura was certain that she’d left her four-year-old daughter at Hinata’s house this morning. Yet here she is, happily making a mess of the kitchen table with a lump of clay and Sakura’s best rolling pin. Too suspicious. Sakura turns around to see her husband standing behind her.

 

“Sasuke,” she says, “You’re back!” She reaches out to imprison him in a vise-like hug. He does not hug her back, but neither does he fight her embrace. “Mm, what’s cooking?” she asks, seeing a pot on the stove.

 

“Just stew,” he replies.

 

“I thought you were going to be at least another month,” she says, figuring she’d better release him before he suffocates.

 

“We had a slight change of plans,” he says gruffly.

 

“Oh, did you?” Her tone is completely innocent. “How’s Naruto doing?”

 

He looks away. “How should I know?” he grumbles.

 

“Funny,” Sakura says, “I could have sworn you’d just gotten back from a week-long mission with him.”

 

“It was stealth work. We didn’t exactly have time to sit around and talk.”

 

Sakura won’t let herself be deterred.  “So you didn’t stay for a nice little chat when you picked up Sarada? I know Naruto wouldn’t let you out of socializing that easily.”

 

Sasuke flushes red. Got him , Sakura thinks viciously. “He’s as annoying as ever,” Sasuke finally says.

 

Oh really ?” Her tone is no longer quite so innocent. “I thought I was annoying.”

 

“You are.”

 

Sakura walks over to the kitchen table and makes her daughter yet another victim of her infamous hugs. “Sarada, tell your papa that he should be nice.” Not that Uchiha Sasuke getting flustered over a little teasing is anything worth worrying over. If anything, it’s a sign of just how tender he’s become.

 

“Papa is nice!” Sarada says. “He bought dango for me and Himawari!”

 

“Oh?” Sakura turns to Sasuke. “I thought you didn’t like sweets.”

 

“I didn’t have any.”

 

“But I suppose Naruto did?” This is too easy, really.

 

“...”

 

Sasuke is tomato-red by now. Mission accomplished.

 

“You know,” she starts, a little more seriously, “You should talk to him.”

 

“I did talk to him. We talked.”

 

“That’s not what I meant.”

 

It’s been an interesting few years for Sakura, hardly like the marriage she pictured as a little girl. For all that Sakura dreamed of Sasuke loving her one day, it was still a shocker when he proposed. To be honest, by that time she’d already moved on from Sasuke to Ino, from Ino to Naruto, from Naruto to Hinata, from Hinata to Ino again. Yet somehow it happened that she and Sasuke ended up married, ended up with a precious baby girl.

 

She’d always wanted children, and Sasuke needed to have a child if the Uchiha line was to continue. It had been...awkward, especially in the first few months of sorting out what they meant to each other and what it would mean for them to be married. Eventually, things fell into place and they’d settled into an easy sort of friendship they’d never had before.

 

Friendship has its perks. Eating together, sharing chores, and late night conversations. Learning closely held secrets and trying to tease them out into the open.

 

“Come on, Sasuke, when are you going to tell him? That you like him ?”

 

Sasuke sighs.

 

“I don’t...I don’t know if I even want to tell him. I’m happy with how things are now. I don’t want to mess things up.”

 

“Do you really think he’d react badly?”

 

“No--yes--I don’t know! Just I know things would be different. And I couldn’t take it back.”

 

Sarada climbs up into Sasuke’s lap, stands on his knees and wraps her arms tightly around his neck. He strains a little bit at her very strong grip but Sakura can see the faint hints of a smile lighting up his face. Sakura finds herself smiling too. It’s a good feeling, warm and soft and golden. This is their family, and it’s good.

 

“Looks like somebody’s getting strong,” Sakura says.

 

“Like her mother,” Sasuke replies, gasping for air.

 

Sakura had always thought she’d be miserable if she couldn’t marry for love. That was one reason she’d denied her feelings for Ino so many years. Now, she knows that love comes in many forms, and the love she has for Sasuke is nothing like the obsession she had as a girl, but she’s happier than she could imagine. They’re both happy, even if they don’t have everything they want. This is enough. Waiting and hoping and loving is enough.