Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto

It's SasuSaku month and here's my story for the SasuSaku 2018 One Shot Show Me the Love Challenge, which was graciously Beta'd by Tuvstarr's Lost Heart. Thank you to all who are participating in this Challenge. I hope you have a lot of fun. For all my readers, please visit my C2 account for easy access to the other entries and don't forget to spread the positive constructive review!

And now for my story...

"To be clear, you'll be taking her away for just one day. One day only. Right Ino?"

"Yes, Tsunade-sama," Ino responds, sensing the former Hokage is starting to come around. Adding momentum to her plea, she looks back at the older blonde with bright opal eyes full of hope.

"And you believe this will be good for Sakura, correct?"

With that, emotions come to a head, and Ino frowns. Surely she can't have been the only one to have noticed Sakura's sadness, and she pins Tsunade with a look.

"With all due respect," she says, a hint of exasperation in her voice, "we all know Sakura's been overworking herself. She misses her husband even if she doesn't say it. A vacation won't bring him back, but maybe in a small way, this will renew her spirit."

Absence, no matter how old or new, stings, especially when it comes to someone you love. Tsunade of all people understands this. Silently the former chief of staff mulls over Ino's request again and releases a sigh before finally giving in.

"Very well," she agrees.

"Thanks, Tsunade-sama. I promise, you won't regret it," Ino brightens, leaning in to give her a hug.

It's a busy time, and there's no doubt Tsunade will be knee deep in hospital bureaucratic issues with Sakura's sudden leave, so the Yamanaka silently counts her blessings, and moves quickly to make arrangements before any change of heart can take place.

"I'll speak with Sarada but I'll leave you to convince Sakura about the importance to take a break and get away. Thanks, by the way, for agreeing to make sure things at the hospital run smoothly. Sakura will be less likely to resist knowing this. Once I get Sarada's thumbs up, I'll run over to pre-purchase some train tickets for Sakura and I before the station closes. That way, there will be no way she can refuse."

Without a moment to lose, Ino then heads to the door to exit.

"Wait!" Tsunade demands, but quickly realizes her word is already given and it's too late to back out of her promise. Scrambling to gather her thoughts, she yells: "You'd better make sure this worth my while and bring back some of my favorite sake! And...and... make sure she enjoys herself!"

"Will do," Ino promises with a smile, as she quickly shuts the door behind her.

"I'll be back tomorrow," Sakura tells Sarada. "Is there any souvenir you would like me to bring you?"

"A dad might be nice," her daughter replies, catching Sakura by surprise.

"Sarada, don't say that," her mother tells her, trying to reprimand Sarada, but at the same time, hide the plea in her voice.

Sarada immediately knows her words hurt her mother, something she hadn't really intended to do. So to avoid any further damage she corrects her response. "I don't need anything," she assures, attempting to placate her mother for the moment.

Passing by the foyer, young Sarada finds a stuffed rabbit her Mom hoped to return to a young patient in the hospital. It was placed near the front door to remind Sakura to return it. Her mother starts to fuss over what to do, but remembering what her Aunt Ino said earlier, Sarada offers to take it to her instead. Before Sakura can change her mind, Sarada begins to make the arrangements for its delivery, by heading to the back room to make a telephone call.

"Have a good trip!" Sarada shouts as she picks up the phone, leaving her Mom behind to answer the knock sounding at the front door.

After a brief pause, Sakura moves to open the door and is greeted by a beautiful, cheerful blonde who beams back at her with excitement.

"All right! Time to have fun!" her friend announces, tugging at Sakura's sleeve playfully. Sakura knows at this point, it's far too late to back out on her promise, and soon they are off to the train station to head toward the ocean.

Conversation of past times fills the trip. Ino really has a knack for drumming up laughter and coaxing out some fun. Before Sakura realizes it, Ino tells her they're at their designated stop and she pulls Sakura out of the train and guides her away from station. They trek out across the town square, and head away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal town, and towards the water's edge.

There's something about the ocean air that's rejuvenating. It feels like it's been ages since she's relaxed, and this place Ino's taken her to is absolutely breathtaking. The sunlight dances off the sapphire water leaving diamond-like sparkles to shimmer on its surface, all the while gentle waves lap at the shoreline. Up ahead, at the end of the path, is a lone bench that sits at the cliffside, and Ino coaxes Sakura to sit and reminisce. Sakura is surprised, and honestly, she doesn't know how, but somehow her best friend has figured out that this is the exact place where she and Sasuke had their first date. Ino pins her with a look when Sakura hesitates, and Sakura knows there's no way to politely decline her friend when she's like this, so she gives in and sits.

The blonde quickly excuses herself, already making plans to visit a well known sake house, and soon Sakura is left alone with nothing but the soothing sound of the ocean waves and the seagulls calling. It takes a few minutes but she eventually relaxes and closes her eyes to breathe in the ocean air. Enjoying the moment, the Uchiha matriarch pats the seat next to her and lets her mind drift to the last time she sat here with a certain raven-haired man all those years ago...

"I don't remember The Sixth asking us to make an additional stop," Sakura mentions to Sasuke, as she furrows her eyebrows. "If I'm not mistaken, I thought our mission was to procure the documents from the contact and make our way directly back to the Village."

Sasuke glances at her then gazes out ahead. "Hn," is all he says as he slowly walks away from where she's standing.

Her eyebrows knit together. He's acting strangely but they have successfully secured the mission documents they were assigned to retrieve and are currently ahead of schedule, so Sakura moves to follow him.

She's pleasantly surprised with the lush green grass welcoming them up ahead, and soon, the smell of ocean air penetrates her senses and refreshes her.

"Sasuke," she breathes, barely aware that she's spoken his name as they make their way down the path away from the trees and the breathtaking landscape opens up before her. "Oh my gosh! It's...it's beautiful here!" she exclaims as her eyes light up.

He smirks that infamous smirk of his and he saunters over the grassy hillside to a path that leads to a lone bench overlooking the sparkling waters below. There he sits and pats the seat next to him in hopes she'll sit beside him.

Sakura takes a seat, and following his lead, looks out ahead to admire the view. No words are exchanged but just by being by Sasuke's side in such a beautiful place is enough to make her giddy. A soft breeze caresses her face and she basks in the warmth of the afternoon sun. It's heavenly here and just when she thinks the day can't get any better, she feels something warm cover her hand. Sasuke's gaze focuses straight ahead but when she glances down, she notices his larger hand resting on top of hers. Sakura shyly smiles and when a blush tints her cheeks, he cautiously threads his fingers with hers, leading her to nervously but gleefully hold his hand. Her heart races and she has to consciously try not to fidget. Sasuke is always very guarded with his actions. This is a first, and the thrill almost makes her dizzy.

"Sakura," he finally speaks at last, in that low, baritone voice of his.

"Yes?" she squeaks out, cursing her nervousness.

He pauses, making her even more anxious, then he absently rubs his thumb against her palm. "There's not much time for us to spend here, but while we sit..." He shifts in his seat, (as close to fidgeting Sasuke will ever get). "Here, I brought you something," he mentions. Rummaging through his sack, he procures a scroll and summons it to open. In a poof, right before her eyes, a beautiful bowl of anmitsu appears. Her favorite food of all time!

"Oh my!" she says with surprise as he offers it to her. With a huge smile she gratefully accepts the scrumptious looking dessert.

"Wait. This is for me?" she asks skeptically, followed by shock as he nods.

"Oh w-wow! Thank you."

Politely, she turns to him.

"Um, would you like to try some first?" Sakura offers, but Sasuke refuses, and she smiles back, knowing his aversion to sweets.

In that moment, she's overwhelmed with happiness and gushes, "Okay then. I can't wait to give it a try. Goodness, this looks yummy!"

Putting her hands together she mutters, "Itadakimasu," and she takes the spoon he offers her and digs in.

Unconsciously her eyes close as she takes her first bite and savors the taste. It's sinfully delicious and the most delightful anmitsu she's had in quite some time. In fact... a memory sharpens as she concentrates deeply, the flavor is almost like...

"Soon, I'll be going," Sasuke's serious voice interrupts her thoughts, causing her eyes to fly open in surprise. Cautiously, he takes in a breath, and gauges her reaction.

Sakura swallows hard and turns to face him. Did he just say?...

"You don't need to wait for me," Sasuke begins.

A frown appears on her face.

"But I want to," Sakura tells him.

Concern is etched upon his brow but she can read the relief in his eyes too. She smiles brightly at him and reaches out to squeeze his hand.

"You're precious to me Sasuke, and even if you don't feel the same way, I'm willing to wait just to see if you'll ever feel the same way back. I love you," she admits and blushes crimson.

A mix of emotions swirls within his eyes but before he can say anything, two Anbu magically appear beside him. He pulls his hand into his pocket, suddenly leaving hers without the warmth it just had.

"Sasuke Uchiha?" they demand.

"Yes," he replies grimly.

"The Hokage requests your presence immediately," the one with the racoon mask states. "Come with us."

"I need a moment," he urges, leaving the Anbu nearest him to nod and summon his partner to walk over to the trees to give them some privacy.

"Sakura, hand me the scroll," he tells her. She knows he's referring the one they retrieved on the mission, and her brain slowly starts to process what's going on.

"I'll deliver it to the Hokage."

Sakura's mood saddens at the sudden change of events, but she places the anmitsu down on the bench and opens her pack to procure the scroll while he waits patiently.

"There's no need to for you to rush back with me so I suggest you stay here for a bit."

Her heart leaps out of her chest as the reality of what is happening finally hits her. Is this.. good-bye? she wonders. For how long?

She's a Kunoichi though and Sakura knows duty is a part of everything they do.

"Understood," she says as she holds the scroll out to him. "Here."

He takes the scroll and places it into his satchel, then stands to leave.

"Later," he says before walking over to the Anbu and disappears in flash.

The warmth of his body heat is gone and soon the gravity of it all hits her hard. Alone and heartbroken, she feels the well of tears ready to fall. Her Sasuke-kun is... gone. For how long, she doesn't know, but from what little she's heard through Kakashi, it's possible this time his leave will be lengthy. The sudden emptiness pierces her, and Sakura feels nothing but hollow and cold. Closing her eyes, teardrops slip down her cheeks and tickle the grass below. Only a minute passes however, before she allows Shinobi training to kick in and willfully blocks out the sadness, opening her eyes to watch the waves again.

You'll be fine, she reassures herself. Rummaging through her pack to find a handkerchief, her eyes shift to the anmitsu to her left. As she wipes the tears away, it feels like nothing can fill the gaping hole in her heart, but she forces herself to believe there's no sense in letting good anmitsu go to waste. Picking up the bowl, a small note that wasn't there before, appears. Surprised and curious, she carefully unfolds it. The paper is old, with well-made folds, and not until she sees the Uchiha crest does she come to understand what exactly it is.

Anmitsu, it reads in neat script just below the infamous Uchiha crest in the center of the paper. As she skims over the rest of its written contents, her heart skips a beat. Is this...? She looks over the listed ingredients and carefully scoops out another bite of the dessert, closing her eyes and remembering. Mmmmmmm. Yes, oh, definitely yes. It is just as delectable as it was then. Very slowly, understanding dawns, and a thrill thrums though her. Oh my gosh! This is Mikoto Uchiha's famous anmitsu her mind rushes to inform her, and her Sasuke-kun just left the secret recipe with her! Sakura had tasted it only twice in her life but she'll vouch it's the best anmitsu she's ever had and it's no doubt one of the reasons it's her favorite food. But how did Sasuke get his hands on it? she wonders. Did he really save and keep it just for her all these years?

Sakura thinks back to when they were kids; Sasuke had dismissed her as weak and deplored her love of sweets. He only ever paid attention to Naruto and was solely focused on getting revenge on his brother. But...but was this true? She questions herself.

The Uchiha massacre occurred when they were barely 9 years old. Sasuke was relocated to another district of town the day after it happened and passage into the old Uchiha district was strictly banned from then on. Sakura tries to wrap her head around it but remains dumbfounded. Did young Sasuke go back to his old house to retrieve the recipe? And even if that was true, why was he sharing it with her now? She carefully thinks over their conversation earlier, along with her one-sided proclamation.

"You're precious to me Sasuke, and even if you don't yet feel the same way, I'm willing to wait just to see if you'll ever feel the same way back. I love you," she had said.

Suddenly her eyes widen as realization hits her, and she stills. Wait a second. Was...was this his way of showing he loved her back? Sakura's mind races but as she processes the facts, she shyly smiles. It would be just like the quiet man to express his emotions this way.

Sakura can't possibly imagine what kind of torment he must have gone through to get Mikoto's recipe book after all the bloodshed and in dealing with the aftermath of the massacre, nor can she begin to fathom how much thought must have gone into giving her this special gift either. Exhilaration ignites that Sasuke went through the trouble of hand-making the anmitsu in the bowl just for her too. She goes onto savor another bite of the wonderful treat and then freezes. Hold up! The Uchiha just brought her to a romantic spot, held her hand, and treated her to favorite dessert. Short of a kiss, this had all the characteristics of a... a...a first date! Pink colors her cheeks. Oh my! Her heartbeat accelerates. In his own special way, it appears Sasuke Uchiha may have just asked her to be his girlfriend!

Sakura knows he has lots to make amends for and duty will always come before their personal needs but...but did he really just...?

"Later," he had said.

She wants to squeal as she lets it all sink in.

Inner Sakura then takes over then crows. Cha! You go girl!... Score! Sakura's grin then blossoms. In his own Sasuke-like way, he just let her know he was coming back. And he was giving her some time to think about them...THEM! She can hardly believe it!

Sakura knows Sasuke wouldn't dare declare his love aloud so this was probably as close as he would ever get. She sits on the bench continuing to enjoy the view and the secret confession of her life long love, feeling the happiest she's been in a long time.

"Hey Sakura!" Ino calls out. "I thought you might like some lunch," the blond breaks through Sakura's reverie as she approaches the bench she left her on earlier that afternoon.

Sakura straightens and smiles.

"Thanks Ino," she returns, attention now back in the present.

"It is beautiful here," Ino mentions. "And something about the ocean breeze makes it feel like a fresh new day."

"Indeed it does," Sakura agrees. "Thanks, Ino. I'll admit, you were right, it really was a good idea to get away and come here."

"Did you find what you were missing?" Ino asks innocently, though there's nothing innocent about the blonde. Sakura's sure she had things planned from the get go.

"Yeah," Sakura admits. "It was nice to visit, but I think I'm ready to go home now. Thanks for the lunch. I'll take this to eat on the ride back."

"What? No stops for dessert?" Ino asks surprised.

"Sorry. Not this time, but thanks for offering," Sakura tells her as she gets up and stands. "I'd kind of like to get back home as soon as we can. Is that okay?"

"Sure, Forehead. It's your call," Ino agrees.

On the train ride back, Sakura is quiet. Not sad per se. Just quiet.

"Is everything all right?" Ino asks cautiously.

"Never better," Sakura smiles. "Really," she assures.

"I'm glad," her friend says as she gives her a hug.

"I'm home," Sakura calls out.

"Welcome back," Sarada greets.

Mmmmmm... I smell miso soup and it smells delicious," Sakura tells her daughter, noting Sarada is just finishing up dinner preparations in the kitchen.

"How was your trip?" Sarada asks.

"Wonderful," Sakura replies with a smile. "Thank you for allowing me to go."

As they sit and enjoy their dinner, they exchange the stories of their time apart. Sakura's happy to learn Sarada faithfully delivered the stuffed rabbit to the patient as she had promised, so after they finish, she offers to make dessert for a change.

"You're cooking?" Sarada asks, surprised.

"I know I'm usually too tired for this kind of stuff," Sakura admits, "but I'm in the mood to make something special for you tonight."

"Okay. Sounds great," Sarada perks.

Later that evening, Sakura saunters out of the kitchen with two colorful bowls of Mikoto's special anmitsu, and her daughter's eyes grow wide.

To further surprise Sarada, it actually tastes as good as it looks.

"Wow, who knew you were so good at this?!" Sarada says between mouthfuls. "Thanks Mom. This is one of the best anmitsu's I've ever had."

"You're welcome, Sweetie. It's one of my favorites too, and I thought it was about time I share one of your grandmother Uchiha's secret recipes with you," Sakura discloses.

Wide eyes accompany the revelation, and happiness fills the air. Conversation then commences with Sakura's first taste of the wonderful treat and the special gifted recipe from her husband.

Later, after tucking her daughter into bed and watching those beautiful onyx eyes, so reminiscent of her husband, finally close, Sakura decides to turn in for the night. Gently placing the prized recipe back into a small wooden box of mementos, she smiles at her past reverie and treasures all that's transpired since. Her love still shines brightly for Sasuke, and with Mikoto's special animitsu unveiled, there's a feeling that, at least in spirit, her husband was somehow here with them tonight.

"I love you Sasuke-kun," she whispers. "Come home to us soon."

After gazing at a picture of him, she switches the lights off, and crawls into bed, snuggling Sasuke's pillow as she closes her eyes. With feelings now reconnected with him, she drifts to sleep. Slowly, in her subconscious, dreams come to life of the day when 'later' arrives and her husband returns home safe. Deep down, she knows he will keep his promise, and that one day her Sasuke will finally return to her for good and at long last be able to relax and enjoy time with his family. She can feel the strength of their love and she knows it's worth the wait.

The End

Author's Note:

Scenes from the anime are the property of Masashi Kishimoto. The enhancement on what happened is my own creation.

As you probably guessed, I was very curious what a first date (purported to have lasted a few minutes) would be like for these two, and this is what I came up with. So what did you think? What do you think their first date was like?

By the way, for those who didn't know: anmitsu is a delightful Japanese dessert made of firm agar jelly squares, fruit, red bean paste (anko- AKA the 'an' part of anmitsu), and sweet black syrup (mitsu- the 'mitsu' part of anmitsu). It's a classic dessert enjoyed in the months of Spring and Summer.

Well, I hope all of you are enjoying SasuSaku month and wholeheartedly encourage you to review all the stories you've read. Your feedback keeps inspiration to write and share alive!

A special thanks to: angee1011, darkprincess238, een nihc, Emma Raye, kylie555, MLLu, Pixie07, Poodie, RushiAei, Sakura's Unicorn, shuricant, wingedmercury, Wintry Leen, and YenGirl for participating in the SasuSaku One Shot Show Me the Love Challenge on Sasuke's birthday and for continuing to share your love of the positive constructive review. It's truly inspiring!