Chapter 1: Disheartened
Beta: Proclaimed Penguin Princess
Pairing: Uchiha Sasuke x Haruno Sakura
Warning: Strong themes and sexual situations.
Disclaimer: I know nothing. I do not own Naruto. I do not own any of the characters associated with Naruto, nor the plot lines from either the show or the manga. In no way am I affiliated with any writing staff or have anything to do with the creation of the show or manga and do not claim to do so. I am not responsible for any blushing around family or friends when eyes drift over passages about touching, thrusting and/or folds. Nor am I responsible for any weird looks anyone receives while spontaneously laughing in public spaces-but I would love to hear about it.
Verb- mid 16th century: from French importuner or medieval Latin importunari, from Latin importunus.
Ask (someone) pressingly and persistently for or to do something. I.e. "if she were here now, I would importune her with many questions.
Approach (someone) to offer one's service as a prostitute.
Synonyms: Beg, beseech, entreat, implore, plead with, appeal to.
Konoha, Post War.
Tuesday nights were her favorite.
Yes, it sounds odd. Of all nights why a Tuesday? Still, every Tuesday night was special to her. It was the only work time she had specifically blocked off at the clinic and/or hospital. Tuesdays are the most boring day of the week. But that was the point. And it was because Tuesdays are so uneventful, that deemed it the day they would all gather together. Unless there was a super emergency that nobody else but her could handle.
Because Tuesday nights were nights were all about Team 7.
Sakura smiled to herself as she turned in some paperwork to the head nurse before she left the hospital that day. The woman smiled at her knowingly. "Have you seen Shizune-sempai?" Sakura asked happily.
With a hint of pink rising in her cheeks the nurse said, "I believe she was summoned by Hokage-sama." Both women exchanged knowing glances.
Sakura could not stop the grin which overtook her face. She had suspected for some time that her longtime bachelor sensei, now Hokage, was a little too distracted when Shizune was in the room with him. Shizune, equally, was a little too eager to hand deliver reports to the Hokage himself. The final straw was when Kakashi began requesting Shizune as his personal medical provider over his own beloved student.
"You know he doesn't like to be called that." Sakura smiled. The nurse turned red at Sakura's jest.
Sure while Kakashi was an excellent problem solver, he was not the most formal Hokage Konoha had ever seen. The Copy Nin was never much for the spotlight. His position did not change much when he assumed the mantle of Hokage. He much preferred for people to almost ignore the fact he was Hokage and just continue to treat him as Kakashi. Which, in turn, most people were extremely embarrassed and scared to do. Over the past few years most of the Jounin acquiesced to calling him "Kakashi-sama," but that is about as far as it went. The Chunin would not dare, wanting to honor those who were above their station. The Genin were all but terrified of the mysterious Copy Ninja who kept half his face covered, even has Hokage. And ANBU were just too professional to address their leader as anything other than Hokage-sama.
The only exception to this rule being the (self-proclaimed) infamous Team 7 who would always affectionately call him 'Kakashi or Kaka-sensei'.
"Have a good day Haruno-san." The woman bowed before Sakura before turning to attend to the rest of her duties. And so, Haruno Sakura left the hospital in a happy mood.
That was until she got to the Hokage's office.
Out of courtesy she knocked twice before entering. There was a pause that extended long enough to make her uncomfortable before she heard her former sense's laid back draw call out, "Enter."
Sakura, closing her eyes and hoping for the best, opened the door to find Kakashi leaning on the front of his desk, piles of paperwork around and Shizune standing with another stack off to the side. Sakura's eyes flicked quickly from one to the other.
"Ah, Sakura-chan," Kakashi's eye crinkled as he smiled from underneath of his mask. "What brings my favorite student to visit me?"
Sakura rolled her eyes. "I have the annual medical reports for the Chunin roster."
"Ah, and now I remember why Naruto is my favorite. He doesn't bring me paperwork." Kakashi scratched the back of his head, his lopsided smile seen through the fabric of his mask.
His statement, while playful, warmed her heart. The pink haired jounin was amazed how quickly her sensei could still put her at ease with a single line. That was more like the Kakashi she knew. Shizune on the other hand, let out a gasp at his statement and gently batted his arm. "How dare you play favorites Kakashi!"
Their informal playfulness gave Sakura hope that there was still love in the world. And that one could find it at any age.
Shizune then turned her warm smile onto the younger rosette medic. "How are you doing Sakura-chan?" Shizune had always thought of Sakura as a younger sister. It was obvious Sakura's skills would surpass her own one day, and Shizune was okay with that. She had no great desire to be as in demand as Tsunade. She was happy just helping out where she could. And the included helping Sakura. The two shared a kinship as they both suffered through the demands of Tsunade and her training.
"I'm excited it's Tuesday!" Sakura smiled brightly, nodding to the woman she considered a mentor.
"The legendary Team 7 Tuesday night dinners." Shizune sighed, tossing a glance back over at Kakashi who shrugged. Both women suppressed a small smile. "I'm assuming that means you will be leaving the office early and won't be back until late?"
Two shoulders shrugged. Then, there was a sudden shift in the room. Kakashi warm look faded into something more grave and serious as he turned towards his favorite student.
"Sakura," Kakashi stated, causing her pause. He had his 'I don't want to do this but I have to say something because I'm Hokage', tone about him. "I received a letter today from the Daimyo."
"Is everything alright?" Sakura asked quickly- her mind racing towards the worst case scenario.
"Everything is fine Sakura." Kakashi assured her, his words seeming to trail off in way that said there was strings attached.
"Kakashi-" Shizune's voice trailed off. "This can wait." Sakura saw the pleading look in Shizune's eyes and realized what the actual context of the letter. Taking a deep breath in, she straightened up.
Ah, she thought. It was going to be one of those conversations. She steeled herself up. This wasn't the first time someone has written Kakashi on her behalf.
"What does the Daimyo want with me?" Sakura inquired with no hint of emotion in her voice.
"He wants to arrange for you to meet his second son," Kakashi said. "And if things go well in the meeting, to arrange discussions of your eventual marriage."
Sakura straightened, and then nodded. Shizune looked pained as she watched the younger woman lose all joy in her features.
"I'm shocked this one did not mention of children or premarital relations," Sakura joked dryly.
"No just a detailed breakdown of your genealogy." Kakashi handed the letter to her.
Sakura sneered and snatched the letter from Kakashi's hand. "How romantic," the sarcasm dripped from her tongue.
"Sakura," Kakashi continued to press. "I cannot refuse at least a meeting with the Daimyo."
The beautiful pink haired woman closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath in. Then she nodded her understanding. She was not mad at her former sensei. He was just doing what he needed to do politically.
"Sakura," Shizune tried to sooth, her heart going for the girl. While she knew these types of marriage proposals were common, she did think someone she cared about would have to go through the never ending stream of suitors in such a detached way.
"Shizune its fine." Sakura said quickly. "Did Kakashi told you about the letter he got from the Suna elders?"
Shizune gave no response. She saw the letter personally, and politically she understood the position of the Suna elders.
"It's no big deal," Sakura gave the elder woman an unconvincing smile.
"It's not nothing," Shizune tried.
With a shake of her head, "I'm not interested in throwing my career as a kunoichi away for any man." Sakura reassured her. "If I have to spend one or two evenings with the entitled son of the Daimyo to keep the peace for Kakashi-sensei then I will. For the good of the village and relationships between the shinobi and civilian worlds."
Shizune could not help but be proud of how quickly Sakura had truly come into her own. A Sannin in her own right, she would give Naruto a race to become the next Hokage if she truly wanted to. Not only does she serve in a leadership position, she was trained by the two previous Hokages and often assisted in diplomatic situations. Thankfully for her teammate, she had no desire to become Hokage. She knew there were several other ways to support the village than serve as its leader.
"Besides," Sakura continued with a smirk, "Any man who wanted to court me would have to fight Naruto, Sai and Yamato to even get to ask me."
Shizune, shocked, turned her head to Kakashi who simply shrugged. "She's not wrong."
"And would you participate in this?"
"As Hokage I cannot physically harm the son of the Daimyo." Kakashi made a show of sounding offended. "But should such a situation arise, I would eagerly watch such a fight with both eyes."
Shizune was skeptical. "But if he happened to make eye contact?"
"One does so at their own risk." Kakashi shrugged. And then winked at his former student.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "When will you be putting me through this torture?"
"I have invited him during the midsummer festival." Kakashi said.
Sakura immediately broke out into a huge smile. "Kaka-sensei, your memory must be fading,"
"I am sure I have no idea to what you are referring to Sakura-chan." Kakashi deadpanned.
"The Kazekage will be escorting his sister during her move to Konoha during the midsummer festival. I cannot believe such an important event slipped your mind?" All of the hints of laughter back into her voice.
Sakura, and Naruto, along with Rock Lee and Tenten were the default escorts for the Kazekage and his siblings when they were in Konoha. They had close relationships built with the Sand Siblings. The next time they were scheduled to visit was during the midsummer festival. Temari was permanently moving to Konoha, having recently accepted Shikamaru's proposal.
Of course this was Kakashi's way of telling her he purposefully scheduled with the Daimyo to overlap with the Kazekage's visit.
Sakura was secretly thankful Kakashi for being so supportive in these situations.
"Oh was that the same day?" Kakashi scratched his head. "Oh well I guess your time will be spread thin. I will speak to Tsunade in advance about giving you some time off in the hospital."
Sakura's smirk pulled the corner of her mouth. "Thank you Kakashi-sensei. I look forward to spending time with the Kazekage and his family."
Sakura left, gripping the letter in her hand.
She received her first propositions when she was 18, about three years ago now. Since then, she had been receiving more and more propositions from various clans both in the Land of Fire and various other notable clans from neighboring villages. These propositions ranged from courtship to marriage, to baby first, questions laters. They came from low and high, each time it enraged a fire in her a little more.
Because to Sakura, they did not want her as a person. They wanted the possibility of her skills being passed to children. They wanted her connections with prominent individuals in Konoha. They wanted her vast knowledge. They wanted everything she was on paper but not her. They did not want her free spirit and stubborn attitude. They did not want her. They wanted an idea of her.
The two most recent propositions have been the most interesting. This most recent one from the Daimyo. The previous one from the Suna elders, sent to Kakashi without the Kazekage's knowledge. The elders were concerned about the Kazekage lineage now that Temari had agreed to marry into Konoha's Nara clan. To strengthen bonds between the villages they proposed several woman who they would like purpose to either the Kazekage or his brother as a suitable partner.
Both Sakura and Tenten were on the list. In a weird way it was flattering, in the enraging 'how dare you' kind of way. The moment that a woman makes a name for herself a clan seeks to swallow her up. Irony at its finest.
The pink haired medic took her leave of the Hokage tower, knowing she needed to return home to prepare for that night's festivities. Regardless of this letter, she would not let it ruin her Tuesday night with Team 7.
But, as per usual, on her way home her feet carried her past the familiar barred gates of the Uchiha compound and her thoughts would turn to him.
Her heart ached.
Her heart raged.
Either way she lost the same internal warring battle.
She remembered that day clearly in her head, when she awoke in Kakashi's arms to hear that Naruto and Sasuke had ran off to fight one another- settling their senseless feud once and for all. Immediately she pumped chakra into her legs, sending it out around her to feel where they were.
Their chakra signatures had seeped into the land, their fight was so large. Her mind had immediately jumped to worst case scenario, they were dead. Her best friend and the boy she loved at fought each other to death. She forced chakra to into her legs and she ran towards their fading chakra signals. Her heart beat wildly, and rapidly as she soared over the landscape.
Why would he be so stupid to stop her? Sakura remembered when Sasuke had put her under a genjutsu. Who else was going to stop their sorry asses?
Sorry asses was right.
They lay there, on the banks; beaten, bruised, bloodied, and both missing an arm.
But they were alive. Both of them, they were alive.
"I'm sorry," his husky voice said as those dark eyes bore into her.
Sakura remembered trying everything possible to hold it together as she whispered her demand for clarification.
Damn him. Why did he have to be the one to whom her heart called out? After all her training, her growth, her new found independence, even after he tried to kill her, after she intended to kill him- she could not let him go. She could not let those feelings go.
Haruno Sakura loved Uchiha Sasuke. She loved him even though it broke her heart to do so.
Upon their return, Sasuke submitted himself to the Konoha police force along and by extent, the investigation division. Because of his assistance in the efforts against war- he was not immediately put to death. Instead he was locked up and his chakra sealed. In addition, Tsunade placed extremely strict visiting hours on the Uchiha. Hours that purposefully aligned with shifts Sakura was assigned at the hospital. She did not think it was fair, Naruto and Kakashi got to see him but her? - Nope.
The thought that he did not want to see her crossed her mind. But Naruto always assured her that Sasuke did ask about her. Asked if she was doing. She wanted to believe her blonde friend. But she was afraid of what hope might do to the supports she had placed her heart.
After 3 months Tsunade permitted Sakura in to see Sasuke during supervised medical examinations. She would bring him a book and some apples or tomatoes- knowing he did not like sweets. Just things to help pass the time. .
Little conversation passed between the two of them. She was too uncomfortable to speak freely to him in supervised company. She figured it was the same for him.
Eight months into his sentence, Tsunade stepped down as Hokage, appointing Kakashi as her successor. Naruto was a little heartbroken, but Sakura assured him that Kakashi would not stay Hokage for long, and that most likely, their lazy sensei would pass off duties to him.
Tsunade's last decree was that the Uchiha be released and his chakra returned to him. It was not a popular decision, but she knew it was better that she made it than it be one of Kakashi's first orders.
Shizune maintained her position as aid to the Hokage, and Sakura stepped up to take a more active role in the administration of the hospital. She was second only to Tsunade, who agreed to remain at the hospital until 'she felt like leaving'. Which Kakashi, Shizune, and Sakura all knew meant: 'Until Naruto became Hokage and Sakura could take over the hospital'.
Everything kept her busy as the months rolled by. Life seemed to move on- just as it had before without Sasuke. Because Sasuke had left the village after being released. He said he had to find out how the world works and atone for his sins on his own. She had offered to go with him. He had been so alone for so long, she just wanted to be there to take the pain away. But just like all of the other times before, he had rejected her. He had taken two fingers and tapped them on her forehead and simply said 'see you later'.
She cried for days afterwards. Ino holding her, Naruto and Kakashi there for her at night when the nightmares came back. It took a lot for her to crawl back from yet another rejection. But time passed and she did the only thing she knew how to do. Devoted herself to her work and her training.
Generally speaking, the last few years had been good to her. There was a lot for her to do after the war. Yes there was peace in the land, but there was still so much to rebuild. She and Ino began a children's clinic for those affected by the war both physically and mentally. Many, including herself, suffered as a result of the war. She wanted to help them all; especially the young children. It pained her to see them suffer.
A year after Sasuke's departure, she and Naruto were regarded as a second generation Sannin, and by extension, Sasuke. She really achieved all of the recognition she wanted. She was no longer chasing after Naruto and Sasuke. She stood next to them, proud and just as skilled. Many thought that she would take over as Hokage after Kakashi but she knew that was not the path for her. She needed a job to work with her hands, in the OR helping the shinobi who defended her village. She would be there to support Naruto.
And so here she was, standing outside the complex, pinning over the same arrogant bastard that could not give her more than a couple of 'thank-yous', 'congratulations', and 'hn's'. She was angry, furious, hurt, confused and yet, still head over heels, hopelessly in love with Sasuke Uchiha.
Quietly she sent up a prayer to whoever happened to be listening to watch out for him. To make sure he was okay, and knew that he had people who cared about him waiting to come home.
Exhaling the breath she did not know she was holding, Sakura continued down the street to the small apartment she and Shizune used to share. They were always on opposite shifts on hospital duty so it worked. Now, as the Hokage's personal- assistant… doctor...lover or whatever Kakashi had arranged for her to have quarters in his estates.
When Sakura called him out he merely shrugged and said that Shizune liked to read.
Either way, it was her turn to host Tuesday night dinner. They would rotate between her apartment, Kakashi's and now Naruto's House.
Because Naruto, out of all of them, now owns his own property. Granted, marrying a Hyuuga Heiress propelled him to do several adult things. Each time Naruto made a decision about his adult life Sakura's heart swelled with pride. She was so proud of how far her friend had come in these past 3 years.
It was good to have Hinata around more. She always wanted to be closer with the pale eyed kunoichi, and now they got the chance. She and Naruto would show up first, shortly followed by Sai.
Sakura could not help but smile. Sai had really come a long way. Sakura could not help but shake her head. Out of all the people in Konoha, neigh, the Shinobi world, Sai chose to begin a relationship with- Ino.
Her best friend. Out of all people.
The worst part of it? -They were disgustingly cute together.
He called her beautiful, always brought her flowers. They went on long romantic dinner dates, they took long walks together. He was nothing but a perfect-albeit slightly awkward- gentleman to her. When he learned to do that Sakura did not even know. It was like a complete 180 in a matter of a few months. She doubted it was books but also did not know if she could extend that much credit to her lifelong friend and rival.
Speaking of- Ino, she had to go and ruin that image of her teammate one night when she was a little tipsy. Apparently Sai was a little more dominant in the sheets. Ino was quite pleased with herself. Sakura knew entirely too much for her personal liking.
In all honesty Sakura was happy for them both. Ino's heart had been broken a few times. Most recently, when Shikamaru officially began to court Temari. The sand princess was planning her move to Konoha shortly. While the two were close friends, Ino had always had a soft spot for Shikamaru. She had told Sakura one day that if she 'had to' end up with anyone by default it would have been Shikamaru. That was before she had gotten to know Sai. Prior to Shikamaru, she had a brief fling with Genma which did not end well. She said that Genma just was a loner and she wasn't going to waste her time on someone that was not going to be there for her.
Sakura's heart felt like the pieces continued to fall away.
Because that was exactly what Sasuke was doing to her. And despite her success, all her friends, the titles she earned, Sakura never felt more alone.
This Tuesday was no different than any other Tuesday night dinner.
"The food was great Sakura-chan." Kakashi's eye crinkled, and it warmed her heart. "Thank you too, Hinata."
"You are most welcome. Please be sure to give Shizune her share of the leftovers!" Sakura called as Kakashi disappeared in a whirlwind of smoke.
Sai had departed for the night as well. He had an early ANBU mission in the morning. Which left herself, Naruto and Hinata left alone in the apartment. This was not uncommon. With Kakashi dipping out before he was asked to assist with the clean-up and Sai being additionally busy with either ANBU or taking over the police force.
"You should not tease Hokage-sama as such." Hinata giggled as Sakura closed the door. Naruto was lounging on her couch while Hinata began to clean up from dinner.
"Someone has to give him a hard time." Sakura laughed moving to join her friend.
Together they fell into a routine of Hinata washing the dishes and Sakura drying them to put them away. Naruto of course was excluded from their routines. He tended to hinder their efforts despite his best intentions.
"I heard you went on another date with Tenzo." Naruto called over his shoulder.
Sakura could only roll her eyes. Naruto was always so interested in her love life. She thought Ino was bad after the war, especially after Sasuke left...again.
Ino in fact actively encouraged her to: Get over the asshole, or don't and just swim with another fish for a while.
Naruto on the other hand had this romantic image of Sasuke coming back and within just a few weeks he would be helping Sakura plan their wedding. It was something almost too perfect for Sakura to hope for. She knew it was not realistic.
"I'm allowed to go to dinner with Tenzo." Sakura deadpanned, probably a little too sternly.
"As long as he doesn't get any funny ideas. I don't care if he is an unofficial member of Team 7. He's not good enough for you Sakura-chan." Naruto sat up from the couch to stare at the emblem on the back of her wardrobe. Sakura proudly displayed her clan emblem, the name she worked so hard to earn. However, he could not help but think a fan would suit her much better.
Hinata's fairy-like tinkle of a laugh chimed from beside the rosette. The gentle heiress could calm any tense situation. Sakura was happy to see how confident Hinata had become after dating, and marrying Naruto.
Now their love story was one for the books, Sakura thought. Naruto and Hinata were nothing short of supportive of each other as they achieved their dreams.
"Did you have a good time with Yamato-san?" Hinata asked under her breathe.
Sakura merely smiled and nodded, "I did."
In truth, Tenzo was one of the few men who actually approached her for a date. Many just looked upon her from afar, like she was some prize on a mantel that they had no hope of touching. She was grateful every time he asked her out. It made her feel like a normal woman.
Kakashi used to take her out to nice places. Naruto and Sai had a habit of chasing any suitors away so Kakashi would take her out, treat her like a woman and not a teammate or student. It was slightly awkward because it was Kakashi, but soon she appreciated his witty banter and their gentle flirting. Expect he could not do that once he was named Hokage. He could not be caught showing preference.
That was when Tenzo started asking her out. While she suspected her former sensei might have encouraged his colleague to continue the tradition he began with his kunoichi student; Yamato was nothing short of a gentleman and it felt like more of a date than it ever did with Kakashi. Yamato was clever, witty, well read, cultured and funny. Finding time, however was difficult. They were both hopelessly dedicate to their work and found it hard find mutual free time. So their dates were few and far between.
"So where did you two go?" Hinata engaged the rosette in conversation.
"Oh he took me to this new bistro," Sakura began enthusiastically recounting the events of her latest evening with Tenzo.
Naruto, having become disinterested in the details of a date that ultimately did not matter, ceased listening to the details of Sakura's latest outing with their former captain. So instead he let his eyes travel around the room. Sakura was always so organized in her work, but her home was a little disorganized. Doing a little digging always revealed interesting surprises. Blue eyes glanced back to the women finishing the dishes, they were gossiping among themselves and not paying attention to him.
His eye caught the broken red seal. While Naruto was not particularly intuitive, but he knew that a sealed letter such as that meant it was from someone important. Which also meant it could have juicy secrets. With one more glance over his shoulder, he picked up the letter. Then immediately regretted it. "Ne, Sakura-chan…" his voice trailed off in disbelief of what he was reading.
"Naruto!" Hinata chimed next to Sakura in the kitchen. "Don't go through Sakura's mail!"
Sakura froze, dropping one of the ceramic plates in her hand, causing it to shatter on the floor at her feet.
The letter from the Daimyo.
She turned slowly as every worst case scenario played in her mind. Naruto tearing up her apartment. Naruto storming the palace demanding an explanation. She had purposefully not told Naruto or Sai about these proposals because she knew how they would react.
Which was badly. She had no doubt they would react very poorly to the idea that anyone else other than their wandering teammate would want to marry Sakura.
"Is this serious Sakura-chan?" Naruto demanded, blue eyes horrified. "The Daimyo wants you to marry his son?!"
"Naruto-" She tried but it was obvious his mind was racing a million miles a moment. "What about Sasuke?!" His blue eyes held an emotion she had never seen before in him. There was shock, rage, hurt, confusion, and many more all wrapped up in those crystal blues eyes demanding an explanation from her.
Naruto had her entire life planned out in his head. He and Sakura would continue to rebuild Konoha. He working his way through the ranks, while she took over the hospital. Sasuke would come back and he would take of the Konoha Police once again. The three of them would continue to go on missions together until Kakashi stepped down. They would all run the village together. Sakura would finally make an honest man out of Sasuke and he would be forever looped on her little finger.
But that was the point wasn't it?
"What about Sasuke?" Sakura growled. It was not just the ferocity of her statement that took Naruto aback. It was the conviction in her body and the intensity of her eyes as his heart's sister looked at him.
Sasuke was not there. No one was courting Sakura. Despite what Naruto wanted, the world did not wait because Sasuke was not in Konoha. What did he honestly expect from her? From Sasuke? Sakura herself did not know if she continuously wait around for Sasuke to finally love her back. He could just reject her again. Could her heart even handle it? All questions she did not want to think about.
Of course she was angry too. And all of the built up anger and rage she had been holding inside of her began to boil in her veins, causing her muscles to twitch in need of a physical release. Her body began to tense, working her way through her legs, back and jaw. The tension was on purpose, trying to suppress the rage she felt within her. She had to keep her fists them calm. She would not hit her best friend in her home.
Well in front of his wife anyway, she did not want to upset Hinata.
Instead, she bore her rage into those brilliant blue eyes, knowing this conversation was a long time coming.
"You love him Sakura-chan." Naruto said like it was the simplest thing in the world. "We went to the ends of the Earth for him, he apologized to you, he-"
"He left me, Naruto," Sakura interrupted sternly. "Sasuke left. He's been gone for three years."
"He'll be back Sakura-chan. He'll come back completely changed, just you see. He'll be right there with you and never leave you again."
Water began to cloud her vision, out of rage, sadness, or hurt she was not sure. She pursed her lips shaking her head back and forth. "You can't promise me that Naruto. No one can promise me that"
"Yes I can Sakura." His voice dropped. "I can promise that because you two were meant to be together."
She let a huff escape her nose. "Three years is a long time Naruto. He left to find himself. We don't know who is going to come back."
"Sasuke." Naruto crossed the space, not caring if he stepped on the broken china. He took her by the shoulders, attempting to shake some sense into her. "Sasuke is going to come back."
Sakura did not know what to say. How does one tell Naruto no? It was one of the few things she has never figured out how to do. She could plead that any situation is hopeless and Naruto would not listen. It was the charisma that filled him, gave him the ability to light up the room and inspire everyone he talked to.
So if she could not reason with him, she would go to extremes. "He might not come back. He might not come back for years yet. He could come home with a wife and children."
Blue eyes stared at her, crinkling slightly in the corner right before boisterous laughter erupted from the tall blonde shinobi. His bellowing laughter filled her entire apartment. Taken aback, Hinata and Sakura turned to look at one another, mouths agape. Silently communicating their ignorance at what was so funny. "Sakura don't make jokes like that." Naruto turned around to walk back to the desk with the letter.
She decided just to wait for him to realize she was not joking. "Sakura-chan I talk with Sasuke when he sends messages and he has never mentioned another woman."
Sakura closed her mouth into a thin line. "Yes, because you get messages from him. Kakashi too." She tried to pretend his lack of communication did not bother her. But it did.
"Kaka-sensei is Hokage Sakura. Sasuke needs to report to him." He defended.
"But not me." Sakura snipped back
"What are you talking about Sakura-chan?" Naruto raised his voice in question. "Of course he sends you messages!"
"I don't count 3 'congratulations' on my birthday as messages Naruto." Her words laced with venom.
"Enough Naruto." She cut him off sternly. "You want to have this conversation? Then you are going to hear me out. You are going to hear the truth that I have kept buried in my heart. You ask me what about Sasuke, Naruto? What about him? Please inform me because I've heard nothing from Sasuke. Yes, I still love him but what have I gained in return for my love?" Sakura pleaded with him, trying to force every single complicated emotion she felt about Sasuke into her voice. "Years of pinning after him. Years of my life dedicated to loving a man who has left me with little more than 'congratulations', 'thank-yous' and 'I'm sorrys'?"
She paused to bring her hands to her mouth. Trying to swallow the emotions that threatened to surface, the tears that clouded her eyes. "I don't even know what he feels for me. When is it going to stop being about him Naruto, and start being about me? About what I want, what I need, what I deserve?"
Naruto could not say anything. He too had been frustrated at how infrequently Sasuke had communicated with Sakura. At the same time he had no idea Sakura was even entertaining the idea of being with another man. Her heart as always belonged to Sasuke, and he thought that was enough for her.
"If any other man treated me this way would you stand for it?" Sakura challenged in her soft way when she was trying to get him to realize things.
"I know he's messed up Sakura-chan, but he has to feel more for you than this guy." Naruto shook the Daimyo's letter.
The letter did not sit well with him. How could anyone even think about their Sakura-chan this way? This was not flaunt Sakura-chan around for other villages. She was basically already taken! Everyone knew it. That's why he wouldn't let anyone ask her out.
Naruto exclaimed louder than needed, "Do you know what this is?"
The anger at her best friend resurfaced. The little sarcastic voice inside her head said: No, please mansplain the letter to me.
"Yes, Naruto." She marched over and yanked the letter from his hands just to waive it in front of his face. "I know exactly what this letter is. And yes, I know exactly who it is from. And you know what else-" Sakura tossed the letter up in the air, and marching over to the small desk. With a simple seal she released one of the bottom most drawers.
Hinata at this point made herself comfortable in Sakura's love seat with her glass of wine. She was wise enough to know that this conversation was a long time coming, and there was nothing she could say just yet that would help either of them. Additionally, she was used to her loving husband go at with Sakura. It was always an interesting to watch the two of them go at it. It was like going to the theatre, but completely free.
Sakura dug in the drawer for the box she kept as a reminder of how far she come. Without breaking eye contact she opened the box and retrieved a thicker stack of letters. "The Daimyo is not the first," She tossed several letters on the couch between them, which unfortunately was right over Hinata's head. "Nor I suspect, will he be the last." She snarled at her fox brother.
Naruto was stunned. Truly stunned. Not only for the little temper tantrum, but for the sheer number of letters she had tossed between them. All of them propositions she had received and never told him about. His hands shakily reached for one, two, three different letters. His eyes quickly scanned them. Some were just asking for a meeting between Sakura and this or that son. Some were more- straight to the point. They wanted Sakura to procreate with this or that ability and see if their offspring would produce any shinobi of great ability. If not they would compensate her enough to give the child a good life.
His dinner turned in his stomach to think something like this.
"How could you keep this from me Sakura-chan?" His voice shook, his blue eyes held back tears as he pushed around the letters before him.
"Because I knew you would react like this!" Sakura's arms flug wide beside her.
"Naruto-" Hinata appeared at his side, placing her ivory hand gently on his arm. "I know this is a shock to you, but this is not an uncommon practice."
Blue eyes pierced his wife's pale orbs instantly, attempting to process her words. His head quickly wiped back to his sister before returning to his wife. "What do you mean Hinata? How can it be common practice for clans to-"
"They want to strengthen their genetic lines Naruto." Sakura deadpanned.
"This is disgusting." Naruto exclaimed.
"No one is disagreeing with that."
"Why do you keep this things then?" He demanded. "Why are you not angry about these?"
"I never said I wasn't angry Naruto." Sakura responded simply. "And I keep them as a reminder of how far I've come. It's only us kunoichi who come from civilian families that are usually asked. It's not like Hinata or Ino would get these types of letters."
A moment of understanding passed between the two old friends. These clansmen would not have petitioned Sakura if they were not impressed with how far she had come.
Naruto turned back his wife, eyes wide with concern. Anticipating her husband's worry she shook her head. "She's right Naruto. No one would want to dishonor the Hyuuga clan by suggesting something like this. But, I know Sakura is not the only one, TenTen has received such offers as well."
Naruto's blue eyes flashed back to Sakura, whom just nodded in agreement.
Ten seemed to be the only other one in her friends group who truly understood what it was like to grow up as a civilian in a shinobi world. Many of their experiences were very similar. She and Lee would often spare against her and Naruto. Their fights were quite infamous at this point and would draw more attention than just their former senseis'.
Naruto fell quiet as he attempted to process all this information. The fairy tail he had written for them seemed to be falling apart before Sasuke could even come back. But Sakura had not acted on any of these.
Then blue eyes fell on a particular letter. "Sakura, one of these is from the council in Suna."
Sakura nodded once. "Tenten got one of those as well."
"They want to pair you with Kankuro?" Naruto's mouth twisted as if he was about to projectile vomit.
Sakura shook her head. "Naruto- It's not what you think."
"Gaara?" Blue orbs almost popped out of his head.
"Will you just shut up and listen before you jump to conclusions?" Sakura accused. "The title of Kazekage has often remained in family lines Naruto." Sakura said. "Both Kankuro and Gaara are unwed. With Temari recently engaged to Shikamaru, there would be concern if either of the brothers do not marry then any children between Temari and Shika could be a candidate for the seat of Kazekage. Certainly the elders do not want a Kazekage who has been born and raised in Konoha."
"Since Temari came here, Suna also wants to strengthen ties by having an equally reputable kunoichi marry into one of Suna's clans." Hinata nodded, understanding the logic.
"It's Suna?! Kaka-sensei must know about this!"
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Of course Kakashi knows. Gaara-sama knows too! Gaara and I are friends Naruto. Ten and I escort him and Kankuro around the village when he is here because it makes their lives easier back in Suna. By doing so we make it look like they are attempting to find a wife."
Sakura conveniently left out the part where Ten had confided in her that she would not mind getting to know the Kazekage's brother better. Something about helping him design weapons and poisons for his puppets and it being a completely untapped market for her. Not to mention that behind his make-up Kankuro was a handsome man.
Naruto's twisted at the eyes and mouth- his classic thinking face. What they were saying did make sense. And surely Gaara would have told him if he had feelings for Sakura- or any intention of courting her.
"That doesn't explain the Daimyo!" Naruto jumped and pointed.
Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose. This was entirely too much of a headache for one day. What could she even say to answer that? She did not even know the answer to his question.
"Can you even say no to meeting the Daimyo's son?" Hinata asked.
"Not really," Sakura groaned. "But that's about as far as the obligation goes. Kakashi has it worked out."
"How can you be calm about this? Anytime a guy even looks at you the wrong way you raise a fist to them?"
Sakura threw up her hand with a shrug of her shoulders. "What else would you have me do? The clans think of this as a business transaction."
"I do Naruto." Sakura gestured to the mess of papers on the floor. "Often. But then Konoha can't very well ignore Suna can they? So we try to make the most out of an awkward situation.
"I thought you guys were just being nice!" Naruto exclaimed.
"We are nice to one another. We are still friends with Gaara and Kankuro after all. But just friends. And Kakashi cannot really say no to the Daimyo either- so I will meet with his son to keep the peace. It won't be fun but it's a duty that I have to do for Konoha, for my Hokage. Just like any mission Team 7 takes."
Hinata giggled, now on her second glass of wine. "TenTen said that you two have quite the adventures when Gaara and Kankuro are here. When will they be here next?"
"The midsummer's festival." Sakura began cleaning up the letters that she had tossed everywhere. "Kakashi has invited the Daimyo and his son there too."
"Would that not make your time very short if you have to escort Gaara...ohh" Hinata asked the question as she figured out the answer. She never gave Kakashi enough credit. He was much more perceptive than he appeared. "Here let me help you clean up." She offered sensing the conversation coming to an end.
Sakura waved her friend with a dismissive hand. "Please Hinata, I can take care of this mess. Take your husband home and comfort him. I believe we have shocked him enough for one day."
Naruto thought he had seen a lot of things in his life: creepy snake people, large monsters, people who had different eye powers, tailed beasts that could destroy cities. Yes he had seen and done a lot of things.
But he knew he could not knowingly watch Sakura entertain another man! No, there was only one man that he would ever approve of for his Sakura-chan. And it was about damn time that man did something about it.
"I think Sakura-chan is right." Naruto said slowly, the pain and hurt obvious. "I'm sorry for fighting. I just wish… I wish you would have told me about this."
Sakura took a deep breath as she straightened up. "I did not want to worry you Naruto. It's something… that I knew would be difficult for you to understand. Please don't get mad. Can you imagine me with some fancy title anyway? Lady Haruno Sakura, Konoha's best medic covered in blood before the court?"
Her friendly laughter broke the tension in the apartment.
Except Naruto, because behind his smile he could image her with a title.
Teme come back home. We need you. Sakura needs you.
"You got any treats broody?" The high pitched voice of the frog was unmistakable.
The dark haired wanderer said nothing, only produced the requested item causing the frog to smile. "Got a response for the boss?"
Dark eyes drifted out over the horizon. The rising sun chased away the darkness of the night. The world was waking up.
He gave no response. Naruto did not need one. His note was not a request after all.
"No response. Gotcha. See ya broody." The yellow frog disappeared with a poof.
The tension Sasuke did not know he was holding released in his shoulders. The frog was annoying- and smelled funny. Snakes, while wildly misunderstood, were clean creatures. They never smelled like frogs. Unless they ate one.
His mismatched eyes drifted back to the note. There was a quickness that pounded in his chest. These quick palpitations were a sensation that he never thought he would be used to. Naruto made his point clear. Sakura needed him.
He had purposefully avoided her on his journey. Sakura was hope, light, warmth and good; all the things he knew he wasn't. That he needed to learn what they were and their place in the world. He needed to learn how to chase the darkness away from inside of him without her.
The first day he saw her, truly saw her aglow with warm healing chakra, she looked like a battle angel. He had tried to kill her multiple times, he had spurned her, and purposefully disabled her so she would not interfere with his and Naruto's fight. Still she came and attended to him, saving their lives once again.
It was as if her healing chakra alone chased the last bit of darkness from his heart. She was there for him from the beginning. He had to begin again, he had to repent. Not just for his own sake, but hers. He understood and felt the unashamed love Sakura held for him. Despite everything he had done, despite his intentions. She was there.
He wanted to be there for her too. And he wanted to put forth the best version of himself.
Which is exactly why he had to leave.
For years he wandered, observing with objective eyes how the world existed, the balance between the nations, the differences in shinobi life vs. civilian life, all while pondering his own role in this mess.
Still, he could not ignore the frequency with which she came to his mind. She was the wind which ran itself through his hair. She was the scent of every flower. She was the bright eyed look of every child. Sakura was hope, light, warmth, and goodness.
The voice drifted in the back of his head, causing him to doubt. Was he ready? Was he ready to move on from violence and hatred? Was it all gone from his heart?
He could not ignore her call. He would return home, because she was his home. And he would protect her- always.
Haruno Sakura did not believe in coincidences.
She had seen too many medical conditions brought on by careless life choices, and one of the most devastating wars her generation has seen, to believe that things just happen in the world.
While every single fiber of her being screamed in happiness when Kakashi said Sasuke would arrive home, on a Tuesday no less! It seemed too good to be true.
"Sasuke will be returning to Konoha," Kakashi's voice ghosted through her head as she tried to process the words.
She heard the words but almost did not want to believe it. He was coming home. Too many times she had hoped for this very conversation, had dreamt about this day for it not to come. But each time before she woke up from her slumber to an empty bed.
Naruto hugged her tight, his voice ringing with some incomprehensive string of jumble.
It was too soon after her revealing discussion with Naruto to be happenstance that Sasuke was coming home. Green eyes narrowed at Naruto's back as they walked out of the office. He had to have said something to Sasuke after their discussion about the letters.
If that was the case did Sasuke know? Did she care that he knew?
On the outside she was thrilled. She walked, arms linked with her blonde friend, a new pep in her stride, along with a smile painted on her face. She felt the energy coursing through her body. She felt like lightning wanted to jump from every muscle that she could not sit still.
Regardless of her excitement, the voice kept telling her to be cautious, to not get excited, to keep her guard.
"See!" Naruto exclaimed. "I told you he would come back."
Sakura caught the hint of a smirk on the corner of his mouth, but only offered a sweet smile back to her friend. "Yes you did Naruto."
"Come on let's celebrate with some ramen!"
Sakura withdrew her hand. "Actually, I need to go and inform Tsunade-shishou. She will want to check the composition of his arm when he returns."
"Sakura that can wait. Team 7 has a new mission right now."
One perfectly manicured eyebrow raised higher than the other.
"We have to go clean up Sasuke's place." Naruto smiled. "And before that we need to eat so we have the energy. That place is going to need a lot of shadow clones."
Sakura left out a breath of exasperation. "Did Sasuke tell you he wanted to live in the compound?"
The fox boy rolled his eyes. "Of course he'll want to live at the compound! We're going to clean it up for him and then have our first Tuesday night dinner there!"
"We." Sakura clarified.
"Yes Sakura-chan, didn't you hear me?"
Oh she heard him. She just also knew whenever Naruto said 'we' in terms of cleaning, he meant everyone else but him. Because Naruto would hyper focus on the smallest chore possible and exceed in taking entirely too long to do that chore in the most difficult way possible. Maybe she could get him to go pluck out all the weeds.
"Who all is we?" She rephrased her question.
"You me, Hinata, Sai, and even Ino said she would come!"
Ino. Sakura mused. Ino had purposefully stayed away from the compound after Sasuke left. There would only be two reasons why should would willingly go there to clean of all things. The first was to see Sai working up a sweat. The second, would to be there for her best friend.
Ino was going to be there as a support system.
Ino was one of the few who were absolutely honest with her. She hated that many tiptoed around her feelings, especially in terms of Sasuke. Yes, Sakura knew she could give off an intimidating aura. And she hated when sleazy men came onto her. But, she also knew there were good, reputable men in the village and, despite her own modest flirting, would not ask her out. She knew it had to be because of Sasuke. Sometimes she felt like she was in a relationship with a ghost of a man. One that hung around her but was never there for her. Still he chased away any suitors.
But, she loved Sasuke. Even just thinking about him, his casual pensive gaze, the way his body moved when he fought- all of it made her heart flutter. So, why did it bother her that other men would not look at her?
Naruto's happy go lucky voice broke her from her thoughts. "Kakashi-sensei is buying ramen to go. Then I figured we could all have a big sleepover at the compound!"
"Are you deaf Sakura?" Naruto said. "I thought you would have given anything to sleep next to Sasuke."
"Naruto," Sakura said quietly, "We were on the same team. We have all slept in the same area before." Granted, that had been when they were younger. Years later she knew it would not be the same.
"Great!" Naruto exclaimed pulling her in the direction of Ramen. "Then you won't have any problems doing it again."
Sakura rolled her eyes but continued to let him pull her along the streets as he exclaimed loudly to everyone he saw: Did you hear? Sasuke's coming back!
No, Sakura did not believe in coincidences.
But she did believe in fate.
So this is my Post War SasuSaku. I've been dabbling in this one for a while. I figured I would post it after my wedding while I finish updating Lady Luck.
Let me know what you think.
I quickly found that this Sasuke and Sakura are going to be incredibly different/difficult for me to write this time around. Ino, however, I am having a great time writing. Let me know what you thought of their characterizations.