Chapter 2: Hesitations
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.
Naruto's "Clean up of the Uchiha Compound" mission was an even larger undertaking than any of them, much less Naruto, could realize.
The compound was only maintained as needed to keep it up to code. Unless the grass, or structures threatened to break code, the entire compound was ignored. The decay of the place was only shadowed by the overgrowth of natural life attempting to reclaim the various houses and community gathering structures. Very few citizens actually dared to go near it. There had been rumors in Konoha how the compound was haunted. That any who enter would eventually go insane.
While the rosette did not believe these urban legends; everytime Sakura entered the compound she could not help but feel as if hundreds of eyes were on her. The ghosts of memories past revealing with every step. Uchiha men, women, and children judging her harshly as she- a non Uchiha- dared to walk their streets. The only thing she could not figure was if those memories were telling her to come closer, or to get out while she was still breathing.
After the massacre, the Third had put Sasuke's wealth into a well structured fund to insure the boy was able to live in relative comfort as he grew. Since Sasuke left the village for years, the money had not been touched. Additionally, after his first return as a teenager, he agreed to surrender the majority of the compound to the village to do with as they pleased. The land and structures were used as temporary and emergency housing for those who lost family during the war.
After most of those people were relocated it had been renovated further to serve as group housing for orphaned war victims. That was actually Naruto's idea which the rest of Team 7 supported. The remaining few structures would be maintained during his sentence and journey of self discovery.
Regardless of the money afforded to them for this restoration project, and the diminished size of the compound; the group still had a lot of work to do. The remaining compound's few buildings were in several stages of disarray. There were ivy vines creeping up and out of the brick. Weeds were slowly overgrowing the walkways. Mold had began eating away at the wood. Another large task would be devoted to just getting the grounds in order. Or rather there were a select few specifically chosen for that job.
Naruto wants Sakura to do something different than himself. He put her in charge of designing Sasuke's house. Why he wants Sakura to be in charge of designing the house? She had absolutely no idea.
Okay, she had some idea. However she was not comfortable with this sudden burden and the suggestive expectation weighing down on her. Naruto was having her decorate what he believed would be her house. The house that she would some day share with Sasuke when they got married. The idea both delighted and terrified her. Because as the compound stood, this was all Sasuke's. She was not an Uchiha. She was not raised with their culture and traditions. While she did some extensive reading (especially after Madara and Obito) there was still much she did not know. Clan secrets that were kept in a shrine that only an Uchiha could access.
How could she be expected to lead a clean up and restoration of a clan's ground of which she was not apart?
Additionally, Naruto expected her to put in work to designing Sasuke's house. This caused her even more anxiety. What if he did not like it? She had no idea how he liked one's kitchen laid out, or if he liked his bed facing the morning light. Let alone color schemes and what else.
At the same time Sakura did not feel there was another option. Looking around to the other choices, she most definitely was not going to leave these choices to Naruto. Naruto could clean the grounds much more efficiently with his shadow clones anyway. Ino would be a better designer than herself, but Ino did not know Sasuke like Sakura did.
Even that could be a stretch. Sakura had no idea if she still had any idea who Sasuke is.
In the end, Sakura decided she would consult Kakashi with the various choices. Kakashi and Sasuke had many personality quirks that were similar. Sakura assumed that was why Kakashi seemed to favor him and taught Sasuke the Chidori during their first chunin exams. Also this way, if Sasuke did not like what she did with his house, Sakura could just blame it on their sensei. But their precious Hokage now was very amendment that he did not have to do trivial D ranked missions anymore. Part of the perks of being Hokage, which means the pink haired kunoichi would need to recruit Shizune to get Kakashi out of the office.
Eventually, word of their restoration mission, and the volume of work at the compound began to spread. Whether their friends were driven by an insatiable curiosity, or an honest desire to help, the other members of the Rookie 9, and the remaining members of Team Gai had agreed to help Team 7. Both Naruto and Sakura knew it was more out of the affection the others held for the two of them, more so than any affection held for the lone Uchiha.
Together, they entered the compound, heads held high and senses heightened. Together, slowly, the group made their way to the main house. Sakura and Naruto had been in the house once together. Sakura had also come afterwards, just herself, after Sasuke left the village for the second time. It was an eerie place that sent shivers down both their spines. Decay was the only word she seemed she could use to describe the scene around her. Even though over 10 years have passed, there were still stains on the floors.
She had already decided they would be the first go.
So there they all stood, in support of the infamous Team 7's attempt to bring their lone avenger back home.
Naruto held out his hand, while staring at the door; waiting for Sakura to be ready to enter once again. This time was different though. It did not feel like an intrusion for either of them. They were doing this because they Uchiha clan they wanted to restore the property to its true glory. They would never tell the other, but both Naruto and Sakura felt the ghostly shiver of approval run down their spines.
"Ladies first," the blonde shinobi next to her said.
After exhaling a breath she did not know she was holding, Sakura entered the main house of the Uchiha compound with Naruto close behind her. Her eyes disregarded the layer dust hanging not just on every surface, but in the air; she looked past the muted sunlight of dirty windows as she walked into the house. Still, she felt like she was walking into a timezone. The house was like a time capsule from over a decade ago.
Naruto was right, they did need to restore the house. Sasuke would not do well coming back to a house that was kept in perfect rendition of the house where his parents were killed.
"Are you sure you can do this?" Ino asked, her hand moving across her friends back in a comforting motion.
Sakura took a moment, cataloging a list of everything she would need to change, update, refurbish, or keep the same. Afterwards, she nodded her head. "Hai," her voice was quiet as her head turned back to her friend, "I am the only one who can do this."
So Sakura did. The restoration of the entire compound was an ongoing process. It was an efficient project, and even though Naruto had declared himself captain of the mission, Sakura was the one who held it afloat. Mostly because Sakura kicked Naruto out of the Main House to continue attending to the extended compound. Sakura appointed Hinata in charge of directing Naruto along with Team 8 to continue cleaning up the rest of the houses.
She knew the floors needed to go but first she needed to determine what things in the house were staying and which were going. This also meant packing up the majority of the house or moving it from one place to another.
So the hard part began. In a way she felt like she was going through the history of a family she never really knew, yet, in the depths of her heart, hoped she would become a part of. High quality China, decore, paintings, portraits, kick knacks, she had to go through all of it. Quickly she became overwhelmed. Without Sasuke, how was she supposed to know what was important?
Shikamaru was strangely helpful in helping Sakura determine what pieces in the house were heirlooms and what were decoration. Most of it just looked antics so anything that did not have the Uchiha fan or was a fan itself she was lost on. If neither of them knew, the item was put in a box for Sasuke to sort out later.
Then there was furniture. For obvious reasons the majority of the mattresses, couches and chairs had to go. Even if they were important for this or that reason, she made a mental note of how they looked and then broke them to pieces.
Her blonde haired best friend complained because, according to him, Sakura and Choji had the fun job. Demolition. Sakura could only shrug. Of course she was going to be better at breaking stuff than Naruto was. It also helped her get out some frustration.
Any wooden furniture that could not be cleaned or restored went. Luckily that was only a few pieces here or there. Dresser sets mostly. Shino was put in charge of the restoration process. He claimed to have bugs that would any fungus on the wood but not harm the wood.
As things began to clear out, she had to assign other duties. She assigned Ino and Sai to landscape duties.
Tenten helped her make everything shine. Tenten actually was a highly efficient cleaner, she did spend hours polishing her weapons; why Sakura thought her attention to other details would be different? She had no idea. But Tenten helped her clean the dishes, sheets, curitins, blinds, the new floors once they came in, windows, the list went on and on.
Choji and Kiba were sent to the market to buy food to stock the pantry.
At that point, the renovations began. Uchiha Mikoto was known to be a woman of fine tastes, but Sasuke was not his mother. Sakura highly doubted he planned on entertaining much and if he did, he could use his father's office. So with reluctance, she turned the tea room into a sunroom, with a door that would lead to deck built against the back of the house.
Sakura also believe that Sasuke found peace in the outdoors. Lee assisted her with this project, as well as building a deck that allowed someone to walk further out onto the large pond behind the Main House. He had such energy and attention to detail he declared he would build the finest deck anyone had ever seen and that was when she hit her thumb with the hammer.
Sakura almost lamented asking Kakashi for his input because he was utterly useless when it came to design spaces. The correct person for the job, again surprisingly, was Shikamaru. While he complained the entire time (as usual) his insights were almost on par for what Sakura could invision for Sasuke.
Together they achieved a balance of honoring the past while giving Sasuke a fresh start. There were still several things Sasuke would have go to through. Sakura had hope that he would be happy.
In the end, she looked upon the house with pride. The entire project took about two weeks. But the compound seem to glow with such pride as it had not seen in a long time.
So why did her stomach turn in knots?
"Don't be nervous Sakura-chan." He stated.
"I'm not nervous." She lied.
"Your chakra levels are rising." He noted.
"My tolerance is dwindling." She growled.
"Do I detect a threat Sakura?" The masked man feigned. "Do I need to call in my ANBU guards to protect me?"
Sakura could only laugh. Like Hatake Kakashi needed ANBU to protect him.
She and Kakashi had a unique type of relationship. It was true, what Hinata had said earlier. Sakura could say things to, and about their current Hokage that not many others can. Kakashi would jokingly say she was his favorite. Sakura knew that it was true. She may not be as special as Naruto, or talented as Sasuke; but she was a damn hard worker and the growth she had exhibited was far greater than the other two.
Also she believed he was afraid of her fists.
But Sakura also appreciated how intuitive her old sensei was. Even with one eye he could look at his students and know when there is something bothering them beneath the surface. He also knew exactly what to do or say to make them feel better. Even if they didn't.
"I am not sure why you are laughing."
"Surely I cannot stand up to the great power of Hokage Hatake Kakashi, the Copy Ninja."
"I am not sure," Kakashi said turning the page in the latest installment of Icha Icha Paradise- Lovers Returned. "I have heard that Hatake guy is getting old. I also heard of this Haruno Sakura from Konoha that is considered to be a Sannin, like her master before her."
"You should know better than to trust rumors Kakashi." Sakura teased.
"There is always some truth to rumors Sakura." Kakashi quipped, still not looking up from his book. "Underneath the underneath."
They both knew his jests were veiled attempts to calm her nerves. She had lived this day a thousand times over in her head. And it was here. Her heart was pounding out of her chest. Her whole heart revolved around this one man who has left her for more years than he had been with her.
And he was coming back today. In a matter of minutes. She was trying desperately hard not to flare out her chakra to sense him coming.
A part of her did not even want to greet him at the front gates. That was before Kakashi had personally invited her, and in his double speech way reminded her that Sasuke would probably appreciate a friendly face at the front gate.
Plus he would have to submit to several examinations since he had been out of the village for so long.
They both agreed it would be best to task Hinata with stocking the Uchiha's house with basic essential living items, as well as occupying her hyperactive husband until Sakura escorted Sasuke back to the compound for dinner.
"I am sure he will be happy to be home."
Sakura nodded, leaning against the gate once again. She closed her eyes and went over the checklist of things she needed to do at the hospital tomorrow. Hoping it would provide
The figure's gate had that of an easy stroll. One foot at a time, it was brought closer to the gates.
Her heart about jumped out of her chest. It was him. Not just a suggestion he was there, a calling card or whatever else. It was him.
Sasuke was there, walking towards Konoha. He was actually coming home.
She could not help but stare in awe, making note of all the differences 3 years made to his form. He had obviously kept up with his training. His hair was longer, skin tanned.
Well everyone looked tanned compared to her. She spent all day inside a building. She rarely saw the sun. Everyone except Sai. For some reason he just would always be the same shade of alabaster.
Sasuke still was nothing short of beautiful.
"Welcome back," She squeaked out softly, "Sasuke-kun." when he had reached the gates.
Get ahold of yourself. You are Sakura mother-fucking Haruno. You do not squeak before anyone!
She conservatively held her hands behind her back not knowing what to do with them. She held is eye contact and forced herself not to look away. She was not going to be the same weak girl she was before. A warm rose began to rise in her cheeks. It warmed his heart to. He had been hoping to see her form waiting for him, just as she saw him off.
"Thank you," He said softly, inclining his head in respect towards her. His voice just as rich as ever. "Sakura." He looked at her with that one visible eye and shivers went down her spine. The sound of her name on his tongue was music.
After giving the two a moment to themselves, Kakashi offered his greetings as well. "Welcome back Sasuke. I hope your travels were illuminating."
"Thank you, Hokage-sama," Sasuke bowed deeply.
Kakashi held up one hand. "Please. Kakashi is fine. Come, we will make this part as painless as possible."
Sasuke straightened, and followed the man, with Sakura trailing after him. Her heart sinking a bit. Why is he always short with me?
Stop it Sakura, be happy he is back.
"I do not want to overwhelm you," Kakashi began, "But there will be several examinations that we must ask you submit yourself to before we allow you official reentry into the village."
Sasuke nodded. He assumed as much. "I will submit to whatever is necessary."
"I am glad to hear that Sasuke." Kakashi crinkled and eye as they walked. They were taking the long way to the hospital. A path less traveled. While they had kept the news of Sasuke's return mostly secret. There was still no need to flaunt his return just yet.
"Sakura, of course, will be your medical examiner."
Sakura's face twisted in confusion. Tsunade was supposed to do that. She wanted to check how Hiroshima's cells were doing in his reconstructed arms.
"My apologizes for not telling you sooner Sakura. Tsunade had to step out of the hospital."
Well aware that one black orb was fixated on her reaction, Sakura schooled her features and smiled sweetly. "Of course, I would be happy to assist Sasuke-kun."
She did not know if she was ready for this closeness with him just yet. But it was going to happen regardless. "I will go prepare the paperwork."
"No need. I had Shizune give it to your receptionist this morning." Kakashi stated.
"Oh," Sakura said. "How very thoughtful of you Kaka-sensei." She drew out the sarcasm which made Kakashi chuckle to himself.
"I am always considerate of your feelings Sakura-chan."
Sasuke, on the other hand, knew that there was some sort of moment passing between Sakura and Kakashi but was not sure quite what the veiled meaning behind her words. There was a quickness and wit that she demonstrated with their sensei that he had not seen before.
What else about her had he neglected to see? He was very eager to find out. To begin his new life here in Konoha with her. To devour every part of her and rebuild everything he had lost with her by his side.
It was a long day. Not just for Sasuke, but for Sakura as well.
First he had to debrief with the Hokage, privately. Sakura waited outside the door for Kakashi to call her back in. Next she and Kakashi escorted him to the interrogation complex where he submitted himself to a routine mental examination.
She was very appreciative that Kakashi was there with her.
Until he wasn't.
Because he left them together at the hospital.
Damn pervy sensei and his aversion to needles. But he had been preparing her for most of the day. There was going to come a time where they would be left alone eventually.
Well, as alone as they could be in a hospital- with several prying eyes.
"Let us go to my office." She said under her breath. "No one will bother you there."
Sasuke merely nodded. He would much prefer to not have such wandering eyes peeking in at him through the door's window of a regular room. Her office? He wondered. She was part of the administration of the hospital. It made sense for her to have an office. She lead him through the hallways of the hospital, up a few flights of stairs until they came to a single door at the end of an administrative hallway.
While he did not actively participate in gossip he had heard a lot about Naruto and Sakura while he was on the road. It was hard not to since they were well known across the lands. She had trained under the two Hokage. She was one of only two to achieve the diamond seal on her forehead.
He should probably ask her about that, Sasuke thought. During the fight with Madara, she truly did impress him. Sasuke could sense the pure strength pulsing through her. It was almost unbelievable. But strength is not the only skill she had learned over the years. Yes, he and Naruto took on enemies but Sakura healed thousands of people. They might not be alive because of her.
Sakura pressed her hand to the door, and pressed some of her chakra into it, releasing a seal. The door swung open and she led him into her office.
He did not know what to expect, and supposed he would have been intrigued either way; but her office was…
"I'm sorry about the mess," she gave a light laugh gathering various folders in her arms to make room on the sofa in her office.
Sasuke did not know if the word 'mess' would appropriately describe the various stacks of folders, books and scrolls scattered not just on her desk but around various parts of the already small room.
She watched him briefly embarrassed because she had actually attempted to clean before more medical files arrived this morning. But more so because Sasuke was actually there. He was still there. A part of her did not believe he was actually there, that he would even stay.
She felt the heat rising in her face, nerves grasping at her stomach. So she did the only thing she knew how to do when her nerves got worked up. Chatter.
"These just came in this morning. I'm in charge of heading annual check-ups for all shinobi. It's not my favorite but it keeps me busy. It just creates a mess everywhere and I keep asking Tsunade-shishou for more storage space but she keeps insisting there is no money in the budget and she never needed files when she was Hokage-"
"Sakura," his gentle timber caught her off guard. "It is fine."
Sakura gave a quick nod, placing the files in a pile on her desk chair. She took a moment to collect herself, slipping into her professional demeanor. "If you would please have a seat, and remove your outer layers."
The words stuck in his throat when her eyes turned to him. He had removed his shirt. Emerald eyes quickly traveled the planes of his finely chiseled chest and abs. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as she was unprepared for this type of interaction with him so quickly.
Sakura immediately used the clipboard to shield her eyes from his disrobed form. Also conveniently it shielded her face from him.
"I said top layer!" She said, a little too loudly. "You didn't need to take your shirt off."
What appeared on his face, Sakura could only describe as a playful smirk. "Does this not make your examination easier?"
It was the longest sentence he spoke to her since she had been back.
"Not really-" Sakura pursed her lips producing a clipboard onto which she attached his paperwork.
Sasuke only shrugged.
Damn him. Sakura thought. She had to refocus, recenter herself. Damn her former sensei. Hokage or not, she would be having a very stern word with the man next time she saw him.
Summoning the best of her professional decorum, she lowered herself on the seat next to him. He smelled oddly fresh, of rainwater and forrest. His hair had grown longer, and he stopped cropping it short. Excess hair fell over his Rinnegan eye. She wondered if he would let her examine it. That was a question months away.
Because right now, she knew this man before her was Uchiha Sasuke. But she had no idea who this man was on the inside now. Just like he did not know who she was.
"Okay Sasuke-kun, this is a basic shinobi assessment. I'm going to be checking your chakra levels, your nervous systems, reaction times. Before we begin there will be a series of questions."
Sasuke simply nodded.
"What is your name?"
Sasuke stared at her.
Awkward silence filled her office.
"I just need you to answer the question." Sakura said with a sigh, her bright emerald eyes pleading with him.
"Where are you?"
She could not be serious, he thought. "In your office Sakura, in Konoha."
"What year is it?"
Sasuke again, reluctantly answered the question with as few words as possible.
"Good." Sakura stated then explained, "The questions were meant to test your awareness of self, time, and location. I know they seem kind of silly but there is a reason for those questions."
She gave him a half hearted smile which seemed to dissipate the previous tension in the room. Sasuke looked at her carefully, taking in the woman he dreamt about for so long. The unique hue of her hair. The way her eyes crinkled at the corner when she tried to use that forced smile. The way those emeralds tried to look everywhere but directly at him.
"The next series of questions talk about… family history Sasuke-kun. Do you want to continue?"
In that moment Sakura questioned if she was really the best person to be asking these questions. Uchiha Sasuke was notoriously tight lipped about his personal life. He had never shared this kind of stuff with her willingly in the past. It almost felt like an invasion of his privacy for her to be the one asking these questions in a professional setting or no. At the same time she was probably the person he would be most willing to open up to.
Sasuke wondered if he actually had a choice. He needed to let her complete the examination if he wanted to be officially reinstated as an active shinobi of Konoha. So he simply nodded his consent.
Taking a deep breath in Sakura asked, "Does anyone in your family history has had any serious medical issues?"
As she figured he would, Sasuke's muscles began to tense.
"This is for your medical records Sasuke-kun. Nothing you tell me will leave this room." Sakura gently reminded him. She then looked down at the clipboard she was holding. "You can always request a different examiner too if you are not comfortable."
After a moment Sasuke quietly responded, "Respiratory."
There was a brief moment of silence, knowing he was most likely talking about his brother, before Sakura simply nodded. She continued, "Any history of mental illness?"
Sasuke was unsure how to answer her question, so he remained silent, lost in his thoughts.
"If you are unsure you can always answer as such." Her melodic voice interrupted his thoughts.
His consciousness returned to her office and was grounded in her. When her words registered he simply nodded. He was unsure if any Uchiha was ever official diagnosed. He was not sure if any of his family underwent any psychological evaluations. Answering in the unknown was probably the best.
"I am unsure."
Quickly wanting to move past the touchy family and history questions Sakura asked the next question. "Any major surgeries?"
"My eyes." He spared at her, mismatched eyes employing her own to make prolonged contact. Obviously they had been transplanted.
She nodded and made a note on the clipboard. "Do you have any other major health concerns?"
Sakura stood, scribbling some more on her clipboard. "Please lay down."
Sasuke tracked her movements, watching her eyes flit between various different papers on the clipboard. She rose, crossed the room and placed the board on her desk before turning back as she said, "We will be moving to the chakra examination. I'm not sure if you remember, but you are going to feel warming sensation at the site of entry."
Oh he remembered. "Aa," Sasuke said.
Except that simple answer did not encompass how clearly he remembers the warmth of her healing chakra coursing through his body. He remembered laying next to Naruto at the Valley of the End thinking he was going to die there next to his best friend when he felt warmth- her warmth flow into him. She had always been warm towards him but with the hate, the anger, and jealous expelled he finally understood how warm she was and what that warmth meant to him. And how much he had done wrong by her pushing that warmth away constantly. Remember her warmth, remember Sakura would always bring him back from the edge of his darkness.
"Okay then," Sakura bent down next to his body, hands raised and activated her chakra.
She began on his abdomen.
He was malnourished. Not as much as he had been when she had healed him after the battle with Madara in the Valley of the End. But she could feel his ribs easy, and there was no way someone could have rippling abs like that unless- Sakura's mind began to wander off as she gently ghosted her chakra infused fingertips over those very same muscles. She wondered what it would be like to press her hands on them, to press her lips to them-
"Did you find something?" A smooth voice brought her back to the room and her current examination.
The heat rising in her cheeks; which earned her a smirk she did not see. "Scar tissue. Old wounds that did not heal properly." She gave a quick excuse then continued her exam.
"Hn," He responded. He knew perfectly well she was admiring his body. He did not mind. If she stumbled over her work at the sight of him now, it meant that she was still enraptured with him. It meant that she had not forgotten him, like she had been in his mind for the last three years.
With a breath Sakura recentered herself. She just had to get through this. Her examine continued up his chest, paying specific attention to his lungs. She did not find any abnormalities. She was sure if he had whatever Itachi did, it would have manifested at this stage. Either way, she would like to run some tests in the future, just to be sure. Moving to his heart next, it thumped with a strong, steady consistency.
She withdrew her hands and asked him to sit up. He did not need to be laying down for her to examine his head. She then placed her head on either side of his temples, moving quickly to check nerve responses in various simulations. All responses were normal.
"Other then needing to put on a little weight, you are perfectly healthy. You will have to undergo a psych eval eventually. Kakashi-sensei will probably want you to see a trauma specialist."
"Hn," he grumbled. Kakashi had told him as such.
Sakura only nodded and finished her probing with his eyes. "Have you ever had-"
"No," Sasuke was short.
Sakura scowled as he did not let her finish. "You did not-"
"You were going to ask if I let anyone examine my eyes post transplant." Sasuke again interrupted. "Tsunade-sama asked. I declined."
Perturbed Sakura withdrew her hands. "Why?" Surely he had to understand the conditions of his transplant before. "Tsunade is one of the best medics out of all of the shinobi villages."
He wanted to say because he did not trust the former Hokage. Because there was no medic he trusted. Well, none other than Sakura- who even after everything he put her through still healed his and Naruto's sorry asses in the Valley.
What he would not admit aloud was that he was scared to test them. To him, they were working just fine and they did not need to be looked at.
"Sasuke-kun there has been a lot of extensive research done on various bloodline limits including those with doujutsus. I'm not asking you to do it right now, only consider it, okay?"
He had considered it. And there was only one option. "You do it." Sakura would be apart of his rebuilding of his line. She would be the mother of his children. She should understand how their bloodline limit would work.
Sakura, on the other hand, was taken aback. "I have not specialized in that research Sasuke. I am not suited."
His eyes regarded hers, holding her gaze. "Too bad." He shrugged.
Except his comment wasn't the sneering criticism he dealt her before, his comment was something more akin to a longing. Or at least she did not perceive it that way. But at the same time she was not in the mood to begin deciphering the enigma that was Sasuke.
It was then, after the exam had concluded, did it really sink in that she was alone with Sasuke in her office. How intimate their sitting next to one another was. More so how this scene could be perceived if someone was to walk in on them. Quickly she rose once again from her seat and turned her back to him. "That's all I need, thank you."
Such was his signal to dawn his clothing once again. The uncomfortable silence creeping in on them.
Sakura did not like uncomfortable silences. "What is next on your-"
He moved in slow motion, reaching his hand up, his fingers slowly, gently grasped her wrist. In shock she turned her own body to face him. "Sasuke-kun," she breathed out much softer. "What are you doing?"
His hand continued to sweep up her arm, gently caressing the skin. His one visible onyx eyes bore into her like his fire wanted to consume every inch of her. She could feel it; the slow burn building in the pit of her stomach. The same feeling she got everytime she was around him. Because nobody had made her heart jump the way Sasuke could. It was like her body was attuned to him, hypersensitive to him.
If he could ignite her heart like this with one touch, she was in trouble.
"Sakura," he said again, softly. This time she saw the longing in his eyes, and felt it in his voice as his hand came to hover ever so lightly against her cheek. Her heart leaped. Thinking that Sasuke, finally might return her feelings.
"Sasuke-kun," she whispered as she lifted her own hand, keeping her eye contact, to place it on top of his. "You're finally home."
Emerald eyes closed as she leaned the weight of her head into his hand. He dipped his head once. "I'm home," he repeated in assurance. Because she was his home.
It was then that he overwhelmed as a strange pull in his chest caused his breath to stop. This strange, intrusive feeling that threatened to take over his carefully constructed control. Who was he trying to kid? Yes, he affected her and he was happy to see he still did after all this time. But she- Haruno Sakura was just as alluring as his dreams remembered her to be. She made his head fuzzy and this pain in his chest increase. She did something to him too.
This strange feeling caused a pause in his action. A hesitation enough that she noticed and the hope which brightened her emerald eyes dulled.
A sharp, repetitive, loud knock sounded from the door.
"SAKURA-CHAN!" Naruto's voice bellowed into the room causing them both to cringe.
Sakura gave Sasuke a soft smile retracting from his touch. "Kakashi and I tried to save you from him as long as possible. I can tell him to go away if you would like. But that would just make it worse."
He would like nothing more. But he also knew that he could not put off this confrontation with his friend, there would be more time with Sakura.
So he simply shook his head. "Aa."
"I'm not quite sure you understand what you are asking for." Sakura teased moving towards the door.
For the first time, she saw his trademark smirk across his lips, which only caused a beautiful blush to cross her face. "It's good to see you smile Sasuke-kun."
"Hn," the sound came from his closed mouth.
Sakura paused at the familiar sound, and for the first time he saw her genuine smile.
The Uchiha main house was more comfortable than he expected. He was honestly touched that his team and their friends would take the time to clean up his family's home. While there were a few changes he would make, his heart lifted that he was not walking back into a ghost village to do the clean up himself.
It did not look like his mother's house. Walking through there was enough change to ease his conscious yet enough history to satiate his Uchiha pride. This was his new family home. No, his home. Because through him the Uchiha clan would be rebuilt as something greater than the clan tainted with anger and hatred as it stood before.
Prior to his departure, he arranged for much of the compound to be restructured into rescue housing, so the size of the compound itself had greatly diminished. Sasuke did not mind. It would take years for the clan to increase in size. Years after his bones were decomposing in the dust. There were people, orphans, that needed housing now.
He knew what his team was doing. They were trying to make him comfortable, but also specifically not leaving him alone with too many people. Sasuke knew he was not one for social graces. He found in many situations an answer could be arrived at without the use of conversation. To some, he knew, this made him see off-putting and awkward. Which was okay for him. More people left him alone that way. Generally it was a win win situation for everyone involved. Kakashi always seemed to understand that about him. Sakura, surprisingly, thankfully, seemed to understand it now as well. Naruto did not care, but that was part of what made him Naruto.
Generally Sasuke was content with just them. He was going to be comfortable with them.
But Sai? Why the hell they thought it was a good idea to invite the socially awkward replacement on Team 7, he had no idea.
He also had no idea how the hell Sai ended up bedding the Yamanaka girl. He would have to get Naruto to explain that one to him later. And probably explain how Naruto became a married man and snagged the Hyuuga princess well he was at it.
The alabaster man spoke, "How do you expect to get pregnant if your husband has no dick?"
"And that is my cue." Kakashi stood from his spot.
Dinner was a simple affair, and with the weather being warm they all decided to eat out on the deck with a small fire burning. The evening was cool, but bearable with the fire going. The deck was a very nice addition to the house.
Sakura, on the other hand, lamented Kakashi leaving. With Kakashi leaving, that meant that he was leaving her and Sasuke with two other couples. She did not know if she was ready for that pressure just yet. She imagined that this is what it felt like to be set up with someone on a date. If anyone had bothered setting her up on a date.
"Kakashi," Sakura pouted. "You always leave the party too early."
Kakashi only shrugged. "I'm an old man Sakura-chan. I cannot party with the youngins."
His comment made the group chuckle as they bid their Hokage goodbye. Sasuke however noticed how she removed her 'sensei' from her address to him. His eyes quickly flashed between the two in a nervous effort to determine their relationship. Sakura definitely seemed to have a more relaxed and easy going relationship with the Roduiame Hokage than the rest of those lounging on the deck.
Not that he felt threatened by their former sensei. Sasuke just needed to know what he was walking into. Naruto had told him in his letter that Sakura needed his help. He had been back for less than 24 hours and he still did not know what she needed help with exactly. He figured that conversation would come later.
"You know Hinata," Ino started. "I believe Sai has a point. When are you and Naruto going to give us a little pale eyed fox children?"
At the question, Hinata flushed red. Her and Naruto were still young enough into their marriage to be considered newlyweds.
Generally, Ino was quiet most of the night. She knew she was only here by extension of Sai who was not even an original member of Team 7. Therefore she did not want to say too much. She laughed with the collective. But usually she was one to lead the conversation. Tonight, she was a passive participant. Sakura was grateful for her being there. Ino was always a pillar of strength for her.
"Pig," Sakura jested. "Not everyone has the same sex drive as you." The group laughed.
Sasuke was taken aback by her casual use of sex in a joke. Did that mean she had been with a man before?
"How else does one express the depthness of one's love if not by coitus?" Sai asked completely seriously. "I expect Sasuke to do so with Ugly by the end of the night."
Sai's comment killed the laughter immediately. Sakura's body immediately felt like fire made flesh. She was not one for fire based jutsu but she imagined this would have been what it felt like to produce flame from one's body. Worse yet she felt like everyone's eyes, including Sasuke's were on her. She was wrong on the last account; an activated Sharingan was staring daggers into Sai's body at the moment.
"Sakura-chan," Hinata stumbled softly, "Can you help me with the dishes?"
"Absolutely!" Sakura jumped up a little too fast, gathering the pile of plates and moving into the kitchen.
"I did something wrong didn't I?" Sai asked Ino as the two women retreated into the house.
With a sigh, Ino rolled a glance over to her lover. "Yes. We'll talk about it later, okay?"
Sai nodded, knowing he did the thing where he said the wrong thing and watched his curvaceous lover walk into the main part of the house.
"Sai you really are stupid sometimes," Naruto shook his head while scratching the back of his head.
Sai was confused though, "Is that not why you asked Emo to come back?
"Hn," Sasuke scoffed at the use of his nickname.
Sai ignored Sasuke's monosyllabic response to continue, "You were concerned another man was going to have sex with Ugly."
Sasuke's head slowly turned to Naruto, Sharingan still spinning. His stare was long and hard at the blonde fox friend. "What does he mean Naruto?"
Naruto did a quick take around him, then back to the house. From the pockets of his pants he produced a piece of paper. He handed it out to Sasuke. "She's been getting these. From various clans."
The letter Naruto was a marriage proposal from a clan in a non-Shinobi land just outside of Fire. The family, though well known. Sasuke read through the letter. Each word causing his stomach to turn. "Anyone from Konoha."
"No," Naruto shook his head. "Not that I know of."
Sai took it upon himself to agree. "Hai, Naruto said it is bro-code to protect Ugly from the hordes of men who wanted her vaginia because her vaginia belongs to you, Sasuke."
Sasuke did not look at the third man but could not argue with his logic. Sakura had loved him since they were children. She was the one person who believed in him more than he believed in himself. She was the one person who could fill the emptiness in his heart.
"She says she has not given any thought to the offers."
"Offers." Sasuke picked up on the pural.
Naruto gulped. "Yes, there was a whole drawer of them."
Sasuke closed his eyes, hands tightening around the piece of paper, crumpling the words. He could not really but surprised, but he was. She was a talented, driven kunoichi from a civilian background who had made a name for herself. She would be an attractive mate for several people.
"There was one from the Daimyo Sasuke." Naruto said softly. "She says she did not take that one seriously either but she can't really say no to meeting the guy."
"You should have told me this sooner." Sasuke hissed, standing up. With a flick of his wrist he tossed the letter into the fire and began to pace around the area in no particular pattern.
Sakura was in trouble, deeper trouble than Naruto understood. Sasuke knew about these men and these clans. He had done some work for men like them in Sound. They wanted nothing to do with her, just the connections she had. They were all worthless and they would not take her from him.
Haruno Sakura had declared her love for him years ago. She had declared it over and over, even when he did not deserve it. Now he was back, he has found himself, and he would finally take her as his own.
"Sasuke," Naruto said.
"I know you are just getting back and everything but Sakura has waited a long time for you. You do what you need to do, but make sure you do right by her too." Naruto said. He was using the same resolved, motivational speech tone he had used on, not just Sasuke.
Sai on the other hand was still confused. "So you want Emo to sleep with Ugly?" He asked. If this was the case, how was his previous statement incorrect? Was Sasuke not trying to woo Sakura? "Or are you two secretly gay for one another?"
A fist came flying in the artist's direction.
Ino held a special place in her heart for Team 7's artist. She was always attracted to men with some sort of head case. She found herself able to understand someone with a more complex psych due to her family's affinity and bloodline limit. Sai had a very complicated background and since his departure from room Ino understood that he was attempting to relearn how to integrate himself into society.
And unfortunately his first introduction to society was with Konoha's most dysfunctional team. Lead by a porn reading hermit, and manned by the nation's broodiest, self centered, last Uchiha; the hyperactive, prankster, doesn't understand the concept of giving up Uzumaki Naruto, and the headstrong, tempered, workaholic that is Haruno Sakura.
Her heart really did go out to him.
At the same time, she recognized that her beloved man had a horrible habit of saying the worst things at the most inopportune moments.
Like stating, aloud, the expectation Naruto had about Sasuke claiming and sleeping with Sakura.
While she did not verbalize it to others, Ino knew that Sakura doubted if she would get a happy ending. Ino did not blame her. Privately, Sakura confessed to Ino that she doubted if Sasuke would ever really own up to all the wrongs he had done by her in the past. Sakura doubted if he would put in the effort to correct those wrongs. She feared Sasuke would just assume Sakura was his and not put forth any effort to actually romance her.
Ino thought the third one was the most likely scenario.
Again, all of this was also assuming that Sasuke was actually interested in Sakura romantically at damn Uchiha always caused more trouble than he was worth. If not for his pretty face and that kekkei genkai of his; he would be more trouble.
"I'm sure Naruto-kun just wants you to be happy Sakura-chan." Hinata's gentle voice reached her as she approached the kitchen.
"I know Hinata. He always means well-"
"That doesn't mean Sakura should just lay down and spread her legs because Sasuke decides to come back." Ino interrupted.
"Ino-chan," Hinata started only to have Ino interrupt.
The blonde knew Hinata meant well but she was married to Naruto and always just wanted everyone to be happy. Ino knew in this situation, there could be a party that was not happy. And as Sakura's best friend, she was going to make damn sure her workaholic best friend was not going to come up short on this stick.
The two women were washing dishes together, like Ino had seen so many times before when she was invited to Team 7 Tuesdays. The scene was almost too domestic for her liking. Hinata's face was red, probably due to Ino's blunt statement as she announced her presence.
"Sakura, I've come to apologize. I tried to-"
Sakura put a bubbly hand up. "You do not have to apologize for his words Pig. He did not communicate anything other than the parroted expectation of my other teammate."
"Naruto doesn't get to dictate who you get to be with." Ino crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. She was getting tired of having to defend her friend's right to choose to that blonde idiot.
She really did not know. They barely spent any time alone today. While he sat next to her at dinner, he did not pay her any really special attention. He did not seem overly enthused to see her.
But then there was the moment alone in the hospital. Where Sasuke reached out to her, caressed her as if he did actually long for her. His hand, warm and gentle, against her skin igniting a trembling in her stomach. Then his voice, deep and husky whispering words that made her think he came back just for her.
"How did he behave to you today?" Hinata asked gently, noticing Sakura had been drifting off.
"Much like you've seen here tonight." Sakura answered truthfully. "I cannot tell what is comfort and what is genuine interest."
Ino carefully watched her friends face as she answered Hinata's questions. Of course Sakura was analyzing everything the Uchiha did and said in regards to her.
Based on her friend's body language, and everything she had seen tonight, she was not impressed.
Naruto and Sakura spent the night with Sasuke at the Uchiha compound. They laid out their packs and blankets to make a big bed on the floor of his living room. The three stayed up past the point of the others leaving, Naruto catching Sasuke up on what had been going on in Konoha since the end of the war. Sakura would interject or clarify when Naruto exaggerated. Which was quite often so the two of them would playfully fight, then laugh.
Sasuke would look upon the two of them with a smile on his face. He felt secure in an unfamiliar Konoha that these two would be there for him. Their warm protecting him from the darkness with which he was cursed.
It was early in the morning when they all passed out.
As they blinked into sleep, mismatched eyes were transported to another location.
His mind called forth a battlefield soaked with blood. sharp eyes flicked around the dead bodies littered the battlefield. He knew this place all too well. He knew what would happen next.
Arms reaching out to grab him. Guilt gripped his heart. This was his fault. If he had not been driven by his hatred. If he had not been so weak to give into Orochimaru, or Madara then so many of these people would still be alive.
The black flames of Amaterasu burned around him as Madara's insane laughter filled his head. 'You cannot escape who you are Sasuke-kun.'
The laughter- his laughter- was maddening.
"Sasuke," He heard a voice, soft as a whisper but angelic. He had never heard that voice before here, but it sounded so familiar. Struggling to break free he twisted his body around, struggling against arms that held him in the chaos and madness of warm.
"Sasuke," The voice said again. He took off in a direction. He knew he needed to get to the voice. Expelling eminence chakra he was able to expel the arms that bound him and ran in the direction. He ran and ran away from the blood and fire he created.
"Wake up Sasuke-kun," it said a third time just as Sasuke reached the Valley of the End.
Mismatched eyes flew open and he was transported to another place, another time, years in the future. But this time he was not alone.
Sakura wiggled herself between her two teammates. Her head rested on a certain blonde haired shinobi's arm. Yet her beautiful emerald eyes were open, and staring right at him. Her hand gently on his shoulder as she sent chakra into his body to wake him.
"You're here Sasuke-kun." She whispered softly. "Whatever it was, you are free."
Sasuke's stiffened body slowly began to relax, his breathing returned to normal as he recalled where exactly he was.
"You have nightmares." She stated.
It was not a question.
"Do they occur often?"
Sasuke did not say anything. Already one night back in Konoha and he had showed weakness to the one person he wanted to be strong for.
"Its okay Sasuke-kun." She smiled sweetly. "I have them as well."
His eyes went wide, and then narrowed, examining her face for any clue or indication of what she meant. She had these nightmares too? Of the war? Of what? Who caused her such pain? He wanted to know.
"You are not alone Sasuke-kun." Sakura whispered reaching out her hand to touch the temple of his forehead. "War takes a toll on us in many ways." Her hand began to glow green with healing chakra.
Slowly she moved her glowing hand towards his face. His muscles tensed as an automatic reaction, but he did not pull away. "This should help a little." She said softly as she pressed two fingers to his exposed temple.
Shortly after his eyes became heavy and he drifted to sleep with images of a rosette angel lingering in his mind.
It was the best sleep he had ever had.
Several weeks passed before Uchiha Sasuke was alone with Haruno Sakura for an extensive period of time. In hindsight, it was a less than perfect encounter.
The lone Uchiha's return stirred up Konoha's ugly underbelly of gossip for about two weeks before the village returned to its normal grind. Sasuke did his best to keep out of the spotlight during that time. While he looked older, there was still no mistaking the mysterious man for anyone else. Not with his jawline anyway. He kept to the shadows as much as possible, yet he still received several hesitant acknowledgements and questioning, side-eye looks. Several citizens were wary of him and many shinobi did not trust him.
Some probably never would.
Predictably, he kept his head down and only really hung around those with whom he was familiar, if anyone at all. He had not really expected anything different from the general community, but that did not mean he had to like the stand-offish way the villagers were treating him.
He would have to prove himself to them. And that would only take time.
Sasuke began working for Kakashi, as one of his assistants, consultants, but most commonly his errand runner. Sasuke was less than pleased with the arrangement but he knew it was a way for Kakashi to keep an eye on him, appease the elders, and really kept him out of the general public's eye. As the days passed, he found a peace in the work. Kakashi did not press him for information or to share his feelings, just made casual conversation, asked his opinion on a few ambiguous things, and set expectations for his various tasks. Sasuke was entirely okay with that, prefered it even. He had never been one for idle conversation like his teammates.
Speaking of his teammates, Sasuke began training with Naruto almost daily, Kakashi every once in awhile in the evenings. He even had the pleasure of sparring with Sai. Punching his socially awkward new teammate felt good. In each case, they had to use one of the training fields designated for high impact zones at the edge of the village but it felt good to begin training again, and with different people than he did when he was with Orochimaru and Taka. There were very few individuals who could truly challenge his skill anymore and it felt good to go toe to toe with them.
Sakura had been too busy to join in their matches but did show up at the end to heal any severe wounds they had. Complaining how reckless they were most of the way. Her healing chakra felt to Sasuke like it was an extension of her own heart. It encompassed him and put him at ease. He watched her heal him, her face set in concentration as her lips move in gentle curves as she lectured Naruto (and himself) saying, "Just because Sasuke-kun's back doesn't mean you two can beat each other within an inch of your lives because I'm here to save your asses! Every ounce of chakra I waste on your stupidity means I cannot heal someone else who might need it!"
Sasuke admired the passion she had for the village and the people in it. It reminded him of the devotion Itachi had. The same devotion he would prove he had.
Working with Kakashi, Sasuke had come to learn how well respected his pink haired kunoichi teammate was within the village. She had a nearly spotless reputation in the village. She had a position of leadership in the hospital. She seemed to be respected by the jounin and village officials. He had to admit he really was impressed by how far Sakura seemed to have come.
While impressed, he also could not help to think how it was all those accomplishments that got her noticed by these other shinobi clans and prominent families who thought they could take what would be his in time. A fact he was constantly reminded of as Kakashi sought after Sasuke opinion about security for the Midsummer's Festival.
Sasuke also thought this was Kakashi's way of subtly suggesting Sasuke needed to do more in terms of romancing Sakura, but Kakashi simply denied to know what Sasuke was talking about.
Konoha would be hosting both the Daimyo's Son and the Kazekage, there was absolutely no room for slip ups. It was in these meetings that he learned both Sakura and her friend Tenten would be entertaining and escorting the village's esteemed guests during their stay.
This pleased the elders.
None of it sat well with Sasuke. While Naruto had very little worry that Gaara was actually interested in Sakura romantically, the blonde dobe also told his Sasuke that he needed to get a jump on the whole taking Sakura off the market thing prior to the Daimyo's son arriving in Konoha.
In Naruto's words, "Because that stupid guy was a wildcard and might do everything in his power to woo their Sakura-chan."
What Naruto really meant: Sasuke you need to get a move on before someone else thinks they can move in on Sakura.
He did not feel he needed to say he got the hint. His closest friends and mentors thought he needed to make a move on Sakura.
Expect Sasuke had never really tried to woo any woman. Whether he wanted it to happen or not, he was used to women just sort of flocked to him. Never before in his life had Sasuke had to go after someone romantically.
What he did not understand was why he had to now? Sakura had already confessed her love to him several times. She had seen him at his absolute darkest and worst and she did not run away. No, instead she poured out her love and chakra to continuously to help save him. He left her with a goodbye and a promise he would be back.
Now he was back, and Sasuke assumed they would just be together. What work was there to be put into it? He was Sasuke, and she was Sakura.
After several sparing conversations between the men of Team 7 Sasuke began to learn that was not the case. Sakura indeed had several suitors, that were becoming more anxious now that the Uchiha had not made a move on the rosette beauty.
At the same time, Sasuke did not want to seem weak enough to have to stoop to asking for romantic help. Instead, he elected to observe his teammates as they interacted with their women. Kakashi and Naruto seemed to have intimate moments with their significant others when they were alone with them. Which made sense. Naruto would whisper sweet nothings in Hinata's ear. Kakashi would send Shizune little notes. Sai would shower Ino with complements.
Based on the evidence collected, Sasuke figured wooing a woman was easy enough.
But even just talk to Sakura was proving to be more difficult than he expected. Working with Kakashi he quickly learned how valuable Sakura's time is in the village; she was a trained combat medic, an adjunct academy teacher, a hospital administrator, second doctor only to Tsunade, a political advisor to the Hokage, and a faithful jounin of Konoha.
Since the almost month that he had been back, Sasuke had not really been alone with Sakura for more than a few moments. Not for an extensive period of time anyway. Recently, she had been spending more time at the hospital. Shizune had been sent on a special mission. Therefore, the hospital was down on of their head medics.
Sasuke knew all this because of his position working with the Hokage. Shizune's departure meant two very different things for him. First, Kakashi seemed particularly moody after the departure of his female assistant. Second, that he did get to see Sakura more. Sasuke was sent to take various files and paperwork between Kakashi and Sakura.
But anytime he tried to work himself up to talk to her, or ask her what her plans were- one of them would be called away.
"Thank you Sasuke-kun. I've been waiting for Kakashi to send these."
"Aa," he responded.
"Is Kakashi still treating you okay?"
He always was but she always asked that anyway. "Hn," he chose to answer to not betray the nervousness in his voice.
"Sakura?" He asked in his most confident voice.
She would turn, hair gently framing her face, standing out even more brightly against her white lab coat. Her jewel toned eyes looked to him, brightly, hopeful, lips flushed after being pursed.
"I- are you free-" He would start.
Then the call system would sound, interrupting him. Code Black. ANBU in trouble.
"I'm sorry Sasuke-kun. Come find me later!" And with a smile she dashed out the door.
Sasuke was more than a little frustrated. Speaking in the only language he really understood- using his fists. Unfortunately that meant that Naruto was the recipient of his frustration. The abnormal vigor of the spar triggered both Naruto and the onlooking Sai that something was wrong.
"What gives Teme? Who pissed you off?"
"No one." Sasuke grumbled throwing another punch.
"It's not good to lie to your partner." Sai commented not looking up from his sketchbook.
"We're not gay." Naruto claimed. "But something obviously has pissed you off Sasuke."
Dodge, "Are you going to tell me or am I going to have to beat it out of you?" Naruto yelled before forming the hand signs for his shadow clone jutsu.
A long fight later, along with Sai's intervention his teammates finally figure it out. Sakura was just too busy for Sasuke to swallow his pride quick enough to ask her out.
So after a lot of brainstorming and crazy plans propositioned by Naruto, Sai came up with the easy solution.
"If you are that eager to get in Ugly's pants, why don't you just stay with her after dinner? It is her turn to host." Crude as the suggestion might have been framed, their socially awkward friend had a point.
Tuesday night team dinners were still a staple still in their routine. Sasuke also learned very quickly that they were non-negotiable. After having the tuesday night dinner at his own house, Naruto and Hinata hosted next, followed by Kakashi and then it was Sakura's turn to host. If Sasuke were to just stay past the point of everyone else being there, he would finally have his alone time with Sakura. Finally.
Everything was going according to his plan. He walked with Kakashi to Sakura's place, making sure to keep the notoriously late shinobi on as tight of a schedule as possible. When they arrived, Sai was already there with his sketchbook out as Sakura was cooking away in the background.
"Sasuke-kun! Kaka-sensei! Make yourselves comfortable." She called from her kitchen.
While not the first time at Sakura's apartment, this was the first time he had ever been in Sakura's apartment. He and Naruto had walked her home from various dinners on one or two occasions. She actually did not live too far from where his home.
Her flat was located in a small district. The space had an open concept floor plan, and surprisingly in comparison to her office, had little clutter around. Sure there were photos, baskets to catch lose items and other pieces of artwork around. Sasuke noticed there were two doors off to one side of the space, most likely a bathroom and her bedroom.
The biggest feature was her dining room table. Kakashi had asked for help expanding the normally four person table, adding two leafs Sakura kept under her couch to create a much longer table. The seating was mismatched a little at that point but it could accomodate all of them.
Naruto showed up not long after making a show of sniffing the air and audibly sighing when he figured out Sakura was not serving ramen. Hinata gave him a scolding look as she complimented Sakura and moved to assist her in the kitchen.
This left the men to gather in the living room listening to Naruto ramble on about this or that with the occasional interjections from Sai and Kakashi.
Eventually dinner was called. Sake was poured. And the entire group fell into the escapism that was their tuesday night dinners. All of their problems seemed to disappear when they were together. Together there was not anything they could not achieve.
Much to her surprise, and inner delight, Sasuke seated himself next to Sakura instead of Kakashi. At her house, she normally took up the head of the table while Kakashi sat at the opposing end. Naruto and Hinata sat together on one side while Sai and Ino sat on the other. Ino was unavailable for dinner tonight so Sasuke took the spot next to Sakura that Ino normally claimed. Not that he knew that.
Still, the fact that Sasuke sat next to her before anyone else could claim their seats made her smile both inwardly and outwardly. A beautiful, faint blush spread over her cheeks as she gave Sasuke a small nod of approval.
Sasuke took his choice to sit next to her as a good sign. He already made her happy. Maybe this wooing thing would not be as difficult as he thought it would be. She just needed attention from him.
The topic of conversation was nothing overwhelming or interesting. In time, everyone finished their meals and Sakura began collecting their plates. Both Kakashi and Sai left soon after dinner was finished.
Giving a side eye to his friend Naruto gave a stretch and put his arm around his wife. "Sakura-chan, I think Hinata and I are going to head out. We have some late night plans."
That was always his code for sex. They were trying to conceive. Hinata had consulted with Sakura about her ovulation to help plan. Nevertheless, the heiress turned bright red and Sakura shook the image of Naruto humping her friend.
"Fine go, skip out on cleaning like you always do." Sakura teased as she gathered the rest of the plates.
"Sasuke can stay and help you out." Naruto gave said teammate a wave. He had been sitting, mostly quiet, throughout dinner. And now, shuddering at the thought of dobe reproducing. Sasuke quickly glanced around the room at his friend, and then at his future wife. At the mention of his name Sasuke looked to Naruto, and then to Sakura whose eyes were slowly losing the hope.
"Sasuke-kun you don't have to stay-" She began to say."
"I'll stay." He interrupted her. Giving her a reassuring nod that it was okay. He almost forgot he had to verbalize his intent. It was obvious to him by his lack of movement he was not going to go.
The beaming smile he received from her warmed his heart. "Let me gather these and make us some tea." She gathered the rest of the dishes moving towards the kitchen before she called back over her shoulder. "See you later Naruto! Hinata!"
When she was out of earshot, Naruto gave his friend a cheesy grin. "Looks like I'm not the only one who has romance in mind."
"Shut up Dobe." Sasuke muttered.
"I think it is nice of you and Sakura to spend some time together." Hinata gave Sasuke a sweet smile. "You two don't get to spend as much time together because of her work."
The pale eyed heiress had a point. "Aa," Sasuke said in agreement. She was right. Due to her schedule he had not had a lot of time to get to know her and gauge where their relationship was again.
"It's important that the two of you reconnect as friends." Hinata continued. Her slightly less than cheerful tone through Sasuke off for a moment. He had not had many interactions with the heiress. But she had always been very kind to everyone and mindful not to offend anyone when she spoke.
It did not seem Hinata was mindful not to offend him with that tone. It was as if she was sending a very specific message to him.
Unfortunately, with the Midsummer Festival coming up, he did not have time to 'reconnect as friends', with Sakura.
With that, Naruto and Hinata left out the front door and Sasuke was finally, after so long, alone with Sakura.
What was he supposed to do now? He had to engage her somehow. Probably talk about something. But what? He decided on the simple and safe, "Thank you for dinner."
"Oh, it was my pleasure Sasuke-kun!" Sakura called happily from the kitchen. She had just put the teapot on the stove waiting for the water to boil as she gathered other items on a tray. "I don't get to cook near as often as I would like."
"Aa," Sasuke responded. Not really knowing what else to contribute to the conversation.
Thankfully Sakura was a natural at conversation. "How do you like working for Kakashi."
"Well enough." He answered.
"He seems much more relaxed in comparison to Tsunade." There was a pause before she added. "Although, I don't think it is fair he is using one of his top shinobi as an errand boy."
Sasuke gave a snort. "He only really sends me out when Shizune walks in the room."
Sakura broke out into laughter as the teapot sounded interrupting the angelic chime. "I'm waiting for the day to come when they finally admit their relationship." Then quickly realized her statement could refer to them as well. So she quickly also offered. "I think the job is a good fit for you. At least, I did not think you wanted to work with Sai."
Sasuke grunted as Sakura turned around and began to approach. Instead of sitting the tea down on the table she moved towards the living room and placed it on her coffee table. "That's what I thought. I told Kakashi as much when he asked me."
"Kakashi asked you?"
Sakura nodded, seated with perfect posture as she poured two cups of tea. She held the first one out for Sasuke to take and sit down on the couch with her.
"I have spent the majority of my adult life not just running a hospital but working under Tsunade. Kakashi does respect my opinion."
"So I've heard." Sasuke said dryly as he took a sip of tea.
Sakura was taken aback slightly by his comment. She was not quite sure what his hidden meaning was behind the tone he used. Was he particularly asking about her? Did he have a problem with something he thought she may have said or done? She worked hard to get to where she is and earn her reputation. What could he have heard that was bad about that.
Closing her eyes she took a sip of her tea trying to center herself. She knew her raven haired teammate was not always the clearest communicator. He probably did not mean too much by his comment.
"So, what does Kakashi have you doing when he is not giving you errands?" Sakura tried to change the subject.
"I'm helping consult security for the Midsummer Festival."
"Oh," Sakura raised her eyebrows in surprise as another blush came over her face. If Sasuke was working security than he knew what her role for the Midsummer Festival was. "Yes I believe we have a meeting for it coming up soon."
"Aa," Sasuke said.
Awkward silent slowly filled every crack in the room.
"You are close with the Kazekage." Sasuke felt the words tumble out of his mouth before he realized what he had said. Why did he feel like he had to say that though? He had such a hard time asking her a simple question before? Yes, her relationship with the Kazekage had been burning at him. He knew she did not really have a choice, but that did not mean he had to like it. And she seemed completely okay with the arrangement. If he was being honest with himself he wanted to hear from her mouth that there was nothing going on with the other men.
"Naruto has always had a special connection with Gaara. I guess it comes with being a jinchuuriki. After the Akatsuki attack on Suna, Team 7 was tasked with saving Kankuro and rescuing Gaara. We arrived, and I had to make an antidote to counteract the poison affecting Kankuro and withdraw it from his system. Afterwards we pursued the attackers. Naruto went after Gaara's body and Deidara while I stayed behind with the elder Chiyo to fight Sasori of the Red Sand. It was too late. I held Chiyo in my arms as Naruto gave his chakra to help bring Gaara back to life."
Sasuke had heard stories of their fights. Of hers, the one that got Sakura recognition in the bingo books. It was different to hear the story from her mouth. More intimate. He could see the pain in her face as she recalled the tale.
"You rescued both of Suna's Kage's bloodline sons."
"I had very little part. I just did what I could."
"Suna still would not mind having you in their village."
This comment put her off a little more. Obviously Sasuke found out about Suna's proposition somehow. She was beginning to believe this discussion was less about actually being with her and more about getting information from her.
This was the first time they had been alone together since his first day back. She did honestly want to spend time with him but at the same time she did not want to feel like she was in an interrogation.
Sakura forced a smile and said, "I learned my skills from the greatest medical ninja the shinobi world has ever seen. There are several villages that would like my skills, not just Suna. That is why Kakashi sends me on medical exchange trips."
He blinked once. Knowing that in her own way she just subverted his question and scolded him at the same time.
"Also Sasuke-kun," Sakura continued with her forced pleasant tone, "you're picking up bad habits from Naruto. There is nothing in there that I would not tell you anyway if you asked."
It was a challenge. A direct challenge because she was onto what he was doing. Well no use beating around the bush then, Sasuke thought.
"Are you involved with him?" Sasuke asked her directly.
"What would have given you the impression that I am?" She countered, wanting to know exactly where his attitude was coming from.
"You are to escort him."
"He is a Kage visiting a foreign allied nation. We are friends, I am a well respected kunichi in Suna and I am also a Second Generation Sannin, Sasuke-kun. Not that Gaara needs protection but do you think anyone is going to get close to the Kazekage if the medial, punch happy, slug sannin is next to him?"
Sasuke said nothing, just stared at her with his one visible onyx eye.
"It also makes the elders happy."
"Yes, it makes the Konoha and Suna elders happy. We all do things we may or may not want to do in order to make the elders happy." Sakura said carefully. She was alluding to what the elders had Itachi do for the safety of the village. It was a low blow but she could not deny the effect it would have on him.
Hopefully he would understand.
The allusion was not lost. "So you would marry someone if the elders told you to?" Sasuke challenged.
And that is when Sakura could not hold her temper. She shot up from the couch, spilling her tea all over the furniture. "What's with the third degree about my relationship status Sasuke-kun?" Sakura finally defended of herself. "I'm not seeing anyone, if that is what you care about. I'm not engaged or pregnant. I work too much to barely go out with anyone. What is the real issue?"
With a hand on her hip and a piercing stare, she asked the question which challenged him in a way he rarely was ever challenged. She was asking him to confess why these letters bothered him so much. She was asking him to confess his feelings.
Was it not an easy concept? He felt so possessive over the rosette in front of him he could barely stand it when Rock Lee talked to her. Was that love? He did not want to spend his life with anyone else. Everything about her allowed his uneasy soul to rest.
"Nothing," the word fell out of his mouth. An automatic response when he did not want to deal with the world.
"Are you sure it's nothing?" Sakura asked carefully stepping closer. She knew that he was trying to dismiss whatever was bothering him. To bury it deep down. "Because grilling me about my familiarity with other men the first time we are alone together since you returned doesn't seem like nothing."
"If that is what you say than so be it." Sasuke concluded. If she said she was not seeing anyone, he would believe her.
"Why do you want to know so bad Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked carefully coming down from her anger but still choosing all the words carefully.
She stood there, across from him, fury written on her face and hope shining in her eyes. He knew what she wanted him to say. She wanted him to admit to wanting to pursue her. To wanting to be with her.
Be with me Sakura. Wasn't that all he had to say? I came back for you Sakura. I want to be closer with you Sakura.
It should be so simple for them.
But it wasn't. Not for Uchiha Sasuke.
"I should go." He mumbled heading for the door.
Sakura nodded. Silently agreeing. "Probably for the best, I have work in the morning anyway. Be safe going home Sasuke-kun."
"Aa," He said before quickly exiting the front door.
Each had an entirely different feeling after parting ways. Sasuke was satisfied knowing there was not competition standing in his way for Sakura's heart. Sakura on the other hand, was not entirely convinced that Sasuke did return the feelings she had for him. Or that he ever would.
When he came to her office a week later she wrongfully assume Sasuke was sent by Kakashi. She had not seen him since the previous tuesday so she thought nothing of it.
"Haruno-san," the receptionists voice. "Uchiha-san is here to see you."
"Send him up, thank you." Sakura said into the phone before she hung up.
He was knocking at her door in less than a minute. "Your office is messy." He stated.
No matter how many times she looked at him, she was always taken aback by his beauty. In so many ways she had looked to Uchiha Sasuke as this ideal of masculine identity. Slowly he was proving that he was so much more than a pretty face. Adult Sasuke was pensive, philosophical, and did have a good eye for aesthetic. He was still constantly on edge. The only times that Sakura had seen him truly relax was when both her and Naruto were with him in any of their homes.
She glared at him. "I don't usually work in an office Sasuke-kun." She quipped, referencing his job which primarily keeps him to an office.
Sasuke had been working with Kakashi in the Hokage's office. "Hn," he grunted milling around.
Much to Naruto's dislike, he had no desire to head the police department. He found it ironic if he were to punish shinobi for their misdeeds considering all of his. Sai, much to his discomfort, with the Konoha Police Department. Sai had no desire to go back into ANBU after Root was disbanded, but like his adoptive teammates, wanted to help the people. Kakashi did have Sasuke help Sai on occasion with investigations where the Sharingan would come in handy.
Patiently, Sakura watched the raven haired man inspect the same things he had inspected dozens of times before. Silence filled the room. Whatever he was there to ask of her, he was sure taking his sweet time asking it.
She did not really have the time to wait for an hour before Sasuke actually asked her something. Therefore, Sakura returned to her paperwork. They had found a new strand of a virus in some of the children coming into the clinic. She and Ino were working on various vaccines before more children were affected.
After minutes of silence he finally spoke. "When is your shift over?"
"Four." She responded automatically, not looking up from her paperwork.
"Meet me by the gates after." He stated before moving towards the door.
"Why?" She asked, this time looking up from her paperwork.
"You'll see." He said simply, and walked out.
The next few hours passed slowly, without anything extraordinary or pressing happening. She was pulling extra long shifts at the hospital to cover for Shizune while she was out on a mission. Sakura was tired and wanted to go home, shower, and pass out in her bed. Not necessarily in that order. Instead of doing those things, she was going to drag herself to the main gate to meet her extra mysterious teammate.
A part of her was thrilled. Sasuke rarely asked her to do anything with him just the two of them. As if being alone with her made him nervous. A small smile graced her lips at the thought. Her heart always jumped a little when she laid her eyes on him as well. She had to stay her heart though. He hardly went out of his way to spend time with her. At the same time, she was working crazy hours at the hospital. She barely had time to train over the last few weeks.
She changed her outfit quick before leaving the hospital and made her way to the gates. As she walked, she greeted the various street venders, civilians and shinobi who called out to her as she walked by. The village was alive with the hustle and bustle of a thriving city; even after all the destruction the village endured. There really was a hope and fire inside the village, and was part of what made Konoha special.
As she approached the large arches leading out of the village, she did see Sasuke's silhouette leaning against the wooden structure. His head turned to regard her with a nod as she approached. Sakura gave him a warm smile as she approached. She noticed he was clearly dressed for travel.
"What's going on?" She asked when she was in earshot. While she was dressed more comfortably, she was not really up for a lot of travel.
"I want to show you something." Sasuke said, jutting his head towards the forest. He signed out at the station, then turned to move out of the village, jumping into the trees.
Sakura hung her head in exhaustion, quietly debating with herself if she was actually going to entertain the Uchiha's whims.
Who was she kidding? And she followed suit, signing out and then leapt into the trees. "You are being more mysterious than usual." Sakura commented with an unusual amount of sas as she jumped after him.
"Hn," was all he responded as they continued into the trees.
They continued for an hour in silence. Sakura was slowly growing irritated with the entire situation. In his weird way, she knew Sasuke was attempting to do something nice for her but with little thought to her own well being. She had just gotten off of work, following Sasuke through the woods for over an hour for him to show her something was one of the last things she wanted to do.
"Where are you taking me?" Sakura finally asked, agitation apparent in her voice.
It was then when he suddenly changed course to jump down from the trees and wander out into a clearing. "Here," he said with a smirk on his face.
He had brought her to a cliffside, a beautiful sight looking high above the ocean. The sun was low in the sky, and would set soon. The warm breeze rustled their hair. There was a blanket set out along the precipice which looked out over the ocean.
"Sasuke?" She asked, looking up at him. Still, he said nothing just observed her with his visible onyx eyes as he tapped gently on her arm, ushering her towards the blanket. Carefully, he held her hand as she lowered herself on the blanket. Following her settled form to sit next to her afterwards.
They sat together in silence like that, just looking over the ocean. It was an absolutely beautiful site. In every romance novel this would have been a perfect moment to...
Sakura's eyes went wide with realization.
No, he wouldn't.
"Sasuke-kun why are we alone out here?" Sakura asked, her voice shaking as her head turned to look at him.
Except she did not realize how close he had leaned into her. Their noses grazing, his mouth was so close to hers. So close she could see drops of perspiration which dampened his hair.
"You're annoying." He muttered softly out of his smirk. Then, bringing a hand up to her chin, he tilted her head up to face him.
Time seemed to slow as Sasuke dipped his own head to press his lips against hers.
His lips were pressed against hers. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest.
She was kissing Uchiha Sasuke.
Uchiha Sasuke had kissed her!
This would have been a perfect moment. It was a moment she had waited her entire life for.
Would have been perfect except-
It was a horrible kiss.
His lips were chapped, dry, and his mouth entirely too bruising. There was no natural movement, no perceived passion no flow. She felt like he was pulling all the air out of her lungs as his hand gripped the side of her face a little too hard.
As he pulled away he placed his forehead to hers. "Help me rebuild my clan Sakura." The smooth timber of his voice barely reached her ears he whispered it to her so softly.
She was stunned. So stunned that it took her a moment to register the words which slipped from his mouth. Her heart literally jumped. He had said those words to her. The very words she had waited so long to hear from him.
Except they weren't what she was expecting.
Not in the slightest.
Help me rebuild my clan. That is what he said. That wasn't a proposal. That was a proposition for sex. For reproduction. It was the same proposition that were in the letters the clans sent to her, asking for her genes as well.
And while her heart was reaching the apex of its leap, it came crashing down to earth. Was this really his proposal to her? Help him rebuild the clan?
Now her heart was beating as a war drum with her mind. Ino's words playing in the back of her mind. You deserve better than 'hns, thank-you's, and apologizes Sakura. '
But this was Sasuke. Her heart called out to him. She knew in the depths of her heart that she belonged with this breathtaking man before her. She deserved Sasuke. Emerald eyes connected with one singular onyx orb.
But right now, he did not deserve her.
"No." The word fell from her lips in a way that Sakura almost did not believe they were true.
His face fell in confusion. She was not supposed to say 'no'. Did he misunderstand her?
"No," Sakura stated again with more assurance in her voice. As if she was coming to the firm conclusion that she was indeed rejecting a proposal of marriage from Uchiha Sasuke.
Every muscle in his body froze.
They were supposed to be together. They were Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura. She had professed her love to him for years. She was his guiding light, the only one who saw him for more than his past mistakes. He was not in the village for years and other males knew not to touch what was his. He came back to the village for her. Because Sakura was his. Everything that could be called good about him was there because of her. She made him a better person. Naruto called him back because they were supposed to be together.
How could she be rejecting him? Did she not see what he had done for her? She was always his, and only his.
Suddenly, she stood up and he did too. Every single muscle was pulsing in her body and she could no longer be on the romantic ocean cliffside with this devilishly handsome man.
"I have to go." She made brief eye contact then looked around trying to get a grip on her surroundings.
Before she could move, she felt a pressure holding her back. "Sakura-" Sasuke's lone onyx eye stared into her own green orbs.
Flight complex raging within her, she gently wrapped her fingers around Sasuke's wrists. Carefully she placed her forefinger and thumb to apply a steady amount of pressure on said wrist.
"Sit." He commanding, nodding to the vacated blanket behind her. She just needed to calm down. He knew this was going to be a lot for her to process. Years of waiting could not have been easy.
"I would suggest you let me go of me." Sakura heard a voice that she had never heard before with him.
"You are emotional." He stated.
Damn fucking Kami right she was emotional. "Yes, and I will leave. Now." She asserted in the same unfamiliar voice.
"You need to-"
Sakura snapped at those words. "I need to do what Sasuke?"
With a simple movement she twisted her hand and snapped his wrist.
He recoiled in astonishment from her. Mismatched eyes now peering with mixed emotions as she put distance between the two of them.
"Who, the every flying fuck, do you think you are, that you can tell me what to do Sasuke?"
She saw the moment of realization pass over his eyes. She truly was rejecting him. Rejecting his offer to start their lives together.
Sasuke's mouth pursed into a thin line. He could not accept this. She was his and his alone. He could not begin his life anew with anyone else. "You don't know what you are saying."
Sakura shook her head. "Excuse me?" The volume of her voice raising, drawing more attention.
"Keep your voice down."
"No." Sakura stated firmly. "You don't get to tell me what to do. You don't get to command me like I am one of your Taka lackys. And you most certainly don't get to sit here and ask me to rebuild your clan like I am nothing more that a human incubator!"
Ah, that was it, Sasuke thought. Did she not understand what he was offering her? Their life together. Maybe not the best line on his part but he could easily recover from this. "I thought you loved me Sakura."
They both knew he was referring to her several confessions.
Sakura formed her own features as if she was staring at an enemy. "I have loved you since we were children. I have waited for you for years with nothing more than sorrys, thank yous, congratulations on my birthday and assassination attempts. Then you come back and think I'm just going to fall in your lap. Like I don't have other options? Like I don't deserve more?"
Sakura could barely comprehend the words coming out of her mouth. But she knew they were all true. It was the feelings that were bottled up inside of her for so long. This expectation that was placed on her compliancy ever since she was seventeen. She was deemed his, and that was that. She would wait until he came back and then become this perfect Uchiha wife and pump out children for him.
What about her? She had a life too. She had goals, and dammit she deserved Sasuke and romance and she would not settle for just one of them. No. She would not settle. If Sasuke Uchiha wanted to marry her- he was going to fight for her.
"I do deserve more Sasuke. More than a 2 minute gaze out over the ocean after an 18 hour shift. I deserve more than 'help me rebuild my clan'." She knew her words stung. They were meant to sting him. She would have to apologize later but not right now.
"What more do you want?" He asked, voice like iron. He was losing his patience with this situation. Everything was going the wrong way and he did not know what to do to recover.
Sakura turned to leave, gathering chakra in her feet, "If you have to ask me that, then you are more hopeless than I thought."
A different voice reached through her anger. One that was filled with softness and concern.
She would know his voice anywhere.
Naruto, along with several figures emerged from the forest line. Sai, the rest of Rookie 9 and the remaining members of Team Gai, even Kakashi and Shizune were there all watching with astonishment at the drama unfolding.
They had come to watch her get engaged. To celebrate with her.
"Don't Naruto." She said fiercely. "I deserve more than; 'help me rebuild the clan' and you know I do. You would not stand for that from anyone else. Why do you think I should settle for it from Sasuke?"
And with that, she forced chakra into her legs and left the cliff in a whirlwind of cherry blossoms.
Naruto could only look at his best friend and rival in awe. "What the hell did you say to her?"
Naruto ran a hand through his hair. "You fucked up bad Teme."
No shit Dobe.
Finding Sakura a little hard to write in this one.
This is a little teaser for this story until I finish my other. Afterwards, I will return to this one :)