This chapter does not follow the current Naruto plot, partly because Kishimoto's being an arsefacey about his damned manga and partly because this little story popped into my head for no reason at all when I was listening to music.
Summary: Because she deserved it. And because even though he didn't want to admit it, he needed her.
Standard disclaimer applied.
Chapter 3 : She Will Be Loved
I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to a stay awhile
-Maroon 5;;She Will Be Loved-
They were nineteen now.
She was a high-ranking medical jounin, already surpassing her mentor, her second mother.
He was just a chuunin, one on probation, but his skills had already surpassed his former mentor, and probably all the ANBU in Konoha as well.
She'd had her fair share of boys during the time of his absence in her life, her fair share of kisses and dates and Valentine's Day presents – but it really never went further than that.
He'd had, and always would have his wealth, his name, his stunning looks, and his fanclub. But none of his fangirls didn't seem to be enough for him.
Though she was a jounin, and a strong one at that, she stayed in the hospital always healing and saving lives.
Though he was merely a chuunin, one on probation, he was constantly being sent on missions – assassinations, espionage missions, missions that normal people wouldn't have been able to go through without losing a tiny bit of sanity – he killed and maimed, like the cold-blooded weapon he was raised to be.
He usually left for his missions either very early in the day, when the first light of Konoha still wasn't turned on, or very late in the night, when the village was near-hidden in the night. No one would be able to witness him leave, maybe except for those annoying ANBU guards constantly watching him from afar.
And except for her.
She'd always be waiting on that bench – (the same bench where he left her years ago) – sitting, clasping her hands, looking up at him with expectant eyes – ("You'd better come home alive, you hear me? Or I'll kill you, bring you back, and kill you again.") – always ready to see him off.
"Do you have your mission scroll with you?"
"Money for meals?"
(and with a laugh in her eyes she'd take out a few supplements and a small container containing rice balls and such, handing it to him)
"You don't have to do this, you know."
"I know, Sasuke-kun. But I want to."
"Well that's a nice way to show your gratitude."
But he'd always return the favor by coming back alive, unhurt.
And she'd be waiting for him. She'd wait at the hospital in her office, where she usually gave him his usual post-mission checkup – (he'd thrown a fit when another medic had first tried to look him over) – and then she'd walk him home – ("You've just finished a mission! It's not that I don't trust you walking alone in the night, Sasuke-kun, but you might pass out... or something.") – and she'd always see him off with a smile.
And even though he'd always be gruff with her, she'd take it with a smile (didn't she ever get sick of smiling?); she knew him – she knew that because he was emotionally stupid and too proud, he really had no way of showing his thanks.
But he did show his thanks in the little ways. He'd complimented her right uppercut in a Team 7 reunion – ("If that pedophile Jiraiya tries to do anything, don't hesitate to use it."). He'd attended more Team 7 gatherings without really making a big deal (for him, anyway) about it - ("But if the dobe wants to go to Ichiraku's, I'm out."). He'd even accepted her Christmas present for him even if he'd worn a small scowl – ("You walked here without a coat, in freezing temperature, just to give me this... you're mental, Sakura...") – he'd changed in small ways. And even if some people still thought of him as an insensitive asshole, she'd always rejoice over the small things with him, like a teacher with an improving student.
This mission was going to be fairly simple – a mission to guard a daimyo his journey to Sunagakure.
Well, that's what he thought.
Until he found out that Takahashi Tsuna had a seventeen-year old daughter.
And this was one of the few cases where he had to leave in the daytime, because of the hindrances he would have to keep safe.
But Sakura was waiting, a smile on her face as Sasuke (with a scowl on his face) stalked near the village gates, an unnamed chuunin that was going to be assisting trailing closely after the daimyo, and the girl (what was her name again? Imai?) clinging off his left arm.
And she saw him, with the annoying girl ("Woow, Sasuke-kunn, you're so ripped–") chattering endlessly in his ear. Slowly, fluidly, she got up, eyes crinkled and her mouth quirked up in a smile. "Sasuke-kun."
He heard the amusement in her voice and his scowl got darker. "Sakura."
Immediately, the girl beside him got territorial. "Hi!" She chirped in her high-pitched voice. "I'm Takahashi Imai, daughter of one of the most famous daimyos here, who are you?"
Both shinobi immediately caught the hostile tone toward Sakura, and Sasuke tensed involuntarily while the chuunin (Tsuta, was it?) and daimyo talked about village affairs, ignorant of the three teens in front of them. Sakura, noticing Sasuke's mood getting darker and darker, stifled a chuckle and rearranged her face into a polite smile.
"Nice to meet you, Imai-san. I am Haruno Sakura, I'm just another shinobi of Konoha, I'm not important at all." Of course she was lying. But Imai wouldn't know, she didn't partake in the bloody shinobi world, she wouldn't know of Sakura's reputation.
"So what are you guys?" Imai asked suspiciously, masking her nosy curiosity well. "Are you a couple?"
"No," Sasuke snapped immediately, and Sakura, who had opened her mouth to reply, quickly clamped it shut with a hurt look in her eyes. But they quickly flicked back to its polite, laughing state. Imai didn't notice, but Sasuke did.
He saw everything. He always saw her hurting, even when she laughed at his sarcastic quips and when she yelled at Naruto for being Naruto and even when she argued playfully with Ino.
"No," Sakura repeated Sasuke's word, back in her politely amiable tone. "We're just teammates is all."
Turning to Sasuke, she smiled again – ('Stop smiling when you don't want to') – and did what she usually did.
And she handed him a small bento box as if she knew that his mission probably wouldn't require for him to hide in stealth and the least amount of hindrances like a bento box. "I've put your soldier pills in there as well, and you should find a tomato in there too." She then turned to the chuunin apologetically. "I'm sorry, Tsuta-san, Sasuke-kun usually goes on solo missions so I didn't know..."
"Sakura," Sasuke interrupted curtly. He'd lost his patience with Imai, and this whole mission in general. He was Uchiha Sasuke. He didn't bother with petty missions such as these. But the shortage of available shinobi had required him to step up to take these ghastly missions.
"Oh, right." Sakura stepped back from the group, but not before taking his hand and squeezing it briefly with a smile. (FAKE, his mind screamed). "Come home safe..."
And she watched him leave, Imai clinging from his arm.
Always, he was the one that left her behind.
But it was a mission.
He didn't look back to see the smile slip from her face.
So the mission hadn't gone as smoothly as he'd anticipated.
A group of bandits had been waiting for them, setting up traps down the path that the small group was taking. And as skilled Tsuta was with his ninjutsu, he was very clumsy.
So he'd tripped over a wire to cause not only a torrent of weapons to rain down upon them, but to create an explosion and alert the group of bandits.
So not only did Sasuke have to fight the (low-ranking) bandits, but he had to do with a near-hysterical, screaming girl, clutching onto his arm.
Though the daimyo had only been mildly shocked, Tsuta was doing a good job protecting him with his wind-based jutsu, creating not only a protective dome around them but creating some sort of cyclone to go on the offensive.
However, Sasuke had not gotten away that unscathed.
Imai had been wearing an expensive and hindering kimono, and she sported no athleticism at all. So when one opponent had rushed up to her with some sort of scythe-weapon, Sasuke had to twist around and make a grab for the blade, before breathing fire into the poor guy's face.
And this was how Uchiha Sasuke, while fighting off a band of pitiful rogue bandits, acquired a shameful but deep gash in his palm, cracked ribs, and a really bad whiplash.
Sasuke'd dropped off the daimyo, the girl ("Call me!"; No."), and Tsuta, who apparently was allowed by Tsunade to practice his wind-styled jutsu with the best of the best in Suna ("Is it true that Temari-sama's single?")
"Sasuke-san, that's a bad cut you have," Tsuta commented mildly, helping the daimyo wrap bandages around his arm, which had been nicked by a kunai. "There you go, daimyo-sama, it should be as good as new in a day or so."
And Imai had jumped at the chance to touch him. "I know basic first-aid, let me help you, Sasuke-kun!" She had reached for her hand, but he jerked it back with a snarl.
"Don't touch me," he said coldly, his eyes flickering crimson.
"But that other girl touched you," Imai whined, disdain in her voice, and her father turned his head, perhaps ashamed by her behavior, resuming his talk on poisons with Tsuta. "You heard what she said, Sasuke-kun. She's just another nameless, disposable ninja–"
"Say that again," Sasuke hissed softly, cutting the girl off for the first time. Even if he got annoyed or angry, he'd stayed polite.
"I said," Imai huffed, obviously not getting the hint, "that she–"
"Er, Iami-san," Tsuta, being smart noticed Sasuke's murderous aura and cut the girl off. "Sakura-san is actually an accomplished medical Jounin who has nearly surpassed her mentor, our Godaime Hokage. Sasuke-san usually gets healed by her."
And the unsaid statement hung in the air, something that even Takahashi Imai would get.
Sakura is the only one that heals him, that touches him, without permission.
That pretty much ended the conversation.
When he arrived at the hospital, he was surprised to find that the window to her dimly-lit office was closed.
During the time when they'd started this routine, he used to go through the main entrance of the hospital. But when nasty rumors about the two shinobi started to come to life, they'd decide to take the less attention-grabbing approach – since Sasuke was quick, he could just fly into her office through a window which she'd keep open.
But it wasn't open tonight. He could see her through the window, hunched over a clipboard, a pen hanging limply in her hand.
She was taking a nap.
With a slight smirk, he took his unhurt hand and gently tapped the window.
The reaction was immediate; she woke up with a jolt, blearily looking around to see what time it was before her eyes widened. He saw her lips move, forming various cuss words as she stumbled over to the other side of her office where the window was, but not before tripping over a pile of paperwork like the klutz she was.
"Sorry, Sasuke-kun," Sakura said breathlessly after she let him in. "Someone came back in critical condition... we just stabilized him half an hour ago..."
"Aa." Sasuke said. She'd probably taken over the hurt nin, being the kind of person she was, persisting until she'd either stabilized him, or until she passed out from chakra exhaustion. Unless she'd popped a few soldier pills, of course. "How many soldier pills?"
"Only two," she replied, smiling before gesturing to her table. "Sit." She was lying, he knew – she was tired and probably feeling the dizzying aftereffects of all the pills she took – it took even Tsunade more than two pills to stabilize someone.
Back to routine – she quickly did a run-over of his body, to heal what was needed to be healed. She'd raised an eyebrow when she'd felt his cracked ribs, and she pursed her lips at the sight of his hand, which was oozing pus and blood by now. "Sasuke-kun... you should have gotten treatment in Suna."
"No," he said flatly, adamantly.
Sakura shook her head and sighed. "Damn stubborn jerk," she mumbled, easily pushing her healing chakra into him, mending his ribs. "Hold on, that hand's going to need some more treatment..."
As if she'd been doing it all her life, she took another soldier pill from her back pocket and threw it in her mouth, before dabbing at his hand with some stinging ointment – "Don't give me that look, Sasuke-kun, don't tell me you're afraid of this miracle worker." – and she eased in her chakra into the gash in his hand, until it was closed. "That'll probably leave a scar," she told him disapprovingly.
Sasuke snorted, and she grinned. "But of course, it makes you look cooler."
He rolled his eyes. "Whatever, let's go."
He couldn't sleep tonight.
His hand and ribs were throbbing.
It was thundering outside.
He just felt as if something was wrong.
Sighing, he went out on his balcony for some fresh air, even if there was a thunderstorm happening.
And he saw her, standing in the rain in nothing but an oversized T-shirt and shorts, shivering.
His eyes narrowed. "Sakura," he called out.
Miraculously, over the noise of the rain and thunder, she heard him and looked up with an almost dazed expression on her face.
He sighed. "Come up."
And she did. He was already waiting by his door when she slowly climbed the last stair to the door of his apartment, too exhausted of chakra to jump onto his balcony, or anything else for that matter.
"What happened?" He asked, giving her a towel, which she accepted gratefully.
"I don't know," she answered honestly. "I think a man – a chuunin – pulled out a weapon on his wife – civilian. They're right next door to me, so it got pretty hectic in there when the ANBU came..."
She looked up at him, smiling (fakefakefake), a hint of apology in her voice. "Sorry to have bothered you, Sasuke-kun. I'll sleep over Naruto's or something. I don't even know why I came here in the first place..."
"Look," Sasuke said, cutting her off. "About what I said at the beginning of the mission..."
"But it's true," she smiled again, and he resisted the urge to tell her to stop lying to herself like that, by smiling. Perhaps that guy, Sai, had rubbed off on her. "We're just teammates, Sasuke-kun, right? Nothing less, nothing more. And don't even apologize for being a jerk. If I were you I'd be irritated too."
Sakura looked up at him expectantly, as if waiting for an agreement for him.
"You love me," he stated blandly. You love me by waiting for me, by healing me, by letting me hurt you.
She nodded patiently. "Yes, I do."
"And you expect to be nothing more, nothing less? If you loved me?"
She blinked, but was honest. "I want to be something more," she said softly. The rain had receded to a mere drizzle now, but they were still in front of his apartment. She squeezed some water out of her shirt before continuing. "I want to be something more... but I'm not going to force myself onto you, because you hate that. I know better. I'll only come in if you let me in."
"Okay then," Sasuke shrugged. He stepped back into his apartment, opening the door wide open. "Come in."
She gaped at him.
He smirked in reply, as she tried to comprehend the double meaning of his words. For a smart girl like her, she could be very slow. "Hurry up, don't let the cold air in."
She smiled brilliantly – sincerely – at him, and stepped inside into his life.
To those of you who thought I kicked the bucket, sorry. I'm not dead yet. My mom would kill me if I died without going to college.
But yes, I haven't updated in a while partly because I was busy with other things (yeah, as hard to believe as it seems, I have a life) like homework, Wayoftheninja, and such, especially AP Physics. No one told me it'd be this hard OTL
My updates will probably be slower and shorter, and I probably won't have the time and patience to give my thanks to reviewers by putting them in the the author's notes, so I hope you guys can forgive me for that.