"The Importance of Recognition"
(Day Seven of SasuSaku Month.)

"I'm okay."

"Sakura, stop being an idiot and just admit I hurt your feelings."

"I was not hurt, Uchiha! There was just some dust in my eyes!"

Sasuke fought so hard to reign in the frustrated grunt forcing itself out of his throat, but he barely succeed. He glared at her instead, but for the years he's been away from Konoha, Sakura somehow gained immunity from his glares, and he isn't sure what to feel about that.

Sakura huffed, uncrossing her arms and turning around so her back is facing him. "Just drop it, Sasuke."

The –kun has been dropped from his name too, and it frustrates him so much because it is a reminder that things have changed, and sometimes he wishes that it hadn't.

The reason for their argument happened when the old Team Seven decided to have their bell test again, as per Naruto suggestion, as a reminder of the past. They agreed.

As Kakashi brandished those two bells - remarkably preserved even after years of disuse - and set the alarm clock at five, Sasuke can't help but smirk and think that his team finally learned their lesson because the moment Kakashi says start, all three of them disappear in the foliage and congregates a minute later in a clearing that is already cloaked with a jounin level genjutsu.

Combined with Sakura's genius, Sasuke's sharingan and Naruto's chakra, the three of them planned an attack that might have impressed Shikamaru with its brilliance, if he was there. For a moment, Sasuke thinks that Team Seven would really pass the bell test.

But Kakashi wasn't plastered in every village's bingo book for nothing. Almost immediately after they launch their attack, it comes crashing down on the three of them when their old teacher takes advantage of their weakness and turn their technique on each other.

Sasuke took a moment to appreciate how much his old team have grown. Kakashi made up for his lack of manpower with countless experience, and Sakura and Naruto seamlessly attacked together with him, as if the last years were spent with the three of them honing their teamwork.

He was inches from snatching the bells from Kakashi's flak jacket when Sakura had pushed him aside. Sasuke didn't notice the kunai coming towards him, eager to prove how strong he was, and could only watch with wide red eyes as his teammate took the blow meant for him.

The splatter of blood would forever be embedded in his mind.

Sakura didn't pause, merely yanked the kunai from her shoulder – heedless of the fountain of blood – and healed the wound with a swipe of her glowing hands.

Sasuke didn't take it lightly though. To the surprise of his teammates, he stood up and told them that it was enough.

"What the hell, Teme?" Naruto pouted. "It was getting good, too!"

"We've proved that our teamwork is good." Sasuke replied, obstinate. "That was the whole point of this exercise."

"Yeah, but one of its point was to get the bells too." Sakura put her thoughts in, siding with Naruto. "We're not genins anymore, I'm sure we could have gotten it."

"Confident, are we?" Kakashi drawls, the tenseness leaving his body and getting back to his customary slouch. "But I have to agree with them Sasuke, why didn't you let us continue?"

Before he could think about what he was going to say, his traitorous mouth opens. "You were hurt."

Sakura and the whole team looks at him like he's grown another head, and although he wants to beat himself up for a lame reason like that, it's too late to take back what he said. So he stares back at them, daring the team to say something. They unfortunately do.

"You stopped the bell test because I was hurt?" Sakura asks, incredulous.

For some reason, this rubs him off in the wrong way. His eyebrow furrows. "You shouldn't have taken the blow. It was for me."

Sakura shook her head. "Sasuke, have you forgotten what Kakashi-sensei's first lesson to us was?"

Of course he didn't. How could he? The look Kakashi had on his face was something he would always remember. It was the look of a man who lost everything he had fought for.

Those who break the rules are scum, but those who abandon their teammates are worse than scum.

"I'll never let my teammates get hurt." Sakura continues, and Sasuke's tact disappears down the drain because can't she see? There has to be an edge to this endless stupid selflessness that plunges down a violent waterfall, careening towards the deep end that he can't see.

"You'll weaken the team if you do that every time." Sasuke snaps, angry.

Sakura's mouth falls open, and she gasps. She swallowed as she looked into Sasuke's eyes, and something flickers in his eyes, but Sasuke's expression remains smooth. Cold, and neutral. And Sakura feels it like a stab to the heart. It hurts, and suddenly she feels like crying.

Sakura opens her mouth to say something, anything, because she doesn't want to be the kunoichi she was before the chuunin exam: stupid, useless, weak – but Sasuke always had the ability to turn her into a crying mess every goddamn time.

She has nothing to say, so Sakura shoots him one heartbroken look before running from away, shoving him roughly in the shoulder in the process. Sasuke heard her sob as she passed, and his non-existent heart twinges.

He always destroyed everything he touched.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto yells, but she's gone before any of them can recover. The blonde immediately rounds up on him, grabbing Sasuke by the collar of his shirt and snarls. "What the hell, Teme? How can you say that?! She'd die for you!"

"That's the point!" Sasuke suddenly roars, because he's had enough, and the look on his face makes Naruto let him go. His uncharacteristic burst of emotion shocks him, Kakashi and Naruto.

Sasuke Uchiha was never one for talking, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a lot to say.

"I don't want her to die for me. I never want her to die for me!" He glares at the both of them, and for a long while they are silent. Suddenly, Sasuke deflates, shoulders slumping. He stares at the ground; finds that he can't look straight at the people who accepted him back home even with all the sins he's committed.

What did he do to deserve them?

"You should fix this." Kakashi breaks the silence, and Sasuke looks up to see his former teacher giving him a serious look. "Sakura deserves an explanation."

Sasuke tried, he really did. But Sakura seemed hell bent on avoiding him at all cost. If he went to the hospital, a nurse would tell him that she was not there, or she was undergoing an important surgery. If he went to her house, it was always deserted. If Kakashi scheduled a team meeting, she would excuse herself with a note delivered by someone. If Naruto asked to eat together in Ichiraku, she always had an excuse.

This led them both now with Sasuke cornering her in training ground three, where the argument had started. Sasuke had decided that enough was enough, stomped his way to the Hokage tower, and demanded if the Slug Sannin knew where her apprentice was. Tsunade seemed to know what it was all about, because she hadn't bothered to ask why and merely told him that training ground three was losing a lot of its trees.

Sasuke growled, gripping her arms and turning her around to stare at her enraged eyes. "We're not done yet, Sakura."

"Yes, we are!" Sakura snarled, raising an arm to punch him, but Sasuke already saw her plan.

In a second he had her pinned in the ground, both of his hands gripping Sakura's wrist above her head and his shins locked around her legs – there was no escape. Sakura struggled, even went as far as to biting him, but Sasuke was equally as stubborn. They were going to talk, and they were going to talk now.

It took ages, but Sakura eventually conceded defeat. She panted, glaring daggers at the man straddling her, and for the life of her, Sakura tried to ignore the fact that the one she was in love with for half her life was above her. She barely succeeded.

"What do you want?" Sakura hissed, channelling her anger to cover up the longing welling up inside her. It wasn't easy, but she was trying. "Well?"

Sasuke opened his mouth, about to say the first thing that came into mind, but decided against it. It wouldn't help him in gaining Sakura's forgiveness. Instead he sighed, and in a move that almost short-circuited Sakura's brain, leaned down so that both of their foreheads were touching.

"Sa-Sasuke-kun?

He couldn't help the smirk that found its way into his face: the suffix was back. "Hn?"

Sakura swallowed, trying in vain to scrounge up the anger that suddenly vanished the moment Sasuke leaned down, to no avail. "I'm listening now."

There was a beat of silence, and Sasuke suddenly knew what he had to say. "You're not weak."

"…what?

"You're not weak." Sasuke repeated, withdrawing his perch from her forehead to look at her green eyes properly. They looked disbelieving. And suddenly, they were glassy with unshed tears.

He inwardly panicked when tears started to run down her face. What the hell did he say to make her cry? Wasn't it the right thing to say?

Sakura, for her part, started laughing when she saw the look on Sasuke's face, and he feared for her sanity. Who laughs and cries at the same time? He let her wrist go in favour of cradling her face between his hands, wiping the tears with his thumb.

"Sakura…?" He asked, tentative.

Sakura hiccupped, and then laughed again. "Oh my God, you should see the look on your face."

Sasuke furrows his eyebrows. "You're crying. While laughing."

"That's because I'm happy."

"Why are you happy?"

Sakura finally smiles; it was the smile that Sasuke found out was always reserved for him. It was brilliant in its simplicity, and he thought that he had never seen anything so beautiful.

"All I ever wanted was for you to acknowledge me."

The answer robs him of his breathe, but Sakura isn't finished. "It's the reason why I went to Tsunade-shishou. I wanted to be stronger, so that when we'll meet again you'll realize that I'm not the weak girl you and Naruto always protected anymore."

"I'm so happy." Sakura grins then, her green eyes vibrant with life and looking so goddamn beautiful, and Sasuke leans down, further this time, and captures her lips with his.

When Sakura returns the kiss, Sasuke thinks that he still has something worth fighting for.


End of the first week of SasuSaku month! I kinda like this one, for reasons unknown. At first I didn't know how to write with the prompt for today, so I just mentioned it in the story itself. That's not cheating, right?

Anyway, i hope you guys liked it. And speaking of, my stories for the past six days is also on my profile. For those who haven't read it, please do. (And can I get a review, please?)

[Day Seven: The Deep End]