|I Should Have Known
Author: brezoflower PM
[SasuSaku] Sakura doesn't even flinch when Sasuke finally returns after seven years...with a girlfriend. Sakura can't bring herself to hate the girl, and she gets a shock when she realizes that Sasuke is dating...a version of herself!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Sakura H. & Sasuke U. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 16,877 - Reviews: 440 - Favs: 340 - Follows: 426 - Updated: 11-11-06 - Published: 06-13-06 - id: 2990181
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I Should Have Known
"Sakura!" Tenten bellowed as she caught sight of her friend walking through the market, not even noticing the angry tilt to her lips. Poor, emotionally drained Sakura had been heading innocently back to her apartment when Tenten had rushed up and nearly damaged her hearing.
After the incident at the training grounds, Sakura wanted nothing more than to disappear into her bathroom and melt into a steaming hot bath, complete with candles and Sasuke-free thoughts. She certainly deserved it, given the hell that man had put her through in the span of only two days. But now, here came Tenten, undoubtedly bringing yet another bit of information on Uchiha Sasuke.
"Ow! What, Tenten?" Sakura asked, annoyed as she touched her ear as though inspecting it for blood. Sooner or later she was going to have to get Tenten a nice, snug-fitting muzzle.
"Sasuke doesn't have a girlfriend!" Tenten said excitedly as she came to a halt. Sakura gave her ear another tentative rub before Tenten's words sank in. She surprised herself to find that all she felt was irritation at her friend. The news actually meant nothing to her. Well, that was a relief. This had to be one of the final parts of her twelve-step program to get the Uchiha out of her system.
"So what?" she asked uncaringly with a wave of her hand. "What's the big deal?"
"He's not dating Kirika! He's a single man!"
"All right, I get it!" Sakura snapped back. "Who the hell cares?"
The blood drained from her friend's face as silence surrounded them. Apparently she should not have announced this news in the middle of the most populated place in Konoha, where eligible women everywhere were now digesting the best piece of gossip they had heard in months.
Great. Everybody cared. Everyone but her.
At once, the buzz of the marketplace exploded as housewives and young women everywhere spoke behind their hands to the nearest female. Sakura reddened as every eligible girl in town shot her a suspicious look as if to say, "Is he safe from Haruno?" Wordlessly she turned on her heel and continued her walk, her chin just a little higher than before.
Tenten quietly excused herself from the scene to stay safely out of the warpath.
Sakura threw open her door rather aggressively and stormed inside. It seemed that everyone still labeled her as that little girl who fawned over the last Uchiha in the village. Ridiculous. If even one of them showed up at her door tonight, they would find themselves caught in several genjutsu traps that Sakura would deny any responsibility for.
Sakura heard a sharp knock on her door two hours later, and sighed in annoyance. She would get no peace today. If it were yet another one of those ex-fangirl-turned-new-fangirls, she would tear her hair out. Too frustrated to concentrate on setting a proper genjutsu trap, people had been coming to her doorstep since the news, only to find Sakura's door bolted shut and not accepting visitors. She didn't know if they came to confirm the rumors or issue a few back-off-my-man warnings or even pry her for information since she had once been his teammate, but she wasn't having it. This was getting to be insane, and it was all because of one certain ex-idiot-turned-even-bigger-idiot.
"Yes?" she grumbled as she undid the top lock. At once the door opened, and she had to catch it quickly with her palm to keep it from colliding with her face. "Hey—"
"We're staying here for a while," Even Bigger Idiot stated as he stalked into her house uninvited. Kirika trailed behind him, looking delicately confused and more than a little frightened.
"Sasuke," Sakura said in surprise as he stopped in the middle of her living room, inspecting the place. Judging from the slight frown gracing his features, he did not approve of her untidiness but considered it acceptable for now. Her scattered magazines and haphazardly flung socks seemed to annoy him, as did most things. "What the—what are you doing?"
"How the hell did the entire village start thinking I was 'available'?" he spat through gritted teeth. "We can't go back to the Uchiha estate. There are enough women out there to prevent either of us from getting any sleep."
"And so you're staying…"
Sasuke's eyes widened as he faced her. "No?" he said incredulously.
"I'm sorry, but no. This is a small apartment. If you want a place to stay you'll have to rent a room somewhere."
Further evidence that the Haruno Sakura he once knew had evaporated. "There's a couch here. Kirika, you take that. I'll sleep on the floor."
"Listen, Sasuke—" Sakura started, but he quickly cut her off.
"It's our only choice," he said. "They've already staked out Naruto's house, and they'll notice if I pay for a hotel room somewhere. And since this is your fault, I would have thought you'd be happy to help."
"Excuse me? My fault? Exactly when did you come to that conclusion?" She was going to kill everyone. The women of this town were facing a homicidal rampage. This was too much.
"The fact that they were saying the name 'Haruno' every thirty seconds gave me a clue," Sasuke retorted.
"Sasuke-kun…" Kirika's tone was meek. "I said I wasn't your girlfriend at lunch today. Someone must have overheard and made an assumption. I'm sorry."
Placing her hands on her hips, Sakura shot Sasuke her best back-the-hell-off glare. "Actually you have Tenten to thank for outing you; she came running up to me this morning to deliver the news and shouted it in the market. And they've been saying my name because evidently they still think I'm a competitor. Thanks. I'll take your apology anytime now. And anyway, why not just rent a room with Kirika? If they see that, they're sure to back off thinking you're taken."
"We can't do that!" Kirika suddenly interrupted, eyes round. "We can't let them think something so untrue!" Sasuke flinched almost imperceptibly, but Sakura caught it. She never was one to miss the small things.
She considered this. It seemed that Sasuke was not with Kirika, but he certainly felt something for her. His body language paired with his occasional protectiveness of her said it all. And Kirika was completely oblivious.
Sakura stared at the two of them, long and hard, and read the desperation in their faces. Finally, she spun on her heel and went down the hallway, leaving them standing there. Ten seconds later, she returned with an armful of blankets, gesturing defeatedly toward the couch. "It folds out into a bed," she sighed. "And I've got some pillows in the closet. Just for one night, okay?"
Kirika sent her an immensely relieved smile, and Sakura's insides unwillingly warmed. Damn her. "Thank you, Sakura-san." Sasuke only nodded his thanks, and it was clear that he was only doing so to appease Kirika. It was another reminder that this man should be nothing to her. Giving them a last fleeting look, Sakura fled into the kitchen.
Now, there were always things to do in the kitchen. Sakura was suddenly overwhelmed by the need to keep herself busy. The more she stayed active and away from those two in her living room, the less she would have to talk. She only hoped to Kami-sama that she could avoid engaging in conversation until they left.
She milled about the kitchen, filling the sink with soapy water and placing silverware from the dishwasher back into their drawer. She had dishes to do, far too many dishes. And the contents of her fridge, it all needed organizing. While she was at it, she felt that she really should order the hanging pans above her middle shelf from largest to smallest…
Uchiha Sasuke didn't bother her. See? She could still get work done, just like other normal people. She barely even noticed they were there. She definitely didn't notice each time Kirika's laugh carried from the living room, or the strong presence only Sasuke could give off even from thirty feet away…she was fine. Just fine.
Two hours later, the dishes were done, her refrigerator was officially manageable, the countertops were gleaming, and Sakura had nothing else to do. Leaning exhausted against the counter, she glanced around. There had to be something. She spotted her many cookbooks in the middle of her kitchen, and smiled in satisfaction.
They needed to be organized. She could continue to pass the time; at least for the next thirty minutes or so. Standing up on her tiptoes to reach the top ones first, she lost her balance at just the wrong time, and clutched the bookshelf for support. Which was not bolted to the wall.
And of course, her natural clumsiness always came back to taunt her.
The shelf swayed toward her, its light frame not enough to support her weight. Sakura immediately panicked. The heavy cookbooks, not to mention the entire bookshelf, threatened to topple onto her, and would drop any second now…
"Aah!" she yelped as the books moved. Her eyes squeezed shut by reflex, and when she felt nothing touch her she peeked through her eyelashes.
"Klutz," Sasuke sighed as he removed his palm from one of the shelves. It now settled back onto the wall, harmless. He stood right behind her, his shirt touching her arm, as apathetic as one can get. "In your own house, even."
"Shut up," Sakura said crossly as she returned to the sink to create distance between them. The warmth of his body rattled her. "I thought you'd be a bit more polite, considering you're staying at my place for the night."
His cocky smirk said it all. "You wouldn't throw me out."
"Correction. I wouldn't throw Kirika out. You I have no problem removing from my presence." Sakura glanced into the living room and found it empty. "Speaking of…"
"She left to let Naruto know where we're staying," Sasuke said offhandedly. He glanced at her cookbooks on the shelf, and then back at her, and a chuckle escaped his lips. "Still something to be protected."
He was still so very condescending. "I'm not a thing, Sasuke. And you happen to be mistaken if you think I'm not able to care for myself just fine."
Sasuke's voice suddenly became very serious. "You're not strong enough on your own."
"How would you know anything? I've trained for years!" Angry and indignant, Sakura had had enough of him getting away with lazy comments about how weak she was. As if he had any right to judge.
"You may have become stronger in some ways, Sakura, but..." he exhaled sharply and ran a hand through his dark hair. "Naruto. You couldn't get him off of you. What does that say about your skills?"
"Oh, please, Sasuke. It was Naruto. You think I would hurt him?" Sakura scoffed. "I couldn't have just taken him down like I would anyone else. He's my closest friend, alcohol or not. I wouldn't hurt him."
"And yet he was going to hurt you, if not physically then emotionally," Sasuke said, silencing her immediately. "And the most you can manage is 'Please stop'?"
"I..." Sakura bit her lip. "I would have tried to stop him, just not...by hurting him." She knew her argument was pathetic, but it was too late now. Better to latch onto her excuse and hope for the best than to give in right now. "Sasuke...think about it. It was Naruto. The shock alone pretty much kept me from moving."
"Unless you didn't really want him to stop." Sasuke's eyes bored into hers, an accusation evident in his eyes. He leaned closer to her as if to further impress upon her how much he disapproved of her. "Seems a stupid game to play."
"Just shut up!" Sakura exclaimed. "Shut up! Of course I wanted him off of me. The situation wasn't…he isn't…the whole thing was just wrong. But it wasn't like that."
She didn't know what she saw in his face, but it was gone in a blink.
"So if anyone close to you were to turn to..." Sasuke paused as he searched for the right word, "other goals and attacked you, you wouldn't fight them off?"
"Turn to other goals?" the kunoichi mimicked. "Like you did when you ran away?"
Sasuke's heavy boots made her hardwood floors squeak in protest as he stepped closer to her, close enough that she could feel him breathing. She made no move to step away, though her heart was pounding in her chest.
"Exactly," he said.
Her breath caught in her throat. "What?"
"If I lost control of the curse seal and attacked you, you wouldn't fight back."
"That's not going to happen. In the event that we ever ended up catching you, I became an expert at sealing techniques. I don't even need to be touching the area to stop you in your tracks."
"You're willing to bank on that? That I couldn't kill you before you had the chance to even get close to me?"
"Not especially, but I have other ways of stopping you if I had to. I fought you when you were staying with Orochimaru."
"You never even got the chance to hit me," Sasuke replied smoothly. "You wouldn't have done it."
"I would have!" Sakura spat. "If it meant getting to bring you home, I would have done anything!"
Her last sentence seemed to reverberate off of the walls as she glowered at him.
"Sakura. Stop being stubborn." Sasuke stared down at her, a slight frown on his face, but not as severe as before. Now it was laced with what she hardly dared to believe was concern.
"You wouldn't be able to stop me. That's why I left you behind. Because I'd have your death on my hands. Yes, it was because you were weak." Sakura noted through her hurt that he used the word in the past tense. "But it was more because I don't know how I'd ever get past it if anything happened to either of you on my mission."
This new revelation left her stunned and frozen, his face suddenly a million miles away. She tried to maintain fierce eye contact, but she couldn't even see him right now.
That was why he had left them? To make sure that they weren't hurt? Because he would consider it his fault if anything were to go wrong?
"Why didn't you say anything?" she whispered, her rebellious eyes leaking traitorous tears down her cheeks.
He raised his left forearm and rested it onto the cupboard behind her, seemingly unable to respond. He was so close, close enough that she could reach her arms around him if she let herself. She breathed him in, taking in for the first time that he was real and alive, and he really was back here, with her, in this room. Who knows if he would ever leave again, but for now, he was here. She stayed perfectly still, etching this moment in her mind. Never before had he been so voluntarily close to her. It was almost more than she could stand.
All she seemed to be doing these days was running. Apologizing to people, and running. Training, and running. Everything she did, she was still running from him. Hating that she couldn't run from herself, couldn't run just from the part of her heart that held him inside.
She was literally running now.
The front door was flung open and the gravel crunched under feet as she fled. There was no place she could run to, but she would figure that out later. She was so confused. She had locked her thoughts of him away for so long. Buried it all underneath hurt and hate. Then he comes back, and just like that, the door she had him locked behind bursts open and it's all laid bare for her to see. It might not have been as strong as it once was, but it hurt like hell.
It all contradicted itself. She hated him for leaving. She loved the part of him who had stood in front of her when she couldn't stand up for herself. She hated his cold indifference. She loved that he let his guard down just enough to let her know it was just a ruse. She hated him for never giving her an inch when she used to go to the ends of the earth for him.
There was so much hate. More so than love. Trouble was, he kept saying things that made her start to come to terms with her hate, and there was so much to let go. Perhaps too much.
And the punch line was, after he returned he had brought someone else.
Sakura found herself in the forest on the edge of town, and she only got through about twenty feet of it before she collapsed against a tree and allowed herself to gasp for breath.
The tears came more rapidly now, until her cheeks were drenched and dark droplets appeared on the top of her red shirt. She held her face in her hands and finally, finally let herself go to pieces.
Her back slid down the tree, still standing but with her weight completely against the bark. She bit her lip to stay silent, but her shoulders twitched as sobs refused to be suppressed. Her eyes were closed, and yet warm liquid still spilled from under her lashes.
It felt good, to release it all. Away from everyone who was looking at her with scrutiny.
The snapping of twigs a few feet away startled her into looking up.
He had followed her. He saw her face, a mess of confusion and tears, and looked as though he didn't quite know what to do with what he saw.
Sakura gasped and turned to face him, staggering back. She tried to glare at him to keep a brave face, but there was no covering it up. He had seen her crying and she couldn't undo that. Seen all of the weakness he always knew she possessed. There would be no going back from this.
She stared at Sasuke for a moment, defiant but unsteady. Her shoulders still twitched as she fought to calm down. There was a lump in her throat that prevented her from gathering her wits, and she cursed it.
Sasuke merely stared at her solemnly, unmoving.
"Well? You're right, there are parts of me that are still weak. You've officially seen that now." Sakura dropped her hands. "What do you want?" she shouted in a choked voice. "Why are you just standing there? Can't you just leave me in peace?" Her shoulders sagged and her eyes slid closed; all her emotions had been used up. She didn't even have enough energy left for frustration that despite all of her efforts, he had still seen her at her worst.
There was no sound other than the rustling of the leaves in the trees. The midday sun had begun to sink behind the hills on the horizon, and the chill of the air swept over Sakura with a breeze. He wasn't going to say anything. He was just going to stand there, like he always did. She didn't know why she expected anything else.
A shuffle of movement, then warmth. Her tears soaking through Sasuke's shirt as he embraced her.
"I'm sorry for leaving," he whispered into her hair. "It was supposed to be better if you both hated me. If I had explained it to you, you would have insisted on following me. And I couldn't have that."
The sobs were back. She clutched at him, one hand fisted in his shirt and the other around his back.
"I'm sorry—too," she said, her sentence broken by a hiccup. "Sorry I couldn't be focused enough on being a ninja to be someone you could bring with you."
He exhaled, and she felt him relax. "You don't understand, Sakura. You could have been the strongest kunoichi in the world and I wouldn't have brought you. You were never going to be put at risk because of me and my revenge." She felt some of the tension leave his body, as though he were saying words that had been pent up for years.
When he released her, her tears had gradually subsided. She still had a million questions. Still so much that she needed to know. But there was only one that she could remember through it all, right now.
"You have Kirika. She can't defend herself at all. What changed?"
He averted his gaze, and she knew she wasn't going to get a straight answer.
"My revenge is done. I brought her back to the village to provide her with a new home. There was no danger to her with Itachi gone."
Though it was definitely true, it wasn't the whole truth. Sakura had no tactful way of pressing, but…
"You like her."
Sasuke stared at the pine needles on the ground, suddenly closed off and frowning. The openness they had shared was swinging shut fast. At first she thought he wasn't going to respond at all.
Then, "I needed a companion after it was all over. She has this…quality…that reminds me of home."
That was the most she was getting. Small steps for anyone else; great leaps and bounds for an Uchiha. They stood there for a bit, letting the heavy concoction of emotions die down, and Sakura inclined her head as an invitation to head back to the house. After a few seconds, he nodded.
When the two returned from the forest, they were greeted with a warm, delicious smell wafting through the open front door.
"Oh, you're back! I made supper for you both," Kirika called from the kitchen as Sasuke and Sakura walked through the front door. An apron wrapped around her front, Kirika looked every bit the housewife she would without a doubt someday grow into, and even more so from the motherly smile she wore as she licked off a drop of soup from the ladle in her hand.
"It's just a bit of stew, I couldn't find too many ingredients…" she said modestly, and a embarrassed flush crept up her cheeks. Sakura glanced over at Sasuke, and found his eyes fixed on the pretty girl before him.
"You have a spot on your apron," he told her, and moved to wipe it off with his finger. It was a stray drop of soup near her stomach, and Kirika smiled at him.
"Thank you, Sasuke-kun," she told him sweetly. Sakura searched her face for the red that would soon reappear on her cheeks, but it didn't come. Sasuke's action didn't fluster her one bit.
Kirika didn't have any feelings for him at all.
It was about halfway through dinner that a sharp knock sounded on Sakura's door. She made sure to look through the peephole before she opened it, just in case it was anyone else come to disrupt their evening for no real reason.
What she saw made her brows knit in worry. Turning the handle and pulling the door back, she came face to face with a member of ANBU, fully dressed in uniform minus the mask. She recognized him as a new addition to Morino Ibiki's division in interrogation.
"Uchiha Sasuke is to report to Morino Ibiki immediately for questioning."
"Can it wait until morning?" Sakura asked him. "It's ten at night."
"Failure to appear will result in incarceration and possibly death," came the standard reply. Then he gave her a patronizing stare that she didn't like at all.
"Uchiha better pray that he has enough valuable information to lighten his sentence. 'Else he could be buried by tomorrow afternoon, and you can bet his name ain't going on the Konoha monument." A nod of his head to Kirika in the background, and he was gone.