|About the Little Things
Author: aNdreaa PM
Sakura wasn't ignorant of the growing space between them; the space that had, in the moments of their greatest intimacy during their spars, dwindled to a line so thin and so blurred that they almost could have been considered 'together'. SasuSaku.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Sakura H. & Sasuke U. - Chapters: 16 - Words: 50,136 - Reviews: 570 - Favs: 574 - Follows: 322 - Updated: 06-25-10 - Published: 11-12-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3242818
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
About the Little Things
He woke up so abruptly and sat up so quickly that his eyes whited out from the rush of blood to his head. His stomach flipped to find that he was in an empty room- more so that Sakura wasn't exactly right there where he saw her last- and he stood up right away. The room had been cleaned of all traces of the previous genjutsu operation; he'd slept through all of that too?
The revelation that he'd dozed through what had to have been a sequence of people coming and out of the room and not sensing anybody's presence stunned him. He was an extremely light sleeper; he had always been aware of where he was and who was around the moment they came into proximity. The fact that he'd just woken up ignorant of how he was alone irked him. But what irked him even more was the absence of Sakura.
Sasuke slid open the door and in his haste, nearly bowled right into Naruto who looked at him as if he'd gone crazy.
"Whoa," Naruto said, yellow eyebrows flying up. "Relax much?"
"Where is she?" was Sasuke's first thought.
"Slow down," Naruto said, giving him an even more incredulous look. "I was just coming to wake you up, Sleeping Beauty. What's with the paranoia? She's fine."
"Where is she?" Sasuke repeated, getting visibly impatient. He couldn't remember the last time he'd shown what he was feeling on the outside.
"Looks like someone's antsy," Naruto chortled, taking his time in tormenting his friend. "Did something…happen between you two?"
A fleeting flash of last night- or, whatever time it had been- went through Sasuke's train of thought and he pushed it aside in favor of interrogating the blonde idiot who obviously knew something he didn't.
"No," Sasuke practically barked in denial. "Where is she? I thought you said she couldn't leave the room for another twelve hours."
Naruto grinned at him. "Dude. It's been fourteen."
"Fourteen?" Sasuke asked, suddenly dazed.
"Fourteen. Hours. You slept right through the night and half of today. Looks like you were more exhausted than you thought. Not that I can blame you. It's not like you left Sakura's side at all since she was out."
Sasuke mentally berated himself. Fourteen hours! He'd never slept so long in his life. Fourteen was such an excessive number. Curse Sakura for telling him that it was okay to sleep without one eye open.
"You're a mess," Naruto commented, appraising the Uchiha. "Have you showered?"
Sasuke didn't have time for this. "Naruto," he said tonelessly, "Where is she?"
Naruto shrugged. "I saw her wandering around the hospital around half an hour ago but she's in the building somewhere, probably getting a check up. She can't leave just yet, you know?"
Sasuke nodded and was fully intent on striding down the hall to find her then stopped. Naruto was still standing there, watching him. This was one of the few moments that the two friends-or-rivals had been in each other's company alone and actually sane since…well, everything had happened.
"Um…" Sasuke began, but was immediately interrupted.
"Bastard," the blonde chirped. "We're guys. We don't do the whole sappy apology episode. Alright?"
Sasuke turned his face, a slight smile on his face, but he knew he had to say it to mean it this time. "I'm…not just apologizing for the events of this past week. I mean…"
"Sasuke," Naruto repeated, "It's me you're talking to."
"Let me finish."
With that, Naruto shrugged and held his hands up. He wasn't going to deny Sasuke to talk when the guy was almost silent most of the time. "As you wish."
"I'm sorry," Sasuke mustered at last. It was obvious that it'd taken him a bit of struggling. His face was tinged rosy from efforts of getting it out there. "Naruto. For everything. Starting from the beginning of…um…"
"Your little cowardly power-trip to Psycholand?"
"Sorry," Naruto said hastily.
"No," Sasuke said. "I am. Sorry. That's exactly what it was."
The two shared a respective, silent grin before coughing awkwardly and turning their gazes on other objects in the hallway.
"Look, idiot," Naruto said at last. "I'm just glad you're sane again. I think you know where you stand now and where you…belong. Hinata helped you understand yours and Sakura's…whatever it is. Go get her. But do it right this time."
Sasuke nodded and then made his way down the hall, feeling strangely like his burden had been lightened.
Kurenai held up a flashcard; on it was an image of a single red square.
"Red," Sakura identified confidently. Mr. and Mrs. Haruno, who were sitting next to their daughter with bated breaths, squeezed her shoulders for encouragement. Hana was in Mrs. Haruno's arms, dozing quietly.
The teacher of Team 8 flipped to another card.
Kurenai put the stack of cards down and nodded. She took out a flashlight and peered into Sakura's eyes; the sea foam orbs darted back and forth, blinking when the bright light hit her pupils. "Good. It looks like the rods and cones cells of your eyes are functioning well. Do you feel lightheaded at all? Any periods of double vision?"
"No," Sakura answered, relieved.
"So did she pass?" Mr. Haruno asked. "Nothing else is wrong?"
"It looks like everything is fine and all senses are fully functioning," Kurenai replied. "I must ask you to take it easy for at least three more days just in case. Try not to spend too much time in bright light or sunshine—"
"Kurenai," Sakura said suddenly, and the room was still.
Sakura slid off the patient bed and then bent down on her knees to the tile floor in front of the woman before her in a reverential bow.
"Thank you," Sakura said firmly and sincerely. "Kurenai, thank you so much. I can't express my gratitude in any other way possible but I really would like for you to know that I am indebted to you. If there is anything I can do to pay you back…"
Kurenai's eyes went from surprised to soft and she knelt down in front of the younger kunoichi, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Raise your head," Kurenai said gently. Sakura did; her lips was quivering and her eyes watery. "Sakura. I have watched so many people bite their fingernails to the quick in anxiety of seeing you safe and healthy. You can pay me back by getting well. That is all I ask of you. I'm fairly certain others, your parents especially included, would also be put at ease to see you up on your feet again." Mr. and Mrs. Haruno profusely nodded.
But surely, that wasn't near enough. The woman had given her back almost everything she had ever known since birth- colors, perception, memories, security. It had not simply been the mere vision alone.
Haruno Sakura did not know at that moment how on earth she could or ever would repay Yuhi Kurenai.
But a hug would have to suffice for now.
Sasuke, at first, did not have a plan.
Initially, he wanted to run straight to her but the flaws in that idea were a) he had no idea where she was and b) running in a hospital wasn't exactly visitor protocol. There was also the lingering fact that he had to make absolutely sure she wasn't out to kill herself at the next stroke of fear.
So he settled for pacing. Not in just one spot either and not on just one floor. He started at the entrance and then walked to the end of the hall and then back, peering in every door window as he passed. Then to the elevator where he circled the second floor twice and then proceeded to the third. He was fully bent on repeating this plan until he had covered every inch of the hospital but there was no need as found her promptly on the fourth floor settled in and dozing in her new hospital room.
He wanted to talk to her; this feeling was nagging and borderline desperate but because she was Sakura and because, no doubt, had a lot of personal mental issues herself to sort out, he let the matter go for a little bit longer and didn't wake her up.
Sasuke ran a hand through his hair as he stared at her sleeping form. There were no bandages on her as far as he could see and it looked like she'd changed into a simple white gown. There were no tubes, oxygen masks, needles, or anything. It was just her sleeping; a basic human necessity. It looked like she was going to be alright if she wasn't already.
Sasuke turned, recognizing the light, timid voice even before he saw the face. Hinata gave him a gentle smile and slightly raised the bouquet of snowdrops in her hand.
"May I?" she asked. Sasuke nodded and stepped aside as she placed the vase of flowers on the nightstand beside the slumbering Sakura.
"Flowers say to get well," she remarked, "but it looks like she already is."
Sasuke opened his mouth, the air of apology almost stale on his tongue (two in one day was quite a lot for an Uchiha), but he began anyway.
"Hyuga, I'm sorry."
The kunoichi straightened up from arranging the flowers the way she thought best and turned to look at him, her dark hair falling behind her shoulder.
"What for?" she asked, her face genuinely curious.
"For…" Sasuke frowned, confused. "…ah…"
What he wanted to say, if pride would let him, was that he was sorry for ignoring her wishes and not listening to her and treating her like a lesser person when she wasn't at all.
"Sasuke, there is no need to say you're sorry when there's no apology required."
His confusion grew more pronounced on his face. "What?"
Hinata smiled, and dared to laugh a little. "What is there to be sorry for now?"
And Sasuke, who had contemplated this apology ever since he'd confessed his feelings to (an unconscious) Sakura, really didn't know now.
Hinata walked past him and prepared to exit the room. "You did far more than I ever would have imagined," she said, looking him in the eye. "You cowered a bit and you ran away but the fact that you came back in the end is very brave and is what matters, Uchiha-san. There's no need for apologies here anymore. You're on the right path."
"Naruto, I think he's ignoring you."
"GET UP, YOU BASTARD!"
"You're going to wake Sakura up!"
"Maybe I wouldn't if this bastardly lump of trash would get up!"
Sasuke was sitting in the guest chair and trying to focus on Sakura's still-sleeping figure as to block out the screechy, annoying demands made by one (and probably soon to be two) very loud blonde.
"GET UP," Naruto demanded with an air of authority as he towered over Sasuke.
"Get a life," Sasuke muttered.
"Oh, VERY mature," Naruto retorted. "Coming from the ass who's been in this room doing nothing but stare at his girlfriend for the past three hours."
"She's not my girlfriend," Sasuke muttered automatically.
Ino rolled her eyes and waved a hand, dismissing the subject. "Oh, in due time," she snorted.
If he weren't an Uchiha, Sasuke might have gaped at her.
"Oi, what's with the traffic jam?" piped up a new voice.
"Shikamaru!" Naruto said, dragging another body into the room. The lazy jounin stared around. "Tell Sasuke to get up and take a shower or something."
"Get up and take a shower or something," Shikamaru said effortlessly.
"Shikamaru!" Ino and Naruto both screeched at his lack of real attempt. God, it really was a wonder why Sakura wasn't awake in the midst of all this ruckus. She'd probably been knocked out with sleeping pills.
"Seriously," Naruto said rather…seriously, "Sasuke. You need to get out of this hospital. You've been here for forever, unshowered, feeding off hospital food and using hospital bathrooms and sitting your ass in hospital guest chairs—"
"Okay, gross much?" Ino commented.
"Get out and take in some sunshine! You're pale. You need it."
Sasuke glared at them. "Shut up, okay? I'm fine where I am."
"A bit crowded in here, isn't it?"
Kakashi and Sai, both bearing fresh flowers and balloons in a comically awkward sight, entered and Sasuke almost almost screamed at everyone to get the hell out because Sakura needed rest.
"Kakashi! Tell this no-lifer that he needs to leave the hospital."
"You haven't left the hospital yet?" asked Kakashi. "You've been here—"
"—three days," Sai supplied helpfully.
"Okay," Shikamaru interrupted as everyone chortled at Sasuke's expense, "before someone brings a whole parade float in here, I'm leaving and coming back when Sakura's room isn't filled with weirdos."
"I'm not a weirdo!" Naruto said, offended.
Ino put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a morbid look.
"Sasuke." Naruto turned his attention back to his friend. "Everybody needs a little rest. Sakura's not gonna appreciate it if she wakes up to your smelly face."
Scalding needles of water hit the muscles of his back in an achingly refreshing manner. Perhaps a shower at home wasn't so bad. He'd make it quick just in case Sakura woke up.
He straightened his shoulders and stretched his neck, letting the hot water soothe his three-day-long anxiety. He'd never thought about a single person for this long before. Lightly berating himself for a single moment for becoming so attached, he shrugged it off. Who cared if he was? This attachment was singularly the best thing that had ever happened to him.
His eyes flew open suddenly as a familiar spark of chakra flew into his radar. He frowned immediately. She wasn't supposed to be out and about on her feet yet. She'd just gotten out of an operation last night for Kami's sake…
He quickly shut off the water and towel-dried off as fast as he could, running the absorbent fabric through his black hair, favoring speed over thoroughness. Slipping on a fresh change of clothes, he burst out of the steaming bathroom and darted toward the courtyard door, opening it abruptly.
Sakura was standing at the edge of the entrance path, looking a bit tired but sturdy. She blinked, appraising his appearance. "You showered! Did you…run out of towels or something?"
What was up with everyone insisting that he needed a shower?
"What are you doing?" he hissed, ignoring the jibe as he strode toward her. His steps were long and brisk, his bare feet collecting wet footprints with every step.
"Waiting," she said lightly, tapping on an imaginary watch on her wrist. "It's past 6. You're late by almost 10 seconds."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Is this some kind of joke? I'm not going to spar you when you just got out of the hospital."
She raised her fists and took a stance.
"Sakura," he growled, starting forward all ready to disable her if need be. He was not going to let her overexert herself. Within a single heartbeat, he appeared right in front of her and closed his larger hands over her clenched ones. He was so close; their noses could have been touching. Dark eyes bore into her bright seafoam ones. He spoke slowly. "Don't."
And then she laughed.
Sakura was suddenly in hysterics at his seriousness and the sound of it made Sasuke forget his fleeting annoyance with her. Her laughter- the sound of her being genuinely happy- was something he hadn't heard in quite some time and now that it was back…now that she was herself again…Sasuke couldn't express how content he was with that. He sighed, letting go of her hands, knowing she had the best of him now.
"I was just kidding," she said, wiping a tear of mirth from the corner of her eye. "Like I'd last ten seconds in my condition. You're so serious all of the time…"
Sasuke opened his mouth to insist that she get inside and get some rest but then he closed it. Sakura had gotten her sight back but along with it, security and a blessing to see everything around her again. If he knew her well enough- and he liked to think he did at least a little- then the last thing she would want to do after being able to see again would be to close her eyes and sleep.
So he changed his mind. If she got tired later, then he'd carry her. But for now he decided for once to go easy on her and allow her the privilege of seeing Konoha with two perfect eyes again. He rubbed the back of his head almost sheepishly (who was he, Naruto?) before asking his next question.
"…want to go for a walk?"
They went to visit her parents and Hana. It was dinnertime by the time they knocked on the door and Mrs. Haruno was beside herself with joy.
"You're supposed to be in bed!" she chided. "Your father and I were planning to stop by after dinner with leftovers but it's better right out of the oven now. Eat, eat, eat. Sit. Eat. Especially you, Sasuke. You look like you haven't eaten in days."
Hana was in a cradle in the corner, gurgling to herself while occasionally shaking a rattle toy and then laughing ecstatically at the noise it made.
"Are you sure you're alright?" her father asked after a long hug and Sakura insisted she was.
"Thank you for taking care of her," Mrs. Haruno said, turning to Sasuke and squeezing his hand. "We can't express our gratitude enough—"
"Hn," Sasuke grunted softly which in his own way was saying it was no big deal. Mrs. Haruno seemed to get the gist of this and suddenly, he was pulled into a warm hug. Sasuke's eyes widened fractionally and stiffened automatically upon contact but she didn't seem to notice or mind. A moment passed before he realized that it would be alright if he allowed himself to just relax.
"Look at you, being all modest," she said, letting go and patting his cheek softly. "You've done plenty. Keeping watch, staying overnight like that…"
At this, Sakura's cheeks turned pink from remembering the kiss and her mother appraised her all-too-knowingly. Sasuke, in his part, had the gall to not turn red at all. Instead, he looked at Sakura and he smiled- it was an extremely small smile and only occurred in the corner of his mouth but it counted as one nonetheless because it was Sasuke.
Holding a baby wasn't so bad.
That was Sasuke's only thought as he found himself outside on the steps of the Haruno's front door in the cool night air, Hana sitting upright in his lap. Sakura was inside with her parents having a talk and he thought it best to remove himself and the chirping baby from the house as to give them some privacy.
Hana had grown a little since last time he and Sakura had visited. Her dark brown hair, short and wispy with a tiny yellow bow fastened on the side of her head, ruffled with every movement of her head as she swayed back and forth trying to gain balance. She was gurgling more than ever- making experimental sounds with her tiny mouth and clapping her hands together whenever Sasuke raised an eyebrow.
She patted his leg with surprising strength. Sasuke reached out to take her small hand but she grabbed his index and ring finger and waved it back and forth. Her large brown eyes, lit up with laughter, were transfixed on his face.
"Pretty strong, aren't you?" he muttered tonelessly.
"I agree," he said to humor her.
It was the oddest conversation he'd ever had. It didn't make sense in the least but there was something about how she fired back unintelligible responses with no preconceived notions of who he was or what they were talking about. It was…kind of nice.
"No, not really," he replied.
"You," Sasuke said prodding her playfully in the forehead, "are one strange baby."
"What did you just say?"
He seized Hana by her little torso and raised her up with both hands, bringing her closer to confirm that, yes, she had just spoken a dictionary-proven word.
"You," she repeated, beaming. And then again. And again. And this time, she pointed a pudgy finger at his forehead, most likely wanting to prod him as he had just done to her.
"You you you you you you you you you—"
Sasuke closed his eyes and smiled, positively baffled by this strange bundle in his hands.
The door creaked and Sasuke turned to see Mrs. Haruno in the entrance, a smile on her face that told him that she had witnessed their exchange.
"Isn't she something?" the woman sighed contentedly. She sat down next to him. "I'm torn that we only have a week left with her."
Sasuke looked up, confused.
"Oh, that was part of the arrangement when we got her," she explained. "That awful solo mission Sakura was on…"
She paused unwillingly to shudder. Sasuke didn't blame her. That damned mission had been the beginning of a series of unfortunate events.
"…it was in Cloud. Legally, Hana is still a citizen of that district so it's discouraged that we should keep her. Especially since my husband and I aren't shinobi. I just told Sakura and she's going to try to persuade Tsunade but we don't Hana to go through any complications. And I don't want Sakura to get caught up in something when she's only just be able to rest at last."
Mrs. Haruno smiled at the babbling but Sasuke could tell it was bittersweet. "I always knew it was temporary but it's gone by quite quickly, no?"
She leaned over to coo at the baby girl in Sasuke's lap who moved immediately to hand Hana to her surrogate mother. Mrs. Haruno shook her head though.
"You're so good with her," she said, allowing him to hold her for a little longer. "She's quite taken with you I imagine."
On their walk home, Sasuke made sure to stay at Sakura's pace or walk a little ways behind her. Either way, it was paramount that he keep his eye on her in case she found it a good idea to call the dirt road a nice place to crash for the night. He hadn't missed her discreet or half-attempts at hiding the yawns during dessert.
Sakura didn't mind the looming guard dog next to her but she did find it ironic how their places had switched from the time he first came back to Konoha. She didn't have to look after him anymore. Nor did the ANBU as Tsunade seemed to have gradually diminished their shifts as Sasuke spent more and more time with Sakura. She looked at him as he raised an eyebrow. His gait was the same as ever. Paced, hands in pockets, introverted.
"What?" he asked.
Sakura shrugged lightly and continued to walk, this time backward so she could face him. She didn't miss how his eyes narrowed fractionally at this; surely he didn't think she would trip?
"I was just thinking," she mused. "For a loner, you seem to have a lot of strings."
Sasuke paused, and then continued to walk. "What do you mean?"
"Well…" Sakura counted on her fingers, "Naruto, Hinata, Hana. And my parents. Kakashi. Even Ino sometimes."
"What about you?"
The question slipped by so easily Sasuke was surprised at himself but as of now, Sakura was perhaps the most important string of all. The girl blushed. "And me," she added quietly. "But you see my point. I don't think that you could consider yourself a loner anymore with so many strings."
"I don't have strings," he said gruffly. "And you're about to back into a pole."
Sakura smoothly dodged the pole and continued to walk backward so she could talk to Sasuke face to face. "You may think you don't," she reasoned, "but you have a network of strings already whether you like it or not." She beamed at him. "And I'm fairly certain they're happy to have you as a string as well."
The Uchiha's gaze fell to the ground. Sakura stopped walking backward and fell into step with him. "Are strings really so bad?" she asked, concerned at his silence.
He turned his head to look at her, a barely noticeable trace of content on his lips. "No." So Sakura moved closer, interlocking their fingers.
After a few minutes, Sakura released his warm hand from her own to turn onto the street that would bring her to her own house. Her nimble fingers slipped from his own and he suppressed the sudden urge to grab for them again. He frowned.
"Where are you going?"
She cocked her head at him. "Home of course. It's getting a bit late."
Perhaps it was his pride that wouldn't allow him to say, 'You're staying at my house. No arguments.' but the message was put across when he took her hand and yanked her in the other direction- toward the Uchiha manor.
He didn't say anything; just kept walking with her in tow. After a few moments, he was hit with a swelling sensation of affection when he realized she wasn't struggling.
"Sasuke, wake up."
"Sasuke…" cooed her voice.
The Uchiha begrudgingly opened one eye to find Sakura's face hovering next to his. He was very, very, very tempted to pull back to his side onto the bed where she really should have been sleeping, but something told him that her wide green eyes and bright smile were far too awake now.
"What is it?" he said softly; a mere rumble in his throat.
"Wake up. We're going to the hill. I made ramen and we're going to meet our team there and have a midnight picnic."
"What time is it?" Sasuke asked in the same low voice.
"Well…a little after midnight. Okay, it's more like a 2 in the morning picnic. Come on, come on."
"Tch," Sasuke sounded with annoyance, but nonetheless swung his legs off the side of his bed and sat up, rubbing his eyes. The sheets fell off of him and exposed his bare chest. Sakura blushed, not used to seeing him in such an undisclosed state (although they technically had already spent their fifth or sixth night together).
"So…um," Sakura said, trying to regain her train of thought. "I made ramen. Let's go." She turned back toward the kitchen and he followed, grabbing the black shirt he'd tossed carelessly over a chair and pulling it over his head.
"You made…ramen," Sasuke said, slowing as he came to the rather large pot resting on his stove. Sakura nodded as if it was no big deal though he was pretty sure that it was his pot and his ramen she'd taken from his cupboards. Nevertheless, it smelled pretty good from where he was standing.
"Let's go," she said with a smile and proceeded to pick up the pot.
He was at her side in a flash. "I'll get it," he said automatically.
The short trek to the hill was filled with Sakura's chattering but for once in his life, Sasuke wasn't annoyed by it at all. On the contrary, whenever she stopped talking because she was afraid he wasn't listening, he would ask her a question and she would continue. In a very subtle sort of way, Sakura figured, he was telling that he very much so was enjoying her company tonight, despite the fact that she'd woken him from his slumber at midnight to go eat with Naruto, Kakashi, and Sai.
"Hey!" Sakura called out lightly as they reached their destination, waving to catch Naruto's attention. The blonde, who had been lying down, raised himself up off his back to lean on his elbows and then he waved back with twice as much exuberance- especially when he recognized the spiky-headed silhouette trailing Sakura. He promptly got up on his feet and ran forward to pick Sakura up in a bone-breaking bear hug and swung around. Sai smiled at them in acknowledgement and Kakashi gave a small wave.
"You look so good," Naruto said enthusiastically patting the grassy spots in front of him. "Up on your feet already. Take a seat, guys."
"Did you shower?" Sai asked politely, aiming the question at Sasuke. It took a lot of the Uchiha's will to not throw the metal pot clenched in his hands.
"What is that?" Naruto gasped, pointing. "I can smell it! Is it—"
"—your favorite," Sakura grinned, gesturing for Sasuke to place the large pot in the middle of the circle they had formed. The girl lifted the lid off with an air of gusto and Naruto gaped in awe at the sight of the many, many noodles swimming in the steaming broth.
"Sakura-chan, you're amazing!"
"Just made it," Sakura nodded and she produced five pairs of chopsticks and handed them out. "I know it's not as practical as sitting at Ichiraku but…I missed us. Our team."
Kakashi breathed deeply and then ruffled his pupil's pink hair, not being able to keep from smiling.
Naruto broke his chopsticks first with a bit too much vigor (they broke apart, splintering at the top unevenly) but he wasn't deterred one bit. He looked up with wide blue eyes at Sakura who laughed and waved him on.
"Go ahead. If anyone gets first bite at ramen, it's you, Naruto."
The blonde practically dunked his entire head into the pot but emerged, mouth full, and face happy. Sakura laughed and shared a peculiar glance with Sasuke but she waved at him and Sai to take the next bite.
"I hope it's not poisonous, Hag."
Sakura twitched but let the insult slide. Sasuke leaned forward, his face getting full blast of the warm, delicious scent of the common meal and skillfully twirled the noodles around his utensils, easing it to his lips.
It was delicious. Especially since it was at midnight and just the five of them. It was like almost like…
"…camping," Naruto said, satisfied with the atmosphere. "Man, we haven't been camping together since our last mission when we were babies…"
"Twelve is not a baby age, Naruto," Kakashi chuckled.
But there was nothing as indescribably wonderful and intimate as leaning over a huge, warm, savory pot of ramen while bumping foreheads with the people you were closest to in the whole world.
Naruto closed his eyes and smiled.
"This is better than Ichiraku."
Sasuke woke up to find her gone again. This was proving to be very annoying. He didn't like having to wait and wonder where she was…even if she was in proximity.
"Sakura," he muttered. He rubbed his eyes and at once squinted in the bright sunlight that was flooding his bedroom. The dark curtain, which had been perpetually shut and therefore sealing out all light, had been pulled back to allow a glorious filter of morning warmth to infiltrate his quarters. He dully noted how she'd done the exact same thing the last time she slept over. Sasuke frowned and sat up quickly, feeling odd about this new change. As far as he could remember, he'd always woken up to dim light or darkness. He'd spent way too much time in those underground lairs in Sound.
Sakura must have tied back the curtain. With her aversion to darkness, it was only logical.
He opened his door and more light met his eyes. The entire hallway, in fact, every room it seemed now had an open window and was being bathed in sunlight. Sasuke turned on the spot, taking it all in. It didn't look like his house anymore. It didn't look like the old Uchiha manor at all. There was life in it again. Every door had been slid open; all the gaps exposed. Months ago he would have been throttled with old memories but instead, it felt like a breakthrough. It wasn't the same anymore but it was just as well. Nothing ever stayed the same.
A small noise and the rustle of fabric from some end of the house didn't miss Sasuke's sensitive hearing. He immediately strode in the direction of the sound and just missed Sakura's pink hair whip around the corner of the guest bedroom.
"Sakura," he called out. She didn't answer. He only heard more curtains being whipped back to let the light in.
He walked quickly down the hall to where she disappeared, expecting her to stop, but she dashed right in front of him from room to room leaving warm wind and sunshine in her wake.
"Sakura, stop! You shouldn't be running in your condition."
He heard her laugh and wondered how the hell she was moving so fast when she'd just been discharged. Although he wasn't really trying at his top speed, it was frustrating to think he'd caught her and only to find her in another room, stirring up the dust and opening all the doors.
"What are you doing?" he demanded as she rushed by him again. He followed her quickly into the empty living room and silently watched as she flew from window to window, tearing back the curtains. The dim room grew progressively brighter and brighter until she was standing in the middle being bathed in sunlight. She turned to face him- a grin already on her features.
Every second that he'd spent in this house, it was either in artificial light or near-darkness. The natural glow of the sun had transformed the property into something else. The room wasn't filled with bad memories or dark nightmares anymore. It was as if he'd stepped into a foreign land…but a good kind of foreign. He'd called this place nothing more than a shelter before but in one morning, Sakura had made in a home.
Sasuke moved and then was in front of her, boldly boxing her in with his arms as she backed up to meet the wall. Sakura studied his face and decided that the handsomeness of his features had not diminished over the years- the sharp angles of his face, hit with soft natural light and opposed with tragic shadows. She stared back stubbornly as his black eyes- the ones she had healed with her very own hands- watched her own.
She was well aware that he was steadily moving closer to her but in this breathtaking sunlight and with ends being tied at last, she decided not to move. His head dipped down to meet hers and before their mouths touched he paused and she almost wondered if he was about to say something. The pause vanished when she opened her mouth to question his hesitation and she found her lips moving against his.
His cheek brushed against hers and his forehead came to rest upon her small shoulder. She could sense he definitely wanted to say something now. When she calmed down the thrumming of her heart at last, she spoke gently.
"What is it?"
He didn't answer right away. But when he did, guilt, sadness, and unearthly appreciation for his genuine concern all collided in the pit of her stomach.
"You…" Sasuke began, fumbling for the right words. He knew exactly what he wanted to say. The words simply couldn't form themselves immediately.
"…are too good to die. That way."
Sakura looked up, startled.
It pained him to bring it up but she had to know. Sakura tilted her head back and sighed, sliding down to sit on the floor. The glowing sunlight hit her features, throwing beautiful warm shadows across her face. She lifted a hand, examining the silhouette it made on the wall. "I know that now," she murmured. Sasuke crouched down in front of her.
"Every day I took things for granted. I have two whole perfect legs while some of my patients have only one or none at all. I'm not in daily pain. I'm young and healthy and strong. I can move all ten of my fingers." At this, she waved them around, stirring up the shadows again. "And I have all five of my senses intact."
"Your hands are meant for healing," Sasuke said, straightening so she would look at him in the eye- the eyes that she gave new life to. "Not for killing."
Sakura lowered her hand and nodded in a determined fashion. Glistening eyes told him that she was about to cry so he opened his arms and she fell into them, holding him as close as she could. Because only for her would he allow it.
This time, it was her turn.
Sasuke found himself strangely and uncharacteristically tense as he stood before Godaime. He had never been intimidated by another person's presence before but now…he was looking at the woman who had stripped him of his ninja rights and could exile him with a flick of her finger.
Yeah. He was tense.
Earlier that afternoon, Naruto had come running toward him in a trademark loud fashion proclaiming with some urgency that the entirety of Team 7 was wanted immediately in the Hokage's office. His first fleeting thoughts were a) Sakura was dead, b) Sakura was in grave danger and about to be dead, or c) Sakura was missing.
But thankfully, those situations he'd formulated in his mind proved to be completely false as he blew into the office with more alarm than ever (he couldn't have possibly beared to lose Sakura again) and gained five pairs of raised eyebrows, a pink one included.
Sasuke didn't say anything and simply caught his breath in relief.
"We're here!" Naruto announced rather unnecessarily.
"Good," Tsunade said curtly. "Kakashi, Sai, Sakura, Naruto. You four serve as witnesses to what I am about to declare."
They all got up and stood in a soldier's line. Sasuke couldn't help but glance at Sakura; she gave him a small smile in return and gestured him to go up to Tsunade, who was waiting.
Tsunade straightened her shoulders and put her arms behind her back, walking over to the other side of the Hokage's desk, beckoning Sasuke to step up to the plate.
"Uchiha Sasuke," she declared in a powerful voice, "after twelve months of satisfactory behavior and decent conduct—"
Naruto snorted but nonetheless allowed the Hokage to continue.
"—and under the watch of miscellaneous authorities as well as my approval in the prescribed renewal of a five-man Team 7…"
Naruto's head spun with the abundance of too many advanced vocabulary words but Sasuke and Sakura both raised their heads, lips slowly parting in incredulous expressions of surprise. Sai and Kakashi both had small smiles on their faces. It really didn't matter that three of them were both ANBU members and that Sakura and Sasuke were far too old to be under a teacher.
"…how would you like to go on a mission?"
"Kunai," he said tonelessly, making a 180 and going back inside his room. He emerged promptly with half a dozen of said weapon; all sharp and shiny and ready for battle.
"Sasuke," Sakura said gently and almost with a laugh in her voice. "You already have five in your bag here."
She was sitting on the kitchen table- his kitchen table- her feet resting upon a chair and her chin in her hands. She watched blithely as the Uchiha moved softly and quickly throughout the house, dumping things he thought he would need in a neat pile next to her.
After Tsunade's announcement, they'd all silently watched as Sasuke received an extensive warning lecture, a scroll with mundane mission details, and a wink. The five wordlessly exited the office but as soon as the door shut behind them, Sakura and Naruto burst into loud bouts of joyful shouting attacks and soon, Sasuke was enclosed in a giant group hug. While it was not the most comfortable experience he'd ever had, he had to admit; this was a hell of a group to have a group hug with- Sai included, no matter how unemotional his face was as his life was squeezed out of him. Kakashi, on the other hand, was writhing in pain in Naruto's ferocious grip.
When they had, at last, let go, Sasuke remembered something and re-entered the office. Tsunade, surprised to see him pop back in, demanded what else he wanted. So he asked for something, for once, that wasn't about him.
"Arrange citizenship papers with Cloud to grant custody of Hana to the Harunos."
Tsunade's golden eyes had widened but understood the request. "What brought this on?" she mused.
Sasuke matched her gaze. "That baby will be cared for under their guardianship than any other family in this entire country," he stated calmly. "Separating them would only cause more grief."
"You think," Tsunade said slowly, "that what is best for Hana is that she stays in Konoha? With the Harunos?"
The Uchiha's response was confident. "I know so." And before he could stop himself, "I'll make sure of it."
This satisfied the Hokage immensely. "We'll see," she said lightly. Her tone, however, was affirmative and Sasuke had left the tower with innate reassurance.
"Doesn't hurt to be prepared," he murmured now as he stacked five scrolls- two blank and three summoning- next to the kunai. Sakura simply watched some more, this time, the faint smile on her lips was growing.
"Are you…nervous?" she asked, gauging his reaction. He ran a hand through his black hair; a sign of great distress for such a simple mission.
"No," he said immediately.
"Of course not," she hummed, all too knowingly. She slid off the table and quickly but gently grabbed his wrists as he made to deposit twenty shuriken stars into his bag.
"Stop," she said, her eyes meeting his. He never failed to make her catch her breath.
"Alright," Sakura said, brushing a strand of hair from her eyes and taking things out of his bag one by one. "Sasuke, you are a genius with taijutsu and speed. Pair that with your Chidori, and you're a human weapon. These kunai would just slow you down. There's no need to bring…fourteen of them. Especially when this mission is only an overnight to a local farm and B-ranked."
Indeed, it was only a B-rank: aiding a harmless little civilian town a couple of hours away to rebuild their local hospital after it had burned down. The expectancy of running into enemy nin was low but common robbers were high as the town was vulnerable. If he didn't know Tsunade had only the best intentions, he would have found the fact that she was sending five grown shinobi to do a chunin's task was completely idiotic. The fact, however, that she had enough trust in him to go outside Konoha borders spoke volumes.
Sasuke didn't say anything but his lip twitched in a disapproving frown. The pink-haired girl sensed that the packing could be done later and she cocked her head at him, smiling irresistibly. "You are nervous," she stated. "I guess it's only reasonable when we haven't done a team mission in years- even if it is as elementary as this one."
Sasuke lowered his gaze to the floor. Sakura pulled out an object from her purse, and held it in her hands, running her fingers over the new metal plate, the Leaf emblem, and the soft fabric. "Naruto told me to pass this onto you. He kept bugging Tsunade about it because the one you have is all scratched and since she seemed keen about giving you a new start and all…consider it a present."
Sasuke blinked, surprised.
"If there was anything," she said, sliding off the table and walking around behind Sasuke and securing the forehead protector about his head, "that was not to be forgotten, it would be this. And only this."
She stepped back and appraised him as he turned toward her. The Sasuke before her, complete with the symbol of the Leaf in its rightful place, looked like a nostalgic illusion; something that she hadn't seen in him since he was a pre-teen. Something that she had only gazed upon in the Team 7 photo for years, hoping and hoping. And now that he was there, twelve inches away and fulfilling every beautiful bit of her wishful thinking…it was hard to believe.
"Don't cry," Sasuke said suddenly but it was too late. So all he could do was stand there and let her look at him as elated tears spilled over.
Then, the Uchiha hesitantly leaned down and pressed his lips to her cheek; right where it dipped into her hairline at the level of the delicate shell of her ear.
He then pulled back slightly and almost hesitantly made their eyes meet. For a fleeting moment, Sasuke was prepared to repeat every word of his confession he'd said days ago when she'd been sleeping. But she was here right in front of him; living and breathing and with him. Her voice, her face, her temper, her laugh, her strength, all of it. She wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"It's the little things," he confirmed, more to himself than to her.
"Nothing," he said softly. Sakura stared at this vision of Sasuke- her noble Konoha shinobi once again- and it almost made her heart burst.
She closed her eyes and kissed him deeply and fearlessly, rising on the tips of her toes, extending a hand around his neck and the other on the ripple of his collarbone. His own hands, clumsy but definitely in a spot he wanted them to be, were at the curves of her waist. He ran his fingers over the fabric of her shirt that'd been warmed by her body heat and then brought them down, brushing them as faintly as he would allow himself over her shoulders, ribcage, and then ghosting over her waist.
Lips on lips, sharing sighs, they remained there bathed in the low sunlight of the Uchiha kitchen, tangled in each other and, for once, utterly lost in the moment.
Well, at long last, after three+ long years (I did indeed publish this in November of 2006, which I cannot believe), slackitudinal bouts of procrastination, writer's block, I would just love to say that About the Little Things has officially come to a close. Get ready for a doozy of an author's note.
-I would like to do two things at once: apologize and thank you. I'm wholeheartedly sorry for not updating more; the slowness is just a part of me. Almost-three years is an extremely long wait period between these mere sixteen chapters and I cannot believe that it is still sitting and marinated awfully on some of you readers' favorites and alerts lists.
-Which brings me to my next point: THANK YOU. Muchos gracias. Merci. Danke. Arigato. Blagodaram. My god, just THANK YOU to you watchers and reviewers and lurkers for supporting and reviewing and waiting for so long. I hope this epilogue satisfied your craving for an aNdreaa update because everyone knows she's horrible at those things.
-This epilogue was a doozy to write because I had to balance fluff with closure. The part where Sakura comments on the "strings" that Sasuke has is a direct pull from HUSH, the Batman comic. Shhh. It was a beautiful line.) I hope you like it because I enjoyed writing it!
-While I do regret not giving some characters quite enough screen time and more depth (Sasuke and Sai's relationship, Kakashi, Sakura's parents, baby Hana's background, the ol' genin gang, and even Naruto, etc.) I do hope I've made it up in experimenting with things I've always yearned to see canon although it is almost crackish. Namely, Sasuke and Hinata being BFFs. Hinata is one of my favorites and therefore, I gave her a bit of spotlight in this fic and transformed her to be a non-canon but hopefully realistic character. I love her relationship with Sasuke in this story and that will not change, no matter how unlikely it is in canon. Ultimately and guiltily, I think I almost made Sasuke, Sakura, and Hinata the spotlit trio with Sasuke toadally being the main character. I'm sorry, Naruto. :(
-I also regret not including Gaara or the SandSibs. I just have to say it. I oh-so terribly wanted to include him but he remained elusive and wouldn't let me write him. I also wanted to include Karin, Suigetsu, and Jugo but, alas, I started this fic way before the canon of Hebi/Taka began so there was just no way so I just spun it into an independent young storyline.
-Another thing I may not have been crystal-clear on was the Itachi factor. I wrote this bit before the canon came out in the manga and therefore changed the events halfway. It was a mistake because in the end, I just confused myself on what was really supposed to happen. It ended up being muddled and is not going to be rewritten but in this story, Itachi loved his brother but still was an antagonist.
-I did have a few relapses and changed a bit of "terrible so-three-years ago" writing in the earlier chapters and hopefully, the mistakes I've made have been overlooked and skimmed past. Excuse my teeny writing.
-All in all, another big thank you to YOU, yes, YOU. Hopefully, if I'm ever out on another multi-chaptered dramatic SasuSaku fic, it will be updated more efficiently than this one.
Please leave any last thoughts and comments you have on this story; especially if you haven't reviewed before. I read every single one and would be very much obliged.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. And see you soon.