On any given day after the war, Haruno Sakura was likely to be found in the hospital. Where exactly in the hospital to locate her was always a toss-up. Today, at 2:45, it happened to be in the laboratory; more specifically, Tsunade's personal laboratory, where she'd made a point of stopping in at least once a day for the past four weeks. She would always ask the same innocuous question of her former master, and Tsunade would always give the same answer.

"Need any help with anything?"

"No, you impertinent brat. Leave me to my work in peace."

Sakura sighed and smiled, pretending not to pay as much attention to what Tsunade was working on as she actually was. Hungry green eyes absorbed the almost magical mix of medicine and chakra as the Fifth Hokage crafted something the likes of which had never been done before; what she was doing couldn't be found in any of her medical scrolls or textbooks. It was breaking ground. A new frontier. Sakura was the first to witness such an impressive marriage of healing, regenerative chakra and…

"Don't you have patients to attend to?" Tsunade demanded. "What with me locked down here like some hamster on a wheel making arms for those two ingrates…" Sakura understood this to mean Naruto and Sasuke-kun, "and Shizune cleaning up after that other ingrate…" who she knew to be Kakashi-sensei, "I'm sure you've got your hands full running the hospital."

"Not exactly," Sakura said, peering over Tsunade's shoulder and studying Tsunade's electric chakra pattern. "We sent home Tamaki-san this morning…"

"Already? She's lucky, foolish girl. Getting in the way of a cat-and-dog fight."

"…and Shizune-sempai finally managed to get Kakashi-sensei in for his physical. I'll spare you the details on what she had to bribe him with to do so."

Tsunade chuckled, then snapped, "Okay then enjoy your afternoon off, yeah? Some of us have jobs to do."

"You know if you really hate this assignment so much, I'd be happy to help," Sakura sang, but she already knew better. Tsunade was much like Sakura herself: unable to sit still for too long, determined to be helpful, and unable to pass up a challenge. The task of crafting prosthetic arms from Hashirama's cells had fallen to her (AKA she'd bossily taken charge of it) and she wasn't about to relinquish such an exquisite challenge so easily.

"Actually, you know what, I could use your help with something," said Tsunade, pausing in her work to turn and face her former apprentice. "Don't look so shocked, you asked me if I needed anything."

"Yeah but I didn't expect you to say yes!" Sakura exclaimed eagerly. "Is it the matter of conjoining cellular tissue between the prosthesis and the original limb while enabling chakra flow? Because I had some ideas about that, actually, and…"

Tsunade smirked. "Actually, I was going to say I could use a bottle of sake and a little something to nibble on from the barbecue place."

"Sounds like something an apprentice would do for her master," Sakura said dryly, thoroughly annoyed at the obvious trap she'd fallen into.

"It does indeed."

"Then I guess it's a shame that I'm not your apprentice anymore. See you tomorrow, Shishou."

With that item ticked off her to-do list (not that she'd expected any success, but there was no harm in trying), she made her way to Hokage Tower after calling to one of the nurses that she was taking a late lunch. The nurse smiled brightly and nodded, promising to have her patients covered, but it was a formality. If she was being perfectly honest with herself, Sakura knew she wasn't needed in the hospital as often as she was prepared to be.

That was bittersweet. Few patients was always a good thing. It meant people were healthy and whole and well, and in peacetime, it was to be expected. It was the eventuality wars were fought for to begin with.

But Sakura had been raised in a world where if she didn't show up, people died. She not only was capable of handling herself in the hospital, she thrived on it. She had been trained by the best to be the best, and now she was.

So good, in fact, that she was running out of things to do lately.

She showed up at the hospital and stayed for hours longer than necessary, simply out of habit.

She sighed, then brightened as she drew closer to Hokage Tower. More free time on her hands meant more time to devote to other equally important causes, like a notion Tsunade had had long ago that Sakura was determined to see through, which meant a visit to the Sixth Hokage. She doubted that he would be difficult to convince – being his favorite student had its perks, and he always listened to her when she had something important to say.

But that, of course, meant another project that was bound to be easy to complete. Between a lull in activity at the hospital, a definite decrease in the missions she was sent on since the war had ended, her completed apprenticeship with Tsunade-shishou and her recent promotion to jonin, Sakura began to worry that she was, quite simply, running out of things to do here in Konoha.

And if there was one thing that she resented, it was the idea of just standing still.

There's something that's been bothering me lately.

He hadn't quite adjusted to life without his left arm yet.

Being a shinobi meant a life of constant adjustments. Not that he was fully qualified to decide what being a shinobi meant exactly, not when he was still trying to figure that out for himself.

It had been three weeks since he'd set foot out of Konoha on a quest for atonement, because he wouldn't be Uchiha Sasuke if he wasn't working towards something. This time, though, he had a strong feeling that what he was doing was the right thing. For once.

He could have waited a little bit longer before leaving – the Fifth Hokage was working on a prosthetic arm for him, not that he deserved it – but something more pressing than having both arms in working order was weighing on his heart. Something more urgent propelled him out of the village he'd finally returned to.

There's something that's been bothering me lately.

His teammates had been understanding, something that confounded Sasuke the more he thought about it. It was his fault that they had fallen apart to begin with, wasn't it? His leaving was the catalyst that led to so much shit, and still they stuck by him. While he was gone, they tried to get him back; they defended him from other people, stood up for him when there was nothing redeemable about him, fought for him, laid down their lives for him. Naruto had had his right arm blown off in their fight, which could have ended his career as a shinobi.

But while it confused him, their unwavering loyalty and understanding, it didn't surprise him. Kakashi had given a light-hearted sermon on his way out, making him promise to stay out of trouble. Sakura had offered to accompany him. The back of his neck heated up at the memory – when had she gotten so beautiful?

And Naruto…Naruto had smirked at him and slipped him his old forehead protector. Sasuke didn't wear it, but he kept it with him all the same. Sometimes, when he paused to make camp for the night on his aimless journey, he would take it out of his bag and study it in the firelight. The glow of the embers turned the battered silver to molten gold, and sometimes if he held it at just the right angle, he couldn't make out the grating slash through the leaf insignia. Like it was never there to begin with.

An adjustment.

But for all of the adjusting Sasuke had had to do in his young life, living life with one arm was difficult at best, damn near impossible at worst. Without both hands, he couldn't make hand seals. His right arm was nowhere near as proficient with his sword as his left arm had been. He was vulnerable.

More than that, he was alone.

And like always, his solitude had been self-imposed. A punishment the likes of which he'd escaped thanks to Kakashi and Naruto's considerable influence. He'd been pardoned back in Konoha. There was no reason he couldn't stay there, get a brand new arm, live a happy and fulfilling life without fear of repercussion from his past crimes. Everything had been given to him.

Which was why he couldn't stay there.

At least, not yet.

Because no matter what everyone else had decided, no matter that they looked upon him back in Konoha with gratitude for his role in ending the war, no matter that he already had everyone else's forgiveness…

He didn't yet have his own.

And until Sasuke could forgive himself – until he could learn to take what he'd done and come to terms with it, until he could look at himself as someone worthy of the trust, love, and loyalty of Team 7 and his other comrades, until he could truly forgive what he'd done…

…he would not set foot in Konoha.

He knew he didn't yet deserve to.

There's something that's been bothering me lately.

He smirked ironically, making his way through the dense greenery that marked the edge of the Land of Fire. Now if only I could figure out what the hell it is.

note.. so uh hey there. if you follow me on tumblr you may have seen that what with sasusaku being canon and all (not that there was any doubt of course) i've been getting back into a writing mood. so i'm looking at this story as kind of a foot in the door back here again. i love sasuke and i love sakura and i'm so happy they're official.

anyway i like the idea of sasuke's quest for redemption, and i also had a couple ideas for sakura because we all know she's way too badass to just sit on her hands till sasuke comes back. so i wanted to get into what he's doing out on the road and why, and what she's gonna do back in konoha. plus the other characters i love like ino. and naruto of course.

if you liked it, let me know. if you didn't, keep it movin. i hope there's no more bullshit here so i can stick around awhile. i missed you guys :)

xoxo daisy :)