My take on what happened after Sasuke left for his road of redemption. How their relationship developed, how they got together, how Sasuke's demons affected him and their relationship... etc.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Sasuke, she knew, would keep his promise.

She had no doubts that she would see him soon, like he had sworn to her moments before leaving on his journey of repentance. To find himself, she acknowledged, and right the wrongs he'd made along the years he thirsted for nothing but revenge and justice for his clan. Because she knew that if Sasuke was anything—it was loyal; to the people he loved, the people he deeply cared for.

He would return.

But… she hadn't expected it would be this quickly.

"Sasuke-kun!" she exclaimed, wide-eyed and stunned, feeling her cheeks warm with a mix of embarrassment and happiness. Her hands went to tug at the hem of her thin night shirt, and she looked at him nervously. "You're back so early," she breathed.

A little amused, he raised a brow.

"Do you want me to leave?" he said, mouth quirking a bit. "I can go back, if you don't want me to be here."

Sakura blushed a little harder at his small quip, his playful banter still surprising and hard to get used to, and shook her head.

"No, no! I'm sorry! That's not how I meant it, I just…" She cocked her head slightly, a bashful smile slipping to her lips. "I expected you in two or three months, maybe. Not… um, two weeks."

"Aa," he agreed easily, nodding. His eyes were still filled with that light mirth, and it made her heart flop pleasantly. "You weren't wrong. I didn't expect to be back so soon, either."

He missed this place, Sakura found herself thinking, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. Her smile took a more gentle edge, the swelling feeling of affection in her chest almost too much to handle.

"How are you, Sasuke-kun?" she asked softly, her voice genuine and happy, if not a bit concerned. "Are things going well on your trip?"

He shrugged, shoving his hand in his pocket and exhaling a long sigh. He looked a bit tired, she noticed.

"A lot of work," he groused, rolling his eyes. He paused, considered his words, and then added softly, "And tiring." His eyes shifted away from her form, in a manner that seemed strangely self-shaming. "There aren't many good inns that allow me in. People aren't very welcoming."

She itched to touch him, then, to comfort him and ease his apparent guilt—but stopped herself as she wondered if he would be okay with that. After some thought, Sakura gave a sympathetic look instead, leaning against the frame of her front door.

"Come on now," she teased softly, "you never really expected this to be easy. Two weeks isn't enough time to get people to soften up."

He looked at her with silence, for a moment, and Sakura felt her breath quicken. And then he smirked, if only just slightly. She blushed in response.

"No," he finally admitted. "But it wouldn't hurt to get a little help to get going. I asked Kakashi to write me an official document vouching for my desire to repent for the sins I made. It should… put them more at ease."

"Well I'm glad you thought about that," she said, with sheepish impulsion. "You might not have been gone too long but I... I missed you, you know."

The way his jaw slackened made her look down quickly, and for that, she missed the way his eyes softened around the edges. Without missing a beat, she cleared her throat and turned around, struggling to keep her furious blush from painting her face as she stepped away from the entrance and waved him in.

"Ah, but where are my manners," she mused, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder. Her face still felt hot. "Come on in!" When she reached her table, she turned his way again, smiling. "Your trip was probably draining, so sit! I'll make us some tea and you can tell me all about—"

There was a shift in his features, then.

"Oh," she realized, her smile cracking. "You're not staying."

Something in the way he looked at her told her that it wasn't up to him.

"Sakura…" he murmured. "I can't. I wasn't even supposed to—"

Sakura raised a hand to stop him, firm and understanding, despite feeling a bit crestfallen.

"It's okay," she said softly, her gaze gentle. She took long, quiet strides to stand in front of him once again. "I get it, you were only dropping by," she said, tilting her head at him. She gave a small smile, and added with genuine feeling, "Thank you."

Sasuke hesitated for a moment, then nodded, his head a little more bowed than usual. And when he suddenly turned and stepped down from her porch, Sakura remembered something.

"Sasuke-kun," she called swiftly, taking a quick step outside her home to catch up to him. He turned to look at her, brows raised in question at the urgency in her voice. She clasped her hands behind her back, swallowing the lump in her throat. "When you come back again," she started, "won't you stay a little while longer? To have tea with me?"

His calm gaze set on her, he answered nothing for a few beats. She felt her stomach drop at his consideration to her offer, mouth parting a little as she thought about reassuring him that he didn't have to. But she didn't have the time as Sasuke closed the distance between them and pressed his fingers to her forehead like he'd done the last time, giving a small smile.

"I'll try," he said. His eyes softened. "See you soon, Sakura."

Face brightening, Sakura watched as he turned on the balls of his feet and started towards the path leading to the Hokage tower, a hand close to her hammering heart and the prettiest blush to her cheeks.

Smiling to herself, she tucked a strand of pink hair behind her ear again, and whispered, "See you soon, Sasuke-kun."

Next chapter coming to you in a couple of days!