Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
the warmth that draws me to you
It is his third week back in konoha, and he sees her on the market streets, one day. She is carrying more grocery bags than any civilian could likely manage on their own, but she is smiling, despite, and the sight strangely compels him to approach her without knowing why.
She doesn't notice him before he reaches out and carefully grabs a few bags from her, acknowledging, "Sakura"
She stills, and blinks, before the smile grows brighter. He suspects it isn't because she is grateful for his help, but rather because his unexpected thoughtfulness awes her.
"Thanks, Sasuke-kun." As she readjusts the bags in her arms, she cocks her head and says, eyes twinkling, "What are you doing at the market at this time? I never see you around here this late."
"Just passing through."
Her smile stays bright. "Well in that case, since you have my bags, would you mind walking me to my apartment?"
His brows furrow. Apartment? At seventeen? He had always known Sakura to have spectacularly good relations with her parents, had always heard that they fared well. Which could only mean–
Quietly, he murmurs, shoulders slack, "Your parents… how–when did they…"
His lips mulled together firmly, gaze drawing to the ground as his jaw clenched shut. He shouldn't pry–it probably wasn't any of his business anyway.
He blinks, looks up, and sees a strange expression marring her features, then. It doesn't take long before her eyes widen, evidently realizing his thoughts.
Putting a hand over her mouth, she exclaims, "Oh god no, no, no, they're fine, Sasuke-kun! Perfect, actually." Making some sort of vague, dismissive gesture, she simply says, "I moved out when my shifts at the hospital got crazy. I was constantly up and about at the most ungodly hours, and I felt it would be better if I just got my own place–that way I wouldn't disturb them in their sleep. Or anyone else, really."
Feeling the tension easing away from his body, Sasuke merely nods. He doesn't understand why he feels so relieved, but he tells himself it's because no one deserves to lose their parents so young, especially not someone who has just gotten back everything she has held dear to her heart.
Sakura smiles at him, and makes a satisfied sound, urging him along with a jerk of her head as she starts down the road to lead them both to her apartment. He follows noiselessly, just a few steps behind, dark eyes drawn to the glowing smile ever-so-present on her lips. It makes him wonder if he's the reason it is there, or if it has simply been one of those days for her.
When they reach her block, she unlocks her door and steps inside, leaving it wide open in a clear, silent invitation for Sasuke to do the same. He acquiesces quietly, and closes the door behind him, before he turns and sees Sakura scurrying down to the kitchen, bags already placed on her dinner table and feet free of her ninja sandals.
He stands idly by, unsure of what to do, eyes drawn to the bright, lively space that Sakura has made a home of. The smell of apple lingers, and he doesn't know how to explain the sense of comfort that washes over him.
"Is your favorite tea still matcha, Sasuke-kun?" he hears her ask, her soft voice lightly faded with distance. "Or has it changed with the years?"
His brows raise curiously. "You know my favorite?"
He hears her laughter, soft and sweet, and Sasuke's heart seems to quicken a little at the sound.
"Sasuke-kun," she chides, popping her head out from the kitchen door frame, "I was so hopelessly enamored with you since I was a child–ashamedly maybe even a little too obsessed." She blushes, then, but the grin that splits her lips has never seemed quite so endearing. "So give me some credit, yeah?"
He feels his neck grow warm, and looks away, grunting a bland, indifferent, "Hn," to mask his slight embarrassment.
She giggles lightly, and the shuffling tells him she's disappeared into the kitchen again to make their tea. When she emerges again, she is carrying a tray of tea cups and a steaming porcelain kettle. She almost laughs as she meets the sight of him still standing tentatively by her front door, bags still in his one hand.
"Well don't look so awkward! Take off your shoes and put the bags down on the table, silly!"
His mouth parts, but he says nothing, only giving a nod as he obliges and toes off his sandals, before he starts towards her table and neatly puts the bags down. He looks at her a breath's moment after, and she smiles, tilting her head towards her living room.
"Come on, let's sit and talk a little bit. The groceries can wait."
He gives a vague hum of agreement, his one hand slipping into his pocket as he follows her down the hall and into the living room. She moves to put the tray down on her coffee table and glances at him knowingly, and the look is enough to incite him to take a seat on the long couch. She sits beside him, far enough not to violate his personal space, but close enough to touch him if she wanted to.
"Lemon?" she asks, as she pours him a cup. When he shakes his head, she smiles. "Your taste really hasn't changed one bit, Sasuke-kun"
She laughs lightly, and busies herself with pouring her own cup, squeezing a lemon into her brew. She stirs for a while, before she finally says, "Naruto's been looking for you."
"He always is."
She takes a sip, and smiles into her cup, before murmuring, "Maybe I should send for him, and we could spend the evening together. Wouldn't that be fun?"
He doesn't miss a beat, as he tells her, "Don't."
Rolling his eyes, he simply says, "Naruto is overbearing right now, and I don't have the energy to deal with him."
It is half a lie, and he knows this. While Sasuke doesn't often have the patience to deal with Naruto's antics and intense optimism, it is not his lack of energy to blame, today.
Softly, she asks him, "But… then, why are you here?"
Sasuke sighs, sinking into the couch and letting his eyes slip shut. She doesn't understand how he could favor her presence when Naruto is the one who is his best friend, and he doesn't understand how she can't see it.
"Peace and quiet," he settles for saying, opening his eyes again to look at her. "You're not as overwhelming, and you give me space–something Naruto doesn't seem to know the definition of."
It is true, of course, but he suspects not the real reason he has sought her company. Something about Sakura has always felt so enticing, in the most welcoming ways. There is a gentle warmth in him that he can only feel when he is around her, and he craves for it.
The answer pleases her, nonetheless, and she blushes, one hand fiddling with her skirt while she sips her hot tea again, eyes crinkling with a shy happiness. He cannot find it in himself to look away, for a while.
That is, before she finally looks at him again, and forces him to direct his gaze elsewhere.
"Have you been sleeping since you got back?" she asks, then. Her voice is curious, but quieter, laced with edges of concern.
"You look…" She trails for a moment, but then goes on, "Tired. Almost run-down, really."
He closes his eyes once more, and lets out a slow breath. "I can't stand hospitals."
There is a silence, almost tense. He knows she hears the words unsaid, the reason as to why he cannot stand the white walls and white beds and white rooms, filled with the overpowering stench of antiseptic.
(his past never fails to catch up to him, in these small ways.)
"Have you…" She pauses, and he can hear her swallow thickly. "Have you got anywhere to stay?"
"I… well, I mean, you can stay here, if you'd like. I don't have a spare room, but the couch can turn into a bed." He hears the light tap on something hard, like she is fiddling with her cup. "You wouldn't be imposing on me or anything."
This prompts his eyes to flutter open, and Sasuke looks at her. He is silent, for a moment, before he says, "I think I should find a place of my own."
Her face falls, hopeful eyes washing over with the hollower shade of disappointment, and he swallows. Unable to stand the sight, he says, "But.. if it comes down to it, I'll keep it in mind."
That makes her smile. He knows he is the cause of this one, this time, and the knowledge makes something in him flutter. An odd feeling, but not unpleasant, he thinks, feeling the corner of his mouth twitch.
Her hand tentatively reaches out to touch the stump of his arm. "How does it feel?"
"No phantom pain?"
He shrugs. "Nothing I can't handle."
She hums, pleased. Then, she says, "Still, it must be hard on you, knowing you only have one left."
Some days, he tells himself, but he knows he won't tell her that. Instead, he says, "It's… an adjustment."
"Tsunade-sama has a theory that she may be able to get prosthetic arms out of Hashirama's cells, for you both," she muses, brows pinched pensively. She pauses, and looks at him with a genuine tenderness that he sometimes finds hard to understand. "I hope she can, for both your sakes."
Sasuke swallows, and shrugs once more, a little halfhearted. "I can live without an arm."
"You can," she agrees. "But if you could get it back, would you?"
He hums, mock-absentminded. Instead, he feels acutely aware of the way she fiddles with the bandages, lost in thought by the look on her face.
There is a serenity in the moment that he doesn't want to break.
"I'm so happy you're back, Sasuke-kun." she says, finally.
Her tone is heavy with emotion; relieved, wistful. His throat grows tight at the sound.
"I… I can't tell you how much I missed you."
He doesn't understand, still, how she can feel this way about him after all this time, with how much pain he has caused her and how he had so brashly betrayed her trust. She had shed so many tears over him, had picked up the pieces of her broken heart time and time again, and he can't fathom how she could still love him after all this.
He can't fathom why, but he is thankful, so incredibly thankful, the knowledge bringing him more peace than he can ever admit to.
He will give her what she needs, one day. When he is free of his sins, when he has nothing but space for love in his heart–he will be the man that he feels he can be, for her. Because she deserves nothing less.
He will finally make her happy.
(like he has dreamed about for so many years now, when he allowed himself a moment of weakness. when his nights plagued him with thoughts of what-if's and what-could-have-been's, tugging at his heart with a dull, hollow pain.)
"I never thought I'd be back," he says, suddenly, and so quietly.
Her hand moves, touching his shoulder gently. She squeezes, so very lightly. "Are you glad you are?" she queries, her voice so worried, so sweet. "Are you okay here, Sasuke-kun?"
He turns to look at her, and a smile curls at his , but incredibly genuine. He hears her breath catch.
"Someday," he hums, "I will be."
I had this draft on a while for tumblr, an idea and splatters of dialogue that I really wanted to use. Today, I just kinda got the inspiration to write this slice of life moment after the war! After my longass oneshot is done, this is another period in canon that I'm incredibly interested in delving into, especially with how little fic there is of what exactly happened after the war but before he left on his journey. They were too comfortable not to have made some progress.
Nonetheless, hope you enjoyed this little drabble! Do tell your thoughts ;)