A/N So this is a cannon divergent AUish idea that I have had. The concept is that Madara came back and they stopped him from using infinite tsukuyomi but they still lost the war. Anything past the war is of course different but mostly everything leading up to that I will say will be how it happens with a few changes to events leading up/during to the war. I am only halfway through shippuden so there may be some inaccuracies that are either purposeful for the plot or just my ignorance which I hope people will forgive or be able to follow.
Hate Me, Hate me
It's a thin line between all this love and hate
And if you switch sides, you're gon' have to claim your place
So baby, this time you're gon' have to seal your fate
Yeah baby, this time you're gon' have to seal your fate
And tell me how you hate me, hate me
-Juice Wrld & Ellie Goulding: Hate Me
Chapter One: The Changed World
The thought of her had not crossed his mind once during the entirety of the invasion. Not once did he even consider her safety or survival. Her well-being was nothing to him. Until he glanced out to the long line of captives and spotted her.
She was hard to miss. Even with the dark smoke that created a veiled haze over the area. As burning debris fell down from the sky like snow, covering everyone in an ashy grey layer, she stood out.
Her hair, like everyone else was sooty and discolored but it was her eyes that had caught his attention. Even with the distance from which he spotted her, the vivid green contrasted brightly through the shaded colors of the aftermaths of war.
At first her eyes had been trailing around, observing and noting, looking for an escape. It was the actions of any recently captured shinobi would do and he couldn't deny he was impressed. There was a time when Sakura would not have been so determined, she would have given up and fallen to her knees, weeping in defeat. However, as much as he was impressed with this, he was also annoyed. Here she was, standing in a line amongst her comrades, recently defeated, surrounded and shackled in chakra inhibitors that would make it difficult to do the simplest justus. She would be foolish to think she could escape without consequences or being killed without a thought.
It was at this moment that her eyes found him and he found himself locked into place as her piercing green gaze held him. At first he saw confusion, then she looked hurt as a simple understanding came to her face. When she realized just who had just destroyed her home. And then he felt an unexplainable weight fall upon him as her green eyes judged him. Not just judged, but condemned.
It was the expression he saw in every Konoha resident's face when they looked at him with recognition. And until now, none of these looks bothered him. But as Sakura stared back at him with a fiery conviction in her eyes, he felt uncomfortable. The discomfort was so strong and unsettling to the point that he wanted to look away and relieve himself of such things.
But he couldn't.
For some reason, he cared what those eyes thought of him. He wanted to change their expression, wanted to restore them to a more familiar look of fondness. But that was not the only reason he wanted to change that look.
There was a danger in that look. A danger that would get her into trouble...or killed. And while that thought had never once crossed his vengeful mind in the past, now, as he stared back at her, in the ruins of his crumbled home, after killing his mentor, after chasing off his best friend, after losing the respect of his long ago teacher, after slaughtering his brother, and fulfilling his revenge, he realized he had nothing. He felt nothing. No gratification, no sense of culmination, no concluding finale to his crusade. It was all blase.
A group of Sound shinobi started to push the group of captives and herd them like sheep, causing Sakura to look away and glare at the prodding ninja that was shoving her. And as she looked away, she took with her the vivid light that had been in her eyes and Sasuke found himself in a world of grey.
The clock on the wall ticked with a volume that seemed far too loud for having such a small second hand. Occasionally the ruffle of paper covered the constant ticking but other than that, the room was unnaturally silent. The sun was setting, painting the sky that was easily visible from the large window behind the tall chair, a dusty pink and purple. But the soft pink clouds that transitioned into lavender and again into a rich violet, went unappreciated as Sakura stared at the top of the ebony haired man who was seated in the chair.
He was hunched over the desk with a pen in his hand as he wrote on a piece of paper. Sakura stood rigidly in the center of the room, not daring to go closer but not willing to cower at the threshold. In the silence she waited, determined to not speak first as she knew that was what he was waiting for. He wanted her to question why she was summoned as it would determine who the true person of power was in the room. And she would not give him the satisfaction. They both knew who it was and she would not give him the gratification of acknowledging it.
She watched as he loudly signed his name at the bottom of the page he had been writing on. Setting down the pen, he set the letter aside before grabbing a stack of papers and began to look through them. And it was then, that he finally gave in and spoke, granting her the smallest of victories.
"I received reports that you have been offering your medical services outside of the hospital," Sasuke said monotonously, not bothering to look up from the many pages he was thumbing through. It seemed to be a purposeful action, but by the way his dark eyes seemed to glaze over at the scrawled words of reports and ledgers, it seemed it was more out of show than productivity.
Sakura shifted her hands behind her back in a somewhat confident stance. "I didn't realize offering my skills on my own time was against the law," she said, a bitter challenge in her tone. "At least not yet."
Sasuke stopped in his rifling through papers, his dark eyes snapping up at her in warning. "It is when you are affiliating and aiding traitors."
Sakura's brow hardened. "Since when has going into labor when you're nine months pregnant make you a traitor?"
His hand slammed down on his desk, disturbing the neat piles of paperwork. Sakura, despite her determination to not show weakness, flinched. As much as she hated to admit it, she feared Sasuke. Feared him with every bone in her body. Everyone did.
As the echo of his palm hitting mahogany died down and the room fell silent, he spoke. "I am not talking about a fucking whore who was foolish enough to get knocked up at the height of a war," he growled. "I am talking about the people who had been publicly flogged and forbidden entry to the hospital."
Sakura was silent for a moment, too angry and stunned by Sasuke's harsh words. Tenten was by no means a whore. She was a girl who had lost the love of her life before he could even make his intentions to marry her known. She never had a chance because Neji had died before he even had the chance. They only knew of his intent to marry because he had confessed it to Hinata with his dying breaths. He had meant to go against his clan law, which was a bigger confession of his feelings than the simple words would ever convey just how much he cared for her.
"I didn't treat them in the hospital," she said through gritted teeth. "I did it in my own home, on my own time."
She watched as his brow twitched. She knew that he was broiling beneath the surface but he was not giving her the satisfaction of acknowledging the itching annoyance she was summoning within him.
"As head of the hospital, you are always on duty and considered always within the boundaries of the hospital. So long as you are in that position." He bared his teeth when she opened her mouth to argue. "You are the property of the daimyō, you do not have the freedom to do as you wish. Is that understood?"
Sakura pursed her lips.
"Sakura," he snapped, prodding for an answer.
"Until the daimyō tells me himself what I cannot do during my free time, I see no violation in my job duties," she retorted boldly. "And if you have an issue with that then maybe you should fire me...or better yet, why don't I put in my resignation."
Sasuke's brow twitched. "Don't give out empty threats, Sakura. You and I both know that will never happen. As much as Madara hated your tutor, he is not stupid. Your skills and knowledge are beyond anyone else, only a fool would remove you." Sakura had no reply, too stunned by the fact that Sasuke complimented her, albeit not in a purposeful way. "As for your resignation...you won't turn it in because you care too much. You care about the people that come in and out of it for healing, you care too much about the staff, and you care too much about the precious memories of your mentor that are attached to that building. As long as one of those is there, you will never give it up."
Her lips stayed glued shut this time as she failed to find a response, because Sasuke was right, she couldn't leave the hospital. For as many heartless and despicable minions of Madara flowered through the hospital, people that she had once called the enemy and was now expected to consider a heroic comrade, just as many innocents and victims of war, oppression, and warriors of simple rights were treated there as well. If she was not there, someone else of Madara's choosing would be there, and she failed to believe anyone that man chose would be as welcoming to those who did not fully comply with the new regime.
She hated it. But what she hated the most was that Sasuke knew that about her. It disturbed her how easily he knew her weaknesses and motivations were. She had prided herself in the drastic changes she had made over the years and yet Sasuke came back into her life after years of absence and figured them all out within just a few months. His observance of the inescapable truth was eerie.
After a long pause, Sakura finally spoke. "So what will my punishment be?" She dared to ask. "The stocks, lashings, bamboo beneath my finger nails?...no wait that would inhibit my ability to heal your cronies. So what are your master's alternative punishments? Torture me into a mindless worker like you did to Sai? Throw me in prison to rot like Kaka—"
"That's enough," Sasuke silenced her gruffly.
In her brief boldness she had grown louder, and while the office had plenty of jutsus to prevent eavesdropping, there was nothing wrong with being too careful. If there was one thing he had learned over his hardened life, it was that you could never trust. Not anything, and especially not anyone. Yet he still found he had moments of weakness when he found himself doing such things...or at least wanting to.
Sakura obediently fell silent, but her pursed lips and vivid eyes seemed to continue to speak volumes of accusations without the use of words. Sasuke let out a curse of frustration as he ran a hand through his long hair. The weight of the extra length had tamed his usually spiked hair, making him look even more like a stranger, than the team mate Sakura had once cared about so fondly. Now, she despised such ties that she had with him.
Sasuke's hand ran down his face and he looked at her between his fingers. He hated this. He resented her for putting him in such a position. While he knew it would be difficult for her to believe that he did not like to be forced to punish her, he still found himself expecting to be given a little credit. But she didn't and he had a suspicion that she did things like this as her own way to punish him. However as much as he suspected such things, he still could not believe Sakura to be capable of intentionally bringing this internal turmoil to him.
The war was an event that had changed a lot of things. In many ways, Sakura too was one of those things. But there was one thing about Sakura that hadn't changed, she was not cruel. She still cared for others, no matter how much she despised them. Which was the reason why, like all the other times, Sasuke could not bring himself to punish her. Because no matter how much either of them changed, there was something in him that could never truly stand to see her hurt. It was annoying how he could never quite erase and severe all connections from his past fully. There were just threads that he could never quite let go, no matter how much anger he held within himself.
"I will let things slide this time given the...technicality of your actions," he said. Looking down at the papers before him, hiding any signs that would show he was being lenient for her sake, and not because of the smallness of her infraction. It was a large gesture of mercy on his part. Because if this had been anyone else, he would not have hesitated to throw them into prison with half rations for a month.
Sakura looked at his hair as he made a show of looking busy again. Her mouth frowned slightly at the lack of punishment. Neither did she like him going back to ignoring her while she just stood there, waiting forーshe was not quite sure for what.
He did this a lot when she was summoned to his office. Many times for minor things that would normally be handled by other people or even when a notice of warning could have easily sufficed. Yet here she was, standing before him without punishments and lingering for unknown reasons. She often wondered why he did this and too often she found treacherous thoughts answering in ways she did not like, suggesting things she wanted to forget.
It was almost as if he just wanted her around, wanted her to just be present. But that was preposterous…
But still, her mind prodded.
"Can I go now?" Sakura requested quickly, attempting to keep her thoughts from wandering and causing Sasuke to look back up at her.
His obsidian gaze ran over her body, deliberately taking his time as he took in the image of his long ago teammate that was no longer the girl he remembered. No, that girl had grown up, hardened, and like him, was the shell of what she once was. And like her dislike of him now, he was not as fond of this version of her. She wasn't as eager to please. She was stubborn, strong, and disagreed with everything now.
She was also beautiful. It was something his older, matured self could not ignore, not anymore. There was only so much he could overlook before instinct and natural attraction took over. Even with the grimness that seemed to shadow every face in Konoha, she still seemed to shine with a light. Her green eyes were too vivid in the dismal grey ruins that were still a widespread theme of the city. And her pink hair, neglected, had grown longer over the months, looking too vibrant against the dark blue and black that dominated the color scheme of his office.
Sasuke stood, and with gracefully paced strides, he cleared the space of the room. By the way her fingers twitched, he could tell the close proximity bothered her. He let the smallest of smirks show at this. But it did not last long when he noticed the small flaws that her natural beauty could not hide with closer examination.
The dark circles beneath her eyes, as well as the hollowed look the vibrant green seemed to opaquely hide, gave a glimpse of the grief and stress that she was carting within herself. The vulnerabilities she was obviously trying to hide with the strong personification she held herself with. Her cheekbones seemed sharper than the normally full heart shaped face he was used to and the rest of her looked more bony than he thought she should be. Sakura had always been petite and thin, but even he knew that there should be more meat on her bones to go with the strength that she had gained over the years during his absence.
"You've lost weight," he commented.
Her eyes squinted slightly in confusion but she let out a scoff. "Yeah well that's usually what happens when the majority of the population is at half rations," she deadpanned dryly.
Sasuke frowned. "You aren't though, I specifically…" he cut himself off with a shake of his head, closing his eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose. When he looked at her, his eyes were sharp. "You should have taken my offer, if you hadー"
She cut him off with a revolted tone, "Trust me, I am better off without that offer," she said, her eyes dipping down him as if inspecting an insect. "There are much worse discomforts in life than starving."
She watched as Sasuke's jaw tightened and for a moment, she thought she had pushed it too far. For the most part, Sasuke tolerated her quick tongue. She was not sure why, but from what she understood she was the only one allowed such luxury. Anyone else would have been immediately thrown in the stocks for less. That was their world now. That was the way of their new ruler. For a man who had tried to control the world with infinite tsukuyomi, with the intentions to rid the world of tragedy, Madara had a funny way of what a world without tragedy looked like.
They had prevented the infinite tsukuyomi from being placed upon them, but they still lost. In many aspects Sakura often wondered if perhaps they should have let the blood moon turn them into zombies, at least they would be oblivious to the fact that their nation was nothing but a prison. But when it came down to it, as miserable life was right now, Sakura would not choose that fate.
At least this life they still had choices. Not good ones, but some freedom was better than nothing. Choices like turning down offers that at this moment made her sick to her stomach. Why Sasuke even offered her such a thing was beyond her. She would question why he would even think she would accept such a thing but she could only blame her past self for that.
Of course he would think she would jump at such an offer, given the way her actions spoke volumes in their younger years. But people change with age and wars, altering them into unrecognizable beings. And when Sakura looked at herself in the mirror everyday, all she ever saw was a stranger. But while she hardly recognized herself, she was at least grateful she could still identify what she was. A woman, a daughter, a healer, a person who would always fight for those who could not fight for themselves. But while some people changed, there were others that were completely altered to the point that they could hardly be considered human.
She looked up at Sasuke, taking in his familiar dark hair and eyes, his sharp facial features, and the perpetual scowl that seemed to deepen when she looked at him. He was one of those people, one of those monsters. But then again...
His hand moved, making her flinch and causing him to pause in his actions. He looked at her as his frown pulled even deeper but he continued his movements, this time more slowly as he dug into his pockets. When he withdrew his hand, he had a handful of tokens for food rations.
"Take these," he said gruffly, holding them out to her.
She looked at them as if he were offering her a hissing snake, then her eyes darted up, hardening with defiance. "I don't need your handouts, I'm fine."
He grabbed her wrist, yanking her hand up before forcing the tokens into her palm and curling her hand shut. "I can't afford the head of the hospital to be so wasted away that she can't perform her duties," he growled in irritation, growing weary of her defiance.
He knew she was getting plenty enough to eat, or at least she should have. He had seen to it that she was given a healthy amount of ration points but it was obvious that she was not using them. Given her nature, he liked to bet that she was giving them away. That was unacceptable. He could only turn blind eye for so long and for so many things. In the way his uncle ruled their country, charity could be seen as treachery at the moment.
Sakura felt the cold metallic tokens press into the skin of her palm, it contrasted greatly with the heat of Sasuke's larger hands that were wrapped around her fist. She could feel the callouses and the roughness of his finger pads as his thumb, whether purposeful or not, stroked her skin. She looked up from her hand to him and found that he was close, too close. But he was not making any move to step away as he held her clenched hand against his chest. His dark gaze bore into her as if reading her soul and she hated herself for not being able to remove herself from such proximity. But thankfully, she didn't have to find the will power.
There was a knock at the door and a masked ANBU walked in with a message. Cutting the moment short as Sasuke stepped back from her to create an appropriate distance. At the moment he ignored the messenger as he looked at Sakura.
"You are to use half of those for yourself," he instructed. "Am I understood?"
"Yes Sas–" she caught herself when his eyes widened fractionally in warning. She cleared her throat and gave a bow. "Yes, hokage-sama."
Sasuke felt himself relax slightly, relieved that she had some sense left to still be compliant around others. He could not make due with her insubordination being witnessed.
"You may go then," he dismissed.
As soon as Sakura was outside of the hokage tower she paused for a moment as the change of scenery threw her off. Within the tower everything was fresh and new. New tiling in the lobby, fresh paint on the walls, new furnishings and decorations of the seal that symbolized the new power and ruler of what once used to be the fire nation. But as soon as one stepped through the front doors everything changed.
The first odd sight that Sakura had still not gotten used to, even though it could be seen from every point of the village, was the high cliff that once donned the faces of people she had looked up to for most of her life. What once was a monument to the leaders and heroes of Konoha, was now nothing but blank sandstone where the faces had been blasted off, leaving only craters in the side of the mount. There was talk of a new face being shapened into the mountain side but at least their new tyrant had the decency to put other more urgent constructions ahead of such a project.
She began to walk across the courtyard, her sandaled feet crunching across the loose gravel of the cracked pavement. A few wilting plants struggled to survive without proper care but most of the flower beds and foliage that decorated the outside of the hokage tower had been uprooted or fallen during the invasion. And no one had bothered to replant anything yet.
Taking her normal route home as she had been called to the hokage's office after a long shift at the hospital, she took in the sights with each twist and turn. Even though she had walked this route hundreds of times, it was almost like navigating through a foreign city.
Shops that she had frequented all her life where boarded up, neighbors she used to visit were gone, their houses gone. Where those missing buildings and homes had been were now replaced with new ones. Konoha had been destroyed and now it was being rebuilt, but it all felt wrong. Given the ancient times that their leader was used to before his return to the modern world, the new Konoha was a mixture of the fire nation's feudal era and modern era that had been existing up until the end of the war. Now Konoha was a strange balance of the two eras. The architecture and fashion styled after what had been the style during Madara's time, but upgraded with modern day developments like electricity and full indoor plumbing. However this was only in certain areas. With supplies limited and shortages common, it was more common to see lamps lighting the streets instead of the fluorescent street lights she had grown up with as things were still stabilizing after Madara took over the fire nation.
The tower had been one of the first places to be rebuilt and restored to its earlier glory before the war. Along with the tower, had been the Uchiha compound, the prison, and then a few other buildings here and there whose purposes were unknown to the public. The hospital itself was only halfway repaired, an entire wing still nothing but taped off rubble. And the residential district for citizens was not any better.
A few neighborhoods survived but not many. Most of the city's residents had lived in makeshift slums and temporary lodgings that people made from the rubble of their previous homes for the first few months. It was just recently that apartment homes and neighborhoods had been restored and built. But as much as a relief it was to have most people with a proper roof now over their head, the months they didn't had not been easy, nor would it be easy to forget.
Anyone fortunate enough to belong to a clan had been able to commune within their compounds but Sakura debated if it was worth it. The last time she went to visit Hinata in the Hyuuga compound it felt more like an internment camp than a family home. The excessive Song troops that patrolled the streets and stood guard made sure of that.
Her own childhood block had been one of the few neighborhoods to survive but even though it still stood, things were not the same. Being in the middle of a war zone had aged the already older house and while she could deal with the cracked tile roofing and soot dirtied siding that had been caused by the fires that almost consumed her home, it was the feel of the house that disturbed her the most.
It felt emptier than usual with only herself and her father to occupy the home. It had always been small for three of them but with her mother not there it was eerie and empty, it felt almost too big. And Sakura wondered if it would ever feel full like it did in the years growing up. But she didn't hope for that feel of her childhood home to return, she was no longer foolish enough to wish for things of the impossible.
Her parents had been in their bakery when the first bombs went off and the building had collapsed on the both of them. Her father's lower half had been trapped causing damage to his legs and had broken several ribs of his chest. He was recovering but still had a lot of progress. No permanent damage had been done but recovery had been slow for many reasons. He could barely walk without the assistance of a crutch. And that was on a good day. Most of the time he was too weak to even stand from his wheelchair. She had done her best with her healing skills and physical therapy, but she was limited to what she could do. However it was his mental state Sakura worried about more than his physical.
Her mother was dead, buried in a graveyard with hundreds of identical headstones with vague inscriptions stating a name and date of death. He hardly left his room, let alone the house. And when he did, it was only to sit by his wife's grave where he would spend hours. If Sakura did not collect him he would probably spend all night at her graveside. Every time after those trips he always seemed haunted. A drastic change from his once bubbly and eccentric self.
Sakura understood him but she found herself handling it better. Mostly because she had no other choice, if she fell apart there would be no one to take care of him. And she knew better than to not be grateful. She had lucked out with being able to at least have her father alive. While he could be hardly considered living rather than just existing, Sakura still held on to that one fact that he was still alive and breathing. It presented a possibility that at least one of the people she had lost in her life might actually come back to her.
It was late as the moon shined over the city. She really should have been inside given that curfew started two hours ago. But Sakura could not sleep. She had tossed and turned but her bedroom had felt stuffy and she felt as if she couldn't breath. She had needed fresh air and the cool night had been too inviting. So she found herself sitting on the roof of her family home, overlooking the shadowed city and taking solace in the refreshing cool breeze that caressed her skin that was sticky with sweat. It was rare to find a moment to appreciate such pleasantries these days. Not that they had ceased to exist, but the freedom to do so had.
She let out a silent sigh as her shoulders sank and she pulled her legs up to her chest before hugging them with her arms. The wind blew past with a lazy breeze as if there was no care in the world. A piece of hair that had escaped the messy bun she had hastily pulled it into tickled her neck as it moved with the soft wind. She ignored the sensation as she stared out into the quiet darkness.
This was a habit that she had started long ago before the war had even begun. When her heart had felt burdened and her mind was heavy, she would climb out of her window and sit on the roof. It had been more different back then.
Lanterns and lights would set the city aglow, creating a warmth as the orange and yellow lights from restaurant lanterns, windows of homes, and street lights mimicked the warm glow of a comforting hearth. And the air would always be full of a variety of rich scents that changed with the seasons.
Winter always had a crisp freshness to it. Spring brought the floral scent of the flowers in which she was named after. Summer was always full of the scents of sweet and savory treats as vendors moved about the city offering dango, grilled meats, and cold refreshments. And then in the fall there was always the spicy scents of the season mixed with the earthy scent of fallen leaves. During all these seasons, their unique smells were always dashed with the smell of food. Whether they be from restaurants or family dinners, it always made her mouth water at the delectable smells.
And then there were the sounds. Music, laughter, polite casual conversations of neighbors passing each other in the street, late night market workers peddling the last of their day's stock, the ruckus of the bars, and young people whispering softly to each other as they fell hopelessly in love.
Now there was none of that.
The city was dim and practically silent. Most civilians had been forced into their homes, unable and unwilling to brave venturing out, leaving only patrols and riff raff to slink through the streets. It gave the impression of deep loneliness as she sat by herself. A loneliness that was so heavy that it made her want to dash away and find someone to lift such a burden from her. Someone to confide in and speak of her woes. Someone, anyone, who she could trust to say anything that was on her mind without the risk of being turned in for talk of treachery in exchange for a few extra days of rations. As she thought of this, the people who fell under such trust flashed through her mind.
First there was Tsunade, her mentor and second mother. The woman was hard and tough on her, but she had made Sakura into the strong and independent woman she was today. Unfortunately, Sakura did not feel very strong anymore. She felt useless and helpless.
At that thought she could not help but let out a soft snort as she thought about what kind of beating Tsunade would have put her through if she knew the pity party Sakura was throwing for herself. Unfortunately the humor did not linger as the reality hit harder than usual and she mourned the extensive training she would not receive as punishment for such things.
Because there would be no more training. There would be no more lessons literally beaten into her. And there would be no more honey eyed warmth directed at her when she did something that was nearly unachievable. Because Tsunade was gone. Not just gone, but dead. Killed by Madara himself who was all too eager to finally rid the world of the last of the Senju clan.
Sakura had done her best to try and mourn her mentor but it had been difficult. There was no headstone, there was no memorial, there was nothing. Oftentimes she had found herself wanting to seek out someone who could empathize and understand such loss. But everytime she pondered who to talk to, she was only hit with another emptiness.
Naruto. Her best friend and teammate. The one person who had a relationship with his own mentor that was similar to hers, and had also lost that mentor as well. He could have given her advice on how to move on from such a loss. He would have done everything he could to comfort her through not just the loss of her mentor, but of everything. Naruto was certainly not a poet or author like his mentor, but he had a gift for inspiring people with his words regardless. And when his words failed him, his actions of true friendship and care stepped in to lift others burdens.
Unfortunately, Naruto was gone. He was not dead, at least that is what she refused to believe, but he was gone all the same. He had been labeled missing and unaccounted for ever since the city fell. At least to the general population that was what was the last anyone had heard of him. However Sakura had been given a small peace of mind. She had received a note. One note, two months ago, telling her that he was alive but his conditions or whereabouts had been left unsaid.
Sometimes she wondered if she had imagined such a note. She had found it one day slipped between the window panes of her bedroom one night. After reading it, and realized what it informed her of, she immediately burned it. It was more for her safety than his because if anyone had information on any jinchuriki they were to report it. Any information withheld was an act of treason. But Sakura did not consider it an act of treason if it was against a nation she did not recognize as her own. However she constantly wondered what she was to do with the information that had confirmed he was still alive. Did she tell others? Was she supposed to seek him out? What had Naruto meant for her to do with the knowledge? Or was it perhaps just his way of trying to reach out and giving her some comfort, giving her knowledge that at least one of her loved ones was still okay.
When it came to the tough predicaments, her teacher was the one she had normally consulted. But Kakashi was being held in prison and it had been five months since she had last seen him, back when he was dragged away, half alive and bleeding from the empty eye socket where his once borrowed sharingan had occupied.
The last of her teammates, Sai and Yamato, had been separated and put to work in Madara's bidding. She wasn't sure how the tyrant had managed it but either he had some kind of leverage over them, or they had not been quite as changed and softened as she had thought them to be. She did not see them nor talk with them often, but given the few glimpses and rumors, Sai had taken up his old ways when he had been under his previous warlord master's hands, Danzo. Only now he answered to new masters, the Uchihas.
And Yamato, while not as close to him as she was with her other boys, he was still a familiar face and teammate. She was not sure what exactly he was up to. His abilities had been utilized here in the village at first, but once the housing district had been restored to a livable state, he had just disappeared.
Again the heaviness of her loneliness became more weighted. Yes, she was truly, and utterly alone in this.
She felt a drop of rain touch her check and looked up to the sky. Confusion took over as she took in the cloudless star filled night. And then she realized, it was not rain but a tear. She let it roll down her skin until it dropped down from her jaw to her shirt before being absorbed by the thin cotton. Again another tear fell, this time landing on her arm. And then the dam broke and the flood caused her to bow her head as she silently cried onto her knees.
The night was dim but it was no feat that bothered him. Even without his Sharingan he could make out the outline of her. He had watched the first tear fall and it had seemed he had noticed she had been crying before she had noticed herself.
There was a time when such actions annoyed him but now...now it bothered him. He was not sure why but then again, a lot of things bothered him ever since they had taken Konoha. Revenge and destruction was supposed to alleviate his pains and animosity.
But it turned out that vengeance was bull shit.
He should have known after he had killed his brother, the lack of satisfaction then should have been a foretelling of the future. But back then it had turned out he had slayed the blameless. Konoha had been the one to blame which was why he sought out to destroy it. And destroy it he did.
So why did he not feel better? The city had been the ones to murder his family hadn't they? Their suffering should have been wondrous to watch. Even now he should be feeling satisfaction. But then again, perhaps not everyone in the city had been to blame.
He focused back in Sakura. She was not balling or crying out like she used to. No, this was a silent mourning and release of grief that had been kept at bay for too long. Either she had gotten better at checking her emotions until she thought she was alone before releasing them, or Sakura just didn't cry as much any more. Not a single sniffle or choked sound escaped her as she silently wept.
His intentions in being here were not exactly clear to himself but given her distracted state, he had decided to linger longer. She was breaking curfew and if someone else found her like this, they would not be as understanding. And he knew that Sakura was not as rational in this state and would most likely cause trouble. That is why he stayed. That is why he approached.
"Go away Sasuke," Sakura said, not even bothering to look up when she noticed his chakra signature. It was not as if he was trying to go unnoticed.
"Curfew started an hour ago," his monotone voice stated. "You shouldn't be out here."
"Then arrest me," she said, not caring if he took her thrown out words seriously or not.
She heard his sandals lightly walk across the tiles of the roof. Then suddenly she was wrapped in a warmth that finally caused her to look up.
Sasuke was sitting down next to her at a distance that was not quite close enough to be too close, but still not far enough to let her feel at ease. Around her shoulders was a black cloak that smelled strongly of Sasuke. A scent that she took no pride in being still familiar with after all these years.
She was tempted to shrug it off, just to spite him. But the warmth it offered had her pulling it closer around her. She had not realized just how cold she had gotten since coming out. She shifted slightly, her shoes making a slight scraping sound until she stilled again. Her settled posture brought about a silence that felt heavy.
"I hate you," she said quietly after a long while, breaking the silence.
For a moment she thought he didn't hear her given his lack of response and she debated on whether or not to repeat herself. But then...
"That's fine," he finally said after a long while.
Sakura's head turned to look at him, her brows pulling together, trying to figure him out.
To describe Sasuke's behavior in the past several months in one word, it would have to be inconsistent. There were times when he was the uncaring and vengeful monster. But then there were moments, moments like this that he almost seemed like the boy she had grown up with. The one that protected her, the one who she had gifted every ounce of care her younger self's heart had to give.
She took in a deep breath and let her hands fall from her legs and to her sides instead as she spread her fingers across the tiles of the roof. Sasuke's presence did not go unnoticed, normally she hated being in it. But in this moment, it was just nice to have that void of loneliness filled. That is, until she felt his warm skin graze against hers.
She looked down at her left hand to see Sasuke's hand resting next to hers so that the tips of his fingers touched hers. Her eyes moved from his fingers to his forearm, she traced his muscled upper arm to where his broad shoulder met his neck and then took in his sharp jawline. She stopped when she met his eyes. He was already looking at her with something in his eyes that held intentions that were unknown to her.
She moved to shift her hand from his touch but he moved his own with lightning reflexes, grabbing her hand more firmly and keeping her from pulling away.
"What are you doing?" She quickly questioned, her heart skipping a beat as a spike in adrenaline shot through her system.
When she gave him a confused look he let out a sigh of frustration as he dipped his head and ran his fingers through his hair, his other hand not letting go of hers.
"I don't know," he admitted.
"Then let go," she instructed but not making any attempt to separate them herself.
His hand was the one that moved, but he did not release hers, he just held hers tighter. Again silence fell over them as they sat with their hands connected, comforting each other from their individual woes and worries, processing their emotions and thoughts of their lives. Trying to make sense of both the known and unknown that they were feeling.
In the silence of the night, with the connection to her smooth hand and calming scent that wafted over to him with each gentle breeze, he seemed to find some sort of clarity in his mind. Perhaps it was not clarity but the buzzing and muddled feelings within him seemed to calm and become still. Bringing him some peace.
She always did this, something about her presence did this. It had always done this even when they were younger. But their time of separation had caused him to forget about it until after the war. When he found himself in her presence again he was reminded of the calming power she had over him.
Sometimes he wondered, if he had remembered earlier, if he would have sought her company out before he had raged war and destroyed the village that was once his home. What would have happened had she been there when he faced his brother. Would she have stopped him before he ended Itachi? Like in the forest of death, during the Chunin exams when she helped him regain control over his newly acquired curse mark. And if she had not stopped him from slaughtering his brother, what would her presence have done for him after? Or would he have done what he had once forced her to witness in illusion? Would he have plunged his lightning into her chest and ended her life for failing him in the one moment when her calming presence could have saved him from the guilt and grief? He did not want to admit it, but he believed it was probably for the best she had not been there. For if she had, he was not so sure she would be here now. And right now, despite what he denied and pretended even to himself, he needed her.
It was because of that, he had made that offer at the beginning of all of this. He had known he wanted and would need her. Back when she looked at him with so much hurt, confusion, betrayal, and pleading in those green eyes, he found himself unable to look away from her as she was herded with the rest of the prisoners of war before she was released.
Noise from a small distance caused them both to stir from their pondering. The comfort that they had found at the contact seemed to shatter, causing Sakura to quickly pull away. This time Sasuke let her.
"You need to go back inside," he instructed.
Whether she was too tired to argue or was finally giving in to his command, he was relieved when she stood without arguing and began to walk towards the edge of the roof. A part of him hoped it was for the latter reason but mostly he was just relieved she was going, it was too tiring to deal with resistance.
Sakura had followed his command because she thought it would be the best and quickest escape from him. She hated herself for the moment of weakness in which she had found comfort from him, it just made the empty void seem so much deeper, if she was so desperate that she found his touch as a source of solace.
But as she dropped down onto her balcony and crawled through the window, to her surprise and dismay, he followed her. Dropping down and crawling in right after her. She had even felt the faintest touch of his fingers on her lower back as she balanced on the window frame before her toes touched down on the bare cold floor of her bedroom. Leaving the window open had rendered her bedroom of the stuffy hot feeling that had caused her exodus. But now it felt frigid and cold, though she could not help wonder if it was the room or the company that brought such feelings.
As Sasuke dropped down onto the floor in her room, his eyes scanned the vicinity, taking in her room and noting every little familiar and changed detail. He had been hardly a genin when he had last been in her room. Like the city, there were both familiar and unfamiliar sights to behold.
"You can go now," her flat tone made him look at her and he took in the hard expression on her face. "I'm back inside and I promise to be good and stay inside now. You have your watch dog to be sure of that," she assured.
She was referring to Jugo who was positioned a small distance away from her home. Sasuke had given him the task for two reasons, the first was because he would not question his reasons, and the second, because Sasuke could trust that he would keep any stupid decisions she made decriet.
He watched her stiffly turn and start looking through her dresser. He noted the tense muscles in her back as he let her riffling fill the silence between them. Any earlier ease she had mustered on the rooftop was gone.
There was a ragged cough that came down from the hall which caused Sakura to still as she listened and waited for it to die down. The sound was awful and Sasuke was surprised to hear such a sound coming from her home. It was not an uncommon sound. There was a sickness that had hit earlier in the year which had infected a lot of the civilians of Konoha. Back when living conditions and proper care was not available to everyone. Medicine had been short as well as doctors. The sickness had died down but there were still a few cases here and there.
But it surprised Sasuke that someone within her home would have been affected by it, given the deep tone of the cough it was her father. And then he remembered her mother was dead and realized that it couldn't have been anyone else...unless she was housing others.
That idea did not sit well in his mind and he couldn't help but ask. "Is your father sick?" He prodded, looking for confirmation that it was indeed him instead of someone else.
Sakura's parents were civilians, technically retired shinobi, but citizens all the same. Her mother had not survived the battle so there had been nothing to be done there. However her father had, but Sasuke knew he had been injured. He did not know the specific details but Sasuke did know it had been severe. Honesty it was surprising he had even survived.
Unlike Sakura, her father had not been given priority. Given the inactive status of his veteran self and having only owned a bakery, that did not make his skills valuable enough to be marked as priority during triage. And without the name of a notable clan to back them up, he had not been given any extra marks back when essential and nonessential citizens were being picked and chosen for who got what care and when.
Sasuke had seen to it that Sakura had priority status as a healer and trained shinobi. He pulled strings for Sakura as an individual, but he wouldn't have been able to get away with including her family without drawing attention. Which most likely answered why she was not spending all of her marks on herself. Knowing her she was probably giving all of hers to her father and only allowing his rations for herself.
However...had she agreed to certain things, maybe there could have been something he could have done by now. Her father could have the proper care and medications and her mother could have been given a more proper burial.
"You should have taken my offer," he found himself saying for the second time that day. "You could have gotten the proper medicine and your mom—"
"Leave," she abruptly demanded, not turning to face him. He could see her hands clenching the drawer as she stared at the bare top of her dresser.
In the dim moonlight the metal rings around her wrists gleamed. Chakra suppressors. All previous leaf shinobi had them. The cuffs prevented them from the use of anything above minimal use. It made anyone wearing them at the equivalent level of a fresh genin. Only when she was at the hospital was Sakura allowed to have them off to perform her work. But the moment her shift ended they were put back on. He was certain the drawer would have been nothing but kindling if she hadn't had them, judging by how tight her grip was.
He moved to strand right behind her. Reaching around her, he pried her hand free and forced her to turn around. Her face was hard as she glared up at him, her green eyes looking bright with the animosity that burned behind them. But despite the detest he saw, there was an allure about the liveliness of that heated look.
Like a child near a stove, he felt tempted to reach out and touch it, despite the warning in her look. And like a child, he reached out, compelled by curiosity to know exactly for himself what would happen if he did.
His fingers touched her face. They grazed her skin ever so slightly before he grew bolder and his whole hand cupped her cheek.
Cautiously his eyes flickered up to hers again as his thumb swept across her cheek. His dark eyes bore into hers as a certain intensity came to them. It was as if he had his Sharingan on but his irises remained black pools.
"Accept it," he found himself saying. "I'm offering you the same thing as last time. I have done what a can for you, but I could do more." He could see the rejection in her eyes already which compelled him to interject before she voiced it. "You can get your father the proper care he needs. He could be healed fully, you would not want for food, and you could live in a better place than this shit hole."
She slapped him, forcing his face to the side as she stuck out her neck and tilted her head to look at his angled face. "This is my home, don't you dare–"
"I didn't–" he began as he turned his head, his face coming too close to hers and forcing her to move back as she bumped into the dresser.
It was quiet for a moment before she broke it with a single syllable. "No," she said firmly.
His hand had fallen down from her cheek when she had slapped him and was now resting at her neck just above her clavicle. "I won't offer this ever again Sakura," he warned, his voice bitter and spiteful by her repulsed reaction.
"Good," she stated bluntly.
He retracted his hand which went to his side and clenched tightly. For a long moment they stared back at each other before he let out a tsking sound and turned around. He moved to the window and crouched onto the sill, looking up at the sky as he paused his departure.
"You can't hate me forever, Sakura," Sasuke suddenly declared, his tone developing a sharpness as he looked down from the starry sky, twisting his head to look back at her.
She stared back at him for a long moment. "Perhaps," she quietly conceded. "But I can try until I die, be it tomorrow or sixty years from now. Forever may be impossible...but I can settle for a lifetime."
He gripped the window frame until the wood gave out a groan. "Fine," he bit out, unable to leave without the last word. Her rejection had hurt, hurt more than he had expected given he already knew what her answer would be. But he had hoped. "Then you can forget any help on my part," he warned. "Don't come begging to me when you need help, consider today the last day."
"I never asked—" she stopped as he turned into a blur as he swiftly left.
Only the breeze coming through the window that caused her curtains to move slightly was the only movement. With his departure came a sort of relief from his overbearing presence that she was always aware of. But it also brought an unsettled feeling within her. She hated to believe that Sasuke had been showing her favoritism. She had been wary of it, worried what her accepting of it would infer to him or what she would end up owing in return.
Abandoning the dresser and leaving it half open. She walked over to her bed which was positioned in the moonlight that shone through the window. Crawling beneath the thin covers, she rolled over to stare up at the moon. The sliver of silver light hung low in the sky, looming over with a ominous presence that made her feel as she was facing some omen of warning. Life had been difficult, but she couldn't help but think it could be, would be, a lot worse from now on.
Sasuke stomped through the pathways of the newly restored compound to his house. It was silent in this area of the city, making his steps sound loud as he stomped up the gravel pathway. He slid the door open then slammed it shut so hard it ricocheted and bounced back open. He did not even bother closing it, leaving it ajar as he walked to the kitchen.
He opened a cabinet and took out a glass before walking to the sink and filling it with water. He took a sip as he stood staring back at the reflection of himself in the window above the sink.
He glared back at himself before suddenly throwing the glass down. There was a loud shattering of glass as the cup exploded into tiny shards but he ignored it as he grabbed onto the counter and bowed his head. He stared down at the trickling water that moved around the glass pieces in the sink. Leaning against the sink he breathed deeply in and out with seething breaths as silence began to take over the empty house.
It was times like this that he hated being in this place. He had spent the majority of his life wishing and wanting for solitude as he focused on his revenge but now...Now all he could think of was the overwhelming loneliness.
Sakura's rejection stung just as harshly the second time as it did the first and he hated it. He hated all of it. He hated himself for offering it, not only once but twice like he was some kind of desperate weakling. And he hated her...hated her for hating him. She had changed, it had not always been like this. It was the one thing in his life he had always believed to be constant, to always be there when the time came and he was ready. He had depended on her and her acceptance of him...no matter what he become or did.
One Month After the Fall of Konoha
The room was dim with only the shaded light that hung from the ceiling and occasionally. Its weak bulb provided a half hearted illumination for the two people in the room. They each sat on stiff, uncomfortable chairs as they sat facing, or in her case glaring, at each other from across the metal table. Sasuke had been dreading this interview but at the same time anticipating it. Ever since he had spotted her from across the battlefield, as her and her comrades were herded into the temporary prison encampment, he had not been able to get her out of his mind.
Today it was being decided who was going to be moved into the now finished prison building and who was to be released and rehabilitated into the city, now as citizens and subjects of the new regime of the fire nation. And it was for him to decide as Madara had left him in charge of the hidden leaf while he took control of the country's capital.
He had conducted the hearing so far as he had all the other hundred he had already done. Of the times she had even spoken an answer, they had been sharp and bitter. Now, he was to the point of living accommodations. He was aware her original home was still standing, but it was in poor condition. It had just barely survived the attack. And as he thought about her going back to that place, it made him sick to think of her living in the charred and on the brink of collapsing house. But it was not as if there were many other options that were anymore habitable. Housing was short despite being one of their first priorities. Progress had been slow since the majority of strong and able bodied people had been in prison. But that was about to be changed.
"You could live with me in the Uchiha compound."
She let out an amused scoff from where she sat at the interrogation table, her body becoming slightly relaxed in her humor. "Like Madara Uchiha would ever allow a non-Uchiha to just be graciously welcome to live within the prestigious compound. Especially a person of a clan that has no significance in the world. I know all about his elitist ways. And he may have made exceptions for those who served him, but I am pretty sure, I would not fall under that exception."
Sasuke frowned at her words, realizing that she was not quite understanding his meaning. "You're right, he wouldn't," Sasuke admitted. "But you wouldn't be if you came to live there."
Sakura's smile slightly faltered as she looked at him in confusion. Her green eyes searched his, moving back and forth rapidly as she tried to find clarification to his meaning. Sasuke remained silent, staring back at her from across the metal table with his hands clasped patiently on the surface. He knew the moment it clicked in her mind what he was proposing as her smile was erased immediately and her body stiffened.
"As an Uchiha matriarch you will have certain obligations to fulfill and obviously your commitment and loyalty will have to coincide fully to the clan and submit to anything asked of you by the clan head. And you will be expected to give full support to the new ways of the Daimyō," he said. "However in exchange you will be granted immediate and full priority status, you would be allowed all freedoms and一"
"You can't be serious," she interrupted, her voice sounding nearly disgusted as she looked at him in disbelief. When Sasuke made no refute she widened her eyes. "You are serious!"
He just silently stared at her with a patient look. After a moment when it truly sank in that yes, he was serious, Sakura stood up. The metal chair let out a horrible sound as it dragged across the cement floor but the sound didn't bother either of them. He tilted his head slightly to meet her eye as she looked down at him.
"You really have lost your fucking mind!" She exclaimed. "Why the hell would you think I would ever consider that after what you did!"
"My actions never seemed to bother you before," he said arrogantly. "It was not too long ago that you were professing your undying lov–"
"Fuck you," she said in the coldest tone he had ever heard her voice. "Fuck you and fuck your proposal. Why would I ever attach myself to someone like you? I would rather rot in jail for the rest of my life than marry you."
Her words from that day and earlier from tonight mixed together within his mind as he stared down into the sink. He looked back up and caught his reflection again, full of spite and anger.
Fine, he thought to himself. She had made herself clear and he would stick with his last words. That would be the last time, he vowed. From here on out, he would not bother extending even the slightest of mercy towards her anymore. She would have to crawl to him on her hands and knees and grovel and his feet before he would even so much as spare her a glance, let alone a favor.
When I first started writing fics I was determined to never start another story until I was done with the one I was working on. And I did that...for the first couple, that goal crashed and burned. So when I sat down to work on my other stories this week, I ended up with this and my brain apparently thought it would be a good idea to add another project. I have always liked stories with this idea, there are not many but the ones I have seen I have really loved and always wanted to do one myself. Awhile back I found myself writing a little drabble of it just to see what it would look like. Originally in my mind, this story was really dark but now as I have been actually contemplating the full plot I feel its gotten a little lighter but I guess we shall see if this story continues...I really shouldn't buuuuut...
I am always open to constructive criticism and thoughts! Thank you in advance and take care!