Disclaimer: I disclaim all characters in this story.
The Delicacies of Life
Chapter One – Weddings
He had realized that through out his life, those twenty five long -- or short depending on his mood -- years, he wasted a lot of time by straying from the obvious path. It would not be an exaggeration to say he spent a quarter of his life taking regrettable actions because warnings from well meant people were something he never heed. It would also not be an exaggeration to say he spent another quarter of his life undoing those guilty mistakes and regaining respect required to accomplish what he should have done long ago. Needless to say, he worked a hundred times harder than necessary had he chose the righteous path in his younger years. But he, being Sasuke Uchiha, chose the hard path, no, the hardest path.
"Sasuke you idiot! You are so late I almost thought you forgot!" cried a loud voice that belonged to none other than the loud mouthed Naruto.
So unlike him, the happy fool whom chose the righteous path and whom literally, with rough punches and kicks, forced himself into his life. He fought back with the same vigour. For one, he thought this blond homo-sapien inherited a defective gene produced by some miserable failure in evolution that gave him below average intelligence. For another, brought up to adore freewill and loath imposed notions, he was tragically determined to act exactly opposite to what he deemed as the will of society.
Of course, he would never openly admit that.
In his characteristic nonchalant air Sasuke shrugged. On any other day, that would have been his only respond, but recalling this was his best friend's big day, he humoured Naruto with a glance at his watch and a sarcastic retort, "Even a walking disaster like you should be able to reach the temple in three hours."
On any other day, Naruto would fall for the bait and make a fool out of himself by resorting to violence.
But this was definitely not any other day and instead of kicking and screaming, Naruto simply motioned at a small group, namely the four groomsmen Neji, Garaa, Lee and Shikamaru, assembled at the other end of the room. "Everyone else arrived at least half an hour ago."
It was strange seeing the normally overly confident, I-am-fazed-by-nothing-Naruto so nervous, Sasuke mused. It was equally strange to see Naruto dress up neatly in traditional Shinto costume. The Naruto he knew always wear something bright, something that gives one a sense of -- if said nicely -- "creativity," but otherwise, "insanity." How Naruto survived as a ninja with an orange shirt underneath his green jounin jacket he knew not. As far as he was concerned, he may as well wear a big red sign that said "hit me."
"Well?" prompted Naruto.
Sasuke raised a wry eyebrow.
"I want an apology."
His eyebrows twitched. Admittedly, he was indeed late, fashionably late, for thirty minutes, and Naruto was indeed pushed to the blink of mental break down by wedding stress. But even so, an apology would be out of the question, especially when he had good reasons for being late. "I just got back from a bloody mission two hours ago."
"I can witness for that since I am late for the same reason," interrupted the rather cheery voice. Sasuke swirled around to meet his grinning former teacher. "Well, that and the fact I was mourning. Thinking about your wedding reminded me of how old I am."
Sasuke shot a death glare at his best friend, grumbling something that sounded suspiciously like, "Why don't you tell him to apologize?"
Naruto ignored him. "You are old, Kakashi," Naruto teased, good humour returned instantly by Kakashi's theatrical entrance.
"To think my baby is all grown up, I mean married to Hinata! I never thought this day would actually come!" Kakashi exclaimed in an over dramatic manner, which would not amuse Sasuke if Naruto did not blush. But Naruto did blush and Sasuke did smile... a bit too soon. Without warning, Kakashi, his Cheshire Cat's grin still in place, turned to Sasuke. "When will it be your turn, Sasuke?"
He refused to dignify such a question with an answer.
"I don't think you will ever see that day, Kakashi," Naruto said with a fox grin. Sasuke tensed, knowing that grin meant trouble. Naruto gave Sasuke a good slap on the back. "Sasuke never dates girls. For all we know he may be gay!"
Sasuke lunged for Naruto's neck. The groom dodged. The groomsmen laughed. And all were merry.
There seemed to be a sudden rise in marriages that month, either that or no one around his age had gotten married until then. In any case, for the second time in the month he participated in a wedding, this time as a groomsman at Shikamaru's. He was not sure how he even became friend with this genius. One would think the Retrieve-Sasuke episode that almost killed his best friend Chouji would destroy any possibility of friendship. That may have been the case; however, on a fateful day a year after Sasuke returned to Leaf, he passed by Asuma and Shikamaru while they were playing Shogi. Implusively, he suggested a move to the losing Asuma. From that day on, Sasuke and Shikamaru were Shogi buddies.
The wedding proceeded in a much less formal and grand manner than Naruto's. For one, Ino was no head of the Hyuuga Clan. For another, Shikamaru was no legendary ninja. Though, the vast amount of flowers at their wedding strike Sasuke. Even considering the village's flower shop belongs to her family, he still thought they have overdone themselves. He pondered whether Shikamaru's mother was truly crying or simply suffering from pollen allergy.
But of course, the more important question, why did they distributed these disgustingly heavy bouquets to groomsmen?
He never holds flowers except for herbs in his life.
The hot weather only furthered his agitation, he bit back the temptation to frown but he could not force himself to concentrate. Instead, he found his eyes wondered about the room as the priest (Ino insisted on a Western style wedding) droned on in his monotonous voice about love and passion, two things he never understood and could care less of.
Unconsciously, he tried to find the guests he knew from the crowd. There at the fifth last bench sat Kakashi, directly in front of him, Hinata and Naruto along with Gaara and Temari. Across from them Kurenai and beside her, Asuma. Three roles up was Gai and Lee. Finally at front sat Tsunade. His eyes traveled toward the front alter and the happy couple, and finally, further to the right where the bridesmaids stood in their matching dresses. Closer to the alter stood Tenten and next to her, Sakura–
Sakura, her bright green eyes watched her best friend unblinkingly. The smile would not leave her face and she looked happy, genuinely happy. The flowers in her hands matched her fancily prepared pink hair. She looked...
He quickly pulled his gaze away and turned back to the attending guests. A certain curious phenomena caught his attention. It seemed, majority of the male guests, especially those who he never had the misfortune to acquaint with, were much more engrossed in a particular bridesmaid than the main cast.
If only for her jealous boyfriend, Tenten could not be the object of interest. Neji tagged a clear price list to Tenten's name: a deadly glare for a lingering gaze, a death threat for a flirtatious remark, a black eye for an overtly friendly touch, a visit to the hospital for all second offences. Neji became so infamous with his over-protective manner that flirting with Tenten has developed into a rather popular dare among Jounins.
That put Neji no higher than a dog marking its territory.
Sasuke smirked at the thought.
That left one possibility. At that he bit his lips.
The conclusion did not really surprise him. Since he returned from Sound everyone whom mentioned Sakura in front of him had one time or another complemented on her appearance. Sakura was no longer the plain faced flat-chested girl he knew when he left, she had grown into a very capable woman, even he had to admit. He was also not so blind to Sakura's way with boys. From Naruto to Lee, boys loved Sakura regardless of repeated rejections.
But he, of course, being the Sasuke Uchiha was an exception. Because Sasuke Uchiha never cares for appearances. Because beauty is skin deep, and even the beauty in Helen of Troy, would not affect him. No. Not at all.
But at such boring event, he inevitably, totally natural and not because he thought her pretty at all, found her much more interesting than the floor and much easier on his eyes than any of the fifty-seven guests. With these reasons he allowed his eyes so much as to linger on her, perhaps longer than what was appropriate.
Eventually the couple kissed, the wedding ceremony ended, after many pictures, hugs and kisses (all of which Sasuke successfully avoided), the feast began.
He found himself assigned to sit next to Sakura again just as he did at Naruto's wedding feast. She did not talk to him and since he never talks to anyone unless spoken to they did not speak to each other. Instead, each found entertainment in the conversations of people on their other side. Sakura chatted openly with the other bridesmaid and the bride herself, she had always been rather talkative when she was around friends. Sasuke, whom never liked speaking, amused himself by listening to Naruto's bad jokes and Shikamaru's annoyed grunts. He gave inputs to the conversation only when necessary.
The food was not as exclusive as those served at Naruto's, but Sasuke often lived on nothing but plain rice balls for the last fifteen years and could not really taste the differences. His favourite dish was fresh salmon cooked with tomatoes.
Wine was served, but he never really liked the bitter taste of alcohol, so he only drank enough to show his respect to the hosts. He found himself one of the few still sober by the time the most dreaded part of the day began. The lights dimmed, and music sounded in the large hall. Couples headed to the cleared space in the middle and Sasuke found himself once again bored.
He never dance. But if he ever did he was sure he would hate it.
He found his eyes once again wondering around the room and once again settled on Sakura. This time, she sat alone across from him, at the other side of the dance floor, calmly drinking what looked like punch. He was surprised to find her away from the dance floor, he had always thought she was the type to enjoy dances. But seeing how she rejected over twenty invitations to dance Sasuke could only conclude he was wrong.
He really did not know much about her, did he?
She knows so much about him that he had no choice but to consider her as his close friend. Yet, while she knows everything about him, he knows absolutely nothing about her: partly because he, not the nosy sort, never found the need, the desire to find out about her life, her family, and her past; partly because she never said anything openly. As far as he could remember, she only spoke of her family once to him back when they were thirteen.
Considering that was twelve years ago...
But that could not possibly be his fault, right? He never wanted to be her friend; it was more like she forced him to be her friend. It was only natural he knew nothing about her...
His ninja awareness suddenly kicked in. Just in time, he noticed Sakura turning toward him, reflexively he turned away just quick enough not to be caught staring.
Sasuke Uchiha never stares at girls and he was quite ready to keep that reputation.
He did not dare to look toward her direction again until someone coughed to catch his attention. Sakura, standing in front of him looked slightly annoyed – she must had been in front of him for a while – how could he possibly missed her walking toward him?
"You look bored," she observed as she quietly took the seat next to him. He swore at least half of the male population present shot him envious glares. He smirked but only because of his innate arrogance not because he really cared.
"You look sombre," Sasuke returned, not cutting or mocking, only cold, and purposely ignoring her first comment.
Sakura chuckled. "That cannot be helped. I have an early shift at the hospital tomorrow, I cannot risk getting drunk." Her voice was eventually lost in the loud music. For a moment she only looked at the drunken guests jumping around on the dance floor, then, she turned back to Sasuke and repeated her earlier statement, "You look bored."
"I hate dances," he replied bluntly before turning away as coolly as he could and warned, "Don't even bothered asking me to dance up there, Sakura."
A light smirk appeared on Sakura's lips. "What made you think I would ask you to dance?" Sasuke wondered if his sarcasm rubbed off on her. She shook her head slowly before adding, "I only came to ask you a question."
He thought he noticed a small frown on her face and deduced the 'question' had bothered her for quite some time. "What is it?"
Sakura unconsciously twirled a few loose pink strands around her index finger, something she often does when nervous. "Oh it is really nothing, I did not ask earlier because everyone was around and I did not want to embarrass you or anything..."
He did not like the sound of this question. Not one bit.
"But now that everyone is too drunk to listen in..." she took a deep breath in, as if that would give her more courage, "Why were you staring at me during the wedding?"
For the first time in his life Sasuke Uchiha blushed because of a girl.
Chapter One Ends
This piece is more or less my try on a new writing style. Sasuke is happy, yes, but I hope it is believable happy. If you see any spelling mistakes, tell me.