Drunken Smiles: Part two
Sakura was starting to panic.
Of all people she didn't want to see right now, Ino was top of the list. And of all people that was standing in front of her, intractable blue eyes and white smile beaming up at her, Ino it was.
Life was really unfair.
Trying to ignore Sasuke's glares burning into her back, she forced her-his face into an emotionless mask and tried to intimidate Ino with Sasuke's trademark indifferently cold stare.
It wasn't working.
She could see Shikamaru's and Chouiji rolling their eyes in their seats and she grew even more frantic. Crap. She couldn't even imitate him, even in his body. Maybe she looked as if she cared too much. At least Kiba and Lee were too busy messing with the camera to really notice all this.
- DAMMIT! I SHOULDN'T HAVE SMILED BACK!!-
Still feeling awkward and ununatural in her new body, Sakura wildly tried to think of all escape routes. Ino was going in for the kill again; she could see it in the way those eyes narrowed and those twitching hands were preparing to trap her with another strangling hug. Dimly, she wondered if that was why Sasuke found all his fans- including her, she acknowledged guiltily- so irritating, among other reasons.
-I have to act like him to throw her off-
"Sasuke" thrust his hands into his pockets and gave Ino an irritated glance before half turning away. Desperately, she hoped she gave the impression of disgust and coldness
"You saw wrongly. Why would I smile at you?"
Keeping the monotone, Sakura continued in Sasuke's low voice, "Go away and stop disturbing me."
Through raven bangs, Sakura could see Ino's face waver doubtfully and start towards her again. Crap, Ino wasn't believing her. She needed to end this now before things got worse; she could already see Shikamaru and Chouiji looking as if they were going to be involved.
Panicking, she threw out the most hurtful thing the dark-haired avenger had ever said to her.
Distantly, while she watched Ino's face flush, she was aware of Shikamaru half rising from his chair, than dropping back to it again. She could sense Sasuke-kun pause in his meal. And outside, she could hear the background hum of Konoha's market and the faint shouts of Naruto coming from the shop's entrance.
But before her, her former best friend was being rejected. For one second, all the humiliation and crushed hope showed in those those familiar eyes as Ino, her best friend in her heart still, started to turn away. And in that second, she remembered how hurt she had been when Sasuke had turned her down the same way, and the old closeness and compassion for her friend rushed up in her and without really thinking about it, she ruined Sasuke's reputation for the second time.
When her words were said, she quickly turned her back on Ino and took her place beside the image of herself so that the conversation between Ino and "Sasuke" would end. She caught sight of her green eyes watching her, unreadable and slightly puzzled, before Sasuke moved her face and the pink bangs covered herself from her again. She knew without looking that Ino's face was no longer crushed, and hid her smile when she heard Ino's exuberant greetings to her teammates.
To her, it was already worth it.
Sasuke's eyes flickered at the watch and then at his day-dreaming self.
He watched his head jerk up and turn towards him.
"We should leave now, just in case." He hesitated briefly. " I'll pay."
Watching his own face transform into a look of surprised happiness, he almost regretted his uncharacteristic generosity when that infuriating click and whirr of Kiba's camera was heard. Swearing inwardly for the fifth time to find and destroy that piece of equipment, he waited for Sakura to fish his money out of the clothes she was wearing and pay the cook.
They were just about to leave unobtrusively when Ino's voice called out.
"OI! Large-forehead girl!"
It took him a few seconds to remember this was what that girl called Sakura. They had a strange friendship, even for females.
Sakura had already turned around and her eyes pleaded with him to play the part. Sasuke resisted the urge to walk away. They still had time, anyway.
Ino came up to them and after a moment of uncertainty, "Sasuke" walked away with his hands uncomfortably forced into the pockets. The real Sasuke blankly watched a strangely awkward Ino give him a half-smirk, half-smile.
"Well... Large-forehead girl! Sasuke-kun obviously likes me more than you!"
Inwardly, Sasuke blanched. Outwardly, he continued to watch the space over Ino's shoulder and shrugged apathetically. After a few seconds of attentive silence, it became obvious Ino was waiting for his reply. Obviously, she and Sakura must have shared some sort of bantering that involved both of them sparring verbally with each other.
Sasuke forced his eyes to look into slightly mystified blue ones.
"Ah. Oh no."
Ino hid her perplexity with a victorious grin.
"You should give up now, Sakura-chan! There's no way you can beat me!"
She flashed him another grin and gave him a provoking victory sign.
Sasuke was frankly, baffled. The girl called Sakura over just for this? Impossibly pink hair flew into his eyes again, reminding him of his condition. He forced himself to try to act like Sakura would in this situation. He owed her that much, at least.
If only he had any idea how to reply.
"Aa... I see."
In the end, he compromised and shrugged again, this time more irritably. It had always worked with him as himself and there was no reason why it wouldn't work now.
In fact, Ino was starting to get worried. Sakura wasn't fighting back at all and all the uncharacteristic black she had chosen to wear today, unlike her usual cheery outfit, didn't help things. Something was obviously wrong, she thought guiltily. She changed tactics and tried again.
"Sakura-chan... you know what Sasuke-kun said?"
She searched his eyes for confirmation, which he reluctantly gave. Yes, he knew what she had said. It had surprised him, for he knew she had always hoped that someday, he would eventually be with her, and more. It was a foolish, childish wish of course, but her actions had still be unexpected. She was always too soft-hearted to be a rival.
Ino's manner was more serious now, her singular blond bang hooked behind her ear.
"I don't think... you're more annoying than me."
She was comforting Sakura? Weren't they both rivals? He had thought "his" words to this girl would delight her. After all, being told that one's rival was thought more annoying than one generally evoked smug satisfaction. His surprise didn't need to be feigned and Ino, reassured by his immediate reaction, smiled and carelessly threw her hands in the air.
"Ha! If anything, we're both as annoying! I'm not going to lose out to you in anything, Sakura!"
But her smile was warm and teasing and even in his pre-occupation with getting back to the office on time, he could tell this meant something special to the two girls.
This time, the words came easier.
"Arigato. I have to go now. I need time... to think."
"Sakura" turned and was leaving the shop when a call from Ino stopped him again.
"Oi big-forehead girl!"
He turned his head to see her shoot him a grin.
"You look good in black!"
Sasuke gave a half-smile and raised a hand in acknowledgement.
-Yes. She did.-
It was already seven minutes to two thirty by the time they were halfway to the building.
Sasuke had initially just briefly outlined what Ino had told "Sakura" but guessing that half the significance was lost to him- Uchiha or not, he was, after all, male-, Sakura made him retell everything Ino had said in detail. He seemed pretty surprised by the amount of happiness she got from those few sentences but then again, it was always nice to know Ino still cared.
Their brisk walk to the office had been pretty undisturbed thus far. After all, "Sakura" mostly talking, albeit in monotone, and "Sasuke" silently walking beside her, though actually listening, was not too abnormal. However, the rest of the walk seemed forfeited to trouble if the growing thundering of the streets proved true to Sakura's suspicions.
From the far end of the street came charging a terrifying sight.
Sasuke's fan group had found him.
Or actually, "her".
Trapped in Sasuke's body, Sakura gulped. Did she ever look so predatory?
"Damn, we don't have time for this. We need to avoid them."
Ha. Fat chance, Sakura's inner voice commented. The fan girls were looking very determined not to let the notoriously elusive Konoha heartthrob out of their grasp this time. Sakura could already hear the faint war cries of "Sasuke-kuuuuun!! Waiit for uus!!"
She turned desperately to find Sasuke halfheartedly getting out her kunai from her side pouch. He had already set her body in battle stance.
"What are you doing?! We can't fight them!"
He shrugged impatiently in response.
"We can try to scare them, at least. That might give us time to get away."
Sakura's mouth dropped.
She looked at herself, pink hair streaming in the breeze, bottle green eyes agate hard and kunai expertly held in her hand. She looked at her slight frame, the black clothes that subtly outlined her form and at the fighting stance he had easily slipped into while automatically placing himself ahead of her. She looked at herself.
"It won't work."
He lifted one eyebrow at her casual dismissal and for some reason, the sight of a sarcastic her annoyed her even as she dreaded the fanatic love proclamations being squealed down the streets.
"They'll just think you're fighting over me too. I am you, after all, and you are me. Another fangirl fighting over... well, you." She winced and continued, "You'll just be able to delay some of them before the others get me."
As she glumly said this, a slow spark of an idea started to form as she stared at herself. Like she said, she was him and he was her....
She grabbed hold of his hands suddenly and pulled the kunai out. If this was going to work, the timing had to be right. She could already hear the thundering of the feet nearing them and the love squeals getting louder.
"Don't argue, just look at me. I know how we can still get there on time."
The green eyes hesitated and Sasuke tensed, but he didn't withdraw his hands. Instead, he just threw a glance over his shoulder.
"Fine. Hurry, they're almost here."
Sakura nodded and tried to keep an impassive mask on. In Sasuke's taller body, she moved closer to "Sakura" and made sure their joined hands were clearly in sight. Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see the fan girls slowing down as they saw their close positions. Sakura made sure to keep her-his eyes down on "Sakura's" face and pretended not to notice the oncoming fan group.
She waited till they were all in good hearing range before she spoke.
Green eyes narrowed in suspicion but fortunately, was out of sight from the fanatic fan group behind. The group perked up their ears at "Sasuke" speaking to his female teammate and gradually slowed to a stop a few feet away, unsure of how to break the seemingly private conversation between them.
Then, the fan girls' worst nightmare came true.
Emotionless Sasuke Uchiha, every girl's detached crush and unwillingly Konoha Adonis, leaned down to Sakura Haruno (researched to be just an annoying teammate) and let the faintest hint of a smile cross his handsome features.
The girls' mouths dropped. But then the bomb dropped.
Sasuke opened his mouth and in that much-fantasised-about-low-voice, asked the question every girl present had longed to be asked by him:
"Sakura... will you go out with me?"
Shocked silence from all.
-HELL YEAH! LOVE RULES!-
Inner Sakura exulted and let out peals of evil cackles. Yup, the looks on the each girl's face made everything that happened so far worth it.
-HA! THAT'S FOR TELLING ME TO GIVE HIM UP TO YOU, ARIKI! AND YOU TOO HANA!-
Ignoring Inner Sakura's gleeful listing of all who had trespassed her, Sakura struggled to maintain a decently straight face. Through the dark hair falling over her eyes, she could see rows of little black spaces as mouths dropped open. A Significant Moment for me, she grinned inwardly. Haruno Sakura: one, Rivals: zero.
However, she forced her gaze downwards reluctantly to see Sasuke's reaction. He wasn't going to be very happy about this.
Actually, he looked incredulous. Before he could speak and ruin the whole charade, Sakura hastily whispered, "Just say yes. They'll won't disturb us if you do. Its... a girl thing. Please... Sasuke-kun? We don't really have to go on a date...," she added lamely, seeing the skeptical look on his-her face.
Then, to her relief, for she could see the traumatized fan group starting to recover in hope of "Sakura's" unresponsiveness, Sasuke, after studying her face, rolled his eyes and played the part.
"Yes, of course, Sasuke... ...kun." "Sakura's" voice was light, and carried easily to the dismayed ears of the girls, "Let's go now."
The looks on the girls' faces were priceless. After a slight hesitation, for Sasuke had always led and she had always followed, she had walked with Sasuke at her side, through the fan group. She could sense him tense instinctively when they passed through, but all the girls- comically dismayed, adoring still, disbelieving- had parted silently and without protest to let them through. And they just walked through them- both dressed in black and looking as if the group around them didn't exist. It was only when they were a few feet away, with the slowly dispersing group staring at their backs, that she could feel him relax again.
"So... what happened?" Sasuke's voice was faintly curious as they raced towards their destination.
Sakura just laughed and ran ahead. Her relief and guilty delight that everyone now thought that she and Sasuke were an item- at least, till tomorrow- made her reckless and she tossed her head, missing the familiar brush of her hair against her nape. Of course they hadn't followed; it was an almost unspoken rule that all hands were off once the dark haired avenger was finally taken, if that was even possible.
"C'mon Sasuke-kun, I'll race you!"
Her temporary long legs and Sasuke's newfound light weight made it possible for them to reach the office only five minutes late.
It was already reaching eventide by the time they both staggered out of the building.
The sky was lit afire by the setting sun and dark figures mingled down the street- teams returning from trainings and common people packing up their stalls. And hell, was he exhausted.
Weird really, when he barely did anything, but he was almost out of chakra and he nearly collapsed when Sakura stumbled into him. He caught himself breathing in the perfume of her hair before he snapped out of it and unsteadily pushed her off. Damn, he really was tired.
At least they were finally back in their bodies again.
And it was good to be back. His movements and thoughts seemed easier, as if the unnatural body he had been in had somehow restricted the flow. And he was much more comfortable in his own body, in more ways than one.
His hand lifted instinctively to his where his curse seal was, now graced with a simple red band around it, and fingered it gingerly. The stinging had dulled along with the colour and by tomorrow, there should be no trace of the seal left. He pulled up the collar of his shirt grimly. If there the seal was still there by next morning....
Sakura stumbled into him again, breaking up his bleak thoughts and causing him to catch hold of her for support. They were both weaving erratically up the thankfully mostly-empty street like a pair of drunkards. With a grunt of effort, he set the struggling pink haired kunochi straight and forced himself to walk on more steadily. Make that a pair of weary drunkards.
"Sakura," he managed to croak out, then cleared his throat. "Walk in front of me so we won't crash into each other. I'll catch you if you fall."
If I have enough strength, he silently added. He would have to make sure he did.
She was too fatigued to argue and moved ahead of him. In the dying sun, her short petal hair flamed into tinges of passionate pinks and red. Lightheaded from weariness, he watched the bright rose above the swaying black figure as he followed. At least his route home was roughly the same way as hers or he would have to walk twice as far.
Still, it was all in all, he thought distantly, a rather peaceful scene. The day and all its horrors were finally over and there would just be tomorrow to deal with. Evening breezes carried the sound of overhead birds fluttering home, their cries lost in the wind, and played with the pink hair of the kunochi before him. Yes, it was a rather peaceful scene. He yawned, his body aching numbly. Now he could just go home, bath, and --
He swerved abruptly to avoid colliding with a suddenly halting Sakura.
"What the he-"
He cut off his swear when he saw what had made her stop.
Oh no oh no oh no.
Up on the slope they were staggering up stood the all-too-familiar silhouettes of a pack of girls.
His damned fan group had found him again and better yet, seemed to have swelled in size.
-WHAT THE HELL DO THEY WANT WITH ME!?!-
"... What should we do now?"
What indeed. He glanced at his dismayed teammate and sighed resignedly. So their little stunt in the afternoon had only managed to convince some of them. Apparently almost all his fans- he gritted his teeth- had heard of it and had come to confirm it for themselves. The only good side of the whole thing was that at least they didn't rush to cling on to him as they usually did. By the amount of strength he had now, he would probably buckle and collapse and god knows what they'll do then. He half-heartedly calculated their chances of getting away by force. It was almost hopeless, seeing that he was almost drained of energy. He could already see Sakura's frame trembling slightly from sheer exhaustion, though her chakra levels were superior to his at the moment. He sighed again, ran through his limited options and made up his mind.
Unsteadily, he reached out for Sakura's arm. "We can't run so we'll have to go through them. Pretend we're still... together."
Emerald eyes widened in amazement as he pulled her close and moved her arm to sling around his neck, his own arm doing the same. Thanking the heavens for the orange-pink glow of the sun which hid his reddening face, he added, a bit too defensively, "It worked the last time, right? We have to use each other for support or we'll be too unstable."
It was logical. It was rational. It was the only reasonable solution. Sasuke cursed his body for liking it. Damn hormones.
If this was any other day, Sakura would be in high heaven. If she hadn't been through with him what she had been through, she would be squealing and clinging on to him with Inner Sakura encouraging her all the way. And if she didn't better understand him as she didn't in the past, she would have asked the Uchiha Sasuke out for a date as soon as he finished speaking.
But it was today, she had been him with him, and she did understand him better than in the past. Still, there was no denying the furious blush that had treacherously spread across her face as Sasuke pulled her closer to his side and leaned against her while they struggled up the path. He was right that their walk would be easier if they used each other for support- her complete exhaustion had made her wonder whether she would even make it to her home. If I'm tired, imagine what Sasuke-kun must be feeling, she thought wryly.
Sasuke would get most of the fatigue and temporary chakra loss anyway- you'll just be the transition branch...
Kakashi-sensei's words echoed in her head and she tried not to lean on the raven-haired boy so much. Despite their close proximity, he was still as reserved as ever- unemotional dark eyes not even glancing once in her direction. Of course he wouldn't be, she tried to convince herself, he just did this to get out of the whole mess. It doesn't mean anything to him...
But it does to me,a stubborn voice answered. She forcibly shoved away all her hopes and illusions and ignored her rapidly beating heart. Together they walked up the road, looking to all the world like a tired young couple with arms affectionately slung around each other's shoulders. She would have laughed if she wasn't so darn weary.
"Sakura," Sasuke's head turned and she found herself staring into tired inky eyes. "You can lean on me. If you try to walk on your own, you sway too much."
She flushed from his rebuking tone and shyly hooked her arm around his neck more firmly, her weight counter-balancing Sasuke's one as she leaned against him. For a second, a strange look crossed the Uchiha's face before he turned his head away quickly. Sakura tried and failed to stop the heating of her cheeks and slow her heartbeat. This was seriously beyond her wildest fantasies- the notoriously solitary Sasuke Uchiha voluntarily holding on to her.
In her confusing concoction of emotions Sasuke never failed to evoke, she almost forgot the reason why they were in this position in the first place. They were already reaching the impressively large fan group when she realized their mistake.
That subtle natural perfume of her pink hair was distracting.
Sasuke tried to clear his head of it and gritted his teeth at the unconscious movement of her body against him. Ignore her, he ordered himself, she's just a means to an end. She's always just been a means to an end, nothing more. His body kept telling him otherwise.
"What?" He snapped, then cursed himself when he caught a flash of surprised hurt on her face. He forced away his irritability at the whole situation and got a grip of his usual indifferent calm. "What?"
She nodded up to where the group awaited. "They aren't letting us through."
He lifted his head to where the pests where. She was right, unfortunately. All the girls weren't opening up to let them through. He sighed irritably. "I'll deal with them," he said shortly.
They swayed to a stop two feet from where the group stood standing uneasily. Sasuke flickered his eyes over the whole lot. Most of them already looked disheartened, if incredulous, at their close proximity and were starting to move away from the group. Then one of them stepped forward, chin raised up high and violet eyes flashing fanatically.
Sasuke's temple started throbbing. He could recognize this girl.
"SASUKE-KUUN! YOU CAN'T REALLY BE GOING OUT WITH HER!"
A finger pointed dramatically at his teammate beside him. Irritation rose in him but he kept his voice coolly even.
"Yes. I am. Now get out of our way."
The girl seemed only slightly discouraged. Instead, to his horror, she ran forward and flung herself on him, eager hands wrapping themselves around his already occupied neck.
"But Sasuke-kuun! I thought you didn't like her! Go out with me insteeead!" She wailed in his all-too-sensitive ears.
Sasuke couldn't believe the nerve of the girl. If it was any day but today, she would have hell to pay. He staggered under her weight, trying to keep standing while using Sakura as a support. He felt her hands slip down from his neck and grip his waist firmly, giving him better support while preventing his groping hands from reaching his kunais. He choked in the heavily scented perfume the fawning idiot had drenched herself in before managing to shove her off.
"No! Get lost. Stop following me!" He managed to snarl out the words in between coughs and gasps of sweet, fresh air.
-Oh...for a kunai...-
Sakura, on the other hand, seemed to have managed to read his mind and had fished out all his kunais while he was busy choking. He swayed while he regained his balance, one arm leaning heavily on Sakura. He was really, really exhausted. All he wanted to do was go home and forget the entire day but no, he had to deal with this. He glared at the pouting fanatic, who then had enough sense to turn to the kunochi beside him instead.
"Haruno Sakura! I thought you were going out with that dead-last guy!"
Sasuke felt a vague feeling of satisfaction when Sakura blanched. She tossed her head, bringing that faint intangible scent of her hair to his nostrils again.
"Naruto? Of course not. I've never gone out with him; he's just my friend."
But her voice lacked the usual exuberant energy and he could see the idiot mistaking their tiredness for uncertainty. He bluntly interrupted her joyous accusations before he really lost his temper.
"She's mine. Get over it." His voice was monotonous, but cold. He had enough. "We're leaving now. Don't get in the way."
And he pushed past her and all the entire watching group, pulling a surprised Sakura along. This time, no one dared to interrupt the brusque passage of the dark-haired avenger and his proclaimed companion. Maybe it was the cold glares that did the trick.
He let go of Sakura's arm as they turned the corner and automatically slipped them in his pockets. His shoulders drooped. He was sick of dealing with all his love-struck fans and today was the last straw. The throbbing in his temples had spread throughout his head. At least today's incidents were over pretty quick, he reminded himself tiredly, and he didn't have to resort to any illusionary jutsus either. He had half a mind to keep pretending he was going out with Sakura.
His pink-haired teammate spoke up behind him then. "Sasuke-kun?" He turned to see a swaying Sakura blinking dull green eyes owlishly up at him.
-Kuso, I forgot what little stamina she had. She must have used up all her energy trying to keep me standing just now...-
"Sasuke-kun? Could we...we... support each other again..." He could see her struggling to stand upright and alarmed, he caught hold of her before she could collapse. Her large green eyes were half-hooded as she fell against him. "I... don't feel..."
Then her body grew slack. He waited a while before he shook her gently. "Sakura? Sakura?"
She had fainted.
He sighed resignedly and gathered up the last remnants of his strength to half carry, half drag her to the tree on the side of the road. A cherry blossom tree. How appropriate.
Only faint tinges of oranges and pinks blushed the horizon when he had slumped himself beside her slumbering form, and the encroaching ashen blue-grey of the transition between day and night was already darkening the sky. He checked her chakra level and found it to be comfortingly steady. She was just sleeping the deep sleep of sheer fatigue now. He sighed again, enjoying the quiet stillness of their surroundings and stared up blankly at the sky above him.
What a day. Too many things had happened. He slowly ran through all possible developments in the days to come, the fog in his mind making his thoughts sluggish.
Dimly, he watched his surroundings gradually hush in a blue shadow around him, and then darken to a blue-black. The road was almost deserted, and he didn't know where she lived. Soon, he promised himself wearily, I'll take her home soon, after I rest. Time slowed to a stop, the seconds dragging into minutes. He shifted her body so his own half shielded her from the cool evening breeze and his own body heat warmed her. The faint scent of sakuras and the unique, indescribable scent of her hair filled his world again and his eyelids grew heavy.
In his torpid state, everything seemed simpler. The day's happenings faded from his mind and all that mattered was here and now. Sakura sighed in her sleep and he drowsily pulled her closer to him. After all, no one was watching.
He had dreamt of missions, Itachi, his curse seal, and a certain laughing petal-haired kunochi before dark oblivion finally consumed him and he gratefully fell into dreamless sleep.
Maybe tomorrow, he could take her home then.
The rare passer-by smiled when they saw them- a dark-haired boy and a pink-haired girl slumbering under a blossoming Sakura tree, their black clothes merging together.
When she woke in the night, she found his arm around her waist and her panic changed to relief that she wasn't alone. And she smiled, because he cared had enough to stay.
For her, for now, that was enough.
Yosh. Hopefully the ending isn't too rushed and abrupt-- I was trying to finish it that night.
But enough about my life history- check out my profile to find out more about the ficts I have and the upcoming ones. I update it frequently though irregularly.
Constructive criticism always welcome, per usual yada yada, as are all feedback.