Six long years.
Sakura stared at the starch white ceiling. Even though six years had passed, she still could never forget. At age eighteen it was a wonder she wasn't seeing anyone. Though, everyone close to the healing-nin knew she had already engaged herself to someone. To her long lost Uchiha prince. Sakura was already blushing just thinking of the dark hair and low voice that would hold her attention, even if Naruto was yelling in her ear.
She sighed, pink hair fluttering away from her face. Sakura's emerald eyes gazed out the window, where numerous daffodils bloomed. It had been her idea to plant them, when she'd become an official medical ninja. They reminded her of all the times she sat, waiting for her true love to awaken. In a sense, it was like the fairy tale she heard of, the one where the prince kisses the princess and she awakens.
Maybe it wasn't exactly the same.
She was abruptly pulled from her reverie when one of the nurses grasped her arm.
"W-what is it?" asked the cherry blossom, eyes fearful at her heavy breathing.
"Sakura-san, it's about…" The woman took a second to catch her breath, making the moment agonizingly long.
That was the only thing the pink-haired girl needed to hear.
"What room!" She practically yelled. The nurse pointed down the hall,
"287. We though you should be the first to know."
'Damn right' came her inner voice. Without waiting another moment she dashed down the halls, using her previous ninja trainings to avoid contact with any people. Her heart was bursting with excitement and if anyone had tried to stop Sakura now, they'd be covered in her footprints.
"287," she read aloud. And, quiet as a mouse, she clicked open the door, only to slip inside and lock it. Six years she had waited for him. Now she would get her privacy. Sakura knew that the doctors would obviously have left him in her care completely, knowing she was under training from Tsunade-sama herself.
"Sasuke-kun," she whispered under her breath, not believing it was truly him. He did look a terrible mess at the time. The healing-nin could only wonder what had happened to him.
Sakura immediately took notice to the fully stocked cabinet in the room, packed with bandages and a special cream she and Tsuande had created together. It was meant to speed the process of bones mending using faster cell reproduction.
After Sakura had gathered what she thought she'd need, and turned on the faucet in the bathroom to have some warm water, the healing-nin took her first look at his body.
Sasuke had most definitely grown. He looked twenty years older, and made her feel like a little girl again. Sakura didn't think she'd grown much, besides becoming a stronger woman. She still had no prominent features.
The girl shook her head, sending shoulder-length bubblegum locks tickling across her face. This was about Sasuke.
Sakura was pleasantly surprised to see that her childhood love was not too badly beaten up. As far as she could see, the arm he used for his chidori technique was broken, and further inspection of his ribs and sternum showed a broken lower rib. The Uchiha had shifted when she carefully inspected the area.
While her hands felt around his legs, she heard a groan, and the bed began to move. Sasuke had started to sit up, looking around to see he was once again in the hospital. Suddenly, a pair of arms started to wrap around his shoulders.
"Sasuke-kun!" The sharingan user heard a woman's voice cry. He immediately shoved back, pushing away the warmth. The raven-haired boy recognized the girl by her pink hair and watery emerald eyes.
"Sakura?" He said, in a somewhat surprised voice. Why was she here? Six years ago…
"Sasuke-kun!" The cherry blossom cried again. She leaned in to try and hug him once more, hoping he'd recognized her this time. Sasuke watched her arms open up to him a second time, but now he grabbed her wrists, cringing with the movement from his left arm. His grip was weak there.
"Why?" Sasuke asked, staring deep into her green eyes with his dark brooding ones. "Why are you always here, next to me when I wake up? Why do you always follow me, even after I ignore you?"
Sakura pulled her hands from his, recoiling from his intense gaze. Her jade eyes were now glazing over with fresh tears.
"I…I told you six years ago…" she trailed off there, glancing at the floor. It was a touchy subject, at least for her. Perhaps he had even forgotten over his missing-nin years.
Suddenly, the raven-haired boy cried out in pain, having twisted a direction his body was not prepared for. Sakura envision the broken rib tearing at his organs.
"Sasuke-kun!" The rose-haired girl instantly had her healing jutsu on her finger tips as she searched over his visible body for anything else she could do. But the rib turned out to be the most pressing matter. She released the jutsu and then pulled out her kunai knife, finding it to be the most effective cutting tool. As she slowly sliced the front of his black jacket apart Sasuke watched from the corner of his eye. The only part of his body he trusted to move was his neck. Sakura gasped when she finally pulled the fabric apart and revealed Sasuke's very well toned muscles. Her face was beginning to flush a deeper hue, and she could feel a strong tingle in her stomach.
Sasuke was undoubtedly the most handsome man she'd ever seen. Her trials of being a healing-nin had caused to her cut many a shirt open to inspect the wounds. None so far matched the beautiful skin, marred with scars from his six years of lone traveling, and from the missions they had gone on when they were still children. Sakura ran her hand across his abdomen, counting the muscles. His body fat percentage was so low you could see the fourth rack of abs, giving him the rare eight-pack.
Sakura jumped, snapping her hand away, and continued her healing.
The Uchiha smirked to himself at her blushing face. She still reddened over him like a schoolgirl. But then, any girl would fall for his hardened abs. The pride he felt for himself made Sasuke's blood boil pleasingly.
Suddenly, a cloth was pressed to his bare skin, hot water stinging the open wounds on his chest. He inhaled sharply against the unexpected pain, and immediately hated himself for it. The Uchiha heir tensed beneath the pressure of her hand.
"Sasuke-kun, please do not move much," Sakura pleaded, working carefully to scrub off the dried mud and blood, both old and from fresh cuts. She followed each clean swipe with her opposite hand, slathering a cream his injured body had not yet felt before. It was a very nice cooling sensation that Sasuke experienced from the touch of the cream, and although he could not see, his cuts were sealing themselves five times faster than normal.
However, there was still a broken arm and cracked rib to deal with.
"Ano, Sasuke-kun, I can't lie…this is going to hurt. Demo, I have a pill that will help. From my examinations, you have a cracked lower rib, and a broken arm."
The girl quickly filled a glass with water, and held out the pill to him. Begrudgingly, Sasuke took the anesthetic, draining the water along with it. A sort of floating feeling started to take over his body.
He turned his ebony eyes towards her jade ones, as if to ask, 'what next?'
"Gomen," the cherry blossom whispered, before moving to face his back, and drawing out her kunai knife again. Slowly, she cut straight through the back of the shirt, slicing the Uchiha symbol in half. Sasuke stiffened, and glared at her from the corner of his eye.
With deft fingers, Sakura began tightly wrapping more bandages around his waist, using them to help keep his spine straight. She was nearly hugging him as she wound the white bindings.
The great Uchiha was somewhat impressed with her healing skills. It seemed she had found her true genius, finally.
A voice much deeper inside Sasuke announced he liked the feel of her fingertips lightly dragging across his skin. He quickly quelled the thought.
However, his hormones could not deny her surprising growth. She had truly become an attractive woman, with all the necessary curves that men - not including Sasuke, of course - liked. If it had been anyone else, they might have commented that she was pretty. Sasuke did not understand the meaning of "compliment." He knew though, that underneath her tightly fitting healing-nin uniform, one that he had grown to detest, was the soft smooth flesh of a female.
"Stop," The raven-haired boy hissed, losing control of himself. Sakura hesitated for a second, wondering who he was talking to. She had begun fixing up his broken arm now, the same that always produced the great Chidori technique. She fastened a sling around his shoulder right before he fell back into the pillow, the painkiller almost taking its full effect.
Sasuke was unaware he had said anything, and let Sakura continue treating him, admitting that it was much needed. The cooling sensation really did feel good. So did the soft pillow beneath his head.
"Sakura," he said abruptly, before the anesthetic completely kicked in, "remember all those times after missions…?"
"Hmm. I'm going home. Ja," Sasuke swished his raven hair around his head before walking off in the direction of his lonely apartment.
"A-ano, S-sasuke-kun? Would you like to…to go out to eat?"
Sasuke would always pause at this time, as if he was seriously considering the offer.
He could only imagine the emotions running across her face. In some way, her constant reliance on him, this daily routine, had become a strong factor in Sasuke's isolated life. It was almost as if the Uchiha got some sick pleasure in denying her everyday, testing her limits. Naruto would always then yell at Sasuke for being a jerk, which he was, then ask Sakura to go with him. However, she would always either disappear, or be lost in thought.
"No," came the neutral reply, crushing a heart, raising a temper, and satisfying a need, all in one go. Sakura's strange dependence on him kept the Uchiha survivor pursuing his goal. Maybe after…
"Maybe…we can finally get that ramen, ne?"
With that, he passed out under the influence of the drug.
Tears blurred Sakura's vision once again.
"Sasuke-kun…" the rose haired-nin gently held her prince's hand once more, channeling her healing chakara into his arm, wishing for him to heal; to be there for her.
"Itachi!" growled the deep voice.
No reply from the missing-nin.
Again no answer. Sasuke rushed him then, sharingan eyes burning holes through his brother.
Chakara gathered into his hand…
Puberty has done well for Naruto's body. However, his attitude and maturity level hadn't changed a bit. The fourth Hokage shone through the fox child now, his dandelion hair fuller, and his face and body longer and more…man-like.
Sakura laughed a little, closing the door to Sasuke's room with a small click. She had spent another two or three hours just sitting next to him, convincing herself that it was all real.
"Naruto, still whining as usual," She joked, his pout bringing back memories.
"And you, Kakashi-sensei, get those dirty thoughts out of your head!" The copy ninja had been reading his usual perverted books again, and kept throwing Sakura in her healing-nin uniform strange looks, before looking back to his book. Kakashi gave the old one-eyed smile, and simple wave.
"Well, I'm sorry, but Sasuke's sleeping right now…I don't think he should be bothered."
Her sensei cocked his head towards the door, his silver hair in complete disarray as usual, sweeping over his face.
"Sakura, I believe you may be wrong,"
Naruto pushed past his cherry blossom teammate, and burst into the room, full fledged Naruto-style. Kakashi started towards the door with his usual slouching stroll, when he noticed Sakura made no move towards the open entrance. She looked flushed and seemed to be hiding from Sasuke's sight.
"I-I'll leave…you guys…ano…"
What could get her away? She was too nervous to see Sasuke again, after what he said.
"Bandages! Yes, must go!"
Kakashi looked blankly at her, then into the room where several rolls of white gauze lined the cabinet shelves. He shrugged, stuck his book into his nose, and smirked. Sakura saw the shadows on his mask shift, and wasn't sure what to think. She did feel somewhat self-conscious at the moment though. He continued his stroll into the white hospital room, finally seeing the new eighteen year-old Sasuke.
The Uchiha boy could recognize that voice, no matter where or when he heard it; though, it had deepened a little bit.
The blonde boy had jumped into the air, about to land on his old rival, when Kakashi grabbed onto his collar and dropped him firmly onto the stool Sakura normally sat on.
Sasuke turned his head side to side, not seeing the pink-haired girl anywhere.
"Where's Sakura?" Sasuke questioned without thinking.
"Aaa, you haven't seen your old Sensei in six years and the first thing you ask is 'where's Sakura?'" The copy-nin leaned against the wall, staring down fixedly at him.
"I –" Now Sasuke was in too deep. Naruto raised his eyebrows uncharacteristically.
"Since when do you care," he shot at the Uchiha boy.
"I guess I'm just," Sasuke carefully scripted his words, "accustomed to her being here when I wake,"
Naruto scowled. Sasuke breathed deeply, thinking he'd got himself out of the mess. He nearly sneezed at the sudden intake of chemicals in the air before turning to Kakashi.
"Ah, Kakashi. How has Konoha been?"
"Hmm. Well, repairs from the attack have finally come near completion. The village is returning to normal with the advancement of so many young shinobi. In fact, Naruto is now Sensei to Konohamaru and his friends."
Naruto nodded, chest bursting with pride.
So Naruto was a Jounin now.
"Ooi, Sasuke," Fox-boy was serious looking. "Did you complete your mission?"
Sasuke took a deep breath, slowly letting it out through his teeth causing a low whistling sound. His dark and handsome eyes gazed at the curtains slowly rippling in the wind.
"Yeah," said the last Uchiha. "Itachi is…" the words were difficult to say. The scene was again reenacted in his minds eye.
Kakashi lowered his book, watching Sasuke carefully. Something had happened between him and his older brother. And it had left a scar that ran deeper than his skin.
Naruto pushed his eyebrows together.
"I hope you're happy, Sasuke. You don't know how much pain you caused Sakura-chan."
'He still has that strange love for her,' thought Sasuke. It ran parallel to Sakura's strange obsession with him.
Just outside the door, in the small nook, Sakura sat, clutching her legs to her chest.
"So, he got revenge," murmured the girl.
"I guess that means you'll follow your second ambition then," said Kakashi.
"I have an ambition. The resurrection of my clan, and…definitely to kill a certain man."
"The resurrection of my clan…" Sasuke sat the same way he had the first day of Team 7. His elbows were resting on his knees, but he was finding it rather hard to slouch with the tight bandages holding him erect.
"Ehhh?" Naruto's eyes widened.
Sakura gasped. Restore his clan? Not wanting to hear any more, the kunoichi quickly composed herself and walked in.
"Ano, Sasuke-kun, I need to check your bandages,"
The raven-haired boy just glared at her, making her shiver; it was like he was looking into her soul.
Bravely Sakura approached him and took his heavily dressed broken arm.
At first Sasuke wanted to resist her help. Naruto and Kakashi watched with interest.
Frustrated at Sasuke's fighting, the pink-haired girl stepped back and made a few seals.
"If you continue to fidget I will be forced to body bind you," Sakura, red-faced, threatened.
Sasuke stared at her wide eyed. Secretly, Kakashi and Naruto were congratulating the cherry blossom.
'How dare she threaten me!' growled a voice inside Sasuke. The sharingan began to form in his eyes.
Panicking, Sakura formed the last seal and the angry Uchiha became rigid in the bed.
Kakashi slowly stood up straight and pushed Naruto off his stool.
"Time to go, Naruto."
"Ooi, ooi, ooi, ooi!" The fox boy yelled, being dragged out of the room by the collar.
Once outside, Kakashi released his hold.
"Stay and listen," said the copy ninja before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Almost angrily, the healing-nin unwrapped Sasuke's bandages, and then carefully massaged the skin for any irregularities. She noticed he flinched when her finger traveled over the area where the bone had broken.
Sakura sighed. The break was quite bad, and he would need a cast.
By then the sharingan had disappeared from Sasuke's eyes, and he was thinking about the future. About what Kakashi had said. It was true.
Now that Itachi was gone, he was free. And it was time to continue his
legacy. Sasuke was of legal age now...
But what would he do? The space Sasuke had initially created between himself and others might be too large to mend...like gum stretched out too thin. He needed someone who would be able to stand his naturally cold nature.
Speaking of gum...
Sasuke absent mindedly looked towards Sakura's determined face.
No, she's annoyi-
That's what he's said to her six years ago. Amazing, Sasuke still remembered. Although slightly 'troublesome,' her naturally caring nature, and her seemingly never-ending love for him could be good, if Sasuke planned to take his ninja skills further, like ANBU ranking. He wouldn't have to be around all the time. Sakura was a mediocre ninja anyway – she wouldn't mind giving it up for him.
The Uchiha stopped for a second.
What if there was another Itachi?
This caused the hot blood to run cool.
There was no way that he would sit and watch his family be destroyed again.
How could he prevent it? Kill every suspicious child?
What had caused Itachi to rebel so suddenly?
Maybe he had been lacking something...but what?
"Sasuke-kun?" Sakura said his name rather tentatively. The body bind had worn off, he noticed.
"Hn," Trademark response.
"I need you to sit up..." It was less of a demand now. " I'm sorry for binding you," pink locks hid the blossom's embarrassed face.
Sasuke chose not to respond. It was his own fault, submitting to a weak jutsu. Instead, he carefully brought himself to a sitting position so that the healing-nin could check his wounds.
Sakura bit her lip. After eavesdropping on the boys' conversation, she wanted to ask some of her own questions.
"Wh-what happened…to…you. Out there. What was it like? Alone…" her sentences were strangely broken.
'It was quiet,' Sasuke thought to himself. He was secretly enjoying Sakura's nimble fingers loosening his stiff muscles again.
"I learned to survive," The raven-haired boy responded coldly. "And it was nice, without people to bother me,"
"Oh…" Sakura's motions stopped, and she fiddled with the corner of his sheets instead.
'Don't stop,' Sasuke thought. Those words almost escaped his throat.
"Well, you are scheduled to have a cast added later today. And you'll have to stay in bed for about six weeks. Until your rib heals."
Sakura became strictly business like now, gathering the bandages and disposing of them, then organizing the small supply cabinet unnecessarily.
"I guess…I'll just…go, then," disappointment was heavy in Sakura's voice. Still, after six years, Sasuke resisted her.
The raven-haired boy watched her wander about the room before moving towards the door.
"Sakura," he was lying down again, "I was being serious about the ramen,"
Her face matched her hair again as she quickly exited the room, only to run head long into Naruto.
"Ah!" The blushing girl bounced off of him, and back into the door, followed by a loud resonating 'bang!'
"Sakura-chan! Daijoubu?" Naruto offered his hand out to help her stand straight again.
"You were eavesdropping!" Sakura accused, raising her hand to smack him.
"N-n-no! Kakashi-sensei told me to!" The fox boy ducked his head down, anticipating the pain.
"Did he?" she lowered her arm.
Naruto placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Gomen Sakura. For Sasuke…"
"It's okay…" Sakura brushed his hand away, shoulders slumping again.
"How about I treat you to some ramen?"
This was getting to be too much like old times.
"Iya, Naruto. I just want to go home," Sakura's voice was distant.
Slowly, yet surely, the next six weeks passed by. Sakura still visited Sasuke, but otherwise the other nurses had fun taking care of him. Sakura was usually at the hospital later in the day, when he was sleeping.
Bu now, it was the day of his release. Coincidentally, it also Sakura's day off, and she was sitting alone at home, worrying herself sick over Sasuke's memory. Would be remember the ramen?
An hour later, her door bell rang.
Sakura froze, hardly daring to believe it.
In a cautious manor, she opened the door…