Request for hayakawa17. Requirement: SasuSaku. I suceeded...somewhat.

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Hindsight : Realization

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Seven-year-old Sakura runs up to Ino-chan, Mai-chan, and Suki-chan. They've become such good friends in the last months Ino has taken her into the fold and Sakura has a bright, bright smile on her face as she runs up to them, hand waving in the air and shouting. For the first time in the Academy she has friends, good friends.

The bullying has mostly stopped and Ino doesn't let just anyone tease her about her wide forehead. She can smile, laugh, be unafraid to talk, be whom she wants to be, and like whom she wants to like. She wears the ribbon in her hair everyday and she holds her head high; she does it because Ino said she likes her when she doe - but today, today the best thing happened. She had to tell them.

When some of the meaner girls started to bully her earlier because they knew Ino wasn't around at the moment, most of the other kids sat back in the courtyard and watched, but someone had come to defend her. Out of the corner of her eye, she had seen a blond boy walk out of the school and walk towards her almost immediately to help, but who got there first was a small pale boy. Raven black locks and strong dark eyes as he told the bullies that his brother said only the weak bully those weaker than them to feel strong.

She'll always remember those big shoulders in front of her in the dark blue shirt, and the words full of strength that told the other people off. Sakura, with all her seven-year-old heart, falls in love at that instant for the kind boy who was her savior, and the straight back with the red fan that will be imprinted in her memory forever.

.:.:.

Nine-year-old Sakura blushingly hands the homemade bento she has spent a month perfecting with her mother's help towards the dark haired boy who sits under the tree, hiding away from some of the other girls at lunch. She stammers out a few words and ends up rushing her confession that she spent hours and hours trying to get right last night. She waits with baited breath and clenched eyes in the silence for his reply, and even though he has already turned down a lot of the other girls, she wants to give herself a try. And when he finally speaks, telling her he wasn't interested in her like that, she looks up blinking back tears at his profile and side of his face as he looks away from her.

When she asks voice cracking, almost crying, if it's because she wasn't pretty enough or if it's because of her wide forehead, he snaps his face back towards her and frantically assures with panicked gesture that it was not because she wasn't pretty enough or her wide forehead or that her bento was bad. She was just as pretty as all the other girls and she was even smarter, but he wasn't interested in any girl right now. Not at this time in his life.

She is disappointed in his reply but tells him with a smile to eat the bento because she made it for him and that she would pick up the box later. He nods and she walks away, a bit let down but still warm. In her mind she repeats his words with glee: she is just as pretty as all the other girls, there was nothing wrong with her forehead, and she was even smarter than most of them.

Sakura, in all her nine-year-old self, is filled up with happiness. He wasn't ready for a relationship now, but in the future when he grows up he will be. And when that happens she'll be the smartest and prettiest one. She believes she can do it, because he believes that it is capable of her.

.:.:.

Eleven-year-old Sakura is firmly set in her belief that she is in love with Sasuke-kun and that Sasuke-kun will soon be in love with her. She just has to show him and that the wait is over. She has improved and grown up for him, now when he is ready for the relationship, she will be there.

But eleven-year-old Sakura has a teammate who is tied up to a log with rope wrapped around his middle, and to his sides two teammates are sulkily having lunch. Their sensei has just yelled at them and that they probably won't be passing the test. She doesn't want to pull the team down and she doesn't want to let Sasuke-kun down.

Naruto insists in his loud, normal, obnoxious way that he isn't hungry but his stomach growls too loudly for the lie to work. She thinks for a moment, what is important; a promise to her teacher who will probably fail them anyways, or to help her friend and get the chance of being caught and failing for sure. Really, there shouldn't even be a contest.

When she offers to share the food with the blonde, unexpectedly she sees the other bento being pushed in front as well. And while Sasuke grumbles and mutters about how's it about liability to the team instead of kindness or a well-meaning gesture, Sakura smiles and her heart tumbles.

In that moment Sakura is reminded why she loves Sasuke-kun so much, and she falls in love with him all over again.

.:.:.

Thirteen-year-old Sakura guards the gate of Konoha. She spends many nights walking to and fro from one end to the other and many hours sitting by the edge, asking why she was there. During the days, she's at the hospital peeling apples and setting aside food for the boy in the bed whom mostly ignores her. The more his injuries heal, the more something inside of her is scared.

She waits by the path now, the path where you walk to get to the gates if you weren't jumping from lampposts or rooftops. She sits on the bench and lets her head fall forward in a depressed manner. Tears come to her eyes, and one night when she hears those familiar sneaking footsteps - she knows.

She looks up at him and he's walking towards the gate. He stops. She stands. A million things left unsaid and so much she wants for him to understand. She asks him why, why does he have to leave? Can't he stay? Isn't there enough here for him to stay? She trembles both inside and out as she waits for his response. But he walks away from her after all is said and done, and then the quivering feeling inside breaks and there is but a sad, painful acceptance.

Days later, when she sends the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy after the dark-haired avenger - she asks of him to bring him back. Back from where he has run. Back from where he is walking. Back from the path where it will lead him to the vengeance seeking man he will become, to the boy they both know is under there somewhere.

But somehow, when she watches Naruto's back as he walks away from her, and the words of his promise that he would bring Sasuke back for her linger in the air - once more, something inside of her shakes. But she doesn't know what.

.:.:.

Fifteen-year-old Sakura is in the medic unit while they tend to the battered avenger who has been forced to come back. She stares at him as he is in drugged sleep; the face is sharper then she remembers, the cheekbones more clear, the sunken of his eyes are new, and his skin is still so pale.

It's been three years since he left and she doesn't know how much he has changed. Naruto had brought him back; unconscious, a bit broken, and bleeding. The blonde boy had smiled that stupid smile of his and told her he kept his promise. Even though she had went with him to retrieve their teammate, in the end she had been left behind as he rushed forward to protect her.

What happened between the two boys, she doesn't know. And though she had thought of them as her two boys, there is anger inside. Years ago she had ignored Naruto for favor of Sasuke, Sasuke who is in front of her now with that hated tattoo on his neck. And Naruto, the cheerful, promise-keeping boy, was two floors down sleeping in a room with no one by his side.

Years ago she waited by this bedside, for him to wake-up physically and metaphorically so she could tell him and show him how much she loved him. And when Naruto first brought him back, the shining duff's smile so bright, she had been so happy that they were both back now. Both back home to her.

But now, she waits again by the dark boy's bed, peeling apples and placing flowers by the desk. This time she waits for him to just wake up so she could pull her hand back and slap him so hard, to let the inner rage out for putting that pained look in Naruto's eyes whenever anyone asks what happened between the two.

.:.:.

Seventeen-year-old Sakura stands, a bit confused and a bit astounded as Sasuke finally, finally asks her out and to see if she wanted to give them a chance. After so many years of waiting, and longing, and running after him, she shouldn't even have to think about it at all. But she stares at him, white-faced, until Naruto (sweet Naruto who's smiling that fox smile and not looking her in the eyes) slaps her on the back and pushes her towards Sasuke laughingly.

It didn't matter that Naruto has been asking her out since the Academy days and after when he came back from the three years of training. It didn't matter that he had finally, finally convinced her to go for a bowl of ramen with him last week, without anyone else around and no training marked together that day. She hadn't -had- to go, but she did.

It doesn't matter at all because this is what she's been longing for so long, and Naruto is like that. He's loud, obnoxious, a bit on the dense-side, and annoying and self-sacrificing and damn it, just Naruto. So he laughs and makes faces and pokes fun at them when they come back from their first dates, always with that smile that makes his whiskers stick out and bright blue eyes, which sometimes doesn't meet hers anymore.

.:.:.

And it take nineteen-year-old Sakura, it takes her two years into a relationship with the dark haired man that Sasuke has become, to admit it. Sitting in a room inside the big wooden house at the center of the Uchiha district, she sits legs folded under her and her eyes looking down at the table blankly. She hears the sound of Sasuke training in the back and she closes her eyes.

It's on a clear blue day that she admits it to herself; she doesn't love him.

She doesn't love Sasuke.

This relationship wasn't going to work out.

She doesn't love this man with dark hair and even darker eyes, which sometimes blare red as the blood he craves. She doesn't love the man who will sit in front of her but looks towards the sky and see things that she doesn't. She doesn't love the man who the village forgave, because he's the last Uchiha and he has to be forgiven. She doesn't love the man named Uchiha Sasuke with a shaper face, darker eyes, cutting words, and jagged lines.

The Sasuke-kun she fell in love with was a boy who looked up to his brother, kind to those weaker than him, cared about other people's feelings, and a gentle heart underneath all the tough exterior. He had softer eyes, mellow lines, lips that quirked in hidden smiles, and he had glowed.

She's waited so long for this chance, for the chance of being together with him - but this was a sham. The arms that held her were a mockery of the person she had been in love with. He was not the boy she loved.

And she now knows what she had felt all those years ago when she sent Naruto off to get Sasuke back. She had known somewhere deep inside of her; that Sasuke, even then, was not the boy she had been in love with. The teen had been but a faint shadow by that time and there was little hope of Sasuke turning back into the kind, gentle hearted boy.

Instead, Naruto with all his brash, over-cheery, optimistic attitude was like the sun. Naruto held all the qualities she had loved in Sasuke, but she had been too set in her ways and too blind to see that. Now years later, after many false starts and years into a failing relationship, Sakura wants Naruto back.

But it's too late. She had known. They had known. That their being together would hurt Naruto, but they had thought it would somehow, magically still work out. And it did, to a point. They still trained together, went out as a team to places, and Naruto didn't avoid them.

But he spent less time with them, went out with his other friends more, stopped actively searching for Sasuke to train everyday, stopped following Sakura around to convince her to spend more time with him, stopped meeting their eyes when they were together, and left them alone when they tried to talk about their relationship.

He pulled away from them and at that time, it hadn't really meant a lot. They had time to build up their private relationship. But now, now Sakura admits it to herself she was blind, a fool, and had been so stupid. She wished she could turn back time and fix things but it was too late.

She sees them sometimes: at the market, around the training grounds, at the restaurants tucked up at a back corner, walking down the street with no real direction, under a tree at the meadow, and sometimes she can glimpse Naruto in the Hyuuga block.

She sees them; the casual brush of his hand on Neji's shoulder, the supporting hand at the small of Hinata's back, the bright sound of his laughter as he links his arms with the two cousins. The way he tucks a strand of wayward hair behind Neji's ear, the way Hinata slowly slips her small hand in his, the way Neji relaxes his guard when he stands with them. The sense of ownership that radiates from Neji as he looks on the blonde and the frail looking lady, the sense of things being right when he stood next to the boy and girl Hyuuga, the love that is clear in all three of their eyes as they look at each other.

Sakura calls out to Naruto in the street, and he looks up into her eyes now when he smiles. Naruto goes around telling everyone it's any day now that he will become Hokage when Tsunade retires, and he wants Sasuke there to back him up as Councilor when it happens.

He runs towards them when he sees Sasuke training, pulls up a seat in the restaurants when he spots the two of them on a date, and he isn't shy about coming into the Uchiha fraction to find them. He smiles with them, laughs with them, yells and gets angry with them, and they're back to being great friends again. Team 7.

But at the end of the day he goes back to his apartment and back to the Hyuuga House. The next day she sees him, he is laughing, joking, musing, screaming, training, touching, and just being so happy - with them. People look at them and the three seem like they're flying; without bounds and chains.

And she stares with a wary twist of a smile and Sasuke looks on with a light in his eyes that he never used to look upon her. And it's in the bitter filled air between the two of them.

.: that could have been us :.

My OTP and OT3 all in one fic, I feel proud. Please don't bash. It's quite heavily hinted in the summery.