Little Piece of Heaven
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Summary: Alternate universe from the 3 Year Break.
Author's note: September 2018 – This was a fanfiction I wrote about 12 years ago. I had just finished high school and I got into Naruto a bit late but binged up until the fillers before Shippuden. A lot has changed since then. Obviously, if you are reading this now and know how the rest of how Naruto played out, you will quickly realize this fic is canon-divergent and completely ignores major plot points past Episode 109 (when Sasuke leaves Konoha to train under Orochimaru).
This story remains my biggest fanfiction success but I have never been able to read it again myself without cringing. There is so much I want to add to give this relationship depth. And thinking back, I believe I did Sakura an injustice. Recent reviews have pointed out that I made Sakura too weak, Sasuke too abusive, and the relationship too forced onto Sakura. There are some things about this I am going to update and some I will leave as is. My own personal take of Sasuke is that he's a man with no middle ground. I like to explore the possible levels of his intensity and it's what I will use to shape him in this alternate reality. This will never make for any kind of perfect relationship, or even an ideal one. But I will do better. Thus, don't mind me as I quietly and lovingly update each chapter. Thank you for reading and for continuing to read my little piece.
"You know…you really are annoying."
That's what he had said to her. A smooth, apathetic declaration that had sliced through her with the accuracy of a well-aimed kunai. And oh, how it stung as it passed. How it seemed to dig past her shoulder blades and pin her in place to some invisible wall behind her.
It seemed so long ago.
Yet somehow the burn of it still itched even years later. Sometimes she still felt pinned when that particular word was spoken in passing.
Now, the boy who had spoken it first, was eighteen. The need for revenge that consumed his childhood had been extinguished. His brother was dead. The relief, she imagined, was neither here nor there judging by the tired look on his face as he hung it low. His feet dragged, but he didn't resist.
Finally, Sasuke Uchiha, was back in Konoha.
Why? Well that was a funny story. The fight with his brother Itachi had been almost futile. They nearly destroyed each other. In the end, it was Naruto Uzumaki who had found his best friend's mangled half-dead body, sprawled gods know where, and dragged it back home.
Unbeknownst to them, this was a Team Seven reunion.
Sakura Haruno had been standing on a tree limb just over the village front gates; her pale pink hair had grown long and grazed the porcelain skin of her cheeks from the warm evening breeze. The curiously wide forehead of hers was gone. The green doe-like eyes? Worn, but captivating as described by many. Konoha's smartest kunoichi had grown up, and the once hot-tempered, lovesick little girl was now the village sweetheart (And! Bursting with charm and intelligence, her friend Rock Lee might add), but with a bit of a temper that still made itself known (her rejected suitors might also add).
Said sweetheart was currently suppressing her chakra to keep from being noticed. Although a part of her nagged that she needn't bother. If the last Uchiha somehow noticed her existence above, what were the odds he'd care enough to look up? A waste of precious muscle movement, she figured.
Naruto was supporting Sasuke's weight against him, the broken boy's arm slung over his shoulder. Sakura was ready for them.
This was it. This was where years of mentally abandoning the idea of Sasuke and her together in any far-fetched, fantastical romantical scenario would pay off. It was something she knew she earned, but needed to make sure it played out.
Her dedication to her own mental health and self-improvement was a force of nature. Falling out of love had not been a piece of cake, but staying in love would have crippled her well-being.
After all, Sasuke had made it clear, many times, many many many times, that he wasn't interested in her. Not romantically, and just sparingly as a friend. Certainly, his blow to her head during their last meeting was enough to start the flow of rational. "You know…you really are annoying," her love -her unrequited love- had said, after she offered him everything. Her heart, her soul… he could've asked for her whole life and she would have obliged, handing it over in a heart-shaped box. But he had asked for nothing. Accepted nothing. Only eyed her like a sickening waste of time.
Sakura inwardly cringed.
Of course, back then she had been crying, begging and letting her voice hit high altitudes as she threatened to pull the plug on his escape plan. Annoying. That was what he had called her.
You really are annoying.
But that was the past. She had grown up. Her priorities had changed. No longer would she torture herself trying to gain the recognition of someone, anyone, who gave zero fucks toward the notion she existed.
An internal mantra began. Don't yell "Sasuke-kun," don't yell "Sasuke-kun"…
"You know, you could be more helpful," Sakura heard Naruto grumble below. "Probably having both legs broken is no excuse to keep dragging your feet like that."
"Shut up," came the halfhearted reply.
The sound of Sasuke's voice sent a slight tremor to her feet, almost yanking her off the tree and quickly to the injured boy's side. It had been years since she'd heard that lazy baritone voice. It was that deep, silky monotonous tone that captured a great deal of his essence; a voice she had heard in so many of her childhood dreams.
But even those were long gone. Funny thing about living the life of a seasoned kunoichi: sometimes when you've seen enough, you see nothing in dreams.
As the pair stumbled beneath her, Sakura couldn't help but notice how much more attractive the Uchiha had become. She winced. Because old habits died hard. And this habit would go out in a blaze of glory. She looked away briefly. But no, she should look. She should eye him stringently, for analytical purposes. As a kunoichi, this was expected of her.
Sasuke had grown taller, more muscular. The hair was the same: black and rebelliously spiked. Loose bangs framed his pale, stoic features; though several strands were caked every which way with dried blood. Eyes, of course, that same cold obsidian that reflected an almost demonic intensity.
The young Sasuke in those old dreams was now a man in the flesh.
There was a twinge of sentimentality, and a numbing reminder of lost hopes and dreams. She tilted her head at the familiar sight of her teammates, combing cautiously through the short list of emotions running through her. Anything that could hurt her… cause her pain, cause her heartbreak… had been safely locked away. And she felt almost nothing. There was relief. There was a sort of gladness. And there was an eagerness that followed their frustratingly slow journey to the nearest infirmary. But overall, Sakura felt close to nothing for the dark-haired boy.
She had moved on. She was in a state-of-mind she thought she'd never reach as she watched Sasuke and Naruto head in the direction of the Konoha hospital.
This was her test.
As she watched Sasuke Uchiha's return after so many years she would not be the one running out to greet him. She would not wrap her needy arms around him, fall to her knees crying with relief, and remain there crying even hours after he'd left.
They were almost at the hospital now.
The test had been passed.
She hadn't moved a muscle.
The subdued voice of her normally hyperactive friend was suspicious. Usually a calm demeanor from Naruto Uzumaki was something to be weary of.
"What? What do you want?" Sakura asked, looking up from the rather large book she was taking notes from. Her friend had found her in the Hokage tower, pouring through the medical textbooks in her mentor's office.
"If you were wondering, Sasuke's been doing a lot better," Naruto informed, his tone still decidedly cautious.
"Really?" she asked. She smiled, it was genuine, though her eyes drifted back to the rustic-coloured pages in front of her. "That's great news, Naruto. Why do you seem so glum about it?"
"Because you still haven't seen him."
Something in her expression turned frigid as she faltered. No worries – stomp it down, sew it up. The look was shaken away before Naruto could catch it.
"He's not my patient," Sakura answered, bemused. "He has a different unit overseeing his care."
"C'mon, Sakura-chan!" the blonde huffed. "You know I don't mean 'as a patient'."
Playing dumb didn't work on someone who was smarter than they looked.
"I've been busy," she argued.
"To busy to visit a friend in the hospital?" Naruto gestured at her books with some exaggeration. "Your hospital?"
"It's not my hospital."
"But you practically run the show for the old bat."
That was the new dream, actually. "Not yet," Sakura breathed. She lowered her textbook. "And that is exactly why I've been too busy to visit Sasuke. Between studying under Tsunade-shishou and running the hospital while she's away, I'm stretched pretty thin."
"But we're a team!"
"We were a team, idiot."
"Well, we're going to be a team again really soon!"
She arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Field test. Probably a low rank mission. But as soon as that bastard's out the council wants to see what he can do." His smile widened. "No, what Team Seven can do."
That same warmth of nostalgia tugged a heart-string.
"That's…" she fought for the right words, "…kinda cool, I guess? Never thought I'd see the day."
She really didn't. The very notion of Team Seven revived seemed so far forgotten. Even as she witnessed the return of their lost ex-teammate, the idea of them somehow forming their old unit was never entertained in the back of her mind.
But it had always, clearly, been entertained in Naruto's. Once again, he was serious.
"So… I mean, you really should visit him. Do it for the old team. You know, camaraderie or whatever."
Sakura sighed, resigned. "Okay, I'll try to visit him soon."
The rather grim expression on Naruto's face obliterated as he chuckled nervously. "That's good, Sakura-chan. You had me worried! Sasuke's been back for two weeks and I thought for sure you'd be taking care of him, but Granny's been working you way too hard."
"Don't call Tsunade-shishou that."
He chuckled. "You know, that bastard's been bitching non-stop cause he's under house arrest at the hospital and has to be stuck with me most the day."
At least bitching non-stop meant the Uchiha was conversational. That might make her visit less awkward.
"Has he…" Sakura made a mental note to smack herself for being curious "…asked about me?"
Naruto crossed his arms behind his head and wrinkled his brow. "No…I don't think so… But I told him all about what you've been up to lately. And that you're smokin' hot," he teased.
She leaned over the desk and punched him playfully in the arm. "Idiot…!" she growled. "Stop spreading nonsense like that!"
He laughed and placed a hand on the doorframe as he turned to leave. "I'll let you get back to your studies," Naruto hesitated before leaving, "Don't forget to visit him, okay?"
She waved half-heartedly. "I will, I will…"
The door closed behind her blonde teammate with a soft click.
Sakura leaned back in her chair and sighed. Perhaps it was best she stay true to her words. After all, she had made the commitment to stop loving Sasuke, not to stop being his friend. And if one had a friend in the hospital, one should visit that friend to offer support… or point and laugh, whichever suited, and she guessed when Naruto visited Sasuke it was probably the latter.
After hauling away her teacher's gigantic medicine books and picking up a small bouquet of blue and white flowers, Sakura found herself standing hesitantly outside Sasuke's hospital room. Finding it had been rather easy, but she surprised herself at the reception desk when asking for the room number of a 'Sasuke Uchiha' and not a 'Sasuke-kun' followed by comically timed pink hearts. Years ago, adding the affectionate suffix was a natural reflex that rolled off her tongue… and the hearts, well… they were a manifestation of full throttle love.
With two flicks of her wrist, she knocked on the Uchiha's door quietly. Perhaps a little too quietly since there was no response.
Sliding the door open hesitantly, she peered in and discovered the dark-haired boy was asleep. Ever ready for the world to rebel, Sasuke slept upright against the reclined hospital bed, arms folded across his chest like sleeping had pissed him off before he allowed it to happen.
Feeling satisfied with just leaving the flowers and letting him be, Sakura tiptoed her way to the windowsill on the other side of his bed. Without realizing it, she avoided actually looking at Sasuke while picking up an empty vase on his nightstand. Placing it on the windowsill, she kept her back turned to him as she gingerly placed each individual flower into the vase.
"Your stealth needs work."
Sakura froze in her movements, and with the tiniest feeling of discouragement, resumed her flower arranging. A flashback from their childhood made blood rush to her ears. On another occasion that saw Sasuke injured and bedridden, Sakura had babied him to no end. Even after he smacked the plate of apple slices she'd prepared into the wall, there was just no waking her. At times, reflecting on her past behavior was quite humiliating. How many rude awakenings did she ignore? How many innocent apples needed to be sacrificed?
"I wasn't trying to use stealth," the pink-haired girl said finally. "I'm just here to visit."
She turned around, and Sasuke finally got to see his pink-haired teammate face-to-face after so many years.
What appeared to be mild interest flickered over midnight eyes at the sight of her. It was rather startling. Had she really changed that much since he last saw her? Given the slight change in hair-length, she really couldn't think of what other features had been altered. Then again, something that had increased vastly over the years was her modesty.
Her eyes broke away and welcomed the sight of Sasuke's medical folder at the foot of his bed. Good; a chance to have her hands be productive instead of awkwardly strangling a flower stem.
"May I?" she inquired as she picked up the closed vanilla folder.
An incredulous look passed over his weary black eyes. Something told her he wanted to say no. Not because his physical ailments were any kind of a secret, but because he thought she would have no idea what to do with the information.
It looked like he was about to give his answer when the door to his room slid open.
"Uchiha-san, it's time for the bandage ch-" the young nurse paused, immediately noticing the extra person in the room. "Oh! Haruno-sama! I'm sorry I didn't know you were making rounds in this wing."
Sasuke's eyes widened marginally at this. Clearly, he had not been listening to Naruto when he babbled on about Sakura's status in the village.
"I'm not," Sakura explained, "I'm just visiting for today. But I'll take over for you in here."
The nurse nodded, an eager smile on her face – she seemed to be gushing in Sakura's presence, and not Sasuke's. An interesting change of dynamic, Sakura couldn't help but muse.
"Of course, Haruno-sama!" The girl gave a small bow. "I hope I didn't get in your way. Thank you for your help. If I can do anything, please let me know."
Sakura nodded, her attention returned to Sasuke as she questioned him silently once again regarding the folder.
The look on his face was unreadable, but he gave the slightest of nods.
She could feel his eyes examining her as she casually took a seat at the edge of his bed while scanning the pages of his medical history.
"Sit up higher," she suddenly instructed.
He narrowed his eyes. "For what?"
"The bandage on your left arm needs to be changed."
Her ex-teammate continued to scan her while straightening his back. It wasn't as skeptical as it had been before, but his face told her he was continuing to pick her apart. This was nothing new to Sakura. If she remembered correctly, every person Sasuke had ever met during their missions together was subject to this cold hard analysis.
Struggling slightly in the process, Sasuke held out his bandaged arm for the taking.
Analysis complete, Sakura thought dryly.
"You know what you're doing."
She took that as a question. "Give me some credit, Sasuke," she murmured while carefully unwrapping the bandage.
She expected him to release a small intake of breath with a smirk, to utter that trademark sound of his that just gushed with ridicule and disdain. But he remained silent after her last sentence was spoken.
His silence was fair, she figured. He looked tired. She considered the lack of strength from his unspoken ordeal. Nobody would be in the mood for idle chit-chat after beating their own sibling to death. Then again, Sasuke Uchiha was never much of a conversationalist. One would have better luck talking to a dried-out clump of dirt.
After the bandage had been removed, she curiously examined the wound.
"This is quite the electrical burn. I guess you learned to use the chidori more than twice…?"
"Hn." There it was. He was bound to do it. "I used it 19 times," Sasuke told her bluntly. "I overdid it when I fought my brother. The bone snapped and the skin hemorrhaged."
"I can see that… Probably wasn't the best idea."
He deadpanned at her words. Black eyes hardened and one quick savage glance told her he thought she had just said the most idiotic thing in the world.
"He's dead, isn't he?"
Ignoring the deadly glare as well as the rhetorical question, she began applying the new bandage. "What happened with Orochimaru?"
"I left the hideout 2 years ago."
She stared at Sasuke suspiciously. "It was just that easy?"
He shrugged. "Guess we'll see."
Silence resumed as Sakura turned her attention back to the bandage. She tightened it gently before getting up and announcing her departure. For some reason the mere fifteen minutes she was there felt like hours of sensory deprivation.
Sasuke nodded without a word; the gesture either thanked her for her help, or just politely said 'You can get out now', she wasn't sure... but she couldn't help being proud of herself upon realizing that she really didn't care. At least she got visiting him out of the way.
The pink-haired girl slid open the door but paused at the sound of his voice as it sliced through the room.
He wanted to talk now? Her temper surfaced slightly as she was pressed for time.
She turned back to face him but the clock on the opposite wall was quick to steal her attention. She mentally began skimming her schedule for the day. Visiting Sasuke had jolted her carefully organized layering of work and studying.
It's almost noon. I need to check on the east wing before prepping my study guide. Tsunade-shishou needed me in the OR by two o'clock …that might give me enough time to slip into the lecture hall to catch that presentation for…
It seemed Sasuke's voice had trailed off. She glanced behind her hoping she wasn't appearing as impatient as she felt.
His eyes were observing her with that classic unreadable expression. Well, that was nothing new. She did get lost in her thoughts again; he was probably going to ask how someone so spaced out could hold such a high rank in the Konoha hospital.
"Forget it," Sasuke finally muttered. "Never mind."
"Alright then." She was relieved to have avoided whatever scathing comment he prepared. "I'll see you around then, Sasuke. Welcome back to Konoha."
Closing the door behind her, she smiled confidently to herself. Yes, this is when her life was starting anew. From the moment she sat on the edge of Sasuke's bed and didn't lunge at him with arms wide open, she knew the obsession had become a thing of the past. Yes, indeed. Sakura was a smart, confident kunoichi with a brand-new head on her shoulders.
Things were looking up.
But not for everyone.
After Sakura had rushed off in a distracted blur, the last Uchiha remained sitting up in his bed, staring with strange unsettlement at the newly wrapped bandage around his arm.
Author's Note: Chapter revamped September 13 2018. Chapter 2 will be completely brand new, shifting all other chapters ahead.