Little Piece of Heaven
The pressure in Sakura's arms burned like mad. She could feel the energy in her body surging, charging… but with no where to go. Her chest continued to tighten as she eventually fell to her knees, beads of sweat slipping down her forehead, breath coming out in weak, desperate gasps. But there was no giving up as she summoned more chakra.
Just a bit more!
Tsunade, standing calmly with her arms folded, stared down at her student. "Concentrate, Sakura!" she instructed. "If you, a medical nin, were to ever get your chakra release disabled, you must be able to overcome it! Lives would be at stake!"
Naruto, watching Sakura and Tsunade's training from afar, cringed at the hardship his childhood friend was putting herself through.
"You can do it, Sakura-chan…" he whispered.
This wasn't the first time he had witnessed one of Sakura's overly strenuous training sessions. The blonde had made a point to keep watch whenever possible ever since that one session several months back left Sakura bed ridden for days.
Training as a medical ninja required a far more advanced control of chakra, and he knew Sakura could handle it. But there were times when Sakura's determination got the better of her… times when her own persistence ignored her body's own plead for rest. He had been immensely concerned during Sakura's previous fall and was determined not to let it happen again.
"Naruto," called a voice from behind.
"Oi, Sasuke…" he greeted without averting his gaze.
"Spar with me."
Naruto waved the Uchiha off with a flick of his hand. "In a couple minutes."
Scowling at having been told to wait, Sasuke impatiently joined the blonde to see what had captured his attention. He immediately recognized the figure of his other teammate. Frowning, he also took notice of how exhausted and beaten she looked.
"What's going on with them?" Sasuke inquired, folding his arms.
"Tsunade-baachan blocked the release of Sakura-chan's chakra. She's been trying to overcome it for almost an hour…"
"You think I'd know how…?"
They were both interrupted when a cry of anguish escaped Sakura's lips. She was on all fours now, panting heavily as she struggled to keep her arms from collapsing.
"Enough, Sakura…" Tsunade could be heard saying, voice softening with concern. "That's enough for today. We'll try this again lat—"
"No!" Sakura snapped. "I can do this… Tsunade-sama…!"
"This isn't good…" Naruto murmured.
Sasuke turned to him quickly, but his best friend was already running full speed towards the scene ahead. He leaned a shoulder against a nearby tree; Naruto was more than enough help for the situation, but he felt... unsettled. Kinda, sorta. Exhaling sharply, he pushed off the tree and followed after Naruto.
"SAKURA-CHAN!" shouted the blonde. "That's enough!"
She lifted her head in surprise, then determination when she saw both Naruto and Sasuke running towards her. Memories of Team 7 flashed through her mind in that instant: Naruto, loud and ambitious; Sasuke, skilled and determined; Sakura, protected and useless… the weakest link.
They would both be there to witness her greatest feat. She had to beat her teacher's jutsu now… in front of them…she just had to!
And then she coughed… violently. Blood had erupted from her throat, splattering across the gravel below her and trickling down her chin - a clear indication that the pressure had begun to crush her from the inside-out. In a daze, she became fixated on a small splatter upon her fingernail before finally collapsing.
"You never listen…" whispered Tsunade as she quickly released the jutsu.
Naruto reached Sakura first, cradling her onto his lap as she gasped weakly with exhaustion. Enraged, he glared up at the Hokage. "Baachan! What did you do?!"
The older women rolled her eyes and kneeled down next to them. Tenderly, she caressed the sweat-drenched strands of hair that fell over her student's face. "You did well, Sakura. You were quite close."
A soft green glow begin to emit from Tsunade's hand, healing Sakura of her ailments.
"I'm sorry… Tsunade-sama…" Sakura whispered.
Sasuke caught up then, kneeling down to help inspect her condition.
Sighing, Naruto shook his head. "Don't apologize to the old hag," he said, smirking at the unamused look on Tsunade's face. "You did your best, Sakura-chan."
"You should've stopped her sooner," Sasuke muttered. "She could've killed herself."
"Yeah!" Naruto agreed.
Giving them each a glare, she got up to her feet. "Obviously," Tsunade scoffed "if you two spent more time encouraging her and treating her as an equal you'd have a better idea of what she's capable of."
"Naruto's always encouraged me," Sakura mumbled in a daze, lifting a tired smile to the blonde.
Sasuke frowned, but saw no furthering of her comment or what implications it incurred. If she wanted to finger him for being the one who constantly thought less of her then so be it. If she somehow wanted to make him feel guilty for his years of absence then so fucking be it too. Getting back up to his feet, he stuck his hands in his pockets and carried on with being disconnected.
"Can you stand, Sakura?" Tsunade asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," her student answered quickly, wobbling awkwardly to her feet.
"Good. Regain your strength for the day. I'm returning to my office."
"Yes, ma'am…" Sakura muttered, tone noticeably soaked in disappointment. She had hoped to try for a second round.
Tsunade spun on her heels and made her back to the office towers. "Naruto!" she yelled back. "Keep an eye on the Uchiha!"
"Why?" Naruto protested. "What did I do wrong?"
"Shut up, dobe."
A sigh of exasperation escaped Sakura's lips as she dragged herself towards Sasuke's house. Her body had really begun to show the effects from her morning training with Tsunade. Gripping her arm painfully, she scolded herself for not being able to free her chakra. What would happen on a battlefield if she were unable to use her healing abilities?
Sighing, she trudged up the steps with her duffel bag and knocked softly.
Several seconds later, the door slid open and Sasuke stood scowling at her from his height advantage.
"What are you doing here?"
She blinked. Maybe fighting Itachi broke his brain and resulted in a 5-second memory. "I'm here to check—"
"Yeah, I know that," he interrupted. "Why aren't you resting?"
"Tsk, tsk…" Patting him playfully on the shoulder, she smiled sweetly. "I'm your nurse, remember? Not the other way around."
He eyed her skeptically for a moment, and then grudgingly moved to the side.
She moved past him to once again turn on the lamp in the hallway, but not before Sasuke reached down and took the duffel bag from her grip. She glanced back at him questionably.
"I got it," he muttered.
Interesting development: Sasuke showing signs of gentlemanly behavior. Or was it signs of humanity? You don't get to throw the kunai before picking it up so she figured in Sasuke's case, it was probably the latter.
She shrugged at him and proceeded with granting light to the dark entryway. "You trained with Naruto this afternoon, right? That probably wasn't the best idea…"
It was his turn to shrug as he walked past her to his bedroom.
"Sasuke!" she warned. "Your chakra levels are doing okay, but you need more time to heal physically."
"I'm fine," came the curt reply.
Shaking her head, she followed after him. "I'm only suggesting," she said, as she entered his room, "that for the next week or so, refrain from getting your ass kicked, and if possible, kicking the asses of others."
He smirked at this.
"Strictly from a medical perspective," Sakura finished with a wink. "Arm?"
Sasuke lifted his arm for her as she held it by his wrist and forearm. Bending it carefully, she tested the movement of his joints.
"A lot of us don't have missions tomorrow," she said with her eyes focused intently on his arm, "so we were planning to have lunch in the field by the training grounds."
"Naruto told me already."
"You're coming then?"
She released his arm and pouted. Normally, this is when young Sakura would've started to whine and tug at his arm for submission. This would've ultimately lead to Sasuke prying her off and snarling at her to leave him alone. Wow… she really had been annoying. In retrospect, she would've had a fit if someone kept insisting she go somewhere even after she had politely said no.
If Sasuke didn't want to go, then she wouldn't force him. He probably had his own reasons.
The pout disappeared. "Hmm…" Sakura murmured as she got up to check his other arm. "That's too bad."
For a quick second, he shot her a meaningful look of curiosity… but turned away and remained silent as she went about checking his reflexes.
Sakura chattered on as usual, talking about anything to keep some sort of ambience flowing through the room. When she began talking about her training with Tsunade that morning, Sasuke interrupted her:
"That was stupid," he remarked seriously.
She froze in her actions. "Excuse me?"
"You pushed yourself to near breaking point. If you can't do it, then you can't do it. Don't die trying."
Frowning, her eyes fell in discouragement. "You don't… have to say it like that…"
"The overuse of chakra almost killed you. Don't do it again."
Suddenly, her brilliant green eyes flashed at him with ridicule. "What did you do after Kakashi said your chidori could only be used twice?"
Sasuke flinched slightly, immediately avoiding her gaze. "That's—"
"How many times did you use it during the Chuunin exam incident? How many times can you use it now?'
He glared at her then, almost arrogantly. "We're not the same, Sakura."
Biting her lip in thought, she and the Uchiha held a staring contest for what seemed like a good 10 minutes. She finally stood to search through her duffel, being the first to break from their death-glare exchange. How tempting it was to punch the boy and send him flying to the next village over.
"I'm sure you'll survive the night," Sakura mumbled sarcastically, cutting the appointment short with the abrupt closing of her bag.
Author's Note: I'm feeling pretty neutral about this chapter… couldn't get it to end properly, so I just ended it at that last paragraph. Currently I'm working on chapter 6 (and the reviews are a HUGE motivator) but I'm not as far ahead on it as I'd like. Keep in mind I only feel comfortable submitting chapters when I'm at least 2 ahead on my computer. Got some huge projects coming at school… I know you guys like it when I submit every 2-3 days, but don't hold me to it! If anyone's wondering about the title of the story "little piece of heaven" is a line from the song "Listen to Your Heart" by DHT. There are several lyrics I find relevant to the SasuSaku drama coming up. Check my homepage if you want to hear it.