Little Piece of Heaven
Sakura folded her arms in untamable anger as she assessed the horrific scene before her. Apparently, Sasuke's idea of washing the dishes meant leaving them in a sink for future generations to find.
Shinobi: they develop complex jutsu skills, hit unseen targets, and fly through the trees… but show them a pile of dirty dishes and they'll say it's impossible.
Sighing, she cracked her knuckles and turned to glare at the presence behind her. "What. The hell. Is this...?"
"What?" asked Sasuke absently, who honestly didn't see anything wrong with the skyscraping tower of porcelain.
"How… do you cook?"
He shrugged, placing his hands in his pockets. "I don't. I go out."
"Guess that's your only option right about now…" She laughed nervously at the pile, but quickly clenched her fists with determination. "Alright then!" she exclaimed, inciting a questioning look from Sasuke. "I'm on it!"
She immediately got to work, turning on the tap full blast and lathering up each dish individually. Sasuke, who stood uncomfortably behind her, appeared dumbfounded by her cheerful efforts. "Sakura, you don't have to do this for me."
With the reflection of detergent bubbles sparkling in her eyes, she turned and flicked his forehead with soapy fingers. He stepped back, scrunching his face in surprise.
"Shut up," Sakura said grinning. "I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing this for the good of the environment."
She turned optimistically to the tower of dishes. Reaching up on her toes, she swatted pitifully from her height disadvantage to grab the highest plate. "Can you slide that chair over for me, Sasuke?" she asked, tilting her chin towards the dining table.
He glared. "You're kidding me."
Ignoring her request, Sasuke easily reached for the plate and shoved it into Sakura's waiting hands. "You don't need a chair," he grumbled. "If you can't do something just let me handle it."
She rolled her eyes and smirked. Clearly she had accidently round-house kicked the male ego. "Sorry..." she teased. "I didn't want to cause you any further strain."
"It's a fucking dish, Sakura."
She laughed heartily.
As it turned out, Sakura was enjoying Sasuke's company more than usual lately. Though they still had their quarrels, much like his belittling comments made the week before, the turnaround rate was improving. She soon realized that she was getting to know a different kind of Uchiha Sasuke. Of course, he had the same attitude and the same likes and dislikes, but this Sasuke was actually her friend.
It made sense, after all. During the first weeks of their reunion, Sasuke didn't completely recognize her since her attitude around him was not what he remembered. And now in turn, sometimes Sasuke seemed like a whole new person because some of his mannerisms were not what she remembered either.
Granted he was still brutally cold and nonchalant about everything and whenever possible, there was the rare moment when it wasn't actually directed at her. When they were younger, it seemed like it was always directed at her. And if not initiated, she, of course, brought it on herself.
"Sasuke-kun! How about we go on a date? It'll be so much fun—just you and me! What do you think?"
Ah, young love. Sakura concluded that since she wasn't clinging to his arm and begging him for dates, he had allowed himself to feel more comfortable around her. There was no longer any need to distance himself from the pink-haired predator so they had established a more mutual friendship. A real one. Not the kind of friendship that had been pushed onto him due to close quarter circumstances.
The difference was clear; Sasuke was acting different around her. He was more accepting, more patient… and just a tad nicer. She could only guess that it was because he finally considered her a close friend. And as such, decided to treat her as one.
Although, he still didn't talk much… and it bothered her was how Sasuke still seemed to have very little faith in her abilities. Once, she was telling him the details of an upcoming mission. He appeared doubtful and spoke condescendingly; asking whom she was going with and then hinting she shouldn't bother because he didn't think her capable:
"The team? Um… I believe I've been assigned with Naruto and Neji."
Sasuke had instantly began glaring daggers. Noticing of course, Sakura shook her head and continued to check the stitches embedded beneath his hair. "What? You think a weak little girl like me needs more protection than that?"
"That's not it," he muttered darkly. "You shouldn't even go. You'd get in the way."
It annoyed her to no end, and she would usually refuse to speak to him for the rest of the visit. She would use the time to calm herself down and refrain from pummeling his ass to the sky. Naturally, not being a fan of conversation, Sasuke didn't complain.
After that little comment was made, however, she had planned to continue her silent treatment for the duration of the next visit. She returned from her successful mission unharmed and feeling pretty damn proud of herself for proving Sasuke wrong. Sliding the door open to Sasuke's house, she let herself in, remembering that he had told her not to bother with knocking each time because it was damn-near annoying having to open an unlocked door to let her in. But as soon as she had stepped foot in the entryway, she was surprised to find it already lit by the small table lamp.
It had been a routine for Sakura to walk in and immediately turn on the lamp to rid Sasuke's house of its dark, dreary atmosphere. And, as part of the routine, Sasuke would promptly turn it off after she left.
She gazed at the simple light fixture, amazed at how the simplest task of merely having it on could feel so meaningful. She debated in her head if it was Sasuke's way of being nice, or if he merely just associated the soft glow of the hallway with her presence and did it unknowingly.
The emotionless Uchiha soon appeared in the doorway of his bedroom to answer her question.
She looked at him, and then the lamp, and then back to him again. "Thanks," she said warmly.
He looked rather uncomfortable for a brief moment, darting his eyes to the table lamp and then quickly to the floor. As if avoiding the gratitude in her eyes, Sasuke turned and retreated to the living room. "…For what?" he asked over his shoulder.
Sakura sighed and smiled thoughtfully into his back. Okay, so it was probably done unknowingly since he didn't know what she was talking about. Which meant Sasuke doing it to be 'nice' intentionally was out of the question. She laughed at herself inwardly: it was a rather far-fetched thing to assume… But unknowingly or not, Sasuke was still showing signs of being considerate towards her. She could still be thankful for that.
"As soon as I'm finished with the dishes," Sakura continued, scrubbing madly at a rusted piece of silverware "I can make something for dinner."
"Don't bother. I'm going out."
"Oh… really?" she asked, pausing in mid-cleanse. "Well, that's okay. I'll just go home and make myself something."
He stared at her curiously from the doorway. "You wanted to eat here?"
Her mind instantly did a double take. Was she taking advantage of his barely reputable hospitality? She quickly regretted the assumption that Sasuke wouldn't mind if she made dinner and ate with him. Perhaps their friendship hadn't progressed as much as she thought. He probably thought she was invading his space… or worse, that she was still plotting Operation Get-a-date-with-Sasuke-kun.
"I just… I thought I might as well since I'm here," she admitted sheepishly. "But it's okay! Never mind."
The Uchiha continued to stare in silence, his black eyes regarding the pink-haired girl passively before he folded his arms and leaned rigidly against the doorframe. "Fine," he grunted. "Do whatever you want… just don't poison us."
"Really?" Sakura asked, a radiant smile taking over her features. Their friendship had progressed! …Somewhat. "Great! This'll be so much fun!"
Extending an arm to place yet another clean dish on the rack, she was pleasantly surprised when Sasuke took it from her instead. Without further prompting, he picked up a dishtowel and began wiping the plate dry.
"Hn," he scoffed. "You'll be at this all night if I don't."
She grinned and shook her head, resuming her dishwashing. "Don't worry, I won't stay long. I have an early mission tomorrow morning."
"Nobody," she replied, handing him another dish. Why does he always ask that first…? "A house outside the village requested a medic. Somebody there is sick, I think."
Sasuke paused in his movements. He seemed to be frowning at the newly dried plate in his hands.
"You shouldn't go by yourself," he said finally.
Her features scrunched. "Why not?"
He glared, as if to chastise her questioning. "Because I said so."
Sakura instantly shot him a look. There he went again: treating her like a ninja fresh out of the academy whilst shoving the alpha male card in her face.
Sighing, she decided not to start a fight. After all, she was a guest in his house and it was best not to turn his kitchen into a profantic, chopstick-wielding battlefield. Those things could take an eye out…
"Regardless of what you think, there's nothing I can do about it," she finally muttered. "It was assigned as a solo-mission."
He didn't say anything else as he took another dish from her. She quickly took his silence as a window to changing the subject.
"So your probation's over in about a month, right?"
"Kakashi-sensei has been working on getting Team 7 back together." She giggled. "And Naruto's been harassing Tsunade-sama for days, so I think it's going to happen."
He nodded. She figured he was pleased because of the slight softening of his expression.
He didn't answer, but she didn't expect him to anyway. After all, it was the way things worked: she talked, he listened.
"I hope you don't mind me asking, but… is life everything you expected it to be after... defeating your brother?"
She waited. Okay, bad question. Curiosity killed the cat, and this cat was expecting to be killed 10 times over. She wasn't even sure why she asked… maybe it was because before, in the past, when Sasuke was leaving the gates of Konoha, she had told him that revenge would never bring happiness. There would be no light at the end of the tunnel, no solace at the defeat of his torture. She wondered now if anything she predicted was true.
Sasuke wasn't responding so she instantly regretted thinking it was the right time to ask.
Constructing the right apology in her head, she was about to take it back when he finally spoke up.
"Not everything…" he answered stiffly.
"Oh…" Glancing up at him, she couldn't stop herself from pushing deeper. "Like what?"
His expression hardened, but he didn't seem to be aiming it in her direction. "It doesn't matter," he said monotonously.
Feeling guilty, she realized he probably thought she was trying to rub it in. She would stop while she was ahead. Metaphorically speaking, she was wise enough to stop poking the bear until it turned around and twisted her head off like a bottle cap.
Changing the subject again, Sakura began talking about her studies and other new jutsus she wanted to learn.
After the dishes were done, Sakura went straight to preparing dinner. Nothing extravagant of course since she promised she wouldn't stay late, but she could pull off anything with her natural culinary skills; a nice little hand-me-down from her mother.
She had half-expected Sasuke to saunter off somewhere until she called him to eat, but much to her surprise, he sat himself on the counter and eyed everything she did. She assumed this could only mean the Uchiha was pessimistic about her cooking abilities.
Oh well. She'd prove him wrong in time.
"Can you cook at all, Sasuke?"
"Only when I don't have a choice."
She giggled. "But you tend to give up after you run out of dishes?"
"Can we drop that?"
With a smile on her face, Sakura then decided to narrate her actions to both kill the silence and answer the 'what are you doing now?' question in Sasuke's eyes. She also felt he could benefit in knowing some helpful cooking tips.
Oddly enough, he didn't complain about being patronized. Instead, he listened quietly and watched with some amusement as Sakura puttered cheerfully around his kitchen.
"…Now here's the critical part," she said intensely while raising a finger. "When you're done with a dish— are you paying attention?"
Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her expectantly.
He laughed shortly, turning his head slightly to conceal the barely noticeable smile on his face. "Shut up, Sakura."
Author's note: I had to completely ignore this story for the past few days. Now I'm behind since I'm barely halfway through writing Chapter 7. Don't hate me guys! I'm just a poor little University student who writes fanfiction when she should be writing essays about much more uninteresting things. Anyway, from what I've read in the reviews, I'm thrilled you guys understand my concept behind Sakura's character. I've gone over the behavioral motives so many times that they've just stopped making sense to me. Some notes on this chapter: it's basically an assessment of how Sakura views their 'relationship' thus far. This is just so that Sakura's reactions to later events are justified. Nyahaha, can you dig it?