Little Moments in Time
For Michael, whom I care for as Sakura does Sasuke.
Sadly, he's probably twice as dense as Sasuke.
It's probably safe to say that most girls in their teenage years want so much to be loved. Not loved by parents or by brothers, but by someone else outside the family. Maybe it's the idea of falling in love that they're in love with, or maybe it's a test to see if they could possibly get someone out there in the large world to love them.
Maybe that's why Valentine's Day was invented in the first place.
Seventeen-year-old Haruno Sakura was no different from the rest of the girls in Konoha. True, she was a kunoichi-a rather strong one at that-but that didn't mean that her heart was as impenetrable as a brick wall. Her tough exterior was separate from her interior, fragile, afraid, and wishful.
Every once in a while, when her team has stopped to make camp for the night, she would sit and stare at the fire with a glazed look in her eyes, drawing herself back into her carefree genin days when she was unafraid of showing her feelings. A ghost of a smile would grace her lips as she remembered Naruto's antics and how she would literally punch his lights out, Hinata's shy, stuttering voice, or Ino's rambunctious-ness and denial that she was in love with the one and only lazy genius.
But the images that came to her mind most on those lonely nights revolved around one boy who was forced to grow up too quickly-the one she loved with all her heart.
She remembered how Kakashi-sensei made the three of them climb a tree together with their legs bound together, and how when they fell, Sasuke somehow managed to pull himself under her so that when she fell to the ground, she had a much softer landing than the other two boys. She remembered how after the sound ninjas had sliced off her hair unevenly, he was the one who took out a kunai and fixed it for her. She would never forget how his fingers brushed her cheek as he did so, as if apologizing for not being strong enough to protect her.
Her hair had grown out since then, now just past her shoulders and long enough to tie into a simple ponytail, which was extremely practical for missions. Although her hair was distinctive (perhaps too distinctive for missions), at least having it long would allow her to shroud her face when she needed to.
Green eyes would shut themselves from the world as she walked down memory lane, picking out the brief moments in time where it was apparent that he at least cared for her in some way. She grinned when she remembered how one day when she, Naruto, and Sasuke were sitting on a bench, Naruto decided it would be fun to play "let's squish Sakura" and leaned hard on her, causing Sakura to lean sideways into Sasuke. He moved slightly, but it wasn't to get her off him; instead, it was to clandestinely place her head near his heart so that she would be more comfortable and not have to lean against his hard bone. They stayed like that-Naruto sleeping on Sakura's stomach and Sakura leaning sideways into Sasuke's chest-until Kakshi-sensei finally showed up after being lost on the road of life. There was also that one time just a few months ago when she was in the library reading a few classics sitting in a chair-while she was reading, she suddenly felt a slight weight on her shoulder and a cheek pressed against hers.
"Reading Hamlet?" came a low voice that tickled her ear. She turned her head slightly to catch a glimpse of dark onyx eyes and raven hair as she smiled at him.
"Yeah," she replied in an equally quiet voice, relishing in their closeness, "have you read it yet?"
They had stayed like that for a few moments more until Kiba came and saw them, teasing them both. "Ooo…" he had said with a sly grin, "Sakura and Sasuke!"
Sasuke immediately removed himself after that, and the pink-haired girl immediately missed his warmth. But for those few moments in time, she was happy-happy, content, and loved.
Every once in a while, he would pull her hair or finger the ends of it, and she wouldn't mind. She loved it when he did that because it made her feel like he could see her as someone different-as someone he could love.
Two years ago, when they were all fifteen, he had come back to Konoha, battered and bruised. Itachi was dead-killed by Sasuke's powerful chidori. The Uchiha clan was finally avenged. Sakura remembered how she was the one he saw first as he entered through the gates surreptitiously, afraid that anyone but the godaime would see him. She was there, sitting on the bench, eyes unfocused and blind to the world around her. A hand then cupped her face, forcing her back into the real world. Green eyes had opened wide in shock as they met the face of the owner of the hand, not believing that the one image they had longed to see was suddenly there. She remembered his smirk as he looked at her, and how he had touched her hair with his other hand.
When Sakura became too tired to stay awake in front of the fire, she would crawl into her tent and wrap herself tightly with her sleeping bag. Eyelids would shut jade orbs from the world, and the mists of sleep would cloud her mind, bringing images and memories of him as she lost herself to her dreams.
Sometimes she would dream about how when he came back, his chakra reserves were taken away from him and how he was always assigned D-rank missions in order to prove that he could be trusted again by the citizens of Konoha. She would be able to see clearly his frustration of having his power removed and not having the one thing that was the center of his life for so long. Her heart went out to him-even in her dreams-when she saw his defeated form slumped against the abandoned walls of the Uchiha compound, hands in his hair.
He had lost his center and was falling into what seemed to be a bottomless pit, with no one to pull him back out and set him back onto his feet.
In the early mornings before her teammates would awaken to continue their mission, Sakura would practice her genjutsu, during which she would allow her thoughts to drift along with her body. The rosette-haired girl wished she had the courage to pull him back out of his depression, and sometimes she wondered where all the courage she had as a child went. She wanted to be his center-the one he could rely on the most in his desperate times of need. She wanted him to know that he could go to her for help, and that she would always be there. She wanted so much-she wanted to be there for him.
She hated watching him pace back and forth rapidly when he was frustrated and angry with himself. She wanted to hold him tight and maybe take away some of that frustration that she knew all too well. She knew how it felt to be weak-to be powerless against the world around her.
This year, Tsunade had not assigned her apprentice any missions around Valentine's Day, which was a highly celebrated event in their village. Sakura had always tried to stay away on missions during the festive time, but this year, fate had planned a different course for her.
"Yo, Sakura-chan!" came the shout of a golden-haired boy, dragging along his girlfriend of two years by the hand. Little Hinata had grown up indeed, and had mostly broken her habit of stuttering all the time around people. Granted, she still did it once in a while when she was nervous, but other than that, her way of speech had evolved into a more confident tone.
Sakura smiled and stopped walking as Naruto approached her.
"What's up?" she asked him while nodding to Hinata, acknowledging her presence silently.
"You'll never guess!" he replied, dancing around while spinning Hinata once happily.
A vein began to form on Inner Sakura's head.
Tell me already! And stop flaunting the idea that you're in love! Some of us don't have that luxury!
Sakura shook her head lightly, amused at the reaction from her inner self. She liked the fact that Naruto and Hinata were finally together and finally happy. She herself had begun to take happiness in seeing other people's happiness, mainly because the one person who could make her happy never seemed to see her sometimes.
"What is it, Naruto?" she asked, green eyes crinkling up in silent laughter as she noticed Hinata's blush.
Inner Sakura was getting mighty frustrated. Sakura herself, however, suddenly had an evil glint in her eye.
"You and Hinata are getting married?"
Hinata's face became a very bright red-as red as the tomatoes Sasuke loved to eat. Naruto himself nearly fell to the ground in surprise, suddenly stopping his erratic dancing and began to blush like mad.
"Sakura-chan!" he shouted, attempting to regain his dignity. She only laughed at the couple's reactions and winked at them.
"You two are so much fun to tease. So tell me what's going on, or shall I start false rumors?"
Naruto grumbled and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his bright orange jacket.
"I saw Sasuke-teme in Ino's flower shop buying flowers."
As Naruto uttered those words, the world had stopped for Sakura. "Sasuke-kun?" she thought, "In a flower shop?"
For a moment, her resilient façade dropped to reveal her tenuous self. It was then that she wished-wished so hard-that Naruto had never told her.
Sasuke had never once really said that he liked her and had always kept her in the dark about his feelings. Along the way, he had dated a few girls here and there and always neglected to tell Sakura about them. He had a girl that he always went to for advice-a sort of best friend, and it wasn't her.
And that's what hurt the most. She had known him for his entire life, but that girl-that other girl…
Sakura gave Naruto and Hinata a false smile and thanked them for telling her the news. She began to walk off in the direction of her apartment, desperately needing to be alone in a place where if she were to suddenly burst into tears, no one would see.
Naruto watched with bright blue eyes as his former teammate walked off, back turned to them.
"Oh Hinata," he said softly, "I hope this ends well."
The silent girl hugged him, and the two stayed there, both wishing that fate would somehow take a different course this year and bring together the two people they cared about most.
When Sakura turned the corner, she ran home, ignoring the stares of the villagers at her speed. This is why she never wanted to be home for Valentine's Day. Love was always in the air, but the one she loved most would never love her back.
He never did, and he probably never will.
She remembered how one day, as she walked to the market to buy groceries, she saw her Sasuke-kun talking with Reiko, a newcomer to Konoha from the hidden Sand Village. Although Sakura and Reiko were friendly with one another, they never did quite get along-they were far too different and valued different things. Reiko and Sasuke were very similar in style, but Reiko was happy and blatant about it like Sakura herself once was while Sasuke was not. Perhaps that's why Sasuke spent so much time with her-Reiko was what Sakura used to be before Sasuke left to kill his brother.
Valentine's Day crept up on Sakura, who dreaded it with every inch of her heart. She didn't want to see Reiko squeal over flowers, and she definitely didn't want to see her mailbox empty of any gift from Sasuke.
She had spent the night before making handmade chocolate hearts for her close friends and family, wrapping them beautifully and delivering them in the middle of the night. She had also made a separate batch of white chocolate for a certain boy with a chicken-like hairstyle that she loved dearly. That batch of chocolate was put into a box and wrapped plainly with brown paper and a red bow. She left it pinned on his door with a kunai, knowing from past experience that he would throw it away with all the other gifts he got from his fan girls if she did not do so.
She opened her eyes slowly, letting them adjust to the light and got out of bed, getting ready for the day. The pink-haired girl was planning on spending the day at the library and losing herself among the rows of books that led to worlds where her problems were nonexistent. Thirty minutes and a burned scrambled egg later, Haruno Sakura opened her door and stepped out of her apartment, only to be greeted by red roses lying near the threshold.
Wondering to herself what was going on, she picked up the bundle and looked at it carefully. There was no note-only a light blue ribbon.
It was because of that ribbon that she was positive it wasn't from Lee-san. If there was one color "bushy eyebrows" (as Naruto called him) detested, it was blue.
Sakura sighed in relief. Not that she disliked Rock Lee, it was just that she could not see him as anything more than a friend.
"Maybe…" said Sakura quietly, drifting off into her thoughts. She shook her head.
"He would never buy flowers for me."
She went back inside to put the roses in a vase of water, and came out once more to continue her journey to the library.
Sakura entered the building silently, waving a brief hello to the old librarian who was snickering over a book that looked sickeningly familiar.
"God," she thought to herself as she realized the trademark orange color and red censor symbol on the book, "Even the librarians are perverted. Sick!"
She retreated to her usual table near the back of the library, stopping only to pick up The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
About a third of the way into the book, Sakura felt a presence behind her. Her body tensed, preparing for an attack. Her arm reached for a kunai, but before she could touch the comforting familiar metal, a head descended onto her shoulder.
A moment of de ja vu overcame Sakura as she remembered a similar situation from just months before.
A single red rose entered her line of vision as a hand placed it on the table in front of where she was sitting.
"You're so annoying," came a voice beside her ear.
Sakura turned her head slightly and confirmed that it was Sasuke who was resting his head on her shoulder, eyes skimming the page she was reading.
"Excuse me?" she sputtered, slightly angry at Sasuke's choice of words. When she received no answer, she turned to look at him fully, not caring at the moment that by moving, her shoulder became devoid of the warmth of Sasuke's head.
He stood there, hands in his pockets, looking as cool as ever. She almost couldn't believe that he was there in the first place instead of with Reiko, whom Sakura was sure Sasuke would spend Valentine's Day with. She also could not comprehend why there was a red rose on the table she was sitting at, and why it was Sasuke who had put it there just moments ago.
Sakura narrowed her eyes slightly, both in annoyance and confusion. What was going on?
An awkward silence filled the air, and Sakura felt the need to break it.
"What are you doing here, Sasuke-kun?" she asked, waiting for an answer. When none came, she stood up and walked over to the boy and repeated her question.
Inner Sakura rolled her eyes. Trust the great Uchiha Sasuke to use one word answers.
Onyx eyes met green eyes, and Sakura found that she could not look away. Tentatively, she took a few more steps forward closer to him. He looked slightly unsure of what to do, but after a moment of silent deliberation, he was the one-not she-to close the distance between them by wrapping his arms around her and simply holding her to him.
His chin rested on top of her head as he took in her scent and the feel of her body against his. Sasuke gave a soft sigh as the girl in his arms melted into his embrace. This was the girl who kept him going even in his darkest hour. This was the girl whose face had a knack of popping up at the most inopportune times, keeping him sane and preventing the curse mark from spreading. This was the girl who took care of him, and this was the girl he loved.
She knew that he was never one for words, but his actions always made her feel cherished. She knew then that those roses with the light blue ribbon were from him, who never gave flowers or other sentimental objects to others. She knew that those words that she longed to hear from his mouth would probably never come, but she could live with that.
Because he was the one she loved most.
A/N: Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Here's something to chew on: why is it that guys have this obnoxious power to change a girl's emotions to a certain degree? Haha-kinda sad, isn't it? Anyway, leave a review! Thanks for reading:)
Blatant advertisement for other fic: Go read Mission on the High Seas. Blatant? Of course not! How blasphemous! XD Sorry about writing this first-I couldn't get it out of my head and I'm a little stuck with with said advertised fic. Hehe...