A/N: While this is my very first Naruto story, I am in no way new to Naruto or to writing. However, I'm a little jumpy over this fic. Any feedback would be completely appreciated; I need to know if I should stay on board or jump the fandom ship now:)
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. I am making no profit from this story.
For The Daylight
Konoha was known for getting unnaturally dark evenings during the summer. In some ways it was a relief from the unbearable heat of the sun that the villagers suffered during their daily routines of work, school, or play. But Konoha was just as well-known for its resilience, and they managed anyhow.
It was also because of this resilience that Konoha's most elite, the ninjas, were able to continue their self-improvement, despite the frustratingly black nighttime. Uchiha Sasuke was particularly known for his determination to train when others wouldn't, and this was just one of the things that Haruno Sakura admired him for.
He had grown into an excellent warrior, even in spite of his…former waywardness. Sakura smiled to herself from where she stood against the trunk of a tall tree, hidden by its massive shadow. The happy expression soon fell, however, with her next thought. Unfortunately for her, he had also grown more attractive.
Sakura was not petty or childish or stupid. She had understood and still did that crushing one person for six years was ridiculous. She had been intelligent enough to not waste her teenage years. At nineteen, her boyfriend count was a reasonable number. She had even dated Rock Lee for almost an entire year – after he had passed his over-hormonal puberty stages and calmed down – but they had mutually decided to just be friends. It was known throughout Konoha that the medical specialist and talented chakra master had tried her hardest to let go of her romantic feelings toward the Uchiha.
It was also known that she had utterly failed to accomplish that goal.
Even so, it wasn't hindering her life. She had agreed to Sasuke's suggestion that they do some after-dark training in preparation for an upcoming mission in the Country of Fire. They would be escorting a Buddhist minister who insisted on traveling only at night – prime time for bandits and the like. Neither of them really required the training, but Sakura was glad Sasuke had thought of it. If nothing else, it might give her a chance to impress upon him the urgency of him not calling the minister a vampire in his presence, like Sasuke had when they had first met him the previous evening. "He must only be enlightened at night," he had said. Sakura had glared at him until he'd laughed it off.
It still surprised Sakura that she had somehow been able to become friends with Sasuke through all that they had gone through. It was true enough that hardship often brought people together, but even so, Sasuke had always been distant, and for the most part he still was. But seven years was a long time, and people always changed no matter what happened to them.
But one thing would always be constant about Sasuke. Sakura felt the corners of her lips tug up again as a foreign aura entered her consciousness. It wasn't chakra; he was as perfect as she was at masking his energy, and Sakura was physically unable to detect him by those means. However, chakra or no chakra, she would always be able to single him out, whether it was in a crowd or, like now, in the dead dark of night.
And so he never surprised her.
She swiveled and sealed her feet to the tree with chakra, running up to the tallest branch as she brought out a couple of kunai and pinched them between the middle and index fingers of both hands. He was right behind her, but in the end she had always been better with chakra use than he. It was her greatest advantage; techniques like the Uchiha Sharingan or the Hyuuga Byakugan were valuable in the dark, but Sakura's personal body-chakra techniques were just as useful.
Though armed and prepared to attack at any moment, Sakura evaded and jumped from tree to tree in the little wood that she and her old team member currently stalked in. She never turned around, but he was always on her heels. It was a game of cat and mouse, and their only spectator was the waxing crescent moon high above. Sakura increased her speed, unable to hold back a grin. She was amused because Sasuke was always so certain that he was the cat and she the mouse.
Through all of the activity, they were so silent and so fast that not a single bird took off as they passed them on branches. After a while, Sakura called back without glancing, "You still there, Sasuke?" His only response was a slight chuckle, and she loosed a laugh in return. "Tell me, great Uchiha, what would you do if an enemy tried to escape like this?" Without saying anything else, she did what she knew Sasuke had never been able to do.
Upon hopping to the next tree, she transferred her chakra to her hands and walked on them until she got to the highest branch. Using the kunai to anchor herself, she began swirling around on the branch in several one-eighty-degree circles, keeping her body straight. She knew Sasuke still followed her how she could, but at most she caught only glimpses of his feet, never his face. She continued circling and was about to call out some witty remark, when the glimpses of feet became glimpses of hands. Then, all at once, she could see nothing of Sasuke, and her heart skidded.
Sakura hurriedly straddled the branch she had been looping and looked down in time to see the Uchiha falling. There was nothing in reach for him to grab, and in the combined darkness and the black of his own hair and clothes, he soon fell out of sight. The kunai in her hands fell away, and her voice was shrill with panic as she called to him. "Sasuke! SASUKE!"
She waited for a reply of reassurance, but heard nothing except the sounds of night birds and her own blood racing through her ears. Cold perspiration broke out beneath her bangs.
A minute passed. Something stirred in the air. At the end of those vital seconds, Sakura realized she had made her first mistake. "Don't—!"
But Uchiha Sasuke's hands were on her, one at her waist, and the other covering her mouth and threatening her throat. These were weapons that could do far more damage than any shuriken or kunai. Eyes widening, Sakura waited.
"Surely you knew." Sasuke's whisper flowed through her ear like liquid heat, and she shuddered against her will. His arm tightened around her torso, pinning her arms to her sides. "Surely you knew that in the end it would be just like always, Sakura."
Silence came between them, and for many tense moments, there was nothing but breath, hands, and the moon. And then something changed again.
Sakura's stomach began to shake. She could not make any noise due to Sasuke sealing her lips together, but her diaphragm continued to spasm, and her eyes squeezed shut. She went on like this until at last the man that had once belonged to Orochimaru released her, and shockingly loud cries of mirth burst out of her now free mouth. Sakura laughed so hard that she had to lie on her stomach on the branch. Beside her, Sasuke sat down and allowed his legs to dangle.
"Sa-Sasuke," she began, but she had to stop to giggle even more, and after a few seconds, Sasuke shot her a look.
"Just about done?" he asked impatiently, wiping sweat from his brow.
"Sorry," she said, but the pink haired girl appeared nothing close to apologetic as she looked at him with tears of humor still shining in her eyes. "But 'just like always,' Sasuke? And how is that, exactly? With you falling off a tree because you have trouble using chakra in your hands?" When Sasuke's eyes narrowed, she added, "And don't even pretend like you did it on purpose."
"You'll get killed if you stop to worry about your opponent."
"Oh, Sasuke, lighten up!" she insisted. "I was worried about you. Besides, I can hardly consider you an opponent anymore."
That anymore hung between them for no longer than a split-second, but it was there. Sasuke went on before she did. "Did the Fifth ever debrief you on when we're actually leaving for this mission?"
"The night after tomorrow, when Naruto gets back from the Country of Sand. He and Shikamaru teamed up with Gaara and Temari to oversee some construction there, I think." She smiled. "Imagine, our first mission with just the three of us in…what, two years now?"
"Three," he corrected tersely.
"Ah. Tsunade-sama wouldn't mind grouping us together more. She told me recently that she's thinking about going back to the old teams…" Sakura trailed off when she saw Sasuke's face, all hard lines and sharp angles in the dim lighting. Her excited face fell, and she cast her gaze down to her lap. Sitting up, they sat together in quiet until she continued. "I guess you and Naruto are still a little uncomfortable with each other?"
"We're fine." It was a lie, and both of them knew it. "Anyway, it's not like we can chat all mission long. I don't think the vampire likes so much talking."
"Don't say that," she reprimanded, knowing that it was Sasuke who didn't like to talk. Getting him to speak this much was a chore. "At any rate, I think we both proved tonight that we can work relatively well in the dark at night."
"I know I can. You stand out." Sasuke looked over, and their eyes met. Sakura had thought he had been being sarcastic, but she saw now that he was being completely serious.
"What?" She went on the defensive in case he started to list her faults, which he did from time to time. But there had been more than one occasion where the lack of her would have caused Sasuke to return to the village early due to an injury, and he understood that well enough. Sakura was, after all, just as well-known in Konoha as he was now.
Sasuke nodded, shadows crossing over his face with the movement. "The way you look. The hair, the skin." Without awkwardness, he wrapped a lock of light pink around his finger, then released it to lightly trace her jaw. The motion wasn't at all made in forwardness, but in scrutiny. At her cautious expression, he smirked. "You're a target in the night."
"But I'm fast." Struggling to overcome her brief pause from when he had touched her, she forced herself to sound cheerful (despite the fact that her heart had quickened its pace). "And I've got better chakra use than anyone you know."
"It doesn't matter."
As he said it, his eyes seemed to darken past black, as though he was thinking to himself rather than speaking to Sakura.
"It doesn't matter," he repeated slowly, locking his eyes on hers so that she couldn't look away. "Everything about you shines too much. You don't have the same type of darkness like the rest of us. You practically give off light."
She laughed again, but this time the sound was airy and obviously faked. "I feel like I should thank you."
"It's not a compliment," he told her honestly, and indeed, there wasn't any sort of flattery in his tone. "It's a fact. You weren't made for the night, Sakura."
Sakura felt herself smile, but she didn't quite know why. "I think that's okay with me."
They sat together for a few more minutes, watching clouds roll by the moon. The wood began to get a little more defined, and the world started to pale a bit. Dawn was approaching.
Sasuke stood up in a silent suggestion that they go home and get some rest. Sakura followed suit, and both jumped to the ground. Sakura now felt somewhat foolish for being so scared for her partner before – it wasn't a very long way to fall for people who were used to long distances.
They were in no hurry and walked back to the village. Sasuke walked her to the house she now lived in by herself, and she understood that he wasn't worried for her safety. Rather, he had gotten accustomed to seeing her home ever since they had developed into friends again. As Sakura opened the door to go in, she felt him watching her. She couldn't help wondering if he still saw the girl that had loved him or the woman who was always trying not to.
She had nearly shut the door and had to open it wide again to see him. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, looking just like the brooding, moody boy who had so often told her to get lost. But he was no boy now, and there was the slightest trace of a smile on his lips. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out two kunai…the ones that she had dropped in her unnecessary moment of panic for him.
She gave Sasuke an exasperated look, and Sasuke shrugged. Handing it back, Sakura's hand closed over the handles of the kunai, and Sasuke's hand unexpectedly closed over hers. Startled green eyes met calm black.
Sasuke did a rare thing and gave her a genuine smile. Sakura cherished the moment in her mind, knowing well that she would not be seeing such a thing again for a very long time. That was how he was.
His fingers tightened over her hand for the shortest of seconds and then fell away completely. He turned away, but as Sasuke walked off, his voice drifted back to her on the breeze of sunrise.
"I'm glad you're for the daylight."