Cataracta's Notes: So this is my first adventure into Naruto fanfiction. As such, I'm not the most knowledgeable about timelines and such. All I can say for sure is that this takes place after the whole Orochimaru incident, when (as I would like to think) Sasuke returns to Konoha. Itachi is dead in this fiction, and as such I've made Sasuke into someone a little (okay, completely) different from the one before. He's calmer, more mature, and definitely more open towards people. Sakura has also changed in this fic, so that she's no longer a crushing fangirl but a talented kunoichi. Please forgive me for the definite OOC-ness that rears its ugly head, but this story wouldn't let me rest until I had written it.
Running in Circles
"Of flower arranging, idiosyncrasies and something called 'love'. Sasuke X Sakura"
Sasuke leaned against the trunk of a worn, old tree and watched Sakura as she hummed to herself while picking flowers. He'd never found out why she had the habit of picking said flowers, but he found that he didn't really care. He found it strangely…relaxing.
Tipping his head back, he closed he eyes and let a rare smile grace his lips. Everything has changed. It'd been a year since he'd been dragged back to Konoha, half-dead but victorious. After all, Itachi was dead and gone, and Orochimaru had been defeated.
Cracking an eye open, he continued to watch Sakura. He'd been victorious, yes, but upon his return Sasuke found that now he had absolutely no idea what to do with himself. It had been a startling revelation, because Uchiha Sasuke always knew what his purpose in life was. But his purpose was complete, Itachi was dead.
Opening both eyes now, Sasuke focused on the cheery pink head and emerald eyes carefully arranging flowers. It'd been Sakura who had nursed him back to health, he remembered, who had stayed by his bedside and forced him to rest when he'd really just wanted to get up and go. She had threatened many and various punishments ('I swear on all things holy that if you do not get back in that bed and stay there I'm tying you to it!) and had at one time pinned him to the wall using several well-aimed scalpels.
It had also been Sakura, he noted, that had made him realize that he was suddenly without a goal. She's mentioned it casually while checking his chakra levels. Bent over him, her hair brushing the bare skin of his chest, she'd asked him the one question to which he didn't have an answer.
"So what now?"
And truthfully, he didn't know. But instead of pestering him, instead of whining that they could finally be a couple now, Sakura had smiled softly and placed a hand on his cheek, tracing one finger over his brow. Straightening, she had grabbed her medical bag and headed to the door.
Before stepping out of it, though, he glanced at her in time to hear her say, "When you do know, we'll be here to help."
That statement had somehow surprised him more than anything else that she had done that day. When you do know, we'll be here to help. Not 'I', not a shocked look that he finally didn't knowwhat to do with his life, not an immediate vow to help him, it was an offer, a reminder that he still had friends who loved and cared for him. It was more than he'd expected to hear from a Konoha resident. He'd spent a restless night dwelling on the statement.
And of its speaker. He found himself once more watching as Sakura danced around the field, because when Sakura moved, she moved with such grace that it couldn't just be called 'walking'. It was one of the things that he found had changed in his absence. She was no longer a crush-obsessed little girl; she was a woman.
Sakura no longer spent her days dogging his shadow (or anyone else's, for that matter), nor did she blush whenever he looked her way. She'd mastered advanced techniques, had become the pupil of one of the famous sannin, and was now one of the best and most well known medics in all of the ninja villages.
To be fair, he thought with a mental grin, she wasn't the only one. He'd been dragged back to Konoha by the last person he thought they'd send to retrieve him. Naruto had switched some of his outfit around (black and orange, instead of the stapled white and orange) and now had the infamous ANBU tattoo sketched across his arm. Some of the brashness had disappeared to be replaced by a maturity that surprised the Uchiha genius.
And Naruto wasn't the only one, either. The ninja of his generation had all acquired a deeper understanding, a deeper maturity, so much so that Sasuke felt that he had to start over with them. But, Sasuke thought with a strange fondness, he didn't really mind. After all, wasn't he starting over again, too?
And he wasn't alone. While he'd received a year's probation and a rather menacing glare from the Godaime, he'd been surprised to be welcomed back to the town so readily. Sakura had joked that it was the distance that did it (after all, doesn't distance make the heart grow fonder?). He could still remember her smile.
In fact, Sasuke blinked, it was rather similar to the one she was wearing now. He blinked again as he found Sakura kneeling in front of him, her face inches from his. She was smiling that same welcoming, happy smile, one that he found he was getting addicted to. From the look on her face, she knew that he had gotten lost in his thoughts and thought it amusing.
"Sakura," He acknowledged finally.
"Sasuke," She returned, turning so that she was leaning against the trunk to his side.
She placed her basket – brimming with flowers, he noticed – to her side and picked one from the cluster. Carefully, as if dealing with a volatile object, she began arranging other flowers around it. Sasuke watched with amusement, noting the way her brow furrowed as she concentrated.
"It's not as easy as it looks, you know," Sakura informed him, noticing his amused stare.
"Hn," He responded and leaned his head back again, though he tilted it to the side in order to watch her as she worked.
The minutes passed in a comfortable silence – something Sasuke didn't think was possible with Sakura – as she arranged the flowers and he watched. He watched the way her long, pale fingers moved as she selected and worked a flower into the arrangement from her basket. He watched the way her emerald eyes seemed to fairly shine with happiness. He simply found himself watching Sakura.
Her fingers paused in their arrangement, and Sasuke was momentarily startled when Sakura jumped up – the arrangement placed carefully in the basket – and stretched out a hand to him. He raised a brow, grabbing her hand as he stood. She was smiling at him again, that same smile that always made the world's problems seem so small, her eyes lighting up as she tugged on his arm and pulled him to the middle of the field.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke finally asked.
She had released his hand and plopped down on the ground, lying back with her arms spread wide. For a moment she didn't answer, then, after he had taken a seat himself, she rolled onto her side and propped herself up on an elbow. Sakura studied him for a moment, before she grinned and poked him in the chest.
"Everyone has an idiosyncrasy, did you know that?" She asked.
He raised another eyebrow, "A what?"
"An idiosyncrasy. It's something that happens when you do certain tasks, like running and such." Sakura explained, once more on her back.
Sasuke glanced at her as she stared up at the sky, "And that has what to do with this?"
"Nothing, really," Sakura smiled as she spoke, "But it is interesting."
Sasuke watched her, once more seeing the changes glaring at him. The Sakura he knew would never have discussed something so…strange with him. But neither would that Sakura have been able to sit in his presence for so long without blushing or asking him out on a date.
For that matter, he realized, the Sasuke he had been would never have been able to sit and watch her as he did. That Sasuke would have been caught up in his training, obsessed with the thought of his revenge. But that revenge was his now, and he found that with it he'd become much calmer, much more serene. It was a nice change, he decided, as he too laid back.
"So," He asked at length, "what's yours?"
"My what?" Apparently she'd been lost in thought as well.
"You're 'idiosyncrasy' or whatever," Sasuke reminded her.
Sakura glanced at him, her emerald eyes mildly surprised, "I keep my tongue on the outside of my left canine when I run."
She grinned as he stared at her, then laughed. Sasuke found himself smiling as well, and again wondered at the changes that had come over him. He was able to smile and laugh easier now, he noted. People didn't seem to bother him as much as they used to, either.
They lapsed back into a companionable silence as the clouds rolled by, each lost in their own thoughts. It was odd, Sasuke decided, what time could do to a person. It could take them and turn them into someone else; it could twist and turn their personalities around until they were someone entirely new. He'd used to loathe the idea of change, he remembered. Now, though…
He glanced at Sakura. Now, though, time seemed to have been his ally. For one, it'd taken a power-hungry, revenge-obsessed boy and turned him into a serene, content man. It'd taken a scared, frightened, crush-obsessed girl and turned her into a confident, strong woman. It'd taken Konoha, a village that he used to loathe for all the memories it held, and made it home.
"What're you thinking about?" Sakura was once more propped on her elbow facing him.
Sasuke glanced at her, noting the curiosity in her eyes and said, "Time."
Her brow furrowed, confused. Without thinking about it, he reached forward and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. He held his hand resting on her cheek as he studied her reaction. Sakura merely watched him, her brow no longer furrowed, her eyes widened slightly.
"I was thinking of time, and the changes that can occur," He explained.
She lifted her own hand so that it was cradled his, "The changes in you?"
"And you," He added.
He really didn't know what happened next, except that his lips were on Sakura's and she tasted like vanilla and herbs and something that he couldn't quite name. Both of them seemed surprised by his sudden move, though neither pulled away. Instead, Sasuke wrapped his fingers around her hair, and Sakura leaned forward so she was resting on his chest.
They pulled back after a while, their faces flushed and their breathing slightly heavy. Sakura stared at him, a curious sort of satisfaction in her eyes. Sasuke's brow furrowed, though as he continued to study her eyes, he realized it was satisfaction for him. She had been worried – though she had never voiced her concern before – that he would spend the rest of his days alone but for his friends.
He smiled at her and tucked the same wayward piece of hair back behind her ear again. She leaned into the touch and returned his smile, leaning forward so that her mouth was next to his ear.
"Have you figured out what happens next?" Sakura asked.
Sasuke watched her for a minute, then raised his head some and kissed her forehead.
"Yeah, I think I have."
"We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance."
- Harrison Ford
Cataracta's Notes: So…how was it? It'd appreciate any comments. Flames will most likely be used to cook the many pizzas I bring home, as I work at a pizza place. Let me know what you think!