Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
"So, you're back." The Fifth Hokage's voice was curt, but Sasuke could tell that beneath her seemingly indifferent exterior, she was suffering. He wondered briefly why, but that thought was pushed aside as she spoke. Because he was a missing-nin who had come back of his own free will, the punishment would not be as harsh as it would have been if he had been captured. He would not be sent on any missions for the next month, would not be allowed to become Chunnin for another year, and would be forced to stay in the village until the Hokage decided otherwise.
He bowed his head and nodded; he hadn't expected anything less – in fact, he had expected far worse. Perhaps it was the fact that he had killed Orochimaru before he'd come back; perhaps it was because they'd grown softer during the time he was gone; it didn't matter. He was back.
"Go. There are those who will want to see you," Tsunade told him. "And I have paperwork to take care of."
As Sasuke left, he decided to go and see his old team first. They were, after all, the ones closest to him. He stood at the top of the bridge on which they had met so many times, and remembered that their sensei had always been late, and that he had never given a valid excuse, and that Sakura and Naruto had both yelled at him for being a liar. He smiled almost unnoticeably as he wondered how much they had changed over the years.
Years. It had been three years since he'd left. And now he arrived at the bench on which he had left Sakura after she'd tried to stop him from leaving. His fingers brushed over the wood, and he stood and watched leaves blowing in the wind. The years with Orochimaru and the lack of openly-shown feelings had made him overly sentimental, he had found.
When Naruto opened his door, his hair was slightly messy and he was rubbing his eyes. His house smelled of ramen, and he still wore that bright orange outfit, even to sleep. Sasuke smirked.
"Haven't changed a bit, have you?" he remarked. The Kyuubi boy's cerulean eyes grew wide.
"Sasuke-teme! Since when have you been here?" he exclaimed. "I have changed! I'm going to be the Rokudaime! Believe it!"
Sasuke snorted. "Yeah, but you've been saying that since I met you," he said skeptically.
"But Tsunade-baa-chan decided it! Everybody knows it! Ask anybody!" Naruto retorted.
Sasuke didn't want to believe him, but for once in his life, the hyperactive fifteen-year-old was dead serious. His smile was a wistful one – the expression was one Sasuke had never seen on his face before.
From within the house, a shy voice spoke. "N-Naruto-kun? Wh-who is it?" A young woman with blue hair and lavender-tinted, pupil-less eyes stepped timidly forward.
"It's Sasuke, Hinata-chan! Oh, yeah, Hinata-chan is my girlfriend!" Naruto chirped happily, oblivious to the deep blush that had spread across Hinata's face. He hugged her tightly to his side and laid his cheek on top of her head.
"Congratulations," Sasuke told them. "You finally realized she liked you…" With that, he left a confused Naruto and a tomato-colored Hinata.
Naruto's voice stopped him before he was out of earshot. "Oi! Teme! Kakashi-sensei is on a mission, so don't bother. Go visit Sakura-chan! You might be able to save her…" He trailed off, and the door shut.
Save her? What does he mean? Sasuke stood at the front door of Sakura's house and knocked. He gritted his teeth, telling himself that if she came at him like she used to, or if she started crying, he would cut his visit as short as possible – without being impolite, of course.
"Who is it?" The question came not from behind the door, but from an open window on the second story. "The door's unlocked."
Sasuke tried to push open the wooden slab, but it was so heavy that he was out of breath after a few seconds. He knocked again, and there was a bright laugh.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He knew this voice. This was the voice that used to tell him how much she loved him, and how she would do anything for him. With a simply tug, the heavy door swung open for the owner of the house.
When Sakura saw who it was, her face fell for a moment. Then she regained control of her emotions and smiled again, gesturing inside.
"Come in! It's a little messy, but…" She shrugged. "Would you like some tea? Don't go upstairs, please. My room reflects my heart, and I'd rather nobody saw it."
Sasuke nodded silently and watched her depart for the kitchen, utterly baffled. Where was the Sakura he used to know? The one who would fling herself at him without a second thought? Why didn't she want others to see the feelings of her hear? This Sakura, though polite, was more distant than she should have been to an old teammate.
He followed her into the kitchen, hoping to talk to her. He was shocked to see her take hold of the first finger of her left hand and bend it backwards – until there was a snapping noise, and when she let go, the finger flopped around uselessly.
"Sakura, what are you doing?" the avenger demanded quietly. She spun around, smile in place on her face. His eyes narrowed as she put her left hand behind her back.
"Nothing, Sasuke-kun! Nothing at all! I'm just getting the tea ready. You can go back outside," she told him. She didn't even seem to feel the pain.
"I saw you breaking your finger, Sakura. Don't tell me it's nothing," he growled angrily. Her smile faded a little, but she no longer hid the useless finger from him. "What's happened to you, Sakura?"
He thought that he saw a shadow flit across her face, but in an instant it was gone. Her smile brightened.
"It looks like I'll be able to tell you after all," she giggled. "Sit or stand, whichever you choose. I don't care."
"Sakura – "
"Ne, Sasuke-kun; listen, please. I know that you'll leave afterwards, so just hear me out." Grabbing the third finger on her left hand, she broke it, making sure that he heard the sound it made as it snapped. "Can you hear it, Sasuke-kun?" She smiled and gazed at him while he stared in horror at her.
"Sakura, what are you – " Her smiled widened, containing a wild happiness he'd never seen before. Indeed, he'd have though she'd be crying by now.
"It's the sound I hear every day and every night, Sasuke-kun. Ever since you left… yes. I have become accustomed to it – the sound of breaking. At first it was only the breaking of my heart, but the pain hurt so much that I ran away from it. You were right all along, Sasuke-kun. I'm weak. I can't bear the pain, so I run away from it. Instead of bearing it like I'm sure you would have, I distracted myself from it by breaking other parts of my body – like my bones. It has worked for the last few years, but as time goes on the pain in my body lessens, and the pain in my heart – what's left of it; the shattered, broken pieces – comes through. Soon the pain in my body will not be enough, and I will lose the will to live. But I have accepted my fate. I will not die crying for my life, Sasuke-kun, as I cried for you. No, I will smile as I watch you all mourning over me – if you do mourn, of course. And best of all – "
She took hold of her arm by the wrist and slammed it against the edge of the counter. Sasuke cried out at the cracking sound – her whole arm was broken – but Sakura's smile never wavered. If possible, she seemed to be even happier than before.
" – best of all, I blame you. This is my revenge for your leaving us. It's all your fault."
With a sigh, she collapsed to the ground. Sasuke, on reflex, caught her in his arms and was startled to see tears finally running down her cheeks.
"If I can't die crying, I might as well do it while I'm living," she mumbled to herself, and blacked out.
The raven-haired teen stood and carried Sakura to her bedroom, setting her down on the black bed. Black. The rest of her house seemed normal, but this room – the room where she spent most of her time; the room that reflected her heart – was pitch black. Blood stained the walls, and Sasuke was pretty sure he knew where it came from. No wonder she didn't let anybody in here.
He turned to leave, but her unconscious voice stopped him. "I told you… you would leave me… Everybody does… in the end…" With a single tear running its course down his face, he kneeled beside her body on the bed and stroked her hair, and her tearstained face.
"I won't leave you this time," he promised. "I'm here to stay. Sakura, while I was away, I realized that I needed this. I need the warmth and the love that you guys give me… I can't live without it. Especially you, Sakura. While I was away, I realized what I should have known earlier. I love you."
Silence. Well, what did he expect, talking to an unconscious person? Sakura suddenly stirred and blinked. Reaching a hand up to rub her face, she was stopped by a firm hand – Sasuke's hand.
"Sasuke…kun? What are you doing? Why are you here?" she asked tentively. "Is this a dream? It must be a dream – no, a nightmare. I dreamed that you came back, and that… and then I thought I heard you say… Why must I have these nightmares? Go away. I want to die right now."
"Sakura, your arm's broken. We should get you to the hospital to treat it," he said quickly. She narrowed her viridian eyes and glared at him.
"What do you think I've been doing while you were away, sitting here and twiddling my thumbs?" she snapped in a defensive tone he'd never heard her use for him before. "I've become one of the best medic-nins there are in Konoha! Even Tsunade-sensei says so. You insult me, thinking I can't heal a broken bone or two."
With the soft green glow of her chakra, she mended her arm and fingers. When she was finished, she looked up at him, still glaring angrily.
"Go away. I hate it when I have these kind of nightmares," she muttered, more to herself than to the tall shinobi standing beside her bed.
In an instant, he had sat down beside her and hugged her to his chest with his face buried in her pink hair.
"I'm not a dream, Sakura," he murmured.
She snorted in disbelief but didn't even try to convince herself that she didn't like the feeling he was causing.
"Yeah, right. The real Sasuke would never be this nice to me. He hates me," she replied sadly.
"Sakura, I am real," he said sharply, holding her out to get a better look at her. His face hovered close to hers. "Can a dream do this?"
And he kissed her. When he finally pulled back, she clung to him, sobbing and shaking. He held her patiently, and stroked her back soothingly.
"So am I real?" he asked gently. She nodded, drying her eyes. He stood up, but she pulled him down again. He looked at her quizzically.
"Sasuke-kun… This room… reflects my heart… Do you want to help me… redecorate?" she asked hesitantly.
"What color?" was the only thing he said. Sakura's face lit up, and she smiled happily – her first true smile in two years, ever since Naruto and Hinata had gotten together.
"Pink and blue!" she cried, and he laughed in agreement. She glanced at him shyly, and he raised an eyebrow. "A-ano… From now on… this is your room, too."
He laughed again and nodded, kissing her and lifting her out of the bed. Together, they began to redecorate the room that reflected Sakura's heart. Only this time, the bright colors they chose belonged partly to Sasuke, too.
Don't you just love happy endings?!