Disclaimer: Ahhh... no.
COMPLETELY. NEW. CHAPTER.
Split Chapter Five into two because I wanted to focus more on some things.
OH. Figured out the problem with reviews. A number of my past readers/reviewers are NOT able to submit comments because they have reviewed "this chapter" in the past. There are a few ways to remedy this if you really want to leave a comment:
1. Send me a PM
2. Sign out and submit an anonymous review.
Past readers, you will not be able to submit signed reviews until I post Chapter Ten. My apologies. :/
Chapter Five: Love's Cage
your doll's life is paradise in compared to love's cage
"I hate the heat." Naruto groaned, fanning himself with his black shirt.
Orange jacket abandoned on the floor, the blond shinobi perked up when he saw Sakura enter the room with a cup of-
Moving her frozen treat out of his reach, Sakura glared at him and said, "Get your own. This is mine."
"But Sakura-chan..." Naruto wheedled. "I thought you loved me! You won't leave me to melt in this extreme heat. Just one... bite? Please?"
"No." Sakura shoveled another spoonful into her mouth. "This is a limited treat. The High Street cafes only serve this during the summer and I plan on enjoying every last bite of my strawberry shaved ice."
Naruto toppled over on the floor in a bruised heap. Behind him, Sasuke looked murderous.
"Naruto—shut the hell up. Your voice is grating on my ears." Sasuke all but snarled before disappearing upstairs.
Frowning, Naruto stared at the spot where his best friend was last seen. "What the hell has got his panties in a twist?"
Licking the sweet strawberry syrup off her spoon, Sakura shrugged. "I don't really know."
"I really have yet to make an appearance."
He was being a coward but what else could he do? Kakashi couldn't look at Sadako in the eye whenever he saw her. All he could see instead of pin-straight raven hair was spiky locks in the same shade walking away. And Tsunade's words would echo through his head, distracting him from reading.
She isn't Sasuke. Kakashi mentally berated himself. She won't be like him.
Stopping in his tracks, he spun around and headed in the direction of the Hokage Tower.
Perhaps I need to make a visit...
The junior Jounin waved him down as he passed by the road leading to the Tower.
"What is it Natsume-kun?"
The shinobi was out of breath. "I've been looking for you everywhere! Hokage-sama has a mission for you, Uzumaki Naruto, and Arisugaki Sai."
Well... there went that plan of spending the day with my cute students.
"What kind of mission?"
He could feel the twitch in his fingers.
"Goddammit." Sasuke swore softly.
Relaxing his clenched fist, he ignored the small crescent-shaped cuts in his palm from where his nails dug deep into his skin.
Passing a hand over his eyes, Sasuke lay down on his bed. The curtains were wide open and a songbird was trilling in the tree outside his window.
"Shut the fuck up!"
A shuriken embedded itself in the bird's throat and it dropped dead to the ground.
Unbeknownst to Sasuke, Sai was sitting on the deck reading. The dead bird and shuriken landed in front of his feet.
Across from him, a meditating Sadako cracked an eye open and blanched at the sight of the carcass.
"Where did that come from?" She pointed.
Coal eyes narrowing, Sai removed the shuriken and tossed the bird's still-warm body into the bushes.
"I don't know." Sai lied easily.
Palming the weapon, Sai glanced up at Sasuke's open bedroom window.
Sadako eyed the older teen warily, debating whether or not to trust his word, before deciding it wasn't worth the energy and going back to the meditating exercises Shikamaru-oji-sama taught her as a child.
Kakashi found two of his students lazying about in the living room.
"Day off Sakura-chan?"
"Hai!" The girl beamed. "Tsunade-shishou knows she owes me a vacation. But nooo... she says I'm too important to be sitting at home sleeping!"
Patting her head affectionately, Kakashi smiled. "That just shows how much she needs you around Sakura-chan."
"Yeah right!" Sakura huffed. "She just wants me around so I can do her paperwork for her. Honestly!"
"Did you bring me anything cold to eat? Sakura-chan won't share." Naruto grumbled.
That's when Kakashi noted the jealous way Naruto watched Sakura eat her cup of shaved fruit ice.
"Ah... gomen, gomen. I only brought a missive from Tsunade-sama."
That snapped Naruto out of his gloomy stupor. "A mission?"
From the deck, Sai and Sadako snapped to attention.
Waving the scroll in the air, Kakashi answered, "Yes, a mission. For you, me, and Sai."
Naruto deflated. "No Sakura-chan huh? It's been forever since Baa-chan let you out of the village."
"I'm sure Sakura-chan would have been included in the squad if it weren't for the fact someone needed to stay behind and watch Sasuke." Kakashi replied amiably.
The scowl on Sakura's face told Kakashi he had said exactly the wrong thing.
"I have to sit out on a mission because I have to babysit Sasuke?"
They were to leave in two days, according to the Hokage. She needed someone to gather some intelligence on possible Akatsuki movement in Kusa no Kuni and unfortunately, Team Kakashi was the only available squad with the necessary field experience to go.
"It's like handing Akatsuki the Kyuubi on a silver platter." The princess grumbled before shooing them out of her office.
The night before they were to depart, Team Kakashi gathered at their home for a team dinner. Sakura grew wise and told Kakashi to arrive three hours before the actual starting time. She was placing the finishing touches on Naruto's ramen when the doorbell rang.
Sadako opened the door and saw the silver-haired Jounin reading on the step.
Kakashi tensed at the sound of the Genin's voice but he smiled at her and ruffled her hair. "I'm on time Sada-chan." He said cheerfully, successfully hiding his unease.
The girl stepped aside to let him pass. "You know, Kakashi-san, I've heard stories of your tardiness but I didn't think you were actually this bad."
Her statement caught Kakashi's attention. "Oh? From who?"
"Naruto-nii-san." Sadako answered promptly, lingering on the bottom step of the staircase. "You can go into the kitchen or wherever. I have to go get Sasuke-sensei now that you're here."
The Uchiha boy's name reminded Kakashi, once again, of his talk with Tsunade.
"Ne... Sada-chan, can I ask you a few things?"
The girl paused on the staircase and turned around to face him.
Pleased, Kakashi asked, "How much do you know about your teacher?"
Something passed over her onyx orbs. "A fair amount." Sadako answered evenly.
He smiled, expecting that answer. There are few things stronger than the student-teacher bond. Even if you don't like each other, you can't help but learn a few things about each other in the process. "What do you think of him?"
"He's a good teacher." She took a seat on the steps.
"What's with the sudden questions? Is this the Inquisition?" Sadako shot back, an amused smirk playing on her lips.
Kakashi chuckled. "I'm just trying to figure out who Uchiha Sasuke is to Chirasen Sadako."
She blanched at Kakashi's last words.
"Sasuke-sensei..." The girl started to say. "- is Sasuke-sensei. There's nothing else to it."
"Ah but that's not what I'm asking." Kakashi took a seat beside her on the staircase. "I want to know how you feel towards your teacher."
The innocence in her eyes when she diverted her full attention to him put Kakashi at ease. His caution towards this stranger in their close-knit family evaporated. She was just another broken soul.
"He-" Sadako stretched out her fingers one by one. "- is everything I want to be and everything I never want to be. I know I'll never be a stronger ninja-"
Kakashi smiled broadly.
"-but I will become a stronger person."
Chuckling, Kakashi stood up and gently pulled the girl to her feet.
"You're a good kid."
Her eyes darkened as she remembered Kakashi-ojii-sama telling her the same thing as a child whenever she did something to make him proud.
"I try." She admitted softly before running up the stairs to Sasuke's room.
It was weird, Sakura decided, not having Naruto in the house. She could not alternate watching Sasuke and Sadako's training with the blond Jinnchuuriki when he was gone; she devoted all her time with them instead of working her shifts at the hospital.
Reality, necessity, and the powerful sense of duty did not stop Sakura from complaining though.
"I should be at the hospital, working, instead of babysitting your sorry ass Uchiha." She grumbled as she furiously highlighted relevant passages in her textbook. "Stop being annoying Sakura! I'll show you annoying, you stupid, egotistical piece of shi-"
"Sakura." Sasuke called her name across the field. "You're being annoying."
Ten meters ahead of her, Sadako's quiet laughter echoed through the field.
Sasuke scowled. "Pay attention Chirasen." He told her venomously as he lashed out and attacked. "One moment is all it takes for you to be dead."
Struggling, the girl defended herself as best as she could. Sadako could help but notice the underlying tension behind her teacher's movements, the raw power and frustration in every punch. There was more of it than usual and the girl was finding it more difficult to parry each strike.
She thought she had gotten him then but Sasuke turned into a log.
God damn the Kawarimi!
From her safe place under the oak tree, Sakura also noticed Sasuke's fury. With each strike, the medic's alarm grew.
What does he think he's doing?
The dark streak heading towards the girl's blind side was moments away from bowling Sadako over when Sakura jumped to her feet and screamed, "To the right!"
The spar came to a stop when Sadako pulled a kunai out of her pouch and held it close against Sasuke's throat. Meanwhile, Sasuke's body crackled with electricity and the girl took a few steps back to avoid electrocution.
"Sakura." The Uchiha said, his voice dangerously soft. "Don't interfere."
"What were you thinking Sasuke?" Sakura yelled back. "Hitting a Genin with a dose of electricity that high! What the fuck is your problem today?"
She would never let it show but Sadako was shaking in terror. She could recall the electrifying sensation of being shocked during the Chuunin exams when she felt the tendrils of lightning play dangerously close over her skin. Swallowing, Sadako watched the two older teens argue, trying and failing to calm her racing heart.
"My only problem today happens to be you!" Sasuke shot back. "Why do you have to interfere with everything Sakura? What I teach Sadako and how I teach her is none of your business-"
"Of course it's my business!" Sakura shrieked. "She may be your charge but you're such a frigid bastard that you can't show her any kind of affection whatsoever! All you do is beat the shit out of her day in and day out and when you're not doing that, you're locked away in your own little world. Because boohoo!—I'm Uchiha Sasuke and I'm a fucking emo kid!"
The Sharingan glared at her.
"The world doesn't work the way you want it to, Sakura." He sneered. "Reality isn't as pretty as those stupid dramas you watch on TV."
"How dare you-!"
"If you spent more time in the real world," Sasuke mocked her. "Then you would know that. But you're always tucked away in your pristine, oversantized hospital that you've forgotten what it means to bleed."
"I'm leaving." Sadako announced flatly, walking home.
Her guardians paid no attention to her, furiously glaring each other down. The red mark on Sasuke's cheek throbbed painfully but he wasn't going to give Sakura the satisfaction of knowing that she caused him minor discomfort.
"You are such an asshole." Sakura hissed before storming off in the same direction as Sadako.
Sasuke scowled at her back, hating the bitter sense of irony. This time, he was watching her back, watching her walk farther and farther away from.
Neji's voice came from the trees, where the Hyuuga had made himself comfortable without anyone noticing.
"Hyuuga." Sasuke bit out.
Calmly, Byakugan met Sharingan.
"If I were you," Neji said slowly. "I would learn to keep that temper of yours in check. Sakura-san and Sadako-san do not deserve to be an outlet for your frustrations."
"Butt out Hyuuga."
Deactivating his kekkei genkai, Neji shrugged and started to walk away. "Fine by me Uchiha. Just know that there are plenty of people willing to take your place in her heart."
Once Neji had vanished from sight, Sasuke whirled around and punched the wooden training post with all his strength. It splintered into a million pieces, leaving a jagged stub on the ground. Ignoring his bleeding knuckles, Sasuke breathed deeply and tried to calm himself.
"God." He laughed bitterly as he combed his bangs out of his face with his fingers. "I'm fucking insane. She really is annoying."
With that, Uchiha Sasuke left.
Yamanaka Ino was surprised to see her. After all, it had been months since Sakura last visited her parents' flower shop on a social call.
"Forehead!" Ino greeted her.
The teen's jade eyes flashed. "Pig." Sakura answered back shortly.
With that, Ino knew this was no social call.
"Hey Sakura," The teen called from the counter. "Flip the closed sign and pull up a seat. We're going to have a nice long chat."
Hinata saw her brooding on the swing set.
The girl looked up.
Taking a seat on the swing beside her, the lavender eyed teen studied the girl. She was brooding about something; it was obvious in the stormy look in her onyx eyes, in the crease of her forehead. Sadako reminded Hinata of Sasuke by the look in her eyes, but she also reminded her of Sakura because of her creased forehead.
"You seem troubled." Hinata finally said, deciding that to be the best way to approach her.
Snorting, the girl kicked her feet on the ground and pushed the swing into motion. "Do you know what today is?"
"July 27?" Hinata answered. What is so special about today?
"Yeah." Sadako murmured. "Today's my birthday."
Pausing, Hinata felt a bit of pity for her. Didn't she go through the same thing as a child? The one day dedicated to celebrating her life often went ignored by the people she desperately wanted to take notice of it. In a way, Hinata could connect with the feelings of worthlessness she was sure Sadako was feeling.
"I didn't know that." The teen admitted softly, swinging along with her. "Happy Birthday Sadako-san. You're fourteen today, right?"
"Yeah." The girl said. "At least, I know why they say it sucks to be a teenager. Today, Sasuke-sensei was pissed for God-knows-whatever reason and took it out on me. When Sakura-nee-chan interfered, he got mad at her. I left before anything else besides yelling at each other happened."
Hinata stopped swinging. "Oh."
Finally, Sadako stopped as well. "What?" She demanded to know.
Holding a finger up to her lips, Hinata got up from her swing and pulled Sadako to her feet. "I know," She said brightly. "Let's go out and celebrate your birthday with lunch! There's a cafe on High Street I bet you'll like."
The memories assaulted the girl as she recalled the year Hinata-oba-sama did the same thing for her birthday when her mother was held up at the hospital, Naruto-oji-sama was on a mission with Sai-oji-sama and Kakashi-ojii-sama was busy with his duties as the Hokage. She thought she was going to spend her birthday alone when Hinata showed up at the apartment and took her out for lunch.
Allowing herself a small smile, Sadako softly answered,
"That would be nice."
"So..." Ino handed Sakura a popsicle from the back freezer. "Start explaining."
Taking a bite of the frozen treat, Sakura appreciated the way the ice seemed to cool not only her body down, but her head as well. It was just what she needed to escape the merciless July heat.
"You know what I really hate Pig?" Sakura viciously bit into her popsicle. "I really hate the fact that no matter how many times I tell myself, how many times I remind myself, I can never really let go."
"Did you ever try?" She pressed.
Glaring at her best friend, Sakura snapped, "Of course I tried!"
"Did you really?" Ino said again. "Cause I was always under the impression that you drowned yourself in work and your medic studies just so you could distract yourself from your feelings."
Sakura didn't answer, choosing to eat her popsicle instead. Sighing, Ino allowed her to eat.
"You know what I think?" Ino finally said as she tossed her bare stick away. "I think that the two of you have too many unresolved issues. Maybe you guys need to talk them out."
Laughing harshly, Sakura tossed her bare popsicle stick in the trash with a practiced flick of her fingers. "Yeah right. This is Uchiha Sasuke we're talking about."
Blue eyes met green. "You said to me once that he's changed." Ino challenged. "I dare you to test it."
"Deal." Sakura answered promptly. "But on one condition."
"Hey! That's not fair!"
"Shut up Pig! I'll only do it—if he approaches me first. If he doesn't, then he can rot in Hell for all I care."
She felt like tearing her hair out.
"I can see why the two of you are perfect for each other," Ino ground out. "Both of you are stubborn as hell."
"Stop it Ino." Sakura rested her head wearily on her folded arms. "Just... stop. Don't get my hopes up. There's no way anything more than close friendship would foster between us."
The Yamanaka snorted. "Right. And my boobs are as big as Tsunade-sama's. Forehead, have you seen the way that boy looks at you?"
"Shut up Ino!"
She came home at twilight that night, feeling refreshed from her afternoon spent helping Ino at the flower shop, talking and giggling about the latest gossips around the village and listening to Ino bemoan her affections for her pineapple-headed teammate who was too busy drowning in the Hokage's tactical plans to realize Ino harbored any feelings towards her that were more than friendship.
The smell of stir-fry wafted towards her nose as she opened the door.
"Sada?" Sakura called as she slipped off her shoes. "I hope you have been watching the stove carefully. You know, it makes me nervous when you're cooking by yourself. What if you get called away and-"
She stopped the moment a pair of feet came into view, feet that were obviously too big to be Sadako's.
She looked at his face, hating the bitter feelings that sprung up.
"Where is Sada?" She asked him instead.
"With Hinata." He shortly answered before returning from where he came from.
That's when Sakura noticed it. The house was completely clean and picked up; not a speck of dust lay anywhere. She had been meaning to dust for weeks now and hadn't gotten around to it. Dinner was already on the table and someone had replaced the old, used up cartridge of air freshener with a new one. Every thing in the house seemed to sparkle and shine.
"Sasuke..." Sakura asked, stunned. "Did you... did you do all this?"
The boy said nothing as he took a seat in his usual place across from her at the table. Filling up two plates of what Sakura recognized to be yakiudon, Sasuke wordlessly handed her one plate before muttering "Itadakimasu" under his breath and eating in silence.
Unsure of what to do in the face of Sasuke's strange behavior (considering they were about to tear each other to pieces earlier in the day), Sakura picked up her chopsticks and ate in awkward silence.
It was good—Sakura was surprised to find. She knew she shouldn't have been surprised by Sasuke's cooking abilities but the taste...
A part of her wondered if Uchiha Mikoto's cooking tasted the exact same way.
Towards the end of dinner, Sadako came walking in through the front door. Sasuke looked at her as he stood up to put his plate in the sink and commanded for the girl to sit. Sakura caught the flare of anger in her eyes but the girl grudgingly sat in her usual chair, scowling deeply at one particular spot on the table. The medic bit back a smile and stood up to put her plate in the sink but Sasuke came back. Taking her plate away from her, the boy wordlessly pushed Sakura back in her chair and disappeared again into the kitchen.
"Asshole." Sakura caught their charge's muted mutter. Her onyx eyes had not deviated from their spot on the table.
Suddenly, a small parfait cup heaped with carefully shaved ice invaded Sakura's vision and she gasped in delight. It was her favorite treat in the world—strawberry shaved ice—and it was only available from select restaurants during the summer months. Who would have brought one for her?
Sakura looked up at the sound of Sasuke's voice but the teen had disappeared upstairs before she could remind him that her birthday was months ago.
"It's not my birthday Sasuke!" Sakura yelled anyways, knowing he could still hear her.
The soft voice called Sakura's attention. "What?"
Sadako picked up her parfait spoon and twirled it delicately in her fingers. "It's my birthday." She softly repeated before taking a bite of her passion fruit flavored shaved ice and swallowing. "I didn't think he would take note of the date from my file."
Sakura was stunned. "Happy Birthday Sada. I'm sorry I didn't know earlier."
The girl waved her off. "It's fine. It's not that big of a deal anyways; it's just the anniversary of the day my mother happened to undergo excruciating pain before I popped out of the womb."
Frowning, Sakura didn't say the retort at the tip of her tongue (you sound just like Sasuke, you know that?) in an effort to keep the day from being ruined further.
Besides, that didn't explain why the house was clean. Sadako could care less about the state of their house. Nor did it explain why Sakura got a bowl of her favorite shaved ice as well.
Oh. The answer dawned on her as she took the first bite and realized that this treat used a different kind of strawberry syrup than the one the Konoha restaurants used.
This—the clean house, her favorite dessert—was Sasuke's way of saying I'm sorry.
Later that night, Sadako stood before his bedroom door, fist raised to knock, but his voice startled her.
"What do you want, Sadako?"
She took that as the invitation to open the door. Breathing deeply, Sadako strode inside the room without betraying her nervousness and shut the door behind her.
Sasuke was sitting in the wide window seat reading a book he probably swiped off the bookshelf from Sakura's study downstairs. His fingers gripped the edges of the paperback in the same irritated way Sadako did when she was interrupted while reading. She swallowed as she took note of that small and insignificant detail; no wonder why her mother couldn't look at her for a moment whenever she pulled her daughter's attention from a book.
"You didn't have to do that."
The silence engulfed them. The girl sighed as she moved towards Sasuke's side.
"I guess..." Sadako trailed off, unsure of how to accurately convey her thoughts to the equally close-lipped person before her. "I guess what I'm trying to say is... thank you."
The phrase had more of an effect on Sasuke than she thought it would. The older teen stiffened before setting his book aside.
"Don't mention it." Sasuke muttered, poking her in the forehead with two fingers. He settled back into the window seat, watching the stars.
Sadako smiled as she leaned forward to give Sasuke a tight hug. "I promise I won't mention this either."
The teen smirked over the top of her head and returned the hug. The intimate moment didn't last very long and for that, Sasuke was grateful. His student seemed to be just as adverse to physical displays of affection as he was.
She wasn't half-bad—Sasuke conceded. She isn't annoying, unlike a certain other female in their household.
If I were to have a daughter, I'd want her to be like her. A part of Sasuke thought, thinking on that one other goal he had.
If only you knew, Sasuke, if only you knew.
Oh the cheese. I drown it its deliciousness.
Was the fight too random? I wanted to break up the easy-going relationship between the two. After all, this is Sasuke and Sakura we're talking about. One of them is bound to snap sooner or later.
And have any of you noticed how much of this fic revolves around food? O.o LMAO. I will try and keep the food scenes to a minimum but I guess that's what happens when you're writing the next chapter as you're eating dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast. Or brunch. Or... well... you get the point XD
I need to stop eating; it's bad for my health. Wait, that makes me sound anorexic. I need to stop OVER-eating and get more exercise. YOSH!
My chemistry test calls! Must do some last-minute cramming!
And thank you all who have reviewed, favorited, put on alerts, and just read in general. :)