Going back to the time Naruto and Sakura are in ANBU training. Both are 16 years old. (Note: Dotera are winter kimono, often with quilted linings that can be used for sleeping robes)
Rain or Shine
"Need any help?" Naruto called out cheerfully to Sasuke.
Sasuke shrugged, but a faint smile crossed his face as he and Jyuugo tore down another wall.
"Come on Sakura chan, that's the closest we're going to get to a yes."
Sakura grinned, with a glint in her eyes, and put her gloves on... "Wanton destruction with no bad consequences- sounds like fun."
Sasuke just shook his head in amusement; she doesn't even try to hide her similarities to Naruto anymore. Wonder how much property damage they do when they get passionate…
"So where should we start?" Sakura asked.
Sasuke glanced down the street, then pointed, "That house"
"Okay!" They both shouted with excitement and ran to the house.
Sasuke turned back to Jyuugo "Have they accepted you here?"
"Yes, your Hokage spoke for me to Hana san. Hana san told me yesterday she was very happy with my work, and gave me a raise."
"Your friends Naruto san and Sakura san, have also been nice to me. Naruto san has treated me at his favorite place to eat several times."
"Ichiraku's" Sasuke smirked.
"Yes we talk about what life is like in Konoha. And Sakura san helped me find an apartment. She also brings by food once a week."
Sasuke looked at his two friends, eagerly tearing down a wall together. They've just met Jyuugo but are helping him that much. Is it because he is my friend too, or Jyuugo's nature that is making them go out of their way for him?
"I'm glad you met them."
"It's good you are back in your home village. You seem more at peace here."
"Hmm" Sasuke said noncommittally. But inwardly he wondered if Jyuugo was right. Killing Itachi hadn't brought him the peace he thought it would. But being here, with the friends that had believed in him, despite his attempts to completely end his bond with them- was there a glimmer of peacefulness now?
Sasuke staid true to his word- he was giving Konoha almost all the Uchiha clan holdings in Konoha to atone for becoming a missing nin and causing grave injuries to several Konoha ninjas in their attempts to bring him back to the village.
Sasuke would only keep his parents home, the Uchiha clan temple, and the lot next door. He had already dismantled the house on that lot. He had a special plan for that land.
Every day he had off from ANBU training he came back here and took down the houses. He hadn't been able to bring himself to do this or even hire people to do it before he fled Konoha. But now he had an urgent desire to clear the land of any traces of his clan before it was sold off. All the buildings but his home and the temple were in poor shape anyway- after 8 years of total neglect. The temple was fine, but his home needed some minor repairs after standing abandoned for nearly three years.
Naruto and Sakura must have found out this was what he was doing on his days off from training. He hadn't told them, feeling it was his responsibility. Yet he was happy they were here now.
ANBU training was nearly done now. One week left in Konoha- then their trial mission with Yamato as their captain. If they pulled the mission off successfully, they would be on their own on missions for a month. After that they would sometimes mix in with other teams, depending on their high level strengths.
He looked forward to going on missions again with Naruto and Sakura, and he was getting used that guy Sai. It would be strange getting used to Sakura being team leader, but he'd already seen in team training sessions, as well as on the return trip to Konoha, how much stronger she was- and not just physically. He understood why she was made team captain. Kakashi was training her to be an ANBU level team captain, just like Naruto was getting some ANBU level fighting training from the Hokage, and he was training to eventually take on the master spy position Jiraiya was reluctantly giving up.
Naruto's sensei had been an interesting teacher, quite different from either Orochimaru or Kakashi. Although, he could see hints of Kakashi's style in Jiraiya's. But then, Jiraiya had trained the Fourth, who had trained Kakashi...
The first day of training Jiraiya had arrived only shortly after he did- no long waits like with Kakashi.
"Alright kid, show me what you can do."
Sasuke looked confused.
"And you're supposed to be the genius of the team? I think Iruka must have mixed up things, when he graded you in the Academy."
Sasuke's eye twitched but otherwise he stayed calm.
"Well, you hold your temper better than Naruto and Sakura, and that's crucial for spy work. We'll work on improving that though- you still showed some reaction. Your new team mate, Sai, had training in hiding his emotions somewhat like what you'll need. I don't want you to suppress them entirely like he was taught, though. That's not good for a spy either. You need those emotions, just not to show them. Kakashi told me your big weaknesses were anger and fear. Living with Orochimaru appears to have cured you from letting fear get the better of you."
Sasuke nodded, with a new respect for this Sanin.
"Alright, now show me your skills."
"You want to fight with me?"
Jiraiya laughed. "No way kid. Tsunade would have me strapped down to the hospital bed for a week if I did that." Jiraiya grinned wickedly at that mental image- well might be fun to provoke her to strap me down, he thought. Then he sighed, "Guess it's better just to leave that a fantasy." He winked.
Sasuke looked at him blankly.
"Ah, can't stir you up on that, I see." Jiraiya shifted positions, grunting slightly at the twinges he felt all over his upper body from his still healing injuries, and pointed to the end of the field "Show me you skills with Chidori, and your other ninjutsu skills you might want to show me."
Oh, that's what he meant, Sasuke thought. He wants to gauge my skills level by observation, not participation in a sparring match. Sasuke walked to the end of the grounds and took a stance that would allow the Sanin to get the best sight of the display but put him at no risk of the slightest injury.
After a lengthy display of his skills he walked back to Jiraiya.
"Pretty impressive, but that level of Chidori takes a lot out of you, doesn't it?"
"You'll most certainly need it at some point, it could be the difference between life and death for both you and your team mates. Treat it as the dangerous weapon it is though, do not casually whip it out like you did the first time Naruto and Sakura both tried to rescue you. That was not a life or death threat and you knew it." Jiraiya glared at Sasuke.
"I... yeah." Sasuke was shaken, it was almost as if his father had addressed him. My father would have been deeply ashamed and angered to know I had done such a thing, he thought.
"Okay, you understand that. Now show me how far you have progressed with your clan's fire jutsu."
"That is still near the level it was when I left Konoha."
"Probably not your strongest element, then, despite being a full blooded Uchiha."
"Yeah." Once that would have shamed and angered him, but now he merely accepted it.
"Based on the substantial growth in your Chidori jutsu, I'd say your strongest element is lightning rather than fire. Wonder if Kakashi figured that out or just guessed when he trained you with his jutsu?"
Sasuke shrugged, he'd never asked.
"Okay, that's enough for today. Tsunade told me just an hour and I've already gone over that by a little. Before she comes hunting us down, let's head back."
That had been the first training session, two weeks ago. He'd just come back from a low level spying mission with the Sanin, yesterday. Tsunade had been reluctant to send Jiraiya on even a B level espionage mission, but if Sasuke was to succeed him in being Konoha's top level spy, he needed that training before he went out with an ANBU team. Sasuke had ended up saving Jiraiya from a potential trap. the Sanin had pronounced Sasuke completely competent for B level espionage on his own, from now on. He would get A level and above training and testing within ANBU. The Hokage assured him he was a confirmed ANBU, at least for solo spying missions. She would see how well he could do as a team ANBU with the upcoming mission. He had heard Sakura had already passed her team leadership skills test with Kakashi, this mission wouldn't really be a test for her anymore. Naruto was having a harder time but the Hokage said she thought he was mission level ready. She didn't seem worried.
An enormous crash startled him out of his thoughts, and he looked down the street where Naruto and Sakura had been doing demolition work. There was a huge cloud of dirt and dust that obscured his vision for a moment, but then he heard Sakura's laughter and a sheepish responding chuckle from Naruto. As it cleared he saw why- the building was effectively demolished now, pieces of walls and the roof were scattered all around the two of them.
"Well, that's one way to bring a building down, Naruto." Sakura smirked.
"Heh, well it's down anyway. What one do you want us to tackle next, Sasuke?"
"Eh, Jyuugo and I are taking a break right now, you can join us."
"Sure." Sakura smiled, brushing as much of the dirt and dust off as she could.
"My shower works if you two want to clean up."
"It's okay, we'll just get dirty again when we start on the next house."
Sasuke shrugged. He lead them back to the back of his home where he had already restored the pond and grounds. "Winter's coming soon, so not much to look at right now" He sat down on the porch, Naruto and Sakura sat down on either side of him. Jyuugo walked out to the pond, where a few birds still nested.
"It's still nice and peaceful." Sakura responded.
"Hmm." Sasuke said noncommittally. Again, the mention of peacefulness here. I can't see that yet. I look and feel the weight of too many memories...
"Yeah, I like it too." Naruto smiled
They sat in silence for several minutes then Sasuke said, "I know you two said you want to eventually get married... That lot next door, that's my gift to you. I'm telling you now, so if you want to start building something there now, you can. I already talked to the Hokage about it, and she's stamped the papers with it deeded to both of you."
Naruto and Sakura were stunned at this gesture.
"Sasuke, you don't have to give Sakura chan and me such a huge gift."
"I want to." It was partly atonement, yes, but it was more than that. It felt right. He wanted them to know he'd never forsake that bond that had grown between the three of them again. He also wanted them to know he felt as deep a bond to them as they did to him. There was no one he'd rather have live right next door to him than Naruto and Sakura.
"Thank you." Sakura tentatively touched his arm, as she thanked him.
Sasuke smiled at her and then at Naruto.
Naruto grinned and slapped Sasuke on the back. "Thanks Sasuke! Sakura chan and I will figure out some huge gift for you when you finally find some one you want to marry! Maybe I'll be Hokage by then and we could get you something really cool!"
"Umm, okay." Sasuke looked embarrassed.
Sakura shook her head knowingly and rolled her eyes when Naruto wasn't looking her direction. Sasuke looked surprised; he mouthed "You know?" Sakura nodded slightly, and then resumed a friendly neutral expression when Naruto looked in her direction.
"So Sakura chan, should we start building soon, or wait?"
"Let's wait a while. I'd rather help out like we did today. Once that's taken care of we can talk about what kind of house we'd want."
"You can spend the nights you help me out, in one of my guest rooms, rather than walk home tired." Sasuke blurted out, to Naruto and Sakura's and his own surprise.
"Okay", they both replied, smiling warmly.
"Jyuugo does that. I don't mind the company."
"I'm rested up enough, now. What house can Sakura chan and I take down next?"
Sasuke shrugged. "How about that one?" He pointed to the one across the street from the one he and Jyuugo had been dismantling today. He and Jyuugo were about ready to take down the last wall of that house, so they could join Naruto and Sakura on tearing down the other house. With their enthusiastic natures that house would probably be all taken down by sundown, so they could clean up the three houses debris and be done. He'd just flame it up in a contained fire jutsu and get rid of it quick.
Sakura and Naruto cuddled together under the covers in the guest bedroom. Sleeping in dotera that Sasuke loaned them.
"Sakura chan, you're amazing."
Sakura giggled, "You really think so?"
Naruto laughed. "That too, but I was talking about how quick you master stuff. You've already passed your ANBU test. You've always been amazing that way. You were the only Genin who ever knew the answers to all the questions on the written part of the Chunnin Exam. You always knew the answer to Iruka sensei's questions-"
"Not always, sometimes Sasuke would answer before I did and his answer was the correct one."
"But most the time you were right."
"Maybe." Sakura smiled, while praise from others sometimes still made her feel uncomfortable, when Naruto said it, it made her feel happy and loved. Tsunade shishou's real but blunt praise made her feel strong.
The training with Kakashi sensei had been kind of strained and awkward at first, finally Sakura got irritated.
"Kakashi sensei. I'm not a delicate little flower. I'm a kunoichi."
Kakashi sighed. "I know. I just don't really understand how to train a kunoichi."
Sakura closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath. I will not punch out my sensei, I will not punch out my sensei, she chanted inwardly. Finally after a couple of minutes she opened her eyes and spoke again. "The same way you train a male shinobi"
"No buts, the same way." Sakura replied with controlled fury.
Kakashi looked at the young woman standing in front of him. She was indeed strong, very bright, and already a long way down the road toward being an excellent team leader. She was right, he was being foolish, making the most basic mistake, reacting to outward appearance rather than by her actually abilities. "You're right. I'm training a rookie ANBU squad leader, not a rookie Genin."
"You know it shouldn't have been different then either. I deserved the same level of training as Naruto or Sasuke."
"I know. I looked and saw a pretty little girl, not a kunoichi. I told all of you to look underneath the underneath and then I neglected to do so with you. The Hokage has not. She prepared you well. You stood up to her training and never gave up. She pushed you harder than I did any of you, even Sasuke. You didn't break, you became strong. All your skills grew."
"Thank you." Sakura blushed lightly at the high praise and smiled at the well deserved praise of Tsunade shishou.
"Alright, from now on, you'll be getting the no mercy training from me. I will train you to be the best ANBU captain you can possibly be." Kakashi said firmly.
Sakura gulped inwardly, a bit intimidated, but her face remained neutral and she responded merely with a firm nod of her head.
From that point on Kakashi was true to his word. Only the harshest parts of her training with Tsunade had been more difficult than the past weeks. Sakura did not waver for a moment. She was determined. She was startled when she showed up for her training late last week and Kakashi simply said "You passed. You're now ready to be an ANBU captain. Yamato will be your captain for this mission, but for you he's only backup or if something comes up that I didn't cover. Considering the rest of your team, that's quite likely." Kakashi smiled.
Sakura laughed, with Naruto that was especially true. She smiled as this thought brought her back to the moment and she murmured, "How has your training been going? Tsunade shishou hasn't told me much, other than you'll be ready when we go on our training mission, and we've both been so busy with training we haven't had time to really talk about it until now."
"She's so tough! I've never had a sensei push me to train so much!" Naruto's voice sounded happy.
"Yeah, she does that, pushes you to exhaustion." Sakura smiled "You know she really cares, wants you to be the best. She's not that mean when you fail though, she just says-"
"Or if you've collapsed with exhaustion she says, we'll try again tomorrow. Go home and get a good night's rest." Sakura laughed. "Several times early on I pushed myself so much that I couldn't even get up from the ground. Tsunade shishou carried me home, she didn't scold me at all about that, she seemed kind of proud actually."
"You showed you really believed in your goal to become strong."
"Like you do in becoming Hokage."
"Right!" Naruto grinned. "She likes people like that."
Sakura laughed, "That's why she tolerates you calling her baasama."
He laughed. "She calls me baka even more than you do." Naruto teased.
"Sakura chan..." Naruto whined, but the whine had a hint of amusement in it. He wrapped his arms around her and she cuddled close, lightly kissing the triangle of chest bare from the sleeping robe.
"Umm nice." Naruto said sleepily. He kissed her forehead in return, she smiled contentedly, and they both drifted off to sleep.