A/N: Oh dear. I do believe I'm a bit late. Oh well, this was a pain to write, but I think I'm mildly okay with it. Then agian, I have strange taste. But anyway, tomorrow is my birthday and I figure that this can be a sort of mini-present to myself. Please try to enjoy, it may be difficult.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto! (bursts into tears)
It was roughly seven o'clock at night when Sasuke caught her wrist as she passed by his stool. Naruto sat one seat away, but as he was happily slurping down his ramen – and thus had entered his own, impervious little world – it was clear that Sasuke wasn't worried about their blonde teammate overhearing them.
The glare he shot her cut into her pulse, his fingertips – clenched into the soft skin of her wrist – made her flinch instinctively. His hard Uchiha eyes narrowed darkly at her and a soft anger began to bubble beneath his usually placid expression. "You're mad at me." He accused, his voice low.
Sakura let her lips form a thin line and pulled a little, hinting her desire for freedom. But her boyfriend held tight. "Observant of you." She remarked. "I'm impressed."
"What is it." He demanded more than asked, regarding her in dead seriousness.
This time, Sakura did break her wrist free of his hand and rubbed it gently. "Why don't you – figure – it – out." She ground the words out between perfect white teeth before she turned around and stomped away. He didn't know whether or not she was planning on coming back. His heart contracted ever so slightly as he watched her walk away from him. If they hadn't been in, you know, public he would have probably stood up and gone after her.
But then everyone in Konoha would know that Uchiha could be moved out of his seat for – God forbid – a girl. Instead, he stared after her for a while, then scoffed and swiveled back to his ramen, staring at it disdainfully, wishing he could make it pick itself up and walk away from him just as easily. He hated the stuff.
A particularly loud slurp and accompanying belch to his left signified that Naruto had finished. "Sasuke! You haven't eaten anything!" The blonde complained after looking his way.
Sasuke looked at his steaming, untouched noodles and then at Sakura's half eaten ones between them, then he looked at Naruto. "I'm leaving." He informed.
"Huh?" Naruto leaned over his seat to call after the Uchiha. "But we're supposed to be celebrating!" He complained loudly. Sasuke said nothing. Naruto angrily slammed his fist down on the counter. "Hey, get back here teme! I worked my ass off for that mission and you're gonna damn well come back here and appreciate it by eating this ramen or I'm gonna kick your ass!"
"…" He paused for a moment. And then, "Sasuke!" Naruto bellowed loudly. "If you leave, then whose going to PAY!?!"
Suddenly, the owner of the Irichikaru was looming over Naruto's head, a demonic aura radiating. "U-u-zu-u-u-ma-a-ki-i-i!" He growled ominously, and Naruto could already hear the rest of the sentence in his head: This is the seventeenth time you haven't paid me!!! Thin blonde hairs at the back of his neck stood on end, warning him to get out now. Danger! Danger!
Naruto grinned nervously and scratched the back of his head. "Err- one second." He promised, and with a puff of smoke he vanished, leaving to the cook to stand there staring at the now empty stool and look even more irately frightening with his… spatula, or whatever those things were called.
"Sasuke!" Naruto shouted as he appeared at his best friend's shoulder. "What the hell was that? I told you I was broke! If you don't have the decency to pay for our dinner then why the hell do you come to these-"
Naruto's rant was cut off by the sound of coins clinking together. Sasuke didn't even blink at handing his blonde friend a good 80 or so dollars. Naruto stared at the coins which had been dropped into his palm, the gears in his head turning as he slowly processed what had just happened, and then considered his options and evaluated his priorities as Sasuke continued walking.
Then, with one last regretful look at the ramen stand and irate, spatula-wielding chef he was leaving behind, he pocketed the money with a sigh and started after his friend.
"What's up?" He asked casually, his tone a bit darker, more serious as he fell into stride with his child hood companion.
Sasuke shot him a dirty glare – but then, what else was new? "Nothing. Mind your own business."
Naruto continued walking with him. "Why don't you ever make it easy?" He asked, smiling faintly.
"Why do you never leave something alone when I ask you to?" Sasuke countered.
Naruto gave Sasuke a yeah-right look which the Uchiha pretended not to notice and after a while they fell into silence. When they hit the bridge, Naruto spoke again. "Is it about Sakura?"
Sasuke stopped and looked at him, his body still, almost bracing.
Naruto shrugged. "I just kinda picked up on it."
"You just 'kinda picked up on it'?" Sasuke repeated dryly. "You're Naruto." Oblivious.
"And you're Sasuke." The blonde accused. Point.
Sasuke scoffed and rested his forearms on the railing of the bridge that Team Seven used to wait on every morning for Kakashi. The water beneath him glittered. And he refused to believe that he was so bad at reading his own girlfriend that Naruto of all people would pick up on it before he would. Shikamaru – maybe, Kiba, even would have been acceptable. Naruto? – No.
"What did you do to her anyway?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke frowned. "I didn't do anything."
The blonde furrowed his brow and then swooped up onto the railing Sasuke was leaning on, squatting down and resting his forearms on his thighs, not even concerned about losing balance. "Well that's stupid." He said bluntly.
Sasuke glared at him.
"Not even yesterday?"
Sasuke growled. "What about yesterday?"
Naruto STARED. "Uh, it was Valentine's Day, you jerk."
"Val – En – Tine's – Day." Naruto repeated, more slowly now and louder.
Sasuke scowled at his best friend. "I know what it is." He snapped.
"You didn't even remember did you?" Naruto said dully, his shock blue eyes half-lidded in a how could you be that dumb look.
Sasuke looked away and through the tiniest exhale of his breath, made a noise that was something akin to frustration. "I've never had to remember that day in my life." Sasuke defended himself. "Why should I have to remember it now?"
"Because you have Sakura." Naruto said.
Sasuke continued to glower at the water beneath him. "Had Sakura." He corrected. "She's been on edge with me for months now, and yesterday she was fuming." He didn't know if she would forgive him this time.
Naruto leaned forward a little in his squat and let a half-smile twist his lips. "Figures." He said. "You haven't been making the effort."
Sasuke looked at him. "What are you saying?" He asked, voice sharp as razors.
"What I'm saying, bastard is that you forgot about Valentine's Day, you barely gave her anything for Christmas and the most I've ever seen you do with her in public is - oh, let me think… nothing."
Sasuke remained silent while Naruto scolded him, taking the words and letting them sink in. Naruto was vaguely surprised when the Uchiha didn't tell him to shut up or butt out. "I'm not…" The Uchiha started and then stopped, taking the smallest of breaths. "I'm not romantic, is what you're saying." Naruto noticed how the fingers pressed ever so slightly against the wood on the bridge. "But Sakura knows that. She's always known that. I'm not the one who-"
"Initiated the relationship. I know. Everyone knows."
His best friend' voice grew slightly quieter. "It used to be enough for her to just be with me." Sasuke said, voice as dark as his expression as he studied water. "But… lately, I-"
"She's growing tired of me." Sasuke finished. "I knew it would happen."
Naruto looked down at the floor boards of the bridge and ran his thumb over his eyebrow before looking at Sasuke. "I didn't." He said.
Sasuke looked at him, surprised.
"I think she's crazy about you." Naruto said. "It's just that… it's not so obvious that you're crazy about her."
Sasuke looked at his best friend.
"I know, I know. You are." Naruto said tiredly. "But, maybe… She's been trying to be strong you know. Haven't you noticed the way she's been training? And on the mission today she nearly got herself killed for me and you."
Sasuke's jaw tightened as he fought down the wave of nausea that came every time he thought of Sakura being endangered in a mission.
"You know who you really ought to talk to?"
"Sakura." Sasuke guessed.
"No." Naruto said so suddenly that he nearly fell off the bridge. "I mean yes." He said, clearing his throat. "But uh, you should probably talk to this person first…"
He could not believe he was doing this.
Stupid Valentine's Day, and stupid, stupid, stupid Sakura.
The person he had been waiting for was finally leaving Shikamaru's house, sighing in the dim air of almost-dark as she headed home alone. She didn't seem to sense him at all, yet when he stepped out of the shadow she showed no signs of surprise. He caught the little flare of anger that flashed behind her eyes.
"Yamanaka." He said.
"I'm busy." She answered, and attempted to brush past him. He cut rudely in front of her, and saw the rage ignite in her eyes as she opened her mouth.
"It's about Sakura." He said.
Her lips sealed shut in a second, but the blue fire still smoldered beneath her lashes. He wondered if she had ever been endangered in a mission, every emotion she felt was reflected in those baby blues. "What is it?" She asked.
"I need to talk to you." Damn it, he had really meant to not hesitate.
The blonde in front of him folded her arms defiantly and Sasuke scowled. This was going to take some work. Stupid Naruto. Ino opened her mouth again, defiance radiating off her skin in waves. "What makes you think that I-"
The Sharingan that snapped into his eyes actually allowed him to induce a moment of fear behind Ino's ice blue eyes. He saw her take a step back before she could undo it and let a smirk slip across his face. "Now would be nice." He said.
An hour later they were still sitting at a café.
"Are you going to say anything helpful?" Sasuke finally asked, highly annoyed.
Ino let go of the straw of her third drink and it swiveled around the rim one full circle before it lulled to a stop. "Are you ever going to straight out ask me a question? Or are you going to continue beating around the bush like a baby?"
Sasuke grit his teeth. He really didn't want to be doing this. "What has Sakura told you?" He repeated.
"You're a hell of a sucky boyfriend." Ino answered.
"Each time you say that I grown more enlightened." Sasuke said sarcastically.
"Don't care." Ino countered.
There was a pregnant pause. And then he let the anger get the best of him.
"Listen." Sasuke's stool slid out from behind him as he half-stood, his voice lowered dangerously and he leaned across their table. "I'm not going to lose her because some stupid, blonde, flower girl refuses to-!"
The sudden smile the spread across Yamanaka's face was disconcerting enough to stop Sasuke in mid-sentence.
"…What?" He asked.
"Oh so you do value her." Ino said, taking a satisfied sip from her drink, smiling a pretty smile that made her blue eyes sparkle. "That's more like it, Sasuke-kun."
Sasuke blinked, confused. "What?"
Ino put her drink down and pushed it away, everything about her that had once been closed off and uncooperative suddenly melted away. She'd went from being a brick wall to a gushing fountain of information in a matter of seconds. The speed of her transformation was truly startling. "From Sakura's stories, I wasn't sure that you actually liked her."
Sasuke STARED. "Would I-" he started angrily, and then the words stopped in his throat. Had he seriously almost said something semi-personal to Ino Yamanaka? What as wrong with him? He realized that he was still half-standing over the table from when he'd angrily threatened her. Slowly, he sat back down.
Ino watched him carefully and then sighed, pushing her loose blonde hair over a pale shoulder and pulling it away from where it covered her right eye. "Look, Sasuke." He didn't like the fact that she addressed him so casually, but then, he supposed that she'd done it since they were children. "I don't think Sakura's mad at you."
Ohh-kay. Maybe she wouldn't be helpful at all. Because even the stupidest idiot could see that Sakura definitely was angry with him. He almost got up to leave.
He sat back down. "What do you mean."
Ino looked at the ceiling and thought about how to word what she wanted to say. "Dating you is pretty much like… dating a brick wall."
Sasuke's eyebrow shot up fractionally. "Excuse me?"
"I mean…" Ino sighed. "You know she loves you right?" A different tactic.
"And I mean that she loves you, Sasuke."
He searched for any sign of insincerity in her eyes. If this was Ino's idea of a joke, he was going to kill slowly and painfully her. "But, with every day that goes by it gets clearer and clearer that you don't feel the same way about her. For a while, she said she felt like she was always just waiting for you to break up with her. And then when you didn't get her anything for Christmas so she was certain that it would happen soon. And then you never did, never changed, never even let her know what was going on and she just grew more and more upset." Ino took a moment to pause and then continued. "It's hard because she cares so deeply about you, but she still feels like you're just dating her out of pity or habit or… obligation."
Sasuke sat at the table, staring at the sheen the fluorescent light above his head cast onto its glossed surface. "When you said she loved me-"
"I mean like truly, madly, deeply, ready to step in front of a bus for you love. The works." Ino said. "And it's not like it's been easy for her to love you either. She thought you were perfect when we were at the academy and then you…"
Sasuke felt the tension suddenly permeate the air as Ino faltered.
"You… did what you did." She said slowly. "You left and she changed everything to get you back. And she realized that maybe you weren't perfect when… that thing happened. And after she and the idiot brought you back, she realized that she still loved you anyway."
"Isn't that enough?" Sasuke asked. The instant the words were out of his mouth, he knew that they were wrong. Wrong to say, wrong to think, just wrong.
Ino's face looked as if she had tasted something sour. "I'm going to pretend like you didn't just say that to me."
Sasuke stood to leave.
"Hey, where are you going?" Ino asked, grabbing onto his shirt sleeve.
"Out." He said, shaking her off and heading towards the door. Then he stopped, "…Thank you, Yamanaka." He forced the words out like swallowing medicine.
From her seat the blonde girl grinned. "Always remember how I made you do that, Uchiha."
He was gone.
When Sakura opened the door to her apartment she was exhausted, sweaty, and shaking from the freezing rain that had soaked her clothing. She shut the door with a quiet click behind her. The training she had done after leaving the ramen stand had been intense, as had the full out run back home during the downpour, but these days it was the only way she knew to vent out her emotions. She couldn't talk to Sasuke about them, "Pch." She made a noise of distain and moved for the lights, he would only think of her as being weak.
As she moved to flick the familiar spot on the wall for light, a hand closed on hers. Instinctively her entire body tightened in the dark. And then a second hand moved to her cheek. She recognized the sword calluses on his right thumb. "What are you doing here?" She asked, body loosening fractionally.
"You're shaking." Was all Sasuke said.
"I'm cold." She responded.
The hand left her cheek. "I think we need to talk, Sakura."
The rose haired girl felt the pit of bile condense in her stomach. This was it. She'd finally blown it. And now he was going to break her off like a rotting limb, something he didn't need. Sakura lifted her chin and regarded the dark shape that was her boyfriend with a steady emerald gaze. Well, at least she was ready for it.
He turned on the light to its lowest click, and a dim, honey-colored bulb flickered to life beneath his fingertips. "I want you." He said simply when he saw her face, his black Uchiha eyes deadly serious.
She blinked. "What?" Ok, maybe she wasn't ready.
"I… I think I thought that you knew me better." Sasuke said. "I'm not," He started and then stopped, conflicted. "I can't-" he stopped again, frustration apparent on his features as Sakura watched, stunned. Was this actually happening?
"What are you trying to say?" She finally asked.
He looked at her. "I can't." He said. "But… you say what you haven't been saying, and we'll go from there."
She let her lips form a thin line. "Don't ask that of me, Sasuke. You know what I'm going to say. And-"
He took a step closer towards her and the sudden anger was what silenced her. "I don't want to lose you." He said hotly, his breath like hot metal on her face.
Sakura stared at him.
"But if you don't start cooperating. If you don't start talking to me, then-"
She turned away from him suddenly and moved away, her shoulders hunched as she shivered. He realized now that she was only wearing a training top and the same short skirt she'd always worn with those shorts. He looked out at the freezing February rain that was splattering against her window and realized that she must have been freezing.
"I don't want you to think-" Her breath seemed to catch and she laughed weakly, the tone of her voice so different than the harsh ones she'd been using with him since a month ago. He was stunned how familiar those mild tones were. He missed them. "Well, you've ruined it again, Sasuke." She said softly.
His heart contracted painfully and he let his hands form fists. "What does that mean, Sakura?" He forced it out of his chest and she grew still at the raw emotion in his voice. He was lost and confused and hurt and for the first time in their entire history together he was starting to let her see it.
"I'm… I was planning on going out of this with some grace." She said. "So that maybe you wouldn't think badly of me after it was over."
"I was ready for you to break up with me." She said. "I've been ready. And if you want to, you can, you know. I just…" She sighed shakily, tiredly. "I didn't want you to think of me as being weak again."
Wordlessly he reached out and grabbed at her pale figure, pulling her around, and kissing her hard. It felt so good to have her lips on his again. He realized how cold her skin was to his touch and pulled her harder to him, moving his hands all over her body to warm her as well as to touch her again after almost a month of no meaningful physical contact.
He could tell he'd surprised her, because at first she froze. Then, slowly she opened up her mouth to his and he was surprised to find that their heat grew. Suddenly she was grabbing onto him, intense, kissing him just as hard as he was kissing her, wanting, needing, and giving unconditionally. It was dizzying for him.
When they finally need air, he broke away from her, both of them breathing hard and reeling with emotions and trying to recover. He pressed his forehead against hers while their hot breaths mingled and they took a moment together. "I want this." He said, pulling her closer, trying to ignore the electric charge of having her in his arms again. Her fingers were in his hair at the back of his head, her delicate wrists pressed into the back of his neck. He could feel their pulse there, racing hot. "I want you."
She closed her eyes and a pained expression crossed her features. He held her tighter and when she opened them again, forehead still pressed to his, they held the beginning of tears. "Not as much as I want you." She whispered, and then she seemed to regret it. "I didn't want you to know that."
"Know what?" he asked lifting his chin to lift hers in effect.
"That. …Sasuke, you mean, a lot to me. Do you…? I don't think you realize just how much. I didn't want you to be disgusted with me."
"Disgusted?" He pressed his lips against hers again and whispered, "How could you think-"
"You've always thought emotions were a weakness." She countered.
He said nothing because she had him there.
"But I'm… I'm sorry, I just." She tried to turn her face away from him, but his hand left her waist and caught the side of the face.
"I feel the same, Sakura."
She stared. "What… do you mean?" She asked.
"Emotions… they are a weakness." He said firmly. "They get in my way, and they cloud my judgment. But I feel them."
She smiled a little, but the emotion wasn't behind her eyes.
"Sakura, I don't show it like you do - I can't. And I'm not romantic. But… I feel the same way about you." He saw the doubt in her eyes and tried his hardest to extinguish it. "I swear."
She looked at him, as if trying to decide whether or not she believed what he was saying. "So… you're not going to end it with me." She tested.
An angry growl escaped him as he held her tighter. "How many times do I have to tell you?" He asked. "No."
She smiled briefly, and this time it was real. He almost smiled back. "And I am important to you." She said.
"Yes." He answered. "I would not be here if I didn't want to be here." He said in all seriousness.
She grinned, and this time he couldn't help but allow the smallest of smiles touch his face.
"I got you something." He said after a moment.
She blinked. "What?"
She STARED at him. "You bought a Valentine." She said, dubious.
Sasuke scowled. "Don't say that out loud."
Sakura laughed and he felt his entire body heat with pride. He hadn't been the source of her laughter in a long, long time. A few minutes later, he handed her a small, red, heart-shaped box of cardboard. When she peeled the soggy cover off, there was an assortment of cheap, slightly damp chocolates inside.
For a long time, she didn't say anything.
"It's a little wet." Sasuke said. "The rain took me by surprise and-"
And then she kissed him again. Slower, longer, deeper than their desperate kisses a while before. "I love them." She said quietly when they're lips parted, sincerely.
Right, right... a cheesy ending but whatever, I'm happy I could end this at all. Please review? (Actually it's so ridiculously past Valentine's Day that I won't hold it agianst you if you don't. Have a nice day!)