"If you loved me at all, you wouldn't be walking away right now!" her cry echoed through the trees, but Sasuke did not pause to hear more. He kept walking, his back straight and stiff from the effort of keeping himself composed.
"You know," he said, over his shoulder, as casually as possible "I've got things to do." He stopped, listening to Sakura breathe raggedly. "I'd stay if I could." He whispered, finally conceding a fraction. He knew she could hear him. She started forward at the sound of his voice breaking, but stopped, not wanting him to walk away.
"We wouldn't think less of you!" she blurted out. Her voice was tortured as she whispered, "If you never fought him, I wouldn't love you any less…"
Sasuke ducked his head, staring at the ground. He had a million things to say, a thousand things he wanted to do. Mostly, he wanted to take her in his arms and promise that he'd never leave her side, that they'd be together forever. He tried not to look at her, for doing so would be his downfall.
"I'll come back for you."
Without looking back, he set off running, leaving Sakura sobbing in the middle of the forest clearing. She clutched at herself, tears raking down her face. She felt as though that was a black hole inside her and every happiness she had ever felt was falling away. She looked up, red eyed, when a familiar figure stepped out from the cover of the trees. Naruto rushed to her side, letting her fall into his arms.
"Shh, shh…" he comforted, as she cried into his shoulder, trying to articulate what had happened. After a few minutes, she was able to speak.
"Did you tell him?" Naruto asked gently, stroking her hair gently. She leaned into his touch, gasping back a sob.
"He doesn't know." She whispered. "He left and I never told him. What kind of a person am I?"
Naruto frowned. "This isn't your fault, Sakura." He told her sternly. She said nothing, only untangled herself from him. She turned toward the village and walked slowly, arms clenched around her. Naruto watched the woman he loved leave silently. He turned his face toward the moon, and closed his eyes.
Let him come back soon, he thought, if only for the baby's sake.
"Come on now, Daisuke, come with mommy." Her voice betraying her weariness, Sakura urged the child inside, where Naruto stood, garbed in an apron. His face brightened on the sight of the pair and he glared at Sakura when she couldn't keep from laughing at his outfit.
"There's my boy," he said happily to the toddler, offering him a cookie from his mittened hand. Sakura laughed. She let the small boy take the cookie, but swatted at Naruto playfully.
"You're going to make him fat!" she chastised. Naruto ignored her, grinning when the boy took the treat.
"Dai, come on, don't listen to your mother, she's nuts anyhow." He said conspiratorially, earning him a cuff across the head. Sakura sat at their kitchen table, pushing her long hair behind her ears. At eighteen, she was just as beautiful as Naruto had ever thought. Her green eyes were tired, and held less innocence, but they still sparkled with intelligence.
She had grown, in the time since Team 7 had broken up. Sakura had been a mess. Sasuke's leaving had left her broken for a time, and being pregnant without a known father had made people whisper about Sakura, making her slightly outcast. After the child was born, it had been even harder for her. Naruto, sensing disaster, had stopped his training to help her get by, and now they lived a more domestic life in town, only going on missions when desperately needed.
They lived simply, in a small one level house with two bedrooms. Daisuke, Sakura's three year old son, had his own room while Naruto and Sakura shared the other. It was sparsely decorated. The kitchen was a sunshine yellow, though orange flecks were visible where the paint was chipping. In the main room's corner, Daisuke had a pile of toys.
At three years old, Daisuke was lively, and a splitting image of his father. Jet black hair stuck out at all angles from his head, while he showed an uncanny grace for a boy his age. He had beautiful face, Sakura's face, Naruto noted, and he would be the object of many girls' affections.
Sakura sighed. "I need to run to the market," she said, standing. She was dead tired, but needed a few more things before she could settle in for the night. "I'll just fetch some eggs. Try not to get into trouble." She leant over and pecked Naruto's cheek, then slung her bag over her shoulder and left. Daisuke went after her, but Naruto stopped him. He picked the boy up, an easy smile spread across his face.
"Chill out, she'll come back." He assured the boy, earning a charming smile in return. Naruto set him down and Dai ran into his room while Naruto shoved the next batch of cookies into the oven. He listened to the small crashes of Dai's play, and the ensuing silence that meant Dai had broken something, and was waiting to see if anyone was coming to see what he had done. He hummed under his breath, rustling through the fridge for something to cook. It was his turn to make supper, and he wanted to make this one special for Sakura. After all, he had a big night planned.
She walked slowly, taking her time. She knew Naruto was plotting something, the boy was transparent. She wanted to give him time to do whatever it was he wanted to, she had a sneaky suspicion she knew what was coming, if the velvet box in Naruto's sock drawer meant anything. Also some time away from Dai was nice. He was so unlike his father, prone to bursts of giddiness and energy. He loved his daycare, where they painted and glued stuff to things all day. He never seemed to be unhappy. Maybe that was just the three year old coming through.
Greeting the market vendors, Sakura selected the food she wanted. She tossed the carrots and the eggs into the basket she had brought. She handed the old man her money and he thanked her. Taking her change, she smiled back and turned away. She bumped into something solid. She checked her groceries and apologized, not looking at her bumpee's face.
"Sorry, uhhh…" Sakura looked up, her jaw dropping in surprise. She had never thought that she would look into those slate grey eyes again. Not for a long time had she even considered it. She stared up into the dark pools of Sasuke's eyes.
"Sasuke…" she whispered, before looking down again, and going around him. She was mortified. She had probably just freaked out another townsperson. I have to stop imagining him everywhere! She told herself, trying to get home quickly. She wove through the streets, vaguely hearing her name being called, and figuring it was only in her mind. Finally, she was home. She charged through the front door and slammed it behind her. She leant against the solid wood, relief flooding over her. She could feel the tears prick at her eyelids, and fought against them. Naruto looked up from the floor, where he sat with Dai, playing with blocks.
Looking at Sakura's red face and teary eyes, he frowned, moving to stand next to her. "What happened?" he asked her, brushing her bright hair away from her face. She looked back into his crystal blue eyes and knew that what she would say would crush him. He had been hoping that they were over Sasuke…
Sakura looked down. "I saw him again," she whispered, and Naruto's face fell. "It's been over a year since this happened…I used to see him everywhere, lately, not at all. Things have been so good here; I've been starting to forget." She smiled shakily, letting Naruto pull her into his strong arms. She took in his smell, his fire and iron smell, and brushed her fingers through his thick hair. Pulling away, she smiled thinly. "It's nothing." She assured him. "Where's Dai?" Naruto looked over to where Dai was sitting, playing contentedly.
Sakura stooped down and sat with Daisuke, helping him build his castle. "Mommy, look what I did!" he said proudly, showing her the smiley face he had constructed. As he checked the on the dinner he was making, Naruto watched as Sakura slowly relaxed, the tension easing from her body. Maybe he was wrong, maybe she really was ready, and loved him now. Maybe she was really over Sasuke.
He leant against the door, just before a sharp knock broke the comfortable quiet of the apartment. Sakura stiffened immediately, turning her body to look at the door. She didn't stand, only held Dai's hands, putting their patty cake game on hold. Naruto frowned, then turned to open the door. Standing back and whistling to himself, he took in the person standing on the threshold.
"Who is it?" Sakura asked, before standing, and boosting Dai onto her hip. She moved to stand with Naruto, looking around the door curiously. She gasped sharply, tightening her grip on Daisuke slightly.
Sasuke looked past Naruto to the boy at Sakura's side. His eyes flicked up her body, causing heat to flush her face. She scowled at him and then looked away. She pulled Daisuke higher up, so his face was nearly level with hers. "Uchiha. I apologize for earlier." Sakura said carefully, not meeting Sasuke's eyes. Without invitation, the larger man stepped inside, brushing past Naruto.
"I followed you here." He told her breathlessly. He ignored the smaller man who was glaring at him heatedly, most likely trying to set him on fire with his brain. Sasuke moved to stand close to Sakura. She took a small step back. "I wanted to see you."
"I'm here." Sakura answered simply. She still did not look at him. She smiled when Naruto came to stand by her side, and gave Dai to him. Sasuke watched this, looking at the Daisuke, at Naruto and then back at Sakura. The unspoken question was blaring across his face, and Sakura waited for him to voice it.
"Is he yours?" he asked her. She smiled thinly, her patience nearly non-existent.
"What do you really wanna know?" she shot back, hands on her hips. Now, over the shock of his appearance, anger was flooding her veins. All she wanted to do was strangle this annoying, overly confidant man who stood so cockily in her kitchen
Sasuke ducked his head, caught. "Is he his?" he asked again, gesturing to Naruto. Sakura's eyebrows furrowed and Naruto bristled at the challenge in the other man's voice.
"Like you care," he put in. "You've been gone for so long, you don't even recognize your own son!"
Sakura's cry of shock startled Daisuke, and the boy, tired without his nap, started to cry. He clung to Naruto. "Daddy!" he sobbed. Naruto looked at Sakura. He didn't want to leave Sakura alone, but his concern for Daisuke was much greater than his desire to settle any score with Sasuke. And Sakura was perfectly capable of handling herself.
"I'll be right back." He said, leaving the room quickly. Sasuke and Sakura stood in silence, listening to the muffled sounds of Naruto and Daisuke in the next room. The quiet was awkward, yet Sakura wasn't eager to alleviate it. Her fists were clenched, her knuckles going white with the strain. Sasuke was staring at her, taking in the sight of her body, her eyes, her face.
In the end, it was Sasuke who spoke first, softly.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he whispered, looking down at the kitchen tiles.
Sakura sighed, turning away from him. She had envisioned this conversation a thousand times, but now that it was happening, she just wanted it to stop. "You didn't wanna know." She finally answered. "You wanted to go play the hero, avenge your family…all that. You didn't wanna know that you had something, someone, to be responsible to."
"I would've stayed, if you'd told me." Sasuke said firmly, stepping in behind her. She could feel the heat from his body on her back, and had to force herself to keep her breathing even. He ran his fingers along her arm, raising goosebumbs on the flesh.
"Would you?" the doubt was clear in her voice, years of bitterness ingrained. Her slight desire was only making her angrier. How dare he make her want him! "Would you really? I mean, would you have wanted to?" She spun quickly, squaring off with the larger man. She looked up, into onyx eyes. He could see that she was close to tears. "I have a life now!" she whispered furiously. "I have everything that I built, after you left me behind."
"I told you I would come back!" Sasuke protested, but was cut off before he could say more.
"And what? I was supposed to just wait for you? I was supposed to pine, and live alone, until the day that you decided that being a big shot wasn't fun anymore?" Sakura asked, rage making her voice quiver. "I was ready to. That's the sad part. I was ready to wait. All I saw was you. Everywhere. But then…things got better here."
"Because of him." Sasuke said quietly. Sakura's anger faded and she stepped back, hugging herself. She wished it was Naruto's arms closing around her, instead of her own.
"He loves me. Naruto really loves me." Sakura agreed. "He would never hurt me, or Dai, and he doesn't mind that my baby isn't his baby. He would never…he would never leave me."
"Do you love him?" Sasuke asked, his voice breaking. He had known this would be painful, but he could have never foreseen the events as they played out now.
"I love how he makes me feel. Worthwhile." Sakura answered, rubbing her arms and shivering. Noticing her discomfort, Sasuke stepped near her again and took her into his arms. He was surprised by her lack of protest. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, taking in his familiar smell. It seemed so easy, to melt back into what they had before.
His mouth was inches from her ear, and his breath was warm on her skin as he whispered, "That's not what I asked."
Tiny hands splayed out on his chest, and Sakura gently pushed him away. She stepped up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, before she looked down.
"It's all you'll get from me."
She pulled away and didn't look back as she walked away, into her room, shutting the door gently. As soon as she had gone, Naruto appeared, from where he had been listening. He stood in the doorway of Daisuke's room, arms folded over his chest, trying to intimidate his former rival. Sasuke was unimpressed.
"I want to see my son." Sasuke finally said, and started forward, but was surprised by Naruto's speed. Sasuke was pushed roughly against the wall, a firm hand clenching his throat. Naruto's eyes were flashing with anger, chakra burning in their depths.
"You're gonna stay away from my family." Naruto growled fiercely. "Don't come back here."
"Let. Me. See. Him." Sasuke ground out, before knocking Naruto off. Naruto stood back, still guarding Daisuke's door. His stance was defensive, but Sasuke knew that he could, and would, attack at any moment.
"He's not your son. Not anymore. You've had three years of chances." Naruto shot back. His anger was bubbling up through his skin, making him hot. He could feel his control over the presence inside him fraying at the edges and clenched his jaw.
"This isn't my fault! I never knew he existed!" Sasuke protested, only to be met by Naruto's fist. Again and again Naruto beat his anger into the larger man, who never had a chance against Kyuubi's rage.
His nose bled, long broken, and he looked through teary eyes at the raging sight of the smaller man. Naruto dragged him to the door, throwing him out. Sasuke landed in the dirt of the front lawn. Naruto stood over him. "She loved you." He said quietly. "At fifteen, she didn't want anything else from life. But then you broke her, and the only one here to put back the pieces was me! You do not get to come back, demanding things, now that we've moved on. You've got no right."
Without another word, Naruto walked inside, slamming the door behind him. Sasuke sat on the lawn, blood pouring from his nose, his mind racing. How could he fix this? Naruto and Sakura, it was wrong. Sakura had loved him. She would always love him. All Sasuke needed to do was show her that he could the man she wanted.
He couldn't, wouldn't, let her slip away again. That had been the worst mistake of his life.