Facing Facts

It's funny, how I'm feeling right now. Because while I was away, I rarely thought of anything but training. I would eat, sleep, train, and train some more. But, ever so often I would wonder about Konoha, I would wonder how they would react if I came home.

Naruto would be angry for a little while, but he would be quick to forgive and forget eventually. It was in his nature to do so. That was something I always could count on.

And Sakura, well her reaction would be obvious. The annoying and high pitched "Sasuke!" echoed shrilly in my ear. She would throw her arms around me and wouldn't let go for several minutes, and within those several minutes I would wish that my father hadn't raised me to be a gentleman. So, that I could shove her off me and threaten her enough to stop her from doing that. But, I have to respect my parent's wishes, it is the least I can do for them.

When I did come home nearly five years after leaving Konoha I was almost 100 right. Almost...

First, Tsunade lectured me for what seemed to be hours. I'm now on probation only C(If I'm lucky) and D ranked missions and my chakara has been decreased by more than in half by some horrible jutsu that the old woman concocted which is just spectacular.

Naruto yelled at me for longer than I expected, to which I stood unfazed. He was talking so quickly the only words that I could distinguish from the slur coming out of his mouth were bastard, idiot, and the well repeated phrase "Sakura and I were so worried!" He looked different, taller, but he seemed to act the same. A little more sane than he used to be, but besides that the very same. I let him vent for half an hour. Before I glanced around him, bracing myself for the bear hug I knew I would be receiving at any moment. Was she trying to suprise me?

"If you're looking for Sakura, she's not here." My eyes snapped up and met his with a hint of confusion.

"She didn't want to see you." He snapped before grabbing my shoulders and leading me to the Ramen bar.

"You're gonna tell me all that happened over these years from when your bastard feet stepped out of Konoha's gates." He said firmly. I glanced around, ANBU were watching me from every direction. So, now I only get to save cats from trees and weed the garden's of old women, and the Anbu are probably going to watch me while I take my showers. Which is just great.

The long explanation took longer than I thought. I was suprised that Naruto had gained the attention span to comprehend all that I said. He nodded in interest at the appropriate times and didn't complain if I explained things he had no interest in. I was amazed and felt a sense of pride in him, but I found myself blanking out, trying to wonder why Sakura didn't want to see me. There had been a fair amount of times when she told me that I was all she ever wanted to see, know, and love. And now this? The change was remarkable. I was reaching the end before Naruto smilded wildly. I raised an eye brow.

"Hey Sakura! Come over here! Ramen's on me!" He called. I turned around and my eyes widened. She looked different, her hair was longer now and I felt embarassed to have thought that her legs were much longer as well. And her body was far from the skinny little girl she used to be. But, these thoughts were to be expected, training prevented me from having any intamicy with women. Or any type of interaction with females what so ever. And she was smiling, that caring smiling that she would send my way every waking moment of the day.

She was walking to the Ramen bar and I couldn't help the corners of my lips from quirking upward into a smirk. Here it comes, Naruto was just trying to bother me, she still was obsessed with me. She probably just hadn't heard of my homecoming.

The fact that I was so convinced, made the facts hit me harder than I could imagine.

She was smiling at Naruto not me. Then she saw me sitting next to him and the smile seemed to fall off her face. She stopped dead in her tracks and for a moment all I could feel was my own breathing and her suprised and fearful stare. The fierce tension quieted more than a few customers.

"Sakura..." Naruto pleaded softly and the moment was broken. She backed up a few steps before tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear and turning away, in the opposite direction.

Naruto sighed in dissappointment.

So he was right, she didn't want to see me. And for a moment it effected me and when that moment passed, I realized that she would be back soon following me like a lost puppy and I should relish in these moments that she doesn't want to chase me around.

I was so sure.

I concluded that she meant something to me, she reached the same level of importance as Naruto. She was annoying, very annoying regardless of that, she was my bestfriend and one of the few people that I have willingly protected with my life and from now on will continue to do so. And I mildly cared for her. I hated to admit that I owed her, she had protected me before, mainly that sand ninja that nearly killed me. The obligation bothered me, but I knew that I would have no choice but to fullfill it.

For the next few weeks the familiar smile never came up, not to me directly atleast. To Naruto, Ino, Hinata, Tenten, and Neji. Who never rubbed me the right way, him and his obnoxious smirk and odd eyes. It bothered me that he would train with her more than I did. And he always offered to pay for her Ramen, before I even thought to. Something would roar and burn inside of me whenever she gave him an adoring glance. And when he would guide her arms into the right positions when he would train her. And how he would make her blush whenever he gave her praise. The blush that I used to cause. I don't know why I feel this way, but I have found that trying to stop it is futile. So I'll accept it, work on it, and overcome this annoyance.

It bothered me that it didn't bother Naruto, because I knew that if I confronted him about it he would laugh about it and poke fun at me. I could already imagine his blue eyes dancing with delight.

"Sasuke's in love!" He would say in a sing song voice.

And what bothered me the most. What really bothered me. When I would casually pass through one of her training session with Neji and watch from the trees. His head would snap up, he'd stare directly at me, his Byakugan not even activitated, and he would raise his eye brow and smirk. That smirk that he just loved to find reasons to use.

I would glare right back, but he was always unfazed. And when Sakura would look around and ask him what he was looking for. He would smile, still keeping my eye contact, and tell her it was nothing.

I didn't go back to watch her training after that.

After that, I began to fall into routine. Training with Kakashi,, Sakura, and Naruto the occasional ridiculously easy mission, and Ramen with the team. Which was usually interrupted by Neji, who would charmingly ask to 'borrow' Sakura for the rest of the evening. To which Kakashi and Naruto would exchange knowing looks. They would wink and gladly give her up, while I would glare into my Ramen bowl, feeling his smirk burning into my back.

I nod at Kakashi and Naruto in good bye, they would exchange knowing looks at each other. They knew what was going on with me. Kakashi confronted me once, but I assured him that Sakura and I had a strictly sibling relationship. He would nod at me, knowing that I would never say otherwise.

But a brother would never long for her smiles the way I suddenly do. Or burn with fury because she was on Neji's arm instead of mine the night of the Spring Festival, in her elegant kimono and sweet smelling perfume. At that moment I chose to ignore those, dismissing them as hormones that I was and still am completly entitled to have.

I let it go after a while, numbed myself to her. Made myself not feel the least bit angered when she left with Neji. Or hugged Neji. I've never scene them kiss, but god help them if I ever do. And after a while, I thought I was in the clear. I thought I was going to move on with my life. That's when Kakashi and Naruto stepped in and tricked us. They told each of us to met them for Ramen, but it just ended up being the two of us.

The silence was painful...

She wouldn't be the first to walk away and neither would I so we endured that thick silence for quite a while, both of us far too stubborn to be ther first to break the silence. Then she finally broke it.

"Nice weather we're having." I almost looked around to see if she were talking to someone besides me.

"Hn." My eyes flickered toward her to catch a sad smile on her face. I could sense the gears in her mind turning back to old memories.

"I see that your vocabulary hasn't improved as much as your fighting." She chuckled dryly. My heart sped up as the tension melted away. She was talking to me. For real this time. It went smoothly after that, the silence was comfortable and sprinkled with casual small talk. Afterwards we walked out of the Ramen bar and in the direction of our homes. I wanted to stay silent, since that was to be expected of me. But, I was compelled to ask her a few questions, I hadn't talked to her in quite a while. She answered them all and was a little stiff at first, but years on the same team made talking come smoother than I expected. Like riding a bike. Before I knew it, we had passed our houses over three times to continue the conversation.

"You don't have to do this, Sakura." She was suprised by my serious tone.

"What do you mean."

"Naruto and Kakashi, they're trying to push us together. Against your will, if speaking with me is not what you want, you do not need to pretend for me." She turned to me her steps slowing considerably, as if she were thinking for the right words.

"I was upset at first, but I'm an adult, I've learned over the years to forgive. I want to talk with you."

"Why?" the question came rapidly in suprise, almost immediately after her answer.

"Well," She looked upward to find her words again at the silver smiling moon above us, "You've done wrong Sasuke. Such wrong things," Her voice became hoarse for a moment before she regained her composure, "but, you rubbed off on me and changed me for the better, back when we were kids. You and Naruto did. You made me strong and pushed me to my limits. I've passed so many goals thanks to you two. You guys made me who I am today. And I'm so proud to be this person. You changed me back then." She smiled at my attentive gaze.

"And you still are changing me, even now," A cat like grin graced her innocent features, "and maybe that means I'm changing you too."

Sakura paused in her steps and took in the moon lit scene around her letting me think in silence. The conclusion I came to paralyzed me in fear, suprise, and oddly enough pleasure. It slapped me in the face like a wave of cold water. A warm feeling settled in the pit of my stomach, as if some furry animal suddenly decided to take refuge there. When my mind finally put the feeling into words I felt as if I were having a melt down, a red neon 'error' sign flashing in my mind. But, there was no error, the furry animal in my stomach was enough proof of that. So here I am, confused and suprised as I finally face the cold hard truth.

I'm in love with Sakura.