title: plus c'est la même chose
pairing: SasuSaku
prompt: Pinaface's "You make me feel twelve again."
summary: 61 UP. Sasuke, Sakura, and the ways they stay the same."You make me feel twelve again."

notes: This was started a long time ago. I wanted it SHORT. Like, drabble short. Three hundred words short. But, I've come to the realization that I can't write pieces without backstory.

disclaimer: Naruto is not mine at all.

At the sound of her approaching footsteps, Sasuke briefly looked up from where he was cleaning his katana, but otherwise, did not acknowledge her presence. Sakura tried to temper the disappointment that came almost as a reflex. Would it be so difficult to react to her, she wondered, to at least recognize her. Almost immediately as the idea occurred to her, Sakura brushed it aside. His willful refusal to see her was, Sakura reflected as she made her way to him, the response she had expected.

"Hello, Sasuke-kun."

She watched, unperturbed, as his eyes narrowed with every step she took in his direction. When they were separated by an arm's length, Sakura stopped, and looked at him.

He had grown like a weed under her mentor's less than gentle care. The shirt he'd come home in—he'd refused her offer to buy him a change of clothes—was now weathered, and gray; its awkward cuts seemed to emphasize his gauntness, a testament to the food strike he'd undergone in a (successful) effort to have his trial moved up to a closer date. The Council, as weary as they were of the last Uchiha, seemed unwilling to relinquish the Sharingan. His punishment had been what they expected—six years of probation, interspersed with random inspections and D-rank missions, and a prohibition on Sasuke's moving up to jounin until more than half of Konoha's forces would vouch for his loyalty. That last hurdle, Sakura knew as she slipped into contemplation, would not be an easy one. The best of them had long memories, and would not soon forget neither the first attempt to retrieve Sasuke, nor would they be soon to overlook his actions at the Kage conference.

His hair had gone to seed, his skin had only gone paler.

He was, she thought peevishly, still beautiful—and now, he was looking at her. Sakura realized that she had been staring at him.

"What," he said gruffly, in lieu of greeting her, of replying in kind. (Of course, Sakura thought—only a little weary—of course.) "Why are you here?"

It was this way with them; it was Sakura who initiated their interactions. For every night they had sat together at the ramen stand with Naruto in tow, it was Sakura whose pockets always felt a little bit lighter. (Sasuke refused to pay for a meal he claimed he did not want.) In the wake of his disrespectful silences in the Hokage's office—his probation, it seemed, was wearing on him—it was Sakura, who bowed for him, whose dry lips uttered words of apology. After every D-ranked mission he completed under her supervision, it was her hands that filled out mission reports, that commented on his performance.

It had been Sakura who cried for him six months ago, when Naruto had rushed him to her OR, bleeding and broken with only skin holding him together. It had been Sakura who spoke for him at his hearing, Sakura who had soothed the burns on his body, and Sakura, who'd volunteered to oversee his rehabilitation.

It was Sakura who moved for him.

And yet, it was Sakura, who had spent half her life in the waiting state—who navigated the waters of their unique dynamic with no complaint.

It was Sakura who loved him.

As she reflected, she began to respond to his earlier query, if not in words, then in action—the best way to teach, after all, was by example. Sakura folded herself into a reclining position beside Sasuke, who had gone back to cleaning his weapons after she had declined to respond.

"No reason really, Sasuke," she said now, after the fact. "I was just wondering what you were doing—how you were doing."

He grunted.

"You saw me yesterday, Sakura," he said, focusing on a particularly stubborn scratch near Kusanagi's hilt.

"I know, Sasuke-kun," she said patiently. "But things could have happened between yesterday and today. Things do change, you know."

At that, he stopped his motions, looked at her in that inscrutable way she both adored and hated. She wanted so much to read him, to know him. Here she was, open for him. How long until—

"Do they really, Sakura? Have things changed?" He eyed the small distance between them with a critical eye.

"Of course they do," she said automatically. "And of course they have."

Sasuke shook his head.

"Then why are you still here?"

Sakura wondered whether she was imagining the way his eyes seemed to have softened. Probably, she thought, only a little wistfully.

She could move mountains, she reflected. She could shatter boulders, and refashion rivers. She could knit skin together, and re-grow bones.

He was older. She should have been wiser; and yet, here she was again, in front of him and vulnerable. Hadn't she learned better yet, she wondered? What was it about Sasuke that made it impossible for her to walk away from him?

Sakura inhaled, exhaled, confessed.

"You make me feel twelve again."

Sigh. I am trying to write today. We will see how much more I get done. :)

Thank you everyone for your reviews! I can't believe I passed 900! It is all really kind of a miracle. If you are still out there, please let me know what you thought!