A/N: The sequel to A Moment in Time. I have played with some events, past and future, so just try to mesh it with the show. Enjoy!
Sasuke watched as she performed each kata flawlessly, the sun glinting off the blade of her ANBU katana. When he had returned four years ago he couldn't have imagined what he would find. Naruto was married and populating the earth with annoying baby ninjas, but Sakura had become strong. Too strong. She was perfectly capable of defending herself and it left him wondering how he was supposed to be the hero, the avenger, and rescue her when she could punch his ass across the field.
He hadn't once seen Sakura with a man. Of course he wasn't stupid; he had heard about the nights she and Kakashi ended up at some bar to find partners to sate their lusts that night. But he had never seen her bring a man around her friends. He was sure she still loved him, and she should know after years of delicately, very discreetly, making his intentions known that he was interested.
But she brushed him off.
She had finally come around and began to speak to him; Sai said Naruto had taken the initiative and actually beaten some sense into her. Since 'the incident' she had been friendly to him, almost as she used to be. But every once in a while she would realize she was behaving too friendly, too nice, and a little too much like a female interested in dating him. Then a shadow would pass over her face and she would return to cold civility.
What was he supposed to do? Beg? She should know better. He had overheard Ino sniping at her about some misguided sense of honor, but he didn't understand. What part of Sakura's honor would prevent her from being with him? He had come back for the annoying woman, the only person who had ever really loved him. Couldn't she see what that took from him?
Either way, he was tired of taking care of certain problems himself. His hand was only useful to a certain point. Once he had finished he would always still be haunted by visions of her, his fierce teammate, luscious and curvy in her ANBU uniform. He didn't know what to do other than throw her down and show her physically what she meant to him.
He sighed. Hands in his pockets he sauntered down towards Ichiraku. Naruto and his family would be there about now eating their bi-weekly ramen feast. He didn't have any patience to sit here and spy on her anymore.
Anyway, it was ridiculous for an Uchiha to be acting like some idiotic lovesick Naruto.
Sakura watched as Sasuke finally walked on down the road, most likely going to bug Naruto. She knew he was lonely. She was too. And it was getting so hard to adhere to her master's teachings and stay away from him.
If there was a ninja God, she hoped he could help her keep her resolve.
Sasuke had been moping about a little more than usual lately; she almost had the feeling that allowing herself to become friends with him again had led them a step too close to the inevitable sexual boiling point. She knew he had caught some of her stares towards him, and she was sure that he felt the same way about her.
She just couldn't do it. Giving in would make her just as bad as he was. If she allowed her love, her want, for him to overpower her sense of honor then she would be as bad as he was. Her master had taught her to be the most honorable person she could be and to accept the sacrifices that would bring. But she hurt so badly. It was killing her to see him day after day and want to hold him, kiss him, love him. She kept her feelings locked up as well as she could, but she was so afraid of the feelings bursting inside her. One day she was either gonna give in and fuck him senseless, or explode.
Ino told her to quit being stupid, that a ninjas life was too short to worry about a swordsman's honor. She should take Sasuke and enjoy the time they had been given together because no one knew when they were gonna go. Ino knew such things personally; Chouji had almost died a year ago from a chakra bomb. Since then they had been inseparable and spent every moment they could loving one another.
Kakashi said he understood her reason, but that he thought the same thing Ino did. He had lived too long and lost too many to put much faith in anything other than the people close to him. He told her to go ahead and enjoy her life with Sasuke; no honor was worth the pain of dying without enjoying love if it was there. "What is honor, Sakura, except to help your friends and love someone?" he had said, then promptly pulled out his Icha Icha, showing his own one true love how much he felt for it.
Naruto had beaten the living shit out of her. They had been practicing and at some point he had mentioned inviting Sasuke to dinner. She had immediately said that her plans that night had changed; she could no longer come to dinner at the Hyuuga estate. His expression of shock lasted for about 5 seconds, and then turned to his angry glare.
His eyes turned red as he charged her, shouting about team togetherness and forgiving past sins. She had dealt with him like this before, but he was fierce enough, and mad enough, that after a few minutes of heavy combat she was swatted into a tree. She heard the sickening crack of her shoulder blade breaking in two as slid down the tree, and she felt the blood from various abrasions sliding over her skin before looking at him. He had this look of horror on his face, as if he couldn't believe what he had done.
She had woken up in the emergency room with Tsunade standing over her and laughing about karma. Sakura didn't think it was that funny.
Still, she persisted. She had forgiven him to the only point she considered herself allowed to. Her resolve had been steel until a few months ago, when Tsunade had said something to her that had made her rethink the entire situation.
Tsunade, Shizune, and herself had been at the tower late one Saturday working to complete the enormous backlog of paperwork. Working had turned into drinking and sharing tales of battle, love, and comedy as the night grew longer and the sake flowed. The women enjoyed their anecdotes on Jiraiya, Naruto, and even Shino caught in a promiscuous situation or two. Shizune had just told a story involving Ibiki, a chicken, and some crazy slingshot made of chakra when Tsunade turned and looked at the monument. She had grown silent.
Sakura thought she was remembering her grandfather, but Tsunade was actually considering all the men in her life who had been connected to the title of Hokage. Soon, she broke into the story of one rainy night when her fiancé Dan had died because she had gotten to him too late to save him. Halfway through the story Tsunade had glanced at a sniffling Shizune, and turned to look at Sakura.
"I have only one regret. I don't regret not being able to save him; I can only do so much with my ninjutsu. I don't regret the pain, although I can remember feeling my heart sink into my stomach and this immense pressure on my chest when I realized that he was really gone and that I would never see him smile, hear his voice, get to laugh with him, again. I only regret that I had been so angry with him before he died. We had a fight a few days before the mission, and I had been my typical stubborn self. I wouldn't allow him to come near me."
She looked into her sake cup, swishing the clear liquid around before directing her gaze onto a picture above the couch.
"I just remember thinking that we had wasted our time. I regret it still. And when he was finally dead, I didn't know what to do. I just kept thinking that I was nothing without him. How could I be Tsunade without Dan?" All three females lowered their heads, offering silent prayers to a man that had been so special to so many.
Sakura turned back to the papers in her hand to get her mind off the haunting story. But it didn't help her at all when she saw the mission report on the top of the stack. It was signed by Sasuke.
The next day found her in the midst of the Hyuuga gardens, surrounded by many of the ninja in Konoha. Naruto's newest addition to his family, Hiruka, was celebrating her second birthday and most of the ninja had turned up to celebrate the birth of the sweetest little girl in Konoha. Hiruka had her mother's gentle spirit and beautiful appearance topped off with Naruto's huge smile. Not even Hiashi or Neji could stay uptight with such a little girl pulling on their hands and asking for her present.
She had flitted from guest to guest, smiling and laughing when all her nee-sans and nii-sans had commented on her dress. After hours of admiration and gifts the girl had settled in her Sasuki-san's lap to curl up and have him read her one of her new picture books. He had taken her in his arms and turned the pages for her as she told him each picture was.
Sakura watched the duo from her table. Ino and Chouji were carrying on a conversation with Temari and Shikamaru about their parents' team formation. She wasn't interested. But watching Sasuke hold a toddler, smiling gently and holding her close enough that he could probably engulf himself in the smell of baby? That was one for the record books.
Of course, everyone knew Sasuke had a soft spot for the little girl. Who didn't? But he had taken to her immediately. She had taken to him as well. She was the first to greet him when he came into the Hyuuga mansion, and he was the first to teach her the meaning of being a ninja. She didn't understand the concept, but she had said in the cutest baby-talk Sakura had ever heard that if Sasuki-san was a ninja, and her dada was a ninja, then she would be a ninja. Naruto had gotten her a toy headband as soon as he could. Hiashi thought she would be the best kunoichi to ever come out of the Hyuuga clan, that is if he let her get in any situation more dangerous than babysitting or lawn mowing.
It seemed that as her genin group grew up their children changed everyone. TenTen and Neji were expecting their first child soon, and Ino had a small infant constantly attached to her right now.
Truthfully, Sakura felt a little left out.
She continued to gaze at Sasuke as he held Hiruka, wondering if he would be the same with his own children. She imagined him coming home to her, ruffling their son's hair and swinging his little girl around playfully before settling into dinner-
She couldn't imagine such things. It was bad for her health and her sanity. Picturing things that could never come true were just not good to do; maybe it had been too long since she had had some fun of the right kind. She knew Kakashi would be up for bar-hopping, so maybe they should go out tonight and find some warm bodies to curl up to. She was just beginning to finally switch her mind from Sasuke-family mode to Get-laid mode when Ino elbowed her. Hard.
"Yo, forehead, you see that? He'll make a great father someday. Imagine all the little Uchihas running around with red eyes and pink-" Sakura smacked her hand over Ino's mouth.
"Don't say it, pig. I already told you, I'm not dating him. I'd sooner date Genma than Sasuke."
"Oh, really?" Sakura cringed; Ino looked way too smug for her to be comfortable. "Well, I heard you already did the mattress mambo with ol' senbon boy. Was he good?"
She groaned. Genma had too big of a mouth. "Not talking about it, Ino. You know the policy."
"Aww, why don't we speak about the one night stands? Guess that tells me how good he was then. He didn't even get a repeat performance." Ino squeaked as Sakura punched her arm, and the blonde ran off to find her husband and her baby. Chouji liked showing off his child a little too much.
She smiled as her friend left. Ino could always be counted on to put her mind on something else. Usually beating Ino into ground beef.
The party was dying down now; everyone was trickling out of the Hyuuga gardens slowly. Sakura was contemplating getting up to find Kakashi and arrange a night on the town when a shadow was cast over her table.
"May I sit?" She sighed to herself before gesturing to the empty chairs on her left. Sasuke sat down, arranging a sleeping Hiruka carefully on his lap so she would be comfortable. "She has worn herself out. Too much excitement for one day, I believe."
Sakura nodded, and reached over to brush some midnight locks out of the little girl's eyes. She truly was a beautiful baby. It was a wonder that Naruto had a hand in creating her. Sasuke just stared at her, hoping she would break the silence before he did. He was tired of feeling like an idiot.
"I read your last mission report. Do you truly think that we've taken down enough of Akatsuki for them to be that little of a threat?"
He cleared his throat before replying, "Yes, I do. There are only two members left. They do not have the organization nor the funds to be of any major threat. What can two of them do at this point?"
She nodded, captivated by his coal eyes and his dark eyelashes more than her planned retort about the organization's persistence. He was just so beautiful. She could see where he had begun to form laugh lines- a sign of how different he had become since his return to Konoha. He was still dark and moody, and arrogant to a fault. But after his mission of vengeance was done, he seemed to become a whole different person to her.
"I want some of my own someday." She snapped out of her thought to notice his gaze was directed at Hiruka, and her eyes widened. Of course he did! He wanted to rebuild his clan! She knew that, stupid Sasuke. "I think it would be nice to have a family to come home to. I could rebuild my clan into something honorable, something to be proud of."
She smiled and nodded. He had been changing so much. How much of it was for her?
"Do you want kids, Sakura?"
She looked at him, startled, before picturing her ideal family. "Sometimes I do. I often want a family to come home to, and a baby to cuddle. But then I remember my job and the kid in the grocery store last week throwing a fit over a candy, and I wonder if I do or not." He smirked at her.
"I think you would be a good mother. Ninja or not." He gathered Hiruka in his arms and got up, making his way into the house to put her in her bed. Sakura watched him go, and then turned her head to the gray cloud above.
Damn you, Sasuke, she thought.
The bar she and Kakashi had chosen was in full swing, and it seemed that half of Konoha was there. They ended up sitting with Kiba and some other ninjas he had on a team for a mission this week. It was always better when they had friends around.
Kakashi had already pointed out three or four girls he thought he might like to go home with; she only approved of one of them. She knew that at least two of them had reputations for being, well, nasty. The other just looked scary. Oh, her poor disillusioned senpai would never learn. Thank God he had her to help find girls.
The sake had gotten her to a happy medium. She was tipsy enough that she could relax and flirt with the men she was interested in, but not drunk enough to take Kiba's come-get-me hints. Thank God. She was pretty sure that an encounter with Kiba, although he was supposedly very talented in the bedroom, would be just too much for her to handle in the morning. Her companions were few and far between. She hadn't been with anyone in over a year, and she didn't want Kiba to be the one to end that dry spell.
She wanted Sasuke.
She scolded herself for such thoughts and turned to observe Kakashi as he got up to stalk his prey. It never did take him too long. More than an hour of female hunting and Kakashi suddenly became a pouty little boy who thought he would never get what he wanted. He could be such a baby sometimes.
She watched as he cornered the blonde kunoichi by the bar, seducing her with some witty remark about Icha Icha being a textbook for the finer arts. Hmph. Right. The poor girl didn't know what she was getting into, but apparently his exotic looks were enough to get him what he wanted. Less than 45 minutes in the bar and he was already making the signal that he was leaving.
Sakura made the same hand gesture and nodded at his retreating figure. At least one of them was getting laid tonight. She had a feeling her night would involve a nice long bath and a warm bed. All alone. None of these men had caught her interest; they hadn't in quite some time. All she ever thought about was Sasuke, and every man she thought about taking home seemed to just not measure up against the Sharingan user.
"Kiba, I'm gone." He looked over at her from his spot on the other side of the table and nodded, waving goodbye and wishing her a goodnight. She flashed a smile when he winked at her.
The walk home was cold; she was dressed in a short red dress to attract men, not to keep her body heat contained. She wrapped her arms further around herself, trying to warn off the cold air that seemed to gather around her. It seemed that her life was going down a long lonely road just like the one she was walking down. Every decision she made seemed to make her even more upset and confused; she couldn't get where she wanted to go. All this time walking but not moving was really starting to grate on her nerves; something needed to change. Soon.
Her apartment building loomed up on the left like a waiting mother to a child. At least there she could find some comfort in her cozy bed. She didn't think she could deal with anything else today.
But just when you think it's all over, something else falls down.
She noticed him before she was close enough to speak. She sighed and continued the walk up the entryway. He was huddled in the alcove by the door, most likely using the walls to block the chilly wind. How long had he been sitting there? She approached slowly, stopping just before she reached the steps.
"What are you doing, Sasuke?"
He looked up from the ground, his onyx eyes boring into hers. "I was waiting for you. I wanted to talk to you."
"I was out."
"With Kakashi." She nodded, noting the venom in his voice, as she moved past him to open the door. She held the screen door open for him, letting him know he was welcome to come inside.
"Yes, with Kakashi. He apparently needed some company tonight." He snorted as she shut the door. He most likely knew what her nights with Kakashi entailed. He probably didn't want to think it was possible though. Heaven forbid sweet little Sakura actually get some action.
"Hn. The old man can find his own company." He moved into the kitchen, pulling out mugs and a kettle to make some hot chocolate. When had they all become so comfortable in her house? Sai did the same things.
"Well, he just likes to have a feminine opinion. It doesn't matter anyway." She handed him the pitcher of water to fill the kettle. "Ne, Sasuke, what was so important you waited all that time outside?"
He stilled in front of the stove, his hands grasping the counter. She crossed her arms over her chest, leaning against the sink as she waited to hear his answer. She was sure it had to be a good one.
"What's going on, Sakura?" She stiffened, not expecting that question. After what had been said this afternoon she had a good idea where he was going, but she didn't think she could handle questions about their relationship right now. Not after a failed night of clubbing.
He fiddled with the dishrag on her counter, not raising his eyes to meet hers. He was scared stiff that he would be rejected, but he couldn't act it. He was an Uchiha. Uchiha didn't get rejected. But he was sure that if he asked what he wanted to that the first word out of her mouth would be no. And he could understand why she was upset, but damnit, didn't he deserve forgiveness? Just once he wanted this fucked up version of life he'd been living to turn out the way he expected it to. Was that too much to ask?
"Sakura, we're almost 26. Do you realize how old that is in shinobi years?" She nodded. She did understand. "I have seen things… hn. I am not ashamed to admit I want a family. But the one person I could ever consider having one with can barely look at me."
She would have slid down the cabinet to the floor if her knees hadn't locked up. Had he really admitted he wanted a family with her? She knew he was interested in her, definitely attracted to her, but a family? Sasuke?
Was that possible?
Immediately her mind said it wasn't. He was everything her master had warned her against. But as she looked out the window at the night world of Konoha, she remembered Tsunade's story. The man Dan had died and left her shishou a broken woman. If she persisted in holding this grudge, would she end up the same way her shishou did?
Her eyes snapped over to his, and for one moment she could see the hurt buried in him. He really did want this. It was a revelation in itself to her; Sasuke seriously wanted to start a family with her. It left her feeling as if the breath had been stolen out of her lungs, knowing that this man really wanted her and all she felt she could co was tell him no.
"Sasuke, I… I don't know what to say. It's not that you haven't been forgiven. I think I forgave you the day you came through those gates, even if I didn't act it. I have a very strict sense of right and wrong, thanks to my training, and it has been so hard to just… let go… even a little bit."
"Then what is it Sakura?"
He stepped in front of her, his arms on both sides of her body. She looked up at his eyes, he was still so much taller then she was, and she could smell his cologne, feel the heat radiating off of him. She knew what she wanted, but she couldn't make herself go that one step that would take her over the edge.
"Sakura? All you have to do is say yes." His voice was doing crazy, wobbly things to her stomach. She could see the confidence in his eyes, and she was sure she would enjoy giving in. But that last step…
"Sasuke, I… my…It would go against so many things I have learned…" she trailed off as his lips came closer to hers. "I can't… I shouldn't do this." She tried to back away from him, to somehow get more space in between them.
"Will you at least admit that you have harbored the thought?" She chewed her lip before she finally nodded and he smirked as his lips drew nearer to hers. "Will you admit that today you wondered what it would be like for me to hold our child?" She nodded again, and his lips touched hers.
Everything she had felt for fourteen years seemed to flow out of her at once; the electric feeling rushed through her body from her mouth. Her arms grasped at his biceps, and his hands came away from the cabinet to hold her waist. She leaned against him, deepening the kiss and running her tongue along the front of his teeth. She felt his groan more than heard it, and she enjoyed feeling his hands tighten on her waist.
She had known it would be like this. She had known that as soon as she faltered that first bit everything she believed would fly out the proverbial window. All for him. But at this moment, she really couldn't find it in herself to care. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her chest. So she just continued to return the kiss, and feel his body against hers.
He led her from the kitchen down the hall to her bedroom, very rarely stopping the kiss. He had been to her house enough that he knew where each obstacle was, although he wasn't counting on a shoe getting in his way. She giggled at his disgruntled look, but he soon silenced her.
After they had exhausted themselves thoroughly they lay there, panting and sweating, just holding onto each other. He finally rose up on his elbows to look at her, just look at the expression of contentment on her face, and he couldn't help but say it.
"I love you, Sakura."
She thought she was going to cry. Never had she imagined she would get to hear such words from him, certainly not like this. Instead she smiled, brushing back his hair from his face as he moved to lie beside her and draw her close to him. She drifted off to sleep with the thought that she could do this the rest of her life, love him the rest of her life.
"Love you, too."
Naruto was grinning like a fool at Ichiraku the next day. They hadn't been holding hands, and they hadn't been kissing, but he was damn sure that was a hickey on Sakura's shoulder. And since when did Sasuke grin at her like that? He had always said it would work out. After all, they were his best friends. He could think of no one else who deserved such happiness except for his Hinata.