Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters I use in this story.
Warning: May content sexual innuendo and comments towards Sasuke's sexuality in the nicest possible way of course.
Chapter Four - Embryonic Destroyer
Sasuke stood overlooking the village before him with a small frown marring his usually smooth expression. There wasn't anything exciting going on in town, in fact since the end of Akatsuki and Madara's rotten plans to wage war on Konoha, the Fire Country had been living in relative peace. For the most part, the lack of battles and missions felt suffocating to him; like being stuck inside a room with no air, no escape, and no space to move. He hated it. It was driving him up the wall. It didn't help that Sakura and Naruto felt the need to involve themselves in his life to the extent that he seemed to have no escape from them. He didn't care if they were trying to be his friend; he didn't care for their way of caring for him. He didn't need them. He had a family who loved him completely once, he didn't need these phony replacements.
His expression dark, he leaned back against the tree trunk and twirled his favorite brand of shuriken around his finger thoughtfully. Life had been so simple just two weeks ago. He woke up, trained, took a break, talked with Kakashi and Naruto about the chance of building up the Konoha Military Police once more, a trip to the bar for lunch, then more training and sleep. Sometimes there was the odd mission thrown in for some spontaneity but his life was relatively simple for a shinobi of his caliber. He had in a way embraced that simplicity after not having a home to call his own for so long and yet, after his talk with Sakura, he was beginning to feel as though he was conning himself. He wasn't as happy in Konoha as he'd thought.
His apartment was hardly a home. It was a place where he slept, ate and rested but it wasn't a home. Not like the Uchiha mansion where he had spent the first eight years of his life. Even knowing what he did now, he realized it would never be the same but he had been content with that. Now he felt uncomfortable in his own home. He found himself yearning for something he didn't truly understand and he hated it. He despised the fact that his world was being turned upside down and all because of an annoying pink haired medic. A girl he had barely noticed when he had been twelve and one who he couldn't seem to remove from his thoughts.
He let his head fall back against the rough bark of the tree trunk, feeling the craggy bits of wood catching in his hair.
"What kind of girl do you like?" The words echoed and circled through his mind endlessly. What he wouldn't give to throw himself head long into battle but Naruto was nowhere to be found and the members of the Rookie nine that he could tolerate had been in the bar earlier. He could be described as a vicious fighter but he wasn't a heartless one to take advantage of an inebriated idiot.
"What kind of girl do you like?"
He bit back a groan, finding himself instantly transported back to that moment in his darkened kitchen, in front of the window over the sink. The lamp light from the street seeped in through the glass faintly illuminating the girl before him. The green eyes that once been so soft and compassionate around him were now glowing with frustration and her small, pert mouth was pursed as she glared up at him, hands fisted on the soft swell of her thighs.
"Well, what kind of girl do you like?!"
His lips curled in a grimace as he thought about the answer that had almost spilled out of his mouth in that moment of heated tension. Part of him was sadistic enough to want to see her reaction had he said it but the other part, the one that held control over him had frozen his tongue. Self preservation had urged him out of the room. He had to leave before he said anything that would damn him for eternity because the weight of his answer couldn't be tolerated. Not after everything that had happened between them because the answer had been simple, natural and wrong. So unbelievably –right- wrong.
Because the answer had been her. He wanted her.
Well someone like her; not actually Sakura, he assured himself. That was a can of worms he just wasn't planning on ever opening. They had too much history and it was too complex to be considered. Besides, he liked their relationship now. It was... better than it had been before. Even if she was still interfering in his life and trying to marry him off to the next girl who took an interest in him while insinuating he was gay. Che, why did he want someone like her anyway? He was better off on his own, he reaffirmed.
In the distance, a rumble of thunder echoed throughout the clouds as he listened to the growing hiss of rain. He looked up as the first drops hit him and he tilted his face to catch the falling beads of water. They spattered against his skin and their steady rhythmic patter soon soaked him and the streets below, leaving a thin film of liquid.
Throughout the town, the lights began to glow brighter through the hazy sheet of pelting rain that covered the village. The dark clouds were outlined by the moon light trying to peek through the thinner breaks. Another low growl gathered ferocity and shimmered over the town ominously.
Sasuke empathized with the weather. It suited his mood and his desire to be alone. In the rain, he felt as though he was the only one in the village but the small squares of light told him that civilization was near if he ever needed it. It had always been like that, someone had always been there if he needed them. He never did. At least, that's what he told himself.
A sound caught his attention and a flicker of irritation swept over his expressionless face as his dark as ebony eyes dropped to the two figures racing through the rain. A soft feminine giggle teased his ears and his stomach clenched in reaction before dropping. It wasn't Sakura. Just another member of her elusive species. He was stupid to think otherwise.
The couple, both around his own age, were racing through the streets, the male dragging the female by the hand as they weaved and jumped around and over puddles. He watched them as they passed underneath him, unaware of his presence. Civilians, he thought with disgust. They would forever need protecting because they couldn't, wouldn't protect themselves. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with the idea of reinstating the Konoha Military Police. Maybe the civilians should try protecting themselves for a change, instead of relying on the ninja's and then daring to criticize them for not behaving as they'd like. They had no idea what a shinobi did. They had no idea what a shinobi put themselves through to be the first and last line of defence for their village. After all, look how they treated Naruto, he thought with a sneer. Naruto could have been the biggest dobe in the history of Konoha, but he was the best damn Hokage they would ever have. He would never kowtow to the Councils desires. He would do what he thought was right, he would act according to his Ninja way.
Another giggle cut through his thoughts echoed by a deeper male chuckle and Sasuke rolled his eyes. He should leave but he had been here first. It shouldn't take long for them to get inside their home. It had to be close if they were on foot. He snorted softly as he watched the couple reach a door and stop before it, the girl twisting the strap of her bag between her fingers nervously as she swayed softly before the young man. Even without his Sharingan he was able to make out the man bending over her a little, his hand caress the girls cheek with infinite tenderness.
Sasuke glowered at them. Could they not do this inside? After all, the street was hardly a private place to be having this kind of interlude? He shifted grumpily and folded his arms before him, loosely running his thumb over the edge of his shuriken.
More murmured conversation occurred and it seemed as though both were reluctant to go inside as the girl rested her back against the door and tilted her face up to the male. His hand was braced above her as he inched his body closer to hers; still retaining some measure of propriety.
Just finish it already, Sasuke rolled his eyes. How long did it take to say goodbye? If they continued, both would be sick with the cold but as civilians this would never occur to them. They would probably just crawl into bed and call in sick to work. Pathetic.
His fist clenched as the boy dipped lower and it was pretty obvious to Sasuke what was going on as the girl rose onto her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around the boy's neck.
He should just go but where would he go? It was Friday night. Every bar would be packed with shinobi looking for some friendly chat and a chance to unwind. Not to mention women. More like succubae. He wasn't in the mood to be pawed at. He couldn't go to his apartment. Sakura could be there and he couldn't face her, not yet.
This had been his safe haven and this couple was intruding. He had been here first. He'd given them enough time. If they wouldn't go inside; he'd make them go inside. Without a thought, he flicked his hand back and sent the shuriken spinning silently through the air just as the couple parted. The next sound was a 'twack' followed by a sharp high pitched shriek and an even more feminine scream. It was hard to tell which one made which noise but the fact that the man screamed like a girl made Sasuke smirk. The couple stared at each other for a moment, mouths agape as their eyes flicked to the shuriken embedded in the door precisely between their faces. A half a second before and it would have sliced neatly through their tongues and lips. The idea satisfied the sick, twisted part of him and the idea made him turn away and flee before the couple saw him.
He leapt over the rooftops and tree branches towards the old team seven training ground. With Naruto busy either with Hokage work or building a nest with Hinata, and Sakura holed up in his apartment, it was very likely that the training ground would now be empty. Then again, it was the first place the two would check if they did decide to come looking for him. That gave him pause for thought. He wasn't in the right frame of mind to deal with Sakura today.
Playing by the council's rules and trying to be civilized always put him in a bad mood. He just wanted to be left alone. Why couldn't they ever understand that? All he wanted to do was be a shinobi, do missions, protect his village and die. That was it. His great goal in life was to die. He wasn't like the other Shinobi's. Life didn't hold an appeal to him. He barely felt anything at the best of times, the only time he felt was when he was fighting Naruto, killing the enemy and more recently, bickering with Sakura. She just frustrated him so much. How could someone be so smart and still so damn stupid and stubborn to boot?!
The only reason he hadn't ended it all before was because having lost people he cared about, he couldn't do the same to the people that cared about him.
As for his goal to build a family, tch, that was dead in the water. He wasn't cut out to be a husband or a father. What kind of one would he be? He could barely stand anyone. He couldn't imagine sharing a house with a woman, sharing a bed... he sighed. No that wasn't the problem. If he wanted a wife, if he found someone that could be his wife then he wanted to do it properly. He wanted to be able to share his home, his bed and his life with her. He wouldn't subject his children to a loveless home just so that he could continue the Uchiha line.
He had always chased after what he wanted but he had done that because he had known what he wanted. He wanted power, so he went to Orochimaru and got it. He wanted Itachi dead so he chased after Itachi and killed him. He wanted a wife and a family, but how could he get it? Where did he find that one person he would be able to stand long enough to raise children with? Who was she?
He closed his eyes tight and dug his fingers into the trunk of the tree he was standing in to catch his balance. His breath came in short spurts. He swallowed hard and rested his forehead against the rough bark.
No, not Sakura. It couldn't be Sakura. For one, she didn't want him. For another, she deserved so much better than him. She deserved someone who cared about her and no other. She deserved someone who respected her and what she did each and every day at the hospital and out in the field.
She deserved anyone but him.
A blur of movement from his left had him stilling and hiding his chakra instinctively but he relaxed as he caught the flash of white ceramic. Anbu.
He watched the two blurs race over the rooftop, curiously wondering just which Shinobi it was. One of them was definitely Neji, he realized half a second later. He knew that Shinobi's movements almost as well as he knew his own. As he began to follow them with his eyes, a flare of panic ignited in his mind. They were going towards the hospital.
He was already moving towards the next rooftop when he forced himself to stop and think properly. Sakura was off tonight. She was in his apartment waiting for him so she could lecture him and show him more females that would be so 'perfect' for him. She wasn't at the hospital.
And yet... he couldn't shake that niggle of doubt and those finely honed instincts had been the reason he had survived his exile from Konoha. They had never lied to him before and they weren't likely to now. If a part of him thought Sakura was in trouble then it was likely that she was.
But she was at his apartment, another part, the cold, logical part of him argued.
Sakura was a medic-nin. She was always on call. She never said no when she was summoned. The hot tempered, easily riled part of him snapped sardonically.
He sighed. He'd check his apartment just to be safe. No point going to the hospital when the Anbu were already there. They'd take care of any trouble and Sakura could defend herself anyway – if she was there.
She hadn't been there and by the time he had arrived at the hospital, everything had been calm. He had just been in time to see one Anbu frog march/half drag a slumped man from the building while a few startled nurses looked on, clad in their pristine white uniforms. A second later Neji, dressed in his Anbu uniform had walked out accompanied by a pissed off looking Sakura who was muttering under her breath, shooting dark looks at the man while massaging her bruised fist.
Neji had said something to her that made her lips quirk in sardonic amusement as the prisoner glared back at her and mouthed a crude insult directed solely at her. Sasuke had watched as Sakura's dark amusement deepened and she idly pressed her fist into her open palm in a quiet threat. Obviously, a patient or a visitor had become irate and judging by the Hokage monument sized lump rising from the man's jaw, Sakura had decided to diffuse the situation with her fist.
Despite everything, Sasuke hadn't been able to curb the amusement and indeed the pride, he felt at watching her calmly stare down the man. And then after exchanging a few more words with Neji, during which her temper eased, she uttered a sharp order to the nurses, turned on her heel and headed back inside, making a big show of sashaying into the building. Or, at least, it looked as if she was swaying her hips more than usual, almost as though she were taunting the man for being beat up by a girl. That had nearly made him smile. Since she was safe enough and he was not needed, he had left.
That was almost two hours ago. When he had left, he had roamed around aimlessly for another hour or so before he decided to go to one of his regular haunts: a small tavern around the corner from the weapon shop, down a small, narrow alley. The bar was run by a gruff man who had no problem hauling ninja and civilians alike by the scruff of their necks and throwing them out the door. Sasuke liked the place. It was usually quiet, even on a Friday night and most of the people who came here, didn't come for the conversation or the entertainment. People came here to drown their troubles. Sasuke came here to be anonymous or as anonymous as he could ever be.
He took another gulp of his sake and set the cup down. What was he doing with his life? Since when did the answer to his problems seem to be at the bottom of a bottle?
"You look as shit as I feel."
He felt a funny flutter in his chest and he automatically lifted a hand to it as he glanced up in shock at his addresser. "Sakura."
"Sasuke." She replied glibly before motioning her hand to the empty seat beside him. "Mind if I sit?"
He jerked a shoulder but said nothing. If he did mind, he'd leave. They both knew he never stood on ceremony or civility.
She mustered up a tired smile before dropping down onto the small wooden stool, slumping forward as she did and resting her chin in her hands as though her head were too heavy for her neck to hold by itself.
"You ok?" The words were out before he could even think of them and he bit his tongue. Even Sakura looked surprised by his question before her eyes softened just a little.
"I'm fine, Sasuke. You?"
"Hn." Of course, he was fine.
She chuckled quietly before beginning to laugh loudly, leaning back in her seat only to wobble precariously. He cursed quietly and caught her by placing a hand on her lower back, ignoring the heat emanating from her body. She snickered softly and sobered with a sigh and a soft smile. "Sorry."
He frowned at her, peeking at her from under his bangs. She looked wrecked. Dark bags under her eyes, her skin was sheet white and her posture was completely wrong. He rolled his eyes in annoyance. When would she learn how to take care of herself?
His eyes narrowed on her and his nose twitched subtly. "You've been drinking." He accused quietly.
She snorted softly. "A little." She admitted. "It was a rough day."
"You were fine earlier."
"Yeah, like you noticed." She bit out and his eyes narrowed on her. He was still getting used to this Sakura who snapped and growled at him. It just showed just how much she had changed since he had left Konoha in search of Itachi.
She exhaled loudly beside him and he watched as the bitterness melted from her. She turned her head to look at him and she smiled wearily. "Sorry, Sasuke. I'm just tired. I had to go into the hospital."
"You were drinking."
"I have a sobering up jutsu. I wasn't on call, it was an emergency. Otherwise I wouldn't have been drinking." Her tone went quiet and he wondered what the emergency had been. Did it have something to do with that man? Possibly. Then again, with so many people out indulging and partaking of alcohol on a Friday night, it wasn't unusual for a few brawls to break out even at the hospital. Sakura was constantly saying that she wanted danger money for the nurses. The medics, she often said, could take care of themselves. They were, after all, ninja's themselves.
"What about you?" She suddenly asked.
"Yeah you. One minute you're drunk, the next minute you're sober. I was always curious how you handle your drink so well."
He grunted to fight off a smirk. How typical that she'd notice something like that. "You don't think I'd have picked up a few tricks of my own?" He shook his head as she tilted her head curiously. "Orochimaru liked to get his underlings drunk."
Her eyes rounded. "Oh god, Sasuke. Did he- I mean, did he ever... you know?"
"Idiot. No. He liked to get them drunk so they'd confide in him. Orochimaru liked to know everything about everyone. It made them easier to manipulate."
"He did like his manipulations."
"Why do you and Naruto always insinuate things like that?"
"What are we meant to think? I was in the forest of death with you. I saw how he looked at you."
"Since you were just standing there." Again the words were out before he could stop them.
Her face closed down. "You're such a bastard sometimes Sasuke. I was just trying to talk to you." She took another gulp from her bottle. "I know I wasn't strong, ok? I know I never fought my fair share in the battles and that you and Naruto always had to rescue me but I didn't have any special talents so I made use of what I had and that was my brain."
"Sakura." He sighed. He didn't want to fight with her. He just wanted a quiet drink and then he'd find a place to stay for the night and go train the next morning. He didn't want to stir up old wounds. But right now, he didn't seem to have power over his thoughts. Usually he had more control when he was drinking.
"No. I get it. You still think I'm weak. I'm sorry I wasn't stronger but I didn't really understand what being a shinobi was. How could I? My parents weren't ninjas like everyone else's. I just saw Ino going for it and thought it sounded really exciting. I don't regret it but... I regret not training more and letting you go with Orochimaru."
"You tried to stop me." He reminded her quietly, keeping his eyes glued on the drink in front of him.
"Fat lot of good it did." She took another drink and slumped forward, tipping the glass to slosh the liquid around. She shook her head slowly. "Never mind. It's not good to go digging through the past."
What's past is prologue, he thought drily. "We all had our own paths."
"You don't regret what you did." It wasn't a question but almost as if she had finally answered one for herself.
He didn't respond. He didn't regret what he had done. He had become stronger and he wouldn't have gained that strength in Konoha. It made sense. Naruto was trained by Jiraiya, Sakura by Tsunade –and personally that had surprised him but in a good way; he was proud she was finally doing something- so it was only natural that he, the last member of Team seven, should be trained by the other sannin, Orochimaru. If he hadn't left, who would have trained him? Kakashi? Well he knew everything Kakashi had to teach him. Ebisu-sensei? He bit back a shudder. Yeah, definitely not.
"Um, I'm sorry. About earlier." He looked at her blankly. What was she apologizing for? Earlier? That wasn't her fault. "About mothering you. I know you don't need it. Sometimes I just speak without thinking."
"No, Sasuke let me get this out of my system. You've taken care of yourself forever so you don't need me butting in now and telling you what you should do and not do. It was silly of me and-"
"Sakura, it's fine." He muttered. It wasn't as if he cared. She could do what she wanted. He'd do what he wanted. It worked out fine. It's not as if he felt compelled to do what she said. She could advise him all she wanted. It was his choice whether or not he listened.
"But-" he pinned her with a look and she muffled a sigh, sipping her drink contemplatively.
"I noticed there was some trouble over at the hospital." He said to break the silence, almost flinching when she narrowed her eyes at him. "I saw the Anbu heading there."
"Yeah well, I had a bit of trouble with a patient's husband."
"What kind of trouble?"
"Domestic abuse trouble." He quirked his brow. What had Sakura involved herself in now? "Oh don't look at me like that Sasuke. It was hardly my fault. He was angry and I got in the way."
His frown darkened. The way she phrased that made it sound as if the man had hit her. As his eyes scrutinized her face closely for the first time, he damned her ability to heal herself. "You threw yourself in the way more like." He growled. "It seems to be a trait of yours."
Her head shot up and her jade eyes flashed. "Hey, wait a minute. I have a right to protect my patients. She was defenseless and it's my duty-"
"And what's your justification for jumping in front of me all those times? Was I defenseless?!"
"Yeah, most of those times you were!" She snarled. "You always pushed yourself way beyond your limit and then you couldn't defend yourself. What did you expect me to do? Stand there and watch you get hurt? Like hell. I would have done the same for any one of my friends. It had nothing to do with how skilled or powerful you were. I cared about you so I protected you."
"You couldn't do anything, half the time you ended up in more trouble and someone always had to come along to your rescue. Me, Naruto, Lee, Shikamaru's whole damn team!"
Her eyes rounded in appalled shock before her mouth shut audibly. "Fuck you, Sasu-gay!"
With that as her final response, Sakura shoved herself to her feet, swaying a little as she got her bearings and clutching her bottle, she stumbled out of the bar and into the rain sodden streets outside. He watched the door swing shut with a snap and he turned away sullenly. Well fine, if she wanted to run away that was just fine. The hell he was going to chase after her. It was her fault. She always put herself in danger. Always. What did she think? That Prince Charming was going to come in on a white horse and save her? Life wasn't a fairy tale. It was time she woke up. She couldn't save everyone and one day there would be no one to save her.
He growled and emptied his glass down his throat, feeling the fierce burn of the alcohol as it coursed down inside him. Slamming the glass down on the counter hard enough to earn a glare from the bartender, he shot to his feet, knocking over the stool, and stalked to the door with a little more grace than Sakura. He wasn't chasing after her; no he was just making sure she didn't get into any more trouble.
When Sasuke had been twelve and he had been on missions with his teammates, it had always been easy to target the exact spot they'd chosen to position themselves. Naruto's chakra would flare like a never-ending pillar of flame while Sakura's would pulse less noticeably. Neither of them had the skill and foresight to cover their chakra when they were hiding and so finding him or her had never be a difficulty to Sasuke.
However, he wasn't twelve anymore and neither was Sakura. For all the trouble she had caused with her lack of ability, she certainly made up for it now since it took him a good half an hour to finally track her down in the Team seven training area. Obviously, it should have been the first place he checked but Sasuke hadn't been thinking like a girl but like nukenin. Someone who would always seek to cover his tracks when he was on the move. Sakura wouldn't think like that. Being in such an emotional state, she would just run to somewhere she felt comfortable and safe; and despite the late hour and the chilly pellets of rain, that place was their old clearing.
He dropped to the ground a few yards from her and peeled his wet bangs from his skin. His clothing felt heavy and weighed down with water and his outer body temperature was cool but that was probably nothing compared to Sakura who had always felt the cold more noticeably than either he or Naruto. Slowly he approached her, wary of any attempt on her part to flee.
She barely noticed his approach; too busy staring into the darkness over her knees which she'd pulled up to her chest so her chin could rest on them. She looked painfully vulnerable in that position and it annoyed him. She always looked like a wounded puppy when he lashed out at her; it frustrated him to no end. He had his demons; so of course, he wouldn't be the most congenial of people. He couldn't be mannerly like the Hyuuga or painfully blissful as the ex-root member or as naive as Naruto. His past hadn't allowed for any of that. She shouldn't react so badly when he snapped at her. It wasn't personal... much.
"Sakura. It's cold. Go home." There, that was nice.
She didn't shift her gaze to him nor did she show any signs of having heard his advice. Instead she took another sullenly quiet gulp from her sake bottle held loosely in her left hand. He frowned. That bottle looked strangely familiar; in fact the whole scene looked strangely familiar. Hadn't he been in the same position just a week ago?
She was ignoring him. How childish. Part of him wanted to leave, if she didn't want to listen to him then why should he waste his time staying here? He could go back to his apartment, take a few sedatives and block out the world for a few hours. Why was he standing in the rain, soaked through and trying to talk to a girl who didn't want to know him?
Ironic, he mused. Ten years ago she had been in this position, now the table was turned and their roles reversed. He didn't like it. Not one bit.
"Sakura." He snapped, hoping the sharpness of his tone would wake her up.
She flinched but didn't still she refused to look at him. Well fine. He was a shinobi. He could play the waiting game. He slipped his hands into his pockets and wandered over to her, taking a seat at her side, underneath the shade of a large tree that shielded them from the worst of the rain, only letting through a few rather large drops of rain.
He reached for her bottle and his brows knitted when she held it tighter to herself. With a scowl, he gripped her wrist in one hand and pried off her fingers with the other, taking the bottle from her and taking a swallow himself. Oh yeah, he recognized that taste and the slow burn that centered deep inside him. Tsunade's best sake. Sakura must have a death wish.
"You stole from Tsunade?"
She glared at him, taking the bottle back from him. "So? I think I have more of a right to it than you do."
"She'll still kick your ass."
"I could probably take her." He quirked a brow surprised. Tsunade wasn't a push over, even if she was old. None of the Sannin were anything but strong. "Well I could if she didn't use her extra chakra. I'm only getting to grips with summoning my slugs now."
She was only learning that now? Naruto and he had learnt how to summon their creatures during their early teens and Sakura was only catching up now... it was the story of her life, he realized suddenly. How hard must that have been for her?
"Don't start Sasuke. I'm well aware of my failures and weaknesses."
He wanted to say something, something that could be construed as comforting but the simple fact was that if he said that she wasn't a failure or weak, then he'd be lying. She had been weak and she hadn't exactly been the star pupil of the Academy. Granted she had done better than Naruto and she did have her own strengths. But then again, she didn't have the advantages of some of the other kunoichi, he mused. She didn't have a kekkei-genkai or a particular jutsu to her name but she had never gone out of her way to make up for her weaknesses either. Not like Lee had.
"I hated being the weakest kunoichi. I didn't have Ino or Hinata's bloodline traits and I didn't have a particular skill like Tenten or Temari. I just have a really big forehead."
"You were good with genjutsu." He offered up helpfully, taking another swig of sake.
"Genjutsu, it's... it's a delusion. You just have to see through it. I still got caught a lot though."
Illusion, he mused, she meant illusion. "It's a learning curve. Being a shinobi is about learning from your mistakes, you got better." He'd heard someone say that once. He couldn't remember who. Maybe it was Iruka. "What happened at the hospital, Sakura?"
She sighed heavily and tilted her head back against the wet bark of the tree, the jagged edges catching at the fine strands of her hair. He looked away from her face abruptly. "I've been treating a patient lately, a girl around our own age who's married to this asshole. She worships the ground he walks on, he treats her like crap." Sasuke flinched. Now didn't that sound vaguely familiar? "He doesn't beat her but he hits her. There's not much of a difference, except that somehow I think the odd broken arm here and there is more systematic and cold, calculated even than a beating borne of rage. Whatever his motives, he's a bastard. He killed their child with his fists."
He looked at her shocked by the callous way she laid out the facts before looking out into the darkness. Of course she couldn't get emotionally involved. She was a medic, she probably had to deal with situations like this before in her life. She'd be invaluable to the Konoha Military Police, he mused before forcefully focusing on her again. He'd work out his recruitment drive later.
A Nara, A Hyuuga, Sai or any other artist... there had to be a better artist than the clone…
"He stopped her from coming to me lately; I guess he believed that I was trying to convince her to leave him."
"In a way. It's not like I could force my opinions on her. It's up to her if she wants to leave him. Oh Sasuke, she has her whole life ahead of her and she's staying with him because she mistakenly believes that she can make him happy. I know she can't. He doesn't love her; she's just a convenience for him. Someone to keep him company in life, who'll never leave him. It's... it's sickening."
His stomach churned uncomfortably. Was that how she thought about him? That he just wanted someone for his own means? Yes, of course she did. She must have been treating that girl when he had seen her in the bar that lunchtime when she'd spilled her guts to 'Sai'. Against his will, his fingers shook.
"She was taken to the hospital tonight. It was serious, lacerations to the stomach, a broken rib and clavicle, a twisted ankle, some head trauma. A neighbor reported hearing some disturbing noises to Anbu but... well Anbu is busy with other things." She muttered wryly, shooting him a wan smile.
Yeah, he knew that. That's why he was setting up the Konoha Police. They took care of the village and its people.
"So the neighbor grabbed a friend who's a ninja and they went round to check on them. They found my patient lying at the bottom of the stairs. Unconscious and bleeding with the husband nowhere to be seen. I was summoned to take care of her because she wouldn't allow anyone else near her."
"And the husband turned up." Sasuke guessed. He had heard of situations like this, sometimes shinobi themselves were known to take out their frustrations and anger out on their civilian families. It reaffirmed his belief that he wanted a kunoichi as a wife, should anything ever drive him to attack his family. The idea sickened him but knowing his family, he felt it would be prudent to be prepared for all eventualities.
"Yes and he wasn't happy to see that 'whore'-" At Sasuke's sharp look, she chuckled mirthlessly. "Don't look so shocked Sasuke, I've heard worse."
She shouldn't have to hear things like that. She was in a profession dedicated to taking care of people; she shouldn't be insulted by them or attacked. He'd make a note to get Naruto to post more Chunin at the hospital until he could get the Police set up.
"After saying some inventive things, he tried to get to his wife through me."
He snorted softly. Yes, he could imagine that alright. Sakura was always good at getting in front of those she wanted to protect. Someday it was going to get her seriously hurt or even killed. "What did you do?"
"I sent him flying into a metal door and nearly out a wall. It was quite satisfying. He deserved it. I'm no one's whore." She tossed back another mouthful of sake and shuddered delicately beside him. "Anbu showed up shortly, Neji and some other guy. They'll hold him over night and then he'll be released because there's no one to present evidence. And she'll probably go back to him as soon she's released from the hospital. Which won't be for a while because I'm in charge of her release."
"You can't control everyone's lives Sakura. People have to make their own mistakes."
"And they can, just not while I'm in charge. She's being stupid and fine, she can be stupid Sasuke, just not when she's under my observation. I see enough needless deaths in my job due to people's mistakes, I'm not going to stand by and watch her offer herself up as some kind of martyr. Do you know what she said to me? She said that he only hits her when he's hurting inside and if it stops him from hurting inside, she'll take his pain." Her face darkened as she took another quick gulp from the sake bottle, two high spots of color appearing along her cheekbones.
He took the bottle from her and took a drink himself, his mind buzzing hotly. The girl sounded like Sakura, the old one who would do anything for him. That kind of devotion was dangerous.
A rumble of thunder growled loudly over them followed by a blinding flash of light causing Sakura to jump beside him.
"Come on," he stated, scrambling clumsily to his feet. He was half way to being drunk and the smart option would be to stop drinking but he just didn't feel like stopping. Not today.
"I like it here. It's quiet." Sakura muttered sulkily.
"I have your sake." He informed her, dangling it by the neck before her. "Come on. Shinobi rule 101, don't stand by a tree when there's lightning."
"That's not a shinobi rule."
"It should be. The Dobe almost got fried because he didn't know it."
She choked out an amused chuckle. "Kakashi-sensei can cut through lightning with his Lightning Blade." She informed him, and he raised a brow surprised. Kakashi had never told him that. "Gai told us during your battle with Gaara." She let out a bark of laughter. "God, the things you remember without realizing it."
Another flash of lightning, just a little too close for comfort and Sasuke motioned for her to get to her feet. "Come on, Sakura."
"Go ahead. I'll be fine."
He rolled his eyes. He may be half drunk but she was definitely further gone than he was. Without a word, he reached down and seized her by the sleeve of her red top. "Come on, Sakura." He tugged her and almost laughed when she fell forward with a grunt.
"Sasuke!" She snarled, scrambling to her feet, dusting down her shorts and scowling at the wet patches and the traces of mud on her knees. "You're such a jerk. Talk to Lee, maybe he can instill some sense of chivalry into you."
He jerked a shoulder. What did he want to be chivalrous for? Imagine the trouble he'd have with fangirls if he was actually nice? He made a face. Right now he'd settle for beating them off with a stick, literally. Damn Naruto and the others for making that illegal. There was actually a small note on one of the ninja Handbooks that said 'Sasuke Uchiha is forbidden from hitting or touching anyone of the female persuasion with any blunt or sharp object." It was obvious that Naruto hadn't come up with the wording but Sasuke was nearly one hundred percent certain that the idea belonged solely to the idiot.
He stepped out from under the tree into the drizzling rain and glanced back for his female teammate, stumbling along behind him, muttering obscenities and threats under her breath.
"Ne, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura spoke up, voice soft and overly female but not irritating like Karin when she was being... weird. "Where are we going?"
"Home." He muttered, sending a quick glance up at the sky where the raindrops were still descending in a curtain of silver light.
By the time they reached the apartment, both of them were soaked through. Even as Sakura stepped through the front door, he was wondering why he'd invited her back –even though technically he hadn't actually said the words, it was sort of implied. He just hoped she didn't read anything into it. Some girls would but this would be a test of just how must Sakura had changed he decided, as he shirked his sandals and stepped into the kitchen to brew some tea.
Hearing no sound from behind, he took a quick look over his shoulder and frowned when he caught sight of Sakura shivering in the entrance. He sighed. They needed to get into dry clothes, even take a shower. This really would be a test, he mused. Had this been ten years ago, Sakura would have already been nosing around the apartment... then again, she'd probably done that already, he realized as he noted a few things out of place in his apartment. He quirked a brow at her and sighed as she took another swig of sake.
"I'll get you something to wear."
She frowned at him before shaking her head. "No need. I'll just head home."
"In your state? I don't think so."
"I'll be fine." She pouted. "I'm a kunoichi with noodles of talent."
She said noodles and the fact that she meant oodles told him she was definitely over her limit. "I'm not going back out in that rain to travel to the other side of Konoha. Just stay there Sakura, and don't get anything wet."
He felt more than saw her stick her tongue out and he knew that she was petty enough now to just sit on the furniture to annoy him. He'd just be quick. He entered his room and opened the closet he reserved for his clothes and groaned. None of these things would fit Sakura but then, he wasn't walking the whole way back to her apartment in the storm just to make sure she didn't fall and kill herself. Oh he'd find something just as soon as he got out of his own clothes. Picking out a few things, he shed his clothes as hurriedly as possible, keeping a wary eye on the door in case the old Sakura decided to re-emerge. He doubted it, after all, she seemed to have no interest in him now but it was better to be safe than sorry. The last thing he wanted was to be perved on.
After drawing the strings tight on a pair of loose black trousers he used for training, he tugged the hem of his black sleeveless shirt down over his waist and turned to study the wardrobe. She could wear one of his shirts but she'd need something under it. Even with drawstrings, her waist was too tiny to hold up his pants. Annoying girl. Did he have anything that would... a flash of white up on the top shelf caught his attention and he tugged them out. His old shorts, he'd forgotten them. They'd been sitting in his old apartment preserved in packaging with the rest of his stuff when he'd finally come home. When he had thought to throw them out, the idea of a rabid fangirl finding them and sniffing them (Naruto's idea) had made him rethink the idea. For a change, he was glad he had kept the old memento of his past.
Throwing them over his arm and seizing a towel from another cupboard, he headed back out to living area. His brows narrowed as he looked around and saw nothing and for a second, he had thought she'd gone home. Then his senses kicked in and he was suddenly aware of her in the kitchen. Striding in, he froze in the opening. Sakura was standing in front of the kitchen sink, humming to herself gently as she gazed out the window, her bottle of sake dangling loosely from her fingers. Something warm curled in his stomach and he frowned as he realized the sake might not be sitting well with him.
She jolted and spun to face him; hand pressed to her chest as she glared at him. "Sasuke give a girl a warning before you sneak up on her."
He snorted. "You should have sensed me."
"I am slightly intoxified so- no wait that's the wrong word, shoot. You know what I mean; my senses aren't as high as yours."
He quietly stuck his tongue in his cheek to prevent himself from smiling at her inability to communicate when she was drunk. He'd noticed it a couple of times when they had been out as team seven but when she was angry, the women could speak for the whole of the fire country. He'd never seen a more coherent person.
"Here," He uttered, holding out the clothes for her.
"Sasuke I don't need them. I'm fine."
She was soaked through. Her top was stained with water, clinging closer to her body almost like a second skin. Her shorts were the same and her legs were still damp. Not to mention her hair looked plastered to her head.
"You'll get sick." He finally said, watching as she took another drink from the sake bottle. With growing irritation, he took the bottle from her, ignoring her indignant pout at losing her sake.
"I'm a medic Sasuke," She pointed out, "I can cure myself of anything."
He curbed the urge to roll his eyes and dropped the towel onto her head. "Go change."
"I don't have any clothes." When he showed her the top and shorts he held, she pouted. "But Sasuke..."
"It's the best I could do, Sakura. Just change." He sighed heavily and moved past her, after relieving her of her sake bottle. For a moment she just hovered in the kitchen as if caught between wanting to go change and staying where she was. He wandered over to the window of the living room as he listened to her stomp down the hall towards the bathroom. He was right, she knew her way well enough around his apartment. Still he flinched when she slammed the door tight, after all, with her strength, she could probably shatter it and its frame.
His eyes travelled over the bright lights of Konoha, barely visible through the drops of water sluicing down the windowpane in watery tear-like trails. He didn't know how long he stood there alternately taking sips from the bottle and watching the town beneath him. He figured though, he'd been there for a while and Sakura still hadn't emerged. Idly he considered finding out if she had dressed yet or maybe she had decided to try to drown herself. She was just that type of drunk.
He sighed heavily. He didn't want to deal with her right now. He wasn't in the right frame of mind to deal with her and yet he couldn't just send her home, could he? No. If he did that, Naruto would pop up first thing the next morning to berate him for sending dear 'Sakura-chan' home in the middle of the night on her own. Of course, he could try to escort her but that would just waste valuable hours of sleeping time. He'd give her his couch, he decided.
He dropped down to the aforementioned furniture to test it. Aa, it wasn't too bumpy.
His eyes flicked to the corridor where she'd disappeared and he frowned. Surely she should have dressed by now. What was she doing in there? Spying on him? He scowled and got to his feet, his brow furrowing as the room spun a little.
The door slid open and Sakura glided out before stopping and posing when she caught sight of him. "Sasuke," She purred. He froze and frowned. What on earth was she doing now? Was she imitating Naruto's sexy-no-jutsu? She was. He sighed and fought the urge to palm his forehead as he watched his female teammate bat her eye lashes at him. Sakura shouldn't be allowed to drink. It was just a bad idea.
Temper flashed over her features; then disappeared as she rolled her eyes at him. "You're no fun." She declared lazily, blowing her bangs out of her face. Her hair was drier now, he noticed, but instead of the usual silky strands, it was fluffy with static, with darker patches where it hadn't fully dried. "I think you're sobering too. You can't be sober." She muttered, reaching to grab the ever flowing bottle from him. "It defies the point of being drunk."
He quirked a brow. Did she even understand what she was saying? Che, did it even matter? It was late. They should be in bed. But not together. She had made it perfectly clear that she didn't want to be the bearer of his children… not that he was insinuating that if they were in bed together they'd be having… well that. It just might happen that way since they were both drunk and she was really quite beautiful. He wondered why he'd never really noticed before. Suddenly he sneered. What was he thinking? Who cared what she looked like? She was Sakura. She was his teammate. She was his… friend, and she was wearing his clothes and she didn't want to be the mother of his children.
"We should get some sleep. You have work tomorrow and I have training." That wasn't necessarily set in stone but he figured that Naruto or a clone would burst through his window the next morning to bug him.
She groaned softly, shaking her head. "You're so… responsible Sasu-chan. Do you ever let loose?"
"We're ninja Sakura, at any moment we could be called into battle and not all of us have ninjutsu to sober us up."
She wrinkled her nose cutely at him. "A, you're so mean and b, it's not ninjuzu…juice-u… juju… Damnit! That word that you said. It's not that." She stated flopping down onto the couch he'd just vacated. "You know what, you go to bed like a good little nin-nin – ninny – nin… - shinobi and I'll… probably end up unconscious on the ground."
He blinked; then sighed heavily. She probably would too. And then she'd end up vomiting and that would lead to her choking on it and dying and he'd be left with a corpse to clean up. "You can't sleep out here. You're not capable of looking after yourself."
Her eyes flew open as she snorted, lips curving with mirth. "I looked after myself quite well while you were gone. You could say I finally blossomed with you gone. It was like the sun finally came out and little Sakura bloomed."
He frowned. She was also capable of being cruel when she was drunk. She certainly wouldn't let it drop that he had left the village in search of power and the death of his brother.
"I'm going to go find Naruto. He's a fun drunk."
Sakura and Naruto drunk together?! Now that was a recipe for disaster. He frowned as she stretched a leg lazily into the air. For such a short girl, her legs certainly seemed to be long. Was that even possible? He shook his head. These were the sort of thoughts drink brought upon him.
She sighed languidly and began to kick her feet over the arm of the couch. "You know how you've been looking for someone to restart your clan with?"
He grunted, feeling no need to bring up their earlier conversation. He no longer planned to keep the clan going. That dream was long gone now. He had to keep reminding himself of that. Especially when faced with someone else wearing the Uchiha symbol on their clothes. It looked good on her... but it would only be a onetime thing.
"Well, I'm thinking of doing something similar for myself. You know, looking for a guy to settle down with. Not marriage or anything but… I guess companionship would be nice. We're ninja's, any day could be our last and I don't want to be alone."
He frowned. "You have us." He stated tersely.
She did have them. They were a team. None of them were alone as long as they had each other. It had taken him a long time to realize that but he knew it now. No one in the hidden leaf village was ever truly alone. That's what Konoha represented: a family that wasn't bonded by blood but by nationality. But Team 7 had a special bond, a closer one. If Konoha was a family, it was an outer circle family but Team 7 was a nucleic one without the usual conventions of parents and children. And if there were parents and children, he and Sakura were probably the parents given how immature Naruto and even Kakashi were, never mind how uneducated that wannabe clone was.
"I know that." She said with a soft smile, obviously she was coming down from her drunkenness and had moved onto the self reflection stage of the nights proceedings. He needed to get her into bed and put her to sleep quick but she got testy whenever he even got close to her these days. She never seemed to understand that he did these things for her own good, no she got upset whenever he knocked her out. Granted at twelve, leaving her on a bench in the middle of the village probably wasn't the smartest idea he'd ever had but it was Konoha and she had been safe. At least he put her on a bench; he could have just as easily left her on the ground.
"But Naruto has Hinata. Tsunade and Shizune are a team. Ino has Shikamaru and Choji and Lee has Gai, Neji and Tenten. Kakashi… well Kakashi is a law onto himself but I'm pretty sure he doesn't just stick around on his own all the time. I have a feeling he has someone but I haven't worked up the courage the stalk him, not after the last time we tried spying on him. And you… well you're going to have your own family. I don't want to feel like a third wheel, been there, done that and I didn't enjoy it."
"I'm not looking for a family." He already had one that was satisfying enough for him at the moment. He didn't feel the need to add that she was the one looking for a family for him.
"The Uchiha's will be extinct. That's just wrong. They were once such a respected clan; the name should be synonymous with power and prestige, not with a massacre."
"The Uchiha had their time."
She opened her mouth to respond only to close it with a sigh. "It's your decision Sasuke. Just don't make it one you regret."
He would have said he wouldn't regret it but a part of him felt he would. He wouldn't make a good father, he knew that. He was selfish and he held no great fondness for young people – his dealings with the honorable grandson and small companions had assured him of that – and he could never settle in one place for too long before getting restless. He wasn't father material and he refused to give a child a childhood like his or Naruto's. Still, no more Uchiha's, no one to show the people of Konoha the good that had been there. None of them knew of his aunty and uncle who had always been so kind to him or his beautiful, doting mother and proud father. Itachi and he were now the legacy of the Uchiha family and what a terrible smear they had left upon their family's name.
Sakura sat up suddenly. "Sasuke, do you know the symbol I wear on my clothes. The white circle?"
He nodded. He had no clue what it symbolized but just as Naruto had always worn swirls on his clothing, Sakura had always worn a white circle.
"I don't know what that symbolizes and when I ask my grandparents, they don't know. Do you know what that's like? For me to wear a symbol but not know why? It's a Haruno family something or other, so maybe once, a long, long, long time ago, the symbol stood for something. Maybe the Haruno's were a great ninja clan once… well no, that's just wishful thinking. If they were, there would be evidence and scrolls and despite looking up the symbol, I've found nothing."
She sighed, pulling her knees to her chest, looking at once vulnerable and lost. He shifted uncomfortably. There should be something to say to her, anything, but he was not the best at soothing people's fears. How could he know what to say when he was at a loss himself?
"I just don't want the same to happen to the Uchiha clan. I hate the idea that people will see the symbol in a book and wonder what it meant or why the Uchiha were so great. You're the only living legacy and people are in awe of you and how powerful you are. Even when we were genin people would always notice you in a way that neither I nor Naruto ever would be. I'm not jealous – well maybe a little – but mostly, I'm proud and I don't want the village to lose that."
He understood. Sometimes he felt the same. The next generation would be better. They wouldn't have to deal with what he had to go through. They wouldn't be bitter and they could show how great the Uchiha clan really was. And then logic would rise up and rip his dreams to shreds with razor sharp teeth. Why wouldn't they be bitter? What guarantees did he have that they would be well adjusted and happy? What kind of parents would they need to have warm, supportive homes? Could he create children like that?
Not without the right woman, his conscience sneered. And who was she?
Sakura shifted and rolled to her feet, stretching her fingers up to the ceiling as she rose up on her tiptoes to draw her body taut. He watched the scene, felt his insides clench and looked stubbornly away. He didn't need to be aware of Sakura. She had made it clear that she wasn't interested in the position of the Uchiha matriarch and why should he begrudge her that? He had done nothing but push her away all his life but they were different people now. He enjoyed her company now but how much of that was genuine? How much of herself did she hide from him in fear of annoying him?
"Ok, let's get some sleep."
He nodded. There was no point chasing idle dreams when there were much more important things to think about. He headed for his bedroom and looked back at her when he realized she wasn't following. "Come."
Pink brows rose in high arcs. "Ne, Sasuke-kun, where do you want me to sleep?"
"You drank too much. I don't want you choking on your own vomit."
"Wow… and you're not a virgin. I can see why with your great sweet talking skills." She muttered under her breath but he heard and his lips twitched. Sarcasm suited her. He didn't know why but it seemed utterly natural as it slid from her lips. Others would sound bitchy, Sakura was just amusing.
"I'm not Tonton, I don't respond to one word commands."
"You're a shinobi, right?"
"Ugh." She curled her lips in disgust, acknowledging that shinobi's often did respond to one word commands, even going so far to obey hand signs too because in the field, unnecessary noise was dangerous. "I can't sleep in your room, Sasuke. That would be… awkward."
This time he raised a brow, pushing open his door and gesturing her inside. "I'm not staying up and watching you."
"Somehow that just sounds creepy too."
"Look… oh fine. It's no different than sharing a tent, right? We've done that loads and you're asexual so there's nothing to worry about." With a determined expression, she stalked to the bedroom and passed him by, making sure her body didn't touch his. "So Sasuke, if you're not a virgin, who did you have sex with?"
He closed the door behind him and walked to his side of the bed, giving her a grim look. "That's not important."
"It sort of is. I mean, could any of them be pregnant with little Uchiha brats? The chances of pregnancy are pretty high even if you only did it once."
"Sakura." He waited until she stopped toying with the quilt and met his eyes. When she finally did, he turned his own gaze to his fingers. "I knew what I was doing. None of them carry my child."
"Precautions don't always-" She broke off at his quelling look and sighed. "Sorry, I don't want to sound as if I'm preaching. It's just working in the medical centre means I see a lot of accidental pregnancy's and I destroy just as many lives before they even have a chance to really begin."
His gaze snapped up to her face. She had aborted children. It had never occurred to him that one of her duties might be to cull embryos.
"It's a part of my job, Sasuke. It's something I've come to deal with. Naturally I try to advise them of the best options but well, it happens. Sometimes the girls just aren't ready for the responsibility and others… well for others it's just better for them." She didn't need to elaborate further; he knew what she was unwilling to voice out loud. "Sometimes I try to tell the ones that are willing to listen, to carry the child to full term. There are so many families out there that don't have the luxury of having children, whether because of natural causes or because of injuries sustained in the field. But that's just not an option for some." She shrugged gently, folding her arms and hunching her shoulders.
He didn't know what to say so he lifted the covers and slipped into the bed. "You should sleep Sakura."
She nodded quietly and got into the bed, pulling the sheets up to her chin as she turned her back on him. "Goodnight Sasuke."
He extinguished the light and looked out into the darkness. "Goodnight Sakura."
A.N. My apologies for the lateness of this installment. I had part of this written and then I lost inspiration as Sasuke continued further down his path to darkness and then I got the fourth series of the Naruto Uncut box set so my inspiration was revived. Very little fluff in this, next to zero crack since Sasuke wasn't drunk, Naruto didn't make an appearance and Sakura was just too tired. So therefore we've reached Melancholy drunkeness. Hopefully things will - no they will pick up in the next chapter because we're back to Sakura and best of all, they're in bed together. It's a complete cliché I know but... Sasuke wants her bed. What can I do?!
Review please!! They make my day!