Everything Is Alright
"Did you hear? He's back…"
"The Uchiha traitor? I can't believe he'd show his face after what he did!"
"Do you think he's as handsome as he was when he left? Should I break up with my boyfriend?"
Sakura pointedly ignored the brief snippets of conversation she couldn't help but overhear as she walked to the hospital. She knew that the villagers had the right to think badly of her teammate—by betraying the village, he'd jeopardized them all. But she couldn't help but be angry by their unabashed gossip, they way they presumed to know anything about him.
Of course, one could argue the same thing about her and Naruto, now.
Upon entering the hospital, she was greeted by a harassed-looking, middle-aged nurse. "Sakura-san, thank goodness you're here! The Uchiha boy is refusing to let us treat him—he won't let anyone change his bandages, he won't let us monitor his heart-rate, he knocked the tray of food all over the floor—"
"Relax, Notoko-san," Sakura soothed. "I'll take care of it. Which room was he in, again?"
"Room 57," the nurse breathed, greatly relieved. "But be careful, Sakura-san, he's been very uncooperative. I was afraid he would punch me when I tried to give him a shot."
Sakura smiled a little. Uncooperative. If there was ever a word for Sasuke, that was it. "I'll take my chances. Could you tell Tsunade-sama that I'd like to see her later? Thank you."
Notoko bustled away as Sakura adjusted the messenger-bag on her shoulder and, after grabbing a file from the front desk, headed towards the dark-eyed boy's room.
Sakura had changed, Sasuke noticed idly as the girl entered his hospital room, rifling through a manila folder. She looked up briefly and offered him a distracted smile. "Good morning, Sasuke-kun. Did you sleep well?" Her voice was soft and distant, and Sasuke could tell she wasn't expecting an answer—which was good, because he wouldn't have offered one anyway.
Her pin-straight, pastel pink hair brushed her shoulders and framed a delicate face with high cheekbones, a small nose, and peach-colored skin. The lashes that ringed her green eyes brushed her cheeks as she read a paper. She was only about 5"5, with a slim build. The top she was wearing was sleeveless and dusty green, with a black skirt and black leggings. A navy blue messenger-bag was slung over her right shoulder.
Unlike when she was thirteen, her stride was not awkward and hesitant—still not graceful, but smooth. She emitted a quiet confidence, and Sasuke realized she must hold some amount of authority if she was able to pass the ANBU members guarding his door. She was almost-pretty, he decided, and realized he must be extremely bored if he took the time to assess her like this.
"Alright," she said, apparently having found the paper she was looking for. She dragged a chair over to the side of his bed and sat down, her left leg tucked under her. "It seems you broke your left leg and two of your fingers, sprained your right wrist, cracked two of your ribs, and had a mild concussion. It's strange that's all, considering you fought someone so powerful. I'm assuming this was mainly a genjutsu-oriented battle, then?"
Sasuke shrugged. It had been for the first three-fourths of it, before it progressed to ninjutsu and a bit of rapid taijutsu.
Both of their heads turned towards the door at the same time to see Neji enter the room, appearing, could it be, almost disheveled. Almost. The pale-eyed young man coolly ignored Sasuke and looked to Sakura, his expression carefully neutral. "Sakura, could I speak to you, please? It's important."
Sakura blinked at him and smiled uncertainly. "Of course, Neji. Do you mind waiting a little while, though? I just need to finish up with Sasuke-kun."
"I'd rather not wait," he said, calmly but firmly.
Sakura regarded him quietly for a moment before turning back to Sasuke. "Do you mind, Sasuke-kun? It'll only be a minute."
Sasuke shrugged, his indifference clear. However, he couldn't help but wonder in a detached manner when Sakura had become acquainted with Hyuuga Neji.
Sakura followed Neji to the end of the hallway, out of earshot of the ANBU guarding Sasuke's door. "What is it, Neji?" she inquired a bit apprehensively. She knew he wouldn't interrupt her with a patient to chat about the weather. She doubted he'd ever chat about the weather, anyway—or chat, for that manner.
"Sakura," he began steadfastly, "I don't think that… you should really be putting too much effort into reacquainting yourself with Uchiha Sasuke. I know that you still consider him a friend, but I don't think it's in your best interest—he's…" He broke off, eyeing her.
"A traitor?" Sakura finished for him, deceptively mild.
Neji looked her in the eyes. "Yes."
Sakura didn't speak for a moment, struggling to curb a sharp retort. Despite her pretense of nonchalance when speaking with the nurse, Notoko-san, Sasuke's return affected her deeply. She was quite aware that she still cared about him a great deal—she even knew she loved him, though whether it was still in a romantic sense was debatable. She'd been fighting with herself not to run her hands over Sasuke's face, through his hair, to assure herself that he was real, that he was there, that her Sasuke-kun had finally come home.
"Neji," she said quietly, "thank you for your concern. But I'd rather you stayed out of it." Neji's eyes narrowed slightly, and he seemed almost offended. "Even after all this, I trust Sasuke-kun. He's my teammate, and I'll always help him when he needs me."
He appeared to choose his words carefully. "Just… be cautions, then. You're a smart girl, Sakura. I don't want you to get—" he bit off the last word, his face settling again into cultured placidness. "That's all, then. I apologize for wasting your time."
Sakura grinned at him with slightly forced cheer. "A conversation with you is never a waste of time, Neji. You're just such a barrel of laughs, you know?"
One corner of his mouth turned up. "Well, one of us needs to be cheerful—you're always so depressing."
Sakura nodded, feigning solemnity. "Yes, my therapy can only get me so far." She smiled at him softly. "Really, though, thanks for worrying about me, Neji." Aware that she was making him uncomfortable, she touched his arm lightly. "I'm going to get back to Sasuke-kun, now. I'll see you."
Sasuke didn't look up when Sakura re-entered the room and sat back down. "Sorry about making you wait," she said, smiling apologetically.
He grunted indistinguishably, his eyes trained on the minute stitching of his sheets.
"Well, they did a good job patching you up last night, but you have to stay in the hospital for another week or so." When Sasuke glared at her, she responded with a mild one of her own. "Sasuke-kun, you have to stay here—there's no arguing that. And you have to do what the nurses tell you to do—I was informed of your shenanigans earlier this morning—yes, Sasuke-kun, shenanigans, don't make that face. Really, the nurses know what's best for you, and they're only doing their jobs. You could try to be nice—talk about the weather, or something. Yeah."
She exhaled loudly, ruffling her bangs. After grabbing her bag and returning the chair to its original position, she paused on her way out the door. Ducking her head so that her hair swung forward and veiled her face, she asked quietly, "Why did you come back?"
Sasuke only answered, voice raspy with disuse, when her hand once again reached for the handle on the door. "Where else was I supposed to go?"
"You could have gone back to Sound," she pointed out mildly, but Sasuke detected the underlying tension.
He gave her a blank stare, slightly irritated that he couldn't see her face. "Their forehead-protectors are gay."
Sakura's head jerked up, eyes wide, and started laughing in a way that was both surprised and incredulous. Was what he said really the unprecedented?
She turned to face him fully, and smiled, green eyes clear and gentle. "Sasuke-kun, I'm glad you're home."
Sakura knocked on the door to her master's office, still smiling slightly. Sasuke had never been that frank with her, unless he was criticizing her. It made her feel like maybe things would be different this time, like maybe she and Sasuke could really, truly be friends.
After shutting the door quietly behind her, Sakura went to stand directly in front of the Hokage's desk, and asked directly, "What are you going to do about Sasuke-kun?"
The Godaime sighed and rubbed her temples. "I actually had a favor to ask you about that. He can't leave the village for two years, and he can't go on missions for three. He is to be kept under 24/7 surveillance for a year."
Sakura bit her lip. "So… there's no chance he could be executed?"
Tsunade laughed humorlessly. "No. After I laid out his options for him, he coughed up information on the Sound and the Akatsuki. And he did kill Orochimaru, Deidara, and Itachi, which we are thankful for. It would be a shame to let the Sharingan disappear from Konoha, anyway."
Sakura wasn't sure she liked hearing her teammate's life be judged by the value of his blood, but kept silent. She really should be grateful. Traitors were rarely—almost never—treated so leniently.
"There's a… slight problem, however." Tsunade actually looked a bit uncomfortable—that was new.
"In order to be kept under 24/7 surveillance, someone needs to live with him, but he has vehemently refused to let some random ANBU guards live in his family's house. Normally I would disregard this, but he seemed adamant about it, and I'd rather he be as willing and complacent as possible—if the villagers know he's raising a fuss, they'll get anxious. Very anxious. So… would you be willing to live with him?"
Sakura's mouth dropped open, an uncouth response her mother would have criticized her for. "I—what? Me? Tsunade-sama, that…" That what? It wasn't like it meant anything. She'd just be his warden, of sorts. But, Christ, how awkward would that be? And, anyway, she didn't have time to babysit him, she reminded herself.
"What about my work in the hospital?"
Tsunade shrugged. "Drag him along, and if he starts scaring the patients, lock him in your office. I'd ask Naruto to stay with him, but he'll be on a lot of upcoming missions, dealing with the Sound and ferreting out the last members of the Akatsuki. When he is in the village, though, you can hand the Uchiha over to him. I really don't expect him to try anything, but you could handle him well enough until you got back-up if he did decide to try and escape."
Sakura bit her lip. "Well… okay, but Sasuke-kun won't be very happy about it," she warned. Oh, the beauty of the understatement.
Tsunade shrugged again. "If given the choice between you and an ANBU guard, I'm confident he'll pick you. You were his teammate, after all." Yes, because that counted for so much in the long run, Sakura thought bitterly.
"If you say so..."
Tsunade smiled at her encouragingly, sensing the inner turmoil behind the affected detachment. "You'll do fine. If he starts giving you any trouble, just punch him."
Sakura smiled in a noncommittal sort of way. "I was planning on it."
Only when she was lying in her bed that night did she allow herself to worry. Sasuke had grudgingly agreed to let her live with him, as Tsunade had predicted. Sakura wondered whether she would be able to live with him after almost seven years of absence. It was a daunting thought.
Takes place after the Itachi-Sasuke fight.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto--or Sasuke, or Sakura, or anyone else. Do I wish I did? Definitely. That doesn't seem to have an impact on the universe, however…