Okay. This piece could be read as being written before the last piece (well, it was) I just didn't know how the two connected. Figured I should post it with an explanation so I didn't confuse some poor readers. So technically, this doesn't connect to the first piece, but it could.
Also, in case you missed my update on my profile, I am going to be making this a collection of drabbles. I tried to turn it into a full fledged story and it wasn't working. So now I am playing around and seeing where this will go.
Thanks for all the lovely, lovely reviews for the first chapter!
Also, I am totally screwing around with the timeline here. Oops?
She was avoiding him
She was avoiding him. Resting his shoulder against the side of a building, he studied the pink haired medic that was moving carefully through the crowded streets. Several shopping bags were held firmly in her arms as she maneuvered through groups of clustered civilians. Naruto was off on a mission for the Hokage, which gave him the time alone he needed to deal with this particular problem.
It had been a year since his return to Konoha. The memory of Naruto half-dragging, half-carrying him after his fight with Itachi was still one that left a bitter taste in his mouth. He only had vague relocations of when she had joined them. He could recall the tone of her voice, the narrowed eyed look of determination, but his memory was too fuzzy to pick out any more details. That was fine with him. It wasn't so much how they had gotten him back into Konoha as much as it was what they had done after he returned that he needed to remember.
Pushing away from the wall, he kept his chakra suppressed, moving quietly behind her. He would have scolded her for not being more aware if he didn't know that she would shake it off and offer him that slight smile.
Naruto had told him – almost carelessly while he was still stuck in that damn hospital room – that things had changed while he was gone.
ANBU had kept an eye on him. It hadn't seemed to bother Naruto; he was too busy wearing that satisfied smirk. Sasuke could have told them that they were wasting their time. Itachi was dead. While he still had business to settle with Orochimaru, he had no particular reason to leave Konoha.
He hadn't seen her as often as Naruto. Sakura. She had shown up on occasion, looking flushed and tired as she checked his bandages, a little note of uncertainty creeping into her voice when she spoke to him. Her fingers had trembled only once and after that she was never alone in the room with him and she avoided his eyes. He had brushed it off as that ridiculous crush she had apparently never quite gotten over as a child.
She had been at his trial, sitting silently next to him with white lips and a stubborn set of her jaw. Naruto had sat on his other side, expression daring the council to vote against him. It was the first time he had bothered to wonder how things would have been if he had stayed. He didn't regret leaving. His brother was dead and while Orochimaru would never leave him alone, that was a threat he knew how to handle. He didn't regret leaving, but in that moment, he had wondered.
The council had come down on him but they hadn't killed him. He had known that they wouldn't risk loosing the sharingan. Their decision of two years restricted to the village, no missions, and weekly meetings with Tsunade to judge his mental stability could have been worse. The vague notion that he was being used as bait to lure out Orochimaru had been cased aside after a conversation with Naruto. There had been a look in the blonde's eyes, one that he recognized easily. A hatred that burned deep. Sasuke gave up any notions of killing Orochimaru himself.
Sasuke understood revenge.
Naruto had never been too complicated. While Sasuke had refused to fall back into their old familiarity with each other, he had been willing to create a new one. Naruto had seemed to understand, but there had been disquiet in his eyes for a few days that had suddenly disappeared. Sasuke suspected Sakura had something to do with that. The two of them had been testing each other out slowly, learning the areas that could and could not be treaded.
Sakura avoided him.
She showed up late to dinners Naruto had decided Team 7 must have and found reasons to leave early. She worked herself to the bone at the hospital. She trained with them. He had learned fairly quickly to avoid her chakra-enhanced punch. (He couldn't quite forget her smile the first time she had broken his ribs.) In had been in one of those breathless moments where exhaustion left them boneless and dripping in sweat that she had smiled, really smiled (and not because he was on the ground struggling to breathe.)
Something had changed in his perception of her in that moment.
It hadn't been the fake, too wide smile of their childhood, and it hadn't been the one that came so easily to her mouth when she was around anyone but him. It had been small, the edges of her lips just curving. Her eyes had been bright with adrenaline and there had been something in her face that had left him feeling like she had managed to clock him. Completion. Relief. And something else, something soft and warm and almost welcome.
When she had caught him watching her that smile had died.
If she had been avoiding him before that, she had been flat out hiding from him after it.
He narrowed his eyes as he watched her shift her bags to push a strand of hair out of her eyes and considered his next move.
He could let her slip away. Odds that Team 7 would actually ever go on another mission together were slim to none. He was back in Konoha, yes. Itachi was dead, yes. He assumed that Orochimaru's life expectancy was lower each day that Konoha hunted him. The Akatsuki were still a threat, but Itachi's death had taken away one of their more dangerous members. Even so, he sincerely doubted that even after this probation was up that they would ever actually allow him out of the village. The council would do it under the disguise of 'protecting' him, of course.
It would be easy, to let her go. To let her hide behind work and duty, to watch her work herself to an exhaustion as she hide from whatever it was that she had shown him in that practice field. The reason her fingers had trembled that first morning in the hospital. Naruto hadn't dragged him back alone. The idiot didn't have the ability to plan far enough in advance that they could track Itachi, to wait for the aftermath of his duel with his brother in hopes that there would be enough left of him to bring home.
His gut told him that it had been Sakura who had been involved the plans creation. He had learned more about Naruto and Sakura's antics when he was gone from the Hokage during those 'mental stability' tests than he was sure either of them knew. The type of brain numbing tenacity it took to hold onto something that had been so fleeting compared to the time spent away from each other had rattled him. It was one thing to run into them occasionally, to be told that they wanted you back; it was another to have the evidence that everything they had done for years had been to reach a certain goal. And that that goal had been him.
And now she was running from it.
The question was now what did he want? Because if he chose her, if he decided to walk the path that would lead him to the answers of questions he was just starting to realize he had, he would do so until he knew everything. Until he had her memorized and tangled up so deeply in his life that neither of them would have a way out. He didn't know any other way than everything.
She would become his priority.
Watching her set her bags on the ground, he considered approaching but decided against it. Not until he knew which way he would walk. Not until he knew his own intentions. He owed her at least that.
Making sure she made it inside okay, he turned and headed back to his own place.
He had some thinking to do.