A/N: This is my One-Shot, No, Really drabble collection. Anything in here was written in 24 hours or less. Various themes, pairings, universes of canon, non, crack origin.
Dis: NM
Also: Minimal editing. Please call me on any errors you see fit.

SasuSaku Pipedream 1
Hate

5.23.08

The first time she saw him, she swiftly and efficiently knocked him unconscious.

-

She avoided him the first two weeks after his return for as long as she possible could. She went to work too early and left too late. She was careful, and she was ruthless. She knew his schedule, knew where he was going to be or where he might be or where there was a slight possibility of him being and avoided those places like they were the locations of raging cholera plagues.

The first week back he was tortured, questioned, or whatever it was the ANBU deemed necessary to subject him to. Then he was healed, submitted to extensive physicals by Tsunade herself. Next came the psychological examinations. What they could get out of him that the ANBU couldn't, they apparently tried very hard to extract.

The second week was more questioning and interviews by the ANBU and the medical examiners and the Elders. At the very end Tsunade made her decision.

Only then, as he was departing from the Hokage tower standing there at the bottom of the stairs in the sunlight, did she reveal herself.

Sasuke only looked at her, quiet. He wasn't stupid, no matter how much the last couple of years and weeks had played with his mind, and he knew why she hadn't come to see him. But he had no idea what she wanted. He certainly didn't expect her to throw her arms around him or offer to bear his children or to tie him up and exact some very kinky and sexually-repressed fantasies on him.

He looked pathetic, really. Sad, and deserving. For once in his life, Uchiha Sasuke looked ready to accept his fate. Before the feelings of regret could curdle in her belly, she swung back her fist and smashed his face in.

His nose was broken, and blood was gushing down his chin and over his shirt. It wasn't enough to knock him over; he only stumbled at her hit, his head whipping back from the force of the blow. Just as he raised his head, she punched him again.

Her anger was straightforward and fierce. This was the only chance she was going to get to pummel the living daylights out of him. This was the only time the ANBU guards and Naruto and Kakashi and Sai and Yamato were going to step back, looking uncomfortable but unwilling to meddle in something that, as Kakashi sighed gravely, "he's had coming for a very long time."

After this, they would heal him again. Tsunade would not look kindly on her apprentice beating the crap out of the Last Uchiha repeatedly. So she drew back her fist and hit him again, her next fist planted in his gut before the force of the first blow could even knock him over. But her last hit forced him to spit up blood, and he passed out from the blow, crumpling and falling over.

The whole thing was over in less than two minutes. Neither had said a word to each other and now he was unconscious.

Very carefully, Sakura lowered herself to her knees at his side in a way she would have many, many times if only he had let her. She fixed his nose first, exceedingly focused so it would look exactly the same as it had before and not heal crooked. Then she paused and unzipped her shirt ignoring the curious stares of the ANBU and her teammates.

She used the red fabric of her shirt to clean his face as carefully as she could, wiping off the dried blood from his face. Next she healed his ribs, pouring her chakra into him and listening, feeling with it until she was sure he was breathing normally. Finally, she healed him. Every little cut or scrape or bruise she could find she fixed, exhausting her chakra on all the minor things that were unimportant.

He didn't wake up. She didn't intend him to, not until she was very far gone. Steadily, she rose to her feet, shrugging her shirt back on, not caring that his blood was staining her hands and her hair and her face and the white tank top underneath. No one stopped her as she left, and nobody tried to talk to her.

Sasuke didn't wake up from his coma for three weeks.

-

The next time she saw him, it was purely chance.

He was supposed to be under guard at all times, and she hadn't volunteered and they hadn't pressed her into. But Naruto had to dash and Kakashi was always late, so Sakura sat on the roof of a building of the complex contemplating where she was going to force Naruto to take her out to dinner.

Though staring distractedly at the sky, she was intently focused on Sasuke's chakra signature, because Sakura was diligent in all she did, and this included watching ex-missing-nins everyone was convinced she hated. A flicker of movement at the corner of her eye drew her attention.

She didn't turn her head right away, letting her eyes track the movement in the style of hawks before her head slowly followed. Sasuke had come out, sitting on the porch of the small house he had once lived in with his family. In his hands were a scroll and a single kunai.

Of course, from where Sakura sat, it was impossible to see a glint of metal or to even tell it was a kunai. Still, she knew instinctively and she tensed, all her senses pinpointed on him and perfectly frozen. The color of her hair didn't matter when she was holding herself as completely unmoving as a mountain just before it erupts.

He cut himself: She saw the glint of blood and then the snap of the scroll, and he planted his thumb on it before letting the paper rewind. Quickly, so she could catch details, Sakura sharpened her vision, mentally zooming in as the smoke cleared and a miniature snake curled itself up Sasuke's arm.

Her hand was on her kunai pouch, mentally scanning the list of his known attacks that she hadn't felt ashamed of reading his medical files for. But he did nothing, and the little snake looped its tail around his upper arm, lifting its head to rest it against his cheek.

If it was possible for her to do so any more than she was already, Sakura froze. She recognized the gesture. She'd seen that same pose on so many people before. Naruto and the frogs, Tsunade and the slugs. Even herself. Even Kakashi. It was a pose of confider and confident, Sasuke leaning close to the dun-colored sidewinder as it rubbed its head affectionately against his face and listened to his soft-spoken words.

Sakura didn't know what to think. She could never be suspicious of that pose. She'd seen it on too many people not to know what it was: It was an expression of weakness. After all, animals were such good confidants. They were objective and yet subjective, they didn't judge the same way as people, for they weren't people. For creatures that required blood sacrifices to summon, they were exceedingly loyal and they would keep your secret to the grave.

Normally, Sakura might have been suspicious of the snake. But though the thing was no doubt poisonous, it was small and it was innocent. Compared to the huge snake Orochimaru had summoned that requested to be fed in body counts before wrecking havoc, it was even a bit cute. And surely Sasuke had things to confess. The anxious way he was whispering to the snake showed that.

Everyone else knew what he had done. But everyone else was not a little snake that might have been his only confident during his time away from Konoha. Sakura knew how that went. It didn't matter if you had other human friends or people you trusted. An animal didn't judge, it wasn't judgmental. She knew which slug to summon for a bit of a heart-to-heart and apparently Sasuke had a snake of his very own for the task.

Sighing, she glanced at Kakashi from where he crouched on the roof next to her. "Don't read his lips."

Sasuke was actually tucked into himself, his hair brushing his mouth as he spoke to the bobbing head of the snake, as if he'd had practice at trying to conceal his words, so it wasn't like Kakashi had a better look than she did. He glanced at her over the top of his open book.

"I thought you hated him."

Sakura let a smile twist her lips and shook her head. "Everyone thinks that. But I don't." She glanced again at Sasuke. He seemed to be finished, for he was listening intently as the tongue of the snake darted out to taste his skin.

Kakashi was regarding her seriously. She only shrugged and slotted him a look. "Why do you think I avoid him?"

There was the faintest hint of movement beneath the mask, showing that Kakashi was smiling. "I wouldn't read his lips, anyway. I know what he's doing," he said as she disappeared.