by Adriana S (hikari yuuko)
Disclaimer: I own only the plot.
Notes: Slightly AU. Post-manga. Written over two years ago and worked on little by little; I guess it speaks of how much I hesitate to let go of my fiction. That, or that I'm terribly lazy. I hope you enjoy this piece nonetheless. It's been a while since I willed myself to edit and post something here. Please review if you liked it. (And point out any typos for correction! ;) ).
Sasuke shows up at her home in the middle of the night, dirty and bleeding, and Sakura merely lets him in without any questions, closing the door in with a quiet 'thunk' after he walks past her. She motions him into her living room and helps him sit on the floor against the largest sofa. The pink-haired medic is one to move quickly, rushing to her bathroom to get some supplies and returning to the room where the Uchiha heir is already tossing the bloody bandages around his arms and legs to the floor.
"What happened?" she mumbles as she moves the dismissed gauzes aside to let herself kneel beside him. Sakura hasn't bothered to change out from her pink and blue pajamas, but isn't concerned in the least about what he thinks of it. She just doesn't care anymore. "Tsunade-shishou said the mission wasn't supposed to be over in at least two more days."
Sasuke is not known to be the talkative kind, but he does feel obliged to answer. The boy isn't as blatant as to ignore the fact that he has burst into her home at an ungodly hour. "We were ambushed on the third day," he mumbles, a dignified tone then takes over his next statement as though this were the most important fact of all, "We finished the mission successfully."
"Yet you didn't leave unscathed, that much I can tell." Sakura condemns as her emerald-green eyes quickly scan him.
There is a large patch of blood on his clothes near his right shoulder and other minor scratches all around his body, but nothing as serious as the first, more evident wound. The girl's hands wander to his ragged and filthy dark blue shirt; and with her strength only, she tears it in two. It makes it easier to get rid of the cloth. When his chest is uncovered, Sakura finds the largest wound still bleeding. She performs a series of hand seals and with them activates a jutsu to stop the hemorrhage. Sasuke, on another hand, remains unfazed at the unconsented action, knowing that his favorite shirt had been beyond repair even before she ever laid her fingers on it and that with his injuries it would have been difficult to undress himself despite her assistance. He simply watches quietly as his former teammate and Konoha medic continues to survey the damage left by the attack.
She decides to work on the lesser wounds first, or at least on those that may leave ugly marks, deeming it better to heal those before she closes that large gap on his shoulder since she knows the task will probably deplete her energy. It won't take much of her time either and the seal can resist long enough. And so, Sakura's chakra quickly begins flowing into the shallower cuts that spread through his legs, erasing the scrapes on the pale skin of his thigh, his torso, and finally his lean arms. There are a few left, but she will handle them later after treating the hurt shoulder.
"I gather you just got to the village," Sakura begins, once she pushes the coffee table away to leave enough space for her to sit directly in front of him and settles on the floor.
She's vaguely conscious of the rug below them that she is bound to send to the dry-cleaner, though she praises herself for initially choosing to have Sasuke sit on the floor rather than on the couch. That would have been difficult to clean. After all, he'd been covered with blood, his and of others.
"Why didn't you go to the hospital? They would have called me over anyway once you got there." She asks curiously as she inspects the wound.
She'd excelled as a medic-nin and had been assigned to be one of the chief medics at the hospital no more than a year earlier. Sakura often took charge of cases such as the lesion the raven-haired male sported. Anything more severe would often require a greater effort and the adequate facilities at the hospital; and in the worst cases, a collaborative work with her teacher, the Sannin Tsunade, or Shizune, both of whom still worked at the hospital on special circumstances.
"I went to the hospital, but you weren't there. I thought it'd be quicker this way," he admits, onyx meeting jade briefly, "I have to report everything to Hokage tomorrow. I'm going back to check up on my team again before meeting her, though they were all in good shape when I left them in the hospital."
Sakura nods, thinking such a reply from him appropriate.
Being the captain for a mission was tougher than anyone could think. Having held such title several times, Sakura knows how important and yet how straining having the leadership is. Regardless of this, Sasuke is still as responsible and committed to his missions as he'd been on their genin days. There isn't much until he officially becomes an ANBU officer. A shinobi that has proved his worth, he had the makings of a perfect leader, though he also had a tendency to get reckless from time to time when it involved himself and his battles.
"I think your problem is that you just don't know when to stop. Knowing you, Sasuke, you probably took most of the blows," Sakura scolds in her concerned voice as she works reverently on his wounded shoulder, not hesitating once even if she can feel the hard stare he's directing at her. She sighs almost inaudibly. "Sometimes you shouldn't try so hard, Sasuke."
When he wordlessly raises a hand and touches her cheek, Sakura stifles a gasp and looks up at him; her hands waver slightly. Her chakra flow fluctuates only once, the same moment his calloused thumb rubs her chin, before her startled eyes return to her labor. The warm green energy sweeps through his skin and heals the lacerated muscle; it stings him, but he doesn't complain.
"Look who's talking," he murmurs in a raspy voice. The scowl on his face denotes his disapproval.
Her ghastly appearance has nothing to do with the fact that it is almost dawn and that she has had little sleep. Sasuke knows that she can handle more than this; for her to look like this - for her eyes to be so red, the bags under her eyes so dark, and her skin to turn an ashen color - she must have not one but too many nights with a significant lack of sleep. The green eyes which she has averted to his wound show signs of irritation, possibly due to being immerged for countless hours into those medicine books he knows that reign over her study room. If anything, Uchiha Sasuke isn't indifferent enough for these details to go unnoticed.
His hand drops to his side once again as he watches her movements.
"I've just been practicing a few things," she tells him, almost nervously. The eighteen-year-old female ninja has nerves of steel, but only does Uchiha Sasuke manages to make her occasionally slip like this. Sakura promptly decides to change the subject. "Where is Naruto?"
"I expect him to be at the clinic receiving treatment, along with the others," he grunts, displeased at her evasion. "He's fine. The idiot is most likely whining because the Ichiraku shop isn't open yet." He hears Sakura giggle, although her eyes continue to focus on the healing process. Sasuke then breaths deeply, scorning himself for even meddling with Sakura's affairs when they aren't of his concern. "You haven't been sleeping well."
"Oh, that…" she hesitates, aware that she must look quite haggard to even make the great Uchiha Sasuke comment about it, "I told you, it's really nothing." Sakura bits her lips; she hates that Sasuke seems intent on bringing out the subject.
The sweat rolls down her forehead; she's nearly done with the muscle.
It has been easier than she thought it would be since none of his nerves were harmed. He isn't an Uchiha for nothing, she muses. The green energy then begins to close the gap of sliced skin. After his treatment is finished, he ought to take lots of fluids, have the meal he deserves after a long week without decent food, and a night of good rest; but him being him, Sasuke would surely return to his nearly-dawn training the following day.
Sasuke groans softly as the last bit of skin is fixed together until it looks more of a slight scrape than the large gash it had been. Sakura pats his shoulder and it doesn't hurt any more than a sore muscle would.
"I'll say it only once because I know you won't do it anyway: drink, eat, sleep, and rest. Remember to take a break for a couple of days from that extensive training of yours and try not to move your arm too much," She instructs as she helps him up to rest on the sofa, a little tired smile on her features.
There are still a small number of little scratches here and there; even shallower than the cuts she had first treated but that, unlike those first ones, won't leave any scar if she lets them heal by themselves. Sakura sits besides him and she wipes the dried blood and dirt with cotton, moistened with a weak, sterilized alcohol that pricks his skin just a bit, to prevent any infections. She bandages those wounds around his arms and legs with clean gauze.
"Thank you," he whispers, his head turning to be able to look at her.
Sakura shrugs, grinning a little despite the fact that her eyes are heavy with sleep.
"You look tired, Sakura." Sasuke is boring holes into her, she swears, as he says this. His eyes roam her face and she feels herself grow hot. It's because I used that large amount of chakra, the kunoichi thinks as she quickly registers the flush in her cheeks, that's it. Sasuke doesn't seem to mind it; actually, he's much bothered about other things. "Injuries like mine don't make you sweat like that any longer."
"Okay, okay. I confess!" Sakura replies as she plops back against the couch, breathing heavily. Sasuke leans against cushioned surface too and lets out the softest of a relieved sigh while the girl stares up at her white ceiling. "I have stayed up late a couple of nights… a few of them…"
"Studying and practicing?" He questions, though he knows what the answer will be…
"Yes, yes, I told you that already." She huffs, pushing a wet lock of pink hair behind her ear. She's glad for turning the fan even before opening the door, now she can cool herself off with the fresh waft of air.
"Sakura, you don't have to prove anything to…" he begins but Sakura interrupts him.
"Not that talk again!" she snaps. Then her voice lowers to a whisper, "I told you many times before that I'm doing this for myself. I'll prove it to myself that I can do it. But I promise I won't work myself out anymore. It's just that I get a little carried away and…" she ends in a murmur, green, green eyes staring at her flexing fingers.
"You just don't know when to stop, do you?" He smirks.
Sakura turns and looks at him bewildered. "What!? Hey, mister, don't use my words against me."
"I won't when you start following your own advice," he counters. Then, after a pause, "I should be leaving."
"No," she tugs at his arm when he makes a move to stand up. She brings him back against the couch with little effort and stands up herself instead. "Stay here, you can use the guest room. Just let me find you something comfortable enough to wear for sleeping, alright? I think I have some big t-shirts from my father somewhere around here. I can't let you go to sleep half-naked, after all, this is probably the coldest winter in Konoha ever, I swear!"
"Sakura, I'll be fine on my own."
"Yes, I know. But it'll take you a while to get to your place and it'd be better if you don't strain yourself tonight and just go straight to sleep. Besides, this way I can be sure that you'll rest like you're supposed to and I can also change your bandages after you take your morning shower. I take you have a change of day clothes in that backpack of yours?"
He nods and she smiles at him, clapping her hands together.
"Alright, then it's decided. Just do as I say and I'll make you a decent breakfast tomorrow if you behave," she teases, then gets thoughtful, "Oh, which reminds me, you haven't had anything to eat yet… You can look for something in the fridge if you like to or I can cook something for you."
Picking up her medic supplies after swiftly throwing the discarded dirty gauzes into the trash bin, Sakura begins walking toward her bedroom.
"Wait, Sakura?" Sasuke stops her; he is massaging his left shoulder since he'd strained it the most after being hurt on the opposite one. He's on his feet once again, possibly to go to the kitchen as she has told him to.
"Hm?" She looks over her shoulder and her pretty eyes meet his.
Averting his eyes to the now dirty rug on her living room floor, he gruffly mutters, "Thank you."
"You've said that before," she grins, before turning around. But she doesn't move from her spot any further, sensing he wants to say something else. It takes him a while to finally spurt out whatever is troubling him. She feels like smirking when he does.
"And how do you know I take showers on mornings, anyway?"
"Ahh, your scent," she chuckles and Sasuke scrunches up his nose in confusion. She takes an all-knowing pose as she explains. "On mornings when we train, you always smell of shampoo and after-shave."
And then she disappears in the darkness of the hallway, her feminine silhouette sauntering to her room.
Sasuke stares hard at the place where she'd been standing and arches a brow. "Weird."
When she returns to the living room, Sasuke isn't there anymore. Sakura finds him in her kitchen, leaning onto the open refrigerator's door and looking inside. He has a round, red tomato in his hand that sports a number of bites. He takes it to his mouth and nibbles onto it again as he continues to inspect the fridge's contents. His eyebrows are knit together in concentration as he tries to decide between a slice of pizza that he's bound to re-heat or some white yogurt with strawberries. He takes out the pizza.
"Why am I not surprised?" She grins, placing a folded, gray t-shirt on the counter and sitting on one of the stools.
Walking over to the microwave, he shrugs. He opens its door, places the pizza inside, and presses a couple of digits on Sakura's oven. "If you're talking about the tomato, that's a given," he replies, pressing the start button and watching as his food begins to twirl inside. "If it's about the pizza… it has tomato sauce on it."
As he watches the mechanical circles that the plate with his pizza is making inside the microwave and how the cheese begins to melt due to the heat waves, Sasuke swiftly finishes eating the red fruit on his hand. The microwave then stops, three beeps signal the food is ready. Sasuke takes it out carefully, then walks over to the counter and sits on a stool across hers.
"I got you this," she pushes a bit forward the clothes she's found for him. "This is one of my dad's old t-shirts. I packed a few of them by accident when I was moving out from my parents' house; I never really took the time to give them back. Not like Dad needs them, they don't fit him anymore since they're from the time I was still a baby. Don't worry, they're clean."
"You washed them?" He asks curiously as he puts them on. He can't smell anything other than soap-powder; it doesn't reek of dust, like he'd expected of clothes that been stored for so long.
"Oh, yeah. Naruto has stayed over a couple of times. You know, for the Ramen-Movie Marathon he forces on me every three months or so? They've been handy; that's also why I haven't thrown them out yet."
He nods understandingly, and begins biting his pizza quietly. His stomach growls softly but gratefully, it's probably the first meal in days that he's had that doesn't come from a can.
Sakura quickly stands up, looks for a glass in her cupboard, and fills it with milk from the fridge. "Here," she places the drink in front of the boy and once again sits on her stool.
"Thanks," he murmurs, then takes a gulp before Sakura's smiling face.
Sakura looks a lot more awake than when she first opened the door for him. The clock on her yellow wall points to 3AM already. In three or four hours she's supposed to take the morning shift at the hospital and work for eight hours straight, but she doesn't seem to mind staying up. Sasuke, on another hand, has more-a-less the same time to check up on his subordinates, elaborate a brief but comprehensive report of the mission, and show up at the Hokage's office. He looks battered, but nowhere as bad as he'd been two hours ago.
"This feels like what my parents used to do," Sasuke tells her suddenly, staring at his food. "When my father returned from a mission, my mother would treat his wounds and make him one of his favorite meals."
"Well, it's… it's not a big deal. I'm a medic, aren't I? To heal you is my job. And it's just pizza and an old t-shirt, Sasuke-kun," she replies, the heat returning to her cheeks at the implication. Maybe Sasuke didn't realize it himself, but Sakura is aware even of little things. To be compared to his parents… Then she takes notice of something, "Your mother knew of Medicine, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke looks up at her, startled at the use of the suffix, not once but twice. It's been a long time since she's dropped it, so hearing it now seems strange. He shakes his head, pushing out the thought, and answers, "No, just the basics of nursing. When father's wounds were more serious he would go to the hospital first."
"Ah, I see." She stares at him for a little moment, before looking away.
Her eyes fix themselves on the wall were a number of drawings are pinned onto a corkboard. Those are the ones that the kids from the Academy had given her on her bi-monthly visits to their classes. 'Sakura-sensei' they called her. Perhaps one day when she retired from the field, she could take on teaching.
"That felt kind of nice," she mumbles absently, still observing the sturdy drawings from one eight-year-old boy pinned on her board. "For the lack of better words…"
"It's just… It's the first time you've spoken to me about your parents," Sakura whispers, a faint smile curving her rosy lips as she turns to look at him one more time.
Sasuke scowls lightly, finishing his dinner. "I think I've never told anyone about them."
"You shouldn't say that, even if it's true. You're going to make me feel special." She teases.
There is a pause of awkward silence and Sakura regrets her comment. But then again, if they keep talking about that subject, his parents, she'll be stepping on unknown territory and that on its own is way more frightening. She just doesn't know how to handle it.
Her eyes avert to the counter, avoiding at all costs looking at him. She is getting jittery and she even begins to wring her pajamas tightly with her fingers under the counter where he can't see her. More so, that pounding sound in her ears doesn't seem to cease. She feels like laughing out loud at herself for acting like an idiot in front of him, but that would be too embarrassing.
Then Sasuke's speaks up. His voice is so sharp and clear that it has a cutting effect on the intense silence, making it sound much louder and echoing in her head.
"You are special, Sakura." He is being bold tonight. Onyx eyes study her face, trying to decipher something from her reaction.
Sakura looks at him shocked, eyes not quite believing the seriousness in his young, handsome face and ears not quite believing what she's just heard. "Oh, right," she stutters uncharacteristically, breaking the spell that has taken over her, then her grin becomes a bit wider, "I was your teammate after all."
"That's not what I meant," he mutters before drinking the rest of the milk she poured for him earlier and glowering at the marble counter.
At first she looks startled, but Sakura ends up shaking her head softly and her hand reaches to fondly pat his arm on the counter. "You are special to me too, Sasuke." She declares.
Though Sasuke doesn't respond or even look up at him, his onyx orbs soften and a hint of a curving of his lips can be seen; not quite a smile but something close to it. Sakura's fingers glide over his arm until they reach his hand and they fold themselves around his. He feels uneasy with their linked hands for he's no good at physical contact, but he lets it go just once as he hears Sakura stifle a yawn.
"You should go to sleep; I've made you stay up enough."
"Sorry. Hehe…" She looks sheepish as she covers her mouth with her free hand to hide another yawn. "I guess I should, shouldn't I? But so do you. Come on, I'll walk you to your room."
She tugs his hand, which she is still holding, and motions him to follow her.
"But… the plates…?" Sasuke objects although he circles the counter and now he follows her steps, hand held in her firm grip.
"We'll wash them tomorrow, no worries," she replies, switching the kitchen lights off, walking into the hallway, and then stopping on the first door on the right side. At last, she lets go of him.
"Okay! Welcome, Sasuke-sama, to 'Sakura Deluxe Suite'!" She begins and then she goes on a roll in a chirpy tone. "I hope you find your room comfortable enough. You'll see that there are clean bed sheets on the bed already, but if you were to need to change them, there is another flowery set inside the closet. The bathroom, which I imagine you already knew, is that door to your right or to my left, whichever way you see it. I'll be across your room," she points to the door on the left side of the hallway, a huge beam on her face, "in case you need something. Don't worry about waking me up. Enjoy your stay, Sasuke-sama!"
Sasuke merely arches up an inquiring eyebrow at her. "Thanks…" A smirk blossoms on his face. "Are you sure you are feeling alright?"
"Sasuke!" she whines, "Oh, well… no playing along with you, huh?" She takes a step back and turns around to open the door to her own room. She steps inside, switching on one of the lights above her bed. Once again, she turns around, gripping the doorframe as she is about to close the door. "G'night, Sasuke. Sleep well."
"Yeah… Goodnight." His hand darts to the doorknob behind him and he manages to open the door while still looking at her.
"Sasuke…-kun?" she mumbles before closing the door, drowsiness latched onto her soft voice, "One more thing: Welcome home, Sasuke."
He smiles, not a smirk or a grin but an actual smile. "I'm home, Sakura."