A/N: This is actually my first attempted SasuSaku. Well, the first one I remember, anyway. I'm actually sort of proud of it?
Much, much, much, much thanks to my beta, xx. false - deception for putting up with my sending her a new chapter to beta, like, every day. I'm almost done; one or two chapters left. Gambatte!
Warning: Rated M for sexual references/scenes in the future, and slight language.
the first night.
People saw dreams differently. Some had bizarre dreams. Some had nice dreams. Some didn't have dreams at all.
Some said dreams were nothing. Some said they were a figment of your imagination. Some said they represented your life from a different perspective. Some said they were what you wanted to be true.
But Haruno Sakura said dreams were as real as life itself.
Mission: Capture Uchiha Sasuke by any means possible. Keep him alive and bring him back for interrogation.
Her team was different from the one she was used to. It was strange for her to turn to her right and not see Naruto's bright hair, but instead, Hyuuga Neji's brown hair blowing in the wind. It was unusual to turn to her left and find Nara Shikamaru's masked face instead of Sai's stoic expression. And she most certainly didn't like glancing behind her and find that Tenten's ANBU outfit replaced Kakashi's silver hair in her peripheral vision.
It wasn't that she didn't like her new team. She just…wasn't used to it.
Being a newly appointed ANBU member changed a lot of things. First of all, those who weren't shinobi weren't supposed to know you were part of it. Secondly, you rarely got to work with people with lower rankings. Even if you were a squad captain, you would only be with a team of jounins.
This meant that until Naruto passed that brutal, horrifying exam, she would rarely work with him. And that, in itself, was saddening.
Sakura was proud of being able to become one of them. The ANBU were the elites—the best around. But it was hard to adjust to. What she hated most was her mask. She couldn't even breathe properly, and it felt like it was shielding her from the world—or perhaps, shielding the world from her.
But she couldn't let her mind wander now. She had been assigned a mission, and the mission was to find Sasuke and bring him back. She wasn't going to fail this time. She wouldn't allow it.
Sakura didn't start believing in the dreams she had until she was seventeen. In fact, Sakura wasn't a lot of things until she was seventeen.
Many people told her how she'd changed in the past years. Nineteen and more mature now, she would like to think that she was a better person than before. But that was debatable. In fact, a lot of things about her were debatable.
It was a well known fact that she had been in love with Uchiha Sasuke. The Godaime had risked this mission by putting her in the team to retrieve him. It wasn't certain that those feelings wouldn't resurface again in the middle of battle. And Sakura really, really hoped they wouldn't. It wasn't as if she wasn't uneasy enough already.
She wasn't sure if she could differentiate feelings anymore. With Naruto's brotherly bonds (even if they were one-sided) and Kakashi's student-teacher inclinations, she couldn't guarantee that she only felt friendship towards the missing member of their team. Did it go beyond that? She wasn't sure if she wanted to know or not.
Life was funny that way, she supposed. A lot of things were funny that way.
On the first night, Sakura didn't expect anything.
As her team set up their camp, she left to scout their surroundings. This mission was of the utmost importance. No one could make a single slip. When Sasuke had been spotted on the border of the Fire Country and the Wind Country, it had been a surprise to everyone. It was as if he was deliberately being seen and leaving trails.
There was a high probability that it was a trap. But they were going to take it.
The night was clear and still as she slipped through the tree branches. The slits in her mask limited her vision, and she took it off, almost positive that she wasn't going to run into anyone, anyway.
She took in a deep breath, glad that she could breathe properly again. Strapping her mask to her hip, she took off again with renewed energy. It was a nice night. Their mission was off to a good start.
She briefly wondered what Naruto was up to. She wasn't allowed to tell him what her mission was about, so she was a little worried about how he would enrage Tsunade once he found out and barged into her office, demanding an explanation as to why he wasn't assigned the mission as well. It hurt her slightly to know that she wasn't pursuing the Uchiha with the people she should be pursuing him with—Naruto, Kakashi, and Sai—but she supposed it couldn't be helped. But she wished it could've.
Landing soundlessly onto the grass, she watched as a small mouse scurried away from her presence. In fact, now that she'd noticed, the area was a little too quiet. There were no hoots of owls, or chirps of crickets. It was as if someone had…chased them all away.
She shook her head and laughed inwardly at herself. Maybe her team were the ones frightened the animals. Maybe their chakra was too overwhelming.
The wind rustled the leaves softly from behind her, and she tensed. Her hand reached down to her hip to put her mask back on, but she thought better of herself and pulled a kunai from her holster instead. Ever since the early evening, there was no wind in the area.
A deep chuckle resonated through the still air, and she didn't move. "Do you think you can beat me with that, Sakura?" Regrettably, the voice was all too familiar. She didn't want to recognize it. Not just yet, anyway.
She swallowed. "Are you saying a kunai won't save me…Sasuke-kun?"
One of Sakura's favorite dreams was the one where Sasuke actually loved her back. They were the most commonly occurring ones.
There were many different scenarios. Sometimes, he would confess to her one day after a training session, after Naruto and Kakashi had left. Then they would go on a date together. Sometimes, he would just kiss her out of the blue. Admittedly, it was always better when he kissed her in front of Ino.
In various dreams, even Naruto and Kakashi would be around to witness it. She'd flush a deep red, fiddling with her fingers and not knowing where to look while he would tell her his feelings in his usual cool demeanor, completely unabashed.
But of course, these were dreams. They didn't come true.
At least, she thought they didn't come true.
She didn't wait for his answer. She didn't want to hear his answer. She was afraid of what it might've done to her.
Spinning around on the soles of her feet, she brought the kunai towards him, only to hear it clash with the metal of his katana. She was careful to keep from looking at his face—not because of his Sharingan, but because of the feelings it might stir from inside of her. Sakura didn't have many weaknesses, but when she stumbled across one, it worked rather well against her.
And Sasuke was her biggest weakness.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded, pressing her blade hard against his. The screech of weapon against weapon was unpleasant to her ears, and any peace that used to be in the air had disappeared. "You were last spotted twenty miles from this area."
He completely ignored her question, and asked one of his own. "Where's Naruto?"
Her eyes narrowed and she leapt away, glaring at his feet—because, for the love of all she held dear, she couldn't glare anywhere else. "Why does that matter to you?"
"I figured that if you were here, so would the rest of them."
The rest of them. That was how he referred to them. Not the team, not Team Seven, not Team Kakashi—but the rest of them. She bit her bottom lip in frustration. Just hearing his voice sent small flutters to her stomach, and she chastised herself for being so easily swayed. It was stupid, she thought. It'd been six years, and he could still affect her in ways no one else could.
"I'm with a different team," she responded as nonchalantly as she could. "Naruto's back in the village."
"Look at me, Sakura. I have my Sharingan off." His tone was commanding, and something told her that there might be serious consequences of she didn't listen to him.
So she looked.
He was just as beautiful as he always was. Pale skin, spiky raven hair, aristocratic cheekbones, hard obsidian eyes, and delicate lips. His forehead was bare, where his hitai-ate should've been. Where it needed to be. She couldn't help but note how well he matured over the years. He was so perfect it hurt.
"You've…changed," she finally said, letting her arms drop when he sheathed his sword. Her kunai sat loosely in the cage of her fingers, ready to go at any time.
He nodded towards her. "As have you." She regarded herself, and wondered what on earth about her could've changed, save for her ANBU outfit. She had remained relatively the same over the years, she was sure. She'd stopped physically growing quite a while back…
He chuckled faintly when he noticed her slight confusion. "Your hair," he told her. "It's different."
Her free hand rose subconsciously to her pink locks. "Oh. I tried to grow it out a little, I guess. It's still not as long as before, though." Something in her couldn't believe that she was actually conversing with a missing-nin, but something else told her—this something being much bigger—that this was as right as the world was round.
She could hear the smirk in his voice. "Still believe in that rumor?"
She bit her lip, nervous. Nervous of how he saw her—of what he thought of her now. "What rumor?"
"That Uchiha Sasuke liked girls with long hair."
She remained silent for a moment, contemplating what to say next and how it would be so nice to just stay here forever and say absolutely nothing to each other. "Not so much that—more for old times' sake, I guess."
The grass underneath his feet shuffled, and he turned away. "It's nice. Your bangs, I mean."
She heard Inner Sakura laugh wholeheartedly at her when her cheeks flared. That compliment was too much. Sasuke never complimented her. "Thanks…I guess."
He didn't say anything more, so she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. She was tempted to drop her kunai and just let her memories float away back to the years before…but she supposed she couldn't do that, could she?
"Sasuke-kun, I'm going to have to end the conversation here." Her tone was hard again, and her grip on her blade tightened.
He laughed dryly. "Here to kill me, are you? Are you sure you can do that?" His back was still facing her, but there was no doubt he was just as alert as she was, now.
Her tone was bitter. "Hokage-sama was kind enough to allow us to keep you alive. You're going to have to follow us back to Konoha quietly though, if you don't want to be brought to a near death-state." She watched as his hand slowly rose to the hilt of his katana strapped to his back, and he pulled it out, the blade longer than his entire arm.
"Not going to call for your teammates?" he asked her mockingly, all warmth in his voice gone—if there was any warmth there to begin with.
"I'm not obligated to answer that." In any normal circumstance, where she was working with Team Kakashi, she would've called for them right away—she would've called them the moment she saw him. But to be honest, Sakura was afraid of what might happen if she requested for help from her current teammates. She was sure they wouldn't go easy on him—and she would hate to see him on the verge of death. She was confident in herself. She was sure she could at least immobilize him.
At least, she hoped she could. She had to.
Sasuke's head suddenly whipped back and their eyes locked for a brief, horrifying moment—green to crimson—and Sakura's brows furrowed as she charged forward with her kunai.
Medics were usually the best at taijutsu, and were trained to avoid as much damage as possible. That was how it worked. If the medic was killed, the survival rate of his team would drop drastically. Sakura could dodge the hits and swings of his katana well enough—but he wasn't harmed either, and that was a problem.
"I really don't want to do this, Sasuke-kun," she said through gritted teeth, kicking the katana out of his hand. He did the same with her kunai, and her fists began to glow with chakra as she reeled back for a punch, positive that it would break at least a bone or two. She could've caused greater damaged if she wanted to, but…well, she didn't want to.
The moment seemed to last forever, but it might've only been half a second when she threw her fist towards his face—and missed.
Well, not missed. She was sure it would've hit if he didn't catch it. She cringed when she felt and heard many bones in his hand fracture. And yet, somehow, his grip on her fist was as tight as it would be if it wasn't damaged.
"Then don't," he responded simply.
She blinked. It seemed like such an easy conclusion. Almost too easy. She felt her clenched fist begin to tremble, and she dropped her arm. "But I can't," she whispered, wincing when her voice cracked. "You won't come back willingly…"
"Do you remember the shinobi saying number twenty-five?" Sasuke asked offhandedly, inspecting his damaged hand. She noticed how red the skin was; some nasty bruises were sure to form on it if it wasn't fixed soon.
She swallowed. "A shinobi must never show his emotions. The mission always comes first."
The lump in her throat was painful, and despite herself, she reached out and grabbed his wrist, fingers fumbling over each other as she stepped closer and inspected the damage. "I'll fix it for you," she mumbled, hoping he wouldn't hear her. She was sure he did, though.
The chakra in her palm served a different purpose now; not to hurt, but to heal. It was a simple task for her; find the broken bones, and mold them back together. In less than a minute, his hand was just as it was before she had attacked him.
"I see you've become a medic as well," Sasuke observed as he flexed his fingers. "It suits you."
"I don't want your compliments," she hissed, turning away from him. "You've manipulated me enough in the past."
"I never manipulated you," came his immediate reply. "You manipulated yourself." And she was reluctant to admit that he was right. He never really did anything; she just blindly followed him like a helpless little puppy.
"Shut up," she whispered, feeling the tears sting her eyes. "Shut up." She brought her hands up and roughly wiped them dry before they could even roll down her cheeks.
"You attack me, but yet you don't want to hurt me. You want to talk, but you don't want my compliments. Rather contradictory, I see," he said dryly. "What is it that you want, Sakura? Do you really want me to return to Konoha, or do you just want me?"
She stiffened. She hated it when he made her second-guess herself.
"Ignorance is bliss," Inner Sakura snorted, rolling her eyes.
"I…don't know," she finally managed to say shakily. "I just know that my mission is to bring you back. Whether or not I want it has nothing to do with it." She felt his hand on her shoulder, and she tensed immediately. The words don't touch me were just hanging on her tongue, but they somehow wouldn't leave her mouth.
The usual "hn" that she always used to hear him say left his lips. "Don't tell me you still harbor those useless feelings for me."
"Maybe I do," she snapped indignantly, immediately regretting her decision.
He turned her around, his Sharingan glazed over. She was close enough to see and count all three tomoe, sitting at a standstill in those seemingly pools of blood. She shivered when she remembered how they resembled the cursed seal Orochimaru gave him all those years ago.
"You're weak," he told her simply, features blank.
She struggled to keep her composure. "Only for you."
And what surprised her the most was the fact that he leaned down, even closer than before. He must've been pretty desperate to catch her in some twisted genjutsu. His breath tickled her lips, and she feigned the urge to swallow, in fear of breaking the moment. Her breath hitched when he leaned in, even closer.
And then he kissed her.
She wasn't sure if she fainted from the feeling of his lips against hers, or if he pressed a pressure point on the back of her neck.
One who possessed the Sharingan had an eye of insight and an eye of hypnosis. Sakura first learned that on her first C-rank mission.
When she saw how Kakashi had put his eye to use, she found it amazing. Using the eye of insight to immediately copy Zabuza's movements, and then the eye of hypnosis to control his thoughts and show him an illusion, he had thrown the missing-nin off guard and almost killed him.
Over the years, Sakura had almost forgotten about the Sharingan's ability to copy moves and change thoughts. It was more known for its illusions. Even now, she didn't doubt that her former teacher continued to copy moves, but she rarely saw his mismatched eye in action anyway, so it never came to mind.
She wondered if Sasuke ever used his eyes that way. And then she realized that maybe, she didn't want to know.
Sakura's eyes flashed open to find herself staring at the starry sky. She blinked once, twice, three times, before she found out that she was lying on her back, with a fire crackling to her left.
Groggily, she sat up, wincing when she was met with a slight headache. She glanced around. "Shikamaru? Tenten?"
The weapons mistress smiled at her. "You didn't come back, so we were a little worried. Neji went to look for you, and found you sleeping against the tree. If you were tired, you could've told us, you know. We could've scouted instead."
She placed a hand to the back of her head, and with some careful chakra, her headache disappeared. "So where's Neji now?"
"Patrolling. He said he's sort of worried, because you weren't the kind of person to just sit down and sleep."
Her mind was still somewhat blurred from the sleep, and it didn't ebb away fast enough for her to gather her thoughts. "Well, yeah, I was pretty tired. I didn't get a good sleep last night." She felt Shikamaru's dark eyes flash in her direction, but he didn't say anything. He was lying on his back with his arms underneath his head as a pillow—the way he usually was while cloud watching.
Slowly, it came back to her. Sasuke…Sharingan…Kiss…
"You really fucked up this time," Inner Sakura laughed, hands on her hips. "Just wait 'til you get busted."
But her mind was still hazy. Even as she shook off the sleep, she couldn't quite guarantee that she really saw Sasuke. Bringing her holster to her hands, she pulled out all of her kunai—and found that she wasn't missing a single one. If she really did bump into Sasuke, she should've been one short, since he kicked hers out of her hand.
Something was very wrong.
On the first night, Sakura didn't expect anything. But by the end of it, she was very much alert.
A/N: Well, tell me what you think, okay? :)
08-24-09: I went back and changed some wording and fixed a couple of typos. It's only been a year, but I can see my writing style changing so quickly. I'll get to editing the rest of this...eventually. In the meantime, you should review. ;) Even though this entire thing is completed. Because I'm cool like that.