This is my entry for a SasuSaku fanfiction contest. It's a bit angsty but that's because it's meant to take place after the current events in the manga. Sasuke's trying to right his wrongs, but Naruto and Sakura don't know it yet. Naruto's views on the world have hardened and learning that Sasuke joined Akatsuki was the final straw for both him and Sakura.

Hope you enjoy the story, readers! This is SasuSaku, but it's very subtle. Read between the lines guys XD Comments and feedback would be appreciated, thanks.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Don't be too shocked! XD

Façade

By AngeLhearteD

The sun was setting when they met at an open field.

By his instruction, Suigetsu, Juugo and Karin lingered behind in the dense forest, tasked with keeping a lookout on any unwanted intruders.

The gentle breeze coupled with the soft light of the waning sun bathed their surroundings with an eerie air of deceptive tranquillity, disguising the thickly wrought tension hanging heavily between them.

There was a time when they would have run to him. Now they stood back at a carefully calculated distance, ready to fight or flee depending on his actions.

Sasuke regarded them both steadily. Things had changed since their previous meeting. Something about Sakura's posture and the hardness in Naruto's eyes dictated so.

If he was surprised by the lack of benevolence radiating from them, he didn't show it. Obsidian eyes appeared as fathomless as ever.

For an immeasurable length of time silence roared between them. The rustling of grass and the soft sigh of the wind drowned out the tension of withheld breaths and the thundering of racing heartbeats.

It was Naruto who spoke first.

"Sasuke."

Far behind the blond lay the remains of his beloved village. Konoha had been almost completely destroyed by Akatsuki; the very same organisation Sasuke had joined willingly.

Seeing their old team-mate clad in the cloak of the enemy made it a little easier to disguise the pain under a concrete mask of righteous anger.

He could choose to betray them again in a heartbeat. But this time, they were determined not to make the same mistakes. This time they had come prepared.

"Kakashi isn't with you." Sasuke stated flatly, voice as calm and detached as ever.

Naruto's deep blue eyes swirled like a tumultuous sea, raging with conflicting emotions.

"He used up his chakra defending our village." He replied, and despite their distance, Sasuke detected the slight waver beneath the hard voice.

Another interval of silence filled the air.

At length, Sasuke blinked.

"But he's alive."

They knew enough of who he used to be to know that he was indirectly seeking confirmation.

"Does it matter to you?" Naruto asked, voice taking on a softer tone, but Sasuke could still hear the accusation beneath it.

The nukenin resisted the urge to release a derisive snort. He knew exactly what Naruto was trying to do. Although he was adopting a better approach than he had at their previous meeting, it was still flawed.

But it was not hopeless. The tightness in Sasuke's chest and the heaviness that plagued his mind were proof that something was unsettling him.

Their coldness was to be expected, and yet – and yet he had never quite expected to receive it.

His eyes shifted, resting exclusively for the first time on the uncharacteristically silent young woman standing by Naruto's side.

The soft, golden light bathed her slender form in flattering amber, gave her bright green eyes a luminous glow. Even from his distance, their brilliance was undeniable. They shimmered, but there were no tears. Her eyes were hard, punishing, like her silence.

There was no compassion, even from her.

"You wanted to meet us. Why?" Naruto demanded.

Sasuke's eyes flickered back to the blond. He half wanted to leave them clutching at straws once again, but knew that he could not run this time. They were here now, and in order for his plans to work, he had to tell them.

And so he loosened the knot in his tongue and spoke words that could not be undone.

"Meet me here again in four days. Bring Kakashi. There's something you need to know."

Surprise etched on both their faces. Nostalgia tugged at Sasuke's numbed heart. They had always been hopeless at hiding their true emotions.

Unlike him – he, who had mastered the art of concealing what he truly felt.

The surprise soon turned to outrage on Naruto's part.

"You bastard," He growled, voice shaking with fury. "You're wearing that cloak. Do you really think we'll trust you, Sasuke?!"

Disappointing. Naruto had never been particularly bright. He had seemingly improved, but it was still not enough.

Sakura, on the other hand...

His eyes slipped to her again. She was regarding Naruto uncertainly.

He opened his mouth to respond, when Suigetsu's shout sliced through the tense air.

"Hey! Sasuke! Let's roll! Karin's detected company!"

Naruto and Sakura's eyes moved to the stranger who stood at the forest's outskirts. He would go back to them – his team. He would leave again, because they had never been good enough for him. The friendship and love they had unconditionally offered him had been discarded and replaced with new bonds.

Naruto could no longer hide the pain of betrayal, and it was magnified ten-fold when he heard Sakura speak up softly beside him.

"Let's go, Naruto."

The uncharacteristic nature of her words made her blond friend swallow thickly. He never would have thought that she would be the first to walk away from a rare encounter with Sasuke. He directed his angry gaze back to Sasuke, ready to give him a piece of both their minds.

But what he saw made his heart skip a beat, caused the anger to dissolve into emptiness.

In that moment, he thought that he detected something heavy in Sasuke's eyes; a slight shift, a slight fragment of feeling in response to Sakura's words. But it was gone in a split-second. When Naruto blinked all that remained was the familiar indifference.

Despite her words, Sakura's head bowed, and she remained motionless. It was Sasuke who turned his back first, and to Naruto's eyes he suddenly cut a lonely figure as he moved swiftly away, disappearing into the forest and leaving them alone once again.

Uncertainty ran riot in Naruto's mind. He didn't know what to think. Pain and regret clouded his judgement. He turned his head to address Sakura, but caught his breath at what he saw.

A lone tear rolled down her left cheek, shimmering brilliantly in the dying rays of the sun.