title: lines in sand
Sasuke draws a line in sand. Sakura, dreamer that she is, does not tread lightly. Team 7 love.
notes: I wrote this in about an hour-and-a-half, whilst talking to Annie Sparklecakes and ohwhatsherface. Blame them. :) It is beach fiction because I am going to the beach tomorrow.
disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine.

They'd taken a day to themselves soon after his return.

Tsunade had given them only a sharp look to betray her misgivings, but for the most part, she'd held her tongue, only casually reminding Sakura that the theory classes for medical jutsu would continue with or without her the day after they planned to return. To Naruto, she'd intimated that there would be a damiyo needing escorting to Sand in a few days, and it was up to him, whether he wanted to be part of a delegation that would almost certainly run into trouble.

To Sasuke, she said nothing at all.

Despite all these, the newly reformed Team 7 remained firm—they needed a day, Sakura had insisted. "A day to be without—or maybe even a moment. Sometimes, I think a moment might be enough," she'd said.

"Without what," Tsunade had prompted, a blonde brow raised in question.

Sasuke had sighed then, world-weary as he was wont to be these days, and stood. Almost intuitively, the other two had followed suit as though there hadn't been miles between them—measured in years, and footsteps, and too-sharp words.

"Thank you, shishou," Sakura had said as they left.

And that was that.


After they'd set up camp on the beach, and started the fire, Sakura noticed Sasuke drifting again. He stood from his position to the right of the bonfire, and walked further away from them, in the direction of the bluffs that met the ocean at high tide.

At the sight of him growing smaller in the distance, she left Naruto holding the marshmallows and followed Sasuke with hurried steps. She wondered if she'd ever be able to break the habit—dropping everything to chase him, to find herself beside him.

By the time she reached him, Sasuke was standing in the middle of two cocentric circles—self-made, she gathered, from the driftwood on the outside of the line.

"What are you doing," she asked him, not really expecting a reply.

"Meditating," he said, surprising her with his words even as he sat down—gracefully, damn him—where he stood. "And I do it better alone."

"Because that way of thinking worked out really well for you the first time, right bastard?" came a voice from over her shoulder. Sakura bit back a smile. Naruto, she thought, almost fondly.

"Shut up," Sasuke said. They were all of them falling back into old habits. Sakura wondered whether it would be this easy to rebuild what they'd lost. Probably not. She was, despite herself—and her inconvenient affection for certain people who probably didn't deserve it—a rather practical girl.

Naruto scowled for a moment. Sakura could almost see the gears turning themselves in his head. Would he start a fight, she wondered. Years ago, such an occurrence would have been familiar territory. But what, Sakura thought, of now? There had been no Rasengan, no Mangekyou Sharingan at twelve, at thirteen—only fuuma shuriken, and Kage Bunshin.

She was saved from contemplating the matter further when without warning, Naruto scoffed and turned to head back to their makeshift camp.

"I'm going to make my ramen, now. I'm hungry." With a one-fingered salute to Sasuke, and a pat on the head for Sakura, he walked back slowly, his pace for once matched by the slow rhythm of the tides.

And now for perhaps the third time in her life, Sakura was once again, left alone with him. He was looking at her now, his dark eyes unblinking, and decidedly solemn. She answered the question—the almost request—in those eyes with little apology.

"You know I can't leave you alone, Sasuke-kun," she said softly. And here I am again, she thought to herself, giving him honesty.

He startled her when, after a few moments, he simply replied, "I know." There was no derision in his voice, nor was there weariness—only acceptance, and Sakura fancied, perhaps a little gratitude, too.

Without another word, he closed his eyes and began.

Sakura looked down for a moment, at the lines touching the tips of her toes. She'd stopped instinctively at the boundary between them, and that, she thought, was habit, too.

She breathed deeply, and almost smiled as the scent of salt from the ocean mingled with the smoke and rainwater she would always associate with Sasuke. Without a noise, she took one step, the imprint of her sandal marring the line he'd drawn in the sand. When he didn't protest—though Sakura knew instinctively that he felt her approaching—she continued walking, only stopping when she reached him.

She sat beside him, their shoulders brushing, and when he still didn't react, she allowed herself to lean into him, just so. The warmth of him seemed to sink into her skin.

Without another sound, she closed her eyes and dreamed.

Hm. Very quiet. Not at all how I thought it would end, but here it is. Be kind enough to tell me what you think! :)