[A/N] I wrote this pretty much in one go, so if there are mistakes, I sincerely apologize.
This one-shot was the result of feeling depressed. D:
I Think I Hate You
(some time more or less after the Chuunin exam)
"Good morning, Sasuke-kun!" A smile. She always smiled for him, no matter what angry emotion or insecurity she held beneath her friendly façade.
But though he knew, he never acknowledged it. He simply nodded for a response to her warm greeting, but it was barely even a twitch of his head. Her bright smile faded at his lack of amity.
Sakura visibly relaxed as the sight of Naruto. The hyperactive blond's presence always meant peace and laughter. Sasuke, meanwhile, was his complete opposite; his company always included dark feelings that hung around him and a sense of animosity that couldn't be erased from the atmosphere.
That was precisely why she was relieved to see the blonde sprinting towards them at top speed. She didn't know if she could bear Sasuke's angry brooding by herself any longer. "Hey, Naruto!"
"Is Kakashi-sensei here?" the boy asked, searching around the surrounding area with bright blue eyes. Sakura smiled as she shook her head.
"He's late, as usual," she told him with a shrug. "We should punish him."
"I was just thinking about that when I was coming here! Hey, hey, we should…"
Yellow and pink merged; they stood together, conversing intimately about appropriate justice for their teacher's lack of punctuality. They stood apart from the surly prodigy who glared at the ground with his dark eyes in sinister contemplation.
Occasionally Sakura found herself glancing towards the lone Uchiha with wary green eyes, but tried to suppress her feelings of concern for him. What good did they do her? If she pitied him, he was angry; when she worried about him, he only found her affectionate gestures annoying. He considered her only a dead weight for Team Seven anyway. He'd told her that. Sakura turned back to her light conversation with Naruto with determined concentration, doing her best to ignore the antagonistic boy who glared at his blue sandals, and utterly failing as she found her gaze turning towards his direction again and again.
"Yo," said a familiar, relaxed voice. The three students looked up and saw their sensei crouched on the rooftop of a nearby dilapidated building.
"Late!" cried the energetic duo as Kakashi leapt easily to the ground. Their accusing fingers followed his graceful figure.
He put a hand on the back of his head in a nonchalant gesture of supplication. "Sorry, sorry. This morning I had to help a cat get down from a tree and then it was just so cute that I thought I should buy it some milk—"
"Lies, lies, lies," Sakura muttered with a shake of her head. "Don't even try anymore, sensei. Your excuses are so lame."
"Let's just go," Naruto sighed. "It's like, nine o'clock already." He looked pointedly towards the sky where the sun was shining bright. "You're the one who said we should get an early start on the mission, Kakashi-sensei. Do you even try to wake up on time?"
Kakashi smiled. "Pick up your bags and we'll get going."
The three straightened and followed him towards the gate as they pulled the straps of their backpacks over their shoulders. Kakashi walked slowly, as usual. Naruto and Sakura continued talking together about punishments that were effective and non-life threatening while Sasuke walked with his hands in his pockets some distance behind the two.
Kakashi's visible eye narrowed. Something was wrong with Sasuke; he wasn't usually so determined to be unnoticed. And Sakura wasn't even attempting to speak to the Uchiha boy, which in itself was unnatural. Instead, she was talking easily with Naruto rather than arguing with the hyperactive blonde as she usually did.
Something had happened between the sullen boy and his dedicated pink-haired teammate; that much Kakashi could deduce from their slightly abnormal behavior.
"Sasuke," he said quietly, and stopped. Naruto and Sakura slowed and looked back at their other teammates. Kakashi gestured for them to keep walking, and they obeyed, shooting suspicious and concerned glances back at the pair as they continued along the road.
"Kakashi," was the morose reply.
The older man turned around and crossed his arms. "You're not as mysterious as most people think you are, hm?"
Sasuke simply met his sensei's gaze.
Kakashi relaxed and let his arms fall to his sides. He spoke quietly but in an imperative tone. "What happened between you and Sakura?"
The boy looked away. "Not much," he answered, with a hint of impatience and self-mocking.
He glared at him. "That girl…" His dark eyes flickered towards Sakura's back. "She's annoying. That's all."
"What did she do? And what did you do?" Kakashi stepped closer and put a hand on his protégé's shoulder. "Tell me, Sasuke. Now."
A short pause. "She's so weak," the boy began, and his angry gaze turned towards the floor. "She can't protect herself at all. The rest of our team always has to help her – she's an open and easy target, it creates a weak point. The enemy always attacks her straight away."
Kakashi's grip on Sasuke's shoulder tightened. "Did you tell her this?"
The Uchiha's dark gaze held the slightest shred of guilt.
"Why?" Kakashi asked.
Sasuke exhaled angrily. "She has to work harder. She's bringing down our team."
"That may be true, Sasuke, but you're forgetting that you and Naruto aren't the most normal shinobi." Kakashi pondered for a moment. "If we compare Sakura with you two, and to myself to an extent as well, it's not an accurate conclusion that Sakura isn't a good ninja. She's actually quite the kunoichi." Kakashi released his tight hold on the boy's shoulder and began to follow after the rest of the team. "Think about the actual reason you're so angry, Sasuke," Kakashi said as he walked ahead. "It's not because she's bringing down the team."
Sasuke stared at the back of his retreating superior for a long minute, trying to decipher his teacher's cryptic message. He had to ask himself, was the answer even that important? Would his answer change anything?
He'd always told himself that nothing was important but becoming strong enough to destroy that man, that disgusting and hateful man, and that stupid girl—stupid, happy, caring Sakura was destroying his path to that goal, bit by bit.
She was so weak, so vulnerable, so utterly unable to fight back properly. She had little stamina, no strength, and even her intelligence was useless in the battlefield. The enemy could always attack her easily, and they did so with force she obviously couldn't handle, while she had no means to even defend herself properly.
She was so weak that she constantly had to be protected.
And that stupid need of hers was breaking apart his reason to live.
Because she was making him want to keep her safe, want to catch her when she fell, want to see the way she smiled gratefully when he saved her from the enemy. He wanted to protect her.
That desire she stirred within him was leading him away from his life's ambition.
Think about the actual reason you're so angry, Sasuke. Kakashi's statement echoed in his mind.
I'm angry because she's making me want to stay with her instead of chasing after that man.
Sasuke stuck his hands in his pockets and followed after his team, keeping a good distance between them and himself as he trailed after them with deliberately languid steps. He didn't want to walk beside them, not now. Not while he was so murderously frustrated with himself.
Suddenly Sakura glanced back at him, feeling his gaze behind her. Her green eyes showed vague hesitance; then she pulled the corners of her lips into a soft smile—a forgiving, sweet smile, reminiscent of his own dead mother.
Fuck. That girl really was tearing him apart.