A Girl Named Blessed

I walked onto the bridge where Team 7 had met so many times in the past. Naruto was arguing with Sai, and Sasuke was leaning against the rail of the bridge, an annoyed expression on his face as he tried (and evidently, failed) to tune the others out.

For the first time in so long, it felt as though we were a team again. Looking at my friends, I could almost see their twelve year old selves: Naruto stuffing his face with ramen, declaring to anyone who would listen that he would be the next Hokage – and Sasuke, looking at us like we were the most annoying people on the planet, yet risking his life to save ours for reasons he still didn't completely understand.

But moments such as these were so rare, and so precious. I wish I could say that Sasuke was back to being the same boy I had grown up with, fallen in love with – but he wasn't. Naruto and I were important to him, and so he tried to pretend to be different for us.

Naruto was fooled, or at least he pretended to be. But me? I knew better. I'd spent so much of my childhood chasing after Sasuke, dreaming of the day that he would just acknowledge me. And so I knew that when he stared off into the distance, he wasn't dreaming of the future. Sasuke was still trapped in his own horrific past, tormented by his demons day after day.

There was nothing Naruto or I could do to bring back the Sasuke we once knew; all we could do was be there for him, like we'd promised to from the start. Naruto would take Sasuke out for ramen, or to train, turning everything into a competition just as they had as children.

At the end of the day, I would heal their wounds, and chastise both of them for not being more careful. Sasuke would always look aggravated at this, especially whenever I went to hug the both of them good night.

But deep down, I knew how much it meant to him that we were there. I felt as though I finally could understand why he had thanked me, that day so long ago when he first left Konoha and I confessed my love for him. He had been thankful to have people who cared; people that wanted him to be happy, and safe. We had become more than simply his team mates, or even his friends. Slowly, throughout all our time spent together, we had become his family.

Sasuke would never admit to this, but I knew it to be true. Not through his words, of which he still said so little, but his actions. Whenever Naruto was in the hospital, Sasuke would sit silently in his room, watching as I tended to the blonde's wounds. Whenever I was upset and ran off, Sasuke would find me. He wouldn't bring me back – he'd just sit down close to me, completely silent as I cried.

I loved him; I loved him so much, after all these years, after everything we had been through. No matter how hard I struggled to move on, knowing that it was pointless – I just couldn't. I think, in a way, Sasuke was glad. Not because he had any romantic feelings for me, but because as long as I was in love with him, I would always be there by his side. He'd never have to be alone again.

Time passed. Things remained the same. One day, I decided I was sick of Sasuke's cold demeanour, of the act he was putting on. It was wrong of me to get angry with him for that, because I knew he was doing it for us – but I was just so tired of loving someone who would never return my feelings. I yelled at him; years of frustration, of feeling rejected, all rushed out of me before I even knew what I was saying.

I stood there, facing him with tears slowly falling down my cheeks. I waited for him to say something, anything – even if it was just, "You're still annoying, Sakura." But he didn't. He stared at me unwaveringly, until finally I turned away. It was a few moments before I felt him grip my hand, holding me in place.

"Sakura," he whispered. "I'm… sorry."

It was far from being a confession of love, but his words touched my heart. I turned and wrapped my arms around his neck, as I started to cry again. I leaned my head against his shoulder, listening to the sound of his heart beating. He didn't wrap his arms around me, but he didn't push me away either. He just stood there, allowing me to take what little comfort I could from him.

This time, it was my turn to say thank you. I whispered it in his ear, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. He was a good friend, in his own way, and I allowed myself to believe that he wished he could return my feelings. It made it easier for me to say good night, to turn around and go home.

The next day, neither of us spoke of my breakdown. I smiled at him in a way that said, I'm okay, really. Of course it was a lie, and he knew that, but we were both getting better at pretending.

After that, everything went on the same as before, but even Naruto could sense that something had changed. I worked longer hours, I spent more time alone, and I stopped trying to get the team to do things together. I was depressed. I had allowed myself to look like the weak little girl I used to be; the one that had threatened to scream that day if Sasuke tried to leave. After spending so many years trying to lock her away, she had broken free. I felt disappointed in myself.

One night, when I got home from my shift at the hospital, I saw Sasuke leaning against the front of my house. Before I could question why he was there, he was guiding me back into town to the Ichiraku Ramen shop wordlessly. I let out a small gasp of surprise when I saw Naruto, Kakashi, and even Sai sitting there already, waiting.

I looked at Naruto, silently asking him if this had been his idea. It was a very Naruto thing to do, and so I was surprised when he very slowly shook his head and looked pointedly at the man who had brought me here.

To say I was surprised wouldn't come close to explaining how I felt in that moment. I took my place next to Naruto, ordered a bowl of ramen, and allowed myself to settle back into the old routine. We talked, we laughed, and when I noticed Sasuke look at me, I smiled.

I knew he would never return my feelings. There just wasn't enough room in Sasuke Uchiha's heart for such things. But somehow, when I looked into his eyes, I knew we would be alright in the end.

Author's Note: I'm not normally one for writing one-shots; I always have so much to say when I write, that multi-chapter stories are just the only way to go for me. But I was listening to Shattered by Trading Yesterday, and I just found myself really, really wanting to do a fanfiction that took place after Sasuke found some kind of "redemption" in the manga.

I might have even tried to do a multi-chaptered fanfiction like that, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm not very far into the anime OR manga at all. (I've just read spoilers, because I'm weird like that.) So, I settled for writing this. It's mostly Sakura/Sasuke centric, although as you can tell they don't actually get together or anything.

I hope you enjoyed reading it at least a little, it's my first official fanfiction of any kind for Naruto since I haven't published the multi-chaptered one I'm currently working on yet. (It's AU, since that's all I feel safe writing more in-depth with my second-hand knowledge of the series.) And, with that said, hopefully you'll be seeing more of me soon.