The one truth, the one fact that had always stuck in his mind was that Sakura loved him.
Such was a distinct thought as he laid there, eyes tracing the smooth lines of her bare back until the skin disappeared underneath the sheets.
Ever since she'd told him the night he left, it had found a tiny little crevice in his heart to burrow in, to hibernate for an indefinite amount of time until the habitat of his heart was not so volatile.
Sasuke would be lying to say that in those beginning years, as he studied under Orochimaru, internalizing taijutsu stance after new jutsu after new jutsu, that he thought of it often, if at all.
No, it was just…
It was just one of those things. A fact, a fact as disinteresting to him as the reason why the moon orbited the earth, despite knowing it was obviously gravity.
Sakura would always hopelessly love him, just as Naruto would always be loud and persistent.
At first, in those early years, he'd felt some sort of vindictive pleasure underneath the annoyance at the signs of her continued devotion when they'd unsuspectingly cross paths.
He could see it in her eyes, hear it as she said his name –Sasuke-kun- on her lips… He could see it, recognize it, know it was there. A fact.
A fact that someone was still foolish enough to love him, to be in love with a bitter, twisted heart that could bring nothing but hurt. That he had indefinite power over her, as he saw her hesitance to strike him, to react to his attacks.
It had been a fact, not something he dwelled on, nothing he emotionally felt, just something, like the law of gravity, that he could use.
At that time he had no respect for what love was. He lived in a constant shadow of the emotion, his motive, his rationale based upon the blacker side of something so pure.
He'd never really known what it'd felt like to lose it. He'd thought he did, thought that having any family who'd ever loved him forcibly and irrevocably ripped away from him meant the same thing, but he hadn't realized, hadn't delved deep enough into the pain to realize that though the love had been stolen, they'd never taken it away from him.
His return to Konoha was nothing glorified, smiling faces did not greet him, and he walked through the gates on his own.
His return to Konoha was characterized by the heavy feeling of remorse in his stomach, weighing him down towards the ground.
Normally the fan on his back acted as a counterweight, a normal force to the downward pressure, but on that day, the day of his return (as well as many subsequent weeks) he was conflicted as to what its real purpose was.
He'd come back alone and confused.
He'd left alone and determined, and for some reason all Sasuke could think about was 'alone'.
Alone alone alone alone alo—but the thought stopped when he saw a flash of orange, a wry, bitter smile twisting his lips as a familiar yell lit up the stunned silence of the wary ninja surrounding him.
It had been a long time he'd been gone, a better part of a decade, but time seemed irrelevant as he looked at his once-friend.
Sure, he had aged, getting taller, leaner, more muscular. Face elongating, eyes sharper. But he was still more than recognizable. The light in his eyes, the fierce, victorious smile, the loud, annoying voice…
Some things never changed.
"Hey, hey," Naruto chuckled easily, scanning the forming crowd, "Everything's fine here. It's under control. I'll handle it."
While frowning at being called it, Sasuke observed the crowd listening, nodding, and leaving, just as Naruto had asked.
Showing him signs of respect, listening to his orders…. The guards went back to their posts.
But apparently not all things stayed the same.
Naruto had a hand on his shoulder. Sasuke realized that he was still taller than him.
"Sasuke," he said, his tone serious yet he could hear the traces of joy, "You came back."
Naruto maintained eye contact with him, trying to read him.
Holding eye contact now, building up walls now, was harder than he had ever experienced. Internally, Sasuke struggled to keep his face blank, eyes clean.
Walls up, walls up.
"Sasuke," Naruto started again. "Why'd you come back?"
Sasuke could tell he was really serious about this question, really meant it, really wanted to know.
Why'd you come back? Why did you?
Hold still, son. Walls up, keep walls up. Maintain eye contact.
He didn't give an answer, but momentarily he looked away. He was worried about what Naruto could find, could see there. But more importantly….
He didn't want Naruto to know what the answer was before him.
Sasuke would be lying if he said he thought Sakura would welcome him back with open arms, crying and clutching him to her like in some cliché novel.
As trivial, as unfocused as she'd been, he'd give her that much.
He'd ignored her, berated her, denied her companionship, affections, and then knocked her out and left her on a stone bench.
He had more respect for her than to think that.
What he got was a dropped bag and wide, wide emerald green eyes.
Naruto had dragged him to the Hokage's office, where he sat until dark answering question after question about his whereabouts, giving away his intel, questions about what he'd done, who he'd killed, what he'd seen.
It had been a dreary business, mucking through his past, the past eight years, revisiting old, festering wounds, seeing different ways he could have done things.
More than anything, Sasuke hated making mistakes, to the point where he was this close to being afraid of it.
He hated making mistakes, and he hated being wrong.
At the end, they'd given him keys to an apartment, a trial, a probable outcome, and a prospective punishment.
Sasuke didn't want to delve into what they'd taken, but he figured that's what happened to his sanity for the night.
It had been a long time since he'd talked that much.
He was walking down a street he didn't know the name of, but recognized to an apartment complex he didn't know, but soon would. His feet went on autopilot, taking him down the streets he used to see when he ran from rooftop to rooftop.
It was then that his harried thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of something dropping and a sharp intake of breath.
Standing opposite of him was a familiar image, a slight, pink haired kunoichi.
He met her eyes, which had gone wide in the apparent shock of seeing him, and he felt a wave of mixed up emotions twist in his gut. Was this… nostalgia? Sasuke couldn't place it.
An apple rolled to his feet.
He broke eye contact, looking down briefly at the round fruit.
"Um, oh!" she said hurriedly, seemingly just realizing her forgotten groceries. She crouched down, quickly gathering the food and herbs before shoving it back into her bag.
"Uh, wait, okay?" she said uncertainly, distracted as she continued.
Sasuke allowed himself a small smirk. He wished it were day time… If Sakura were anything like before, he knew he'd see a small blush on her cheeks.
Bending down, he deftly picked up the apple, rubbing the dirt off the red skin on his shirt.
He closed the distance in between them just as she stood up.
"An odd hour for grocery shopping," he said, holding out the apple to her.
She appeared flustered as she looked from his eyes, to his smirk, to the apple, and back again.
"Um, thanks," she mumbled, hesitating just a second before grabbing the apple and stuffing it in her bag.
"I, uh, work the night shift. At the hospital," she quickly added, gesturing in its general direction.
He knew she had become a medic-nin—word spread quickly when you surpassed a Sannin at her craft. He had been a bit surprised, hearing that Sakura had become so successful. But then she'd always been pushed aside on their team, Kakashi focusing more on the two, powerful boys instead of looking for potential in the smaller, weaker member of their team.
She bit her lip.
Sasuke noticed she'd kept her hair short.
"So, um, you're back?" she asked. She appeared more composed, but Sasuke could see in her eyes that she was still reeling from the shock of seeing him roaming a Konoha street.
He just looked at her.
She gave a small laugh at his lack of response.
She peered up at him, face suddenly becoming serious, and he noticed how much shorter than him she was.
"Sasuke…"she started hesitantly, while he thought: Don't ask, don't ask.
"Why did you decide to come back?" she asked.
He didn't know, he didn't know, would they stop asking, wasn't it enough to them that here he was? Not threatening, ready to accept consequences?
Her eyes dropped to the floor before looking back up at him again.
"Some things never change, I guess…" she mumbled, flashing him a small grin.
A corner of his mouth curled up unconsciously at the sight.
I love you with all my heart!
A hint of a smile still in place, he resumed walking towards his apartment.
"Suppose not," he answered as he passed her, continuing down the street.
He didn't turn around to look, but he would guess that she had turned, watched his back until he disappeared with a growing, disbelieving smile on her face. So he would guess.
Weeks passed quickly and his trial was done, punishment in the process of being served. He was not widely accepted back into society—the villagers still moved a bit to the side as he walked, mumbling behind his back once he passed.
The shinobi could either be more or less forgiving, depending on age and/or relation to Naruto.
As everyone expected, Naruto became his first friend and biggest supporter, whether Sasuke would openly admit it or not. Everyone knew it, so he just chose to ignore it.
Sasuke was under probation, and the elite were always watching. He was just—dare he say it—lucky that someone (obviously not in their right mind) considered Naruto elite.
The beginning of his new life consisted mostly of loud voices, fond punches, meaningless banter, ramen, and orange. When he was not completing lowly, boring, unimportant missions in the village, he was being dragged to ramen with Naruto, getting made fun of for his C and D rank missions. If he wasn't with (or trying to avoid) Naruto, he was completing C or D ranks missions.
Or sleeping. The dobe didn't follow him there, thanks to any entity existing.
As aloof or annoyed as he tried to present himself, he had to admit defeat to Naruto. His persistence didn't allow him to be solely bitter about his return, to not see any of the benefits, although they might be in the future.
Naruto made sure he became a person again.
Slowly, Naruto began to bring in others to his otherwise sheltered life.
A shy Hyuuga Hinata, the calculating Shikamaru—he still didn't know if he could yet handle the annoying exuberance of Lee—but more importantly, there was an increasing amount of pink and green.
It was exceedingly obvious that Haruno Sakura had changed immensely from the weak genin he had once been teammates with.
It showed in almost everything. In the way she moved as she approached he and Naruto at the ramen bar… Shoulders back, eyes quick, gait fluid, the confident set of her mouth, but still quick to smile with eyes and lips at anything that took her fancy.
It was present in her voice, deeper with time, in the words she said, the ribbings she gave Naruto, and even in the voice she regarded him. Gone was the stutter, the blush, the flustered attempt to grasp at words…
When she conversed with him, she was more guarded. He could feel the distance, even as she flashed him the same smile she'd given Naruto not a second before.
But yet, she talked to him.
Soon, his days involved C-rank missions, loud voices, meaningless banter, orange, ramen, pink, green, small smiles, medic bags, comments made with a lilting cadence, and a peculiar rising sensation is his chest he could not beat back down whenever her eyes met his.
It was after a few months when he was alone with Sakura, walking back to their apartments (which actually were quite close) that he realized that she, like Naruto, like the ANBU, was also considered elite.
It was possible he smiled that night.
He had never answered the question concerning why he had returned back to Konoha.
Naruto and Sakura had stopped asking, and for that he was grateful. Sasuke wouldn't lie, he had a vague impression of what it was, but it was hazy, and he wanted a defined sketch before he would impart anything to his teammates.
They deserved the real answer; they deserved the most of what he could give them.
It had been almost a year since his return, and he was currently celebrating his first A-rank with the ninja of his age at a bar they often frequented.
Sasuke was still reserved, still quiet, still a brooder, still the same in many ways, but things were changing. He felt closer to the reason why he came back every minute, and he couldn't wait to finally realize why.
Not that he was complaining. He'd never felt so good for accomplishing something as easy as the mission he had today, but Naruto had said this was a good thing when he mentioned it.
They'd all had some to drink, but it was only Naruto who was shit-faced. The rest just had a little buzz.
And apparently, a little buzz was all that was needed.
On their customary walk to their respective apartments, right as he was about to turn into the drive of his complex, Sakura had acquired this light in her normally sheltered eyes.
His pulse had quickened, and then she was kissing him, and suddenly she was all he knew.
He had never… His lust for her was evident, as was hers for him, but never… he didn't want to label the emotions she had elicited out of him, but it was everything and more than he'd felt in a long time.
They'd made it to his apartment, until they reached his open bedroom door.
He had stopped, not entirely willing to stop, but looking down at her hazy eyes to figure out what she wanted.
He hadn't had time to grasp anything—his lips and attention were claimed again as she pulled him through that open door.
And as he experienced being with her that night, he knew.
The reason he came back… he wanted to feel something again.
She gave him that, and much more. There was a name for these feelings buried beneath the passion between uniting him and her, and name he wouldn't say but would soon know.
He came back for this, for her, for the feelings he felt only she could procure from him.
The whole night he had been wrapped up in this feeling, of his feelings… For the first time he felt joy for it.
Sasuke wanted her to wake up, wanted to see her, speak with her, take her lips with his another time, and perhaps a million more after that.
He wouldn't say it, but she would know. Wasn't this what she'd always wanted with him?
He stared at her until it was no longer proper to call it twilight, til the sun began peeking over the horizon, light sneaking in around the blinds and shining onto his bed.
He could tell she was awake, and only wondered why she wasn't turning to face him, to meet his eyes, made softer by her, softer in the morning, this morning… Turning to maybe stretch up, give him a light kiss, murmur a good morning Sasuke-kun.
His heart rate picked up only the slightest, and he skeptically wondered why. He hadn't felt so content, so right…
Unconsciously, he reached out to gently stroke the soft skin of her back with the lightest touch.
Exposed as she was, he could see the muscles in her back tense. His hand halted, the movement frozen.
Sasuke felt his heart beat quicken, but he knew it wasn't with the thrill of anticipation. He knew this feeling. It was one he did not expect, it was unwanted, but there was no way to banish it.
Sasuke knew he had good instincts, but he did not like what they were telling him now.
Unconsciously, self-preservation kicked in—he withdrew his hand.
He watched, silent, as Sakura sat up, still facing away from him, still not looking at him.
His eyes widened, but only in the slightest, at the sinking in his chest.
Smoothly, she slipped out from the sheets, swiftly she grabbed her discarded clothes, effortlessly she had them back on.
Sasuke propped himself on his forearms to look at her, waiting for her to look at him.
His heart pumped his veins with dread, and he could not believe this was real.
He'd come back for this, and yet…
"Sasuke," she said softly, half turning to consider him, green eyes searching his dark ones, but he felt he could not do the same.
He felt like he'd been punched in the chest, and he suddenly wished that he could find his barriers, the barriers he had dropped last night for her, he had, he would drop everything he knew for her, but suddenly he wanted it all back, he wanted to take it back.
Walls up, walls up—
But it was too late. She'd seen, he could see it in her sad smile.
"Oh, Sasuke," she sighed, a hand coming up to touch her cheek.
"I'm sorry," she said, and the words sounded so hollow, like she knew they wouldn't be enough.
They weren't enough.
The one truth, the one fact that had always stuck in his mind was that Sakura loved him… But now, he could only watch her, sheets falling from his bare chest as she turned, straightening her skirt before she started walking.
He could only watch her, stare at her, not moving, not answering, throat constricting, heart clenching, as she left out of his still-open-door, without a glance back.
was it always only one night that you ever wanted from me?
AN: because I'm sick of Sakura always being the one getting hurt, the one always being tossed aside.
HOWEVER: this is for the people who feel 'wait, Sakura would never do that to Sasuke, she wouldn't be such a coldhearted slut to just sleep with him and leave'- or something similar.
I'll explain where I'm coming from. one night focuses on Sasuke. It's his thoughts, his messed up feelings. He doesn't know what Sakura is thinking. And I'm not saying that she still doesn't love him or that leaving didn't hurt her too. I end the story right after she leaves- who knows what happens afterwards? What do you think happens? In that immediate moment, Sasuke is crushed. He doesn't understand what is going on. and I wanted to leave you with that broken Sasuke, fresh and raw right in the moment, because how often is Sasuke seen caring enough to be broken?
But back to Sakura. You can think whatever you want of her motives. After all, I deliberately leave it up to your interpretation. But my thoughts on Sakura's actions... I see her still in love with Sasuke, but she's scared about what it could do to her. She's matured, and surely her feelings would be more mature now. And if she'd been willing to leave for him earlier (granted she was a bit young and naive then...) then what would more powerful feelings do now? I think she's scared, and more guarded. After giving in that one night after a little buzz to what she's wanted for awhile, she woke up sober and scared. so she left. because she's scared she's going to get in too deep.
but that's just me. you're welcome to think what you want, since the above is nowhere in the story.
-inspiration came from the last line of the song "one night is not enough" by snow patrol, which is also the last line of the story-
actually, a lot of my inspiration comes from music.