Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, its characters, its storyline, or any related trademarks.
Warnings: Team 7 silliness with a large helping of SasuSaku on top, takes place after Sasuke's eventual return/rehab/redemption (why do all these words begin with R?)
We Can't Be Friends
Part One: Maybe It's Just Me, But...
Naruto was so screwed. It was Sakura's birthday today and he still didn't have a gift for her. He scowled and scuffed his feet as he walked down the street, absently looking at the different shops and trying to find something that Sakura would like.
But what did Sakura like?
The only answer that really seemed to come to mind was Sasuke, but somehow Naruto didn't think Sakura would appreciate a gift-wrapped Uchiha as her birthday present. Not to mention, he didn't think that Sasuke would really appreciate it either.
Speaking of Sasuke, Naruto spotted his teammate in a bookshop, browsing through some rather thick texts and scowling at the prices on the back. After further observation, Naruto noticed he seemed to be rotating between three different books, as if he couldn't make up his mind.
Grinning, Naruto popped into the store and stealthily moved behind Sasuke, who seemed none-the-wiser.
"What do you want, loser?" Sasuke asked without preamble – as usual.
Naruto jumped, startled. "How the hell do you do that, anyway? There's no way you could've heard me."
"Exactly," Sasuke murmured. "You're too predictable."
"WHAT'S THAT-" Naruto quieted when the bookstore owner gave him a nasty glare. "What's that supposed to mean?" he hissed.
Sasuke grunted in response. Naruto threw his arms up in the air and gave up. "Fine, whatever; what are you doing, then?"
Sasuke turned slowly and stared at his so-called best friend with a quirked brow. "I'm getting something for Sakura's birthday, or did you forget about that along with all of your so-called ninja skills."
Naruto scowled. "I forgot nothing. I was just about to get a present for her, too."
"Yeah, right," Sasuke chuckled.
"So, what's with the books, then? I mean, they seem kind of boring."
"They're texts on advanced jutsu theory."
"Ugh, that's so lame – why get her a present that seems like academy homework? Why not get her some pretty earrings or something."
"These are practical," Sasuke retorted.
Naruto rolled his eyes, "And that's why she won't go out with you."
"Excuse me?" Sasuke turned sharply to glare at Naruto.
"Dude, you're standing in here, browsing through books that I'm sure you don't even understand half of, to get Sakura-chan a birthday present when you could've just gone and gotten something girly and not really cared what she thought. The Sasuke I know doesn't put effort into things for nothing – it's so obvious you like her."
Sasuke sighed, and mumbled something that sounded like "maybe to you."
Naruto sighed – it was quite sad, really. Sakura still loved Sasuke, but wouldn't say anything to Sasuke, thinking she had already said enough. On the other hand, Sasuke was obviously head over heels for Sakura, but, being the stubborn, emotionless prick he was, would never own up to it on his own.
Naruto officially believed his teammates were the biggest idiots in the village.
Then, an idea began to bloom in his head. A plan that would kill two birds before they hatched.
…or, however that saying went.
Naruto frowned and mumbled, "He who slings mud cast the first stone?"
Sasuke gave him a weird look. "What are you mumbling about?" he asked. He seemed to have settled on a thick text about genjutsu.
Naruto looked up at him and grinned. "Hey Sasuke, make a bet with me."
"Because if I lose, I'll let you take any of my missions you want for the next sixth months, and I'll take the ones you don't want."
Sasuke mulled this over. "What happens if you win?"
Naruto grinned, "You get to help me with my birthday present for Sakura."
Sasuke quirked a brow at this, but figured that it was just Naruto making a stupid bet. "All right, deal." Sasuke shook him on it and Naruto's grin only grew bigger.
Sasuke scowled all the way to Sakura's office. He opened the door without knocking, startling Sakura who had been dozing over some important paperwork. "Yes, Sasuke?"
"Naruto wanted me to pick you up for lunch."
"Oh!" Sakura looked at the clock. "I didn't realize it was already lunch time."
Sasuke rolled his eyes, of course she didn't notice – she had been sleeping.
She sorted her papers into neat piles on her desk and scribbled down a quick note that mentioned she would be out for lunch with her team.
"Alright, I'm ready," she said.
Sasuke rolled his neck and then stalked out of the hospital, Sakura following closely behind him. She was moderately surprised, and confused, when Sasuke did not follow the usual route to Ichiraku's. Instead he seemed to be leading her to the shopping district.
"Sasuke?" she questioned.
He grunted in response, "Just keep following."
They stopped at a quaint but lovely little restaurant and sat at a small table outside. Sakura took her seat awkwardly when she noted that the table was only set for two. "Isn't Naruto coming?"
"I never said anything about Naruto coming," Sasuke muttered.
"But you said that Naruto told you to – oh… oh," Sakura managed not to gape as she clued into the situation at hand. The waitress appeared to take their order before the air between them could get too tense or awkward.
Once their orders were through and waitress left. Sakura, a little harried by the suddenness of everything, tried to re-compose herself. Having privacy once more, she couldn't help but speak up. "You know, you don't have to be here just because Naruto asked."
"Do you honestly think I would do anything Naruto asked?" Sasuke replied.
He meant to imply that he did do some of the stuff Naruto asked him to, provided that it went along with his own interests. But Sakura didn't seem to take it that way.
"So, what – you lost a bet?"
Sasuke scowled and Sakura knew she'd hit home.
"Look, this is stupid. You really don't have to follow through with whatever it is Naruto wanted you to do."
"He wanted me to take you out to lunch – said it was your birthday present from him," Sasuke grumbled.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "I should've expected this from Naruto. Look, I don't want to be here if you don't want to be here – especially because of some stupid bet with Naruto."
"I don't care," Sasuke bit out. And he didn't care, about the bet that is.
Sakura however, did not hear it that way.
"If you want to leave, just say so. I won't care. I'd rather you just leave if you don't want to be here than staying and making it uncomfortable," Sakura murmured.
"Shut up," Sasuke scowled. "Stop being annoying." He crossed his arms over his chest, leaned back in his chair, and turned his head to glare at the wall. He sighed, "We've already ordered anyway. It would be a waste to leave anyway. So just enjoy the meal I'm buying you."
"Sasuke, you don't have to-"
The look he gave her shut her up.
There was an awkward silence as they waited for the meal to come. Sakura felt frustrated, which was, sadly, not an abnormal feeling to be having around Sasuke. Even now, her heart fluttered just that extra little bit around him – enough to make his only casual comments ache. Enough to create that millisecond of doubt in every word he spoke. Enough to be pissed off for her (or was it him?) never being enough.
Sasuke sighed. "I used to come here with Itachi when I was a kid," he said.
Sakura's attention snapped to his face, unable to believe he'd said something so… direct about his older brother – about his past.
Sasuke, however, continued to stare at the wall and look uncomfortable. He didn't mean for things to always come out like this in front of her, but there was something about the quiet strength of her shoulders and jaw, and the subtle vulnerability in her gaze that made him spit these things out without thought.
Sakura, sensing he'd clammed up for good this time, smiled softly and clasped her one hand over her other hand, silently imagining the hand she was holding wasn't her own, but Sasuke's.
The rest of their lunch was passed in silence – though it was not all uncomfortable. When the waitress reappeared to take their plates and asked if they wanted any dessert, Sakura started to protest.
"Oh, no, the –"
But Sasuke cut her off. "She'll have the Chocolate Explosion – nothing for me."
The waitress nodded and left and Sakura glared at Sasuke. "I don't want dessert."
Sasuke just stared back at her impassively, as if saying: "You can't fool me."
Sakura sighed, frustrated at the mixed signals, or perhaps her own inability to read the signals correctly, and decided it was time to leave.
"I have to go back to work. Thanks for lunch, Sasuke-kun. Goodbye."
Embarrassed that the affectionate suffix had slipped out when she was trying to be angry with him, Sakura made her exit quicker than she thought possible.
Sasuke had meant to protest but the return of the suffix to his name had startled him long enough for her to make her exit before he could stop her. He grumbled and closed his eyes in frustration – stuffed his hands in the pockets so he wouldn't break anything.
It didn't help when the waitress came back with the dessert and two spoons.
Sakura shouldn't have been surprised when Naruto barged into her office at 3 in the afternoon, but really, he just barged in and she was still frustrated from her lunch (she refused to call it a date, since it had been orchestrated by Naruto, apparently) with Sasuke – so frustrated, in fact, that she had ripped at least three forms with her pen while signing them. She was considering snapping the pen in her hand while she imagined that it was Sasuke's spine when Naruto suddenly thundered in, knocking her framed certificate off the wall and causing it knock an extremely large stack of loose paper off the small file cabinet that was underneath it.
Sakura pressed her face into her hand and groaned.
"Happy birthday, Sakura-chan!" he almost yelled and she just wanted to punch that face-splitting grin off of him, or at least knock out a couple teeth.
"What?" she snapped.
"What?" he repeated. "Can't a guy wish his best friend a happy birthday?"
She did smile at this (damn it) and looked up at Naruto sheepishly. "Sorry, been a weird day."
"I can imagine. So I heard you had lunch with the bastard today?" Naruto said as he spun the chair on the opposite side of Sakura's desk so he could straddle it.
Sakura had to make an effort to not groan in exasperation again and instead managed to scoff. "Yeah, thanks Naruto, what did you have to do to get him to take me to lunch – insult his validity as a man?"
Naruto cringed. "It's not like that, Sakura-chan. I thought that maybe… I mean, I know that you two don't…" He pursed his lips, unsure of what words to use in order to get his point across. "Well, I know you guys like different things than me, and I thought that maybe Sasuke would appreciate hanging out with you without me, but you know how he is, so I just… tried to give him a little nudge."
Sakura stared at Naruto and said flatly, "You expect me to believe that Sasuke wanted to hang out with me?"
Naruto nodded hesitantly.
Sakura rolled her eyes and fell back into her chair. "Why?" she groaned. "Why does this even happen to me?"
Naruto swallowed meekly. "So, you're still wanting that birthday dinner tonight, yeah?"
TO BE CONTINUED