Those Smiles

Summary: Upon enduring Sakura's unconditional love for him, Sasuke can't help but view his life as a parallel to the tragic relationship between his mother and father.

PS: I'm starting to love doing one-shots. There's something so sweet and magical about short stories. But this one is pretty long for a one-shot. Maybe I'm too used to my long stories.

He leaned against the doorway, watching her wash the dishes delicately.

Sakura poured dish soap all over the plates, gently scrubbing it. She was in no rush, comfortably humming a tune during this routine. She always did seem to enjoy this simple leisure, patiently washing them. She was never in a rush washing the dishes, his dishes, something Sasuke could never understand. Then again, she was never in a rush with him either. Patient she was.

Patient like his mother.

Uchiha Mikoto scrubbed the china gently, hoping not to ruin it. She took her time with it, cleaning it to perfection. At four years old, the young Sasuke was always fascinating with how his mother enjoyed this simple hobby. It was something very normal and yet, his mother made it so enchanting to the eye. He often wondered why.

A loud sigh was heard from behind. Sasuke turned his head around, his black orbs meeting the sight of his father, sitting at the table. His father sipped the tea, and then laid the cup on the table. He stood up slowly and without a word, left the room. The teacup was still half-full.

His mother noticed this, staring at the teacup for a while. She looked up, hoping to see if someone else was still in the room but then she realized: it was just her and her son. She paused on one dish, setting it aside for later. Slowly, she walked to the table, picked up her husband's teacup, emptied the contents, and washed it. A smile never left his mother's face. And Sasuke didn't even understand why.

His father didn't even finish the tea his own mother made from scratch. Tea made just for her husband.

How long had it been since he returned to Konoha? Two years? Three? Sasuke couldn't remember. He did remember being forcefully dragged by to Konoha upon killing Madara. Even then, Sasuke had to desire to return but after a rough battle with Naruto, he was left with no choice. If he wanted to survive, he would have to return to Konohagakure for medical treatment. He had obliged ruthlessly.

He remembered entering through the gates of Konohagakure, the first time in several years. He didn't have time to savor the view of his former home, instead being rushed to the hospital for immediate treatment. He was laid on the bed as nurses and medic-nins surrounded him. The only one he recalled treating him was a certain pink-hair girl.

Sakura. It was strange when he saw her again out of all places. The last time he did, he nearly tried to murder her. Sasuke didn't know if he regretted seeing her at the moment or not, but all he knew was that Sakura didn't seem to care about the past; instead, she sweated her butt off as she treated. Sasuke did remember the warm touch of her charkra, the green light emulating from her delicate hands. Something was off about her. She wasn't just worrying; she was panicking. Her breathing was uneven, her eyes wide in despair.

"Please, Sasuke-kun, don't give up," She pleaded under her breath. "Please, don't give up...Please, Sasuke-kun..."

He never did look at her as she spoke those words. It was an innate reaction from the past.

Sasuke's eyes peaked through the wooden doors, watching quietly as his mother wrapped long white strips of bandages around his father's arm. His father had just returned from a deadly mission. He came home, probably two in the morning, his right arm bleeding. Mikoto, who yet had a second of sleep since his departure, was immediately by his side with a medical kit. Fugaku had refused to go to the hospital, but his wife would not let him off the hook.

Instead of returning to the sleep she deserved, Mikoto had patiently cleaned his wounds, wiped off the blood, and stitched them. She wrapped bandages around his arm, slowly so she wouldn't cause even a second of pain to her husband. And throughout it all, her black orbs gleamed sincerely.

But her eyes never met with her husband's.

As she finished tending her husband, she did one final check-up before smiling at him, signaling her job done. Sasuke's father sat there for a moment, examining his now treated arm, then stood up and walked away from his wife. His father left his mother there, sitting alone in the darkness. Sasuke could see his mother struggling, but she kept smiling, even if a tear threatened to drop.

Just as he was about to open the door to rush to his mother's arms, Sasuke was hushed away by his brother Itachi, who told him it was late and that it was time for bed. Sasuke never had the chance to comfort his mother.

She had come everyday following to check up on him, even though she was not assigned to him. Sasuke only gave her one-word responses, and although most would be annoyed, Sakura simply smiled. She would stay a few minutes later, trying to catch up with him. Again, Sasuke would give her one-word responses, and she would just smile softly. Most of the times, Sasuke just wanted to get rid of her. She was being annoying. Actually, he often wondered why she wasn't either hugging him to death in tears or slapping him in the face for attempting murder on her. He had expected extremities from her and yet here she was, calm and gentle. Patient. She often smiled at him, trying to ease him, even though it didn't. In fact, it had him thinking even harder. Why did Sakura have to smile like that at him?

Why did they always have to smile like that?

Sasuke ran home as soon as possible, not wanting to waste a second. He gripped his drawing tightly as if it was his life, protecting it from any threat. It was his parents' anniversary and he spent the whole day drawing a picture of his mother and father smiling, hand in hand, an image he always wanted to see. When he reached the Uchiha Manor, Sasuke kicked off his sandals, threw his bag on the ground, and slid down the hallway, stopping at the kitchen. He smiled excitedly, eager to see his parent's reaction.

But Sasuke only found his mother in the kitchen, washing the dishes again. His father was nowhere. His mother turned around, greeting her son softly. She told him that his father was caught up at the police station and would come home later. She thanked Sasuke kindly, kissed him on the cheek, and made him his favorite dinner.

Sasuke's father didn't return home until the next morning. And all Sasuke could do was watch his mother greet her husband in the morning, as if their anniversary was just another day that passed by.

Sasuke didn't understand about this arrangement. It was fine enough that he received just probation, but did he really need Sakura to keep watch on him? He had scowled loudly upon Tsunade's demands, slandering that he didn't need an annoying girl babysitting him 24/7. Tsunade was enraged, kicking him out of her office immediately. As he exited the door, Sasuke heard disappearing footsteps. His head turned, noticing a flash of pink hair walking quickly away from Tsunade's office. With that, he could hear the distance whimpering of Haruno Sakura.

Living with Sakura wasn't a nightmare, but it sure wasn't a man's fantasy. She had insisted that they go grocery shopping together as she could not handle Sasuke's daily requests for tomatoes and riceballs. It was about time he tried variety. Sasuke argued that if she was so annoyed, she could just buy whatever and he would eat it. However, Sakura pointed that Sasuke should make choices for himself too, especially with food. So she dragged him to the local market, patiently taking her time with picking out the fruits and Sasuke eagerly wanted to get out of here.

It wasn't just that he didn't like markets; he didn't like the people that came here. The moment he and Sakura entered the market, the gossips erupted in thundering whispers. As Sakura busied herself with fruits and crackers, Sasuke became increasing annoyed with the gossip. They said things about both him and Sakura. They accused him as a "traitor," "dishonor to Konoha," "a spy," or worse things. Sakura had it worse. They said the Elders had underlying motives for Sakura to live with him. They truly believed that the Elders wanted Sasuke to repopulate the Uchiha clan, for the Sharingan to live, so they had Sakura to bear his children. They called her "concubine," "low-grade mistress," or "desperate." No other woman, any better woman, was sane enough to accept the task. How could one ever love a traitor like him?

Sakura would simply ignore it, only asking Sasuke whether he wanted a certain fruit or cracker or whatever spice she held. And she would smile at him if he nodded, shrugged, or scowled. But every so often, Sasuke would often catch her eye darting back and forth from the gossipers. It was then he could tell that she didn't ignore; she just faked it in his presence.

They were so similar.

"That's the Uchiha Head's wife, right?"

"Hai, it's rare to see her out. I hear her husband never lets her out of the Uchiha Quarters."

"True, how could any sane woman marry a man like Uchiha Fugaku?"

"I know! Why would anybody love a man so cold and ruthless? The way he runs the police force makes Konoha look bad."

"Maybe she's just after the money. She's not from any of the old clans."

"She must be very obedient, giving up her ninja career the moment she married that Uchiha."

"Ah, how pathetic. I bet he forced her too; better to make her stay home with the children."

The seven-year-old Sasuke grew angrier and angrier with each word they said about his mother. Sasuke and his mother were at the market simply for grocery shopping. But here they were, met with the endless gossips. How could they accuse his mother, a woman so kind and caring, of her love for his own father? But then, Sasuke always questioned whether his father returned the love to his mother.

But Uchiha Mikoto kept smiling, interesting herself in the several tomatoes her son would devour that night. Perhaps she had grown too used to these talks, but her eyes said differently.

Sakura yelled at Sasuke, again, for overdoing himself during training. She yelled at him for leaving such a mess in his own house, again. She yelled at him for never hanging out with her and Naruto at Ichiraku's, again. Sakura yelled at Sasuke for many reasons.

And Sasuke got annoyed every time. He argued back that he could do whatever he wanted and that he was none of her concern. He wasn't going to do the same for her, so why did Sakura even bother? Why did that woman even bother to do this job? Sasuke knew he was driving Sakura crazy. He knew that she wanted nothing more than to be rid of him once his probation was over. She may have desired it at first, but she definitely hated it now.

But she never left him. She never asked for him to change. For every time Sasuke came home, bruises all over from his extreme training, Sakura would tend him immediately, even if it made her late for her hospital shift. Every time Sasuke forgot to make his bed or leave a week's worth of dishes in the sink, Sakura took it upon herself to do his bed and wash the dishes while he sat on the couch, bored out of his mind. Every time Sasuke ditched hanging out with his former teammates, Sakura would always come home with a to-go pack of ramen from Ichiraku's so that he could at least enjoy the same food they did. He didn't know why Sakura did these things for him. He clearly drove her mad. So why hasn't she given up yet? Either way, he would give her nothing but a "hn" and a shrug.

Like his father.

His mother was the kindest woman Sasuke knew. When Sasuke was five, he remembered a day where his mother planned a small shopping trip in the neighboring city. She had wanted to buy souvenirs for Sasuke, Itachi, her husband, and the rest of the clan whom rarely ventured out of Konohagakure. That same day, his father had a fever. His mother immediately forgot the idea of shopping and urged her husband to stay home and to forget work. His father argued furiously, questioning if his wife doubted his strength. His mother never argued back, just standing there in silent.

Eventually, even his tough father realized he needed rest from the police station, staying home in bed. Throughout that whole day, his mother had cared for his father with medicine, hot soup, hot towels, anything that her husband needed to feel better. Sasuke never heard his father utter a single thank you.

All Sasuke remembered was his mother's warm smiles as she cared for his father. Hiding any hints of pain.

Sasuke was not dumb enough to deny the fact that Sakura was indeed beautiful; he just didn't realize how popular she really was with men. How many death glares did he give those perverted boys whose eyes wandered anywhere lower than her face? How many times had he scowled upon hearing words like "Tap that ass" or "nice rack" or whatever they used to describe Sakura's physique? All these boys made Lee look normal.

Then there was this one particular boy that Sasuke didn't even bother remembering his name because he was too absorbed with finding ways to murder the boy in secret. This random ninja idiot had been stupid enough to flirt with Sakura, even in the presence of a deadly Uchiha. What shocked Sasuke the most was that he himself didn't do anything to stop it, especially when Sakura laughed cheerfully alongside the other stupid boy. Sasuke found his insides ache every time he heard her laugh, as she rarely did in his presence. Nor did she smile so brightly. Eventually, he would leave the two alone, figuring it was best if he was out of the picture.

One night, that stupid boy took Sakura out on a date and Sasuke couldn't help but feel it was his duty as her teammate to keep watch. Thank god he was right. Toward the end of the date, that idiotic, stupid, pathetic boy leaned in to kiss Sakura. Sasuke was about to jump out of his hiding spot to pummel that stupid boy when he saw Sakura immediately back away from stupid, idiotic boy. She apologized for misleading him, stating that she loved somebody else. Sasuke nearly snapped. Did he have to plot another murder on another stupid boy who caught Sakura's attention?

Then, the truth revealed. The stupid, idiotic boy turned into an even more stupid, loud, annoying boy when he accused Sakura of loving "that Uchiha." He called her stupid for falling for a "traitor." How could a sweet girl like Sakura still love someone as dangerous as Uchiha Sasuke? He said that Sakura needed someone who would care for her, love her, cherish her. Somebody not like Uchiha Sasuke. He told her that Uchiha was going to hurt her over and over again, so why go through with it? She knew he didn't love her. But Sakura refused to give up. Because in her mind, it didn't matter if he loved her or not; Sakura couldn't stop loving him.

But here was the catch: Maybe deep inside, Sasuke knew that he probably had feelings for the girl. She just didn't know.

His mother never knew his father's either.

Sasuke stared at the ground, horrified. The sight of his parent's dead bodies on the floor like dolls...he couldn't erase it. Blood splattered on the floor. His parent's eyes remained wide open, yet so lifeless. His parents were dead.

Then he saw something startling, something he had only caught for a second before he ran from the sight, away from Itachi. Something that made him cried harder than he ever had in his life.

He remembered exactly how his parents' bodies were laid. His father was on top of his mother, as if trying to protect her.

That was the only sign of love Sasuke saw his father show for his mother. And his mother wouldn't even know, for it was only in death did his father finally revealed his love.

And as Sasuke watched Sakura wash the dishes, he realized that he didn't want to end up like his father.

Nor Sakura like his mother.

How long did it take for Sasuke to finally realize how much his mother truly loved his father? To take such coldness and distance, yet still love him unconditionally. His mother was an extraordinary woman. For someone who was hurting deep inside, yearning for the attention of a loved one, yet never once complained.

It was then Sasuke knew he wasn't the idea of strength: his mother and Sakura were. He wasn't the strong one; he was the coward. Here Sakura was, washing his dishes, caring for him, watching him, cleaning for him, doing everything for him. Never once did he ever say "thank you" for her efforts. Never once did he do anything to show his gratitude. So what was he doing? Why did he continue to hold back?

To this day, Sasuke still didn't know why his father held back his feelings for his mother. And Sasuke didn't want to anymore. All he cared that he, Uchiha Sasuke, would not make the same mistake.

Slowly, he walked behind Sakura, encircling his arms around her slim waist. Sakura gasped immediately, nearly dropping the plate into the sink. She stood there, frozen in shock. Then, Sasuke buried his head into the crook of his neck, breathing down her delicate skin. His nose smelled her rosy hair, strawberry-scented from her favorite shampoo. He felt Sakura tense upon his slightest touch, but he only squeezed her harder against his chest. He held her tightly, to reassure her of something he never proved to her.

"S-S-Sasuke-kun...w-what..." She stuttered nervously, blushing.

He only gripped her tighter, as if she was going disappear at the moment. That was what he was most scared of; Sakura leaving. And if she were, he didn't want it to be his fault. Even if that could be the only reason.

He bit his lips, unsure if what he was doing was right. Unsure if he even deserved this moment with Sakura. "...I'm sorry..." Sasuke breathed softly.

He truly was. He was sorry that he made her go through so much for him. He was sorry for being the source of her pain. He was sorry that he couldn't be romantic with her the way other guys could. He was sorry that he couldn't give what she deserved from a man.

Slowly, Sakura laid the unwashed dish into the sink, letting her body rest against Sasuke. She smiled warmly. "Don't be."

He could sense the tears trickling down Sakura's face. The tiny droplets soon landed on Sasuke's arm, uncontrollable. This only worsens Sasuke's guilt.

"Please, don't cry..." He pleaded gently, his face still buried into her neck, afraid to meet her eyes.

Frantically, Sakura released herself from Sasuke's arms. She exited the kitchen, rushing to her room. Sasuke quickly followed after her, fearing only the worst. Just before she could shut the door, Sasuke slammed it right back open, shocking Sakura. Her jade eyes were moist from crying. She now only breathed heavily, still staring at Sasuke. There was a sign of...disbelief in there. She fought to smile, but didn't. Not this time. No, out of all times, she refused to smile at him.

"Why?" She asked him through her tears. "What did you come back for?"

Sasuke sighed deeply. He stared straight at her, nowhere else. He wanted her to know that she was the only one he was looking at right now.

"You're right if you believe that I didn't come back for you," Sasuke admitted uncomfortably. "I didn't. Naruto dragged me back here against my will."

Sakura bit her lips, understanding his words too well. She was about to look away until she realized Sasuke had yet to stop.

"But I'm staying here because of you."

Sakura's eyes widened in bewilderment. It was then she noticed something within Sasuke's dark eyes that wasn't there before. There was warmth to it, an innocence that made him appear like a child.

"I don't want you living like this forever." I don't want you to live like my mother did...

He pulled her into a tight embrace once more, pressing her head into his chest as she cried more tears. His neck rested above her head, intaking her scent once more. He refused to let go of her, refused to ever leave his sight from her. He refused to let her live her life without him acknowledging how much he had grown to love her.

Then, with his fingers, he lifted her chin up for her lips to meet his. Initially shocked, Sakura eventually melted into it. It was nothing rough or short; simply sweet and loving.

That was all that Sasuke needed to do to make one Haruno Sakura happy. And Sasuke would do more in the future.

If only...