This story is written for SasuSaku Month, an event especially dedicated to Sakura and Sasuke! The event was hosted at LiveJournal.

Theme: Chance Meetings

Prompt: Satisfaction

Summary: Sasuke experiences unwelcome feelings, all of them strong enough to annoy him to no end. He decides to act upon them, believing that once his newfound desire for Sakura is saturated, the torture will end. He couldn't have been more wrong!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto!

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Falling

Three whole months had passed since his return and Sasuke couldn't find any semblance of hope for a change. He was currently in his room at the Uchiha compound, lying on his bed with his mind focused on the many things that had happened recently and some not that recently. He had been having difficulty falling asleep for quite some time and the rare times he was able to fall asleep, the dreadful dreams never left him alone.

An immeasurable number of questions had been flowing through his mind during the last few months, but whenever he tried to find an answer, he always ended up with nothing. Those questions always revolved around his return, his past and the future that awaited him. Even if he could anticipate a future different from his past, he was still unable to confront a reality that did not involve his strong desire for revenge. He would have willingly welcomed all the chances of an escape route ― if there actually were any ― from all those hazardous thoughts, but apparently, he wasn't that fortunate.

His memories never gave him peace, but he couldn't find a way to just forget everything that had happened. His plans for revenge had been executed — he even avoided pronouncing the elders as murderers and ordering the punishment himself — yet, he still felt like something was missing in his life. The fulfilment he had expected to gain by clearing the Uchiha name had never come. He finally admitted to himself ― after a prolonged fight with his own mind and the reluctant swallowing of his pride ― that Kakashi's words about revenge had been very much true. The revenge didn't really bring him the conclusion that he blindly believed would inevitably happen.

Every single day he was painfully reminded of everything that was now gone. He remembered the time when he was just a happy child with a family of his own who loved him and that single memory caused his heart a horrible pain. There was a feeling of immense sadness that ate him up from the inside whenever he thought of them. The feeling intensified whenever those thoughts focused on his brother and the unfortunate fate that had followed him through his short life. Now, ten years after the Uchiha massacre, he struggled to accept everything as just a part of old memories, but obviously, it wasn't that easy. He desperately wanted to accomplish that because he was dreadfully aware that if he tortured himself for much longer, nothing good would come out of it.

Even those years when he was travelling as a missing-nin, being completely driven by revenge, were nothing more than a simple memory, one that he desperately wanted to forget. Willingly, he made his best effort to erase the recollections he had from the days he had succumbed to darkness.

He now longed for something real, something that would give him a reason to live once again. Apparently, the simple act of coming back to this village wasn't what he needed the most. However, being aware that the place of residence had no influence on his life, he had no desire to leave for a second time. Actually, he had to admit that Konoha offered at least one valuable thing — the feeling of serenity that filled him just by being back in his real home. He was never able to hold onto such a feeling while desperately seeking for revenge.

Even after the war, Konoha was still the same. The reconstruction of the village, after the devastation it had suffered, did nothing to change the setting or the scenery of it. Everything, down to the last detail, was exactly as he remembered. Even though he didn't feel like a stranger in the place, he did feel like a stranger to the people that lived there. At times, he felt as if he no longer belonged among them. The thing that triggered that feeling of disconnection was the emptiness that consumed him from the very depth of his soul. He desperately yearned for something that would erase those dreadful feelings, especially because he wished for things to be as they used to.

Lately, he couldn't help but allow the thoughts about Team Seven to plague his mind incessantly. The moments he had shared with the three of them, ever since they had started as a team, were constantly replaying in his head and he found it hard to deal with the conflictions that came with it. He was, simply, in an argument with the emotions that were crawling upon him at all times. On one hand, it was difficult to deal with the fact that Naruto had brought him back, but on the other he was struggling with his own thoughts and feelings concerning the bonds he had wanted so desperately to break only a couple of months ago.

He could still vividly recall the day he fought against Naruto, because that was the day he had decided to forget about revenge. The fight was just as he had expected it to be — he had already known that he would never experience the same thrill while fighting against any other opponent. It was plainly obvious to him that their rivalry wasn't something to be ignored, not even if he struggled to crush it into oblivion. Their constant trying to compare their strengths had brought them their friendship and the bond they shared became even stronger because the both of them longed for the same things and they could understand each other without exchanging a single word. Now, it was fairly easy for him to accept Naruto as a friend and someone close to him, unlike the difficulty he experienced with everybody else.

That same day, he had also met a different Sakura, a girl he couldn't find in his memories. Her pink hair and green eyes were the things he had recognized, while everything else had been foreign to him. He could clearly remember every single thought that had flashed through his mind at that moment, when he had finally witnessed her change. It was nothing he had expected and he really had to admit to himself that he was absolutely blown away by what he had witnessed. The strength she possessed was something hardly imaginable at first, but he had later realized that it was impossible to regard it with disinterest. At the time when her change had finally come to his attention, he had acknowledged her as a person who definitely deserved to be noticed by him. She no longer was the little fragile girl he believed her to be, the girl who needed protection all the time. The one thing he had decided never to say out loud was that she had really managed to mesmerize him.

He had also noticed that after his return his relationship with Sakura, unlike the one he shared with the obnoxious blond, wasn't like it used to be. He didn't clearly know what to expect from her, but he certainly didn't feel right about her distant and inexpressive behaviour.

Once he realized where his thoughts were leading him, he instantly willed himself to find a suitable distraction that wouldn't fail to help him forget about his pink-haired teammate. Even if it was very early in the morning, with the sun nowhere near rising, he decided that a training session would be the best remedy for those thoughts.

The destination he chose as his training spot was the usual grounds used by Team Seven in the past few months. He trained long and hard, which brought him the distraction he needed, until his chakra was almost at its limit. His desire for more was not saturated, but once he heard a roaring blow from somewhere in the distance he decided to take a rest. Actually, his curiosity for whatever had caused the ruckus came in first at that moment. Despite the significant number of injuries on his body, he had already climbed up on a tree in almost an instant and headed toward the source of the noise. It took him less than ten seconds to reach a fairly good spot that gave him a full view over the entire clearing of the training ground. As he crouched on the tree branch, his eyes instantaneously caught sight of a feminine silhouette standing a small distance away.

Sasuke didn't have to strain his eyes to notice that the girl was panting, obviously exhausted for some reason. He wondered if she had been training for quite some time before he had actually noticed her presence. The notion somehow wounded his ego, because he was supposed to be constantly aware of his surroundings. And yet, he hadn't noticed this girl. That was quite enough to peak his interest.

Deciding to stick for a while and see what the girl was up to so early in the morning, he straightened his posture and leaned on the tree trunk. It was still quite dark, so he couldn't see whether he recognized the girl. However, he was mostly interested in her abilities as a shinobi, while everything else was just insignificant. The way she moved through the air, though, was exceptionally familiar and when she used her fist to hit the ground beneath her feet without displaying any particular effort, he became astounded.

In that instant he realized that it was Sakura who stood in the middle of the training ground, while at the same time a strange and unfamiliar feeling enveloped him. He noted the warmth that enclosed his heart, but the small tingles fluttering in his stomach were there only for a short moment, so he chose to ignore the feeling completely.

He spiked his chakra, notifying her of his presence. For some unknown reason he wanted to be near her once he knew it was her, but he was still feeling a slight hesitation, so he slowly walked up to her.

"Sasuke-kun...?" she asked quietly, surprise heavily written on her face. She had rarely seen him during the past few months, which definitely wasn't something she desired. On the contrary, knowing that he was finally close to her made her wish to be near him even more than before, but fate wasn't always fair. The feeling of sadness hadn't left her ever since he had returned, because she had realized that even if she wished for things to be normal again, they probably wouldn't be in the near future. So many things had happened that couldn't be easily forgotten and Sakura was very aware that only time would erase the bad memories and feelings. That is exactly why she had decided to let everything flow normally and give Sasuke some space to settle his own thoughts.

"Sakura," he nodded in acknowledgement, unable to find anything else to say.

The way he spoke her name evoked extensive shivers down her spine. She was taken aback by her own reaction, especially because this was the first time in years that she felt so strongly affected by him. She was still a bit surprised that just one single look from him could bring back all her old emotions. She had long ago accepted the feelings she harboured for him, but the reality of their situation still pained her. He would never give her what she wanted and it was hard for her to deal with the pain that came along with the love she felt.

The silence that filled the air and the intensity of his stare did everything to further strain the sudden eruption of nervousness she experienced. At that moment, as he was profoundly staring at her, she started losing control over her own emotions. The only chances she had of looking into his eyes during the years of his absence were given to her by her dreams. The sudden realization that he was standing in front of her, just a short distance away, where she could reach out and touch him if she desired, felt so imaginary. She was so used to the dreams that it was difficult for her to accept this moment as real, it just seemed like a figment of her imagination.

Sasuke felt lost, especially since this was the first time he was alone with her after their last and not so pleasant encounter, when they both tried to kill each other. Actually, she tried and he would have succeeded if it weren't for Kakashi and Naruto. At the time, he was mad with anger and consumed by darkness, but the guilt that had been torturing him ever since was definitely deserved and unsurprising. He suddenly started wondering why he had been so fast to let her know that he was there, when in reality he should have realized that this would only make everything even more awkward than before. At least, she was smart enough to create a distance between them, but maybe that was the reason for his haste decision. He realized that maybe he just wanted to make things right. Witnessing the change in the way she treated him made him feel blank, as if there was something that he desperately needed to receive, something that was only hers to give.

Sakura struggled to find a way to fill in the silence, because it only made her feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, a short moment later, she finally found her voice in order to say something. "Sasuke-kun, what are you doing here?" she asked and looked at him a bit cautiously.

"I couldn't sleep," he simply stated, finally turning his gaze away from her.

She eventually noticed his dishevelled form, which surprised her tremendously. He had never looked this battered when he trained with her and Naruto. Witnessing that unusual sight made her realize that he had put himself through some rough training on purpose and that just made her wonder why.

"I can heal those injuries for you," she suggested, while pointing toward the various cuts and bruises on his body.

"Don't bother," he coldly replied, dismissing her offer arrogantly.

"That was not an offer, Sasuke-kun," she countered with an angry edge to her voice. She was always strict with him or Naruto when they refused her help. 'Sometimes they can be so foolish.' She rolled her eyes in slight irritation.

"Hn," he grunted, but found himself powerless to argue with her. After all, he knew that she could be very stubborn when it came to healing injuries, no matter how insignificant they were.

"Take a seat, so I can have a look," she directed and was already lowering to the ground.

He sat right next to her, a bit reluctantly, and propped his arms beneath him. The cuts and bruises stretched out on various places over his body, but his knuckles were particularly bruised. That small detail was enough for Sakura to realise that he had been hitting at something for a prolonged time. She instantly started working on the bigger cuts, leaving the smaller ones for later. The dried blood on some cuts told her that he had been training for quite some time. However, that wasn't what surprised her the most. The strength he possessed was enough to prevent that type of injuries from happening whenever he trained by himself, but apparently that wasn't the case now.

'What made him train so hard?' she wondered while staring at his face. She didn't need to pay any special attention to this type of wounds, so she allowed herself the opportunity to study his expression. After all, she didn't get the chance to be this near him very often.

'I couldn't sleep.' After replaying his words in her mind, she could already imagine an answer to the question that was going through her mind. She realized that something must have been bothering him immensely and he just couldn't relax enough to sleep. The thought made her feel extremely dejected because she really wanted to see him happy and he clearly wasn't. She desperately wanted to help him, but it was hard for her to believe that she would be the one to eliminate those feelings within him.

Sasuke was aware that she was staring at him and it made him feel slightly uneasy. He tried to ignore her probing stare, but he couldn't stop the strange and unfamiliar feelings flowing trough him. He didn't want to be curious about her reasons for never turning those green eyes of hers from his face. It was unfair of him to feel that way about her staring, when in reality he wasn't any better. The moment he turned to look at her, he was captivated by the vibrant color in them. He felt drawn to her like never before in his life and it confused him tremendously.

She blushed after his prolonged stare and turned her gaze away from him, feeling rather embarrassed.

Sasuke couldn't keep his eyes away from her and the rosy blush on her cheeks compelled him to use this opportunity to his advantage. For a very short moment he wondered why he was suddenly acting so selfish. Nevertheless, he found his excuse by persuading himself that he just wanted to find out more about this new Sakura by simply observing her. The strange thing was that he didn't even notice that the conclusions he came up with were never focused on her actions or her behaviour.

He was unconsciously soaking up every single detail that he caught with his staring. He was entirely focused on the way her hair swayed with the morning breeze and the way her lips were drawn in slight concentration. He also noticed that her skin had an ivory tone that complimented her pink tresses beautifully. Finally, his gaze fell on her expressive eyes. The way he saw it, their bright color was the most stunning feature of her beauty. He actually thought at that very moment that everything about her was entirely captivating, but he really loved the color of her eyes.

The sheen of sweat glistening on her skin under the rays of the rising sun gave her the sort of radiance he had never seen before. If he was being entirely honest with himself, he'd admit that looking at her was one of the things he did regularly the past couple of months. Whenever she graced him with her presence, he almost felt drawn to her being, so his eyes followed her every move of their own accord. He stubbornly refused to refer to those looks as staring and he preferred to think of them as a simple act of observing someone else's strength. The silly thing about his assumption was that most of the time he was looking at her, she was doing nothing significant, like writing something in her little notebook.

In order to stop focusing on those thoughts that were entirely unusual to him, he decided to start a conversation. Filling in the silence was more welcome than thinking about things that made him feel weak.

"What are you training for?" he abruptly asked her, surprising her in the process.

"What do you mean?" she answered with a question of her own, mostly because she felt a bit confused.

"You were clearly exhausted," he clarified, while never taking his eyes off her. He saw no reason for her to feel such exhaustion after channelling her chakra to her fist, which usually required no effort from her. It was obvious that there was something more behind the act. Besides that, he also noticed one other detail that was really impossible to miss, so he asked her, "Are you practising a new jutsu?" He was quite sure that he had guessed right, but he felt compelled to ask her, nevertheless.

Once she heard his question, she realized that he must have seen her hitting the ground and leaving it without a single crack, when in reality she was supposed to pulverize it. "Yes, I am," she answered a bit timidly, all the while casting her look away from him. She felt a bit self-conscious because of the conversation he had initiated. After all, talking about training was something they never did, not even in the past. "I guess nothing can ever escape your eyes, Sasuke-kun," she finished in a hushed tone, unable to keep her thoughts to herself, which he heard well because of her proximity. 'You are as perceptive as ever,' she thought affectionately and turned to look at him.

"Hn," he grunted and by the way he kept staring at her in an almost imploring way, she realized that he was obviously interested and wanted to hear about the jutsu.

"I invented a new jutsu that should help me punch trough walls that are protected with barrier seals, but practising the technique requires a lot of chakra," she explained and looked at him as if waiting for an opinion, which was what she wanted, but didn't expect to receive. However, he surprised her with his next words.

"I can help you, if you want," he offered, while looking at her with a deep look in his dark eyes.

It took her a moment to process everything, but she flashed him a bright smile, unable to suppress her excitement. "That would be nice, Sasuke-kun. Your Sharingan must be very improved, since..." she caught herself, unable to speak of the past that was a forbidden topic for them all. She really hated the fact that things were obviously still tense between them when it came to past memories, but at least she could allow herself to accept his sudden offer as a good sign. It might have been an unexpected action, but it didn't bother her because she decided to focus on the exhilarating feeling she felt instead. Then, she stood up and made a move to step away from him.

Sasuke just decided to ignore the unspoken words that were already playing in his mind. He was suddenly very grateful that she had also dismissed the topic and was already taking her battle stance in the middle of the training ground. He also stood up, before taking a few steps back in order to give her enough space to exhibit the technique without any disturbances.

The next instant, his eyes spun wildly and the form of his Mangekyo Sharingan covered the dark irises of his eyes.

Sakura was taking her time to prepare mentally and physically for the technique, taking a few calming breaths to compose herself entirely. The moment she felt ready, she jumped up in the air to better focus her entire strength on the hit she planned to execute over the ground, exactly where the barrier seal was placed.

He watched Sakura's movements with concentration, while his straight posture exuded incredible calmness. On the outside it seemed that he was just a statue of an ethereal creature with godlike beauty. His emotionless presence always gave away an image of someone who was exceptionally cold on the inside.

The blow that came from her clenched fist transferred such powerful strength into the ground that it was astounding in and of itself. He was able to get a clear view of the momentum she created, noticing the details only his eyes were able to register. He felt absolutely amazed by what he had witnessed. It became obvious to him that the technique was not easily executable, especially since it required immense precision and perfect chakra control. The way her chakra dispersed throughout the ground, creating cracks underneath the surface, was truly astonishing. However, the most remarkable effect was the one on the barrier seal. He was able to see the way she used her chakra to attack the seal from several places at once, undoubtedly weakening it in the process. Just when he thought that the seal would break, the energy she pushed toward it retreated and the effect ended.

Sakura stayed in the same position for quite a while, crouched down with her gloved hand still in place over the seal. She felt quite drained; the demanding task had taken quite a lot of her. She had to focus her mind on the task and work to eliminate the powerful effects of the barrier seal at the same time. The chakra precision needed for the technique to be successful was overwhelming even for her and it wasn't even close to what any other jutsu asked of her. That is why this training was particularly difficult.

Once she was able to move again, she stood up and walked toward Sasuke. "So, what do you think?" she asked, slightly out of breath.

"Your chakra control is amazing," he unconsciously praised her, not paying enough attention to his own words. If he wasn't that distracted by her ability to control her chakra virtually perfectly, he would have chosen his words more carefully and not let his real thoughts slip out. Then he continued, with his arms crossed in front of his chest, "However, you are only holding the technique active for a very short time."

She was pleasantly surprised by his compliment, mostly because she thought that he had finally acknowledged her strength. Thinking about it, she realized that it had never happened before and she had given up hoping that it might actually happen a long time ago. Nevertheless, the important thing was that it had finally happened and she welcomed the feeling of utter fulfilment it brought with it.

Once she realized that she was starting to space out, she willed herself to straighten her own thoughts out and push the exuberant feeling aside. "Are you saying that I should disperse my chakra a bit further and hold it longer?" she asked, already processing what he had suggested. Her lips slowly twisted up in a small smile, once she came to a conclusion of her own. Instantaneously, she turned to look at him and as she caught a glimpse of his Sharingan, her entire body froze.

"Aa," he answered simply, before deciding to give her a more thorough estimation. "I was able to see the reaction of the seal and you almost broke it, but once you released the technique the weakening of the seal stopped." The moment he stopped talking, he realized that she was staring at him with a very familiar look in her eyes that told him she wasn't paying close attention to what he was saying. He became curious as to what had caused her to stop listening.

Sakura had barely heard his explanation, being captivated by something else. Her attention was mostly focused on the red and black colors in his irises and the way they shaped into an unfamiliar form. "Sasuke-kun..." she whispered in astonishment, the look of amazement openly displayed on her face.

"What?" he asked, sounding utterly annoyed by the look in her eyes. He experienced a flashback of memories and he could clearly recall the time when she had held that same glint of fascination in those eyes of hers. She made him feel like he was thirteen again, which bothered him greatly. He knew that he didn't deserve any of that affection, not before and definitely not now.

"Your eyes... they are beautiful," she said, unconsciously reaching to touch his face. She really wanted to see them from closer, feeling utterly mesmerized by the strong energy that seeped through the depth of his red eyes. She also wondered why he never used this form of his Sharingan while training.

He harshly turned his face, insensitively refusing her touch. "Hn," he grunted, expressing his open anger, which she thought was directed at her. However, the feeling of disgust he felt was entirely directed at himself and his cruel selfishness for having taken something that wasn't his for the sole purpose of acquiring more strength. He believed that his decision was cruel and that it was the worst mistake he had ever done. Whenever he remembered that the eyes didn't belong to him, he felt a dreadful ripping inside his soul.

At that moment, Sakura felt numbed by his open refusal for her to come near him.

"I'm sorry," she said softly with a voice filled with heavy sadness, her eyes downcast.

He heard the obvious weakness in her tone and instantly felt guilt spread through him.

She attempted to close her own heart to the wrenching feeling and tried to apologize to him, "I didn't mean―"

He cut her off, wanting to reassure her that his anger had nothing to do with her. "It's not your fault, Sakura," he surprised even himself with the soft tone of his voice. "I..." he tried to speak of his reasons, but he found it impossible to utter the words that would make him a monster in her eyes. He didn't want her to hate him, so he decided to hold his thoughts to himself. It was enough that he had been so close to killing her on two occasions, but giving her yet another reason to think of him as a cruel monster was definitely unnecessary.

Sakura recognized the look in his eyes as a heavy feeling of grief. It suddenly became clear to her that he was sad and in pain and it made her feel for him. Her heart was filled with emotions that were meant to understand his, because even if she had never gone through the same suffering he had, the love she felt was enough to make her empathize with him.

She decided to speak and tell him about what was in her heart at that moment. "It's okay, Sasuke-kun. I understand." The kind smile on her lips was meant to give him the reassurance that she could never possibly think badly of him. She couldn't hold any grudges against him or feel lesser feelings because her heart held so much love for him, and she felt that would never change.

He wanted to ask her why she was being so understanding, even after he had pushed her away. However, he felt like this wasn't the right moment, so he tried to change the topic.

"Are you ready for another try?" he asked, his eyes focused on her.

She smiled slightly, relieved that he wasn't mad at her and gave her consent, "I'm ready!"

Sasuke stayed with her for the entire morning, until she was able to fully control the technique. By the end of her training, she felt more elated than ever, despite being exceptionally tired. Sasuke, on the other hand, felt a strange feeling of satisfaction that left him tremendously confused.


The next few days Sasuke was being tormented by unwelcome thoughts that revolved around his last encounter with Sakura. He felt a strange necessity to see her again, but at the same time, he was struggling against the foreign feeling. He wasn't ready to attach himself to another person. The conflicting emotions disturbed him thoroughly and he was desperate to find some answers to the questions that went through his mind.

He was mostly wondering about why she had changed. He could see that she was now very confident and strong, something that she never was in the past. He knew that she was Tsunade's apprentice, so he thought the training must have made her that way. He was glad that she no longer needed protection and that she was more than capable of taking care of herself. She was also good at taking care of others, as well, which was quite astonishing.

However, Sasuke was also very curious about her personality change. It became obvious to him that she was no longer as expressive about her feelings as she had been in the past, especially with him. Her behaviour in his presence was very cautious, and it bothered him. He could only guess that she was scared of him, but during the few spars against her, he realized that she most likely wasn't. Now, he rather believed that she was acting that way because of her feelings. She no longer paid him any special attention and she only talked to him when necessary. But, she did surprise him when she openly talked to him the last time they saw each other. Maybe he had caused that sudden change. After all, he did approach her, and not the other way around, and that must have made her feel more at ease, maybe even made her think that her presence didn't bother him, which was true.

Because of the never-ending questions, he couldn't stop thinking about her. He was surprised that she was on his mind even as he went grocery shopping at the village market. Spending so much time thinking about her, without having any evident reason for it, was very bizarre to him. He tried to push those thoughts away and focussed on finding his favourite fruit.

Once he reached the stand where tomatoes were being sold, the sound of her laugh reached his ears. At first, he sincerely hoped that it was just a product of his imagination, but not a moment later, he was convinced otherwise. As he turned to see for himself whether she really was there, he noticed her standing in front of the fruit stand a small distance away from where he stood.

He thought she looked quite radiant, smiling brightly like that. It wasn't the first time he was amazed by her beauty, nor was it the first time he admitted to himself that he found her quite attractive. As he stared at her, he felt heat crawl up his neck, which made him slightly nervous. Instantly, upon realizing where his thoughts were leading him, he tried to ignore that feeling and turned to look in a different direction. He was, however, unable to keep himself from looking at her for much longer. So, now he was constantly glancing at her from the corner of his eyes, hoping that she wouldn't notice him. Actually, he wasn't sure why he was still standing there and not running away.

Soon, she spotted him and headed toward him, saving him from the nuisance of struggling with his conflicting emotions. Not one single thought flashed through his mind as he watched her walk in his direction. His own feelings were strange to him, so he really didn't know if he was satisfied or not.

Surprisingly, she stood right next to him and greeted him with a cheerful smile, "Ohayou, Sasuke-kun!"

He just nodded and kept his eyes on her. She seemed very happy and he wanted to know why.

"I never thought I'd see you here," she said, as she turned to inspect Sasuke's favourite fruit. She reached for the tomatoes at the exact same time he did, not even noticing him move.

He was distracted by her, so he wasn't exactly paying attention to what he was doing, that is until his hand was over hers. He couldn't help but notice how soft and warm her hand was. He was suddenly reminded of all of the times she took his hand in hers, without his consent. However, that only happened before he had left the village, when she was still in love with him. That thought brought him back to the time of her confession. He wondered if she had been sincere and if her words were heartfelt. Remembering her tear-stained face gave him the answer. She must have truly loved him, but now he wanted to know if her feelings had changed during his absence.

Sakura made a move to take her hand away, but he stopped her. He wanted the moment to last longer so he kept her hand in his. He even moved his fingers so that it seemed he was caressing her skin. She was more than astonished by his gesture, but most of all she felt gentle tingles disperse from her hand throughout her entire body. Once he realised what he was doing, he instantly took his hand away, almost as if the touch of her skin had burned him. He was a bit hesitant, but still decided to look at her.

They stared at each other for a few long seconds and Sakura was the first who tried to stop the feeling of nervousness that consumed her. She hoped that she wasn't blushing, but the warmth in her cheeks was already there. She averted her eyes, mindful of the way his stare always affected her.

In the meantime, he just kept staring at her. He wanted to know if that blush meant something more.

"So, how are you doing?" she suddenly asked, trying to find an escape from the awkward moment. She also used the opportunity to pick a few of the tomatoes for herself.

Thankfully, her question distracted him from his daydream. "Fine," he answered simply, finally turning his gaze from her. He copied her actions and proceeded to fill his own bag.

"I haven't seen you in a few days and I was honestly wondering whether you were feeling okay," the tone of her voice betrayed her feelings. She was worried about him ever since she had last seen him. She didn't want to look at him, so she turned toward the old man behind the stand and gave him her bag so that he would weigh it.

Sasuke glanced at her quickly, before turning his own gaze away from her. "What would make you assume that I wasn't?" he asked her a second later, feeling slightly curious about her answer.

"Well, a few days ago you yourself said that you couldn't sleep," she explained and turned to look at him, trying to read something from his expression in case he didn't answer the question. She found nothing, because he kept his face blank, as always.

"I'm fine, Sakura... Don't bother yourself with unimportant things," he said, trying to dismiss her worry.

His words didn't convince Sakura. She felt a pang of hurt because of his cold attitude toward her, but she decided to, finally, be honest with him after having kept her feelings to herself for such a long time. "Well, you can't really blame me, Sasuke-kun. You mean very much to me and I am concerned about you," she spoke earnestly.

"Hn," he just grunted, at a loss for words. What she had said affected him in ways he didn't expect. He was surprised to hear her openly admit that she still cared for him deeply, but he was also surprised to notice that he felt no satisfaction because of it. His displeasure was caused by his desire to hear a stronger word, like her confession from the past. He didn't know why he wanted that, but he did.

Sakura suddenly remembered that she was supposed to use this opportunity to say something to him regarding her training, so she spoke, "I also wanted to thank you for helping me with my training the other day." Then, she turned to look at him.

Sasuke kept his eyes away from her and spoke, "You really don't have to thank me. I was more surprised that you let me help you." He admitted what was truly on his mind ever since she had put her trust in him with her new jutsu. It was surprising that she would share something so important with him, but he already knew why she had done it.

"I really trust you, and that won't ever change," she sincerely confessed.

"Aa, I know," he said nonchalantly, and for a very short moment he looked at her.

Sakura thought that his eyes held an unfamiliar emotion, but she decided to dismiss the detail as unimportant. Believing that he wasn't in the mood for talking with her, she decided that it would be better to just leave him alone. "So, I guess I'll see you around," she addressed him softly, the tone of her voice revealing a bit of her sadness. She then gave the man that sold the tomatoes some cash for her purchase.

"Whatever," he said, once again dismissing her with a bit of hesitance. He couldn't fathom the reason why he suddenly felt very guilty. And he certainly didn't want to see her leave.

"Bye, Sasuke-kun," she said and just before she left she added with a weak voice, "I hope you'll have a good night sleep."

Sasuke heard those words and he noticed the sadness radiating from her. He felt awful because he realized that making her feel that way had been his fault. He really hated himself then for not even trying to reassure her that everything was okay and that she should stop worrying. Apparently, he was a bigger coward than he ever thought he was — he didn't even stop her from leaving.


Ever since the last time he had seen her, to Sasuke time went by at an almost torturous pace. He was trying to think clearly and escape this new torment, so he decided a walk would provide him with at least some form of comfort. He was supposed to meet with Naruto, but he still had a whole hour.

As he walked through the streets of Konoha, he began to accept the thoughts that had been consuming his mind the past two days. His efforts to keep them away were wasted, anyway. For a very long time, he couldn't rid himself of the dreadful nightmares centering on his recollections of the past no matter what he did. But, the last two nights those dreams hadn't come, and this novelty was difficult for him. Even more difficult to deal with were the new images in his dreams, images of a pink-haired girl.

He was also distressed by his newfound desires for Sakura. He already admitted to himself that the feeling was rather pleasant, but not being used to it is what made it unbearable. It was definitely not easy for him to accept feelings that were apparently the result of one mere touch. He strongly wanted to convince himself that the touch of her hand and the feelings that came along with it, were not worthy of his attention.

An entire hour passed and he was finally at the meeting spot, in front of Ichiraku's. His mind being entirely focused on Sakura, he suddenly considered that he might be going crazy because he really thought that he had just seen her walking in his direction. However, he only needed a moment to realise that she was not imaginary and that she was actually there. If that wasn't annoying enough for him, his constantly occupied mind definitely was. He hated himself for showing such weakness because of the thoughts and the way they seemed to affect him. There was a sudden eruption of severe aversion within him, entirely directed toward the satisfaction he felt when he saw her approach him. That feeling strangely made him yearn for her attention even more.

"Sakura..." Sasuke uttered her name, hoping that she'd see him. He hadn't expected to see her again after their last meeting at the market, but his traitorous heart had surely hoped that he would.

"Oh," she gasped at first, but upon seeing his face, she smiled brightly. "Hey, Sasuke-kun," she greeted and stood right in front of him, this time keeping her distance.

"Hn," he grunted, but kept looking at her. He was trying to find the reason why he had lately been thinking of her so much, but he ended up with nothing. The fact that he noticed that she was standing a bit too far for his liking was definitely not a good sign in his opinion. He realized that it only stirred his feelings even more, so he tried to keep himself from thinking about it at this particular moment, while she was in front of him.

She griped the white sheets of paper in her hand and thought she should apologize to him, "I'm sorry; I was distracted by this file, so I didn't see you standing there."

Sasuke thought that she really didn't have to apologize, but at least that thing obviously hadn't changed about her. However, he scolded her for being foolish enough to let her guard down even in her own village, "You should be alert at all times." He didn't even realize that with that simple line he expressed care for her.

In the next few seconds, while waiting for her answer, he really couldn't help himself and just kept staring at her, soaking in every little detail he could, storing it in his mind as a precious memory. She blushed slightly and turned her eyes away from him. The gesture was so much like her that he began to think that she probably hadn't changed as much as he had thought. But, that meant that she had only been different with him lately, as if deliberately guarding herself.

"I know. It's just that... I was so preoccupied with the file," she explained, a bit hesitantly. She wondered why she was suddenly so nervous around him. She thought that maybe it was because he had just told her that he cared about her wellbeing, in a roundabout way, of course. "So, what are you up to?" she suddenly asked, wanting to break the silence.

"I'm waiting for the dobe," he stated simply, before surprising himself by giving a more thorough explanation, "He wants to buy some new set of shuriken and he persuaded me to go with him."

"Why am I not surprised?" Sakura asked sarcastically, the question directed to no one in particular. "You do know that he'll want to eat first, right?" She smiled slightly at him, anticipating an irritated reaction from him.

"I figured it out," he said with a clearly annoyed expression, glaring at the ramen restaurant.

"He did the same thing every single time he asked me to meet him here," she said, a very fond smile gracing her lips. She had learned to love Naruto and all the things that defined him, no matter how irritating they sometimes were.

"He's such a dobe," Sasuke spoke, but his words didn't hold any hint of insult. The name he used for Naruto was almost a term of endearment.

She giggled affectionately, before thinking how nice it actually was to have a normal conversation with Sasuke. She then started to ask something, "Are you plan–" she abruptly stopped talking and it was obvious that something had caught her attention because her eyes went wide. She then flung herself in Sasuke's arms. "Oh no! Sasuke-kun, please, hide me," she spoke in a rush, clearly scared by something and held onto him desperately.

Sasuke was completely taken aback by her sudden outburst, but his thoughts instantly drifted in another direction. He really couldn't help but realize that this was the first time after many years that she was so close to him. She was practically hugging him, despite the obvious ways her body twisted to use him to hide herself.

"Sakura, what's the matter?" he asked, trying to distract his mind from thinking about her body pressed against his.

"One of the genin that I am training at the hospital with has a crush on me and he's standing right there," she spoke, never even knowing what effect she had on Sasuke. "Please, don't let him see me," she begged him with a pleading look in her bright eyes, but once she pouted her lips at him, Sasuke's blood ran wild.

For a very short moment Sasuke felt a sudden desire to kiss her, but he used all his willpower in order to instantly forget about it. He didn't even want to think about the image that had flashed through his head only a moment ago, so he was very thankful for his amazing self-control. However, he didn't stop staring at her and that pleading look in her eyes was suddenly very interesting.

'She can be so annoying sometimes,' he thought, as a smirk twisted his lips. "I don't see what the problem is," he spoke nonchalantly, giving her a bemused look.

He really managed to surprise her with that look on his face. She felt a bit angry at him for being so amused by her obvious discomfort. "You have no idea what he's like," she spouted in slight irritation, entirely directed at him and his inconsiderate behaviour. His lifted eyebrow told her that he was not convinced, so she tried to clarify, "He's like this spoiled brat who doesn't know when to stop with his perverted pick up lines." Her tone of voice indicated that she was thoroughly irritated by him. That amused Sasuke tremendously, so he just smirked at her. She glared in return and Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"He's just a kid, Sakura," he spoke in a slightly mocking tone, feeling quite smug himself, as if she was exaggerating. He was quite sure that she was overstating it, because there was no chance that a mere kid could be that threatening.

"A very perverted kid," she murmured under her breath, which made him think over his previous assumption.

While he was trying to figure her out by staring at her face with his eyebrows scrunched in curiosity, a loud cry came from behind him.

"Sakura-chan!" Upon hearing her name, Sakura stiffened considerably. She couldn't believe her bad luck. Her attempt to hide herself had been futile.

Sasuke turned to see who the idiot with the booming voice was. The instant he spotted the brown haired boy, who clearly looked like a midget, he couldn't believe that someone so pathetic owned such a strong voice. In the meantime, Sakura stepped away from him and he instantly missed her warmth.

"Kenichi... what a..." she spoke in a shaky voice. 'Nightmare!' she thought a second later, but covered it with an entirely different line, "...surprise?" Not being able to decide if she was annoyed to no end or just purely anxious to see him disappear from her sight, she decided to endure this encounter and then forget about it as soon as possible. She really hoped that he would skip his perverted act, at least this time, but not a second later she was thoroughly disappointed.

"Sakura-chan, baby, I missed you so much!" he spoke, all the while flashing her a grin he believed to be quite seductive. A moment later, he added with distasteful sweetness leaking from his voice, "No other girl could even consider competing against your beauty." By that time he was already standing way to close for her liking.

Sakura was very irritated, barely able to suppress the anger that was building in her veins. She just clenched her fist in an attempt to calm herself and not send him into oblivion with it. "Kenichi, I told you to stop this nonsense," she spitted out in fury, but in the next instant he shocked her with another one of his extremely perverted lines.

"Wow, your breasts have gotten bigger!" he shouted in astonishment, his eyes rounded like saucers, while he shamelessly stared at her chest.

Sakura gaped in horror, finding no strength to grasp the cruelty of her own fate. She really hated it that this kid was making her endure through such embarrassing moments. However, the awfulness of this particular moment was not finished yet.

Kenichi swiftly hugged her and rubbed his cheek against her breasts. "They're so squishy," he cooed like a love-sick fool, managing to shock Sakura even more.

Sasuke felt his blood boil and he was ready to snap the boy in half if necessary. The initial disbelief he experienced because of the scene was entirely overwhelmed by the sudden explosion of anger within him. He realised that Sakura was right about this idiot being a first class pervert. 'I will kill this little piece of shit! He dares to cuddle against Sakura's―' he caught himself, not daring to finish that thought.

Sakura's thoughts were destructive, but she knew that hitting him had no effect over his behaviour, mostly because she has done it on many occasions already. Despite that she also felt purely embarrassed, because all of this was witnessed by Sasuke. 'Did he have to pull this act right now? ...In front of Sasuke-kun... I want to die right this second.' She really just wanted to disappear or believe that this was just a nightmare that she would laugh at in the morning. However, she realised that she was not that lucky, but then she noticed the look of complete anger on Sasuke's face. She wondered why he was suddenly so angry, never comprehending that it was a stupid question, because she really should have just realised it.

"Kid, get lost," Sasuke spoke in a calm voice, trying to act like he wasn't feeling angry at the kid. However, his facial expression stated the opposite.

The kid released Sakura, but his hands were still hanging on her waist. The moment he turned to look at Sasuke, he displayed a look of immediate shock. Still, he boldly spat out at him, "Who are you to tell me to get lost?" The look in his eyes turned suspicious and once he inspected Sasuke thoroughly from head to toe, he asked, "Are you her boyfriend?" His voice was full of jealousy, a fact that pleased the raven-haired boy tremendously.

Sasuke looked at him menacingly and spat out, unable to control himself, "I will give you ten seconds to figure it out by yourself and then I want you to get lost!" The look in his dark eyes turned particularly deadly and he was practically glaring at Kenichi. He didn't feel sorry about it, not even for a second.

Sakura was surprised; she was only able to stare at them both. It seemed to her as the both of them were having a fight over her. She was most affected by Sasuke's unusual behaviour, especially because he didn't even answer the question, something he was supposed to do. She figured he was probably using this opportunity to scare the kid away.

Sasuke was tempted to flash his Sharingan at the persistent kid, but apparently his deadly glare was enough.

"Okay, she's yours... I get it," Kenichi spoke with a very disappointed tone. Once he turned toward Sakura, he was unable to look at her, mostly because he was really scared that if he did, her boyfriend would hurt him. So, he decided to just say goodbye and leave, "Bye, Sakura-chan."

Sakura's soft side made her feel a bit sorry for the kid, mostly because of the disappointed tone in his voice. However, she was a bit happy to see that he wouldn't be bothering her anymore. "Bye, Kenichi," she said simply, as she watched him leave.

Once he was completely out of earshot, she turned to look at her saviour. "Thank you, Sasuke-kun," she spoke softly and flashed him an exceptionally thankful smile. The fact that he had jumped to her rescue so abruptly, without even thinking, made her feel extremely hopeful. It made her happy that he was being just like the old Sasuke, even after his return. The moments when she had seen him laughing like a crazy person when he was blinded by darkness, had scared her to the core. She was afraid to accept that behaviour as irreversible and at the time she desperately hoped that Naruto would find a way to bring him back to sanity. Thankfully, he had and now once she witnessed the change in Sasuke with her own eyes, she couldn't be happier.

"Hn," he grunted, but tried his best to keep himself from looking at her. He realised that he felt drawn to her and he decided that he needed time to accept it.

"I have to admit it was a smart move," she told him, and then he finally looked at her. "I've never thought that scaring him off would work. If I did I would have asked Naruto to do it for me," she admitted a moment later, smiling appreciatively at him.

It pained Sasuke to look at those eyes of hers and find that she cared for him still, but it wasn't the feeling he longed to see there. He wanted to see the same love she always held only for him, but he could clearly see that it was gone. "Sakura..." he spoke her name in a hushed tone, wanting to say something, to tell her how he felt at that moment and ask her how she felt. The instant she looked at him, as if waiting to hear what he had to say, he was suddenly struck speechless.

"Sakura-chan! Teme!" a very familiar voice hollered from the distance.

At that moment, Sasuke felt thankful for Naruto's perfect timing. He never thought that he would be pleased to see the blond, but he really was grateful for his arrival. He really didn't know what words he would have told her and that made him feel weak, as if he had lost all control over his own emotions.

The blond came running and the instant he stopped to stand right next to his teammates, he flashed them with that bright smile he was famous for. The cheerfulness that radiated off him projected on Sakura, so she couldn't help but return his smile.

"Hey, Naruto," she greeted with an equal amount of cheerfulness in her voice.

Sasuke's greeting consisted of a simple, "Dobe." He didn't bother himself with pleasantries. After all, this was Naruto, his best friend and rival.

Naruto was more interested in expressing his delight at Sakura's presence. "Sakura-chan, will you eat with us?" he asked with a hopeful expression marring his facial features.

She in turn looked at him with an apologetic smile and spoke sadly, "No, I have tons of work to do at the hospital." She really would have loved to stay, but she also knew that Tsunade would be mad at her if she missed her shift at the hospital.

"Aww... can't you stay for a while, at least?" Naruto whined, his voice full of pleading.

"No, I really can't... maybe some other time. But, thanks for the offer." She smiled, hoping that it would be enough to satisfy Naruto.

"I guess I understand," he spoke sadly, but smiled in return.

"We'll see each other at training tomorrow," Sakura told him, mindful that he must have forgotten about it. He usually only managed to remember things with only hours to spare; otherwise he didn't even bother.

"Oh, right! I totally forgot about that," he smiled bashfully, while rubbing his neck, slightly embarrassed.

Sakura laughed at his usual behaviour and bid them both goodbye, "I'd better get going. Bye!"

"Bye," Naruto called after her, but once she was out of earshot, he turned toward Sasuke. The look in his eyes told the raven-haired boy that whatever he was about to say, it wasn't good.

"So, what were you and Sakura-chan talking about... you know... before I came?" Naruto asked, heavy suspicion latched to his voice. He noticed the strange look in Sasuke's eyes and the way he stared at Sakura, and it wasn't something he witnessed every day.

"It's not your concern, Naruto," Sasuke answered, wanting to evade the subject. He really wasn't in the mood to talk about that, especially not with Naruto. He hoped that his best friend would distract him from thinking about her, not remind him of certain things.

"Teme, am I missing something?" he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, hoping it would provoke Sasuke.

He, in turn, scoffed in response, completely dismissing the question, "As if."

They started toward Ichiraku's and since Naruto wasn't entirely satisfied, he kept trying to dig out at least one answer from his emotionless bastard of a friend.


By nightfall, Sasuke had turned completely restless. These chance meetings with Sakura were affecting him in so many different ways that he couldn't control his own emotions. He couldn't even realize why his desire had intensified since the last meeting. Images of her pressed against him were flowing through his mind constantly and every distraction he could think of didn't work. Even the late night walk wasn't helping, but he still refused to go home, because he already knew he wouldn't be able to fall asleep. He thought that he possessed some self-control when it came to this, especially since he managed to pull himself together when it happened. Well, he was very wrong.

Most surprising of all was the fact that all those feelings were warming him from the inside, something that was very distant to him. He could clearly remember the way he felt while he was having that normal conversation with her. She had truly made him forget about everything from the past, especially his bad memories, so now he felt like he had found exactly what he had needed. She obviously possessed something that had a strong effect on his emotions and that was exactly what he craved.

He suddenly started wondering whether he was falling for her — that was the only logical explanation he could come up with. He wanted to at least be able to touch her, and sometimes he just wanted to kiss her. It felt like one kiss would be enough to satisfy him. He refused to think of his feelings as deep enough to last an eternity, so he made himself believe that this was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. What he most desperately wanted, though, was for all this to be over, so he could continue with the life and think of this as just a dream.

That is why, once he saw her walking on the same street, in his direction, he felt ready to finally take control of the situation. After he had given himself a moment to think it over, he realized that he should have guessed that this particular meeting with her would have happened sooner or later and his decision would have been the same. He thought that maybe this was his chance to act upon his feelings and be done with the whole annoying thing once and for all.

So, he just walked, completely determined, toward her and startled her by standing in her way. Once she overcame the initial shock, she looked at him questioningly.

"Sasuke-kun, is everything okay?" she asked, feeling a bit worried about the expression on his face. She had never before seen him with such an intense look in his eyes and once she realized that it was entirely directed at her, she became even more confused.

Sasuke never answered her question, but he kept staring at her. He was thinking about his decision and whether the possibility that he might regret it later was actually probable. But then, he just told himself that he definitely wouldn't regret anything, so he took the few steps needed to stand right in front of her.

If Sakura was to say that she was completely astonished, it would be an understatement. It was exactly as if her mind had gone blank and every possibility for reasonable thinking was gone. She was practically able to breathe in his scent and feel the heat radiating off his body. It was a scene she had only seen in her dreams, and many years ago — she no longer believed in foolish fairytales or dreamed of the same things. She learned that life was much more than that, but she still couldn't figure out the meaning of Sasuke's current behaviour.

Sasuke couldn't bear his desire much longer, because he was completely taken with her eyes. He suddenly realized that he had never had the chance to see them from this close. He had definitely been missing out on something entirely magnificent. Once that thought flashed in his mind, he reached out and gripped her waist firmly, while he lifted his other hand to touch the smooth skin on her cheek. As he glided his hand down her cheek, he leaned in and kissed her.

Sakura froze on the spot, unable to move. She only felt his soft lips firmly pressed against hers. Her eyes were wide open in shock and she saw that his eyes were closed.

Sasuke admitted to himself that this was not exactly as he had imagined it, but it definitely felt much better than he had thought it would. He didn't move at all for a few seconds, but then he just wanted to look at her. Once he pulled his lips away from hers, he opened his eyes slowly so he could see her reaction. Upon seeing her face, he realized that she was too shocked to respond or display any sort of reaction. But, he wasn't done yet, because he was definitely not satisfied. Since he planned for this to happen just this once, he decided to make it entirely enjoyable for the both of them.

He leaned in for a second time, but this particular kiss was much stronger than the first. He kissed her with so much emotion that he wasn't even able to control himself. He brought his hand down her neck and after caressing her collarbone gently, he gilded it upward once again. His hand slid behind her neck and he used the opportunity to bring her closer so he could deepen the kiss. It was unbelievable to him how strong an effect she had on him and his emotions, but he decided to take as much as possible.

The way he was kissing her took her breath away and she felt like she was floating on air. Her stomach was filled with butterflies that only intensified every other feeling flowing through her. The moment was mind-blowing, making her believe she was in some heavenly place. She was finally able to find enough strength to respond to his kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and lifted herself up by standing on her toes.

He gave in to the moment entirely. She made him feel wonderfully complete and he wasn't willing to give that up. All of a sudden, a single touch or kiss from her no longer seemed sufficient. He desperately wanted more, so he just kept kissing her. Once he felt a strong necessity for air, he pulled back, but not a second later he kissed her cheek. Then, he just proceeded to shower her with affectionate little kisses along her jaw.

She breathed out and held onto him, almost desperately. She could hardly believe that this was really happening, but she really couldn't care less. The best thing she could do was enjoy this wonderful feeling of being completely enveloped in his embrace. His kisses were even better than she had imagined, mostly because the feelings she had dreamed of couldn't even compare to this one.

Once he left a feather light kiss on her neck, she gasped as his name left her lips in a soft whisper, "Sasuke-kun..."

Upon hearing her speak his name, he finally found himself back into reality. He realized that he had prolonged the kissing for much longer than he had initially planned, so he just pulled back. However, he still kept his hands on her and used the opportunity to look at her. He instantly noticed her flushed cheeks, which triggered a fluttering feeling in his chest.

They kept staring at each other for a few seconds, before she finally decided to speak, "Sasuke-kun, wh–"

He cut her off, by saying, "Sakura... please, don't ask me why." He really didn't want to hear her ask questions that would only make him even more confused. However, he wanted to give her his real reason, so he spoke for a second time, "...because I don't know the answer myself."

To Sakura it sounded as if his voice held some desperation, but the look in his eyes told her something entirely different. She saw that something was bothering him and that worried her. Also, what he had just done was so strange that she really wondered about what had made him do it. She just wanted to help him and be there for him.

Even if she tried to speak, he wouldn't have been there to listen, because the instant he released her he was gone. She could only feel the air stir around her, but it became clear to her that he was no longer there. By the way he had looked at her that last second, she knew he was asking her to give him some time to think things over and for some unknown reason she complied to his request.


Sakura kept her distance for almost an entire week, but she started to worry that he was experiencing some kind of torment and she didn't want to leave him to suffer through it alone. She thought that she had given him enough time to himself and that it was now time for her to take matters into her own hands. The fact that he refused Naruto's invitations for lunch and still didn't show up at Team Seven's training sessions was enough to strengthen her resolve.

The day she decided to take some form of action, she went to find him at the Uchiha compound. At first, she thought that he'd be locked up in his house, but she didn't find him there, so she waited for him at the porch. She had been sitting on the steps in front of his home for a few hours, but she refused to leave, so she waited persistently. The moment he finally showed up, her heart fluttered nervously. She had to take a few calming breaths in order to settle her thoughts and the jumble of emotions. She told herself that this was very important and that she had to do this for them both.

Sasuke wasn't surprised to see her sitting and waiting in front of his house. Actually, he was surprised she hadn't done it sooner, but he was certainly glad she had given him some space. He had really needed the time to think about everything, especially about his feelings concerning her. He had been very wrong to think that he would forget about her once his desire had been satiated. That kiss only intensified the feelings he felt for her and he finally admitted to himself that they really meant something. He decided not to ignore them, but he had no idea what to do about them.

He never even thought it possible, but the most logical explanation to him was that he was seriously falling in love with her. He never thought he was even capable of falling in love with someone and the prospect of that confused him. He could hardly believe that she was the answer to his solitude and most of all he didn't want to accept that as a possibility, because he was afraid of her reaction if he tried to talk to her about it.

He had avoided talking to her, but once he saw that she was waiting for him he realized that he could no longer postpone the fateful meeting. At the moment he felt she was the one that would help him overcome the dreadful memories from the past, but he was also scared. He was afraid of rejection, especially because he knew she was still very distant. Maybe things had been getting a bit better during the past few weeks, but that wasn't enough for Sasuke.

When he finally approached her, she stood up and just looked at him, as if waiting for him to say something.

"Sakura," he spoke her name and kept his eyes on her. His heart almost melted at the sight of her standing so close to him. He had really missed her the last few days, but he didn't feel he deserved anything. He strongly believed that he wasn't right for her.

"I came to talk. I think that we really have to do it sooner or later," she immediately stated her reason for coming to see him. Her eyes held her determination, but they also expressed everything she felt.

"Hn," Sasuke grunted, but refused to look at her eyes. What he saw there, unsettled him. He felt undeserving of her compassion or the care she openly displayed for him. Then, he walked toward the shoji and as he passed her, he asked, "Are you planning on standing there all night?"

Sakura was a bit perplexed because of the situation, but she was very fast to react to his question, so she followed him. "Oh, sorry," she apologized for spacing out and once he opened the shoji, they both entered the vast space of the entrance hall.

This was the first time she visited his house and it made her feel nervous.

He started to take his nin-sandals off as she did the same. The first thing she noticed once they entered the living room was that he really kept his home clean. She had noticed the same thing in the entrance hall as well. The floor looked remarkably well polished. She thought he must really cherish everything his family had left him.

She felt she could finally see what kind of life he had had before his entire family had been murdered. She could only imagine how he must have felt about losing something as precious as his family. She really felt like crying at that moment, but she had to suppress the feeling if she didn't want him to see her tears. She took a moment to soak in the details, but that made her feel a bit intrusive so she willed herself to stop staring. Furthermore, she reminded herself that she had come to his house with a different purpose.

He took a seat on the couch, propped his hands on his knees and held his laced fingers in front of his lips. "So, what is it that you want to talk about?" he asked, his tone of voice a bit too quiet for him.

Sakura didn't hesitate to sit right next to him and apparently he wasn't that bothered by it, since he said nothing.

"I want to talk about you, Sasuke-kun," she answered slowly, never turning her gaze away from his face. Seeing the empty look in his eyes, she finally gathered the courage to ask, "Are you okay? Is there something that is bothering you?" She was unsure about her direct approach, but she figured that after his extremely expressive advance the other day she had a right to do so. She really wanted to know what had made him act in such an unusual way.

"That's a really stupid question, Sakura," he said, not sparing her a glance.

Sakura thought that he avoided looking at her on purpose, but she still couldn't figure out the reason for it. "No, it's not. It's a normal question," she stated simply, before continuing in a softer tone, "You know that you can tell me everything. I'm here to listen." She really wanted to reassure him that she was there for him, if he needed her.

After hearing those words leave her lips, he finally turned to look at her. Looking at her made him want to tell her everything he felt. "I... it's just... that..." he stuttered, unable to form his thoughts into words. It was difficult for him to talk about his internal struggles. There were a couple of things that bothered him immensely and he knew better than to just hope for an easy change. He really wanted her help, and he really wanted her to give him something that would assure such a change.

She reached out to touch his cheek, before she spoke softly, "It's okay. You don't have to feel pressured." She caressed his cheek with affection, trying to sooth his distress.

He brought his hand up to rest it above hers. He grasped it with his fingers and closed his eyes tightly, almost desperately. Her touch gave him courage to finally speak of his torment. "I made so many terrible things... and... I'm..." he took a moment to calm himself, before he proceeded with his apology, "I'm really sorry, Sakura."

"Why are you apologizing? You did nothing wrong," she spoke, evidently surprised. At those words he finally opened his eyes to look at her and Sakura was astonished by what she saw. His eyes were glistening with unshed tears and he held so much regret in them. She tried to recall a moment when he had been that expressive, but she found nothing. This was really the first time he had opened up in front of her so fully and she felt tears come to her eyes.

Sasuke lowered her hand and held it in front of his chest. Then, he looked at her in a profound way, wanting to receive reassurance from her, despite the fact that he was the one to be blamed for hurting her. "Yes, I did... and one of them could have cost you your life," he said, but then he apologized for a second time, "I am really sorry, Sakura! Please, forgive me..." He believed that this apology would never be enough, but he still hoped she would forgive him.

She couldn't believe that this was happening and that Sasuke was blaming himself for everything. She lifted her other hand to touch his face again and he once again let her. "You shouldn't blame yourself. I understand why you did it," she spoke to him honestly, hoping that her words would be enough to give him comfort.

"How can you possibly understand? What I did was cruel," he said, and pleadingly looked at her.

"That wasn't you, Sasuke-kun. That person was Madara's creation," she said, raising her voice in the process. Her blood boiled in anger, remembering what that man had done to everybody, especially Sasuke. She was really glad that he was gone forever.

"I would have killed you... with my own hands," he said and held her hand even more tightly than before.

"Yes, maybe so, but I know that it wasn't what your heart wanted," she spoke in return, her voice gentle. She smiled a small reassuring smile at him.

He turned his eyes away from her and said, "It's hard for me to believe that it wasn't." He felt he didn't deserve that smile.

She turned his head, wanting him to look at her, because she really hated it when he avoided her eyes. Once she knew she had his attention, she spoke, "Well, the feeling of regret you feel now is a good enough proof, Sasuke-kun. Your deepest feelings can't easily change, so you should already know that you never truly wanted to harm me or Naruto or anyone else for that matter." A smile graced her lips when he vividly relaxed.

However, he pushed her hands away and asked her, "What about Itachi? I took these eyes from him." Then, he turned away from her and gripped his head tightly. "I am a monster, Sakura!" he angrily spat out, unable to suppress the feeling of hate for himself.

"That doesn't make you a monster," she said simply, feeling that she was on the right path with her words. "The love you have for your brother would never make you a monster. On the contrary, it makes you a person with feelings."

"I really want to believe that. I really do, Sakura," he said, while still holding his head in between his hands. He still felt unworthy of her kind words and sympathy.

She reached out and placed her hand over his chest, right above his heart. "Look into your heart, Sasuke. This is the real you... a person who has so much love to show," she spoke in a tender voice, never turning her eyes away from his half hidden face. At that moment, she felt her heart swell with all the love she felt for him.

"You really think so?" he glanced at her, but once he saw the look in her eyes he couldn't help but stare at her. The love he wanted to see in those green eyes of hers was finally there, openly displayed only for him. His heart clenched at the notion.

"Well, that kiss told me as much," she timidly spoke, a blush dusting her cheeks. Then, she smiled brightly at him.

"Hn," he grunted with a small smirk stretching over his lips. He finally turned to fully look at her, before leaning in to kiss her on the lips. His kiss was soft and short, but he kept her face close to his as he spoke, "I need you, Sakura." He kissed her for a second time, making her giggle. "I really need you," he repeated the same words and then kissed her on the cheek.

"I'm here, Sasuke-kun," she said and enveloped him in her warm embrace. "I will always be by your side. I won't ever leave you."

The words she said made him feel warm on the inside and most of all utterly complete. He suddenly realized why she had been keeping her distance when around him. It seemed so clear to him now, that she had done that just because she wanted him to find happiness. She was just giving him space. He suddenly realized that she had never changed and that she was still the same Sakura he had always known. Now, she was here just as she had promised back then, right before he had left her on that bench.

"Sakura..." he whispered her name as he left a small kiss on her neck. Then, he finally spoke the same words he only ever said to her, "Thank you."

"Sasuke-kun, I love you." She finally gave him the confession he desperately needed to hear. He returned her embrace with as much emotion as she had poured into it.

He finally felt true satisfaction. He felt like this was the beginning of their life together and for the first time after a very long time he didn't feel scared of what the future would bring. He knew that there were many more things that had to be discussed, but at least he wouldn't be alone. He had her to share everything with.

Nothing could make him more content now, once he knew that she still loved him. He couldn't confess his true feelings for her just yet, but he decided that he would definitely be saying those three words pretty soon.

-the end-


A/N: Thank you for reading my story! I really hope you liked it. Please, leave a review. I would like to hear your thoughts.