Sakura was enjoying herself. It had been an exceptionally long day at the hospital, and it had reminded her of the Fourth Ninja War, with the constant influx of wounded ninja, too many of them friends. So she had been fully ready to kick back and relax at home, wearing her most tattered pajamas, when Naruto demanded that she accompany him and a much improved-since-the-last-year Sasuke, because he had a hankering for ramen (for the third time that day) and Sasuke refused to pay.
And because the last five years and the war had made her just that much aware of how quickly her friends could disappear in a cloud of smoke, and because she realized that she was hungry and was too tired to cook, she agreed.
And things had been perfectly cheerful and friendly insults flew back and forth as they always had and -
Sakura looked at Sasuke, wondering if she'd heard him correctly. Or maybe everyone had been right all along, and he was crazy.
"We are out, Sasuke-kun," She said cautiously. "We're at Ichiraku, remember…? Naruto dragged me out in spite my most vehement arguments on the contrary and you did nothing to help me - "
"You know what I mean."
Sakura blinked. Then she blinked again.
"Stop staring at me, Sakura," Sasuke calmly, his face giving away nothing of the fact that his previous words had been as out of character for him, as an aversion for ramen was for Naruto.
Who can say something like that and still not have an expression? Sakura wondered.
Sakura turned away from the seemingly impassive face and towards her other team mate, much more prone to lapses in sanity, and who was currently choking on his ramen.
"Did he just say what I think he said?" She asked him, aghast. She did not like to consider the alternative, I've begun to hallucinate.
Naruto emerged, gasping.
"Teme," He rasped in a would-be threatening voice, but the effect was greatly diluted by the watering of his eyes. "Did you just say what I think you said?"
"I don't care whether you heard correctly or not," Sasuke replied, "Since it's none of your business."
"None of my - " Naruto began indignantly, but Sasuke cut him off.
"Well?" He asked Sakura.
She continued to stare at him in disbelief.
"But Sasuke-kun," she replied finally. "Why?"
"Yeah, bastard," Naruto said. "What's this all about?"
"Is that a yes, then?" Sasuke asked Sakura, ignoring Naruto.
"I haven't said that!" Sakura exploded. "And have you lost your mind?"
"Well what's it going to be?" Sasuke said, soundly mildly irritated. "I have other ways of wasting my evenings to do, you know."
"Yeah," Naruto agreed seriously. "Especially now that he doesn't get to spend time being crazy and plotting to kill everybody he's ever known."
Sasuke scowled and tensed. He did not like to be reminded of that time.
"Shut up, Naruto," Sakura told him, and Sasuke relaxed a little bit. "I'm sure Sasuke-kun still plots people's murders as much as he ever did." She finished, smirking.
Naruto snickered, refocusing his attention on his precious ramen. He was getting the feeling that he might have to leave soon, and he wanted to fill up on as much ramen as he could meanwhile.
"Well," she said, standing up suddenly. "I'll see you two around."
"Where are you going?"
"Sakura! We just got here!"
"Naruto, we got here two and a half hours ago, and I have some work I need to get down at the hospital - "
"No you don't," Naruto cut her off. "It's Saturday."
"And does the fact that it's a Saturday night change the fact that there are people sick and suffering and that they need my help?"
"No, but it means that it's your night off."
"But I - " I don't want to be around for Sasuke to repeat himself.
Because it had taken her a long time to seal away her heart and to make sure that her feelings towards the Uchiha were purely platonic. And then he had to come a rip off the shiny cover and make everything painful and weird again.
Oh, who am I kidding?
"Sit down, Sakura," Sasuke said, sounding impatiently.
"Don't tell me what to – ok." And she sat back down, because she hadn't really wanted to leave. She just liked the occasional melodrama. "This is really just… shocking?"
"How is this shocking?" Sasuke asked, remembering, a little nostalgically, the Sakura he had known before he left the village, the girl who had blindly worshipped the ground he walked on.
"Well, let's see," Sakura said sarcastically, as she pretended to think. "The last time I saw you, you almost killed me."
"It's alright, Sakura-chan." Naruto consoled her. "He's tried to kill me more than times than I can count. He doesn't necessarily mean it."
"Shut up, dobe." Really, Sakura should have been used to the dynamics between them by now. They loved each other, but every once in a while the death threats stopped becoming mere threats and became the real thing.
"And you tried to kill Kakashi sensei."
"Yeah, man what was that about?"
"And you killed Danzo… after he became Hogake finally…"
For a moment Sasuke's dark expression was mirrored in Naruto's face too.
"I'm never going to be sorry about that," Sasuke said flatly.
"And before that," She continued, "When I told you I loved you – DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW DIFFICULT THAT IS FOR A GIRL TO DO? – you knocked me out and left me on a freaking bench."
"WHAT?" Naruto said loudly, unclear as to whom exactly he was shouting at. "You did WHAT?"
"You didn't tell him?" Sasuke raised an eyebrow at Sakura.
"There were other things to worry about," Sakura replied coolly.
"You – how could you do that to her?" Naruto pointed his chopsticks accusingly at Sasuke. "You were supposed to be her friend."
"Actually, I did threaten to wake up the entire village, so… But you could have been a little nicer, considering I confessed my eternal love to you."
"I knew you were lying to me, Sakura-chan," Naruto declared morosely.
"Oh well," Sakura smiled mischievously at him.
"Lied to him about what?" Sasuke asked, interestedly. Before Sakura could reply, however, Naruto filled him in about the dialogue between him and Sakura in Land of Snow.
Sasuke looked at Sakura, who looked sheepish.
"I see," he said. "So it's alright for you to try to kill me - "
"She was trying to save the village!" Naruto interjected angrily. "And she was trying to save you from yourself…. It wasn't really the best thought out plan, Sakura-chan."
"You try to save people from themselves all the time!" Sakura exclaimed indignantly. "Anyway, I wasn't trying to save him from himself, per se, I was just trying to save him from going down the spiral even more. But I never really got around to doing it!"
Sasuke snorted. "You wouldn't have been able to anyway."
Since he had come back, he had found her a great deal changed. She was quieter, though as prone to sudden shouting matches as she had ever been, and she had stopped hanging onto, and agreeing with, every word he said. He had learnt it was best to stay out of contact distance, because Sakura may be kind and cheerful at most times, but her chakra - and anger -infused punches scared him slightly, though he would never admit it.
What disturbed him was that he now noticed. Her. All the time. Every little detail.
"And you told Naruto you loved him," he continued drily. "So you can see why I might not have taken you seriously when you told me you loved me."
"That was five years ago!" Sakura shouted, blushing furious at his bringing up memories that were, frankly, some of the most embarrassing memories she had. It was bad enough having to confess her love to someone who was like a brother to her, but have done it front of Kiba, Lee, Sai, Yamato and her perverted sensei was bad enough. "Anyway, isn't convincing me that I can't really love anyone kind of defeating the purpose of your…" She broke off, at a loss of words.
The silence that fell of them should have been awkward, but it wasn't. He hadn't realized it then, but three years of constant violence had made Sasuke forget what it was like to be surrounded by people that he would not, one day, kill. The feeling had only slightly been replicated with Suigetsu, Karin and Juugo, but even then he had been too intent on killing Itachi to notice much else. (And then he had left them for dead too).
Now he suddenly remembered what it was like to be happy.
"Sakura," he began again, "I'm serious. I - "
"Sasuke-kun, I thought we were past this." Sakura began quietly but her voice kept rising, "I thought we agreed to be friends, and friends don't go around making cruel jokes!"
"I'm not making cruel jokes."
"Then what do you mean by telling me the one thing I've always you to say, right after I stop wanting you to?" She asked shrilly, ignoring Sasuke's demands that he be quiet. "It's so typical of you!"
Naruto was realizing that he really shouldn't be here, no matter how curious (or shameless) he was, and that some privacy is usually appreciated while discussing matters of the heart. He might have been a bit surprised (pissed off and flabbergasted) at first, given Sasuke's abruptness in dealing with the situation, but he had really expected the topic to come up some time (they could have waited for a decade or two, though).
So he decided that he would have to be satisfied with only nine bowls of ramen that night, and leave them alone, and go home. It was probably one of the most painful decisions he had ever made, but he was a shinobi. Sacrifices had to be made. It was an occupational hazard.
"You don't like me Sasuke. You think I'm annoying."
Or not. Sakura didn't cry now as easily as she once had, but there was still a slightly bitter tremor in her voice. Naruto wondered whether he should keep a Kage Bushin ready at hand, in case Sasuke, as per usual five years ago, made Sakura cry and he need to beat him up. The thought brought a slight smile to his face, because unlike back then, he would have a good chance of getting a point across.
"Look at me, Sakura."
Sakura's face was very red, and not just because of all the pent up tears just under the surface.
"It's really amazing how still you can keep your face, Sasuke-kun," Sakura mused, glancing at him, "What a perfect poker face."
"Just kiss the girl already," Naruto muttered under his breath.
And because she was taking too long to say what he wanted to hear, and he had never been one to wait too long for something that he wanted, he was suddenly kissing her.
"Well?" He asked, when they finally broke apart.
"What that the first time you kissed someone?" Sakura asked, laughing softly. "Oh Sasuke-kun…"
Naruto tried not to laugh at the expression on his best friends face.
"That was really good."
"Hn." Sasuke smirked, pulling her closer. Obviously. "I'll take that as yes then."
"Not when I'm eating…"
I don't know if romance is really my thing... I mean, I love to read it (as in, who doesn't?) and I'm constantly thinking of romance in one way or another. But I don't know if writing it is really my thing. Definitely not my best writing ever.
Anyway, please review! Your critique is only going to help me grow as a writer.