So it's been over a year and I'm still desperately trying to create even a semblance of a fic for you guys. I shouldn't even be posting this because I'm not done yet (and I don't know how long it'll take or if it'll ever be done), so if this is never completed, you know why! Meanwhile though, have this tiny first chapter—consider it a peace offering. I've missed you guys!


don't touch my hand and call it love
you said it was over, and then cried and cried; you were gone before i said goodbye.

1.


Sasuke stands in front of the vendor until the seller—a middle-aged woman—looks up at him. "Which way is the Fire Country?"

"The Fire Country?" The woman gives him a look. "You're quite a ways away, dear. You'll have to travel northwest for about a week before you reach the border." Her features are etched with worry, but Sasuke just nods once and thanks her, walking off. He'll need a few provisions, he thinks, but he'll be fine.

To be honest, he's less afraid of the journey there, and more afraid of what'll happen once he gets there.

The sun is spilling into Sakura's room when she wakes up that morning, feeling warm and refreshed. Spring is finally turning into summer, the leaves on their trees turning the greenest, Konoha growing hotter with each day. She's missed summer.

She has the afternoon shift at the hospital today, so she makes some lunch and brings it to Naruto's place. Whenever she can, she tries to feed him food that isn't ramen—how fast he inhales it sometimes scares her. A disease caused by consuming too much ramen hasn't been discovered yet, but when it is, it'll surely be discovered in Naruto's body.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto tackles her when she shows up at his door, nearly knocking over her dishes of food. "I was hoping you'd come by today!"

She laughs, inviting herself in and toeing off her shoes. "Why wouldn't I?"

Naruto eats her food with vigor, and Sakura can't help but watch him fondly. Naruto's smile, Naruto's support—it's the most constant thing in her life. She would do anything she could to keep him happy.

She's washing the dishes when there are loud, rapid knocks at Naruto's door. "Naruto, get it!"

"Sakura-chan?" Naruto's voice is distant as he talks to the person at the door. "Yeah, she's here. Why?" A moment's pause. "Sakura-chan! You have to go see Baa-chan!"

"What for?" she calls back.

"I don't know! They say it's urgent though!"

Sakura frowns. What could possibly be urgent enough for her to be called in less than an hour before her shift starts? It couldn't even wait less than an hour?

"I'll come by and pick up the dishes later, okay?" she tells Naruto, grabbing her things. "You're leaving for a mission tonight, right?"

"Yeah. Just for two weeks though, so don't worry!" She laughs, nodding, even though she'll always worry about Naruto. She'll never not worry about Naruto. After hugging him goodbye, she hurries to Tsunade's office.

"Sakura!" Shizune's already waiting for her outside the door. She has a pen in her hand, spinning it between her fingers, hair frazzled and eyes bloodshot.

"Hi, Shizune. What's happening?"

"I, uh…" Shizune glances at the closed door. "It's probably better if you just see for yourself." Sakura frowns in confusion, but does as told anyway—she knocks, and waits to be called in.

She's not at all prepared for what's on the other side.

"What…?" Shizune follows her into the room and closes the door behind her. In the room is Tsunade, Jiraiya, and…Sasuke. "Sasuke-kun? Tsunade-sama, what's going on?"

Tsunade looks more stressed than she has in months. "Sasuke arrived in Konoha just about an hour ago, and asked us…if we have any new leads on Akatsuki."

"Akatsuki? Why?"

"Because he has no idea where Itachi is."

Sakura looks at Sasuke, thoroughly confused. "But Itachi…" Sasuke is dirty and roughed up around the edges—the bags underneath his eyes are massive and his shoulders are slumped, but on a whole, he seems alright. Well enough to ask for new leads on Itachi, anyway.

But the thing is…he already did kill Itachi. Months ago. When the news came, Sakura was positive that Sasuke would finally come home, but nothing around Konoha changed—the streets were still empty, and so was that reserved spot in her heart. Sakura never hoped for Sasuke to return after that.

"Shizune," Tsunade barks. "Send messenger birds to every capital and ask if Uchiha Itachi or Akatsuki has been sighted recently."

"But—"

"Go." Tsunade's eyes are hard. After a moment, Shizune nods, and exits the room.

"I should, uh…" Sakura's mouth is dry. "I should get Naruto."

"Don't."

"Why not?"

"Naruto has a mission tonight," Jiraiya says. "It's not a difficult one, but every mission has its risks, and we can't have him distracted just because Sasuke's back. It'll only be two weeks—we'll tell him after he returns."

But it's not fair—they started this together as Team 7. How can Naruto not know about something as big as this? Sakura looks at Sasuke, brows creased with worry—but he just stands there with his arms crossed. Why doesn't he remember that he already killed Itachi? Unless he already knows, and he has some sort of trick up his sleeve?

"I don't"—Sasuke speaks up now, and everyone's attention focuses on him—"remember much. I believe I was in a battle with Itachi before I passed out, and when I woke up, parts of my memory were missing. I don't know how he tampered with my mind, but I need to find him to fix things."

Sakura catches Tsunade's eyes, and she can see that the Hokage believes Sasuke just as much as Sakura does—which is not very much. "We'll do our best to find information on Itachi for you," Tsunade tells Sasuke, voice steady. "But until then, we're going to have to keep you under surveillance."

"Why? The last time I checked, I didn't pose a threat to Konoha. I should be able to freely go around the village."

"Just to be sure, Sasuke."

Sasuke's eyes are so blank that it scares Sakura. "Alright."

He walks past Sakura as he leaves the room with Jiraiya, and she swallows thickly, feeling an entire lifetime tick by in that one moment. This is everything she's ever wanted—to have Sasuke finally home—but somehow, this doesn't feel right. He might have something up his sleeve—but if that's the case, what is he planning? Is Konoha in danger? And if he really is telling the truth, then…what on earth happened to him out there?

"So?" Tsunade heaves a sigh and slumps into her seat. Sakura slides into a chair opposite of her, her knees suddenly weak. "What do you think?"

"I…I don't know."

"Do you think he's telling the truth?"

She looks at Tsunade. Tsunade is aware that Sakura and Naruto know Sasuke best, and they'll be the only ones who'll ever know him best, so Tsunade will trust either of their words regarding Sasuke. If Sakura thinks that Sasuke's telling the truth, then Tsunade will believe her.

"Honestly, shishou? I don't know."

"Sasuke-kun?" Sakura visits him that night when her shift is over. The dungeons are cold and damp, and goose bumps rise on her skin as she steps close enough to touch the bars of Sasuke's cell. "Are you alright? Is there anything you need?"

"I'm fine." His voice echoes on the stone walls, seemingly bombarding her over and over again. This is all surreal—being able to talk to Sasuke, knowing that he won't try to kill her.

"Oh. Okay." Her mind is whirring with so many things she wants to ask him. "Do you…really have bits of your memory missing?"

"Why would I lie?"

"I don't know, you tell me."

There's amusement laced in Sasuke's voice. It sends shivers up Sakura's spine. "You've grown up a little since the last time I saw you. I like that."

"When do you remember last seeing me?"

There's a moment of silence. "When I left."

Sakura swallows the lump in her throat. That means he doesn't remember the time when she, Naruto, and Sai hunted him down at Orochimaru's lair. "It's been a while since you left—I would definitely hope I've grown up a bit." Sasuke's familiar silence strikes her heart, and she can't help but smile sadly. "So you really weren't lying?"

"Like I said, I wouldn't know why I'd need to lie. Itachi is a common enemy between us—as long as I'm the one who gets to kill him, I don't mind working with Konoha."

Something in Sakura breathes a sigh of relief. Maybe she can relax a little now—maybe he really is telling the truth. A part of her desperately, desperately hopes he is—it would be nice to have something to believe in. "Okay. Wait 'til Naruto hears about this—he'll be so mad that we didn't tell him before he left for his mission."

Even in the dark, she can see Sasuke's eyes, piercing right through her.

"Who's Naruto?"